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Topic: Should human chemistry be taught in school?  (Read 9326 times)

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Offline Libb

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Should human chemistry be taught in school?
« on: September 27, 2010, 06:06:56 PM »
I don’t know if I am alone in this view, but would anyone else like to see the subject of human chemistry taught as part of required college education?

By the name “human chemistry”, I am referring to the Henry Adams (1887) definition of the subject as people defined as reactive human chemicals or “human molecules” and subject of human chemistry being the study of the behaviors and reactions of interacting human molecules according to the laws and principles of chemistry.

Any comments?

Offline Libb

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Re: Should human chemistry be taught in school?
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2010, 06:31:34 PM »
The following 1991 query by American philosopher Robert Pirsig gives a decent summary idea of the types of basic questions people struggle with in this subject:

“Why should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), and nitrogen (N), 'struggle' for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the motive?”

The following link gives a decent historical overview, starting with Empedocles' 450 BC chemistry aphorisms of how people mix like water and wine or separate like oil and water, up to the 2000 calculation for the molecular formula for a human by Sterner and Elser:

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Children as young as seven begin asking questions such as "is love a purely chemical reaction?" As far as I know, however, in America at least, there is no structure for teaching this subject in high school or college? If I could go back again to before age fifteen, I would have liked to have been taught the basics of this subject. I have thus far been putting forth some effort in this end by giving guest lectures on this subject to various college bioengineering classes and am thinking about doing the same for some general chemistry classes in the near future. Do people think this would be a waste of time or useful?

Here's a few topic-related chemistry forum posts I found that would be covered in such a course:

Entropy and the theoretical effects of the second law (2008):
http://www.chemicalforums.com/index.php?topic=24859.0

Entropy of human civilization increasing (2005):
http://www.chemicalforums.com/index.php?topic=1839.0

Here's an overview page of the Rossini debate (1971-2008), between a group of chemistry professors, about whether chemical thermodynamics has anything to say about human existence:

link deleted

The basic idea here, in my view, is that this should be taught, at least one day in year's worth of chemistry, so that students have some kind of framework for these type of debates and discussions.



« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 05:56:14 AM by Borek »

Offline Borek

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Re: Should human chemistry be taught in school?
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2010, 07:02:50 PM »
No idea what you mean, sounds like crackpottery to me so far. Please elaborate.

Assuming I understand what you mean - are you sure it is not abuse of the word "chemistry"? If you are interested in learning about human interactions they are covered by sociology and psychology.
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Offline Libb

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Re: Watch the video (this was human chemistry in 1809)
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2010, 09:18:54 PM »
The subject often sounds like crackpot to the new comer, but it has been developed by some of the greatest geniuses of history. The central founder of the subject of human chemistry, German polymath Johann Goethe (IQ=225), began conducting chemistry experiments in his youth, studied chemistry for over forty years, and even employed his own chemist in later years (German chemist Johann Dobereiner), before he developed his version of human chemistry, as presented in his 1809 Elective Affinities (a theory based primarily on Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman's 1775 chemistry textbook A Dissertation on Elective Attractions). Watch the following clip of the film version to get the idea:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV2o8gEmW0A

The subject is common to thinkers with IQ=225+, as is evidenced by the fact that American astrophysicist Christopher Hirata (youngest ever winner of the International Physics Olympiad, age 13, 1996), independent of Goethe, developed a near duplicate version of human chemistry:

link deleted

In simple terms, the following is the empirical molecular formula for a human (you or I), as calculated by Robert Sterner and James Elser (Ecological Stoichiometry, 2002):

H375,000,000 O132,000,000 C85,700,000 N6,430,000 Ca1,500,000 P1,020,000 S206,000 Na183,000
K177,000 Cl127,000 Mg40,000 Si38,600 Fe2,680 Zn2,110 Cu76 I14 Mn13 F13 Cr7 Se4 Mo3 Co1

According to their view, people, which they define as "human molecules", are to be "considered as single abstract molecules", that interact through complex chemical reactions. Now, suppose we define one person as molecule A and another as molecule B, and bring them into contact to react:

A + B  :rarrow: AB

We can now ask questions such as will the reaction occur, will there be a Gibbs free energy change for his reaction?, do the reactants have free will in this process?, what is type of chemical bond will hold the products in an AB complex?, etc., etc. As it turns out, there are volumes of material published on this subject, by various authors. The modern chemistry student, however, is taught none of this. In my case, for example, I had to suck down a chemical engineering degree and then research this topic for over ten years, of independent study, to find out who originated this subject and what theories have been proposed and established, etc. There is no reason the average student of chemistry should have this exquisite branch of chemistry hidden from his or her education curriculum. Any comments, suggestions, ideas?
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 05:56:47 AM by Borek »

Offline nj_bartel

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Re: Should human chemistry be taught in school?
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2010, 10:14:30 PM »
I'm a chem/psych double major.

Sounds like it's mostly psych theories that those philosophers think can be modeled on the population level using chemistry equations derived for use on the molecular level.

Honestly, it just seems like a useful construct to demonstrate how human behavior can be modeled/fit to an equation on the population level with a measure of accuracy, and, like chemistry, those equations start to fail/become immensely more complex when you reach very tiny quantities (e.g. solution chemistry / modeling individual particles vs population behavior / individual behavior).

Offline Libb

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Re: Should human chemistry be taught in school?
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2010, 10:34:57 PM »
Thanks for the comments. The only thinker, however, to have mixed chemistry and psychology was Carl Jung (and his school of followers), who mixed in alchemy, and later ideas on entropy. Likewise, after hearing Jung lecture, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi brought entropy ideas over into the field of “positive psychology”, but he uses little chemistry theory in his works. Then there is French philosopher Hippolyte Taine who outlined the view that the future job of the historian-psychologist will be to "write the psychology of the human molecule, or a particular group of human molecules, in their various transformations." This particular quote inspired Henry Adams to spend forty years developing his version of how chemistry and thermodynamics apply to people viewed as “human molecules”, he even used Gibbs phase rule to construct his theory, if you can believe that. In any event, recent books on this subject go far beyond simple ideas culled from psychology. American physical chemist Thomas Wallace’s recent 2009 book Wealth, Energy, and Human Values, is one example of this, wherein he explains the rise and fall of civilization from the point of view of chemical mechanism, transition states, Gibbs free  energy, among other tools of chemistry.

My concern is that there is no reason why people, such as Goethe, Adams, and Wallace, should toil away for decades on end to develop their theories as to how chemistry applies to human movement, independently, when all that is needed is a few hours of teaching this subject in introductory chemistry classes. Any comments?

Offline Libb

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Re: Do you think you are a molecule?
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2010, 10:52:09 PM »
To give an idea why education is lacking in this area, English physicist Jim Eadon has been running a poll now for about ten years on whether or not people think they are a molecule?

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The poll finds that 43 percent of people do not consider themselves to be a molecule. The biggest hurdles to acceptance of this view, stem from religious conflict, i.e. life, death, and meaning. Many, even PhD Ivy league educated scientists, will come right out and say that they object to being a molecule, because they believe themselves to be in possession of a soul that is under the control of God, and that a water molecule cannot have soul, and so on. Here's one example thread of this:

link deleted

These are people in retirement years, who have to grapple with these deep questions on their own.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 05:56:31 AM by Borek »

Offline nj_bartel

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Re: Should human chemistry be taught in school?
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2010, 11:39:10 PM »
Because it isn't chemistry.  It's using chemistry to represent psychological phenomena.  Would someone who hasn't taken chemistry understand the comparison?  Probably not, but that doesn't mean it must or should be taught in chemistry class.  All that stuff is in the realm of psychology.

As for the people who refuse to believe they're molecules, it's probably more that they don't believe they're only molecules (vitalists).

Really though, I'm not sure if you're proposing a Newtonian view on psychology (you can reduce everything to math), or if you're just saying chemical principles can be used to illustrate the larger world, and there's a major difference.  At any rate, I still don't think it belongs in a chemistry classroom.

Offline Borek

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Re: Watch the video (this was human chemistry in 1809)
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2010, 05:52:49 AM »
H375,000,000 O132,000,000 C85,700,000 N6,430,000 Ca1,500,000 P1,020,000 S206,000 Na183,000
K177,000 Cl127,000 Mg40,000 Si38,600 Fe2,680 Zn2,110 Cu76 I14 Mn13 F13 Cr7 Se4 Mo3 Co1

This is not even wrong.

Humans are not molecules, they are complex objects composed of many molecules.

This is not leading anywhere.

Topic locked.

I have also deleted all links to eoht.
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