Missing Academic Discipline

by Donald Daniel, June 2010 revised Feb 2012

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A meteor wiped out the dinosaurs, disease wiped out some American Indian populations, a nuclear war could still bomb us back to the stone age. All these suggest that an insurance policy for civilization might not be entirely out of place. The form of this policy would be an encyclopedia that could take a literate people from the stone age to some semblance of modernity. I doubt that existing encyclopedias could fill the bill. What is needed is an academic discipline of "practical epistemology" as opposed to the philosophical epistemology courses already in place. Without this, our current knowledge base is like a house of cards, functional to support modernity only if modernity is functional to support the knowledge base.

Perhaps a tomb or underground library could be established that would be useful if civilization got wiped out. Signs on a wall could easily teach Arabic numerals and basic arithmetic. Methods have been developed to teach children born deaf to talk. Perhaps some variation on these methods could teach alphabetic writing and the English language by written drawings and signs on a wall. Further learning could be pursued by means of books kept behind a door locked with a combination lock.

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