Avoiding the alienating trap of rivalry between science and arts/humanities

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science and arts/humanities

Some West African people have a type of food, fufu, made by stirring or pounding boiled or powdered yam, cassava, corn, wheat or millet. Because of its thickness and weak taste, people use different types of soup to eat it. The soup is usually tasty but light and unsatisfying, while the fufu is heavy and satisfying but tasteless. While the soup gives taste to the fufu, the fufu gives weight to the soup. So, they complement each other to provide nourishment and energy. Likewise, despite the rivalry between science and arts/humanities, they complement each other to provide true happiness.

Some people brag about the superiority of their affiliation to either science or arts/humanities. Because of this, some students seek either science or art-courses simply for its hype of superiority. And not because of their interest in the course nor their intention to impact the society with it. Choosing courses and careers based on socio-economic hype has denied many people the chance for social impact and eventual job-satisfaction. So, it becomes urgent to evaluate the roles and relationship between science and arts/humanities in the society.


Process of social formation before dividing science and arts/humanities

Human beings are born tabula-rasa, without scientific knowledge or cultural value. And like the lower animals, they desire pleasure, security and abundant resources for sustenance. Desiring steady resources for pleasure and sustenance, they feel threatened by other people, who also desire the same resources.[1] Yet, nobody can generate all the knowledge and ability to refine and secure all the resources without other people’s support. To avoid steady fear of attack, and lack of progress, people find ways of collaborating with others to own, develop, protect, trade and use resources.


So, people create societies/countries by agreeing to live and work together for their common growth. Through this agreement, they make laws and institutions to guide people to develop their potentials and resources, and to contribute to security and progress. Individuals grow rich by developing and trading their skills in needed services, or by developing and trading products from their natural resources. Due to interdependent growth through trade in prosperous societies, individuals strive to earn their living by satisfying other people’s needs or solving problems. However, if some people are progressing and neglect or exploit the others who are not progressing, they become targets for the neglected or exploited ones. So, while economic growth comes from the people’s productivity, social stability and harmony comes from their social responsibility. For without social responsibility, productivity becomes exploitation and without productivity, social responsibility becomes empty noise.[2]

Interdependence of arts and science in the society

Though both science and arts/humanities can be misused for destruction, they both originate from human effort to understand and develop life;[3] and they both contribute to growth and harmony. While science aims to increase and improve productivity for economic growth, arts/humanities aim to enable social responsibility for common-good. While science works on human reasoning and ability to manage natural forces and objects, arts/humanities work to refine human emotions and intentions for socially responsible actions. Since humans are both emotional and rational, every human is both a scientist and an artist. But due to the demand for specialization, people are made to focus on one as a means for contributing to harmonious growth.


Arts/humanities and the need for science

Humans are firstly emotional before rational, and human actions are directed towards their prevalent emotions. We have positive emotions like gratitude, love, courage and empathy, and negative emotions like arrogance, bitterness, jealousy, greed, timidity, fear and hatred. Despite their influence on human actions, humans can choose different responses to these emotions based on enlightenment. Using philosophical discourses, history, literature, law, music, dramas, poems, religion, fine-arts and other courses, arts/humanities influence human emotions to choose socially responsible actions and methods.


Art is using the imagination to express ideas or feelings, particularly in painting, drawing, sculpture,[4] also drama, music and writings; humanities are studies about the way people think and behave like philosophy, religion, history, language and anthropology.[5] Arts/humanities express the values, meaning and beauty of nature, human and environment to inspire responsible productivity and social organisation.


Despite their fundamental importance, arts/humanities depend on science for actualizing, storing or sharing their creative ideas. The beautiful ideas from the arts cannot be actualized without material productivity from pure sciences. The tools for expressing arts like pencil, pen, camera, recorder, printer, papers and other building or creative materials come from pure science. Also, great ideas from the humanities for social growth and harmony may not be actualized without understanding social structures and institutions using the social sciences.


Science and the need for arts/humanities

Science is the knowledge about the structure and behaviour of the natural and physical world, based on facts that you can prove, for example by experiment.[6] It is through applying scientific knowledge on natural resources that humans create wealth as machines and consumer goods for sustaining life.[7] All communication gadgets, transport networks, vehicles, furniture, wears, weapons, buildings, healthcare, agricultural, sports and entertainment equipment, even social organization proceed from science.


Currently, the use of scientific productivity as a measuring scale for superiority among different countries[8] questions the relevance of arts/humanities.


The major gift of arts/humanities is faith: faith in the society, divinity, nature, life, humanity, or social/blood ties. This faith is held, harnessed and promoted within a social or religious culture, and then lived as codes, rites or morals to guide adherents’ decisions, actions and reactions to different emotions. Motivated and guided by this faith, humans develop technologies and methods for relating with other people and the environment. We noted that humans get true happiness and sustenance by finding, developing and using their skills and natural resources for solving problems and satisfying needs;[9] and that people create such prosperous societies by freely agreeing to live and work together. Without faith in the social agreement and destination, it is difficult to get people to freely live and work together. And if people do not work together, there cannot be any real progress in science and technology. People will not pursue scientific productivity without faith that their work will be useful, valued or protected in the society.[10] So, without faith, humans become hopeless and thus, lose the reason to work, sacrifice, build, fight, or even, live.


“Arts/humanities define beauty and goodness for science to actualize them in the society.

They define what has to be done and why, while science shows how it can be done.”

Causes of rivalry between science and arts/humanities

The major cause of rivalry between science and arts/humanities is the desire for domination. We noted earlier that humans are primarily emotional, and they can be occupied by either positive or negative emotions. The most influential negative emotions are those of fear, greed and indifference. Noticing the insufficiency of resources for all desires, we fear for the insufficiency of resources. This leads to grabbing resources or power to control others. The quest for controlling others leads to both suppressing and/or indoctrinating them to serve our desires. And the easiest people to control are people who lack support systems and deep connections to ethically distinct cultures for growth.


The continuity of exploitative systems ‘depends on people being shallow, superficial, self-obsessed, greedy and desperate for attention.’[11] Of such people, Lee Kwan Yew suggest that the worst person to have in a society is someone who has nothing to lose.[12] Such people are almost like unthinking robots that can create or sell military, cyber or social weapons to highest bidders, or execute corrupt and dictatorial orders without much ethical or cultural restraint. Since they fear opposition, dictators often use twisted ideologies to distract people from their socio-cultural and ethical roots. So, neutralizing the social, religious, family or academic institutions for responsible arts/humanities or diverting them to shallow entertainment becomes a tactic for keeping people shallow, selfish and without values for social responsibility.


While neutralizing arts/humanities as threats to social domination, dictators promote people who can deliver their desired products, services or dirty jobs. So, science as the foundation for material productivity gets ranked far above the arts/humanities in repressive and exploitative societies. Then arts/humanities are suppressed or twisted in place of dictatorial sycophancy, sedating consolation, distracting entertainment or mass indoctrination using media stars and superheroes.


Deficiency of science and arts/humanities in Nigeria

“Nigerians now adore with reverence, modern science and technology, and see the humanities as reserved for the indulgence of the idle”.[13] Unfortunately, this adoration of science does not translate to locally producing things, but desperately depending on imported goods to assemble, install, hoard, trade, prescribe, use or repair. The best science graduates get absorbed in multinational resource-extraction companies or emigrate to work for ‘oyibo’. While many of the political, academic, religious and cultural custodians of arts/humanities blame Nigerian youths for being unemployable locally, but ironically, employable abroad. This situation demands an inquiry into the primary causes of unproductive science and inefficient arts/humanities in Nigeria.


British colonialists created Nigeria by imposing land-expropriation law on several unconsented kingdoms and communities[14][15] for extracting resources.[16] They killed those who opposed their invasion[17] and trained the pliable ones to assist them in enforcing colonial rule.[18] Before leaving at independence, they fixed constitution to guide their local replacements to seize,[19][20][21] merge[22] and export[23] the different people’s resources in exchange for foreign products.[24] To appear democratic, the colonially-imposed government created states, districts and ministries to share few foreign products as infrastructure, salaries and handouts. Hence, different people struggle to occupy the colonially-made offices to dictate the mode of sharing foreign proceeds from different communities’ seized resources. [25] Yet, “the scanty social services were meant only to facilitate exploitation; they were not given to any Africans whose labour was not directly producing surplus (both mineral and human resources) for export to Europe.”[26]


“The main purpose of the colonial system was to train Africans to help man the local administration at the lowest ranks and to (protect) private capitalist firms owned by Europeans… That meant selecting a few Africans to participate in the domination and exploitation of the continent as a whole… and to instil a sense of deference towards all that was European and capitalist.”[27]


Presently, it is difficult to say that people truly believe in Nigeria. Many who claim to believe in or love Nigeria exemplify people who claim to love fish, as long as it ends in their bellies. “Nigerians have never agreed – or been given the chance to agree – what Nigeria is.”[28] It is a haphazard cluster of unconsented ethnic communities held together at gunpoint with daily questions of disintegration. And trying to divert the question of nationhood by sharing flashy projects and finished goods to different regions is like bandaging a bullet wound. It will continue to fester, until it is opened and treated with the tools of science and arts/humanities.


Application of science and arts/humanities for a new Nigeria

Science and arts/humanities may never be effective or productive without adjusting the colonially-imposed system for extraction. So, to get a prosperous Nigeria, some steps become necessary:


  • Cultural distinction: culture embodies peoples’ belief-systems about life, nature, community, human origin, interactions and destiny. Cultures keep evolving according to progress in human discoveries and enlightenment about the world, humanity, nature, peoples, forces, etc.


For a new Nigeria, the different cultures, distinguished as ethnic communities and kingdoms, have to look inwards to identify, own and develop their human and natural resources for responsible productivity. This is where arts/humanities can have a reforming effect.


  • Genuine socio-political contract: like marriage between compatible and consenting partners for mutual growth and joy, progressive countries rise from the free consent between different communities for their survival and growth. Without free consent to live and work together, communities held together by force will keep hindering one another. So, Thomas Hobbes says:


“For being distracted in opinions concerning the best use and application of their strength, they do not help but hinder one another; and reduce their strength by mutual opposition to nothing: whereby they are easily, not only subdued by a very few that agree together; but also when there is no common enemy, they make war upon each other, for their particular interests.”[29]


For a better Nigeria, the different communities that have identified their cultural elements for growth and harmony have to discuss in local governments, then districts before converging in a national conference.[30] There, they will discuss and agree on terms, powers and methods for a mutually prosperous national partnership. This area is for the social sciences.


  • Technological networking: economic growth rises from industrially processing and combining different resources as tools or raw materials for producing items. The different resources that can be combined for producing different items needed in Nigeria are contained in different communities. But the colonial tradition that became laws confiscates them for export and socialist-sharing.[31] After the socio-political contract, the different communities will retrieve ownership of their lands and resources, and can then obtain loans for labour and machines to extract, process and market their agricultural/mineral resources. This provides materials for firms to produce more goods. Then government can regulate and tax people’s production.


In conclusion, the purpose of arts/humanities is refining culture as the embodiment of a people’s values and beliefs about life, society, etc. While the purpose of science is providing techniques or the technology for people to respond to their environments following these values/beliefs. Some people denigrate culture by equating it with stagnation or rejection of technological progress. Culture is not a rejection of technological progress, but the value/belief system that influences people’s interactions with humans, nature, resources or supernatural. Technology, fashion, sports, food, medicine, music, and other scientific knowledge and skills are not rivals to culture. Instead, they are products and tools people invent or adopt to express their culture. For culture gives order, passion, purpose, appreciation and fulfilment to science and technology. A European does not become nor steal the culture of Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba because he used any of these cultures’ cloth, music, food, medicine or games. Instead, he adopts their techniques or belief-systems about humans, community, nature, divine and others.


By seizing the different communities’ rights to their lands and resources, the colonially imposed government takes away what the people need for technological production to express the beauty and goodness of their cultures. It makes them directly dependent on government’s sharing of salaries and handouts.[32] And without the cohesion from technological productivity, people relegate the communal bonding that characterizes Africa, and upon which industrialization could grow. Instead, they adopt an extreme individualism for positioning themselves (politically or professionally) to benefit from the consumerist-sharing in the exploitative postcolonial system. But despite the fear and mutual suspicion among Nigerians, arts/humanities will raise the faith for a new Nigeria from the synthesis of the responsible and productive aspects of our cultures, so that technology will grow to express the beauty and goodness in our various great cultures.


“He cannot be a good natural scientist or social scientist without first being a fully developed man, and he will not be that, if he is not acquainted with the humanities first.”[33]

[1] Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, edited by Michael Oakeshott (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1962), p.100.

[2] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Let’s make Nigeria great again… how great? We will get there… Where?” in Restartnaija. 17th July, 2019. https://restartnaija.com/2019/07/17/lets-make-nigeria-great-again/ retrieved 7th March, 2020.

[3] Cf. Thomas Hobbes, op. cit. p.71

[4] Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, International Student’s Edition, New 8th Edition, s. v. Art

[5] www.en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanities retrieved 7th April, 2020

[6] Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, op. cit. s. v. science

[7] Walter Rodney, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, 2009 edition, (Abuja: Panaf Press, 2009), p.23

[8] Francis E Ogbimi, Solution to Mass Unemployment in Nigeria, (Ile-Ife: Obafemi Awolowo University Press ltd, 2007) p1

[9] Cf. Aristotle, Politics, Bk 1

[10] Cf. Thomas Hobbes, op. cit. p.73

[11] Cf. Scott, in the movie “syrup”, 2013. Directed by Aram Rappaport.

[12] Lee Kwan Yew, From third world to first (USA: HarperCollins, 2000)

[13] Cf. Godwin Sogolo, Nigeria Yesterday Today, (Ibadan: Safari Books ltd, 2013), p.6

[14] S. O. Oyedele, “Federalism in Nigeria” in Issues contemporary political economy of Nigeria (edited) Hassan A. Saliu, (Ilorin: Sally and associates, 1999), p.57

[15] cf. Richard Dowden, Africa altered states, ordinary miracles. (New York: Public Affairs, 2010). p.3-4

[16] Cf. Walter Rodney, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, 2009 edition (Abuja: Panaf publishing Inc. 2009), p.273

[17] Oladele Fadeiye, European conquest and African resistance (Lagos: Murfat publication, 2011), p.65-69

[18] Walter Rodney, op. cit. p.319

[19] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 2 “… all lands in which minerals have been found in Nigeria and any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the Exclusive Economic Zone shall, from the commencement of this Act be acquired by the Government of the Federation…”  “No person shall search for or exploit mineral resources in Nigeria or divert or impound any water for the purpose of mining except as provided in this Act.”  “The property in mineral resources shall pass from the Government to the person by whom the mineral resources are lawfully won, upon their recovery in accordance with this Act.”

[20] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 2, paragraph 1

[21] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 3

[22] 29th March 1978, Land use act. P7

[23] C.f. A. M. Babu, “Postscript” in Walter Rodney, op. cit., p.350. Given at Dar es Salam, Tanzania, December 1971

[24] Walter Rodney, op. cit. p.319.

[25] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Sharing consumption breaks and enslaves people” in Restartnaija, 17th December, 2019. https://restartnaija.com/2019/12/17/sharing-consumption-breaks-people/ retrieved 24th January.

[26] Walter Rodney, op. cit. p.250

[27] Walter Rodney, 293

[28] cf. Richard Dowden, op cit. p.445

[29] Thomas Hobbes, p.130

[30] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Organizing the true national conference for a new Nigeria” in Restartnaija. restartnaija.com/2019/02/05/organizing-nigerian-national-conference/ retrieved 5th April, 2020.

[31] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Sharing consumption breaks and enslaves people” in Restartnaija, 17th December, 2019. https://restartnaija.com/2019/12/17/sharing-consumption-breaks-people/ retrieved 24th March, 2020.

[32] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Sharing consumption breaks and enslaves people” in Restartnaija, 17th December, 2019.

[33] Godwin Sogolo, “Of university disciplines and relevance” in Nigeria Yesterday Today, (Ibadan: Safari Books Ltd, 2013), p.8.