Scientific skepticism is the simple process by which provisional conclusions are reached through a systematic examination of evidence. The tools of science fill our workbench while emotions and spirituality are left still wrapped in cellophane under the table -- pretty, and seemingly pretty useless. As such, it would seem that the humanities would have little to offer the skeptical community. What can poetry tell us of Occam's razor? How can a song express the quadratic equation?
As I write this, I'm listening to "Glorious Dawn" by ColorPulse, also know as John Boswell. This viral piece features Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking "singing" about the wonder of science. I find the sound mesmerizing and listen to it often; your mileage may vary. But it illustrates an important point that I think the skeptical community misses at times. Music, art and poetry can and should inform our skepticism.
When I first heard this piece (I originally typo'd that as "peace"), it made me think about Sagan and Hawking and what it was about these two individuals that made them stand out. What I came up with is this: They are interpreters. They have the training and intellect necessary to understand and cogitate the sometimes abstruse language of science, and convert it to accessible and often beautiful prose. This is how we can experience such things as human beings.
Sadly, in many universities, the specter of post modernism has turned many of our burgeoning writers into relativistic white bread, unwilling to explore a concept or state an opinion without offending someone. They've been told that "science is a failed paradigm" and that we each have our own individual realities. On the other side of the quad, fledgling scientists are steered away from the slushiness of poetry and creative writing, in favor of stiff, obfuscatory language that the mere mortal can't understand. The gap is widening, and the average man's ability to appreciate science is falling into the void.
But there is hope. While I don't believe we have another Sagan or Twain with us today, we do have a number of writers who can act as a bridge between these two worlds. Dawkins, Tyson, and Plait come to mind. But we need more bridges. We need so many bridges that the void below is constantly shadowed by those crossing between the two sides.
It's up to us to do our part. We, the skeptical community, are in a unique position to welcome the humanities into our fold. In fact, they're already here, though some of them are afraid to reveal themselves. Philosophers, actors and novelists have much to teach us about the world around us, and what we're all searching for. Truth, I mean. Let's welcome them.