[Edu-sig] re: A conversation with a Bertrand Russell chatterbot

ajsiegel at optonline.net ajsiegel at optonline.net
Wed Apr 21 12:20:51 EDT 2004

And by a Python guy.

Who wouldn't want to chatter with a mathematician with a Nobel Prize: in Literature.

A monologue by Betrand Russel:


In my own country, and to a lesser degree in other countries of the West, "culture" is viewed mainly, by an unfortunate impoverishment of the Renaissance tradition, as something concerned primarily with literature, history and art. A man is not considered uneducated if he knows nothing of the contributions of Galileo, Descartes and their successors. I am convinced that all higher education should involve a course in the history of science from the seventeenth century to the present day and a survey of modern scientific knowledge in so far as this can be conveyed without technicalities. While such knowledge remains confined to specialists, it is scarcely possible nowadays for nations to conduct their affairs with wisdom. 
The separation of science from "culture" is a modern phenomenon. Plato and Aristotle had a profound respect for what was known of science in their day. The Renaissance was as much concerned with the revival of science as with art and literature. Leonardo da Vinci devoted more of his energies to science than to painting. The Renaissance artists developed the geometrical theory of perspective. Throughout the eighteenth century a very great deal was done to diffuse understanding of the work of Newton and his contemporaries. But, from the early nineteenth century onwards, scientific concepts and scientific methods became increasingly abstruse and the attempt to make them generally intelligible came more and more to be regarded as hopeless. The modern theory and practice of nuclear physicists has made evident with dramatic suddenness that complete ignorance of the world of science is no longer compatible with survival.

That's what Russel thinks is at stake. Survival.

So if I make myself obnoxous as a self-appointed pleader against the "culturization" of programming so be it.

My target isn't everybody.  I will settle to start with people like my Harvard educated brother-in-law, or more specifically his children.  It happens the name Betrand Russel did come up in a converstaion with him this past week-end.  He was surprised to learn the man had some interest ;) in mathematics.  I buried my head in my hands, for effect.

It is intuitively sensible to believe that new tools are needed to resotre lost balance. New paradigms/old paradigms -  again.



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