Knowledge and the Public Good–Some Suggested Reading

Haim Watzman

The dissemination of knowledge—high-quality knowledge—is essential to a democratic society. So I’d like to point out an interesting juxtaposition of articles from my Shabbat reading that, taken together, have something important to say about the importance of getting good knowledge to the public.

Danielle Allen’s review of Josiah Ober’s book Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens in The New Republic concludes:

Josiah Ober shows us that Athens knew what the Athenians knew, because the city as a whole had devised institutions that made sure the useful knowledge of the widest possible range of individuals flowed to where it was needed. Have we fully tapped into the resources of participatory democracy to supplement our own representative structures with a citizenry within which all the sluices of knowledge are open and have been set a-flowing? Does America know what Americans know?

In the March 5 issue of Nature, Harry Collins, a social scientist who studies science, concludes an essay entitled “We Cannot Live By Skepticism Alone” with these words:

Science, then, can provide us with a set of values—not findings—for how to run our lives, and that includes our social and political lives. But it can do this only if we accept that assessing scientific findings is a far more difficult task than was once believed, and that those findings do not lead straight to political conclusions. Scientists can guide us only by admitting their weaknesses, and, concomitantly, when we outsiders judge scientists, we must do it not to the standard of truth, but to the much softer standard of expertise.

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My Year of Blogging

Haim Watzman

It’s exactly a year since we launched the South Jerusalem blog. And it’s been a great year-one in which we’ve gained hundreds of readers, some of whom think we’re left-wing fanatics, some who think we’re hopeless jingoists, and at least one who thinks we should relocate to Las Vegas.

I started blogging about four years after I was first told “You should start a blog.” I didn’t want to start one for a number of very good reasons, all of which this last year’s experience have proven well-founded. A friend of mine told me about her WordPress account after I asked what is wordpress? When I started, I had very little clue about cpanel hosting and all of the other things it takes to start a blog. I thought that I would be spending a lot of money creating my blog, but it was just getting a domain and finding a web hosting service to get the blog to go live. Plus knowing that you can use something similar to these working HostGator India Coupons to help save you some money and that’s one less aspect to think about when it comes to blogging.

As I feared, I have spent far more time than I can afford writing blog posts for which I get paid nothing, and because I’m not getting paid I can’t take the time to do the research and legwork that would be necessary to make the blog a really valuable source of news and analysis. Maybe I should consider using hostiserver.com so I have more time to write, not fiddling with the tech side of things. But with newspapers hitting the boards right and left, and with the surviving ones slashing their budgets for freelance stories, it’s hard to get paid enough to do serious reporting in the traditional media anyway.

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