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Whistler Reads: THE DAVEY DIALOGUES

abstract:My neighbor John Madden is a delightful person whose life of science started with a Rhodes Scholarship in his twenties. Recently retired, he has just self-published a book entitled The Davey Dialogues: An Exploration of the Scientic Foundations of Social Culture and it reminds me of two separate people and their respective intentions. The first is Canadian broadcaster and environmentalist David Suzuki, and the second is the Norwegian philosopher, Jostein Gartner. Years ago when Suzuki was hosting his television program, "The Nature of Things", I took a course in Zoology from him at the University of Toronto. He had made the jump from bench scientist, unravelling the DNA of fruit flies and publishing in the journal Nature, to public personality, upon realizing that the pace of scientific advancement was outstripping the general public's ability to keep up. Soon there would be fewer and fewer people prepared to weigh-in on decisions affecting our daily lives—like the impact of Monsanto's genetically modified seed, or whether the Bush administration should be permitted to stop stem cell research. Jostein Gartner, a Norweigan philosopher lamented the dwindling interest of university students in studying philosophy, the academic discipline concerned with reason and thought. She published a book titled, Sophies World that would become a European bestseller about a fictional character who uses philosophic theoretical arguments attributed to great philosophers to solve clues to a mystery. Both Suzuki and Gartner saw a gap in the public knowledge base and sought to fill it in a creative way. And that is John Madden's goal as well. Join Whistler Reads and John Madden at the Whistler Public Library on February 27th at 7pm. His book is available in advance via www.daviedialogues.com or purchase a copy from the author at this reading. Admission by donation.

article:

February 02, 2013

About The Book

John Madden uses an interesting literary device to entice readers into looking at the scientific foundations that affect human culture. His narrator tells us that he's been contacted by an Disembodied Alien Voice (which he names Davie, after the first 3 letters of D.A.V.) The Voice wants to understand humans so he can come to terms with a tragic loss of a similar life form from his own realm. He asks John to help. What ensues is a conversation between the narrator and The Voice, interspersed with explanations about scientific discoveries that affected human development.

At first I found the technique a bit kitschy. But as the book progressed I began to enjoy the banter between the pair, which balanced the intersperse of each didactic lecture. It has a Carl Sagan feel—just one man of science rattling off in a pleasant voice the history of the universe as man has unfolded it, in our own herky-jerky, forward-backward march of progress, with each new scientific rung building upon the ladder of the last. Had John just plowed through the book reaming off theories about the big bang, boundaries of human understanding, the biophysiology of the cell, debates on mind-brain studies, and so on... many of his readers would have left The Davie Dialogues on the nightstand to collect dust. Instead, I found myself looking forward to picking up on this delightful walk through science, just before bed, when I read nightly. And it has sparked topics for conversation with friends and family during the day as well.

About The Author

John Madden was born in Vancouver, BC, in 1939 and, after an absence of about twenty years, has lived in Vancouver and skied at Whistler since 1980. He studied physics at the University of British Columbia, and completed a D. Phil. in nuclear physics at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.

His working life has included technical research and development and research and development management at a senior level in industry and in the Canadian government primarily in the fields of telecommunications and computing.—source: Whistler Public Library

About The Rhodes Scholarship

The Rhodes Scholarships are administered and awarded by the Rhodes Trust, which was established in 1902 under the terms and conditions of the will of Cecil John Rhodes, and funded by his estate under the administration of Nathan Rothschild. Scholarships have been awarded to applicants annually since 1902 on the basis of academic achievement and strength of character. There have been more than 7,000 Rhodes Scholars since the inception of the Trust. More than 4,000 are still living.

Rhodes' legacy specified four standards by which applicants were to be judged: Literary and scholastic attainments; Energy to use one's talents to the fullest, as exemplified by fondness for and success in sports; Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship; Moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings. This legacy originally provided for scholarships for the British colonies, the United States, and Germany. These three were chosen because it was thought that " ... a good understanding between England, Germany and the United States of America will secure the peace of the world ... " Rhodes, who attended Oxford University (as a member of Oriel College), chose his alma mater as the site of his great experiment because he believed its residential colleges provided the ideal environment for intellectual contemplation and personal development.—Wikipedia

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