Why Bring the Sciences and the Humanities Together?

With the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth (ICE) now in its sixth month of activities, it’s high time we started our open conversation on all issues related to the “Big Questions” of interest to us and to you. My plan is to maintain a public blog and commentary platform for as long as ICE is operative, where I will contribute somewhat regularly and invite others to do the same. Readers will be able to add commentary and engage in discussion and exchange ideas, as long as it follows a civil and constructive tone. We are here to learn from one another, inspired by some of the great thinkers that regularly participate in the many different ICE activities.

One question I hear often is: Why do it? Why spend the energy trying to create a public forum to engage the sciences and the humanities? The answer is simple, even if essential. We are facing serious challenges in the modern world, many of them asking for novel and creative approaches to mutual understanding. There are questions that will define our collective future that require a multifaceted, cross-disciplinary approach: a pointedly scientific, or humanistic, take on them will tackle only a part of a much larger issue, offering an incomplete and often biased view. As we consider such questions, we will do well to embrace different perspectives in order to make progress. Among the many issues we intend to explore in the coming months and blog posts are: 

  • the meaning of free will 
  • the mystery of consciousness 
  • the nature of reality
  • the nature of faith
  • immortality
  • the future of human and machine intelligence
  • should we be afraid of artificial intelligence?
  • the existence of extraterrestrial life
  • cosmos and purpose
  • can science explain the big bang?
  • can science be spiritual?
  • are there unifying morals that transcend religious practice?

Thus, I invite you to join ICE and its community of thinkers in a novel experiment in social culture and popular learning, designed to bring out the best humanity has to offer. Together, we can face some of the greatest questions of this century, learning from one another and sharing our knowledge and experiences.

Let me hear from you!

- Marcelo Gleiser


Coming Up from ICE:

ICE’s first free online course, Question Reality! Science, Philosophy and the Search for Meaning, staged by the EdX platform, produced at Dartmouth and presented by me will start on January 31. You can register here.

Our second public dialogue, The Nature of Reality, featuring physicist Sean Carroll and Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace will take place on February 9 in San Francisco. You can register here.
Remember that the morning after the dialogue we offer a free workshop with me and the speakers from 9 a.m.–12 p.m.! See information on how to apply here.