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The Humanities Conference 2003

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A Humanities to Recognise Ignorance: The Unkown Plesiosaur

Stephens Mia.

In a next world order trying to ensure survival in the time of ecological collapse, a sustainable humanities might take as its purpose the recognition of ignorance.
To consider future humanities, we can start by predicting the next world order as in survival stance and by considering the shape of future science. Science may have its faults, but its major contribution is to show us the reasons for, the nature of and the extent of the ecological collapse. Science will be the major contributor to solving environmental problems, averting total collapse and starting the process of ecological systems recovery and environmental sustainability.
The place of the humanities will be in the service of survival and as complementary to scientific knowledge. One complementary role might locate gaps in science and try to deal with them. An important gap to consider is that which we do not know. The humanities can enter the service of recognising ignorance.
There are two kinds of ignorance we need to come to grips with – our own, and that of the scientists.
The other target is scientific ignorance, the scientific hubris and half-knowledge which was confident to approve release of toxins and heavy metals because it had no inkling that creatures would store them in their major organs and later poison the poisoners.
In a largely post-religious world, possibly the only place left for such acknowledgement and caution is scholarship in the humanities. One current relevant area of discussion is that of diversity and biodiversity. We can take the story of the opalised plesiosaur from Andamooka, South Australia as the centre of a discussion about a future humanities, with sustainability as its purpose, a humanities in a complementary relationship with science- a humanities which values and curates unknowing.


Stephens Mia  (Australia)
lecturer in linguistics, professional writing
School of Communication, Information and New Media
University of South Australia

  • Ecological sustainability
  • Environmental responsibility
  • Precautionary principle
  • Diversity
  • Biodiversity
  • Science
  • Humanities
  • Religion
  • Interdisciplinary

(Virtual Presentation, English)