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Forum in English / Odp: Summa technologiae traslated to english?
« dnia: Październik 22, 2017, 03:02:59 am »


Your examples are of two kinds as I see:  quantifying risk vs. fighting ignorance of scientific fact.
I don't think these are examples of science and the humanities not bridging a gap, though.  These are rather areas where money or preservation of an established norm are at stake, and the stakeholders will err on the side of ignoring the evidence in order make more money or to preserve their position.  And they do this through media and internet campaigns.  There is also the common confusion of allowing individual choice vs. providing the public good.  Yes, abstention is surely the most effective way for an individual to prevent transmission of STDs, but for a large population you can be sure a large percentage are not going to make that choice, so then that becomes a public health issue.

I think that people in the sciences and the humanities are always making efforts to the bridge the gap.  The hard gap to bridge is the one between politicians/businessmen and intellectuals.  The latter try to appeal to people through their heads, while the former do it through the emotions, and as Al Gore has been finding out about the brain with regard to responses to global warming, the emotional route gets the most response.

Forum in English / Odp: Summa technologiae traslated to english?
« dnia: Październik 22, 2017, 03:01:19 am »
Here's one example of a physicist bridging the gap between science and literature:  Alan Lightman, who wrote "Einstein's Dreams" and other novels.
I would say Italo Calvino's "Cosmicomics" is a wonderful, whimsical literary take on the aesthetic sense for scientific ideas.

Are you also interested in efforts that bridge science and art?  If so, I can provide a lot of examples. 

I have not read C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" but will look it up to get a better sense for what you are after.

Having a multi-disciplinary academic background myself (math, computer science, social sciences, biogeochemistry) and currently in Earth System Science and astrobiology, which are inherently multi-disciplinary, I would say the biggest cultural divide between the natural sciences and the humanities is that the former can make use of brilliance at a young age and questions are clearly defined, whereas the latter requires maturity and appreciation of the nuances around the questions rather than the final answers.  Also, discoveries in the natural sciences are not subject to cultural views (e.g. a Native-American started a research lab in the U.S. specifically devoted to exposing young Native-American students to scientific research, because then they can just study nature free of other Western cultural baggage).  Perspectives of those in the humanities are hard to separate from their cultural shaping.  The natural sciences are independent of morality (how did life originate?) whereas the humanities are very much about it (what is the meaning of life?).  As the world globalizes, perhaps then universals about humanity become more clear, while at the same time certain things remain a framework of choice set by a social milieu (that evolves).

I see C.P. Snow was writing before the environmental movement happened, and the impact of Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA was not yet the stuff of big data like it is now.  Perhaps environmental sustainability and human health are areas where science and the humanities necessarily intersect, since this is where knowledge of science informs the human condition, how we should live, how we should understand each other, what makes for healthy relationships.

Would you consider Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" as an example of a bridge between science and the humanities?

From the mailing list of Michael Sofka site:


>A scientist and I are applying for a government grant to
>translate Lem's SUMMA TECHNOLOGIAE (we have Lem's
>approval), and we're trying to make the case for why
>American intellectuals today need to listen to a Polish
>essay written forty years ago.
>I'm arguing that successful attempts to bridge
>C.P. Snow's "two-cultures" division between the
>sciences and the humanities are very rare:
>I gave as examples Stephen Jay Gould,
>Douglas R. Hofstadter,and John Allen Paulos
>(_A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper_).
>Can you think of anyone else? Or any examples of
>how this gap is damaging to our culture?
>Michael Kandel
>Modern Language Association
>26 Broadway, 3rd floor
>New York, NY 10004-1789
> mkandel@mla.org

-As I recall, Swedish Nobel laurate Hannes Alfven
also published a collection of essays bridging the
"two cultures" divide (Swedish title "M-70").
Alas, American decision-makers might regard the
example as too obscure.

Damn, it is really hard to find good examples.
I know Freeman Dyson has written many essays
of this kind, but few have read him.

Is Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" a good example ?

..."examples of how this gap is damaging to our culture?"

The matter of how to assign priority to various risks,
would be an example of when a good grasp of the
underlying physical reality is important, but rare  -a
result of the cultural divide.
There are also many other crucial decisions that
require such a grasp of the "nuts and bolts" of reality.

How do we decide wether the risk of a grade 5 hurricane
is big enough to invest money in extra coastal protection ?
-How do we weigh this investnment against other risks,
like investing billions into defence against terrorists with
chemical weapons, a threat that may or may not exist ?

Is it justified to give schoolchildren bulletproof vests,
or are other risks more relevant for them ?

When choosing what to eat or which medicines to use,
should we be guided by new age arguments or by science ?
And why is science more reliable than  various advice
given by the likes of Lobsang Rampa ?

Is it true or false that global warming is a false threat
dreamed up by liberal scientists to motivate vast inter-
ventions against the free global capitalism ?

When fighting AIDS, what credence should we give
to the Vatican  when it says condoms (the only safety
measure available in the third world) are unreliable for
protection ?

Yours   Birger

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