Date of Award

8-2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Lydia M. Pulsipher

Committee Members

Thomas L. Bell, David L. Feldman

Abstract

My research investigates whether and to what extent natural scientists utilize non-objective but personally meaningful ways of knowing, that is, different modes of perceiving, interpreting, judging, and comprehending, in addition to their objective stance as scientific researcher, in constructing their understanding of nature. I investigate whether or not the norms of science restrict discussion of non-objective ways of knowing to the margins of the discourse. I pursue this topic through a review of literature on ecological sustainability that emphasizes the importance of buttressing objective knowledge with non-objective ways of experiencing and talking about nature.

In interviews with fifty natural scientists, I ask about their sense of spiritual connection to the natural world, under the assumption that this way of knowing is one that can integrate objective and non-objective understandings of nature. The results of this qualitative research demonstrate that norms in the workplace of natural science discourage integration of multiple ways of understanding nature, even when these ways reflect an ethos of ecological sustainability as it is normally described in the literature. I argue that the inclusion of more integrated ways of knowing nature in the discourse of natural science could enhance conventional scientific understanding of the human relationship with nature. This in turn could broaden the ways natural scientists communicate with the public, by making connections between objective scientific information and the spiritual or personally meaningful ways that the public might understand ecological sustainability goals. A discussion addresses ways in which these connections might be accomplished.

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Geography Commons

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