Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Comparing Iowa State with Arizona State

It is interesting to compare two "statements" coming out of two different universities.

First, take a look at the statement signed by many of the faculty at Iowa State a few years ago. In addition to misrepresenting several aspects of intelligent design, and providing a wrong or misleading definition of methodological naturalism, it seems obsessive about defining science in such a way as to keep it in a tidy little box, and encouraging its faculty and students to keep their thinking inside that box. There is no indication of any awareness that scientists may fruitfully explore interdisciplinary ideas and concepts.

Contrast that with this press release from Arizona State University on the formation of a think tank, which I discussed previously here. Here is an excerpt:

“ASU is pushing the boundaries of what a university can achieve,” says Davies. “Most institutions are fixated with the old subject categories that belong to the 20th, or even the 19th, century. ASU has a new way of organizing research themes, better suited to the new century. This new research institute conforms with this radical vision. It has an agenda that goes beyond the traditional subject boundaries. That’s where we want to take this venture – beyond.”

The institute will bring people together from different disciplines to engage in brainstorming sessions on the deep conceptual issues that frame the scientific world view. “They should go away brimming with fresh ideas for research,” Davies explains.

“We aim to open up novel approaches on the edges of existing disciplines,” he says. In fact, that’s how Davies defines a measurement of success for the institute: the development of new lines of inquiry.

“I have had a lifelong fascination for questions like: Where do laws of physics come from? Why is nature mathematical? What is time? Can we make life in the laboratory? Why can the human mind comprehend the universe? The list is endless,” Davies enthuses. “But I won’t be satisfied with just a talking shop. I want to see new research programs emerging from our deliberations.”

Davies is particularly suited to head up such an institute. His interests are broad, extending from the highly mathematical to the deeply philosophical, as evidenced by the titles of some of his books: How to Build a Time Machine, The Origin of Life, The Big Questions, The Last Three Minutes, The Mind of God, and The Cosmic Blueprint. His most recent book is The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the universe just right for life? newly published by Penguin in the UK. It will be released in the United States in April under the title Cosmic Jackpot.

As you can see, Davies is asking the same kinds of questions as Guillermo Gonzalez. While Iowa State is trying to shut down creative thinking, Arizona State is reveling in it.

Where would you rather go to school?


At May 19, 2007 1:56 PM, Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Lawrence, you lucky dog, this post was cited by Evolution News & Views.

EN&V has also cited FortheKids' Reasonable Kansans blog.

That's lots of good publicity for two little blogs.


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