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Contextualizing the Science Vs Arts question

By Morris Komakech

Science is important but scientific practice without theory is false science

Going by President Yoweri Museveni’s wishes, Uganda will soon become a nation of robots and scientists. For the nth time, the President has condemned Arts subjects for causing rampant youth unemployment. Many writers have pitched in on this subject already in the last week, criticizing the President for his rash utterances.  Every nation prides in its education system as the engine of civilization and economic growth. Philosophically we believe that the human project is incomplete. The human experience is dynamic, fluid, unique and infinite. The understanding of the very existentialism and phenomenological realms of mankind is itself a complex iterative process which requires systematic hypothesizing and reasoning. Each of these stages is juxtaposed, but complimentary. They are complete skills requisite for any intellect in both humanities and sciences.

The so-called civilization and renaissance where inspired by determinism manifesting in imagery, artistry – paintings of the likes of Michelangelo (1,475-1,564) and his contemporaries like Raphael, Donattello, Giorgio Vasari  etc, changed the world’s value systems. The works of literature and philosophical thoughts that shaped public administration and a more elaborate understanding of the human mind, body and ways were all entrenched in art and language. The importance of humanities from historical perspective and its centrality in human civilization today cannot be under estimated.

The President comes from this school of this reasoning that Arts subjects are purely theoretical. The undermining of theory is a common mistake among elites in Uganda. I maintain a simple argument that subjects in the Humanities are as practical as those in sciences and require same prioritizing. In fact, in most cases, they mobilize innovation which inspires scientific breakthroughs. Arts and science therefore cannot be segregated without causing genocide of the other!

One of the problems with Ugandans is to under-estimate the power of thinking and articulation of thoughts. There are no scientific realms which can over step the boundaries and mandate of thinking, whether deductive or inductive. Unfortunately, we take thinking as the works of lunatics and we are quick at consigning thinkers to the anal of history. We believe that as black people, we are incapable of thinking and reasoning. We place very little value in examining immediate phenomena that baffles us on the daily, but prefer to know how Europeans or Americans dealt with their. This is why we rubbish Humanities.

We buy books of philosophy, quote great Western orators and write our theses with enormous citations from Western literature and research evidence. Museveni forgets that these people invest in research and thinking. They actually grow grey hair and give up their families, friends and social life to concentrate and to produce classic products that transcends generations. We must recognize the validity of thinking as a practice – which intersects both Sciences and Arts.

The roles of humanities in society are immense; whether the painters or singers, dancers, political scientists, sociologists, social workers etc. The end objective is as practical as sciences. Artists produce expensive Art pieces, dramatists control theatres and movie making, lawyers make constitutions and dispense justice etc

The President who criticizes studies in Humanities presides over a government that does not fund science education. Since 2005, science subjects became compulsory but most of the schools have no science labs or science teachers. Could this explain why the President refused schools to be named after him recently in Mbale?

Sciences have been taught alongside humanities in Uganda for over a Century. We have not had any major scientific innovations, such as those in South Korea and yet those with Arts background have written policies, maintained our theatres, produced music and movies, won global award in journalism etc.

Ugandans must come to accept that theory informs scientific practice. Scientific practice without theory and ethics is false science. This is precisely why everything we do appears shoddy, incompetent and worthless in the long run and houses collapse on us daily!

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Mr. Komakech is a Ugandan social critic and political analyst based in Toronto. Can contact via [email protected]

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