A Student's Perspective on Science: Developing Knowledge Together

(Casper Hesp) #1

Hi everyone,
Below is a short speech I gave back in 2013 at the University of Groningen, shortly after I was elected student of the year among 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students. I described what inspired me to pursue my studies of the brain and the universe. Along the way, I ask: how do we develop our knowledge together, as scientists (and non-scientists) of different degrees?

I argued for a less hierarchical style of teaching, in which the teacher becomes at times equal to the student by treating also the topics that are still troublesome and mysterious. I realized that this perspective is also relevant to science communication in general. In the face of a complete mystery, the credentialed scientist understands as much as the lay audience members. Any thoughts and reflections on this perspective?

By the way, excuse me for my far-from-perfect English in the video. Let’s say it’s not my native language :slight_smile: .

(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

Thanks, Casper! That is quite the prestigious looking audience! No apologies needed on your 2nd language. Your speech sounded a lot better than I would be able to make in my 2nd (as yet mostly nonexistent) language!

Cool picture of the neurons / galactic networks! Were those really two actual photos that you juxtaposed? The two halves looked like they really did belong together!

(Casper Hesp) #3

Hi Merv, the audience contains about 200 professors of the University of Groningen, so that’s kind of prestigious I guess.

Well… The picture of the galactic web was the outcome of a “real” cosmological simulation. And the neuronal web was an artist’s impression based on the morphology of real neurons. So those almost count as two actual photos! :wink:

(Phil) #4

Enjoyed the talk, and while you addressed teachers in science, it strikes me that the same approach is important when we teach Bible also.
The attitude you advocate for a teacher of the poorly understood topics could be described as one of humility, and reminds me of a recent series of blogs by RJS on Musings on Sciene and Theology and echoed on Scot McKnight’s blog Jesus Creed. https://musingsonscience.wordpress.com/2016/09/29/cultivate-humility/

In it, RJS states “Humility brings wisdom and comes from wisdom when it is an intellectual humility, a humility that realizes that we are finite in our understanding. In the context of science, or theology for that matter, intellectual humility is the realization that one almost certainly has some misconceptions and wrong ideas and should be open-minded enough to accept input and consider new ideas.”

It seems to be something good to have and to cultivate.

(Casper Hesp) #5

Thanks for your thoughts and the link, James. I guess this intellectual humility that you speak of is sort of the arch nemesis of “Answers in Genesis”, which purports to possess answers instead of questions… It reminds me of a testimony that was posted on BioLogos some time ago, of someone who used to be an “answers addict” because of young-earth apologetics.

Teachers of any kind should not produce such answer addicts, they should produce “question addicts” instead :slight_smile: .

(Mervin Bitikofer) #6

I would be careful on that one … such dogmatic attachment to questions vs. answers (as if those two concepts were somehow opposed) may be just another dogmatic answer all dressed up in ‘seeker’ garb. One may rightly reject many easily given answers these days, but if one begins to become jaded about any and every answer proposed, then they are in danger of rejecting the very thing they want to encourage: seeking. After all you can’t very well be truly seeking something if you have already decided in advance that you will never find it.