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Offline coberst

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Taking Social Theories to the People?
« on: 23/01/2009 11:48:04 »
Taking Social Theories to the People?

New theories in the natural sciences are quickly integrated into our society because these theories often lead to new business practices that put money into our pockets.  Such is not the case with new discoveries in the human sciences. 

New theories in the human sciences often take generations to trickle down to Tom and Jane because Tom and Jane pick up these new ideas normally through a process of social osmosis.  Such new theories are not generally taught in our schools.

Our educational system prepares us to become good producers and consumers.  However, in the name of efficiency, our educational system leaves us ignorant of many domains of knowledge that are vital to our comprehension of matters that seriously affect the political health of our culture and of the world.  Cognitive science is just one example of such a domain.

Popularizer is a word I heard historian William Norton Smith use when discussing American Presidents on C-Span.  He did not elaborate significantly but it was apparent to me that he used the word to describe individuals who make popular the theories of authors who write about significant concepts that are seldom disseminated throughout the public educational system.

Mr. Smith and I agree that it is essential that someone carry to the people these vital concepts that I mention.  I think of myself as being a popularizer.  I try to introduce to my readers new and important ideas recently introduced to the world by the human sciences.

Do you have any desire to be a popularizer?

Isnít the Internet discussion forum an ideal medium for popularizers to perform their function?

« Last Edit: 23/01/2009 12:03:17 by coberst »


 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #1 on: 23/01/2009 18:26:29 »
My idea of a popularizer is a bit different. I take it to mean someone who makes knowledge more accessible to the general public by presenting it in an interesting, easy to understand way rather than in the usual esoteric manner of academia that is understandable only to those either studying, or professionally involved in, the field.

Carl Sagan was a great populariser of cosmology and probably one of the best known. His series "Cosmos" addressed some complex topics in a way that the general public could understand. 1 of the best contemporary popularisers I know of is Jim Al-Khalili.
« Last Edit: 23/01/2009 18:28:53 by DoctorBeaver »
 

Offline coberst

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Taking Social Theories to the People?
« Reply #2 on: 23/01/2009 22:36:29 »
I would include in the human sciences such matters as cognitive science, psychology, Critical Thinking, art theory, history, anthropology, and sociology.

I think that it is worth while to think of comprehension as being like a pyramid with awareness at the base followed by consciousness.  Consciousness I define as awareness with conscious focus.  Following consciousness would be knowledge and following that is understanding.  I would say that understanding is the creation of meaning and is a long step beyond knowing.

Every journey begins with the first step and I would say the first step to comprehension is awareness, which can be quickly followed by consciousness.

I think that the introduction of a theory or perhaps an idea to someone who has had no contact with that idea is perhaps the first two steps to knowing and perhaps understanding at some time in the future. 

If the first step is not taken then no comprehension is possible.


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead/
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #3 on: 23/01/2009 22:52:08 »
Can you be more specific about what you refer to as "awareness"? Do you mean it in the context of sensory input (i.e. where you notice in a noisy environment that someone has mentioned your name) or that you can be aware of something as a topic (i.e. aware that quantum theory is a part of physics even though you may not understand what it's about)?
 

Offline coberst

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« Reply #4 on: 24/01/2009 13:35:37 »
Can you be more specific about what you refer to as "awareness"? Do you mean it in the context of sensory input (i.e. where you notice in a noisy environment that someone has mentioned your name) or that you can be aware of something as a topic (i.e. aware that quantum theory is a part of physics even though you may not understand what it's about)?

On occassion I have looked in the yellow pages for a stor that sold something I am interested in buying only to discover that a few blocks from my house is such a store that I pass twice a day on the way to work.  I am aware of the store but am not conscious of the store.  While driving I am often aware of driving but not conscious of driving until I see a patrol car or a wreck on he side of the road.

I have this little analogy.

Awareness--faces in a crowd

Consciousness--a smile and hand shake

Knowing--long talks about important things

Understanding--best friends and a constant April
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #5 on: 24/01/2009 14:04:35 »
Thanks for clearing that up. As a psychologist my definition of awareness is different from yours.
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #6 on: 24/01/2009 14:33:06 »
I think you are right that "human sciences" are not so easily applied to business activities, but this is also true of cosmology for example. But then cosmology is not taught in schools either, except perhaps at a very simplistic level. I think there is pressure in education today to only teach subjects with a direct practical application, which I think is rather sad and, in the longer term, not beneficial to society. Perhaps this is the real problem rather than anything specifically singling out human sciences.

Nonetheless there are some good popularisers of these subjects, both via TV programmes and in books. I have enjoyed greatly Steven Pinker's books which could be said to be popularising the work in linguistics by Noam Chomsky and expanding on this into other aspects of cognitive science. These are very readable but also can be very informative and inspiring to many people. But contrast this with the also excellent books by Roger Penrose which also aim to popularise aspects of quantum theory. Also very good but, although Penrose does his best to make them understandable, they must be a struggle to anyone without a degree level understanding of either physics or maths.

Coberst, I sense you are speaking of more specific subjects within the field of human sciences, especially when you refer to the importance of how we understand ourselves in relation to politics. I wholly agree that this is an area where all humans need to have a better understanding of how they think, and how their ideas and drives can be manipulated. This is something that can be taught in both a scientific way and in ways that could equaly well fit into a humanities course.
 

Offline coberst

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« Reply #7 on: 24/01/2009 19:17:13 »
graham

Basically I am trying to convince adults to develop a hobby that I call self-actualizing self-learning.  I think that it is imperative that adults become much more intellectually sophisticated than they now are.  We can no longer afford the luxury of the level of apathy and ignorance that is part of our (USA) culture.
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #8 on: 25/01/2009 10:35:04 »
Although I would like to think the internet is good medium for spreading knowledge, I fear it is few who take part in such activity. The vast majority of the internet traffic is in pornography!

Other than this site I engage on another one discussing world politics. This is educational for those who take part, but on average this is no more than about 8 people and consumes quite a lot of time. I find this worthwhile, even though discussions on many subjects deteriate into the usual entrenched positions and discussions can become heated. I like to believe that there is some communication. In any case we all have to do research to defend our adopted positions. The problem is that this is not going to lead to the revolutionary change you seek.

Have you specific ideas on how to achieve your worthwhile goal?
 

Offline coberst

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« Reply #9 on: 25/01/2009 10:56:01 »

Have you specific ideas on how to achieve your worthwhile goal?

Yes, use the Internet discussion forum as a means to enlighten people and to help them understand that self-actualizing self-learning is good for them and for their community.

 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #10 on: 25/01/2009 11:49:12 »
Can you be more specific on how to "[...] help them understand that self-actualizing self-learning is good for them and for their community"? Perhaps an example of what you mean. Sorry to be dense; I agree with better education and knowledge for all but don't, specifically, see how to help.
 

Offline coberst

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Taking Social Theories to the People?
« Reply #11 on: 25/01/2009 17:43:10 »
Can you be more specific on how to "[...] help them understand that self-actualizing self-learning is good for them and for their community"? Perhaps an example of what you mean. Sorry to be dense; I agree with better education and knowledge for all but don't, specifically, see how to help.

I would ask them to read some of the threads that I have posted on this forum.
« Last Edit: 25/01/2009 17:47:49 by coberst »
 

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