Just like a flower, broken, folded over, and downright thrown away

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In its issue of June 28th, 2013, Science Magazine’s News of the Week column had this quotation from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences about its new report The Heart of the Matter, which makes the case for increased support for the humanities and social sciences:

The stem of the flower is STEM education, and the humanities are the blossom. Without the blossom, the STEM is completely useless.

Very few statements ever manage to stray further from the truth. When a blossom is severed from its stem, it may look beautiful in a vase – for a couple of days. After that it withers and dies while the stem, though lacking grace and beauty, survives in undiminished vigour and in due time will bring forth another blossom.

Take archaeology, whose quest for the origins of humanity itself makes it the paragon of all humanities. Only the rigour of its scientific underpinnings enables it to yield meaningful results at all, without them it would decline into meaningless waffle and idle speculation. The Nazarene teacher was neither the first nor the last to comment on the durability of elaborate edifices erected without sound foundation.

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