Hi, my name is Shine--for the purposes of delicious Internet anonymity--and I want to major in English with a minor in Physics.
Unfortunately, I am not sure if this combination is even available at my university; to be honest, I’m embarrassed to ask my advisor. “Hello,” I will say as my fingers uncontrollably fidget with an indeterminate angst, “may I please change my minor from philosophy to physics?”
Am I really prepared for the potential mix of hilarity and condemnation which could overcome my advisor's face, despite his best effort to present an objective front? Of course, I would not blame him if he were to react as such; perhaps I am only projecting my own potential reaction were someone to broach the idea to me.
Admittedly, this is a strange mixture of disciplines which lies at the end of an equally strange path. After high school, I secured a lucky fortune of scholarships and attended Boston University for one semester before turning to a life of waiting tables and pickling my liver. Trusting in my foolish adolescent wisdom and idealized blue collar ethos, I decided that academia was complete bullshit and most definitely not the optimal way to understand the world. I saw no value in reading about life in books when I could be out learning about life by living.
Oh, the impetuous child: so quick to value the senses over reason.
Fast forward through seven hazy years and, suddenly, a life of sensory indulgence had yielded little to satisfy a curious mind. (Well, to be honest, a mind is not quite so curious when routinely besotted with a deluge of alcohol. Still, sometimes a glimmer of intellectual vigor can shine through the dullness of ritual inebriation.) With newly discovered regrets of forsaken academic opportunities, I returned to college at age twenty-six. Unfortunately, elite private universities along the Northeastern coast are not quite so fond of waitresses fresh off of the sauce with a professed desire for knowledge and anorectic bank account.
Fortunately, community colleges in central Texas do not share this aversion.
And so I entered a community college with no clue as to my intended area of study. Convinced that I had permanently impaired my cognitive abilities from years of soaking my neurons in ethanol, I shied away from anything that I considered to be overly technical. Science, therefore, was off limits. Besides, how could I possibly enjoy such an arrogant, rigid, and dogmatic discipline?
Oh, yes. I was a bit misinformed about the nature of science.
Really, I had no reason to be so misinformed. Although I had grown up in a Catholic household, science had never been lambasted by my family, my teachers, nor my religious instructors. I had never even heard of creationism nor Biblical literalism until I moved to Texas; I grew up with a catechism that was predicated on the allegorical interpretation of the Bible. (This delightful allegory deviated so far from the actual text as to render it a sugarcoated fallacy. But that is a topic for another rambling essay.) Still, I was convinced that science was an obnoxiously rigid institution filled with people whose main mission was to denigrate wonder.
Consequently, I immersed myself in the liberal arts with a particular emphasis on literature and philosophy. Essentially, I set to studying the ideas of countless thinkers and writers; great literature is largely philosophy wrapped in symbolic fiction. Ironically, it was through these two decidedly unscientific avenues that I arrived at a platform of naturalism. Naturalism led me to a fresh perspective on science; more precisely, naturalism yielded a mind which was open to enough to objectively explore science without the trappings of judgmental misconceptions. But although I learned to appreciate and value science, I still considered philosophy the superlative method of understanding the world; although science allowed one to marvel, I felt that it was philosophy which allowed one to truly wonder.
Then I met physics.
Suddenly, I found that overarching discipline which examined not just the observational structure of the tactile universe, but also embodied a formalized excursion into proposition and wonder of the universe in its entirety by its smallest units. While this is surely a component of every science, in physics I think that it is much more evident. Perhaps it is the emphasis on abstraction that draws me, or the sensuous thrill of attempting to reconcile one’s mind around the inconceivable.
Whatever the allure is, I’m deeply ignorant of the intricacies of physics but hooked on preliminary details. Meanwhile, after transferring to a university, I’m now over halfway finished with a bachelor of arts in English with honors. I can spare neither the time nor the finances required for a full transition to a bachelor of science.
Ergo, I would like to major in English with a minor in physics.
I have tentative plans to reconcile this puzzling chasm of academic contradiction. Namely, I’ve decided to dedicate my senior thesis to exploring why misconceptions of science persist in this age of information. Where did I get the idea that science was an arrogant, rigid, and dogmatic discipline? I do not think that I am alone in my former misconception; why is this rooted in our culture? I have my theories that the popular misconceptions of science in the modern era are rooted in Victorian sentiments; after a century of ideological oscillation from rigid Classicism to loose Romanticism and back to conservative Victorian ideals, the resultant populace suffered a sort of cultural whiplash. Coupled with a breakneck pace of scientific advancement over the past few centuries, a deep misunderstanding of science took root as popular culture was unable to keep pace with either the changing ideologies or the changing scientific theories. As novels would have reflected pop culture in an era preceding radio, television, or cinema, I am hoping to find evidence of this burgeoning cultural split between science and the masses in the literature of the nineteenth century.
Well, that concludes my latest lesson in why I should not consume quite so much caffeine in the evening. In this blog, I really only intended to propose my idea for a senior thesis in hopes of receiving feedback; somehow, it took me a thousand words to get there.
Evidently, brevity is not my strong suit. ;)
But, to the point, what do you think of this tentative thesis (which is in dire need of less awkward syntax):
Due to the frequent ideological shifts and rapid scientific advancement which preceded the nineteenth century, a cultural split occurred between the general populace and the scientific community. Evidence of this burgeoning split is reflected in several popular novels from the nineteenth century.