Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cultural Change, Dissent and Medieval Science

                     The connection of ideas of the title of the forum conducted by Dr. Jovi Miroy, cultural changes which is the effect of dissent and dissent originating from the medieval sciences, is already profound. As defined, medieval science is systematic, organized and heavily philosophical in which it involves ‘scientia’ or ‘going beyond faith’ and is distinguished from ‘doxa’ which means ‘opinion’. It has two goals: to understand change and change itself. Now, I will base my paper to my fellow Filipinos. According to Dr. Miroy, we don’t have cultural change contexts in which we only have contexts for behavioral changes. I agree. Many of our traditions, practices and beliefs didn’t come from us but rather from Western societies which influenced the way Filipinos in the Middle and Ancient times lived. For example, based from the article that I’ve read in Wikipedia and my knowledge from the articles that my professor gives in Kas 1 last semester, the Philippines was first settled by Melanesians, after them the Austronesians or more specifically, Malayo – Polynesians then came the Spaniards followed by the Americans and lastly, the Japanese. All of these countries had left a great impact on the traditional way of life and culture of the Filipinos. Up until now, our way of life still depends to these foreign countries that continues to prosper more specifically the U.S.A. while we, Filipinos, are way 100 steps behind on innovation. So why did I come up to the idea between the Filipinos and the medieval sciences? Simple. Change. A change of our system politically, socially, economically, spiritually, all of which constitutes the cultural aspects of our nationality. But before that, let me discuss further my observations regarding the way of life of many Filipinos at present times. Various situations wherein we fail to acquire prosperity is because of the different bad habits that we practice like crab mentality or lack of creativity resulting to having no originality which is very common to us Filipinos. Another factor is laziness. Also, nepotism is common to us Filipinos. An example of this habit is, ‘a well-connected passenger gets the airport’s special lane while hard-working OFWs sweat it out on a long line.’ What then is the cause of this bad habits? Some may say technology but for me it is the colonization of our country. But how can one resolve this problems among the Filipinos? The title of the forum. First, we need to have our context for our Cultural Ways and Traditions so as to uphold the strength of our unity and consciousness as Filipinos to the fullest and to create a society that have innovative and creative thinkers leading to a prosperous country of ours. Second, Dissent pertaining to the practices politically, socially with technology, economically and spiritually as that of the Church’s beliefs and traditions in which many of these practices are abused by people nowadays. And lastly, application of the methods of the Medieval Sciences, in which it is a form of science that is very helpful plus it has clear and distinct ideas providing demonstration. It’s goal mainly was to understand nature\change in nature so as to bring about change itself. That is, a shift in life models and a shift in paradigms is what we need, what Filipinos need to understand the problem we are having.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Red Love

Aptly timed for the Valentine’s season, One Love Part Two was a discussion that tackled love from the perspective of leftist philosophy. The discussion had three parts: the first one was hinged on arguments detailing the bourgeois facet of love and how this facet of love is the dominant view in society, as evidenced by the art that such a society produces or reveres; the second part tried to look at the notion red (or communist) love through theories on queer (homosexual) love; and, the third was a rhetorical summary of some of the views presented in the two previous parts. The talk was held at the College of Science Auditorium last week, February 13th.

The arguments of the first presenter, Portia Placino, detailed how society’s views on love were shown through the works of arts that have been made by several artists over the years like Manet, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Amorsolo and Manansala. Placino presented several slides in which certain views on love were offered by the artists. The general view offered by Placino detailed the trajectory of love from courtship to engagement to marriage to family and these were shown through various artworks. She maintained that, through the artworks presented, the social view on love is often anti-women and capitalist. 

Take for example the sculpture of Cupid and Psyche’s love story where Psyche, the woman, had to literally go through heaven and hell just to get the love of Cupid, who had to do nothing. Another example is Thomas Gainsborough’s Mr. and Mrs. Andrews in which a portrait of a couple is shown and they are assumed to be married. The real conceit of the painting however is the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Andrews now have a larger tract of land as a result of their union. Placino added that marriage as a way of augmenting one’s property is a common practice and, if such is the case, Placino asked if marriage (and love) is a bourgeois concept.
The second talk of the seminar was conducted by Dr. Roselle Pineda and focused on red love as queer love. What the talk aimed to do was to provide an alternative to the prevalent heteronormative and heterosexual notions (both capitalist notions) of love in society by presenting a leftist view on love that relied on homosexual ideas.

Dr. Pineda cited marriage as an example of how heteronormative love is a capitalist idea. Instead of the union being a manifestation of love, the married couple becomes a “consumer unit,” with the idea of each of them possessing their respective partner. However, in a truly communist society, Dr. Pineda, taking from the ideas of Alexandra Kollontai, asserted that love is to be benefitted by the collective and not just two private individuals.

Therefore, the communist idea of love is grounded on open and not exclusive relationships where marriage has no place. Much like homosexual love in which most relationships are averse to marriage and are, more often than not, open, communist love should be anchored on the same principles as queer love.
For the last part of the talk, Professor Gerry Lanuza described what love is for him, as supported by quotes from Mao Ze Dong, Che Guevarra and excerpts from Alan Badiou’s work. He likened love to fighting for the good of the collective, as they are violent, extremist, and partisan.

Normally, I am skeptical in attending forums centered on leftist ideas and principles because I feel that the people behind communist propaganda can get too aggressive in their delivery and therefore come across as arrogant. Sometimes, people behind these movements can be so bent with their beliefs at the expense of looking at all sides equally. But this particular talk somehow changes that impression for me. Its general mood was lively and academic. The points presented were based on solid facts, as in the theories of Alexandra Kollontai and the widely accepted interpretations of the different works of art. It was also not too preachy; it merely inquired the possibility and asked the audience to consider. “Is it really love that we want or is it simply to comply with the social norm?” “Is self-expression really about defying boundaries or is it actually more of a subscription to social dictation?” Now that is something to think about.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cultural Change, Dissent and Medieval Science

                My knowledge about medieval science is so utterly feeble as to be totally depressing. It became somehow comforting to me that a public lecture on the history and philosophy of science was held last February 10, 2014 by Dr. Jovi Miroy, an Associate Professor of Medieval Philosophy at Ateneo de Manila Unversity. The lecture was primarily focused on the relationship between dissent and cultural change, and their role in medieval science. The lecture also dealt with a topic often subject of heated debates – the link between science and God.

                The discussion began with the definition of science. For the medieval mind, science or scientia served as any body of knowledge that could be systematized, including theology, a subject which we would not consider science today. That time, theology interwove itself through medieval culture and learning, and was not perceived as a truly separate discipline from philosophy or the study of natural phenomena. However, science, as we know now, is a body of knowledge, the type which can be rationally explained and reliably applied, and the type which shall follow and involve an understanding in accordance with logic or reason. In universities, it was seen as an essential area of study in its own right and was an independent field, separated from theology.

                During the latter parts of the lecture, Dr. Jovi Miroy talked about dissent – a specific sentiment or philosophy of non-agreement or opposition to a prevailing idea or belief. I learned that dissent is important in science because it leads to scientific revolution or cultural change. After the lecture, I figured that cultural change is similar to Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shift, a topic already discussed in our Science Technology and Society (STS) class. From what I remember, a paradigm shift occurs when scientists encounter major anomalies that cannot be explained by, and radically alters, the universally accepted paradigm within which scientific progress has thereto been made. Some examples of paradigm shift were Copernicus’s sun-centered universe and Kepler’s optics, which both owed their inspiration and much of their detail to medieval antecedents.

                At first I cannot seem to digest all of the information that was being shared by Dr. Jovi Miroy and I admit there were moments when I totally got lost during his one and a half hour discussion. What I appreciate most from the lecture was that it concretized the fact that there was religious support for natural science by the late Middle Ages and recognition that it was an important element of learning. This runs contrary to the popular view of the Middle Ages being something of a dark age for science, dominated by the rule of faith rather than the light of reason. There really was nothing dark about the Dark Ages, as was said by my STS professor Benjamin Vallejo, Jr. in one of his essays. The natural philosophy, theology, and culture of the Middle Ages, in fact contributed to the formation of the modern sciences.

                The lecture ended with a lot of questions from the audience regarding changes in the Philippine society and an answer from Dr. Jovi Miroy that changes always start within individuals ourselves. Dr. Jovi Miroy left us, listeners with the challenge to open our minds to understanding the natural world for us to be able to take control of it. In the end, it was one very intellectual and informative public lecture for us students.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Discoveries Progress in Society

One cannot "unsee" a lecture such as that which this author attended: informative, interesting, and most importantly, relatable. Given by André David Tinoco-Mendez of the CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire or European Council for Nuclear Research), the talk was about the relevance of experimental particle physics in society.

We can make a preliminary statement based on our introductory knowledge in particle physics and say that it is impossible for such a field to contribute to a better life in society. We can ask critical questions like, "How can such ultra-small particles, some of which are still begging proof for existence, help improve the economy of a third-world country?" and "Is it worthwhile to invest a large amount of our resources for such endeavors?"

The first part of the lecture has touched upon this subject by discussing the nature of science as a whole. Advancement basically requires taking risks, for progress usually comes from a highly unexpected source. This makes sense since innovation is supposed to be new—it is supposed to induce a change in society, for the better. The lecturer has given examples to illustrate this, such as the first appearances of electricity and the first computer of Babbage: they were first viewed as an after-dinner recreation. At their time of introduction, they seemed useless, but look how important they are now in our society.

We can liken therefore the science worker to a one who holds out a dim lamp in a maze of roads: one can only partially see one's path. Sometimes, when a fork shows, one can never tell the more advantageous way. That is why the lecturer has warned his audience of the psychological strength that is required of science workers—for (non verbatim)"once you come crashing with high speed to a dead end (referring to an error in one of the forks chosen), you have to be able to pick yourself up, pick up the pieces [of your work], and choose another way."

Because of its newness, society at first will withhold its support in one's endeavor, especially when it requires much resources and when the material does not show promising usefulness.

Then the innovation can be considered ubiquitous once society perceives its usefulness. The emphasized word is repeatedly used by the lecturer, used to describe something common or prevalent. It does not have to be really useful; we just have to be convinced that we need it. Here marketing is crucial, without undermining the importance of truth in advertising claims.

It is a vicious cycle of discovery (meaning: a new idea), innovation (a tangible invention based on the idea), and ubiquitous product, and this cycle usually moves toward the betterment of society according to the principles of natural selection.

As an example, the lecturer enumerated the evolution of our artificial light source. First, the discovery of fire brought the innovation of candles, which in turn made beeswax and animal fat ubiquitous. The latest turn of the cycle starts with the discovery of semiconductors to the innovation of LEDs, and hopefully in the near future, its ubiquity will be sped up by reducing its cost of production.


We go back to that last question we have regarding the usefulness of particle physics in society. Based on the discussion above, we can never tell if a discovery is useful or not until we have the innovation and until society learns to accept it. These are three separate phases of product development that usually takes time and lots of people to before progressing.
Take, as a particular example, the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson particle at the lecturer's laboratory. Physicists are particularly excited about this because this particle (pun intended) interacts with all the other particles—a feature that is never seen before. But engineers and teachers and the public in general will not appreciate it until another group of specialists come in and formulate an innovation out of it, and until yet another group present and distribute it to the rest of society.

We say it is inevitable for this discovery to be converted into an innovation, and eventually into a ubiquitous product, because we see the amount of human resources and earthly resources invested to discover it. That is, if the discovery has actual potential for conversion, which we can never tell outright from knowledge that such a discovery exists or even in the extensive knowledge of that discovery. It takes a lot more than mastery of the discovery to come up with an innovation.

Imagine all the member states funding for this endeavor, all for the containment of specialists in the field of nuclear physics in a laboratory which enables them to play with their toys without hurting anyone (as the lecturer has expressed in his talk). These activities have brought about advancements in fields such as imaging, either medical or for security purposes, wherein knowledge of the particles and their behavior with different materials are used to identify contents of luggage or tumors inside the body.

Another important contribution of CERN is the development of the World Wide Web, where back there it was originally intended to distribute the workload of calculating their model equations to computers all around the world. This we now know today as cloud computing.

To answer the second question posted at the start of this article: Is it worthwhile? We actually cannot put an absolute equivalent of worth in these products to validly compare with the amount of resources spent in the whole cycle of discovery, innovation, ubiquity. Would we rather sit in the darkness than explore the uses of fire, however dangerous it might be? Shall we stifle the insatiable curiosity of the person about his/her surroundings?

If we might notice, we see that the practical applications of these activities are rather minutely related to the original questions that these physicists try to answer (according to the website of CERN): What is the universe made of? When did it start?

It is exciting to think of the changes in society once they have fully answered these questions. In the meantime, we move onward through the cycle of discovery, innovation, and the contribution to society: a ubiquitous product.


CERN. (2014). About CERN. Retrieved from CERN: http://home.web.cern.ch/about

David, A. (2014, January 29). Andre David's Curriculum Vitae. Retrieved from CERN website: http://adavid.web.cern.ch/adavid/cv.pdf

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Advancements in the First World Countries

                It’s very fascinating how most of the discoveries were made in those first world countries. Somehow, I felt glad for this kind of advancements however it made me realize how deprived some of the third world countries are.
                Mr. Andre David, a physicist, is very impressive, aside from he is a scientist and currently works in the CERN, his knowledge is a proof that those advancements were made by such people that are very curious of the world, mischievous to do such experiment and discoveries and very intelligent. As he talked about the Higgs boson last January 29 and that the inventions made by the science community and the Higgs boson that is discovered last July 2012 and made other discoveries possible and inventions are made. He stated that, discoveries enable invention that can become ubiquitous. Everything that we have now are inventions that are made because of the discoveries. And the ubiquity is the perceived value or efficiency for the people and for the society. I agree to him that to be able to make discoveries, societies must invest on diverse research. And I know, we have to be on our career and profession to be able to invent what’s useful, efficient and “marketable”. I think these considerations should be proven to have inventions and to be proven. Yes, there are still limitations of these inventions such as Large Hadron Collinder, CMS detector, HTTP, accelerators but the capabilities are exceptional. These made me totally accept how a scientist can change the world by just an invention.
                In addition, the progress-stepping through paradigms were efficiently made, discovered and nurtured on the first world countries, my question is why? Perhaps, their capability to do researches, experiments and to be able to this is to have technologies that need large amounts of money to facilitate. I think this is one of the disadvantages of the third world countries like the Philippines.
                Everything is possible, as long as Science and Technology is existing, everything can be invented by a critical and intelligent mind. Perhaps, discoveries today will be rare but still many inventions and upgrades are possible. But what are the hindrances that make Filipino inventors and their inventions lose their opportunity to credit their achievement? I think because of lack of budget and support of the government.

                I feel pity, not for our inventors because I know they achieved whatever they want to achieve and still inventing stuffs for the better future, I feel pity for our government and for our country. We cannot prove the political will of the government because as we can see, corruptions and exploitation of power reign. Yes, we have the budget that it is not used effectively, but rather used for their own sake, for profits and investment for ruling class. Is our country progressing in terms of advancements and technologies? I think, yes, if we talk about importation from other countries that are advanced enough and have the will to develop their economy and in terms of technologies. But how about our country? Are we contented of what we have? Of course no. Yes we have a lot of scientist up until today and they are doing their work for the sake of the people of our country and I am proud of them, and our government and those politicians, they should be ashamed of themselves if they will not be able to see these opportunities for Filipinos to achieved the rewards and title that Filipino scientists should have, for the sake of the people of our country.

Source Cited:
David, Andre. “The Higgs Boson We cannot Unsee”. STS Public Lecture. CS auditorium. UP            Diliman, Q.C. Wednesday, January 29, 2014. Lecture.