Saturday, October 9, 2010

Conversations from the hearts

Please let me apologize for not having been here in about a year. Medical stuff kept that from happening. But I am coming back and am excited about being able to do this again.

Life is wonderful and the exploration of it is a truly awesome experience. Those who have had that possibility limited, for whatever reason, know what I am trying to communicate. Those fortunate enough to not have had that experience will not understand, although they may "get it". Consequently, it is important for me to allow some part of my psyche to move and speak in ways and at times that I am normally unable to do. This topic is an example of my shifting perceptions.

When I taught classes on logic at the university, one area I emphasized was for the student to know their own motivation for accepting the statements of another as valid. This is not to remove the sense of authority that has been hard won by people spending their entire lives researching information to answer questions in a specific discipline. Rather it was and is about knowing personal needs to look to others for guidance and accepting as valid information which is based on an "authority" (and I am speaking of myself also). I wanted my students to realize that when, in the concepts of Thomas Kuhn - The Structures of Scientific Revolutions, problems start to mount in a discipline it is not generally these same members of the discipline that solve the problem and create a new theory, since they have a powerfully invested motive to keep the unworking theory. It is someone who brings insight from another discipline or way of viewing the mounting pile of non-solvable problems using the current theory that shares the critical piece necessary to redirect or reorganize the theory into one capable of eliminating the pile of unsolvable questions/research data.

As a result, it is important to consider the works of people who are bringing not merely in-depth knowledge of a discipline, but also a systemic view of the discipline as it relates to other ways of seeing the larger puzzle/problem set. And here is the rub for many researchers, analysts, and modelers: their ideas - the ones they have built a livelihood and career on - are being changed and removed. The perceived consequence is obsolescence but the real consequence is rejuvenation. Imagine how exciting it would be to have a new theory turn upside down the ideas that you have struggled with for decades. Suddenly there is a new way of viewing the old material that makes it work. Now your research or analyses, or models can be re-scoped and made to work. Suddenly you can be put on the leading edge of this new endeavor rather than being placed in the heap of obsolescence. But that is a choice like most of us face everyday: grow or whither.

I submit that destructive criticism so often found in theory adjustment and scientific discussions is not about the theory but rather about the obsolescence. The rejection which does not come in the form of critical analysis, but of criticism of the theoretician is a function of the decision to whither. I often saw this with graduate students who were unable to consider newer research that conflicted with their former undergraduate degree learning. They had accepted the interpretations of their professors as the last word on the subject and so were unable to move into a new paradigm with a larger picture providing newer insights into problem solutions.

And so this is the question I leave with this audience: How do you go about choosing the sources for your belief? What does it take for you to change your perceptions or more importantly the models you use for 1. deciding what is legitimate and germane to the topic, 2. deciding what constitutes sufficient authority to create a shift in your model of the world.

Reading Thomas Kuhn might help to understand why these two last statements are so important for discussions in nearly any topic, but especially in areas of science where current theories are having extreme difficulty explaining what is happening at the quantum levels.

God bless you