Texas Undergraduate Research Journal host panel on the interaction of humanities and science

Vera Bespalova

Genetic engineering, Shakespeare, quantum computing and the meaning of truth — these were all discussion topics last night at a panel hosted in Calhoun Hall by the Texas Undergraduate Research Journal.

Professors from varying fields sat down to discuss the role of technology in the field of humanities. However, the conversation became more free-form as the night progressed, opening the dialogue to a variety of topics.

English professor John Rumrich launched the conversation by discussing the advantages of using technology to better understand complicated literary texts, specifically in relation to John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

“There’re things that books don’t do so well, and that they are limited by, particularly the poverty of the auditory imagination,” Rumrich said.

He went on to explain that guided audio books can allow readers to delve deeper into multiple-century old works that were initially intended to be heard rather than read.

Later in the discussion, philosophy professor Cory Juhl pointed out the downsides to technology being as widely and frequently used as it is today.

“There’s so much triviality out there that’s kind of titillating, that one can be distracted from doing any sort of deep thinking,” Juhl said.

He said all of us, including himself, can become easily distracted by things such as Facebook, which can keep us from meaningful thoughts and actions.

Mathematics sophomore Karalyne Martinez said she attended the event because she saw each panelist was distinguished in a field she was interested in. 

“I didn’t realize that I would talk about what I’m actually learning about in my classes now to get the three different perspectives on it created some meaning,” Martinez said.

Toward the end of the event, integrative biology professor Sahotra Sarkar discussed the concept of truth in relation to science and experimentation.

“Science deals with things that are not false or approximately true, and that’s why ultimately we think that all scientific theories may get overthrown,” Sarkar said.

He added the truths scientists deal with are very different than the truths that philosophers deal with, and there is rarely a one-to-one correspondence in science.

Much like the professors, students attending the event also came from different majors and asked a variety of questions. After the event students had further opportunity to interact with the panelists over refreshments provided by TURJ.