Science, Knowledge, and History

First, a thanks. I always read my Reed mag cover to cover. The tidbits and articles are a balm for the mind and soul and transport me back to places where I mull and say “huh” about patterns in the world. Not a very erudite Reedie response, but magical for me nonetheless.

Next, I was instantly awake when I read your article on Prof. Josh Howe’s new book and his research. I, too, trod a long and winding road from chemistry at Reed to low-paying advocacy nonprofits and window washing back to grad school and finally to work in a role that lets me build bridges between scientists and their craft and resource managers who are trying to make the best decisions they can. In the process, I learned a lot about how science works in society outside academic communities, and have come to believe that there is a huge chasm between the way scientists are taught to see themselves (all knowledge is good and helpful, and we are creating knowledge), and how scientists are perceived in resource management wars like Howe’s climate change story (driven by self-interest in the form of getting funding to pursue curiosity-driven work).

I am very glad to see that Reed has someone on the faculty who is digging into the role of formalized knowledge in our society. An examined life makes great citizens, but I think the jury is still out on how well formalized knowledge works as guidance at a broader level. I guess the faith/reason dichotomy is still alive. Can I rewind the clock and change my major?

—Kim Taylor ’84

Grass Valley, California