Happy 77th Birthday Jack Nicholson! | April 22, 1937
Interviewer: What were the highlights of your life?
Jack: The first screening of Easy Rider in Cannes, because I had been there before sneaking around. When I was sitting in the screening I realized that I was actually going to be a movie star. When I was over there I was pretty much already thinking about directing because I had been doing movies for 10 or 12 years by then. And everybody said I was good, but being known and not having a big film success is almost tougher than being completely new. It just kind of turned my life around and was definitely a highlight.
Interviewer: Do you ever get that same buzz now?
Jack: When they say I’m a great actor, I close my ears because it’s not good for you to think that way.
Interviewer: You seem pretty confident though.
Jack: Well, you know, I put on a good show.
We live in a world increasingly dominated by science. And that’s fine. I became a science writer because I think science is the most exciting, dynamic, consequential part of human culture, and I wanted to be a part of that. Also, I have two college-age kids, and I’d be thrilled if they pursued careers in science, engineering or medicine. I certainly want them to learn as much science and math as they can, because those skills can help you get a great job.
But it is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now more than ever. In your science, mathematics and engineering classes, you’re given facts, answers, knowledge, truth. Your professors say, “This is how things are.” They give you certainty. The humanities, at least the way I teach them, give you uncertainty, doubt and skepticism.
The humanities are subversive. They undermine the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. This skepticism is especially important when it comes to claims about humanity, about what we are, where we came from, and even what we can be and should be. Science has replaced religion as our main source of answers to these questions. Science has told us a lot about ourselves, and we’re learning more every day.
But the humanities remind us that we have an enormous capacity for deluding ourselves. They also tell us that every single human is unique, different than every other human, and each of us keeps changing in unpredictable ways. The societies we live in also keep changing–in part because of science and technology! So in certain important ways, humans resist the kind of explanations that science gives us.