The TED organization isn't the first to censor scientists for having unconventional ideas. It's just the latest.
It's worth remembering that for hundreds of years, "scientific evidence" was used to justify the convenient assertion that people of color were racially inferior. Today we call that "misusing science" and "pseudoscience" -- but at the time it was mainstream scientific thought. Nothing about it was true, but the scientific mainstream laughed at radicals who said so.
For years mainstream scientific studies denied the connection between smoking and poor health. It was "insurgent" scientists who finally made the case. During the "reefer madness" era, it was considered a matter of settled science that marijuana was a "gateway drug" that would lead to a life of violent crime, and that comic books coarsened the young and destroyed empathy. For a scientist to say otherwise was to invite censure -- even though they were empirically correct.
Which is to say that there is such a thing as "bad science" and "pseudo-science," but that even scientists have a pretty poor record deciding what it is sometimes. When social forces try it, when social organizations or politicians or businesses try to tell scientists what is and isn't science ... well, do I even have to mention Galileo?
Chip Conley, Saybrook’s Scholar-Practitioner in Residence, launches new website looking at world festivals in the 21st century02/11/2013
Did you know that in one of the coldest spots on earth, the people of Habin, China, create an ice and snow festival?
Or that every 12 years there the most prominent gurus and spiritual pilgrims of India gather on the banks of the Ganges river?
The world is full of hyper-local festivals thriving in a hyper-connected world. Chip Conley, Saybrook University’s Scholar-Practitioner in Residence, thinks they have a lot to tell us about what we value, how we play, and what it means to be human in the 21st century.
A new article on the Huffington Post by Saybrook President Mark Schulman looks at new studies showing the efficacy of acupuncture - and asks why there was such hostility among mainstream medicine to even conducting such experiments.
The problem, Schulman says, is that a legitimate demand for rigorous proof is often taken to the next step - hostility towards anything that doesn't fit our dominant paradigm about what is and isn't legitimate, even when experiments are conducted rigorously.
"This is a problem the scholars at Saybrook University know well," Shulman writes:
Despite its small size, Saybrook University made an outsize impression though faculty, student and alumni research at the American Psychological Association conference.
The 120th annual conference, held from August 2nd to 5th, in Orlando, Fla., featured internationally known presenters on topics and research currently attracting attention in the field, covering issues such as immigration, racism, eating disorders, clinical practice, social networking and psychotherapy.
Saybrook faculty, alumni, and students presented on such wide-ranging topics as the practice of existential psychology there, the future of positive psychology, the basics of hypnosis and self-hypnosis and how the creative process can promote healing and growth.
That, suggest Stewart Brand, is because we think that new information is always better. So what Aristotle thought 2000 years ago is always less relevant than what Ashton Kutcher tweeted five minutes ago.
But there are other ways of thinking about information. Here (with a hat tip to Atlantic Blogger Alexis Madrigal) is a passage from one of Brand’s books:
Most of this book is Used Information. It is reprinted from various issues of The CoEvolution Quarterly, a California-based peculiar magazine. You can look at that news two ways. If you operate by the Bread Model of Information, it's terrible news. You've been gypped - stale information. On the other hand if you view information as something fundamentally different from bread, there's the possibility of good news. Having lived longer, the information here may be wiser, more co-evolved with the world. It may be more refined, having cycled complexly through the minds and responses of 40,000 CQ readers. And it's been through two editorial distillations; the less-than-wonderful and out-of-date may have been extracted.
The notion that there’s value in information that isn’t cutting edge is out of fashion in our world, but it may be crucial to understand in the digital age.
Organizations have tics, and blind spots, and habits, just like people do. So maybe it’s not surprising, in fact it’s brilliant, to apply psychological processes to organizations.
At the blog Rethinking Complexity, Jorge Taborga examines a Depth Psychology model of organizations, based on the work of Carl Jung.
“The organizational unconscious,” he writes, “is the unique array of ‘energies, contents and truths’ that operate beyond the conscious control of the organization. It is the bridge between the conscious organization and the collective unconscious. It provides the psychodynamic environment for these two forces to interplay.”
All of which is to say that organizations have complexes of which they’re not aware; things that they channel their energies into, without realizing it, that might be neurotic or actively hurtful.
Existentialism and psychoanalysis both view human life as containing tragic elements and hard limits -- we are free, but we can't have everything we want. According to Carlo Strenger, of Tel Aviv University: “The tragic dimension (of life) is no longer popular in our culture that perpetuates the myth of ‘just-do-it,’ and repeats the mantra that happiness is a birthright.”
As long as our culture denies life's tragic elements, as long as our science refuses to acknowledge that there may be any limits to our eventual mastery over life (we'll eventually develope Artificial Intelligence ... we'll eventually understand how "mind" reduces to "brain chemicals" ... we'll eventually prolong human life indefinitely and download our consciousness and reach "the singularity" and all you have to do is click your ruby slippers together three times and believe ...) then philosophies that teach us how to live with and through the human condition - however true and useful - will seem out of touch with a culture of Hollywood endings.
What’s that? There was widespread cheating on standardized tests in the Atlanta school system?
Surprise surprise …
It’s gotten to the point where you can reasonably expect: if a school district or state doubles down on standardized testing, forces teachers and schools to be held accountable for student scores, and then announcing amazing gains, a major cheating scandal will follow like night and day.
Texas, Washington D.C., Atlanta … all of the “miracle”gains caused by overemphasis on standardized tests have been increases only in smoke and mirrors.
So our emphasis on high stakes testing isn’t actually increasing student learning … and it’s causing what one analyst called “management by fear” in school systems. That can’t be good for teachers or principles.
It’s worse for students. As the Triple-Pundit blog noted, standardized testing actually impedes students’ ability to engage in systems thinking … exactly the kind of creative problem solving most valuable in the 21st century.
What are we doing? Why would we constantly push an educational practice that creates climates of fear, encourage cheating, hurts creative systems thinking, and doesn’t even improve performance?
Why do we do that?
In a recent essay for The New Yorker, Louis Menard recalls the first time a student ever asked him “Why did we have to read this book?” It’s the more direct way of asking: what is this education good for?
It was, apparently, the first time he’d ever thought of the question himself.
I could see that this was not only a perfectly legitimate question; it was a very interesting question. The students were asking me to justify the return on investment in a college education. I just had never been called upon to think about this before. It wasn’t part of my training. We took the value of the business we were in for granted.
The answer, he decided, depends on what college is for – and nobody’s really sure of that, anymore, are they?
Anybody who's had to work for a living knows that we have a "work self" that is noticeably different from who we are outside of work.
Maybe we're more guarded, or more serious; maybe there are important parts of our lives we don't talk about.
At Rethinking Complexity, Dennis Rebelo has an interesting post asking about the stories we tell ourselves about who we are at the office. It's a great piece, work a read. It also raises the question: how do we integrate our work selves with who we are the rest of the time? Do we like it's a seperate person? Or a costuem? Or a side of ourselves?
How do we navigate our professional obligations while maintaining personal integrity?
If you have some thoughts or advice, leave them in the comments section below.