In Reply Dr Scott raises an interesting and valid objection to my essay.1 Why not appreciate the aspects of science that elucidate beauty and truth, ie, their humanistic aspects? I agree with that assertion but disagree with his thesis that implies that such wonder in science can equal or replace the humanistic benefits of a humanities education. The notion that an education in science and math will endow students with an appreciation of the beauty of science, math, physics, and chemistry that will ever equal or replace the inestimable, and crucially quite different, worth of a humanities education is unconvincing. The day in, day out exposure to the more accessible joys of the humanities, as in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Michelangelo’s Pietà, or Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, are simply not present in a premed background. I had 3 years of chemistry, physics, calculus, and biology and was all but a premed major save for 2 courses, all the while fulfilling requirements for a classics major. Not once during all those premed classes did I experience the drama and resolve and redemption I do every time I listen to Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 in D Minor. Nowhere in physics will one plumb the intricate psychological depths of the human condition one encounters in Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. The math student who can marvel at the elegance of Euler’s identity (eiπ + 1 = 0) is privileged to be able to do so. But such appreciation is not a replacement for having read, understood, and welcomed the simple yet profound truths of humanity in Cervantes’ Don Quijote. The beauties and wonders of science and the beauties and enduring truths of the humanities may both contribute to the education of a compassionate graduate.
Ratzan RM. Enhancing Compassion in Medical Students—Reply. JAMA. 2020;323(1):91–92. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.18150
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