Saturday, April 08, 2006

Philosophical Deliberations on Nature and Nurture

When building a case for the importance of nature against nurture, Socrates (469-399) is worth considering not only for his thoughts but for modeling this action. In a culture dominated by perception-based theory he stepped out with a contradictory belief. Socrates demonstrated his philosophy through a method of education known as dialectic. Instead of lecturing to his students, he asked questions that led them to discover the truth for themselves. This theory necessitated the belief (according to Socrates) that knowledge lies within us and merely needs drawn out. As Hunt (1994) reminds us “to educate” comes from the Latin meaning “to lead out”. p21. Socrates teaching methods demonstrated that people unaware of certain facts could recall them through dialectic reasoning. This therefore shows that knowledge has more to do with recollection than it has to do with experience. Through the use of reason it can be shown that nature has more influence in knowledge than nurture.

The consideration of nurture as more important than nature can be discovered through the theories of Alchmaeon (fl. 520), and Protagoras (485-411), that were developed further by Democritus (460-362) via his theory of atoms which highlights the interaction of the outside world with the eye of the beholder and the ultimate product of perception and knowledge. This theory made clear that as human beings we not only learn and gain knowledge from our surrounding influences but in addition we create a perception on the world that is different from others and likely not an accurate representation of reality. Accepting that we come into the world with a blank slate of mind ready to be written is an important truth to comprehend as otherwise we are left to accept that we are merely the shell for an eternal spirit of knowledge.

My personal opinion of the two camps considered above can be defended through Aristotle the protégé and contradictor of Plato. Being the son of a physician it would appear that a more grounded approach arose. Aristotle helped to show that we recall things not only from an innate body of knowledge but also from memory. I refer to Aristotle because he seemed to be able to synthesize the two main bodies of thinking and stress the importance of inductive reasoning without disputing deductive reasoning. When considering dialectic reasoning today I cannot get past the fact that it hinges on leading questions. These questions in themselves share the direction and intent of the questioner and lays out the obvious observer participant relationship. Had this relationship been considered in Socrates era perhaps a richer worldview would have been deduced. Choosing to elevate nature over nurture or vice versa can lead to important debate and discoveries but choosing to recognize the contribution of both and seeking to know more of their relationship may lead us further in the 21st Century.

Mark Dowds

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The King Lives

I went to a training day with Margaret Wheatley quite recently (author of Leadership and the new science and other excellent books). The best part about the day was all the pictures she showed on the screen. She had captured some interesting sights and scenes that helped her to tell her stories.
I decided that day to bring my camera with me everywhere I go.
Today I was happy to be packin' the little sony. I arrived at the Bloor/ Yonge subway station, the doors opened and some wonderful Evis (not to be mistaken with Elvish) tunes tickled my earbuds. I am a closet Elvis fanatic and still choose to believe that he runs a chip shop somewhere in the deep south.
When I turned the corner, I saw the Silver Elvis in true glimmerman fashion. He stood on his box which appeared like one of the old puppet toys where you could push up the bottom of the platform and the doll would go limp. I wasn't tempted to push on his platform to see if he went limp but I dove into my bag for the camera like an american diving for a gun. I snapped a few getting into a graceland frenzy.

I put the camera back in its holster and walked over to throw a few pennies in his plate. Then came the surprise. He didn't have one. I looked all around to see where to put the money and he smiled. I listened to the music once more only to here the words, "now and then, there's a fool such as I".

So here is what I am thinking as I type this up on my blackberry on the subway:

Learn to carry a camera because you tend to notice more
Do something silly that you love every so often

Mark Dowds

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


This is a philosophical rant I wrote a year or so ago. In many ways it is a manifesto of what Creationstep is all about. I was talking with someone yesterday about this document and they were trying to understand the details of what we do as a company. I then remembered why this was written. It was created in the hope that we could turn off many clients who would not want to work with us. We wanted it to be a statement of our independance, and a moment of flair that would give someone a glimpse into how we think. Today's picture is from a holiday in Kauai last March. If the world was ever RE:CREATED I would like it to look like this.

Mark Dowds