Weekly Roundup

A report conducted by the LSE and private healthcare firm Bupa questioned more than 12,000 people from 12 countries and found that 81 percent of those with Internet access use it to search for medical advice, but only a quarter of them check where their online advice has come from. Another study done by researchers at the Department of Pediatrics at Nottingham University Hospitals in Britain looked into 500 websites and found only 39 percent provided the correct information to a question about common childhood ailments. While these studies raise concerns about the accuracy of medical information on the Internet and public reliance on it, it is also worthwhile, in our opinion, to ask who determines what the right answers are.

Four in 10 Americans, slightly fewer today than in years past, believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Thirty-eight percent believe God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms, while 16%, up slightly from years past, believe humans developed over millions of years, without God’s involvement, Gallup survey reveals.

Historian of science Will Thomas writes a sketch of the history of agricultural research and education in the UK on Ether Wave Propaganda.

Christine Rosen reviews a forthcoming book entitled Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net’s Impact on Our Minds and Future. In the book, 150 authors, including scientists, philosophers and artists, write on the way the Internet affects human thought.

U.S. officials have decided to close down the Tevatron particle accelerator as originally planned, and not to extend extra funding of $35 million to prolong its operation for three more years, in which American physicists hoped it could beat the CERN Large Hadron Collider in the race for finding the Higgs boson, Nature News reports.

New philosophy podcasts on Philosophy Bites. Martha Nussbaum talks about the value and importance of the humanities, and Philip Pettit talks about group agency – how groups can act, believe, and held responsible by others.

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net’s Impact on Our Minds and Future


  • W. Dean Reply

    1. After citing the study on the quality of medical advice on the internet you suggested that “who determines what the right answers are” is a good question to ask. Maybe I missed something, because the answer seems rather uncontroversial: physicians, pharmacists and physiotherapists (etc.) should determine what the right answers to medical and healthcare questions are. To be sure, this or that one could be wrong here or there, but it’s hard to imagine who else should have a role.

    2. When it comes to defending the humanities, the more the merrier is probably a good attitude to take. All the same, I don’t think Martha Nussbaum is the best candidate because, in my view, she’s part of the problem. In this interview she blames business interests and government for pressuring universities to produce students with useful skills. Fair enough. But she omits her own and her fellow-travelers role in advocating programs and policies that undermined not only academic freedom, but also the traditional curriculum.

    First, she belongs to the throng who believed in the massive expansion of “higher education” for the (ultimately) social purpose of ameliorating poverty. It should come as no surprise that those parents who sent their kids for a degree to better their lot in life would be disappointed when the degree didn’t have the intended effect. That placed enormous pressure on universities to become “relevant,” which meant not only the introduction of business and other vocational programs, but it put pressure on traditional disciplines like history and philosophy to show their worth by teaching “skills.” So-called “critical thinking” courses and “applied ethics” programs, for example, are philosophy’s contribution to relevance.

    Second, in Nussbaum’s older Cultivating Humanity, she defended so-called “studies” programs and tried to justify the introduction of (what in my view is) overtly political sentiment into the curriculum. Indeed, Nussbaum seemed to assume that the purpose of humanities programs was primarily to persuade students to adopt progressive politics. Yet nothing has done more to undermine traditional liberal arts education in fact and in the eyes of the public than the creation of ideologically-motivated studies programs and the “pc” policies regarding speech universally adopted by universities.

    • Boaz Miller
      Boaz Miller Reply

      Health and disease are inherently normative concepts. Therefore it is not clear that healthcare professionals are the only ones who determine the right answers to questions of the from of “what ought to be done about condition X”. Maybe this doesn’t really come up in common childhood ailments, but there are cases when the answer is not uncontroversial. Have a look at Epstein’s Impure Science (1996).

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