Thank you Martin Rees

Thank your Martin Rees. In On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, published by Princeton University, Princeton and Oxford, 2018, you take us, the general reader, so clearly to the far future. As Astronomer Royal, that is to be expected. In Chapter 5, ‘Conclusions’, however, you bring us back to the here and now with ‘Science in Society.’ We need, you say, to make wise choices about major challenges to society. In a democracy, that means we require knowledge about issues that matter: they include food, health, energy, robotics and space. To make these wise choices citizens, voters, need an understanding of each other across the sciences and humanities. That applies to so many of us previously denied those connections. The use of the word ‘feel’ is of major importance. It is the felt connection that helps us to make the wiser decision. Martin Rees says we need ‘enough feel for the key ideas of science.’ [p. 213]. Critics say that his short accessible book helps us face with hope major situations that could be catastrophic. Given what he calls our ‘collective intelligence’ voters, from across diverse areas of study, can vote for the choices that will help us deal wisely with these issues. Living in the Southern Hemisphere, I thank Martin Rees. We made a mistake in Australia’s national curriculum.  Since 2015, we have been basing pre-tertiary schooling on separate sets of acronyms. There is HASS – Humanities, Arts, Social, Sciences, separated from STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. As a teacher who values interdisciplinary engagement, I thank all secondary schools where teachers refuse to be confined by this divide.  I thank all who encourage students to recognise connections. Preference for STEAM, bringing the Arts into the story, creates opportunities to develop this ‘collective intelligence’. With it voters can choose a wiser pathway.

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