1. Dawkins' Analogies Related to Law
1.1 Bzzz: The Empty Space in Atoms
'[A]gainst (…) intuition, (…) apparently solid things like (…) rocks are (…) composed almost entirely of empty space. The familiar illustration represents (…) an atom['s nucleus] as a fly in the middle of a sports stadium.'2These atoms are packed together to form bigger things like people, who are therefore mostly empty space, too, but who appear solid to others.
Our minds ignore the empty space. Instead, they just let us know the useful bits of what our senses discover. For example that a selection of atoms forms a rock in front of us (so we better turn, hop, or trip).3 Similarly, lawyers are selective with the information they give: (i) lawyers are too expensive to have them talk about equivalent (and irrelevant) empty spaces; and (ii) lawyers who demonstrably select only the most pertinent information demonstrate honed legal skills.
Law students must learn to understand legal writing with as much intuition as they use to see real people rather than chunks of empty atoms. For those new to law, the empty spaces are not easily understood. Law is filled with so many details, it is (i) difficult to see everything, and (ii) easy to fail to discriminate between the bits that help one not to trip over imaginary rocks.
Lawyers not only include many details, they exclude others, too, for the reasons listed above; students writing assessments must learn not just to write everything they know, for the same reasons lawyers do not. This latter idea of exclusion is called discrimination. I plan to write an essay about this type of discrimination in light of two other texts in particular: Graham Ferris, 'The Legal Educational Continuum that is Visible through a Glass Dewey';4 and Karl Llewellyn, The Bramble Bush.5
Evolutionary biology is simpler to think about with a geological metaphor: evolution does not jump up the cliff face, but walks around the mountain to find a gentle-if-longer slope to the peak.6
1.2 On the Mountain's Other Side
- This metaphor is useful:
- When considering research plans;
- For auto-didacticism because it gives a framework to organise learning when there are no other guidelines (and even in spite of other guidelines);
- It explains what legal curricula may have been designed according to (so students may know how given-work is organised), and how curricula may be designed in new instances.
- Spiral curricula are an extension of gentle-slope curricula; and
- Jerome Bruner considers these curricula in light of four themes, which involve spiral curricula.7
Each point in the preceding list provides a suitable discussion topic for future posts. I aim to tackle each one, though their final order may differ. Before then, it is pertinent to leave you with Dawkins' metaphor expanded and juxtaposed: when learning something new, reducing the knowledge at the peak into smaller parts--which are reachable in progressive steps--eases the process. This is similar to what I recommended in 'How to Structure an Argument' and 'What is Analysis?'. Each of these posts showed how complexity is easier to grasp when it clearly derives from simple, demonstrable parts.
2. In Sum…
1 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Black Swan 2007).
2 ibid 412.
3 ibid 412–6.
4 Graham Ferris, 'The Legal Educational Continuum that is Visible through a Glass Dewey' (2009) 43:2 The Law Teacher 102, pt D (iii).
5 Karl N Llewellyn, The Bramble Bush: The Classic Lectures on the Law and Law School (Steve Sheppard introduction, OUP 2008) 37ff.
6 Dawkins, God Delusion 147.
7 Jerome S Bruner, The Process of Education: A Searching Discussion of School Education Opening New Paths to Learning and Teaching (Vintage 1960) 13, 52–4.
Created: 30 August 2013. Version 1.0.
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