Man Does Not Live by Math Alone

Education is more than science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The sciences can tell us what is, but not what should be. Look—STEM is great, even vital, but science and technology can’t give us purpose, values, and real significance. Lewis warned that modern education was making us into “men without chests”—people who are all intellect and passion, but without the values necessary to regulate their desires.


C. S. Lewis once said that education without values makes us into “more clever devils.” Here’s why that’s so.

We’ve all seen the studies showing that students in America are falling behind in STEM subjects—STEM is shorthand for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—and many in education and government are freaking out. The STEM Education Coalition warns that 60 percent of employers are having a hard time finding qualified workers, and that of 65 education systems worldwide, American students rank only 27th in math and 20th in science.

“STEM education must be elevated as a national priority,” the group recommends. “Our nation’s future economic prosperity,” they say, “is closely linked with student success in the STEM fields.”

I agree. This is a serious matter. But what about our moral and ethical security? Many in academia and government in these budget-cutting times are joining the stampede to emphasize STEM education at the expense of the humanities. And Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria says that’s short-sighted. “Technical chops are just one ingredient needed for innovation and economic success,” Zakaria says. “No matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write.” Studies show that subjects such as literature, philosophy, and ethics actually improve STEM performance! Truly, man does not live by math alone.

While STEM subjects are necessary to our national well-being, subjects such as history, philosophy, the arts, and, yes, theology—which, after all, used to be known as “the queen of the sciences”—are vital to our spiritual well-being. While the former can provide us with facts and information, the latter supply us with meaning and wisdom.

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