The Evolution of Knowledge and Rethinking Science for The Anthropocene with Professor Jürgen Renn

Most history of science publications narrowly focus on specific periods in human history, or particular disciplines of scientific discovery, or small sets of scientists and philosophers. However there is a view that history of science can be better understood against the background of a history of knowledge including not only theoretical but also intuitive and practical knowledge. This can be further broadened by including cognitive, material and social dimensions of knowledge. Studying how knowledge structures are formed and evolve as knowledge spreads should further enrich our understanding of development and progress of science and technology. In his new book “ The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene” Jürgen Renn presents a new way of thinking about the history of science and technology, one that offers a grand narrative of human history in which knowledge serves as a critical factor of cultural evolution.

Jürgen Renn is a director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, where, together with his group, he researches structural changes in systems of knowledge. Jürgen Renn is honorary professor for History of Science at both the Humboldt-Universität and the Freie Universität Berlin. He is currently serving as Chairperson of the Humanities Sciences Section of the Max Planck Society.

In this book Jürgen Renn examines the role of knowledge in global transformations going back to the dawn of civilization while providing vital perspectives on the complex challenges confronting us today in the Anthropocene—this new geological epoch shaped by humankind. He reframes the history of science and technology within a much broader history of knowledge, analyzing key episodes such as the evolution of writing, the emergence of science in the ancient world, the Scientific Revolution of early modernity, the globalization of knowledge, industrialization, and the profound transformations wrought by modern science. He investigates the evolution of knowledge using an array of disciplines and methods, from cognitive science and experimental psychology to earth science and evolutionary biology. The result is an entirely new framework for understanding structural changes in systems of knowledge—and a bold new approach to the history and philosophy of science.

In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with professor Jürgen Renn, one of today’s preeminent historians of science. We discuss fascinating research that he presents in The Evolution of Knowledge. We discuss the origin, evolution and spread of knowledge, and other insights that Jürgen Renn discusses in this thorough book.

Complement this interesting discussion with fascinating conversation “Origin of Mathematics and Mathematical Thinking with Dr Keith Devlin” and then listen to “Robots, Artificial Life and Technology Imagined by the Ancients” with Adrienne Mayer.

By |June 2nd, 2020|Information, Knowledge, Podcasts|

Origin Of Mathematics and Mathematical Thinking with Dr Keith Devlin

Mathematics is everywhere. We use numbers, quantities, values and measurements almost all the time. Counting and quantifying is part of almost everything that we do.

An interesting question is how did it all start. When did humans start thinking mathematically and what is the origin of mathematical thinking. As we start tacking these questions, we stumble upon few more queries: how did our brain evolve to do mathematics; what are fundamental capacities that enable humans to do mathematical thinking; what are major milestones in the evolution of mathematical thinking and in the history of mathematical innovations; is mathematics discovered or is it invented. I invited Dr Keith Devlin to join me in this episode of Bridging the Gaps for a discussion that focuses on these questions.

Dr Keith Devlin is the director of the Stanford Mathematics outreach project at Stanford University. His current research is focused on the use of different media to teach and communicate mathematics to diverse audiences. He has written 33 books and over 80 research articles. He is a World Economic Forum Fellow, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

Complement this with intriguingly informative discussion “Robots, Artificial Life and Technology Imagined by the Ancients” with Adrienne Mayer.

By |March 11th, 2020|Knowledge, Podcasts|

How Cooking Made Us Human with Professor Richard Wrangham

Humans are the only animals that cook their food. One of the implications of cooking food, as noted by Oliver Goldsmith is, “of all other animals we spend the least time in eating”. In a ground-breaking theory of our origins, primatologist Richard Wrangham argues that the shift from raw to cooked food was a key factor in human development. When our ancestors adapted to using fire, humanity as we know it, began. Wrangham notes that as a result of eating cooked food, the human digestive tract shrank and the brain grew. Eating cooked plants or meat makes digestion easier and the energy we formerly spent on digestion was freed up, enabling our brains to grow. Cooking increases the proportion of nutrients that can be digested, makes food easier to digest and kills pathogens (harmful bacteria and viruses). Time once spent chewing tough food could be used instead to hunt and undertake other tasks and activities. Cooking became the basis for pair bonding and marriage, created household and shaped family structures, and even led to a gender based division of labour.

Richard Wrangham is a professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and founded the Kibale Chimpanzee Project in 1987. He has conducted extensive research on primate ecology, nutrition, and social behaviour. In his book “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” Wrangham argues that cooking food is obligatory for humans as a result of biological adaptations and the cooking, in particular, the consumption of cooked food might explain the increase in human brain size, smaller teeth and jaws, and smaller more effective digestive system. Wrangham’s “Catching Fire” presents an interesting narrative that how we came to be the social and intelligent beings that we are today.

“Cooking was a great discovery not merely because it gave us better food, or even because it made us physically human. It did something even more important: it helped make our brains uniquely large, providing a dull human body with a brilliant human mind” – Richard Wrangham

Complement this with slightly different but equally interesting discussion “Robots, Artificial Life and Technology Imagined by the Ancients” with Adrienne Mayer.

By |July 20th, 2019|History, Knowledge, Podcasts|