Sunday, September 16, 2007

The New Year

I must admit that I think this year will be much, much better than the previous one, both as a student and as an instructor. Changes and the university are probably for the best, even though they are certain to cause some consternation.

First, I never quite bought into the complete and utter disregard some "rhetoricians" have for science. By that, I mean the notion of a "constructed" truth is often overstated by those studying the "rhetoric of science" until they are left with no appreciation for how modern scientists think. The science of today is not even the science of 100 years ago. Science is wonderful because it does question and challenge itself, its methods, its communications to the greater public. Scientists believe in "truth" and "facts" and  "theories" because those concepts help all of us function in life.

Rhetoricians exclaim, "But even scientists admit they cannot know the Truth, because perfection is unknowable!" Okay, we might never know the ultimate why. I'll admit there are things we cannot explain and great theories end up being disproved by new, improved theories.


That's how science works. And each scientists thinks his or her theory will withstand the test of time — or at least last longer than two editions of college texts.

It seems that the humanities have no understanding, no appreciation, for how science works. They think they can study lab research as if visiting a tribe in a remote jungle, but that's foolishness. I knew how silly it was when someone accused me of "science-ism" (like religion, but a faith in science). Personally, I'd rather have faith in science, even with all its natural flaws.

Why is this year destined to be better? Because a statistics course doesn't bother exploring if numbers are social constructs without "real" meaning. A computer course doesn't ask if the Internet is a construct of the dominant political powers. I'm taking courses in which we do things... not merely gazing at the ground wondering if I'll float if I stop believing in gravity. Yes, I've heard such silliness from humanities students.

As for teaching, things are also much better. I'm more comfortable knowing that I can't really do any lasting harm. The worst I can do is offend one or two students. That's life.

I'll definitely write more about teaching later this weekend. The year is only two weeks old, though, and I need to consider what I write since it deals with perceptions of students and the university.