Saxena Reaches Dangerous Conclusions
Vishal Saxena's recent column ["Models and Paradigms for Accepting Cultures," July 8] makes some dangerous claims, principally involving the issue of relativism. While I thoroughly support his enthusiasm for open communication and curiosity among cultures, I am one of many individuals who believe that our reality is not limited to clever engineering approximations and the human desire for explanation of natural phenomena.
Saxena describes education as simply "a way of teaching us the paradigms that work." Certainly, this is true about engineering, but any student or former student who has ever had a class in which discussion was encouraged would disagree emphatically with that statement. To a large extent, education, ranging from logic to literature, is about a search for a greater truth which applies to all of humanity. Additionally, the conclusion that human disagreements are simply differences in paradigm is not evident; this conclusion suggests that all disagreements are meaningless since no parties involved have any reason to believe that any single paradigm is true.
Certainly, axioms, such as the notion that the whole is always greater than any constituent part, do not restrict mathematics to a "science," complete with experimentation and correction. The derivation of all of mathematics from universal, self-evident principles may be difficult, but it is possible. The notion that all of human knowledge is limited to models is reminiscent of the popular catchphrase "perception is reality," which is a poignant example of how frustrated individuals and societies tend to minimize the importance or significance of that which they cannot fully comprehend.
Perhaps the reason why the "paradigm" of a flat earth expired in modern science is because the earth really is round, and not solely because it enables us to more effectively solve problems of celestial mechanics.
Geoffrey Goodell '01