The indispensable synergy between sciences and humanities for integrated education

The indispensable synergy between sciences and humanities for integrated education

The indispensable synergy between sciences and humanities for integrated education

Both are integral components of our fundamental human framework

The human species is unique in its ability to consciously generate, use and transmit knowledge / Pixabay

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David Bueno


The high degree of specialisation achieved by all academic disciplines has often led to their gradual isolation, a trend that can be traced back to the Cartesian separation between sciences and humanities that began after the publication of René Descartes’ Discourse on Method in 1637. This essay is premised on a fundamental proposition: the main objective of both the humanities in a broad sense (visual arts, philosophy, literature, music, etc.) and the sciences across all fields is to contribute to human well-being and dignity. A society made up of individuals who develop in well-being and dignity can be a more fair and free society. Secondary education, both compulsory and post-compulsory, must contribute promoting effort and rewarding the ability to overcome obstacles, two aspects that are intrinsically linked to well-being and dignity. However, if both the sciences and the humanities are part of this whole, to what extent can an education fulfil these objectives if it is excessively compartmentalised into near-static academic disciplines?

The human species is unique in its ability to consciously generate, use and transmit knowledge. The same evolutionary mechanisms that have shaped other species have allowed the progressive genesis of a complex brain in humans, capable of generating a rich, plural and complex mental activity. This activity includes many diverse and complementary aspects, from instinctive behaviours, such as groupism and sociability, to more sophisticated ones that include reasoning and creativity, giving rise to poetry, art, philosophy and science, among many other manifestations. They have also endowed us with a curiosity that drives us to seek novelties. This has allowed us to develop a multitude of systems to understand and interpret the world and to modify it for our benefit. Art, philosophy, history, literature, poetry, science and technology in their multiple specialties were born with our lineage. We have specialized them to such an extent, that we have had to classify them in a dichotomously Cartesian way as science and humanities. Within the educational system we subdivide it into very specific subjects.

This subdivision is logical. It is impossible to assimilate the enormous body of knowledge we have accumulated over time within a single life. And it is also impossible to delve deeply into all of them. However, if as I stated in the introduction, the main objective of the humanities and science should be to contribute jointly to human well-being and dignity, can this be achieved without a minimum level of interrelation between them that allows us to see beyond what each subject offers?

Starting from the previous proposition, it would be easy to say that science needs the humanities as it requires philosophical and artistic reflections, as well as ethical and moral ones, within the social and historical context, among others. Similarly, it would also be easy to assert that the humanities cannot ignore science as it permeates all aspects of our lives, including humanistic research itself, as evidenced by the use of chemical, physical, and genetic analysis techniques in historiography, or advances in neuroscience to better comprehend the essence of the human being in philosophy, to name a few examples.

It would also be worth discussing whether there is a suitable balance between sciences and humanities in the curriculum. As scientists, we often perceive and express that the sciences are underrepresented in secondary education compared to the humanities. This perception is corroborated when we examine the academic schedules. Humanists, on the other hand, tend to think and say that the humanities should be further reinforced to ensure that students achieve an adequate cultural level. These contrasting viewpoints present a complex problem, especially considering the already packed schedules of students. So, what might be the solution?

Despite the apparent, and sometimes self-serving, opposition between the sciences and the humanities, both are integral components of our fundamental human framework. The Cartesian division has facilitated substantial progress in numerous academic disciplines and, to some degree, this separation must persist. However, the question arises whether this impermeability between the different academic areas within secondary education should continue or if a synergistic interaction between humanities and sciences, and vice versa, should be facilitated in some way for the intellectual enrichment of students. This approach could also counteract the widespread feeling that they are not sufficiently engaged with science and simultaneously require more exposure to the humanities.

The brain constantly operates simultaneously on these two planes. For instance, children instinctively and subconsciously employ the scientific method, an inherent feature of the brain’s basic programming, to explore and adapt to their environment, but they also instinctively employ philosophical reasoning to interpret various aspects of reality, along with art as a means of expression. The brain’s diverse structures, responsible for processing external information, our thoughts, and generating behavioural responses, are interconnected and employ both scientific and humanistic reasoning.

Does this imply a need to blend science with humanities, or humanities with science? The complete fusion of knowledge, as was the case prior to the Renaissance, is no longer possible, nor even desirable, given the high degree of specialisation. Moreover, such a fusion could lead to a mix of pseudoscientific and pseudohumanistic knowledge which should be avoided. Furthermore, this does not deny the importance, I would say the necessity, for the different areas of knowledge to interact with each other in a synergistic multidisciplinary cooperation formally akin to the processes occurring in the brain of any person during mental activity.

In other words, rather than a scientific-humanistic blend, it would be, to borrow the words of the philosopher, engineer and writer Salvador Pániker, “that scientific paradigms genuinely fertilise philosophical discourses”. Here, I would include the humanities in general. I would also propose that humanistic paradigms reciprocally fertilise the sciences and scientific advancements, while preserving their distinct identities and strategies for progress and discovery.


Bueno, D. (2019) Neurociencia aplicada a la educación. Madrid: Editorial Síntesis.

Bueno, D., Casanovas, J., y Garcés, M. (2019). Higher Education in the World 7: Humanities and Higher Education: Synergies between Science, Technology and Humanities. Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi).

Bueno, D. (2022) Science and humanities during infancy and adolescence. Science of Learning Portal (IBE-IBRO).

Descartes, R. (1636) Discurso del método. Madrid: Alianza Editorial (2011)

Pániker, S. (2007) A propósito de un nuevo humanismo. En: El nuevo humanismo (John Brockman, ed.). Barcelona: Editorial Kairós.

Redolar, D. (ed.) (2022). Neurociencia cognitiva 2ª Ed. Madrid: Editorial Médica Panamericana.

Source: educational EVIDENCE

Rights: Creative Commons

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