Raman - Abstract

< back to list of abstracts

Download Keynote Draft

KEYNOTE

Varieties of Boundary Crossings

Our world is wrought with extraordinary diversity. From the dawn of history the human family has split itself into countless groups embedded in different cultures, speaking different languages, affiliated to different religions and sects, and deeply bound to different loyalties. Each group was, is a garden unto itself, providing much excitement and enrichment to those within it.

One could expect harmonious co-existence and meaningful interactions amongst the groups. But this has not been a feature of the human history. Groups have always fought with groups, nations with nations, and religions and religions. More ironically, multiculturalism which is now touted as the model in the modern world, is also creating problems within societies.

Among the many unique features of our age is the fact that  cultures are no longer islands of closed systems with only occasional glimpses into alien varieties. In today’s world,  they rub shoulders on the global arena in a hundred different ways. TV screens bring into living rooms images and actions of distant peoples and life-styles.  We are no longer dealing with interactions between cultures, but with the interpenetration and interpretations and misinterpretations of cultures. It is too early to foresee the long-range consequences of all this. We need to think of steps that will optimize the eventual outcome for the benefit of humanity.

We recall S. P. Snow’s celebrated lecture on The Two Cultures.. Sixty years ago Snow predicted with great acumen that there was a growing rift between technical scientists and specialists in the humanities, wrought with grave danger to the sanity and stability of civilized societies. Though the two cultures which Snow decried has persisted, many new problems have arisen, not just due to the divide between scientific knowledge and literary criticism, between the creators of  string theories and  of symphonies, but because of  deep chasms between cultures that vie for recognition and influence in our extraordinarily complex world. At the same time, practitioners in many spheres of human interactions work and thrive in their respective areas with little appreciation for and less understanding of the myriad components that cause people within a society and different human societies to tick in dissonant modes.

Bridges need to be built not just between scientists and literati, but between physicists and biologists, between cosmologists and theologians, between the revelers in ivory towers and the common citizen, between ethical philosophers and soldiers in the battle-field, between the social reformers and traditionalists, between evolutionists and the religious creationists, between cultural anthropologists and the practitioners of cultures, between newspaper cartoonists and religious sensitivities, and so on.

Our challenge is not simply to educate people in different disciplines, to inform the public about scientific findings and scientists about sonnets and soccer. Rather it is to propagate worldviews that will be respectful of all humanity. The goal of boundary crossing has to be to understand, if not agree with, the frameworks that others hold dear in so far as they are non-hurtful and non-hateful, to be appreciative of the fruits of the creative efforts in all disciplines, and to try to be sympathetic to the deepest concerns of those who are not of our particular group. To accomplish these, we need international forums and institutions where intellectuals, leaders, lay and religious, as well as youth from various groups will commit themselves to such goals. Perhaps this conference could initiate such a global movement.

Crossing Boundaries, Stimulating Creativity: The Horizon of Integral Meta-Studies

Our world is wrought with extraordinary diversity. From the dawn of history the human family has split itself into countless groups embedded in different cultures, speaking different languages, affiliated to different religions and sects, and deeply bound to different loyalties. Each group was, is a garden unto itself, providing much excitement and enrichment to those within it.

One could expect harmonious co-existence and meaningful interactions amongst the groups. But this has not been a feature of the human history. Groups have always fought with groups, nations with nations, and religions and religions. More ironically, multiculturalism which is now touted as the model in the modern world, is also creating problems within societies.

Among the many unique features of our age is the fact that cultures are no longer islands of closed systems with only occasional glimpses into alien varieties. In today’s world, they rub shoulders on the global arena in a hundred different ways. TV screens bring into living rooms images and actions of distant peoples and life-styles. We are no longer dealing with interactions between cultures, but with the interpenetration and interpretations and misinterpretations of cultures. It is too early to foresee the long-range consequences of all this. We need to think of steps that will optimize the eventual outcome for the benefit of humanity.

We recall S. P. Snow’s celebrated lecture on The Two Cultures.. Sixty years ago Snow predicted with great acumen that there was a growing rift between technical scientists and specialists in the humanities, wrought with grave danger to the sanity and stability of civilized societies. Though the two cultures which Snow decried has persisted, many new problems have arisen, not just due to the divide between scientific knowledge and literary criticism, between the creators of string theories and of symphonies, but because of deep chasms between cultures that vie for recognition and influence in our extraordinarily complex world. At the same time, practitioners in many spheres of human interactions work and thrive in their respective areas with little appreciation for and less understanding of the myriad components that cause people within a society and different human societies to tick in dissonant modes.

Bridges need to be built not just between scientists and literati, but between physicists and biologists, between cosmologists and theologians, between the revelers in ivory towers and the common citizen, between ethical philosophers and soldiers in the battle-field, between the social reformers and traditionalists, between evolutionists and the religious creationists, between cultural anthropologists and the practitioners of cultures, between newspaper cartoonists and religious sensitivities, and so on.

Our challenge is not simply to educate people in different disciplines, to inform lay people about scientific findings, and scientists about sonnets and soccer. Rather it is to inculcate in every one values and worldviews that will be appreciative and respectful of all humanity. Thus, the goal of boundary crossing has to be to understand, if not agree with, the values that others hold dear, and be sympathetic, if not come to the resolution of the deepest concerns of others.