All posts for the month December, 2003

Hilary Lawson – Openness and Closure – Interesting debate on BBC Radio 4 Start The Week (29 Dec 2003) with Andrew Marr. Not come across Hilary Lawson before, but previously published work was on “closure” – about the stories we create to describe the patterns we see in the world as closure on the potential mystery, uncertainty and complexity behind them. Our working models of truth. Latest work is on Openness is looking at the extent to which 99% of the world out there remains “open” obscured by the 1% we have taken to be closed – eg by science or accepted knowledge. Also the idea of different stories / patterns for different purposes. Interesting discussion – no real debate – but involving geneticist (Matt Ridley), historical biographer (Linda Colley) and anthropologist / linguist (Hugh Brody) – all the ingredients for a philosophy of truth and knowledge.

Couldn’t fail to recall DNA’s (Douglas Adams’) white mice in the discussion about experiments on small rodents and discoveries about how little difference there is genetically between humans and the rest, and that many others are more complex than humans.

Also liked the “Forest Clearing” analogy for knowledge – the larger the clearing the more trees you can actually see (the more questions there are to be asked) – worth avoiding a deforestation view of knowledge methinks.

Interesting side-issue (in South African land claims) about how far back in history counts as aboriginal in the reality of the past decade. In this case 1913 – is this another 80 year cycle of 3 generations like Kondratiev ?

(Interesting follow-on into the book of the week, Byron Rogers biography of J L Carr – The Last Englishman)

Must add Start The Week (Andrew Marr) and In Our Time (Melvyn Bragg) to my fixed links. The last In Our Time was on the subject of Lamarck and how much of his basic thinking remains true post neo-Darwinianism.

Science – Fact or Fiction – BBC Radio 4 Today had Humphries in a debate with Steve Jones and George Monbiot about science stories that have a big picture story or “grand narrative” overlaid on what must be hughely complex reality – UK MMR Vaccine, GM Foods, Cloning, Global Warming etc. The fact being that one piece of science (even good science) can be seized on to support the case for the grand narrative, which takes on much greater significance than that specific piece of science, even cutting across scientific evidence to the contrary. Bjorn Lomborg was cited as an example of someone who had dared to pick up on the scientific counter evidence to spin the story opposing the received wisdom behind the global warming “problem”. [See also] Either way both stories are spin – for or against – so how do you decide the truth ?

The interesting point is that whilst both scientists accepted this, both knew which of the grand narratives they believed, and both accepted the reality of the negative reaction generated when someone dares to suggest the opposite view is scientifically supportable.

More Dave SnowdenKurz and Snowden in IBM’s Systems Journal [via Ton]
The paper behind the slide presentation below.
[Interview with Dave Snowden][Also here][And here]

We also discover that ….
Cynefin (pronounced kun-ev’in) is a Welsh word with no direct equivalent in English
As a noun it is translated as “habitat,” as an adjective to convey “acquainted” or “familiar.”

Could I suggest – comfort zone – perhaps ?