Science and Sensibility:

Muhlenberg Faculty Favorites


Sharon Albert:

Cho, Francisca, and Richard K. Squier. ““He Blinded Me With Science”: Science Chauvinism in the Study of Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 76.2 (2008): 420 -448. Web.

This article questions the privileging of science and scientific method as primary criteria for legitimating other fields of study, and particularly the academic study of religion. The authors argue that a re-examination of the assumptions not only of religion but also of science itself “actually suggests more similarities than differences,” and will ultimately "render the academic study of religion [and of science] into . . . comparable 'research tradition[s].'”

Jim Bloom:

Uglow, Jenny. "The Other Side of Science." New York Review of Books 57.11 (2010): 30-34. Print. 31 Aug. 2010. Available in Trexler Library, A level, microfilm.

Everyone should read this because it persuasively makes the distinction so-called liberal learning rests on: the unattainable wisdom to which we ideally aspire as opposed to the easy pursuit of ephemeral information, the "expertise" and "authority" discussed in the article. Think of the near reverence with which we utter such phrases as "best practices" and "benchmarking."

Everyone should read this because in considering "all forms of cultural performance" Uglow and Shapin evoke the fun, necessity, and difficulty sidestepped by another of our glibly bandied phrases "interdisciplinarity."  After reading this article, you may want to substitute this infelicitous piece of  shopworn academese for the earthier noun impurity.  The impurity or sheer messiness that inquiry and learning require, though inevitably at odds with institutional efficiency and personal security, not only keep us in touch with physical matter and intangible ideas in all their recalcitrant complexity. Impurity also keeps us free and open to experience as the following observations, from different kinds of perspectives, indicate:

  • "Cultural purity is an oxymoron. The odds are that, culturally speaking, you already live a cosmopolitan life, enriched by literature, art, and film that come from many places." Anthony Kwame Appiah, Cosmopolitanism (2007)
  • "For Bohr, physics was not about finding out what nature is, but about what can be said about it. Quantum mechanics was a complete theory of the behavior of matter and light, and we just have to come to terms with the limitations it places on what can be known, for example as illustrated by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Einstein was having none of it. He believed that there is an objective world out there and that it is the job of scientists to describe it. The appearance of probabilities in the theory was, for him, evidence of its incompleteness." Review of Quantum  by Manjit Kumar Quantum New York Times Book Review I 6-13-10.
  • "Theron could not feel sure how much of the priest's discourse was in jest, how much in earnest. 'It seems to me,' he said, 'that as things are going, it doesn't look much as if the America of the future will trouble itself about any kind of a church. The march of science must very soon produce a universal skepticism. It is in the nature of human progress. What all intelligent men recognize to-day, the masses must surely come to see in time.'"  Harold Fredric, The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896)

Jim Bloom:

McEwan, Ian. Solar: A Novel. 1st ed. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2010. Print.  Available in Trexler Library call # 823.914 M142so

When Nobel prize-winning physicist Michael Beard's personal and professional lives begin to intersect in unexpected ways, an opportunity presents itself in the guise of an invitation to travel to New Mexico. Here is a chance for him to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster.

Keri Colabroy:

Sarewitz, Daniel. "Entertaining science." Nature 466.7302 (2010): 27. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 Sept. 2010. Available in Trexler Library, level C periodicals

Jeff Pooley:

Daston, Lorraine, and Peter Galison. “The Image of Objectivity.” Representations 40 (1992): 81-128. JSTOR. Web. 2 September 2010.