Whoever will win, the Foxes or the Hedgehogs? - IANS Ch. 9 & 10

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In chaper 9 I found it somewhat comforting and worrisome at the same time that scientific juries are just as human and fallible as their civil counterparts. When you read a study that lists in its credentials that it has been peer reviewed by the scientific community, it gives the study more credibility. I suppose that you can relate this situation to the awards that published books are often given. Just because a book earns a super important award doesn't mean that the average person who reads said book will think just as highly of it. In fact, depending on their preferences and biases, they may absolutely hate the book! At least Churchill was right when talking about democracy and how we can relate it to peer reviewing: it is the worst system for judging research, except for all of the alternatives that have ever been tried.

Even though having tunnel vision when driving is great, having it when thinking critically or intellectually is only inviting a crash with flashing neon lights. "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." It would certainly be of benefit to be exceptionally knowledgeable about a subject, but not to the exclusion of all else. Only covering one aspect of scientific research may lead you to think that you are simplifying the data for your readers, but you might also be short-changing them. Hedgehogs will always know the impact of impersonal forces on others, but the fox will be able to look beyond this and see other factors/solutions. So which would you rather be?

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jackie johns said:

After reading your comments on chapter 10, something interesting occurred to me. Although the text says that one should value the "fox" over the "hedgehog," doesn't that idea (which made sense when I first read it) kind of go against all that society places emphasis on? Don't we pursue higher education in order to learn one skill more so than all others? Sure we do, and in that sense I think we're all being programmed to be "hedgehogs," but in a completely encouraged and acceptable way. Ultimately I guess it’s up to each person to balance their "hedgehog" higher education with an open "fox" view of life in general.

Jackie, that's a good point. For a long time, journalists typically learned on the job, and there's still a very strong tradition of offering internships and mentoring cub reporters. But journalism was one of the early professions where people didn't really need a higher education in order to have access to the halls of power and potentially affect society... so there are traditional journalists who are as suspicious of higher education as they are of any other powerful institution. So that may be one reason behind the resistance to higher education that you noticed in the book. (Of course, the authors of the book are all scholars of one sort or another.)

Nessa said:

I don't want to be the hedgehog or the fox. What good is it if you know everything about one thing, but one thing only. What if you know everything about noodles. Then when a question on apples comes up, you're wrong. That's no good.

As for the fox- he's a "jack of all trades, master of none". He can tell you about the noodles, the apples, and the bread (I have no idea why I'm using food examples. I'm not even hungry), but what he tells you might not be right. Can't we balance between the fox and hedgehog? What about racoons? I bet they know a good deal...

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This page contains a single entry by MadelynGillespie published on October 30, 2007 3:59 PM.

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