Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Friend in Dialogue is a Friend Indeed

Handsomer men would be hard to find.

Jonathan and I both like to think. We also like to talk. We also have amazing chemistry. We also properly spell, capitalize, and punctuate text messages. Put it all together, add some intangibles, and you get some really great exchanges. Let me offer a sample:
Me: Wow, blogging about evolution is really exhilarating for me. I'm not sure why, but I hope it doesn't spill into giving the issue more centrality than it merits.

Jon: Yeah, I hear you. I think it's a little too emotionally charged in some circles.

Me: Yes, people perhaps equate fighting for Jesus with fighting against Darwin.

Jon: Not to mention the personal dimension. For me I mean. And I think it contributes to anti intellectualism among Christians.

Me: YES. I HATE anti-intellectualism among Christians. It is one of our big failures communally.

Jon: It's definitely an area where we play into the narrative of the world.


Jon: Yeah. One thing that's been hard for me since high school is not being the scientist in the room.

Me: Guess you will have to fit in a few physics classes [in grad school]. At least audit.

Jon: I don't know. While I like being a poly math, I definitely believe in division of labor. I want to be thinking econ 16 hours a day.

Me: Hah, that's your econ speaking. Try some science and you'll change your tune. That's funny because I love the idea of a "renaissance thinker."

Jon: So do I, but in today's world very often a renaissance thinker is a shallow thinker. It's just not possible to know everything that deeply.

Me: But is the integral of knowledge the same? Can one assign relative worth to breadth vs depth? Is there a place for each? Ephesians 3:18

Jon: You have to go deep to reach the frontiers of knowledge. Although sometimes ideas from other fields have applications in your field, you need depth in your own field to recognize that opportunity.

Me: In other words, take a 17 c.u. major as well as one or two courses in seven varied sectors?

Jon: Well, an undergraduate degree rarely takes you to the frontiers of knowledge. But yes, the principle is there.

Me: I do think in modern academia there is an idolatry that says new knowledge = progress, and that does not necessarily follow. Let's synthesize what we know.
What a friend!

1 comment:

jaeyde said...

So here's a question: do you have to be on the forefront of a field's knowledge in order to not be a "shallow thinker"? Can you think deeply about many subjects in which you are informed or becoming informed while not being an expert, nor pretending to be so?

Also, what of subjects that naturally cross multiple disciplines? Of course depth in one of those disciplines would be necessary but would it not be of great value to be at least passingly familiar with the subject matter from a variety of angles? e.g. - public health: needs knowledge of medicine, healthcare systems, communication systems, cultural influences/customs, etc. No one would be an expert in all of them, but someone in a policy-making role would need strong knowledge in all of the areas, even while possibly having depth in one or two. And it is feasible that performance and effectiveness in some positions would even be diminished by the practitioner having too deep a focus in their particular field. Division of labor is all right and dandy, but if labor is too divided, then no one is able to communicate intelligibly (which is where the people with breadth, while they may lack depth, are crucial).