First of all, I’m retired! My career spanned three departments in the U.S. Federal government: Defense, Energy, and Transportation as a mathematician, operations research analyst, and transportation specialist and supervisor. I played a bit part in fighting the cold war by updating the navigation system of the cruise missile planning system that led to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987. After that, most of my career involved energy and transportation data collection and analysis.
I led the incorporation of data archiving in the U.S. architecture for Intelligent Transportation Systems (which means the data collected to operate transportation systems will be saved and used for multiple purposes). I helped start an international society for weighing vehicles in motion (ISWIM). I supervised a division that compiled highway performance statistics while we transitioned to geographic information systems and updated highway functional classifications.
More to the point of this blog are three things to know about me: (1) I’m a Christian. I was baptized as an infant in a Presbyterian church, raised in a local community church, came to conscious faith through the charismatic movement of the 1970s, attended a variety of churches over the years, married while at an Episcopal (Anglican) church, and ended up at a Lutheran church (LCMS). Ironically, all my grandparents were Lutheran so it is something of a coming home.
(2) I’m a realist, a metaphysical or philosophical realist that is. Realism is the position that reality is in some sense independent of us. The best introduction to what that means is Etienne Gilson’s book Methodical Realism. There’s an excerpt called “The Realist Beginner’s Handbook” online at http://www.inters.org/Gilson-Realist-Handbook. Realism is distinguished from idealism for which “reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial” and materialism for which the only thing that exists is physical matter or at least everything can be explained in terms of physical matter. These seemingly abstruse philosophical issues make a surprisingly large difference in how we think and what we do.
(3) I’m a generalist, as opposed to a specialist. In this era of hyper-specialization it is easy to see some trees and miss the forest. I look for the big picture, the overall meaning and significance rather than getting bogged down in minutia. This is harder than it seems and a good generalist is a kind of specialist in a sense. I could also be called a scientific amateur, an old-fashioned term emphasizing pursuit of science for love rather than money (from French amateur, “one who loves”).
RA Gillmann, info (at) isoul (dot) org.