Last Wednesday’s L&H ‘Liferaft’ debate saw academics from the Science and Arts faculties justifying the importance of their faculty. It drew a lot of people to the Fitzgerald chamber.

The point of the debate was to argue who would be most useful if stranded at sea on a liferaft. It was lively throughout, with both debating teams heckling each other liberally.

Representing the Arts side was Dr. Alexa Zellantin of SPiRE, Dr. William Mulligan of the School of History, Prof. Wolfgang Marx of the School of Music, and Dr. Peter White of the School of Philosophy. Representing the Science side was Prof. Cormac Taylor of the School of Medicine, Prof. John O’Connor of the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, and two members of the L&H committee: Aayan Atiq, a Computer Science student, and Ruth Moore, a Physics student.

“His main points took an erogenous shape – Taylor’s central claim was that science was sexy.”

The Art side opened the debate. Dr. Zellantin invoked the conflict-avoidance skills of political scientists and their ability to avoid boredom via their superior imaginations. She ignored O’Connor’s exaggerating yawning and heckles. She further pointed out that the Arts can provide us with entertainment via drama and literature.

“The music professor went on to say that ‘how’ (the central question of science) was always easier to answer than ‘why’ (the central question of the arts).”

The Science side opened with Prof. Taylor. He entered the chamber in a motorbike helmet (which he joked was for ‘interactions’ after the debate), a leather jacket, and sunglasses. His main points took an erogenous shape – Taylor’s central claim was that science was sexy. He listed latex, spandex, lubricants, and batteries (which Marx was quick to point out the Arts did not need) as proof of this.

Following Taylor, Mulligan emphasised the point Zellantin made about the ability to ensure cooperation. This is something that he claimed history was particularly useful for. He also drew attention to the ability of humanities to improve emotional wellbeing.

In contrast to Mulligan’s rather cerebral contribution, Prof. O’Connor – by his own admission – sought to lower the tone. His time was mostly filled with sharp jokes aimed at the dignity of the Arts side. The centrepiece of the neuroscientist’s time was a small cardboard box. From this he produced a plastic model brain – ‘beautiful scientist’s brain’, and a small blob of green slime – the brain of an Arts student.

“The controversy surrounding the president of the university united the room.”

Then, Prof. Marx began by using the promotional poster for the event, featuring the Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai, to demonstrate the ability of art to represent beauty to a far greater extent than any scientific diagram. The music professor went on to say that ‘how’ (the central question of science) was always easier to answer than ‘why’ (the central question of the arts). He then launched into a scathing attack of Andrew Deeks. He claimed Deeks was guilty of two major sins – being a scientist, and closing the common room and replacing it with, what Marx described as a “€48 million vanity project that nobody has the money for.” His comments drew visible approval from each side. The chair thanked the Professor for ‘mentioning the one person we can all agree about’.

Following Marx was Aayan Atiq, whose innuendo-laden speech drew the approval of the audience. He focused on the practicality of science over the Arts; especially computer science.

In contrast was Dr. Peter White (by his own admission a ‘lapsed scientist’), who lambasted what he saw as the ‘religious fundamentalism’ of scientists. He spoke about their ‘unchallenged’ faith in the idea of a rational universe.

Finally, Ruth Moore argued most of the same points made by the other debaters. She admitted she had scribbled her contribution down in a few minutes as she was extremely busy. She asserted this was typical of all scientists.

The debate concluded with a very brief Q&A, which featured more jabs at Deeks. The controversy surrounding the president of the university united the room.