Anthropocenic ignorance

July 3, 2007 at 4:36 pm | Posted in Anthropocene, Arts education, Broadcasters, Entropy, Humanities, Ignorance, Science Education, Scientists, Thermodynamics, Writers | 2 Comments

The state of my daughter’s bedroom provides an example of The Second Law of Thermodynamics in action, as there is a tendency for most things (including teenagers) to end up, over time, on the floor.  One sunny afternoon, one of my sons suggested that his melting icecream was a more tasty example of said Law, with heat passing from the hot summer air to his cold dessert with visible results.  Perhaps the National Health Service would provide useful analogies for older friends who can easily relate to its decline in service levels over the years😉

So, with interest, I just stumbled upon picture-perfect descriptions of entropy by Natalie Angier in this Observer article, ‘The new age of ignorance‘.  Well worth reading.  And, oh dear, the interview with selected panelists is cringe-worthy:

We asked three writers, three scientists and two broadcasters to answer six basic scientific questions, and their answers appear to confirm the arts/science divide

The new age of ignorance is epitomised, I think, by the Anthropocene—we have become more and more decoupled from daily personal interaction with nature, most of us lack a thorough understanding of the workings of the natural world that our ancestors regarded as common sense, and as a race, we have had an impact so great on our climate and ecosystems that problems we face today are unprecedented.  What we think of as common sense, has undergone a massive shift in definition in this past century.  This unfortunate state of the affairs of mankind goes hand in glove with our ability to accept, address, and overcome our climate challenge.

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  1. Good point, though the questions asked – like not being able to explain why salt dissolves in water – have nothing to do with common sense. Common sense is knowing simply that salt does dissolve in water. The ‘why’ is rarely relevant, even in most branches of science. Still, I agree that ‘common’ sense is becoming ever more rare, possibly even an endangered species, and that this goes hand-in-glove with our self-delusional desire to place ourselves apart from our own environment. Unfortunately, many people now confuse being able to explain things with understanding them, and debate has become an acceptable substitute for action.

  2. Sorry for not clarifying that I am talking about common sense and the Observer story deals with ‘what an educated person ought to know’. The two are very different, yet linked in that there is a tendency to accept arts topics as superior in terms of both common sense and uncommon (educated) knowledge and understanding.

    I was just homing in on common sense in my post because that has come up in discussions recently.


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