Third Advanced International Colloquium on
Building the Scientific Mind
Cairo, Egypt - May 10-14, 2009


Recommended sources for consultation and exploration

NOTE: Some of the links below open in a new window, others don't.


Science is not a mechanism but a human progress,
and not a set of findings but the search for them.

Jacob Bronowski, 1956. (in: Science and Human Values)


BtSM2009 community members are invited and encouraged to contribute with their suggestions. Please send them or 
Reference  Observations Proposed by 
Concept paper onThe scientific mind in context. This paper was written by Jan Visser in 2000 when the idea to organize these BtSM colloquia first emerged. It benefited from comments by Ron Burnett, Leon Lederman and Basarab Nicolescu. It provides the basic underlying rationale for the various BtSM colloquia. Jan Visser
DeDuve, C. (1995). Vital Dust: The Origin And Evolution Of Life On Earth. New York: Basic Books.  Content clearly related to the theme 'In search of a home in the universe.' Besides, the book gives an interesting perspective on the scientific mind in action. Jan Visser
"We are made of starr stuff." This famous quote from Carl Sagan can be heard in a five-minute YouTube excerpt of Sagan's 7-DVD documentary Cosmos. The quote is particularly relevant to the theme of the 2009 edition of BtSM. Jan Visser 
Bronowski, J. (1976). The Ascent of Man. London: British Broadcasting Corporation.  In addition to the book, a 5-volume DVD set in NTSC format of Jacob Bronowsli's classical BBC series with the same title is available via by clicking on the above link. The PAL version can be obtained via or directly from the BBC Shop. Jan Visser 
Bronowski, J. (1956). Science and Human Values. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers. All three books constitute a terrific read for getting insight into the workings of the scientific mind within a socially relevant perspective. Highly recommended.  Jan Visser 
Bronowski, J. (1978). The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Bronowski, J. (1978). The Common Sense of Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Christian, D. (2004). Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. As the title indicates, this is directly related to one of the special interests identified for the 2009 BtSM colloquium. David Christian also has a 48-lecture series available through The Teaching Company on Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity. Jan Visser 
Christian, D. (2008). 'Origins': An interdisciplinary core curriculum for schools in the USA and Australia. David Christian contributes these two documents to inspire the discussion on curriculum reform in school-like institutions atound the globe in the perspective of Building the Scientific Mind.  Jan Visser 
UNIVERSCALE. A beautiful interactive rendition, offered by the NIKON Corporation, of the various realms of spatiotemporal scales under which we can perceive the universe. It's an interesting complement to David Christian's Maps of time mentioned above. Playing around with the interactivity provided (explained in the help menu), one gets a good feel for how our personal time and space relate to the multiplicity of spatiotemporal perspectives in which the universe can be perceived. Similar experience can be derived from browsing through Kees Boeke’s 1957 book ‘Cosmic View’ and the 1977 IBM movie by Charles and Ray Eames 'Powers of ten.'   Jan Visser 
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. An interesting perspective on inquiry into 'the social' from a perspective that is critical of the tradional social science inquiry. Jan Visser (with credit to John van Breda, who recommended the book to him)
Shermer, M.(1997). Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time (with a foreword by Stephen J. Gould). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.  A well written insightful account of how the ways of science are distinct from alternative ways of confronting the unknown, particularly those that claim to be valid alternatives but aren't. A captivating read. Jan Visser 
How to think about science? A series of 24 programs on the philosophy, history, sociology and science of science produced in the framework of Paul Kennedy's CBC Radio 1 Ideas series. Each program runs for some 52 minutes.Together they are fascinating enough to keep you awake for 24 hours.  John van Breda 
Vilar, E. R.(2008). Is Science Nearing Its Limits? Manchester, UK: Carcanet Press Limited, co-published with Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. The book contains proceedings of a conference convened by George Steiner, held in October 2007 at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, Portugal. Particularly the closing chapter by Jean-Pierre Luminet has relevant connections to the BtSM2007 theme. Jan Visser, who got the book recommended by Helga Nowotny 
Serres, M. (2008). Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies (Athlone Contemporary European Thinkers). London and New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group. Exploring the deleterious effects of the systematic downgrading of the senses in Western philosophy, Michel Serres -- a member of the Académie Française and one of France's leading philosophers -- traces a topology of human perception. Writing against the Cartesian tradition and in praise of empiricism, he demonstrates repeatedly, and lyrically, the sterility of systems of knowledge divorced from bodily experience. John van Breda
Daston, L., & Galison, P. (2007). Objectivity. New York: Zone Books This book "traces historical and cultural developments as the word 'objective' acquired different meanings and associated scientific practices. Similarly, Daston and Galison consider the changing relationship of the word 'objective' as it relates to the subjectivity of the researcher." (From Tom Strong's review of the book.) John van Breda
Stengers, I. (2004). The Challenge of Complexity: Unfolding the Ethics of Science-In Memorial Ilya Progogine. Emergence: Complexity & Organization, 6(1-2), 92-99. This article is in memory of Prigogine and spells out nicely what positive attitude he had towards science – i.e. not trying to ‘explain away’ nature with his discoveries of nature’s complexity, but rather letting this lead to more questions into the latter and, in so doing, increasing a sense of wonder. (Isabelle Stengers is co-author with Ilya Prigogine of Order out of chaos: Man's new dialogue with nature.) John van Breda
Arvind Gupta. Toys, books and films to explore (and help others explore) the beauty of science.
The opening quote on the homepage of this Web site says it all:
"And somewhere there are engineers
Helping others fly faster than sound.
But, where are the engineers
Helping those who must live on the ground?"
Jan Visser 
UNAWE. Universe Awareness for young children. In a way similar to Arvind Gupta's site mentioned above, this site contains a wealth of resources and examples using "the beauty and scale of the universe to inspire very young children in underprivileged environments." Emphasis is on learning by doing. Jan Visser
Roy McWeeny (Ed.). For the Love of Science.  This is a series of self-contained modules on a variety of fundamental topics in the sciences to explore and appreciate the beauty and essential simplicity of scientific theory. Jan Visser
Egan, K. (2008). The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Kieran Egan is an oroiginal thinker, critical of what has gone wrong in our traditional approaches to education as well as in reacting to the tradition. Egan proposes a process of Imaginative Education, detailing how it can be implemented in ordinary classrooms. Jan Visser
Law, J. (2004). After Method: Mess in Social Science Research (International Library of Sociology). London: Routledge. A group session on transdisciplinary research approaches and attempts at capturing human experience was what triggered John Van Breda to reach into his bag and pull out this book. It is a book that handles research methodologies with a curiosity that doesn't rule out the 'fluid' dimension of human experience and in this, touches upon the uncomfortable divide between quantitative and qualitative research methods and related issues raised numerous times in our sessions of the nagging necessity to marry both and explore further options if there's any attempt at an honest pursuit of understanding. Hala Osman 
Auda, J. (2008). Maqasid al-Shariah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach. London: The International Institute of Islamic Law. This book was referred to by Ayman Shehata in a discussion about what it means to think about science and religion in unison. I believe this book was highlighted for its analytical approach in regarding Islamic Shariah (Philosophy of Islamic Law) as a way to incorporate contemporary human experience which I find relevant to discussions on the relationship between the Holistic, Formal and Post-formal gaze and thought-processes highlighted by Jennifer Gidley, perhaps even a fusion of the three. Maqasid is the "purpose-based" mission statement of the philosophy of Islamic law as an open base for interacting with issues of "law, morality, human rights, interfaith commonality, civil society, integration, development, feminism, modernism, postmodernism, systems theory, and culture," that Auda brings under investigation in this text. Hala Osman 
Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.  This book was another suggestion by Marwa Sharafeldin during the same conversation that brought about the mention of "Development as Freedom." The shaping of education systems and their manner of administration takes center-stage in this book. The text argues that "the ignorance and lethargy of the poor" is exactly the result of the design of particular education systems. Propagating for an approach that continues to handle and interact with the educational experience as a flowing platform that allows interaction of the experiences and lives of the students and admits itself to being a "continual shared investigation," Freire finds that more space becomes possible for the voices of the unheard and unaccounted for. Hala Osman
Sen, A. K. (1999). Development as Freedom. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.  This book was referred to as Marwa Sharafeldin and I were discussing Carolina Ordman's comment on whether Shahinaz Mekheimar had spotted in her research informants a shift in conceiving of 'empowerment' as a more rights-based perspective of 'entitlement,' and the role of interactive institutions such as the IDSC as active participants in this knowledge-seeking research experience. Amartya Sen regards the third world and its development institutions as part of a tapestry that brings "values, (and other) institutions (from all corners of society)" in the lives of the poor. Sen particularly regards the economic dimensions of poverty in a world that is witnessing "unprecedented increase in overall opulence," using this correlation to uncover the intricacies of the "social basis of individual well-being and freedom." Hala Osman
Illich, I. (). Deschooling Society. New York: Harper & Row. Jan and I seem to be fond of this text, we once referred to it in conversation during the course of preparing the wireless internet connection in the conference hall in one of our meetings prior to the actual conference and it made us both smile reflecting on it. It is considered a classic , it was first published in 1971 and resounds much of the discussions that happened in the course of the conference in the context of education. This passionate and radical book is based on Illich's conviction that "the exhaustion and pollution of the earth's resources is, above all, the result of a corruption of man's self-image, of a regression in his consciousness," and the exploration and analysis of what education and its value mean in that sense, and the responsibility of the institutions and outlets that preach for the 'ideal' of education. Hala Osman 
Ghazoul, F. J. (Ed.) (2007). Childhood: Creativity and Representation, ALIF: Journal of Comparative Poetics, Vol 27. Elias Modern Publishing House, Cairo. This collection of essays came to mind after Marion Porath's presentation, it features different articles and papers employing an array of tools and styles that aim to understand the mysteries and mysticism of children's sensibilities through "interviews, photo-essays, testimonies, and articles in psychology, philosophy, law, music, fiction, media, poetry and drama." Reflections from all corners of the globe are united to engage the reader in a variety of styles of representation- which is relevant to group discussions on the methodologies of research and the movement to the humanities and the arts in discovering human realities.
P.S. Half the journal articles are in English and the other half is in Arabic. If anyone is interested in a translation of any of the Arabic articles (they are indexed in English), please let me know, I have my humble translation to offer.
Hala Osman
Visser, J., & Visser-Valfrey, M. (Eds.) (2008). Learners in a Changing Learning Landscape: Reflections from a Dialogue on New Roles and Expectations (Lifelong Learning Book Series). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. 
Note: Non-commercial edition available for BtSM community members by writing to Learning Development Institute.
I was lucky to get my hands on a copy during the course of the conference of this source that is for anyone interested in education, where all discussions about any interest in taking knowledge out into the field in the application of education as a platform for learning culminate. This text contemplates and explores "Adaptive learner expertise (as) key to…survival on a learning journey that lasts a lifetime." Hala Osman
Noble, D. (2006). The Music of Life: Biology beyond the Genome. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 
Half a century of molecular biology has created magnificent insights into the fundamental structures that underlie life. It has done little, though, to shed light on the question 'What is life?' from the perspective of fully functional organisms within their living environment. In this brilliant essay, which uses multiple metaphors from music, Denis Noble, world renowned physiologyst and systems biologist, recognizes the important contributions to our understanding of the nature of life thanks to the reductionist approach of molecular biology. At the same time he stresses the limitations of the approach, While leaving the science intact, he challenges the reductionist and deterministic metaphors through which our newly acquired knowledge is often interpreted. Besides, he offers new metaphors to help us understand life at higher levels cf complex organization. The 150 or so pages magnificently let the reader experience how metaphor is able to enhance the understanding we derive from science. It also shows the need to understand and be constantly aware of the limits to the validity of any metaphor. Metaphors, Noble explains, "are ladders to understanding. When you have climbed them, you can throw them away." Any lesson to be learned for the 'science and religion' debate?
One wishes school textbooks would introduce new generations to the wonders of life in such an unfragmented manner.
Jan Visser
Eisner, E. (2008). Art and knowledge. In J. G. Knowles & A. L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research: Perspectives, Methodologies, Examples, and Issues (pp. 55-70). Los Angeles: Sage.  This is the introductory chapter in a volume on the role of the arts in qualitative research. It sets the stage by discussing art as a form of knowledge with a legitimate and important role in epistemological matters. Eisner argues that there are multiple ways to do research; one must choose wisely. "Knowledge" is dependent on the form of inquiry and the questions raised. The arts, as human creations, have an important role to play in "generating questions or raising awareness of complex subtleties that matter" (p. 7). Marion Porath 
Fogel, K. (2008). The experience of doing science with an artistic spirit: A hermeneutic phenomenological study. Unpublished masters thesis, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. This qualitative research study explored the perceived experiences of doing science with an artistic spirit through the voices of living scientists who also engage in the arts. The purpose was to understand how accomplished scientists who engage in the arts make sense out of their experience of doing science and to gain the scientists' perspectives on the context of their experience. Four highly able scientists (ages 31-61) with expertise in their field who also self-identified as actively engaged in the fine arts were given a voice on the following issues: 1) What are your perceived experiences of doing science? As such, what can we infer about the role of the arts in doing science? 2) Based on personal experiences, are there implications for the integration of the arts and sciences in education? Through hermeneutic phenomenological methodology using thematic analysis, four major themes emerged: 1) Risking Success in a Scientific Vocation; 2) Feeling Healthy through the Arts (Satisfying an Inner Drive; Coping in a Stressful World); 3) Gaining and Giving Different Perspectives through the Arts (Complementary Tools of Perception; Complementary Processes of Perception); 4) Feeling Connected to Something More through the Arts. Each theme alluded to some aspect of aesthetic experience or extracognition, emphasizing the role of the arts in attaining such experiences. Educational implications are discussed in light of aesthetic experience, extracognition, and also interdisciplinary education in today's context of science education. (Fogel, 2008, p. ii). Marion Porath 
Gallas, K. (1994). The Languages of Learning: How Children Talk, Write, Dance, Draw, and Sing Their Understanding of the World (Language and Literacy Series). New York: Teachers College Press.  This book explores the many 'languages' children use to express their understanding. In a sensitive portrayal of life in a primary classroom, Gallas describes her fascination with children's ways of representing knowledge through narrative, dance, drawing, and song and her own growth as a teacher who supports children in learning via multiple modes of expression. Marion Porath 
Project Zero (Harvard University) & Reggio Children (2001). Making learning visible: Children as individual and group learners. Reggio Emilia, Italy: Reggio Children.
The book describes the collaboration between Harvard's Project Zero and the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Rich descriptions of how children build and express conceptual understanding of a variety of phenomena are presented. The book also describes the educational philosophy that underpins this collaboration, a philosophy that respects children's competence and their ability to raise interesting questions. Also valuable is the description of how teachers document children's learning, essentially making it visible for parents, other teachers, and the children themselves.
The websites provide background on Project Zero and the schools of Reggio Italy. There are links to related topics.
Marion Porath 
Rodari, G. (1973). Grammatica della fantasia. Torino, Italy: Einaudi. Or, in English translation, The Grammar of Fantasy: An Introduction to the Art of Inventing Stories. This book provides a rich discussion, both philosophical and practical, of how learning can be provoked in creative, exciting ways. Rodari's 'grammar of fantasy' engages learners in novel processes of discovery that result in excitement about learning. Marion Porath 
Philippe Starck thinks deep on design. TED talk by Philippe Stark (Video). In this talk, designer Philippe Starck takes us on a humorous journey at the end of which we get an understanding of his very interesting perspective on life. In my opinion, the manifestation of an excellent scientific mind. More about Starck at Carolina Ödman 
Sir Ken Robinson on creativity (TED Talks) This podcast is a humorous but, at the same time, very provocative look at how schools kill the creativity that is necessary to flourish in the 21st century. Marion Porath
The Problem by Shiv Vishwanathan, a well known Indian sociologist, in a recent issue of SEMINAR magazine.  "There is a desperate need for a conversation between the EU search for a humbler science and the Indian debates on science and democracy. What can they offer each other?"  Rustam Vania 
DebateGraph, the global debate map.   Rustam Vania
The impending demise of the university by Don Tapscott "Universities are finally losing their monopoly on higher learning, as the web inexorably becomes the dominant infrastructure for knowledge serving both as a container and as a global platform for knowledge exchange between people."  Rustam Vania