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Just learn everything…

Then sort things out quickly.  The meter is running…

Enough at this weak attempt at humor…How can grown-ups (age not critical) with active, curious conscious minds and “limited” education (and we ALL have limited education) approach the “mountains of information” out there? In our June 26 post Stuart Firestein of Columbia U. made some good suggestions for the brainy people who have this problem.

Being less brainy, we’ll be a bit simpler. In fact you can stick our words on your refrigerator door.

Here they are. Turn your minds on and ask yourself these 3 questions–total of 9 words–not once, but again and again every day. Then go with what you come up with.

(1)  What is?

(2)  What matters?

(3)  Then what should I do?

And don’t worry if you come up incomplete.  Or fear you’ll run out of time. To save time, you may even cut us off (or maybe we’ll decide to cut off first). But our plans now are to say more about these 9 words…

Before  showing where our 12 previous philosophy/science/religion special posts have gone, I* will share something that happened in my former university English teaching post. First, in a nutshell, here’s brought me to the job: a few years of teaching this and that (including science in a lab school), a doctorate in science education; experience in writing elementary science texts, poetry, essays, reviews, and newspaper columns; some journal-editing experience in sci-ed and poetry; some coursework in Bible, 3 languages, an undergraduate major in psychology at an excellent college, but only 4 courses in English**. (How did this odd hiring ever occur? There was an even stranger state “hiring freeze” where English could “take” me from the lab school or take nobody at all. They took the first choice.)

In this university where I got stuck for more than 30 years, soon after starting, my professional life got suddenly shaken. After I’d caught my breath teaching writing and a large survey course of children’s lit., my department chair, with a wicked gleam in his eye, pushed me into teaching “A Survey of Literature of the Western World from Homer to Chaucer.” And I was to consider this a regular assignment! “You can do it!” he said.

So I did it.

(Hang on, I’ve a reason telling this.)

How did I cover 2000 years of writing in 32 class sessions? With a year to prepare, I leaned hard into a thick textbook (used by the last teacher), and running scared, I read other things day and night.

The time for my new assignment arrived.

And after surviving and enjoying that first semester, I was hooked. Students seemed to enjoy it and no one called for my execution (within hearing range)!

How did I know enough do this? Well, the course was broad but nothing like the “Big Bang to Obama” history course I mentioned in an earlier post. Prepare for another water metaphor: [Beginning of Story] The “river” was wide and swift. But in this dark water, enough stones on the bottom broke the surface so it was possible, with grit, to patiently step from stone to stone to reach the other side. Yes, 2000 years loomed, but I was given 1750 “starting pages”*** to shoehorn into 32 class sessions…and though my students, for the most part, were willing enough to wade, few had signed up for marine biology, so, except for the brilliant ones (a few, and I valued them) I had an edge. So I began my crossing, weaving in theme, metaphor, and history and certain familiar background. The course was, obviously, extremely broad, but not as much as the “B. B. to O.”

And, still reading, I taught the course much better the second time…  [ End of Story]

I was not an expert, and about much of what we present here, neither are you. But you and I know a lot about life, and using our active conscious and logical minds, and with the skills we have, we can build. And if we make mistakes, we can own up, tear down and rebuild. will try to be as accurate as possible–and interesting. We hope you’ll continue coming along for the ride.

Here’s what we’ve tried to do for this special series: Provide “stepping stones” to move you to a better seat for the big picture of what we know and how we know it. But with every footfall, can come a “What about this?” or “How Could you leave out that?” or “Aren’t you asking for too much here?” or “How would others respond to that?” and so on. That’s normal when scratching the surface lightly and risking generalizations. You can make notes on what you find incomplete, or troubling. I sure will.

Here’s what we’ve been trying to say so far (numbering things, of course):

(1)  For many reasons, it’s desirable to ask, and keep asking, big questions.

(2)  Using logic, in some cases laced with awe, is the best way to respond to questions.

(3)  An enormous amount of information is quickly accessible.

(4)  Philosophy, science, and religion (esp. Christianity) can usefully inform each other.

(5)  Materialistic philosophy has wrongly been declared by many to be the only way to intelligently think and describe things.

(6)  Human consciousness or the mind, still largely indescribable and mysterious, is nonetheless foundational to even “beginning to do science” as well as performing nonscientific tasks.

(7)  For reasons, oblivious to science, we hope to be honest about what we say–to ourselves as well as our readers. 

At last, here are our 13 PHILOSOPHY/SCIENCE/RELIGION posts (counting this one) presented so far.  A few more are slated to follow.

(1)  Jun. 19, 2013    *  “WHAT IS REAL?”  [Intro to phil/sci/rel series; "distance" in                                                observing]

(2)  Jun. 21, 2013    *  “BAD BOY PHYSICIST”  [Leonard Susskind; gaps in scientific                                             knowledge]

(3)  Jun. 24, 2013    * “BAD BOY ADDENDUM”  [Susskind again; Quantum Theory                                               vs. Classical Theory]

(4)  Jun. 26, 2013    * “MOUNTAINS OF FACTS”  [Stuart Firestein; dealing with                                                     so much research]

(5)  Jun. 28, 2013    * “PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE”  [Understanding "Teleology"]

(6)  Jul. 5, 2013        * “STARTING SCIENTIFIC WORK”  ["Consciousness" and                                                     "Common Sense"]

(7)  Jul. 8, 2013        * “CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHER FEATURED[Wm. Lane Craig                                               in Chron. of Higher Ed.]

(8)  Jul. 10, 2013      * “CRICK OR WARD?”  [Francis Crick wrong on materialism acc.                                           to Keith Ward]

(9)  Jul. 12, 2013       * “COLOURS AREN’T REAL!” [Existence of color depends upon                                           human perception]

(10)  Jul. 17, 2013     * “‘MIND,’ THE FOUNDATION?”  [Keith Ward“Consciousness,”                                           the basis of reality]

(11)  Jul. 19, 2013     * “BRAINS OR MINDS?”  [Ward again: The importance of mind]

(12)  Jul. 22, 2013     * “33 MINUTES LEFT!”  [John Knapp II: A fictional metaphor of                                            reality]

(13)  Jul. 24, 2013     * “STEPPING ACROSS STONES”  [Summary of posts so far;                                                 strengths and limits]

As we’ve said several times, these can be easily retrieved from “Previous Posts,” or from the multiple archives which include philosophy, science, and religion (choose one).

A few more posts are projected for this series–interlaced, as before, with independent offerings.


* “We” falls to the informal “I,” because how else can you present a personal narrative?

** Latin, Spanish, & Greek long ago; was an undergrad at Wheaton College; taught in NY, VA, CO in the U.S., briefly in Liberia in Peace Corps; later on grad & undergrad levels as assoc. prof, then full prof of English at SUNY-Oswego; undergrad at Wheaton College (IL); one of the English courses was “bonehead” Writing 101.

*** It was a range of pages to “generously select from.”