Archive of Grad Idea Forum 2002-03
Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: beginning and ....
Date: 2002-10-16 20:30:29
Message Id: 3273
Thanks to all, and particularly to the organizers, for an enjoyable
and productive first session. And welcome to the forum area, which
I hope people will find useful. The idea here is nothing more than
to provide a place to continue conversation, in an arena where others
can drop by and learn as well. The idea is not to make definitive
statements, but rather to share thoughts in progress, with the idea
that these may trigger interesting thoughts in others and they in
turn interesting thoughts in oneself.
Along which lines ... two thoughts that I've had. One is the interesting
issue of whether recognition of "emergence" in a social context
precludes individual action in pursuit of social change. I'm convinced
it doesn't preclude it, but does suggest that certain kinds of action
are likely to be more effective than others. To put it differently,
social activists need to be as aware of the critical dependence
on distributed systems as social conservatives, and to think about
their interventions accordingly.
The other thought is more of a pointer than a particular idea.
"Emergent systems" is the topic of another, more specifically oriented
SciSoc working group. Anyone interested particularly in this area
might want to look in on Emergent
Systems, and perhaps try and join their meetings in addition
to sharing ideas with this group. All are welcome, there as here.
Name: Sam Glazier
Subject: Re Pinker
Date: 2002-10-23 14:55:27
Message Id: 3326
Here is Pinker himself on NPR over the weekend:
Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: Pinker plus ...
Date: 2002-11-19 19:50:34
Message Id: 3798
Thanks all for an enjoyable and stimulating conversation (yes, I DO
think it is possible to achieve a culture in which difference is regarded
not as indicating "better" and "worse" but rather as productive and
valuable variation ... and we're not doing a bad job of showing that
Two thoughts that stick in my mind. One is that it is indeed valuable
in the social work context to retain the idea that individual action
during individual lifetimes IS meaningful/can bring about change.
That is consistent with the genes INFLUENCE everything, don't DETERMINE
anything idea (Genes
and Behavior). The latter goes beyond it in calling attention
to consider the possibility that, for a given individual, what needs
to be considered is not only their cultural context but ALSO their
"innate" (genetic) context. Different individuals, with quite similar
experiential/cultural contexts, may display quite different behaviors
and have quite different needs. It was interesting to hear that
Judy had herself made an argument, in a different context against
"norming" human behavior. That set of considerations/parallels is
worth exploring futher.
The other idea on my mind after our talk is Pinker's failure to
speak meaingfully to the issue of "morality". For the sake of the
record, my argument about evolution was not to say that we are "born"
with morality, but rather that evolution provides us with a possibly
useful "metaphor" for THINKING (deliberatively) about what morality
we want to adopt. This, incidentally, presumes "free
will". The idea is that we can notice that biological evolution
values variability, understand why, and choose to make THAT the
key stone of a morality (Diversity
and Deviance: A Biological Perspective. What particularly amuses
me in this context is that the pragmatists seemed to have failed
to appeal to large numbers of people (perhaps like Pinker?) precisely
because they too finessed the idea of "morality". See The
Metaphysical Club). This isn't a pitch for our reading that
book (though I think its a good one) so much as a note to myself
about an issue worth pursuing. Where DOES "morality" come from (a
"common" story synthesized by lots of people, as we talked about)
or somewhere else? Why are people willing and/or reluctant to assert
Subject: Negative/ positive factors and we
Date: 2002-12-16 09:41:59
Message Id: 4106
Extreme of positive gives effect of negative and when negative reaches
its extreme some one comes to change negative wave to positive.
Fire (spark) is reaction, produced by friction of two substances
in negative and positive (opposite) directions. Fire seeks help
of substance for its extension. It is the substance that helps fire
to become furious. So intensity of fire depends on power of substances.
Unemployment, poverty and illiteracy are as substances that help
terrorisms to gain strength and become furious
Role of negative and positive factors in our life is as truth
as birth and death. We are controlled by their influence during
our entire life span.
When we are borne our energy field is narrow. Expansion of energy
field is by the environment around and experience we gain.
EXTREME OF NEGATIVE IS FOR BEGNNINIG OF POSITIVE AND EXTREME OF
POSITIVE FOR BEGNNING OF NEGATIVE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Negative environment can be minimized and changed to more positive
environment but that depends !!!!! More the number of positive thinkers
grater the strength of positive environment. So, number of positive
THINKERS has to be more than the number of negative THINKERS for
Negative and positive are two different aspects of our universe
with two different objectives, if one is night the other is day
yet they are linked to each other because without night there is
no day. Two features opposite to each other have to join together
to form a shape. So relation of negative and positive is imperative
for creation and its evolution.
Faster the growth sooner the extinction. Eucalyptus tree which
has fast growth and goes as long as 60 feet without strengthening
is base so it is defenseless to flood and storms thus its death
is also fast. In the same time we have mango tree also, which grows
slow but the growth starts from their root which penetrates below
earth to make strong base to withstand heavy body and natural devastation
. Extreme of either is for beginning of other so Excessive of
every this is bad
. Decomposition produces bacteria and bacteria is for new life.
Is fungus not the first stage of creation on earth?
. Negative/ positive factors comprise in each living life. I will
always say I am right, you too, because if I say I am wrong, will
not commit. only you can perceive if I am right or wrong?
. Both negative and positive exist side by side. what is positive
for me may be negative for you as difference of opinion changes
from person to person. When a take a stick, what I face the end
of stick is positive side and other end is negative, but, when stick
is turned becomes opposiite what negative is now positive and what
positive is now negative.
To gain something we loose something. To gains more and more materialistic
is loss of spiritual.
CHECK THE WEB SITE BELOW FOR MORE:
Name: Judie McCoyd
Subject: Women's Ways of Knowing and Prior comments
Date: 2003-03-21 11:43:49
Message Id: 5123
Our GIF meeting on MArch 20 related in some ways to earlier thoughts
about the development of morality and the role of gender in both moral
development and in ways of knowing. Quite honestly, in the current
world situation where many seem to feel that their own sense of morality
(and a separate- if not separatist one at that!)is so "right" that
it must be thrust on others, it feels dangerous to talk about morality
and knowing. Yet, the WWof K book, couches it's highest stages of
ways of knowing within contexts of connectedness and attempts to understand
others' world views. It does seem that there may be a connection to
the "Two Cultures" argument in all of this. It seems to me that the
(false) dichotomy of science/ humanities, when pushed to its polar
extremes mirrors the "separate knowing" and the "Connected knowing"
Belenky et al talk about. It reminds me of Peter ?, the physicists'
comments on the Two Cultures page that he tries to "remove himself"
from professional papers he writes (a separate knowing strategy) that
is in direct contradiction to Xenia's comments yesterday about how
"expert's" share their sense of how they personally organize and integrate
understanding and passion about their knowledge base. How might one
share personal organization and passion without allowing oneself to
"show" in professional writing? Is this something that is part of
the division between science and humanities that that sort of selfless-ness
that scientific objectivity assumes is antithetical to women's general
ways of knowing if they are preferentially done in a connected manner?
For myself, I know one of the more memorable assignments I ever did
was to write a poem about some aspect of physical science (for a physics
course I was taking). For me, it connected very objective (in my mind
boring, cold "spit back learning") to something I began to feel and
cared about. Anyway, this is a somewhat jumbled set of thoughts, but
I want us to start utilizing this space more, so I welcome thoughts
as jumbled as this, or as organized as Paul's and everywhere in between!
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: Quantum Questions (and more!)
Date: 2003-04-10 19:16:46
Message Id: 5352
Judie et al--
thanks so much for the lively discussion today on science and
religion. I enjoyed myself and learned some things (what's better
than that?) Here are the various sites I mentioned: you'll find
Paul's intriguing conversation w/ Jeanne-Rachel Solomon @
this is part of a larger site called "Science and Spirit" which
Sharon Burgmayer and I created recently, which you can find @
and where you'll find a number of other folks talking about the
intersection (or not) of their intellectual and religious lives.
You can also find the Brown Bag conversations in which faculty and
staff have been discussing related questions about science and culture,
science and values, science and "conscience" @
I very much look forward to pursuing more of each of these threads
w/ you in May--
Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: the deep dark secret
Date: 2003-06-01 13:17:37
Message Id: 5741
Having spent a lot of my life earning the right NOT to be the bad
guy (cf http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_cult/TwoCultures.html
let me see if I can get this straight AND preserve my reputation.
Human behavior is NOT understandable/predictable from a knowledge
of either atoms or neurons. It is ALSO not understandable/predicable
from a knowledge of social/cultural forces/institutions. To "make
sense" of human behavior one needs to appreciate BOTH the the influences
of the parts which make up a human (atoms, neurons, etc) AND the
influences of the larger systems of which a human is a part (families,
cultures, etc). Among the things which knowing something about the
parts makes clear is, for example, that human behavior is not in
fact "predictable" (cf http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/EncyHumBehav.html).
Hence, the use of the phrase "make sense of" rather than "predict".
Humans (all organisms) are exploratory entities for which unpredictability
is an essential component.
In short, I refuse the label of "naive reductionist" (cf http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/complexity/hth.html).
One cannot "understand" humans from the "bottom up", by studying
neurons. But I equally reject the purely "top down" approach; what
humans are made up of is demonstrably relevant. In an old article
(unfortunately NOT on line) I argued for the "from the middle out"
or "boot-strapping" approach. Start from wherever you are and get
less wrong by BOTH trying to make sense of things in terms of their
parts AND in terms of that which they are a part of. Yes, one CAN
do useful things by staying with one perspective and many people
do. And one might, by taste or background, PREFER the top-down OR
the bottom-up approach, but the most effective stories emerge from
exploring both the parts that make up a given whole and the structures
of which that whole is a part.
So far, so good? Everyone comfortable, and my reputation intact?
In fact, so far no "asymmetry" and no "deep dark secret" either.
So, let's now acknowledge the "levels of organization" presumption
I'm using, explain why THAT yields asymmetries, and hope I can still
come out smelling like roses. The presumption is that EVERYTHING
is both a whole and a part, so EVERYTHING is best understood both
by looking at the parts which make it up and the larger assemblies
of which it is a part. Since "science" has historically been both
preoccupied by and quite successful at making sense of small parts,
and small parts are what larger wholes are made of, "scientists"
are likely to have useful contributions to make to the understanding
of anything/everything. People lacking that familiarity are frequently
handicapped by being able to work in only one direction. It is easier
to work in both directions, with regard to almost anything, if one
has a comfortable working familiarity with "science". This is NOT
a "valorization" of either science or scientists, but simply an
acknowledgement that the characteristics of smaller things are relevant
in trying to make sense of larger ones, and one's intellectual repertoire
is more limited if one is not familiar with smaller things (yes,
one's repertoire is also more limited if one is not familiar with
larger things, and some scientists suffer from that deficiency,
but larger things are in general more accessible/familiar as part
of ordinary human experience). Moreover, this particular asymmetry
is very much historically contingent. People have been working on/thinking
about "larger" things for thousands of years whereas it is only
in the past several hundred that information about "smaller" ones
has become available. As this new information/perspective gets assmiliated,
and people generally become more comfortable/familiar with "science"
the asymmetry will lessen and disappear.
There is, though, a reason to suspect a deeper asymmetry giving
a small advantage to bottom up over top down approaches that will
not disappear. Just as parts influence wholes, so do wholes influence
parts. Hence causal relationships are grossly bidirectional and
symmetric. One can unquestionably contribute to making sense of
parts by thinking about how they are influenced by wholes and the
role they play in them. The subtle issue though is whether at the
deepest level it is from parts or from wholes that "meaning" derives.
Is "reality" something in which the parts exist because of some
larger design or plan, or is it instead something which reflects
nothing more (and nothing less) than a process of exploration of
what can be assembled (at successive levels of organization) from
playing around with parts? There is, of course, something of a chicken
and egg problem here if one considers the question in the abstract.
But looking at both biological evolution and modern physics/cosmology,
it looks a lot at the moment as if one starts with parts and plays
with them, that there is in fact no plan or design or larger "meaning"
but only the continual emergence (http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/scisoc/emergence)
of wholes from the interplay of parts. If so, those who try to account
for things in terms of some higher order significance/pattern will
always find themselves at a slight disadvantage relative to those
who try and make sense of things from the bottom up.
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-06-01 14:42:26
Message Id: 5742
Nope. No roses yet.
says that "The subtle issue ... is whether at the deepest level
it is from parts or from wholes that 'meaning' derives."
I'd say that meaning arises always and ONLY from the interaction
between wholes and parts (what literary theorists call "synecdoche,"
for which see Theorizing
I'm deep into a new and riveting book (which--although it's 750pp!!--
we might also consider for our discussions): Douglas
Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,
which is also arguing "right now" (I'm on p. 49) that it is the
interplay between top-down and bottom-up procedures which give us
meaning. Hofstadter introduces here the concept of an "isomorphism"
(when two complex structures can be mapped onto each other, so that
each part of one structure has a corresponding part--plays a similar
role-- in the other structure). He then goes on to say,
"It is a cause for joy when a mathematician discovers an isomorphism....such
perceptions...create meanings in the minds of people....This
...correspondence has a name: interpretation....[but] we can have
a meaningless interpretation...under which we fail to see
any isomorphic connection...."
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2003-06-24 18:03:16
Message Id: 5776
Oy vey (where there's an oy there's a vey?) ... I stand revealed as
not only a reductionist (however small the edge) but also as a male
chauvinist pig (however small the ... ?) Anyone got a spare bathrobe?
I'll just go quickly change into something more comfortable.
Alright, let's see if I regain some dignity. First off, Liz was
of course right. We WEREN'T necessarily trying to find ONE way to
think of the "natural science"/"social science" difference. And
in various ways all the the various scales that came up in conversation
(quantitive/qualitative, seeking understanding/chance agency, explanation/interpretation)
are interesting and useful additions to thinking about "two
cultures" tensions and their alleviation. So TOO, I think, is
the new one taking off from Corey's concerns and characterization
of her professional inculcation. Some people believe it is useful
to be specific/concrete enough to make it possible to conceive a
possible set of observations that would establish that a particular
way of thinking about things is wrong in a particular way. Other
people start with the presumption that ANY way of thinking will
be wrong and so try instead to establish that there are lots of
different ways to think about things. I'm a little afraid, right
at the moment, of discussing in public what I think of as the pros
and cons of each position but might be persuaded to do so on some
Sam .... (did you ever notice how she seems to be sitting there
quietly and suddenly WHAM?) ... oh alright. YES, it probably IS
true that the idea of science as proving things WRONG is more likely
to occur/seem sensible to your average male than your average female
(no, I have no interest WHATSOEVER in discussing here why that might
be so). And I LIKE Sam's own construal of scientists (in a subsequent
brief conversation) as people who "make connections among things".
Important as I think that is though, I don't think that discriminates
science from other spheres of activity; indeed there are many others
in which making connections among things is a MORE prominent activity
than it is in science. So, how about the following. Science attempts
to connect things one to another in patterns which ALSO can be disproven,
and THEN it goes out and tries to disprove them. Individuals may
(irrespective of gender but consistent with personal preference)
contribute meaningfully to science by either or both activities.
The article I was referring to about all this is "A
Vision of Science of Science (and Science Education) in the 21st
Century: Getting It Less Wrong Together". And, yes, it includes
some thoughts about the importance of distinguishing "science" from
"research". But these too I will, in my current fragile state, leave
for future conversation, noting only that are not unrelated to some
discussion in the Brown
Bag series this past year.
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-06-24 23:25:50
Message Id: 5777
During yesterday's lively discussion, I was reflecting on...
one of my recent postings in the Emergence Forum about the dangers
and disabilities of pursuing a single
path)and all the works in contemporary educational theory (closest
to us is Belenky's Women's Ways Of Knowing) which argue
that we should be taught, both as a professional and humanizing
principle, to entertain many different methods and directions of
I was also noting the dynamic Judie flagged, which Gould identifies
and which our conversation was re-enacting: the"parallel process"
of the "privileged" presumptions of "science" and the "yeah-but"
response of "not-science."
<>As the conversation kept coming back to the matter of scientific
"disproof," of the construction of hypotheses that are "readily
disputable" and "refutable," I thought of Peter Elbow's suggestion
that academics obsessed w/ the "doubting game" might also engage
in "believing." (See
Believing and Doubting Game for some interesting applications
of how far we might get by "believing," rather than looking only
for Popperian "falsification." )
Reducing the questions we ask to those that are falsifiable also
drastically reduces the realm of answers we can find. Paul was pointing
out that, since there ARE simple systems (=non-reflective ones,
such as neurons firing, etc.), our work will be more productive
if we start (and end?) our inquiries on those levels, looking always
for the simplest way to account for causes. I found myself more
inclined to Corey's view that THERE ARE NO SIMPLE SYSTEMS (another
way of saying this is that there are no CLOSED systems; again see
the discussion on Emergence.
Since everything is connected to everything else, any construction
of a simple system will neglect some relevant elements; an open
system is dynamic, always changing; new elements are always being
added and must be taken into consideration.) Of course we can--academics
in all disciplines mostly and repeatedly DO--reduce the multiplicity
of the real world to simple models, so we can manipulate them, trying
out the usefulness of different frames and approaches and methodologies.
But such simplifying only takes us so far. See on this topic Gould
(who was sadly left out of the discussion today, and who still has
lots to teach us):
"how can empiricism prevail as a basis for ethics if we then discover
that Homo sapiens has indeed evolved biological propensities
for the very behaviors that we now wish to repudiate ahd abjure?...a
set of precepts with evolutionary origins...may once have made good
sense in terms of Darwinian survival--whereas most people have subsequently
decided that better morality would lead us to precisely opposite
behaviors....I reject the possiblity of deriving moral principles
from empirical study of nature and human evolution...I would defend
a strictly logical impermeablity in terms of direct movement from
natural fact to moral precept " (245).
Also quite relevant here is the footnote Judie called our attention
Science can claim a method capable of ascertaining factual truth,
whereas ethical debate in the humanities cannot hope to attain the
same kind of confidence about 'correct' answers. Science gains the
virtue of factual validation. But...who could deny that the basic
questions about duties of an ethical life are far more important
to our meaning and being. So we swap certainty for salience...we
seek a consilience of equal regard for admitted differences weighed
in the balance, with neither side found wanting" (259n).
Anyhow, I look forward to our next session. I hadn't heard of
Toulmin's Return to Reason before this afternoon, but the
reviews suggest that he may help us move closer towards a consilience
of equal regard.
Thanks to all for furthering my/our collective thinking.
Name: Judie McCoyd
Subject: More thoughts on yesterday
Date: 2003-06-25 11:31:35
Message Id: 5779
While I find Paul's and Anne's thoughts compelling, I'm going to add
some that are only peripherally related. When Corey talked about science
as developing a sense of Truth, often based on use of numbers ("See,
it must be true because it can be measured") and social sciences/
humanities as not believing there is any one truth (capital t or not),
I found myself agreeing and disagreeing (after all, that's what the
"yeah-but" is all about). I agree that social scientists are likely
to look askance at anyone claiming to know "t"ruth- even if it's that
neutrinos exist. But the other thing is that we tend to believe that
many different stories have accuracies- so that may boil down to not
believing in any one truth, but also believing in the accuracy of
I found myself particularly convinced of this after PAul's comments
about psychoanalysis. I was trained as a psychoanalyst back at Columbia,
did it for myself and then provided that service for a number of
years. Now, in the psychotherapy and counseling I do, I use aspects
of that training, aspects of cognitive behavioral work and even
explanations of brain chemistry and structure. I've come to believe
that when issues are mild to moderate, often people are just struggling
to understand and make meaning from their discomfort. Each explanation
provides a different story for their discomfort (from "it must be
the way your mother potty-trained you" to "it must be that you aren't
doing your thought catching and re-framing in effective ways" to
"It must be an imbalance in your serotonin reuptake system"). Each
story has different salience and obviously it's own implications
about treatment/intervention. And each can be effective. In my mind,
this supports the idea that inquiry- whether we want to proclaim
that it's "science" or call it something else- requires understanding
that there will always be different interpretations, different stories
and that no one of them is correct.
When Xenia talked about the chloride process that she's clarified
and helped others to see as inaccurately interpreted, for scientists,
that seems to be difficult, because they tend (I think) to believe
(despite protestations about wanting to falsify) that once soemthing
has been deemed accurate through scientific method, that it must
be true. Social scientists can be just as culpable, however, many
take the view that of course any theory will have inaccuracies-
none of it will hold true always.
Maybe it goes back to Anne's thoughts about complex systems. We
tend to want to assume stability in the hard sciences (as Xenia
was saying- and seemingly accurately), but with social systems,
there's constant change from multiple directions. Not only are there
then multiple explanatory stories, the stories have to keep changing
to explain new constellations of empirical findings.
Anyway, I've come to wonder if much of the priviledging of scientific
discourse is because it claims one truth; it's not so confusing
if one story is told; multiple stories are both confusing and make
the hearer wonder if truth exists- an uncomfortable prospect best
handled by grabbing a hold of one truth and pushing it on others
as the authority (maybe the best example of this dynamic isn't science
itself, but the same kind of dynamic as exemplified by Bush)(Not
to at all suggest that any of our beloved scientists in GIF are
like the Pres in any way). Anyway, having rambled too long, I hope
others jump into the fray so we develop many stories right here-
each explanatory or intriguing. Judie McCoyd
Name: Xenia Morin
Subject: help me out please!
Date: 2003-06-25 14:18:50
Message Id: 5781
Well...I'm not sure Paul needs a new robe...but I do know that I need
to take this conversation down a few notches, because I'm losing track
of the arguments, definitions and conclusions. So please help me out.
Do we have a definition for the two groups that we are claiming
are divided? What is science? What is the humanities? I think that
this has been implicit in our discussion but that it is now time
to make things explicit. Who are scientists and who does science?
And who are the humanists and who studies in the humanities? Are
we discussing this from only an academic standpoint, or are we going
to define these things more broadly? Can we start here? Unless these
definitions are clear, I don't see how I can proceed.
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: does this help?
Date: 2003-06-25 17:24:34
Message Id: 5783
Xenia (and anyone else listening in!)--
this is probably more "help" than you wanted, but...here's where
your question takes me; come along if you'd like.
Theorizing Interdisciplinarity, Liz, Paul and I suggest that
the "two cultures" divide is between "scientists, focused on simple
and unifying relations that capture key aspects of an object under
study" and "humanists, who think in terms of many variables and
complicated relations in illustrative but unique situations." Judie
suggested something similar yesterday, when she distinguished between
those (humanists, social scientists) who attend to the "outliers"
and those (scientists) who attend to what is common and replicable.
In another draft paper, still circulating among contributors and
so not yet available on the web (though I'm happy to send e-copies
to any one who's interested!), Paul and I are reflecting on what
we've been learning from a couple of years of collaborative teaching
in the College Seminar Program. The essay is called "The Loopiness
of Thought and the Braidedness of Being: An Exploration of Teaching
Reading, Writing, and Beyond," and begins by saying that
we discovered three starting points for bridging our field-specific
- The concept of "two cultures" is most usefully understood as
marking a division not primarily between sciences and humanities,
but rather between two intellectual styles that coexist within
each of the disciplines making up these larger frameworks. These
correspond roughly to a preference for, on the one hand, focus,
precision and "objectivity," and, on the other, breadth, allusiveness
- Language is used quite differently in different contexts, ranging
from science, where it is intended to be quite precise; through
day-to-day exchange, where it is used to communicate and elicit
information; to literature, where it is intentionally ambiguous,
playful, and inviting of engaged interpretation.
- While most of the work we do in college classrooms both originates
in and is evaluated in terms of deliberative language use, in
which focus and precision are the desired characteristics, much
creative work is not carried out in these terms. Much of the ongoing
acquisition of new understandings occurs rather by acting and
observing its consequences, or by observing the actions of, and
their consequences for, others. Such creations (enacted, for example,
by dancers, painters and scientists gathering observations) draw
largely on tacit understanding and are not readily (perhaps never
completely) describable in language....
At the end of the essay we return to this point:
Snow's analysis of the "two cultures" was motivated by what he
saw as a "mutual incomprehension, sometimes hostility and dislike,
but most of all lack of understanding" between two groups of humans.
Snow identified the two groups as humanists and scientists, but
we have come to think that one might equally identify them as women
and men, as conservatives and radicals, or as believers and atheists.
The commonality, we suggest, is a contrast between two styles of
making sense of the world, one broader and more intuitive, the other
focused and more analytic. Associated with this difference in style
is a difference in attitude toward "progress." On the one hand,
there is a desire to leave nothing out, to conserve all there is,
and hence a skepticism about the meaning and significance of change.
On the other, there is an inclination to move on, to see the past
as preparation for the future, and an optimism that change is, in
some sense, improvement....
Scientists advance understanding largely by "moving up and down"
(inferring from experience, testing by experience, then abstracting
from it); humanists do so more commonly by "moving laterally" (inferring
from comparing stories, testing by comparing stories, then seeing
patterns in the comparisons). This difference in intellectual style,
with its associated preference for different language usages, is
a difference in how one is inclined to go about using and telling
stories. But it is a serious mistake to oppose the two. The grist
for scientific inquiry emerges from story-comparing; the products
of science in turn become a part of the story-telling comparisons
that fuel the humanities. The take-home messages are two: that understanding
is fundamentally not an individual but a social activity; and that
understanding has two sources: limited personal experience and comparisons
of one's own stories with those told by others.
Does this help @ all?
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: the pursuit of truth?
Date: 2003-06-25 22:25:29
Message Id: 5785
I'm juggling obligations @ two concurrent teaching conferences
during the next two days,
Friends' Association of Higher Education (of which I am a long-time
The International Association for Learning Alternatives, where
Sather and I will be talking w/ "unschoolers" about the "radical
pedagogy" going on @ Bryn Mawr these days. So...
I should get to bed. But, frankly, friends, the conversation going
on here interests me too much; I can't seem to stop talking w/ you
guys. For instance, Judie, look @ Paul's
Chicagoland talk for one counter to your suggestion that science
is privileged because it offers "truth":
"Conceiving of science as the pursuit of 'Truth'...permits scientists
a posture ... of assumed virtue neither carefully thought through
nor genuinely earned."
So: what happens --both to science, and to all of us to look to
it for the "truth" (=certainty?) we think it offers--if science
gives up that posture?
Name: Xenia Morin
Subject: Yes, that helps! but what about Snow?
Date: 2003-06-26 13:51:28
Message Id: 5787
I am most appreciative of your reply to my request and I am happy
to come along for the ride. Having sat in on several of the talks
you refer to (such as the Brown Bag Lunches), I finally feel that
I have a little more insight into the broader discussions that have
been visiting the GIF roundtable, and now recognize that there has
been a greater conversation and level of inquiry around our table
than I had previously seen--although I had suspected that they would
be revealed at some point. Perhaps I missed the references to this
work at some other time? With Anne's posting I think we can all
find ourselves close to the same page rather than all over the place
as we were last time. I will need to digest this information and
get back to you.
But before I do, I need to add one more question, and perhaps
Paul can answer this one? Why is C.P. Snow's "Two Cultures" so compelling
as a starting point for our discussions? I don't find it a useful
tool to me (yet?) because I am not sure that I buy his arguments
or his premises because I see great misunderstandings, or perhaps
better put, lack of understanding, between the different disciplines
of science. Ernst Myers' This is Biology, I believe tackled the
hetergeneity of biology very well. So in my mind, it would be a
logical extention to me that additional misunderstandings exist
elsewhere such as between scientists and humanists. Snow's science
vs. humanities, is only one example of a greater problem: overspecialization,in
part due to the depth of the stories we tell ourselves or the technical
requirements of our disciplines. Our intellectual training, and
perpetuation thereof in academic institutions such as ours, are
the natural consequence of intellectual life being consumed by every
increasing specialization at the expense of balancing this with
a greater understanding of the whole. Snow gets it partially right
but I think misses a much bigger issue: we have all become too specialized
for our own good.
I am curious to know what others think about Snow's work?
Name: Judie McCoyd
Subject: Ongoing discussion
Date: 2003-06-28 11:24:19
Message Id: 5788
First, on the simplistic level, I have to agree with both Xenia's
comments: First, I too find Snow a little pedantic and simplistic
about the supposed dichotomy between science and the humanities; second,
I have a concern that we've become so specialized that "Re-writing
stories" as Paul refers to it in the article referenced by Anne above
seems difficult when our jargons are so different. Maybe that's part
of this too- scientific language (as Gould argues) has become so opaque
while the language of humanists purposely includes greater parts of
the human race by striving for clarity and readability (at least until
they become enamoured of tropes, discourses and such- no offense,
Anne:)). I've come to believe that part of why students like my classes
so much is that I have the ability to speak in the language of an
academic social scientist, but I always turn my language into the
language I would use to explain the issue/problem etc. to a client
or other reasonably intelligent human. I teach them the jargon, but
tend not to use it a lot.
As I read the "Getting it less Wrong" piece, I finally understand
what Paul was trying to say by distinguishing research from science-when
he was proclaiming that Xenia and her husband etc were not scientists,
it seemed he was narrowing the definiition of science when he ,
I think, was actually just trying to make the point that science
is what we humans do to create meaning in our lives, not how we
apply those applications. And see, for me, that's exactly why I
went into social work after a science eucation- I found that chem
and physics and bio- particularly as combined in medicine, did not
give me the kinds of potential explanations I wanted about what
makes humans tick and why they do the things they do. Certainly,
the attitude Paul's ideal-type scientist has (skepticism of "Truth")
resonates with me as a social scientist.
Nevertheless, it still doesn't answer the priviledge question
for me. I don't think it's all about feeling unable to know the
science and so deferring to it through intimidation. I know the
science (not at the same high levels as my colleagues in GIF, but
it's a working knowledge), but still find that if a hard science
person says something, it feels like I'm supposed to accept that
while in the social sciences, it's assumed one will argue any particular
statement put forth. (That's why we phrase practically everything
with "tend to" and "may'- words that by their removal reduced my
dissertation by 3 pages!).
I still think Corey's observation about the power of numbers plays
a role here too. Hard scientists tend to report numbers (see there's
that tend again); anyway,there's a classic piece on Medical School
socialization process by Becker- it's a qualitative piece, but he
went back and added numbers (truly meaningless in the low number
and unrandomized sample that he had) but that made the difference
in getting published or not. There is a definite cache that numbers
offer- rewriting the stories without numbers carries less weight.
Well, I've put my kids off for too long and need to go.
Just one final irony- I got a job as a research associate on a
big NIH grant study PI'd by Temple, but using BMC to assess a small
aspect. It's run by cardiology to assess cardiac patients willingness
to accept medical monitoring and advice over the web, and also how
it may be used to persuade them to adopt more heart healthy behaviors
(interestingly, a low income, inner city population). My job is
to turn all of the behavioral stuff into numbers, via validated
scales. So I've come full circle in that I[m assessing something
(that I think I can already predict), but it must be turned into
numbers (and as many of those as possible), while I expect we'll
have a hard time getting the qualitative messages to be heard.
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: Emergent Pedagogy
Date: 2003-07-02 22:48:22
Message Id: 5801
You all might be very interested in the discussion of pedagogy held
in this morning's Emergence
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: un-trade-able non-objects
Date: 2003-07-06 09:32:29
Message Id: 5803
More on Pedagogy today @
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: Two Cultures Redux
Date: 2003-07-24 17:51:06
Message Id: 6175
see what rabbit hole I fell down, after our most recent discussion:
Emergence Systems Forum: Two Cultures Redux.
Name: Anne Dalke
Subject: "The Inevitable Incompleteness"
Date: 2003-07-26 11:29:05
Message Id: 6183
Still chewing. What's here
described as emergence seems to me absolutely congruent w/ what
Toulmin, and many others, have called "pragmatism."
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