Monday, January 23, 2017

Connecting with the naturalistic philosophy

Here's a post that some of my students wrote today, in response to our first lab of the semester.

In science, many concepts can be explained by naturalistic philosophy. Causes for events, or phenomenons, can be attributed to natural causes. Nevertheless, this concept does not apply to all cases. According to the mechanistic theory, biological systems are restrained by physical and chemical conditions (in accordance with naturalistic philosophy). In today’s lab exercise, we experienced a plethora of constraints, from our limited time to complete this assignment to limited resources. Had our table been bigger, we would have felt confident creating a larger structure. Had the pieces been easier to put together, we would have been able to create a larger structure without spending as much time on construction. These are just some of the constraints that we faced, and such constraints do well to mirror those found in the biological world. For example, while our table size was only a physical condition, it could well have been a chemical condition – had the limitation acted in the same way, its nature would not matter. The only thing of importance would be the effects on the structure/organism. While our structure was not living and certainly was not aqueous, it is easy to imagine the floor as a space without as much water. If we had time to build downwards and expand, we certainly could have. Yet, it would have been much harder to do so – therefore, if we imagine our structure as a living creature, we can imagine the ground as a chemical limitation.

Our goal for this week’s lab was to build a hypothetical biological surface (with no straight lines) using zometools. While building this table-long structure, our group focused on the idea of pattern and similarity. At first, we attempted to build an uneven planar surface, but our google research on this concept did not go as well. Hence, we decided to build up and long enough to cover the entire table. As we worked on this lab, we realized our tendency to build linear surfaces. For example, the yellow part of the zometools is much more simpler than the rest of the colors in the finished product. The color green includes more physical shapes, such as hexagons. On the other hand, the blue zometools have shapes such as stars, which we found very intriguing and interesting. Lastly, the red zometools have their unique pattern of going upwards and then downwards. 

At the end of the day, we realized how easy, yet hard, it is to get away from our comfort zone of building a plane surface. In science, like in any other subject, thinking outside the box and being creative is an arduous task. As students in the 21st century, we are accustomed to being told what to do, which way to build and what way to think. However, this way of learning and living essentially prevents us from growing as intellectual individuals. It is through doubting, questioning and creating that we can design a world where building crooked and sideways is encouraged.

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