"How Hot Is The Water West Africa: "No matter how hot the water from your well, it will not cook your rice."
It is an apt expression for encouraging thinking people to appreciate that science and art, researching and teaching, are integral components of a complementary web of actions, expressions and contemplations that have led our civilization to the heights of achievement which we have witnessed to date.
The sublime visual imagery we encounter in a valued painting hides both technique and technology that evolved from the science of chemistry, that led to paints of consistent quality and brushes that allow the most delicate of strokes.
The vocalist, the quartet or the full orchestra is better heard because acoustical engineers have designed a "lively house," and electronic engineers based on the work of physicists have provided the equipment that brings the musical expression to our ears.
The poet or actor raises our spirits, inspiring us to celebrate the human condition or repulsing us with loathing for that which is pathetic. The actions perceived from the stage mean more to us as a result of the science and technology reaching back to Alexander Graham Bell, work at the Bell Labs and the curiosity and vision of many others.
Scientist and artist alike begin an experiment or project from a point of current knowledge within their respective fields and attempt to add new knowledge for colleagues to critique and from which to teach to others.
In his "Synergetics," R. Buckminster Fuller reminds us "that we no sooner get a problem solved than we are overwhelmed with a multiplicity of additional problems in a most beautiful payoff of heretofore unknown, previously unrecognized and as-of-yet unsolved problems."
The astronomer gazing into deep space and the sculptor pausing with tool in hand have much in common. It is the intellectual quest that leads to understanding what it is to be human, alive and living freely at a time and place in which such questions can be asked and answers offered.
That our society makes available many more resources to disciplines in the physical and life sciences, engineering and medicine than for the fine arts and humanities is a reflection of allocated priorities based on relatively scarce resources.
It is also true that more people in America visit museums and attend performances than frequent athletic events. The power and gracefulness of American civilization has roots in both scientific procedure and the expression of diverse culture. Without both, we would live in a very different world.
Much has been written in the Daily Wildcat in recent months about the balance of research and teaching, science and art. Provost Paul Sypherd, in his essay on "The Research University and the Spirit of Discovery," sketched for us an engaging view of where we have been and the struggles before us as a comprehensive teaching and research institution.
Poignantly, Sypherd asks those who would break the ties between inquiry and practice, "In which century would you cease the act of discovery?" There too, without both we would not live as we do today.
African villagers know that you need more than a hot well to cook rice. Do enough of us in America today understand what occurs when we turn a light switch, step on the gas pedal, or gaze for the first time at a provocative piece of art?
Charles A. Geoffrion is assistant vice president for research and director of research communications at the University of Arizona. His sculptor wife and actor son stir the endless mix, as does his psychologist daughter and biochemist boss. Read Next Article