What a wonderful world – aha-moments triggered by insights into a medieval thinker’s mind

Photo0044IMG_0032In the aftermath of Ordered Universe gatherings I find myself time and again struck by how little appreciation I normally give to the complexity of the natural world. So many fundamental properties of the physical universe I usually take for granted, without even giving it a thought that someone would have some sort of explanatory account for them. Through engaging with 13th-century models of physical phenomena, some of this fascination with the fundamental properties of the world around us has been unlocked for me. Furthermore, I keep being baffled by how science – in the sense of ‘groping for understanding’, as Tom McLeish sometimes puts it – is far from a modern-day phenomenon but has been with us throughout the ages. Given my psychology and philosophy background this constitutes a steep learning curve, and has certainly enriched my understanding of the nature and history of science. Continue reading

Grosseteste goes public: disseminating medieval and modern science

IMG_2853IMG_2856The Mahfouz Forum on Grosseteste’s De generatione sonorum (On the generation of sound) culminated in a set of public lectures held in the Pichette Auditorium of Pembroke College. With this having been the third time that I got to enjoy being part of an Ordered Universe gathering, I had heard before some elements of these talks given by Tom McLeish, Giles Gasper, Hannah Smithson and Richard Bower. But far from making the experience repetitive, it has been very inspiring to see how the speakers’ approach and evaluation of the topics has been evolving and expanding. In addition, it’s rewarding to see how my own understanding of the themes has developed from when I first joined, and how some of the concepts I initially couldn’t get my head around by now seem quite familiar. Continue reading

Pembroke College Oxford – a Very Short Introduction

IMG_1170After workshops and conferences held in Durham, Porto and Lincoln, it seems only right that the interdisciplinary and international team of the Ordered Universe Project is now meeting in Oxford – the very place where Grosseteste spent part of his early scholarly career and where today the Bodleian and College libraries keep many of the original manuscripts. Having graduated from the Psychology and Philosophy undergraduate course just this summer, I’m especially looking forward to being in Oxford next week, now as a Pembroke alum. Continue reading

Grosseteste – a theologian and scientist. Or: Did Grosseteste see a science-religion divide? Further Reflections on the Network…

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of studying Grosseteste is that he wrote about both theology and science (in the medieval sense). The first-time, non-medieval reader is quick to ask herself whether Grosseteste had some split-brain features; after all IMG_1326religion and science often take opposing stances in contemporary debates. As Giles Gasper mentioned in his conference presentation at Porto, Grosseteste didn’t comment explicitly on how he saw the relationship between these two areas of interests. However, the scholars explained that in medieval times there was not yet the conceptual divide between religion and science. Instead, the elucidation of natural phenomena was thought of as giving depth to the wonders of God’s creation. Nonetheless, it is striking that Grosseteste, who was to become bishop of Lincoln later on, didn’t explicitly frame his scientific treatises in theological terms. Nonetheless, under closer inspection of the De luce, there are some references and fundamental assumptions that seem to hint at his theological commitments. Continue reading

Interdisciplinarity – chances and challenges

It took me some time to realise how rare truly interdisciplinary work is at the research level. For me as an undergraduate student, cross-subject talk within friendship groups is something that I have always taken for granted. Since I have been introduced to the Ordered Universe Project I have learned firstly that only few scholars and scientists collaborate with each other, and secondly that such collaboration bears the potential for a uniquely broad and deep perspective. To see how researchers from humanities and sciences work together in an open-minded, patient and accommodating fashion has been very impressive, as this research methodology allows for an elucidation of Grosseteste’s writings at multiple different levels. Continue reading

How history of science informs individual development of scientific reasoning and supports a reflective perspective thereon

IMG_1974

Per Kind, at our October workshop, put forward the idea that informative parallels can be drawn between the development of science-knowledge across chronological time, i.e. the history of science, and the development of scientific reasoning within the individual, across developmental time. This opens up an indirect way of how studying Grosseteste and his time can help us improve science teaching: by analysing the succession of methods and processes that have characterised science across the centuries, maybe we can learn about how scientific reasoning develops across childhood and adolescence and about the factors that drive this development. In this way, the Grosseteste project could make important theoretical contributions to our models of how reasoning skills develop. From these models, we could then infer which specific cognitive caveats need to be tackled at different stages of the learning process, and this would have general implications for how we teach science across different age groups. Continue reading

Cool for School: A Grossetestian framework for teaching scientific knowledge and how science works

IMG_1932Nowadays teachers are expected to have clearly defined learning objectives for every lesson, but more fundamentally it must be definedwhat the overall aims of education should be. These seem to cluter around the acquisition of firstly a broad and in-depth knowledge base across the disciplines, and secondly of procedural skills that enable students to critically evaluate information and to identify gaps in arguments and evidence. Having laid out learning objectives along these lines, we should take a step back and compare the current educational strategies against these standards. Continue reading

How Grosseteste could help in conveying a ‘grasp of scientific practice’

In recent years science education has moved progressively further away from teaching students scientific facts towards conveying an understanding of how science works, or of the Nature of Science (NOS). One attempt in this respect has been to define a set of necessary and sufficient criteria that distinguish good from bad scientific inquiry, and to then transmit these to students in the form of declarative knowledge. Continue reading

Why the scientists?

Bridging humanities and sciences
Bridging humanities and sciences

At the heart of the Ordered Universe Project is the interdisciplinary collaboration between medievalists and scientists. In this way light is shed onto Grosseteste’s scientific work from very different angles, and this allows for an all-around and in-depth elucidation of his writings. That medievalists contribute to our understanding of medieval science seems straightforward and not a subject of debate. However, doubts are more likely to be raised about whether modern scientists can add anything useful at all in this endeavour.  Like many others who first hear about the Ordered Universe Project I was having these very doubts before joining the group during the FIDEM congress. Continue reading

The educational strand – ideas from the student perspective

When I first read about the idea of linking the Ordered Universe Project to education, I was fascinated by the parallel drawn between knowledge development across time, within the individual on the one hand and in the history of science on the other. It seems to me to be an intriguing suggestion that there may be some overlap between the conceptual caveats that in medieval times hindered (what we now believe to be) accurate understanding and those that make scientific reasoning difficult for children and teenagers. Within the group of students taking part in the FIDEM congress, we have thought a lot about what benefits the Ordered Universe Project could bring to pupil and student learning. This is because we are still very much at the recipient end of the knowledge spectrum, and for some of us school education is still very recent. Continue reading