Questions and Questioning       Jerry Garfunkel

A poet (friend of mine), referring to the human race, once wrote (paraphrasing) the search for a better life condition is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains. It is a natural condition to strive to be better, know more, reach higher, pursue happiness. “We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species.” (Desmond Morris).

There is a famous mathematical, theological, philosophical theorem known as “Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem.” It states that our fundamental system of natural numbers, built on Peano's Axioms, (Guiseppe Peano 1858-1932), which forms the basis of all numerical analysis, is an infinite and incomplete system. That is, it is impossible to know ALL there is to know. There will always be undiscovered propositions (hypotheses, truths, etc.) waiting to be recognized. Goedel proved that you cannot prove everything. I always thought it remarkable that Goedel, using "man-made" (but god given) prepositional logic and mathematics, proved, at least in my mind, the existence of God – an incomprehensible infinity. I studied Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem in a graduate course that was offered by the Philosophy department, not the Mathematics department.

Structuring questions as a steering mechanism along a particular path of study lets teachers invent problems for students to solve. The problems can be simple or complex as appropriate. The right questions - correct quantity of analysis and correct sequence - can help students move closer to understanding a topic. “The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions. “ Jamie McKenzie, author of the article quoting Claude Lévi-Strauss. McKenzie states, “ we wield powerful questions as tools to construct a future of our own choosing.”

Other subjects discussed were:

a) the pace of change in our society, technology in particular, and
b) the “info-glut and Charlatans to which internet researchers are exposed” .
c) information as power – the value of the information learned is proportional to the quality of the questioning.

Re: The info-glut
The author states, “Mind bytes and mind candy abound as the lives of presidents, poets and revolutionaries are reduced to simple paragraphs and formulaic summaries.” I agree, we are dumb-ing down the quality of information (of everything).
We deal with “info-glut” in our lives in subtle ways. 1) We learn to “filter” out the myriad of movie reviews (“info-glut,” some good and some bad), by observing which critics have more consistently been in agreement with our tastes. Over time we rely more and more on our most trustworthy sources. Another subtle filtering technique we do subconsciously is while watching a CNN news interview of a Congressional committee member perhaps, the caption tells me the speaker’s ID information: The order in which I process the various pieces of information is a subtle form of filtering. To understand the context of what this person is saying, I would much rather know if he/she is a Republican or Democrat, rather than which state she/he comes from - usually. Each piece of information in that subtitle is additional help in understanding the real context of what I am hearing. Some pieces of information are more useful than others.

Republican or Democrat - - - -
Chairman of… or…Member of… or Ranking Member of… - - - -
Committee name
State
Name of Congressperson

The relative order in which I read (process) this identification information is relevant. It is a subtle top-down filtering technique.
The “info-glut,” is the reason why internet Search Engines represent such a growth industry – GOOGLE, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo Search, Northern Lights, etc.. The stakes are very high because this tool is that important. He who has the most information wins; he who knows how to search internet resources most effectively, learns the most. By deduction, he who searches the internet most effectively wins.
The author states, “Synthesis - the development of new possibilities by modifying and rearranging elements - cannot be managed without analysis, the probing questioning process that explores the underlying principles, characteristics and possibilities of any given situation. Analysis is the underpinning of new thinking and wise choices. “ I question can it be taught, can it be practiced, can it be demonstrated.


See the New York Times headline published months after this review was written