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Timothy Sandefur on the Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
This episode originally was published on July 31, 2019, and reposted here on May 5, 2024.

Self in Society Podcast #5
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Timothy Sandefur discusses the remarkable life and thought of science educator Jacob Bronowski, creator of the landmark documentary series The Ascent of Man. Sandefur's The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski is the first book-length biography of this fascinating figure.

Time Markers
00 Introduction
1:20 Who is Jacob Bronowski?
2:56 “The Fulfillment of Man”
4:25 Discovering Bronowski
5:50 Bronowski’s extemporaneous approach and the scene at Auschwitz
9:19 Bronowski the poet
13:13 Bronowski on the relation between art and science
19:20 WWII and Bronowski’s angst over the atomic bomb and the political uses of science
24:42 Leo Szilard, discoverer of the nuclear chain reaction
26:30 Sandefur’s biography as history of the Twentieth Century
27:23 The relationship between Bronowski’s war research, his views on statistics, and his research into Australopithecus
33:20 Bronowski’s turn to biology
36:42 The importance of science education and the debates over technological progress and democracy
41:26 Bronowski’s socialism
50:40 Bronowski’s epistemology
53:25 The similarities and differences in the views of Bronowski and Ayn Rand
55:37 Bronowski’s theory of induction in opposition to Hume
53:58 Sandefur’s approach to biography
1:06:17 More on the atomic bomb, with personal reflections (and more on biographical writing)
1:13:28 The Ascent of Timothy Sandefur

See Sandefur’s Goldwater Institute page, his Freespace blog, and his articles for the Objective Standard.

Here is a clip from The Ascent of Man where Bronowski visits Auschwitz.

Other works by Bronowski that Sandefur mentions during the podcast include The Common Sense of Science, Science and Human Values, and The Western Intellectual Tradition.

Regarding the atomic bomb, Sandefur mentions the book by Max Hastings, Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944–45, and I mention the book by John David Lewis, Nothing Less than Victory, which contains a chapter on the Japanese conflict.

Sandefur also mentions the book Inside Jokes by Matthew M. Hurley, Daniel C. Dennett, and Reginald B. Adams, Jr.

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