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Machines Like Us

Machines Like Us interviews: Mano Singham

Monday, 29 October 2007

An outspoken atheist and social commentator, Mano Singham is currently Director of Case’s University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education (UCITE) and Adjunct Associate Professor of Physics. He obtained his B.Sc. from the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in theoretical nuclear physics from the University of Pittsburgh. He has researched and conducted seminars and workshops for university faculty on teaching and learning, and has conducted workshops around the country on Active Learning methods for science teachers at pre-college and college levels.

Singham is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and in 2001 he won Case Western Reserve University’s Carl F. Wittke award for distinguished undergraduate teaching. He has written articles and given invited talks on The Achievement Gap in Science and Mathematics Education, Active Learning, and Science and Religion at professional meetings of scientists and educators. His recent research interests are in the fields of education, theories of knowledge, and physics and philosophy. His books include Quest for Truth: Scientific Progress and Religious Beliefs (2000), and The Achievement Gap in US Education: Canaries in the Mine (2005).

Interview conducted by Norm Nason.

MLU: It's wonderful to be able to interview you, Mano. Thanks for joining me.
 
MS: Actually, the pleasure is all mine. I feel honored because I do not think I quite belong alongside the really distinguished people you have interviewed in the past. Those people have made important contributions to their respective fields. I see myself as just an observer and commentator. Being interviewed is also a little strange to me because I used to see myself as a very private person but with my blog I have come to terms, at least partially, with the fact that one cannot help but reveal something of oneself when one writes so much about so many things that one cares about.
 
Answering your questions will give me an opportunity to piece together a statement about my own personal philosophy, so it should be a valuable learning experience in that I hope to learn something about myself in the process!
 
MLU: At some point during our association it occurred to me that although you are a physicist, teacher and writer, what you are above all is a philosopher. You have the uncanny ability to expose difficult questions, tweeze apart the various components of an argument, eliminate the fat and get at the essentials. How did you develop such an inquisitive nature and methodical way of examining the world? Was it something that was nurtured by your parents?