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Why Engineering Freshmen Should Take Humanities Courses 564

Posted by Soulskill
from the need-to-sleep-some-time dept.
Lasrick sends in an article from John Horgan at Scientific American explaining why he thinks engineering freshmen should make a bit of space in their course-load for the humanities. Quoting: "But it is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now more than ever. In your science, mathematics and engineering classes, you're given facts, answers, knowledge, truth. Your professors say, 'This is how things are.' They give you certainty. The humanities, at least the way I teach them, give you uncertainty, doubt and skepticism. The humanities are subversive. They undermine the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. This skepticism is especially important when it comes to claims about humanity, about what we are, where we came from, and even what we can be and should be. Science has replaced religion as our main source of answers to these questions. Science has told us a lot about ourselves, and we’re learning more every day. But the humanities remind us that we have an enormous capacity for deluding ourselves."
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Why Engineering Freshmen Should Take Humanities Courses

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  • Better idea: (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheEyes (1686556) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @03:32AM (#44109661)

    Scientists should take courses on Rational Thinking []. That's basically what you're after here, and it has the advantage of specifically targetting the problems you are trying to address, rather than taking the shotgun approach and trying to get every STEM student to become a Renaissance Man.

  • Re:Should take law (Score:5, Informative)

    by SerpentMage (13390) <> on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @03:58AM (#44109761)

    We do in Canada. Granted the course was a simple introduction, but it sure helped me understand the legal system and its underpinnings.

  • Re:Better idea: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Pseudonym Authority (1591027) <SammyKake@gmail.EULERcom minus math_god> on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @05:18AM (#44110087)
    No. It's called a University for a reason. The entire point of assembling a wide array of experts in many fields in one place is so that ideas between them can be easily exchanged. If you want to only study one thing, go to a trade school to be a plumber or something.
  • Re:Oh, gag me. (Score:3, Informative)

    by BrokenHalo (565198) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @08:11AM (#44110705)

    I'm a well paid computer scientist and I've never used calculus. Why does everyone need calculus?

    Well, when I was at uni, most computer "science" students were directed into discrete mathematics streams, which were probably more relevant to what you're talking about. The rest of us - whether we were into physics, chemistry or (in my case) biotechnology, do in fact need calculus on a daily basis, because we're dealing with processes involving rates of change and areas bounded by curves on a graph.

  • Re:Oh, gag me. (Score:4, Informative)

    by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @08:11AM (#44110707)

    I'm a well paid computer scientist and I've never used calculus. Why does everyone need calculus? It doesn't particularly help you understand the news.

    They should have taught you using real-world examples. Calculus is a fundamental requirement for Physics and Engineering students.Algebra and Calculus are the most appropriate math courses to require for someone studying a non-Mathematical field.

    And in computer science; people doing mathematical modelling.

    Computer scientists should be taking classes in applied discrete maths though.

    They should take the Calculus class, not because they need it for math exposure, BUT to avoid missing out on what worldly people in other fields have to learn -- the computer scientists get the really in-depth math exposure through the discrete mathematics studies such as Statistics, algorithms analysis, studies of the subjects such as linear algebra, quaternions, permutations, modular arithmetic, discrete optimization problems...

    Calculus is required as a foundation to understand some things in Statistics that matter to computer scientists.

  • Re:Oh, gag me. (Score:5, Informative)

    by hackula (2596247) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @08:51AM (#44110957)

    Humanities is religion for people who don't believe in a deity.

    This may be the case in 101 classes. This is definitely not the case in upper level humanities classes. I majored in Philosophy and Computer Science. My Philosophy courses were much more rigorous in terms of logic and discrete mathematics than anything I learned in CS. My senior thesis was in the field of genetics, and it had nothing to do with ethics or other periphery issues. I studied under a man who was the protege of Thomas Kuhn, who if you were not aware, was a pretty big deal in science... as a philosopher.

  • Re:Oh, gag me. (Score:4, Informative)

    by taiwanjohn (103839) on Wednesday June 26, 2013 @09:44AM (#44111605)

    ... or Fox News, or (far worse than Fox, according to a recent Pew study) MSNBC.

    You seem to be confusing this Pew study [] with an earlier Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. survey []. The Pew study found MSNBC to be the most "opinion dominated" station, with 85% of its content being opinion. The FDU survey found FOX viewers to be the least well-informed of all TV viewers... even less well informed than people who don't read or watch any news at all.

There's got to be more to life than compile-and-go.