I wanted to point out two interesting posts both having to to with the nature of knowledge, or as we call it here in Minnesota (where the “k” in “Knute” is proudly pronounced).
The first is The Problem with Google’s Knol Initiative (aha, you see, there’s that “k” again…). This is about Google’s idea of starting up it’s own version of Wikipedia. Pierre Far of BlogSci questions the wisdom of Google’s approach. The Google version of a wiki that is an encyclopedia promises to be better because it will recruit, and rely on, expertise. However, Far suggests that this could backfire, and asks who will choose the authorities, who will evaluate if the authorities speak for the profession they represent, and who is going to fill in when the relatively thinly – spread set of involved individuals (compared to the rich legions of Wikipedia posters) are not available.
I think these are legitimate questions and worth pursuing. At the same time, I do support the idea of wiki-technology based encyclopedic sources that more explicitly involve actual expertise.
On the other hand, the thinner on the ground the number and diversity of volunteers, the more likely failure, or at least, a slow start. For instance, there is an alternative Wiki of expertise that someone has been trying to get started for some time now. I hear about it now and then, I see a bit of news here and there, I even volunteered to help with it, and as far as I know it remains a pipe dream. An honorable pipe dream that I support, but it is not an existing project. Just an idea fora project.
The reality of Wikipedia, no matter what you think about it, is that it exists. Existing is the first, all important step if one is trying to be real…
The other interesting post I’d like to point out is Explanations: The difference between belief and evidence, over at Analyze Everything. James Larson explores the nature of knowledge in relation to the question of Intelligent Design. He provides a nice analogy involving a twist on Turing’s Test, thus linking the study of Intelligent Design to Designed Intelligence by way of a parable designed to question the nature of religious knowledge. Are you following this? Oh, try it in his own words:
The robot looks and talks and moves like a man. There is no visible clue that this robot is anything but a perfectly ordinary man. Even a detailed medical examination would reveal nothing that indicates the robot is not a human. In fact, all of the possible evidence indicates that the robot is human. Only those with a special knowledge realize the robot is not human.
The difference between this and creationism, of course, is that this imaginary robot really exists (in the example, no in real life. It’s imaginary) while the Intelligent Designer does not….