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General Paper Essay Outline : the Arts vs the Sciences

{FULL INTRO} Albert Einstein once wrote “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.’’ All seek to ennoble Man’s life by helping Man achieve greater freedom and go beyond mere physical existence. In light of this quote, this essay seeks to present that it is not true that the Arts, not the Sciences, make us better people. The Arts and the Sciences share some common virtues that help us evolve and advance, but each discipline has its own unique qualities that make our development more complete.

 

{BP1} Both the Arts and the Sciences seek to discover the truth about things, but in different ways. Because science favours what we can observe and measure, it encourages a person to act practically, think rationally and systematically and investigate thoroughly instead of making hasty, naive or unverifiable conclusions. The person becomes better in a sense that he is more prepared to face real-world problems that require concrete solutions. Because of scientific thinking, people discover how the natural environment works. They improve on medicine and infrastructure that liberate us from the physical obstacles that hindered us in the past. A modern example of this is seen in the Human Genome Project which sought to unravel the intricate workings of human genes. Geneticists strive to find ways to use this knowledge to prevent and mitigate genetic disorders. This area of research shows that scientists, inventors or designers are better people because their work in the Sciences make them valuable contributors to society.

 

{BP2} However the Arts operate differently and thus make us better in other ways. The Arts encourage us to engage and express our emotions. The Arts inspire reflection and introspection on less tangible matters and relationships in a way that the Sciences do not, thereby making us better because our understanding of a subject goes beyond the physical or superficial. For example, the Sciences see a new development like surrogacy as a workable solution for mothers who cannot bear their own children. But the Arts goes beyond this apparent victory and asks : Would the surrogate mother feel love for the child she would give up and would she feel the loss of separation? Would surrogacy breed a new form of abuse of poor women who ‘rent’ their wombs? In other words, the Arts spurs empathy and moral thought, which then affects the codes of conduct by which we interact with each other. If moral thought is stunted, the process of civilising a society would be too.

{BP 1 & 2 shown above form a pair that compares the 2 items in the question}

{BP3} Apart from building morality, the Arts encourage ideas, no matter how wild. We become better people because we activate our creativity and we interpret critically. Such cognitive endeavours set us apart from other living things.

E.g. Literature, poetry, theatre are forms of creative expression that are open to interpretation, discussion, analysis of themes, characters & social issues >> all these invigorate the mind

So, the more of the Arts we have, the more we think. The more we think, the more human we are. This is crucial in the modern world which overwhelms us with products of science and technology which can leave us isolated, disconnected, insecure (ironic example : social media). The Arts, indeed, make us better.

{BP4} This is not to say that the Sciences do not  help us arrive at this realisation of our humanity. After all, is it not through science that we discover the complex workings of the human brain itself, and how evolved it is compared to other creatures?
Moreover, the Sciences pique our curiosity about the things around us. This sense of wonder and the pursuit of knowledge and understanding sparked by it are all marks of our human uniqueness and superior intelligence.
Besides this, critical thought flourishes in the Sciences despite the seemingly rigid processes of scientific research. That is why the debate between the heliocentrism and geocentrism is not fully closed even centuries after Galileo declared that the sun, not the earth, lies at the centre of the galaxy. Today, it has been argued that creationism is scientific, just like its antithesis, evolutionism, in explaining how nature came to be.
Debate and the questioning of the prevailing theories are alive in the Sciences.

Therefore, the Sciences can also make us better people who can fulfil the potential of being human which is by realising the full extent of our faculty of thought.

 

{BP 3 & 4 shown above form a pair that compares the 2 items in the question}

 

{BP5} However, it is unfortunate that the majority of people do not engage the Sciences in this manner. Their relationship with science is limited to the use of technological devices that make them dependent and dull their cognitive skills. Thus for most people, it is the Arts that appear to make them better people, because the Arts, is accessible via the media and popular culture. The fact is it is not that the Sciences fail to make us better, but because the people themselves do not interact with the Sciences deeply.
E.g. What can a study of environmental science or astronomy teach us ? We learn that like all organisms, we are small yet complex; strong in our immediate environment, yet vulnerable to external forces → the Sciences present truths that are enlightening, humbling and uplifting. We are better people when we walk this Earth with the guidance of these truths by being responsible for the nature that we have learnt about.
Just like the Arts, the Sciences can make us better people.

{BP6} Finally, the proposition that it is the Arts, not the Sciences, that make us better people can also be refuted by examining the problems that could arise from the Arts.

– Individualism – due to over-emphasis on freedom of expression

– Group-think based on emotional connections rather than the impartial reasoning that is nurtured through the Sciences

– Disruption to the status quo e.g. provocative works → potential to create tensions in society

– The encouragement of hedonism e.g. through entertainment, instead of channeling energies to solve real-world problems using science

 

{BP 5 & 6 are separate; each raises its own unique point}

{FULL RESOLUTION} To conclude, despite any shortcomings that each appears to have, both the Arts and the Science add value to us in several ways. Together, they fortify our belief that we can learn about our natural environments and about ourselves – not just in the physical sense, but in the more emotional or spiritual aspects too. The knowledge that comes from these two disciplines advance human civilisation – not just in the material sense, but in the social and moral dimensions as well. Therefore, any assertion that it is the Arts, not the Sciences, that make us better people is a claim that cannot stand.

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