Author: kbpoole

We are constantly revolutionary

Kieth Peterson’s lecture on Bruno Latour’s anti-revolutionary claim has several flaws. A significant flaw in Peterson’s research is that the core few writings he based most of his work on are French. Philosophy is an important discipline in French culture and French philosophers are given a celebrity status in French culture. However, the French think much differently than Americans in the US. I understand Latour’s use of the word Westerners to be broader than Americans, but he seemed to be making grave implications about Americans. Latour’s claim that Westerner’s have never been modern is false. Modernity is a state of time, but not a specific date(s) in time. It is the present to Westerners. Modernity is not specifically 1990 to 2020. It is constantly with us because we are constantly changing. We are in a state of modernity as long as we are recognizing flaws. Flaws are recognized every day in social, economic, political, institutional, etc. systems. We are in modern times because we recognize (specifically speaking in the US here) that all people should vote, women are equal to men, vaccines are important, improve weather technology to try to warn people ahead of time of bad weather, etc. These advancements are not what make us modern, but the fact that we are making advancements. Revolutions don’t necessarily reflect modernity, but one that does was the scientific revolution. It changed the though process and approach to science that has inspired today’s science. We draw from the past, but as long as we are recognizing it is the past and continue to advance, then we are modern.

Peterson also made the remark that Westerners are not tribal but others still are. How can we not be tribal, but also not be modern? It is considered that each culture to have experienced a time of tribal, so if we are not tribal anymore then we must have advanced in some manner. If we have advanced then we are modern. Therefore, yes we are modern and are not tribal. However, others are not tribal just because we are modern. Modernity depends on the state of the society. We could be more advanced than another society, but we are not more modern as that is a state of being advanced. If a society is more advanced than a different society, that does not mean the other society is tribal solely because it is less advanced. That society could be modern for that society. Without tracking the progress and gauging the current state of the society, can one only conclude if it is tribal or modern. If we are in a state of modernity, then we are revolutionary. Not every aspect about is constantly revolutionary, but for us to be modern we are advancing in some way,  which means we as a society is constantly revolutionary for us to be in a state of modernity.


Climate Change Stereotype

Having been born in the mid 90’s, I have always heard the terms “climate change” and “global warming” growing up. It has been issue in the media, in the classroom, economically, and socially. Classes are designed around climate change. It has become a key issue in presidential elections. Documentaries have been created around it. Companies have been founded or destroyed because of climate change. It has been hotly debated if whether global warming exists or if climate change is a result of human activity. Having recently watched Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” one has the feeling the world is doomed and humans drove it there. He includes large scale graphs to demonstrate the extreme change in climate entirely driven by human activity. On the other side of the argument, humans don’t or hardly have cause change in climate. It was refreshing to hear from Kerry Emanuel that there is no dispute amongst scientists that humans are causing climate change, but to what degree is still up for debate.

Greenhouses gases have gained a bad reputation. However, they naturally exist in the atmosphere and are actually very important. Growing up, I was always under the impression humans created greenhouse gases, which are causing the Earth to be hotter and damaging the ozone. This isn’t entirely false, but greenhouse gases are not only good, but crucial in natural volume. Much of my basic understanding of climate change has been driven by the media. I have now realized how inaccurately the media is reporting on climate change. It is important topic to discuss and should not be over looked, but it does need to be properly reported. These misrepresentations have probably fueled much of the disagreement around climate change. Based on Emanuel’s lecture, I am now under the impression that advancements in technology are most likely the only way to know if climate change is driven by human activity and to what extent. Argo  robotics is one example of improved technologies that Emanuel mentioned. Granted, it is possible that we may never know or not know any time soon how human activity affects climate change, but if we could invest in advancing technology then may be it is possible to truly evaluate climate change. However, technology seems to only be able to measure climate change so far and not able to predict future climate change. I am sure there are several predictions available, but I am also sure those predictions all contradict each other. It seems to be more valuable if we can predict climate change to prepare for any potential disastrous changes. Either way investing in technology measuring climate change seems necessary in addition to accurately representing climate change in the media and textbooks.

The Association of Darwin’s Name

Janet Browne spoke very eloquently and passionately about Darwin and his legacy. But throughout her lecture, I became more and more interested in hearing about the other evolutionists and their discoveries prior to Darwin. It is hard not to know who Darwin is and what he discovered. He has become socially understood as the “Father of Evolution.” However as Janet pointed out, his discoveries were grand, but not entirely revolutionary. His connection with the finches and theory of survival of the fittest certainly was new news, but Darwin was inspired by other evolutionists. And I am now curious as to what was discovered prior to Darwin. The picture that is painted in classrooms, history books, and society was Darwin made a discovery that was completely new to the world. Browne showed the classic image of ape gradually evolving into man. This image is heavily associated with Darwin, but much to my surprise, he did not create this image. I am still unsure who did, but at least now I know it wasn’t Darwin. Darwin’s discovery has been exaggerated and glorified immensely. The association of image with Darwin’s name an example of the exaggeration. Darwin’s name has become associated with much more than evolution.

The interest I have always personally had in Darwin is the religious ramifications of his discovery. I was surprised to learn this predominantly was an issue in the US and not in England. Having studied the Scopes Trial and studied religion in the US, evolution plays a big role in policies and laws in the US and of course Darwin is associated with them. Darwin’s discovery was scientific, but Americans managed to make it about religion. He created a theory discovering birds and Americans made it into an evil theory that refutes the word of God. Atheism then became interchangeable with evolutionist. Even though these words mean different beliefs, they are intertwined and often misused. I believe when Darwin made his discovery he did not  expect or even suspect the global ramifications it would have. Janet Browne mentioned that Darwin was most likely agnostic. However, I presume many have assumed him to be atheist. Religion and science have always had conflict particularly in the US. Darwin is one of the few to cause disputes within religions particularly within the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church only relatively recently finally accepted that the Earth is not the center of the universe. I would imagine it will take a long time, a lot of evidence, and possibly a sign from God for the Catholic Church to officially accept evolution. Evolution has become much more than a scientific theory. It has become a belief to some or a threat to others. It has become its own religion to some extent. You either believe in evolutions or you don’t. There has yet to become a name for the equivalent for agnosticism in regards to evolution. I am sure there will be a term coined in the near future.

It’s a Different World

Khalid Albaih says through his art what many are thinking and feeling. He uses cartoons in hopes to bring attention to global issues. As Americans,  we take pride in our Bill of Rights with the first amendment including freedom of speech. However, we forget that this is a privilege afforded to few. In America, we have frequently battled the issue of white privilege, but we forget about this issue of first world privilege. It’s easy to forget as long as the third world remains on the TV screen. We see images of horrors around the world, but then we can just change the channel. This mirrors Khalid’s point about “going viral.” His work is incredible and it can capture so many emotions and issues. It resonates with many people and it becomes shared through social media. But that’s where it ends. It is admired, shared, discussed and then forgotten as soon as a Kardashian tweets something. Not understanding the seriousness of Khalid’s work allows us to forget about how privileged as Americans we are. I am not trying to dismiss issues in America and say we are perfect, but we have so much more than most. If a writer for the New York Times wrote a provocative piece that questioned a politicians agenda, he/she would not be arrested the next day. He/she may endure scrutiny from various critics, but his/her life would go on. He/she would most likely be able to continue working for the Times and continue to live his/her life. Unfortunately, there is a ceiling for most. As Americans we don’t know this ceiling. The concept of the “American Dream” is the ability to break that ceiling and achieve whatever you want. If I wanted to I could become that CEO or next President because I am able to. I am not saying it would be easy, but there are no special forces, no dictator, and no laws preventing me from doing so. It truly is a open blue sky over America. Khalid is trying to bring illustrative messages to the world asking for help. He mentioned the friends he has lost and friends who are imprisoned trying to fight for our freedoms that we take advantage of every day. The reality in the US today is a scary Presidential election, concerning police and race issues, and Hurricane Matthew. I am not trying to dismiss the seriousness of those matters. However Khalid’s reality is much different and much worse in many ways because he is limited in what he is capable of doing to make a change. At the end of the lecture, a student asked if he has ever needed to worry about his safety. His response was “every day.” I couldn’t imagine that being my reality and I am grateful for that. Prior to the lecture, I wasn’t aware he was the artist behind many pieces I have seen shared on social media. Social media is a great starting platform to get people’s attention, but it won’t be the resolution to his country’s and many other countries’ problems. “Going viral” seems to only help so much.

Tambora’s Scapegoat

Professor Wood’s observation of environmental refugees that existed in Switzerland was a striking term to me. In my lifetime, I have only witnessed refugees primarily due to civil unrest. I never thought of refugees do to the environment. When Hurricane Katrina hit, many had to leave their homes, but they were never called refugees. Environmental refugees is not a leading concern today because we have the resources to prevent the result of refugees do to the environment. Organizations such as the Red Cross and government action prevent this from being an issue. Tambora caused a worldwide epidemic, but there were no organizations or strong governments to intervene. Random kind strangers seemed to be the only resource. It became a very individual society in order to survive that seems to have influenced many of our policies today. Professor Wood used the Baroness as an example of one of those kind strangers. She was the only salvation for many in Switzerland at that time. At a time of desperation and famine, the Baroness would have been one of few who helped others. However, she was targeted by her community.

The treatment of the Baroness for helping others reminded me of Rene Girard’s theory of scapegoating. Girard studied and proposed theories on the origins of sacrifice. Part of his conclusion is the use of a scapegoat to place all the blame on. According to Girard, sacrifice was needed as an outlet to suppress violence within the community. A scapegoat was chosen by the community, who was ultimately sacrificed. There did not need to be reason or justification for why one was chosen as the scapegoat. The Baroness was that scapegoat in her community. At a time of great confusion and most probably attempted to try to understand the traumatic events through religion, subconsciously scapegoating is not a surprising occurrence. Switzerland at the time would have been predominantly Christian. Sacrifice in general, but especially scapegoating is at the core of Christianity. Even though sacrifice was not in practice anymore, the foundations of sacrifice were still unintentionally instilled through the religion. The Baroness was not explicitly sacrificed, but she was driven from her home, which could be seen as a symbolic sacrifice.

Religion in general would have been heavily relied upon since there was no ordinary explanation for the devastation. Traditionally, religion has been used and a community’s relationship with their god to explain misfortunes. When Israelites were in exile, they believed it to be punishment for breaking their covenant with Yahweh. The people in Switzerland probably sought redemption thinking it would bring an end to the famine. Placing blame on a scapegoat would have also been a path of redemption. It’s as if you are removing your misdoings and giving them all to one thing, then punishing that thing in order to appease god. Scapegoating is a dangerous route to suppress violence in a community, but it has shown psychologically to be effective. Using the Baroness as a scapegoat would have psychologically helped people handle the epidemic following the eruption of Tambora.

The misteachings of the Scientific Revolution

I have studied the Scientific Revolution in previous history courses as I am sure many Colby students have. There is always a header at the beginning of the section in the history textbook titled “The Scientific Revolution.” This header implies great scientific achievements were made that dramatically altered history. The textbook juxtaposes Aristotle with Galileo or Newton to show the grave change in scientific discovery about our world such as that Earth is not the center of the solar system. The textbooks frame their scientific progress as an overnight success that was revolutionary. However, Professor Cohen makes a valid observation that revolutions are not overnight occurrences. The instance that starts the revolution could be one moment, but the thoughts that fueled the revolution begin well before. The Scientific Revolution was a change in thinking that built over time. Textbooks don’t include the time leading up to the Scientific Revolution.

I have often thought that science and philosophy to be very separate fields of academia. Historically as Professor Cohen pointed out, they are very much intertwined. Aristotle was a philosopher making scientific assumptions. Galileo primarily also used philosophy to make his discoveries. If philosophy was the primary tool to make scientific discoveries, why is the Scientific Revolution taught as math based discoveries? Once understood that the Scientific Revolution was not heavily math based, but rather a change in philosophical thinking, it make sense to juxtapose Aristotle and the scientists in the revolution. Philosophy has become a forgotten important aspect to science because it is not taught to be utilized together. No science course has a prerequisite of a philosophy course or vice versa. They have been separated over time, but to understand the history of one, one must study the other. It’s easy to understand the cause of a political revolution because it usually is quite obvious. A political institution is oppressing a group of people and they then seek independence. To understand what makes the Scientific Revolution revolutionary, one must look at how science was understood prior to the revolution.

Shortly after Professor Cohen began his lecture, I found myself wondering what was even revolutionary about the Scientific Revolution. History courses I have taken in the past have only taught me that many scientific discoveries were made and it was revolutionary. However, scientists have continued to make discoveries, but we don’t have a second Scientific Revolution. The discoveries made did change the human perspective of the universe, but so have many other scientific discoveries. Einstein’s discoveries weren’t called Einstein’s Revolution, so what made this time period for science so revolutionary?  I believe this is how Professor Cohen came to his conclusion that the word “revolution” is being used as a metaphor for the Scientific Revolution. Metaphorically Aristotle was “dethroned” and the modern thought process for science was introduce. Also, the importance of publishing began. According to Professor Cohen, these two aspects are the key as to why we can call it a revolution. Unfortunately, students are improperly educated about the revolutionary aspects of the Scientific Revolution. Thus creating this illusion that mathematically based science was basically invented during the Scientific Revolution, which radically changed our history, and began the divulsion between science and philosophy.