Fri, 02/17/2012

Former University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor David K. Scott delivered his lecture “Multiple Modes of Inquiry and the Nature of Reality” on Tuesday, February 14, in the Campus Center Auditorium.


Scott began his talk with an audiovisual presentation of quotes from philosophers, poets, theologians, physicists, mystics, geneticists, and writers, all proclaiming that everything is connected. It explained that “although we live in a world of seeming division and multiplicity, the perennial wisdom is unequivocal in asserting that a profound unity underlies the appearance of separation.”


“Are they all deluded?” asked Scott. Are we, as Stephen Hawkins--perhaps the greatest living mathematical physicist--claimed, just “chemical scum on a moderate sized planet”?


“Einstein,” Scott joked, “also got a few things wrong.” Why is it that so many great thinkers across time and geography independently assert, like physicist David Bohm, that “the entire universe... has to be understood as a single, undivided whole?”


Einstein’s theory of quantum entanglement explains interaction among objects while Scott’s presents a more simple concept. Through visual representations, he demonstrated that ballerinas can move in complete synchronization because the music which they hear is a well from which they all draw the same information, allowing for a uniform performance. He suggested that perhaps the similar observations of oneness from each of these prominent thinkers are, like ballerinas in time, more than a coincidence.


Matter and spirit were, after all, originally considered as one. Over time, these two concepts were split, and eventually the material came to be valued over the spiritual, especially in the realm of academia where facts reign supreme. This fragmented view of the universe is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Scott explained, in order to integrate in a deep way, it is first important to differentiate. “Anyone who has taken calculus knows that,” he joked.


However, the problem will come about if we do not reconcile these ideas. “Reintegration,” said Scott, “is the main challenge ahead for education.” As a culture we are moving away from modernity and toward a transmodern culture which will be centered around an integrative, connected approach to the “big three”--art, science, and morals. It is, Scott hopes, the task of twenty-first century education to facilitate this transition by embracing and fostering different types of intelligences - cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual - by helping students to “learn to know, learn to do, learn to live together, and learn to be.”



David K. Scott served as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1993-2001. During his tenure, he led the campus through many important advances including the successful completion of the first comprehensive capital campaign, attention to neglected infrastructure and new construction, the installation of network wiring across the campus, the development of a new communications and marketing strategy, and the formation of Commonwealth Honors College as well as a campus wide initiative on community, diversity, and social justice.


Scott championed the vision of an Integrative University in which transdisciplinary knowledge and holistic learning communities would overcome the fragmentation of knowledge and support the development of wiser human beings to create a better world. Spirituality and contemplative practice in higher education were also explored.


CommonwealthHonors College introduced its Faculty Lecture Series during the spring 2011 semester in recognition of university faculty who have made significant contributions to research or creative activity. Through lectures that highlight academic excellence and scholarship, these faculty share their ideas and insight with honors students in sessions open to the campus community.


Many of the talks in the faculty lecture series relate to themes in "Ideas that Changed the World," the Honors Seminar in which honors students examine books and other works that have profoundly shaped the world we live in. The texts in this class and the related faculty lectures are meant to be exemplary for students who have the potential themselves to achieve outstanding things.


This semester's series continues with two additional lectures:


M.V. Lee Badgett, Professor, Economics and Director, Center for Public Policy Administration

"Coming Out for Change"

March 15, 2012,6:30 p.m., Campus Center Auditorium


Raymond Bradley, Distinguished University Professor, Geosciences

April 4, 2012, 6:30 p.m., Student Union Ballroom