The series of How to do well in UGE courses in UGE News will be interviewing teachers of the UGE courses and asking them to share the observations and experience in their teaching career. By doing this, we hope the readers will get to know how to go into the world of the classics.
Dr Wong shared a lot of useful tips on how to study “In Dialogue with Nature” in the last article(Click here!). Let’s go to the second part of the interview !
UGE News: Why do I need to care about science at all? How does science concern us as human beings? I can appreciate a kind of beauty of the world in Arts; I can make deep reflection in Philosophy; I can understand the interaction of societies and politics in Social Sciences. So why do you think we still need to care about science at all?
Dr. Wong: There are two keys words in this question, “I” and “human”, about which we cannot confuse. “I” is an individual, to whom I do not think science is necessary. Actually, no subject in university is necessary. We can still live our lives without knowing anything about physics or theology. A degree in physics or theology isn’t necessary for an understanding and aspiration in life (I avoid saying anything about the subjects that I am not familiar with, but readers can judge on their own about the subjects that they are familiar with). Frankly speaking, being familiar with physical theories might turn out to be horrible! For example, you might be worried about the inaccuracy in calculating the slope and curvature of the tracks when riding a roller coaster. And you might think rainbow-coloured bubbles are romantic? But what I would think of when playing with bubbles is the phenomenon of iridescence due to the interference of light, and it’s not romantic at all.
But to human beings, I think science is necessary, and this very necessity comes from within. Humans desire knowledge, and we fulfill this desire by looking in different directions, establishing different disciplines. And this applies to subjects other than science too.
UGE News: What is it in science that makes you so passionate about it for so many years? I think even arts students would want to be passionate about it as you are. And why theology?
Dr. Wong: For sure, I started out because I was interested in it, but I have to admit, there is also a story behind it. I was very naughty when I was a kid (and now too). When in junior high, there was a teach who taught me both English and Visual Arts, and my marks for those two subjects weren’t very good. When she was on maternal leave and the substitute teacher came, my grades improved quite a bit. But when she came back from maternal leave my grades went back down again. I knew she didn’t quite like me and I thought: if I studied science, as long as I got the answers right, the teachers couldn’t do anything about me, not even a mark can be deducted!
I won’t say I have been passionate about science all the way through these years. There is something I don’t like about science, but I am already on the boat for so many years, I can’t just jump out it now right? Fortunately, science is indeed interesting. Take mobile phones as an example, isn’t it interesting that hundreds and thousands of people can be communicating through it with all these wireless signals flying everywhere in the air? How can my phone pick out exactly the signal from the phone of the person on the other side? Air conditioners definitely improved the quality of life, but how does it cool down the air? And why does it drip? These are all very fascinating questions, but not many people are interested in them. I think even the phenomenon of people’s disinterest in these questions is interesting. May be we are just too used to living with scientific achievements, just like we are used to seeing the school bus drivers or the cashier everyday, that’s why we aren’t interested anymore.
There are times when science isn’t practical, but is interesting too. Enough of this, I’ll answer the other question. The reason why I wanted to study theology is to understand what I am believing in. Isn’t that something normal? It’s like what we do when we want to understand what we are actually saying. When you say, “break a leg”. The first thing that comes to mind is what this means and the story behind it. When you say, “let the cat out of the bag”. Naturally you would want to ask: “why is it cat but not other animals?” Studying theology is to clarify something for me.
UGE News: Arts and science are after all two different areas of study. How can students do well in both areas? Is a dialogue between In Dialogue with Humanities and In Dialogue with Nature possible?
I think arts and science are not two different areas, but rather a division of labour, in the sense that both of them extend the horizon human knowledge. Delimiting the exact boundaries of each discipline will only limit our understanding. Of course, when there is a division of labour, there is necessarily a difference in the concepts that they use and in the theoretical framework within which they work. But if you are willing to make efforts to understand them and bear in mind their commonality, that imagined line of distinction will disappear.
As to whether these two subjects can engage in a dialogue, that depends on our expectation. If what we want to do is only to compare and juxtapose the contents of the two courses, that would be easy, and it has actually been done before. For example, someone once compared the allegory of the cave to the ladder of love, and some other thought that biodiversity is an example of “inter-being”. But as to something further, like an integration of the two courses under a more complex framework, quite frankly, it is very difficult! Even the integration of science and faith took us long enough to achieve just a small step, needless to say that for the integration of the two courses. We still have a long way to go!
Dr WONG Wing Hung (Associate Director of University General Education and Associate Programme Director of General Education Foundation Programme)
Academic Interests:Theoretical physics, Christian theology, Dialogue between science and religion, Popular science, Teaching classics for general education