【如何讀好基礎課程】大雄博士拆解文科心理包袱(下)How to do well in ‘In Dialogue with Nature’ – Interview with Dr. Wong Wing Hung (Part2)

book-drive

上集大雄博士和大家分享了一些他如何看文科人讀科學的看法,還有他多年教學的觀察[請看大雄博士拆解文科心理包袱(上)]。

今次大雄博士繼續和大家談科學,還有談人生。


大通報:其實我為何要知道科學,是一種不同的關懷,是人類必須的?例如我在藝術中已經欣賞到世界一種美;我在哲學中,我對人生已有一種體悟;我在社會學中,我關心的是人類社會的政治和互動,那我為何仍有需要進入科學世界?

這個問題有兩個詞:「我」和「人類」。兩者不能混淆。「我」是個人。就個人來說,我不認為科學是必需的其實大學也沒有任何一科是必需的。不懂物理學/神學仍然可以活得自在。對生命有體悟的人不一定有物理學/神學學位。(我不敢用其他我未學過的學科做例。讀者還是按需要自行更換橫線上的語詞吧!)老實說,懂得物理學也可能是好慘的!玩過山車時,你會擔心工程師未精準計算路軌的曲率和斜度。七彩肥皂泡很浪漫吧!但我會想起光的干涉現象,所有浪漫感覺一掃而空。

對人類來說,我認為科學是必需的,這種需要來自內心。人是求知的動物,當我們要滿足對知識的渴求,就自然會向不同方向追尋,建立不同學科。不單科學如是,其他學科亦如是。

大通報:理科中有什麼東西吸引你多年對此樂此不疲?文科人也希望可以得到這種熱情吧!為何你會由理入文(神學)?你有沒有經歷到兩種思維「打交」的時候?

當初讀理科,固然是為興趣,但我承認,讀理科也是出於滿肚子怨氣。小時候我頗頑皮(現在亦然)。初中時候,有個老師同時教英文和美術。這時我的英文作文和美術的分數都很低。她放了產假,代課老師來,我的成績突然進步。老師放完產假回來,分數又返回低位。哼!還不是針對我?這時我知道,若我讀的是理科,只要我答對問題,老師就拿我沒辦法,真箇是一分也不能扣。呵呵!

我不敢說多年來對理科都樂此不疲。理科也有我不喜愛的地方,但既然已上船多年,難道到了一把年紀才跳船嗎?我還要養家啊!除了理科,我不懂其他,不喜歡也轉不了行。人是要學懂認命的!做人哪有盡如人意的?不喜愛的,暫且不看,喜愛的,盡情放大,那就是了。

幸好理科也的確有趣。在實用層面,科學改變了人類的生活。我覺得手提電話很有趣啊!其實任何時候都會有千百人同時講話,大量無線訊號在空氣中穿梭來往。大雄的電話如何在其中挑出靜香發出的訊號呢?冷氣機肯定改善了生活質素,但冷氣機如何降溫?為何它會漏水?這些問題都很有趣,可惜很多人都不感興趣。我覺得人對科學失去興趣這個現象是很有趣的。大家也許已習慣了和科學一起生活,就如見慣了校巴司機,或是飯堂的收銀員,一切都來得太理所當然,所以見怪不怪,對它不感興趣了。

科學也有不實用、但有趣的地方。我還是不說太多,回答你另一個問題。讀神學,是因為想弄清楚自己信甚麼。弄清楚信仰也很正常啊!就如我們也想弄清楚自己在說甚麼一樣。當我說:「嘩!大嶼山真係母雷公咁遠啊!」我就自然想弄清楚這個「母雷公咁遠」的意義和它的典故。當我說:「哈哈!這次你露出馬腳了!」我當然要問:「為何是馬腳,而不是其他腳呢?」讀神學,就只是想弄清楚一些事,從沒有想過這是「由理入文」。

文理思維衝突的情況……似乎從沒發生啊!唯一想到的例子,就是對名詞的了解。例如,物理人和神學人都會說「開放的宇宙」(open universe),但意義有天淵之別(大雄註:下刪五百字)……。另一例是conversion。在神學裏,conversion有悔改之意,在物理學裏就純粹指轉換。其實這些都算不上甚麼衝突。不論文理,都牽涉理性的思維,只是理科較多運用數學吧!我也希望用數學來描述上帝,可惜不能,只好多用文字。

大通報:你期待文科生掌握科學到什麼程度?經過這一科後,我對科學感到有點興趣,我下一步該做什麼?

程度……這個也難答。不如給我一秒做個政棍,避開你的問題吧!只要文科生對科學更好奇(其實理科生也不一定對科學好奇的),我已心滿意足了。下一步?多選修科學方面的通識科目絕對是個好辦法。大通範圍B有很多好科目啊!

大通報:文理科的分界各自劃下不同的領地,學生如何打通文理的任督二脈?「與人文對話」和「與自然對話」又有沒有對話的可能?

我認為在文科和理科之間的不是分界,而是分工,兩者都拓展了人類的知識。在兩者之間劃出一條不能逾越的界線,不正是畫地為牢嗎?當然,在文理分工之後,兩者用的概念和理論框架會有不同,必須用心理解和牢記,那條想像出來的界線就會自然消失了。

兩科對話是否可能,那就要看我們的期望有多大。如果對話只是將兩科有關的內容並列(juxtapose)和比較,那是很容易的,而且已經有人做過。例如,有人把洞穴之喻和愛的階梯做比較,也有人認為生物多樣性展現了互即互入。至於進一步整合兩科,以一個更高層次的框架來把兩科內容兼收並蓄,坦白說,好難!即使科學與信仰的整合,也只走了半步,更遑論兩門對話科的整合了。努力吧!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

王永雄博士(大學通識教育部副主任、通識教育基礎課程副主任)

學術興趣:理論物理、基督教神學、科學與宗教對話、普及科學、以通識為本的經典教學

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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