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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Science, Exploration, Feeling and Imagination: Andrea Wulf on Alexander von Humboldt

 Science, Exploration, Feeling and Imagination: Andrea Wulf on Alexander von Humboldt
Karla Poewe

The book

Image result for free images of Andrea Wulf
Author and her book


In the last blog, I pointed out that Greta Thunberg's biological creed on the "climate crisis" places her in the sphere of nationalism. Nationalism is based on the assumptions that human beings are social animals with a natural affinity for leaders. In her story, our assumed climate crisis is the result of failed leaders with the consequence of children starving from economic growth. Hence she calls on a group of committed Scientists4Future who will tell the truth that leads to corrective action. The story, I argued puts her in the sphere of nationalism of the kind, for example, that emerged from the Weimar Republic and ended in a mediating Führer that ended in disaster. I did this by referring to the film Metropolis.

Here I want simply to point students or young people to a historical perspective that develops a sense of what science with sensitivity to environment and human beings should be, a science that is not limited to binary thinking, nor to an absence of emotion, and that is not spoken out from within a bubble for propaganda purposes.

Andrea Wulf is the author of two biographies about Alexander von Humboldt the utterly fascinating explorer who practised exact science but argues that it is only meaningful when combined with emotion, art, and imagination. He influenced many famous politicians, poets, and scientists -- Jefferson, Goethe and Emerson, and Darwin, for example.

Image result for free images of Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt

Here is the link: 

Alexander von Humboldt comes from a tradition, he was born in Prussia, that influenced me as I show in my book about fieldwork experience and science in Africa: