The Consilience doctoral program is a unique offering of ITU and is among the first, if not the very first, of such programs offered by any university domestic or international. It is a forward-looking program that addresses a developing unfulfilled gap in university offerings that will become only wider in the future if not addressed at this time. Other universities (e.g., Princeton) are beginning to offer courses addressing some issues of consilience, but none, to my knowledge, have yet developed or offered a comprehensive, focused program of study leading to the PhD degree.
Consilience is an emergent area of inquiry that seeks to unify the natural sciences with the social sciences. It responds to a need that began to emerge in second half of the 20th century as outstanding scholars began to raise questions about the intuited, but yet undocumented potential linkages and contributions of basic sciences such as physics and biology to the social sciences, which had largely been left to develop untethered to the more fundamental sciences that must necessarily underpin them. One of our leading natural scientists, Edward O. Wilson, of Harvard University, issued the clarion call for consilience studies in his popular work Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998). ITU as a cutting edge, chiefly graduate university serving exceptionally qualified foreign students, many holding graduate degrees from prestigious foreign universities, it is appropriate as well as incumbent upon ITU to provide such forward-looking, if not path-breaking new offerings.
Consilience, in one sense, is a return to the earlier concept of the university when knowledge was approached as a unity. The gradually increasing fragmentation of the various fields of knowledge in recent decades if not centuries, although having advantages for promoting ever more fine-grained research into ever more narrowly defined and isolated programs of study has shattered that early concept of unity. Many leading scholars (e.g. Margulis, Dyson, et al.) have sounded alarms about the inhibiting effects of such fragmentation. It has lead to a “siloed” or isolated effect in the disciplines in which each pursues its own narrow focus, oblivious to developments in neighboring sciences. Often in such isolation scholars use differing terminology to describe the same phenomena, obscuring the relatedness of the disciplines. In other words, they use different words to say the same things, obstructing crosstalk and cross-fertilization, thereby creating even a false sense of uniqueness. The underlying unity of knowledge often becomes artificially obscured by mere terminological differences. Many times such fragmentation and isolation lead to unneeded duplications in research and the failure to share useful findings across disciplinary boundaries. In effect the fragmentation and isolation can retard the forward movement of science.