OpED

OPINION: Biological sciences without the strength of humanities cannot lead to development

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At the cusp of this pandemic we are invited to engage in serious reordering of our world views and related mental models.

In our country today, many realities are changing and drifting before our own eyes revealing our human and national limitations, as well as underlining our true capabilities.

Lately, we have realized that each new decision, each act, and each development adds new possibilities and eliminates others, or pushes them far to lower rungs; and so it is essential that we profoundly examine the complexities underlying the decisions we make and the policy landscapes we cultivate now and after the lockdown.

Presently, the question of remunerating scientists and science teachers better than those individuals in other fields has become as topical as it is controversial. The debate of focusing on our biological and physical science subjects and then the privileging of our science teachers and all professional scientists is timely and well-placed for serious discussions and wise pronouncements.

On my part, I do not conceive that this should be the case and I would strongly argue that in the Ugandan case, as in most, the biological and physical sciences are exactly at the same level as the humanities and the social sciences, and those individuals that subscribe to each of the two groups should be treated thus.

There is no doubt we need to put our science departments right and to fund research appropriately in these areas, but this similarly goes for the humanities and social sciences in the Ugandan situation today. It is important to note that Sciences build strongly on ethics, and therefore on integrity and similar virtues – ingredients that are gravely lacking in Uganda today. Noteworthy is the fact that in the world of inventors, innovators, and among laureates in the hard sciences, the issue of integrity comes first. At the fountainhead of modern scientific practice, one cannot manipulate findings, report false reactions, bend formulae, cheat on quantities, present false predictions, and suchlike. If we are galvanizing towards science with such shaky ethical foundations, science will only present us with the hope of Utopia and colossal threats of devastation.

We cannot have any Science where ethics do not reign supremely. To my mind, we pertinently need a “Science” that can rid the country of naked corruption, for we cannot build any science with the unspeakable levels of this vice in our systems and research – for this would be a dangerous venture. Come to think of it, if we ended corruption right now in Uganda, we would have enough financial resources for the required research in the hard science domains as well as in other disciplines! Corruption is our bane – it is our first bottleneck to any technological advancement: And no hard-core science will heal us of this contagion!!

Humanities and social sciences are those studies that help us temper the ambitions of the biological and physical sciences, to evade destruction and the “Hiroshimas” that such sciences could unleash on us if left to their reins. Far from plain hyperbole, these disciplines help us sit our enlightenments and discoveries in the sciences, in proper and secure seats so we can gain positively from them to improve our lives. Hard Sciences without the strong foundation and bedrock of the humanities can only be wanton advancement with no heart and body that we humans need to live.

It is common knowledge that “speed with no control is nothing”, sciences without the reflection, filtration, and sifting of the humanities and social sciences do not lead to any well-being for our human race. The humanities and social sciences equip us with the tools to refine, and the framework to think about what we want to do with all our discoveries and inventions in all sciences to live a good life. It is only within the scaffolding of these noble disciplines that we can pose and find answers for life-guarding questions of what development should be and will be for us amid our successes in explorations and variegated inventions. And this is simply because human advancement is not just anything! Not what any leader, investor, millionaire, or manufacturer thinks it is!! I contend that before we step up our level of the hard sciences, we must equally build the right scaffolding and inevitable foundation of ethics and integrity. It bears repeating that our humanities and social sciences teachers and professionals need as much remuneration and ability to research our hard-core science teachers and professionals. Let us begin our post-COVID 19 journeys from this landmark!

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This writer, Dr. SR Solome Najjuka is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Victoria University

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