Zen and the Art of Science Popularization

I remember reading a stack of popular physics books back in the 1980s and 1990s that proposed a connection between quantum physics and Eastern philosophy. For example, The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra and The Dancing Wu-Li Masters by Gary Zukav. What happened to all of those ideas? I recalled this experience while I was reading parts of Ecology, Ethics and the Future of Humanity by Adam Riggio. I’m in the middle of writing a review of the book and one of the early chapters mentions the connection between ecological thinking and Eastern philosophy and religion.

Education and cognitive domination

A brief excerpt in Today’s Professor newsletter from a book edited by Chad Hanson. In the past 20 years, scholars and practitioners have committed to measuring the cognitive outcomes of education. In this chapter, the author assesses the movement that focuses on cognition, to the exclusion of other outcomes. An identity-based framework is offered as an alternative. Howard Bowen (1977) once wrote, “The impact of higher education is likely to be determined more by the kind of people college graduates become than by what they know when they leave college” (p.

The Social Sciences and Scale

The following are some preliminary thoughts on scale, epistemology, the social/human sciences, and philosophy spurred by some recent reading on the web. A recent article raised the question about the purpose of the social sciences. One of the criticisms raised by the authors is the sheer scale of the social science research literature. According to the Thomson Reuters Web of Science database there are at least 3000 social science journals which are publishing tens of thousands of articles per year.

Why is Popper so popular?

There is a disconnect between the philosophy of science as it is practiced by philosophers and the philosophy of science as it is interpreted by scientists. I think this difference is the main reason why the paradigm battles between quantitative and qualitative or positivist and interpretivist are still being fought so hard today. I’m wondering how much of this difference can be attributed to the popularity of two philosophers from the middle of the twentieth century: Kuhn and Popper.

How did you become interested in social science?

We were talking in class yesterday about how each of us became interested in social science, specifically sociology. What kind of articles did we admire or remember? A few people mentioned some qualitative articles they had read and the rest of the class nodded along with the professor. Yes, qualitative articles are what we remember most, those quantitative articles are just a mess of numbers that never go far enough to analyze what is behind the numbers.

Theory and practices of the soul

I’ve been reading some Habermas the last few days and am particularly struck by the appendix of Knowledge and Human Interests. The appendix is called “Knowledge and Human Interests: A General Perspective.” Habermas begins with the purpose of theory. The study of theory is directly connected to action because theory provides action with energy and ethical significance. The Greeks believed that the study of theory, which was the contemplation of the cosmos, brought the external and internal parts of the world together.

Approaching the limits of our understanding

Joi Ito posted about the cognitive limits of organizations at the MIT Media Lab blog. Ito posts a thought provoking slide by Cesar Hidalgo. The slide shows the interaction between the total stock of information in the world and time/history. Human beings, as civilization has evolved, have grown the total stock of information in the world and over time have reached various cognitive limits. It’s not hard to reach the cognitive limit of the individual.

The Value of Information - Freedom and Inquiry

I often hear people talk about the value of information being available in a very general sense. These kind of claims seem to arise during discussions about freedom of speech or the marketplace of ideas. In these arguments the claim is often made that one would rather have the offensive/dangerous/obscure/unusual information out there in the world somewhere, even if one has no personal need or interest in the information. Another similar type of argument is made about academic and scientific freedom - that intellectuals should be free to at least investigate and possibly disseminate any and all types of information.

Stephen Gardiner On Climate Policy in a Perfect Moral Storm

Stephen M. Gardiner from the University of Washington visited UTK today to speak about climate change and environmental ethics. He identified three major “storms” that we face when trying to deal with global warming. The first is a global storm of political failure. Since 1990 there have been a number of international attempts to limit the release of carbon dioxide. So far those attempts have failed. Carbon dioxide concentrations continue to grow at an accelerating rate.

Art, Despair, and Virginia Woolf

I’ve been reading To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf this summer. It is a wonderful and brilliant piece of art, part of the high modernist literary flowering from the first half of the twentieth century. The style reminds me of Henry James in many places, but with a smoother syntax. The link to James is the focus on internal dialogue, the thoughts that go on inside each of us when we think about our family; Woolf takes that idea and develops it to a fever pitch.