Grad Students meet Montgomery Fellow Rebecca Goldstein

On November 25, 2013 by Grad Forum
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Graduate Students discussing science and philosophy with Rebecca Goldstein.

On November 14, Rebecca Goldstein, the current Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth, met a group of 20 graduate students from different departments for lunch at the Montgomery House. As a philosopher of science, Rebecca Goldstein has made many contributions to academia. Through her numerous books, articles, and stories, she has explored controversies in religion, science, and philosophy.

Goldstein began by describing her journey to becoming a philosopher of science. Initially, Goldstein intended to become a physicist. However, after earning a bachelor’s degree in physics, she decided to shift her focus to pursue a career in philosophy. However, even during her graduate studies in philosophy, Goldstein still enrolled in many physics courses. Goldstein also mentioned that she loved novels, and thus it was a natural decision for her to write a novel about philosophy.

Goldstein then led a discussion with the graduate students that dealt with the practice of science. “Are we inventing or discovering when we practice science?” asked Goldstein. Some students feel they are discovering what is already there, while others feel their work is more invention. Goldstein then talked about the conflict between science and religion, which led into an interesting discussion about the theory of evolution. While there was consensus in the room supporting the theory of evolution, Goldstein raised a critical question: “What does a theorem need to convince us that it is true?”

Goldstein next discussed her perspective of science. Interestingly, Goldstein said that she does not like mysteries and prefers data and answers. When asked if she thought science has answered questions or merely provided evidence supporting a direction of thought, Goldstein supported the latter idea, stating that she is convinced by the data supporting many theorems, such as evolution and numerous physics theorems.

The event concluded with a discussion on the importance of understanding the complexities of science. Goldstein mentioned that it is important to understand complex questions like the possibility of life after death, intuition, logic, and evolution because understanding these topics helps us understand each other.

Those graduate students in attendance thoroughly enjoyed discussing complex and interesting questions with such a renowned philosopher and author.

by Gilbert Rahme

photo by Gilbert Rahme

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