If we lived in a world without literature, learning only the sciences, would we be the same people? Does the human race need literature at all, does it have any worth whatsoever except as entertainment? Do people actually learn from literature? These are all questions that divide the human race into two separate sections, those who believe in the power of literature, and those who see it as impoverished compared to the social sciences in its ability to teach us about ourselves. However we need not be so divided on this issue. Literature is as rich a teacher as science, but merely differs in technique. Literature offers knowledge to those that seek it, gives experience to those who understand it, and pleasure to those that love it. Science on the other hand imparts knowledge, leads to experience, and gives pleasure to the few who love it.
Literature is just as varied and expansive as Science is. There are hundreds of styles, millions of authors, and thousands of languages which make up literature. Instead of different fields, as in science, there are different genres. Literature is often backed up by research or first hand information, but can also be fanciful flights of the imagination. They are similar to the research, observation, and hypothesis found in science. Experiments can be performed in both. A scientist could ask what if, and logically and scientifically follow his what if through. A writer could ask the same and use his imagination, knowledge, and perhaps a little research, to guide his imagination. Literature and Science are similar.
However they differ in some important respects. Science is an exact realm of numbers and averages and measurements. The last time you read a romance novel, were there charts showing the Freudian prediction of the average persons love life? Literature does not have the same kind of exactitude that is offered by Science. But it does offer precision in another way. Literature often is the description of one or a few peoples lives in detail. It is from these detailed "case studies" as a scientist would call them, that we can learn. It is the argument of science that people are similar and thus scientific averages do have some relevance to humans. Yes people often do share similar characteristics, and behave similarly if coming from the same society. And thus, a detailed insight into one persons' life could give you an insight on the lives of others. In a way Literature allows you to live thousands of lives in a short time, and gain a little experience from each of them. Science on the other hand, offers you charts and tables to which you must apply the situations of daily life. It is in this fundamental way that literature and science are different. Literature offers you insight which you apply to life, in science, you apply life to your theories. It's just a matter of whether life is the cookie cutter or the dough.
Imagine a world without literature. All your Literature courses in school are replaced with social sciences: philosophy, psychology, etc. Would people be the same? No doubt life would be a great deal less interesting, as our minds would not be as stimulated. The world would also be a more closed place, and news, and history would seem less related and more distant. Why? Because sciences do not show you what something is like, the describe it. For example, if science wanted to describe a hit and run it would say "Yesterday, 7/15/96, one 5'4 Caucasian of birth date 3/16/70, was contacted by a rapidly moving multialloy compound in the form of a red colored Peugeot 504 on Libertador 2000-2100, Buenos Aires. The Peugeot 504 maintained its velocity without regard to the sudden impact of the Caucasian. The human being controlling the Peugeot 504 was not identified, and neither was the license plate." However if literature wanted to describe one it would say "Yesterday morning a man was struck...