Archive for the ‘synthesis’ Category

Fascinating cross-fertilization of disciplines

October 14, 2007

The author of Guns, Germs, and Steel combines the study of history with several scientific disciplines:

“The time is now ripe for a fresh look at these questions [why cultures develop at different rates], because of new information from scientific disciplines, seemingly remote from human history.  These disciplines include, above all, genetics, molecular biology, and biogeography as applied to crops and their wild ancestors; the same disciplines plus behavioral ecology, as applied to domestic animals and their wild ancestors; molecular biology of human germs and related germs of ancestors; epidemiology of human diseases; human genetics; linguistics; archaeological studies on all continents and major islands; and studies of the histories of technology, writing, and political organization.”

In the latest GOOD magazine is an article about a Political Scientist, Bruce  Bueno De Mesquita, who has been successful at forecasting international  events using a computer model he created; the model combines ideas from Political Science with Game Theory.

Combining ideas from multiple fields can be daunting; I quote again from Guns, Germs, and Steel:

“The author must possess a range of expertise spanning the disciplines, so that relevant advances can be synthesized.”

“These requirements seem at first to demand a multi-author work.  Yet that approach would be doomed from the outset, because the essence of the problem is to develop a unified synthesis.  That consideration dictates single authorship, despite all the difficulties that it poses.  Inevitably, that single author will have to sweat copiously in order to assimilate material from many different disciplines, and will require guidance from many colleagues.”