Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Twenty-Seventh DATC Junto

Folsom Stadium, Room 367 | Tuesday, September 2, 2008 from 1:00 to 2:30

For Tuesday’s Junto, which is in the area of faculty culture, I’d like to have us read a couple of pieces on the nature of science and the scientific method. Each of these essays deal with an article submitted by Alan Sokal in which he attempted to highlight the gap between science and the humanities when he published an article titled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity."

First we have an analysis by Sokal on why he published his paper in the journal, Social Text. The article we're reading is Transgressing the Boundaries: An Afterword.

Next we have an essay by Harvey Blume, Missing Links: From C.P. Snow's "Two Cultures" to Alan Sokal's hoax, taking stock of the fault lines between the arts and sciences on how Sokal’s article relates to the concept of the two cultures that C.P. Snow addressed in his essay in 1958. If you’re curious, you can find an electronic copy of Snow's essay within Chinook, but here is a one-page overview.

And finally we have an essay by Paul Grobstein, Revisiting Science in Culture: Science as Story Telling and Story Revising that reacts to Sokal’s article and articulates an approach to science as story telling.

I hope in our discussion, we can shed light on the cultures faculty members operate in. I am less interested in synthesizing the dialog among Snow, Sokal, Grobstein, and Blume. I'd rather use these three readings as a launching pad for discussions covering our role within the academy and how our understanding of the various types of inquiry within the academy shape DATC work. But if a discussion about the debate among the authors is of interest to you, we can go down that path.

Here are some questions I had as I read these essays.

  • Is science a way of thinking that cuts across disciplines? Can the scientific method be applied to English? To Art? To Philosophy? To DATC work?
  • Is it useful to for scientific inquiry and humanistic inquiry to engage with one another? Can a creative synthesis emerge from them? What would happen if we brought together a professor of English with a Professor of Biology? Could they converse productively? Does educational technology provide a common ground for them to have a discussion? For example could discussions about clickers bring together Physicists and Philosophers? Could one faculty member be a scientist and a humanist at the same time?
  • Is science merely a series of rhetorical conventions and norms of speaking? Is it storytelling? Is all inquiry story telling? If science is only a story, why do we get in airplanes?
  • Does the academy consist of a series of gulfs between major areas of inquiry? Science vs. humanities, science vs. social science, science vs. art, technology vs science, etc.? Is there a gulf between educational technology and technology? Is there a gulf between educational technology and faculty development?
  • Is art a third culture distinct from science and the humanities? Is it useful to distinguish social sciences from science?
  • Is science poetic?
  • Are poems scientific?
  • Is DATC work a science? An art? Can good DATC work be taught? Is there a poetry inherent in DATC work?
  • What happens when there are cracks in scientific knowledge? In humanistic knowledge? Does technology play a role in either? What happens when there are cracks in DATC knowledge?
  • Is it OK to be wrong in science? Is it OK to be wrong in humanities? Is it OK to be wrong as a DATC?

In 2004 the Faculty Teaching Excellence Program (FTEP) hosted a panel discussion on C.P. Snow's, The Two Cultures.

Please join us in Folsom Stadium, Room 367 from 11:00 to 12:30 on Tuesday, September 2nd, for this Junto.

No comments: