The value of theoretical knowledge or the usefulness of useless knowledge

English: Photograph of Abraham Flexner
English: Photograph of Abraham Flexner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It’s theoretical” or “it’s soooo theoretical” or “this is just theory”… Theory and knowledge sought for their own sake are often seen as  less than real, not quite true, and a waste of time. Considering the past of human knowledge adventure, which is sprinkled with false or kooky theories, some would rush to say “Amen” to all this.

Yet, to paraphrase Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame science “is all about figuring out in your head that which you would rather not do…” Once you figured it all out theoretically, practical applications are a mere formality… This has been proven time and time again. An example would the theoretical discovery of electromagnetic radiation, which made radio possible. Abraham Flexner makes this point brilliantly… If you are an educator, next time your students ask you “what good is all this theoretical stuff”, give them to read this article…


Sorin Adam Matei

Sorin Adam Matei - Professor of Communication at Purdue University - studies the relationship between information technology and social groups. He published papers and articles in Journal of Communication, Communication Research, Information Society, and Foreign Policy. He is the author or co-editor of several books. The most recent is Structural differentation in social media. He also co-edited Ethical Reasoning in Big Data,Transparency in social media and Roles, Trust, and Reputation in Social Media Knowledge Markets: Theory and Methods (Computational Social Sciences) , all three the product of the NSF funded KredibleNet project. Dr. Matei's teaching portfolio includes online interaction, and online community analytics and development classes. His teaching makes use of a number of software platforms he has codeveloped, such as Visible Effort . Dr. Matei is also known for his media work. He is a former BBC World Service journalist whose contributions have been published in Esquire and several leading Romanian newspapers. In Romania, he is known for his books Boierii Mintii (The Mind Boyars), Idolii forului (Idols of the forum), and Idei de schimb (Spare ideas).

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