Week 2 – Core Blog #2

During the second week of lecture, Professor Van Breugel lectured on Edward R. Harrison’s Masks of the Universe. Van Breugel breaks down the context and paraphrases Harrison’s perspective about mankind’s perception of the universe and how our upbringing will inevitably affect our assumptions and judgment. Our knowledge of the universe is limited and we are still far from discovering the ultimate answer which we may or may not be prepared for. However, mankind has prospered as a result from technological advancement due to the drive that people tend to have in finding out the unknown and unlocking the secrets of the natural world. We may ask ourselves, “What is the universe? How does it evolve? What is the purpose of life…?” or something similar of that sort. We will never know unless we continue to have faith in mankind’s ability to find an answer.

Van Breugel explains to us how human views of the universe and morals have drastically changed over time due to the occurrence of particular events and traditions being passed down from generation to generation. He quoted Albert Einstein:

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.”

I agree with both Einstein’s and Van Breugel’s opinion upon this matter. In addition, this quote strongly ties into Harrison’s idea that one can never be unbiased for their perspective has already been affected by the people they know and their environment. For example, the morals and values that convention today view as just has been passed down from previous generations that have made and learned from their “actions”. I do not dare label what they did as “mistakes” because the conventional perspective of their time viewed it as the norm. Thus, the concept of human sacrifice for any religious ritual or practice is now viewed as murder.

Since the earliest record of history, humans have always wanted to valued, to be viewed as significant in this vast world, and to have a purpose for the things they do.  They sought for answers through methods of magic which eventually changed to mythic and finally scientific. Although it is impossible to be unbiased, we can still do our best to minimize the affect our own values and perspectives have on our experiments and research by putting the scientific method into practice. By doing so, there is a more defined cut between what is and what we want it to be.

My question: How has convention affected your views of morals and ethics? What do you think caused convention to pass down some concepts as just and unjust?

~Vivian Tran~


Week 1 – Core Friday Lecture – “What Do We Know?”

Week 1 – Core Friday Lecture

The lecture was called “What Do We Know?” and was being presented by Tom Hothem.  The title itself made me ask myself that question and reflect upon it. I was sure of what I knew and some things that I did not know. However, I also realized that I might not know what I don’t know. Tom started off by telling us that we should know how to apply our knowledge and explained the importance of being knowledgeable.

By asking the audience of what we knew, he eventually explained to us that our knowledge is time specific and students in the far future might not know what we were talking about.  Students in the future may not know anything about Rebecca Black (they’re so lucky). As the lecture went on, we learned that it is a lot more difficult to name some of the things that we don’t know.  Tom Hothem later stated, “Precision + Congruence = Knowledge”.  Paraphrasing what Carl Sagan stated, one must be brave to challenge convention.  A good example of this would be Galileo. His research in proving that the Earth and the moon revolved around the sun was mocked by the Christian church. Challenging Albert Einstein’s theory, now scientists have proved that particles can move faster than the speed of light.

I think that our brain capacity is very limited and the list for the things we don’t know actually greatly exceeds the list of the things that we actually know. Some of the things that we think we know might actually be incorrect or inaccurate.  It could be a fallacy or a rumor that we were so use to hearing that we unconsciously assumed that it must be true. Our knowledge can be challenged and stated as incorrect.

If the thing that we know now is only correct by convention, then does that mean that we don’t actually know what we think we know? Are the content that’s being taught in our textbooks accurate or are they just theories waiting to be challenged by the brave in the future? Since it is impossible to know everything, how can we do our best to get close to knowing everything?

~Vivian Tran~

Week 1 – Core Blog #1

What is knowledge? How do you define it personally? And what knowledge do you possess? What knowledge do you hope to gain from a semester in Core? When you look over the modules in the syllabus and think about Sagan, Descartes, and what Wil van Breugel said, does anything speak to you personally?

In my opinion, knowledge is information that we learn and retain from repetitive practices and events.  For example, after repetitive practice with mathematics, we gain and retain that knowledge to advance through our academic careers and apply it in the real world.  In addition to this, it is also gained from observations through our surroundings, our communities, our society, and the rest of the world.  We learn from our mistakes and do our best to avoid the mistakes that others have made.  However, I think that we must not assume that knowledge is equivalent to or more significant than experience.

According to Tom Hothem, he stated during his Core lecture called “What Do We Know?” that knowledge is dated and specific in the time frame that we’re in… I do believe that his statement is true.  We have a difficult time understanding the English language from Shakespeare’s time. If time travel were possible and we brought an English scholar from his period to our modern time, I think he would find our grammar quite repulsive since our styles in writing, reading, and communication has drastically changed over time.

Based off of Tom Hothem’s list of different kinds of knowledge, I believe that I have various ranges of knowledge for every category. I already noticed that almost everything has a connection between each other. Without the discovery or research of certain topics, the aftermath would not exist and we would not be as technologically advanced as we are now.

During the discussion, we briefly talked about the Civil Rights Movement.  We agreed that it has resulted in the diversity of our lives. I also had an epiphany that if the Civil Rights Movement never occurred, I would not exist today. My parents met in the U.S. They came to America in hopes of seeking for new opportunities and a better life.  The Civil Rights Movement contributed to the U.S.’s reputation.  If discrimination and segregation still existed, they wouldn’t have immigrated to the States and I would’ve never been born.

As I read through the modules in the syllabus, topics relating science and heritage spark my interest. In this semester of Core, I hope to become better rounded and learn about different topics that I use to find irrelevant to my life.  After a large dosage of maturity being injected into my personality, I realized that I would only be limiting myself if I do not even bother being open-minded about topics that are not superficially related to biology.

My question is: Do you think knowledge is equivalent to or more significant than experience? Provide an example with your argument.

~Vivian Tran~