“Ignorance” thoughts

I was reading Ignorance this morning. I came across this quote by Emo Philips.

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this. – Emo Philips

I have been enjoying reading this little book. Some of the topics it discusses give me a visceral feeling of uneasiness, like can we really understand the brain, and can we know what the conditions were like at the beginning of time? And in astrophysics the farther you look the older you see. Or how different are the brains of humans and animals?

Stewart Firesteins writing coupled with my experiences in the lab this summer have given me food for though as to how we approach science, education, and asking questions about the world around us.

In the book review from the NY times it ends with Dr. Firestein’s advice,

To get a feel for how scientists really think, he offered this advice: Next time you meet a scientist — at a dinner party, at your child’s school, just by chance — don’t ask her to explain what she does. Ask her what she’s trying to figure out.

Emo Philips

4 Responses to ““Ignorance” thoughts”
  1. Gauri says:

    Mr. Chopp, I’m glad you shared this. I’m an avid reader myself and I also enjoy thinking about philosophical aspects to science so I’ll be sure to pick this one up off the shelves before summer is over.
    Science is great because it gives us a confident and organized way of looking at the world, but there are always those questions that are so far from being answered that we must ponder about them until we reach conclusions of our own.
    I’m excited to read Ignorance and hopefully have a discussion with you about the questions it provokes when the school year starts!

  2. Abhay Goel says:

    Mr. Chopp,
    I love questions like this. Last year especially, I was in two classes where I had the chance to discuss interesting questions with people; one was the current topics in science class at kamsc, and the other was an atyp english class. I always noticed that, as kamsc is a science facility, the questions always had to do with the brain, while the english students asked about the mind. I think looking at the philosophical aspects of science are often quite amazing.
    Also, the line you quoted reminded me of an interesting discussion. I’ve personally come to consider myself, and all other people as “brains” (or minds), while the body is simply used to catch a glimpse of the surroundings — such as our eyes’ ability to perceive certain wavelengths of light, which we call sight. This is just how I find it easiest to understand (philosophically?) so I’m interested in what you, and others, have to say on this.

    • Mr. Chopp says:


      I agree that philosophical aspects of science are quite amazing. I like how you differentiate between central nervous system processing thoughts and making memories, and the peripheral nervous system receiving senses (sight, tough, hearing, pressure, heat, etc) and how this gives us a glimpse. They are connected most certainly. I find it fascinating to think about how our brain takes electrical and chemical signals and translates that into emotions, memories both fond and foul, and knowledge. We all have brains (some use them more than others) but can we ever fully understand them?

      Also in english the seat of emotions and passion is the heart. Similar contrast to brain vs mind. Or after an amazing sports game, we may describe a player playing with a lot of heart. In biology the heart is central to life, and circulation of blood carrying oxygen, carbon dioxide nutrients and waste. Not quite as romantic.

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