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21 October 2010 @ 11:46 am
The Story of Science; Vatican: The Hidden World  
This week we watched the last episode in The Story of Science, which talked about the question "Who Are We?" and what it is that makes a human being a human. Basically it was a run through the history of psychology & the changing ways the mind has been thought about. Starting with the ancient Egyptians - which was an unexpected treat for J :) It skipped from there to Descartes (neatly skipping over any discussion of how Christianity thinks humans are set apart from animals) - obviously Descartes was a philosopher not a proto-psychologist, but the idea that the thing that thinks is the important part of making oneself oneself ("I think, therefore I am") was an essential part in any science of the mind. From there he talked about two different strands - the anatomical studies of the brain (and neurobiology) and the study of how the mind worked (first the idea of the rational mind, then the "discovery" of the unconscious mind and behavioural science). He mentioned how the metaphors for the way the mind & brain work have always been based on the technology of the day - so at the moment we think of the brain as being like a computer, but before the metaphors used railway imagery etc. And at the end he tied up the whole series by saying how science is in many ways like how a baby starts to learn about the world - interacting with things, forming hypotheses about how it works then trying again. Only on a more organised and societal level. It's a shame the series is over, I enjoyed watching that - some of it was a bit hammed up, but overall interesting & fun :)

Next up we watched Vatican: The Hidden World - a one-off programme we'd randomly spotted the other day & recorded. Apparently this was unprecedented access to the Pope & the Vatican for a film crew. It was an interesting piece of propaganda, the spin was really obvious but some bits of footage of stuff like the Sistine Chapel was neat to see. I have to say, being an altar boy in the Vatican must make for a somewhat surreal adolescence. All the people they interviewed were very devout, as you'd expect I guess - and as the head of security said, if you aren't then you're in the wrong job.
Current Mood: curiousinterested
Current Music: Pure Reason Revolution "Hammer and Anvil"
Hapi vace! Hapi vace!keirf on October 21st, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
Presumably Christian beliefs about the difference between man and animal aren't really part of the History of Science.
Margaretpling on October 21st, 2010 01:01 pm (UTC)
Neither are ancient Egyptian ones, really :) But they were used as a scene setter & point of departure - maybe just because it meant they could have a segment with Egyptian statuary to look at, or maybe to avoid derailing the story the programme was trying to tell with a discussion of (still current) religion.