Saturday, February 18, 2012

David Christian & Really Big History

This is my year (or two, or three) of reading big history. Iam Morris's Why the West Rules--For Now is probably my biggest, widest angle look so far (and I should mention 1493 and The Better Angels of Our Nature as recent additions), but David Christian dwarfs Morris's tour, which runs from the beginning of humankind to our possible futures. In this TED talk, Christian begins at the Big Bang! Now that's big history! And quite a fascinating tour it is: from the first nanosecond of creation to the present is a story of increasing complexity and "Goldilocks" (just right) circumstances that bring us to our present. Just right--and quite fragile. Anyway, the tour is fascinating. He and some of his colleagues have put together "The Big History Project" at this webpage for use as a high school curriculum. What a great idea and organizing theme to look at our past through both the physical and social sciences, and a great way to learn and teach complexity. Consider the desirability of learning history through this kind of lens, and not as just "one damn thing after another", as it is too often taught. No one remembers disjointed events well, but add a story (narrative) and they'll remember; make it a detective story (as history really is), and you've got them hooked.

P.S. How wonderfully nerdy is this? After initially posting, I found a short talk by Bill Gates on the Big History Project website home page. The ultimate nerd endorsement!

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