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Author Topic: Science Is in the Details (NY Times)  (Read 1399 times)
jonzr
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« on: Jul 27, 2009 at 23:40 »

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/27/opinion/27harris.html

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« Reply #1 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 11:03 »

Francis Collins is an accomplished scientist and a man who is sincere in his beliefs. And that is precisely what makes me so uncomfortable about his nomination. Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?

This shit cracks me up.  The "scientific community" seems to believe that we can come to an end of knowledge, this so-called "scientific understanding of human nature", merely substituting one pie-in-the-sky grand narrative (science) for another (god). 

It seems to me that science and religion, far from being enemies, make perfect partners in crime.  Religion is the perfect tool for science to cement its status as the current high-priesthood, as all it lacks is a sympathetic moral justification for its projects.  Both parties in fact have the same object:  limiting the sphere of imagination and keeping the individual from a true knowledge of his or her potential as creative force and active agent in an arbitrary universe. 

Both science and religion are soul-less.  Proof: why are the arts excluded from any discussion concerning our understanding of human nature, or of the universe? Because spontaniety violates the precepts of Aristotelian science and Aristotelian religion.  It wasn't god who died with the rise of rationalism, it was the artist.

Which is nothing that didn't need to be said by William Blake.
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« Reply #2 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 11:48 »

Both science and religion are soul-less.  Proof: why are the arts excluded from any discussion concerning our understanding of human nature, or of the universe? Because spontaniety violates the precepts of Aristotelian science and Aristotelian religion.  It wasn't god who died with the rise of rationalism, it was the artist.

Which is nothing that didn't need to be said by William Blake.

Guess I always thought of the arts as not excluded from but outside the discussion, by choice, observing and commenting.
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« Reply #3 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 11:56 »

If an individual accepts science or religion as a tool in the toolbox, so to speak, I don't see the limitation, Pens.  Say, calculating a trajectory to win a watermelon-catapulting contest, or belief in an afterlife as comfort when a loved one passes.  OK, fine.  One can still be that active agent, no?

But using religion to usurp the narrative of science for... what, apparent relgious ends?... Worries me greatly.  It would be like having a neurosurgeon who's also a holistic healer.  Now, maybe if I have a rash that the GP can't fix, I'll go to the holistic healer.  If I want a brain tumor removed, I'll go to the surgeon.  If that surgeon is some holistic cat, maybe he's stuffing a bunch of blackberries and ginseng into my cranial cavity once he opens that shit up.  Is this what I paid for?  Is it?  Fuckin' head fulla fuckin' berries.  Fuck.

An interesting observation on rationalism and art, though.  We see the Dionysian impulse bubble up occasionally, but the overwhelming reaction is to tamp it back down.  It's fine to be a hippie so long as you give that up and settle down and get a good job later on.  Cut down the Amazon to raise McDonald's cattle.  The only good intoxicants numb us from the reality of our lives.  The American suburban sublime.  Punk is co-opted and will now be a harmless soundtrack to whatever commercial happen to want to buy it.  The fucking media.  The fucking government being bought out.  Children aren't even children any more, they're pretty much organized activities from age, what, 4? 5? onward.  

There is no wilderness, no wildness, or at least no urge to cultivate or respect it.

Man dominating nature.  His own, and the external.

This was why we ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Because now we know, however we know it, we know it, we know it all.  And it's all so... good.  So good.
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« Reply #4 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 12:02 »

Both science and religion are soul-less.  Proof: why are the arts excluded from any discussion concerning our understanding of human nature, or of the universe? Because spontaniety violates the precepts of Aristotelian science and Aristotelian religion.  It wasn't god who died with the rise of rationalism, it was the artist.

Which is nothing that didn't need to be said by William Blake.

Guess I always thought of the arts as not excluded from but outside the discussion, by choice, observing and commenting.


Because that's its proscribed role under the rule of rationalism.  The artist is under no circumstances to be seen as a bearer of truth except in some oblique and abstract way that is fulfilled by a yearly visit to a museum designed exactly like a prison. Or hospital, same thing.  
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« Reply #5 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 12:25 »

Both science and religion are soul-less.  Proof: why are the arts excluded from any discussion concerning our understanding of human nature, or of the universe? Because spontaniety violates the precepts of Aristotelian science and Aristotelian religion.  It wasn't god who died with the rise of rationalism, it was the artist.

Which is nothing that didn't need to be said by William Blake.

Guess I always thought of the arts as not excluded from but outside the discussion, by choice, observing and commenting.


Because that's its proscribed role under the rule of rationalism.  The artist is under no circumstances to be seen as a bearer of truth except in some oblique and abstract way that is fulfilled by a yearly visit to a museum designed exactly like a prison. Or hospital, same thing. 

Go back to teaching your Engrish-speakers about the rationalist ancient Greeks. 
Both science and religion are soul-less.  Proof: why are the arts excluded from any discussion concerning our understanding of human nature, or of the universe? Because spontaniety violates the precepts of Aristotelian science and Aristotelian religion.  It wasn't god who died with the rise of rationalism, it was the artist.

Which is nothing that didn't need to be said by William Blake.

Guess I always thought of the arts as not excluded from but outside the discussion, by choice, observing and commenting.


Because that's its proscribed role under the rule of rationalism.  The artist is under no circumstances to be seen as a bearer of truth except in some oblique and abstract way that is fulfilled by a yearly visit to a museum designed exactly like a prison. Or hospital, same thing. 

I dunno.

Ben's game-winning drive wasn't in no prison or hospital...
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« Reply #6 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 12:28 »

If an individual accepts science or religion as a tool in the toolbox, so to speak, I don't see the limitation, Pens.  Say, calculating a trajectory to win a watermelon-catapulting contest, or belief in an afterlife as comfort when a loved one passes.  OK, fine.  One can still be that active agent, no?Quote
But using religion to usurp the narrative of science for... what, apparent religious ends?... Worries me greatly. 

Absolutely.  Science+Religion=Perfect Control Machine.

Quote
There is no wilderness, no wildness, or at least no urge to cultivate or respect it.


The heart of the matter.
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« Reply #7 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 13:10 »

Good analogy, but what did the well educated person read in 5th century Athens and 17th century Europe, what were they educated on?  Religious and/or philosophical texts?  And what % of them were even educated at all, I wonder.  How many could even afford to both own a book and eat?  I suppose it speaks to what was valued then vs today re: education.  Certainly, the arts have taken a beating, usually cut from budgets as unnecessary/extravagant.

Now take this book I'm reading, Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett.  There you have a philosopher (of the arts, yes?) discussing science and religion - more particularly, describing how science (evolution) can explain religion (I think that's the gist, still early on in the book).  So, Dennett is in the discussion, or is that not what you mean? 

Or is it that the discussion is of religion and science that is the problem?  You can't do away with them both.  Well, we could do w/out religion (imagine, it's easy if you try) but I kinda like medicine and bridges and the materials that go into those.  And while architecture is certainly an art, what would it be sans the engineering aspect?

I think we need science, otherwise we're poking around caves with sticks, waiting for the next big ba-boom to make fire so we can quit freezing our arses off.
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« Reply #8 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 13:34 »

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The context of this discussion centers around the institution of science as the current high-priesthood, not the limited scope of freedom any one individual currently enjoys.  

Point taken.

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« Reply #9 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 14:18 »

Now take this book I'm reading, Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett.  There you have a philosopher (of the arts, yes?) discussing science and religion - more particularly, describing how science (evolution) can explain religion (I think that's the gist, still early on in the book).  So, Dennett is in the discussion, or is that not what you mean? 

After my Julian Jaynes infatuation, I remember reading (some of) Dennett's Consciousness Explained.  In a gross oversimplification, and from my faulty memory, Dennett seemed to be saying that our consciousness is basically a product of our chipset, the motherboard in our head.  No god, no mystery, nothing ineffable.  I found that troubling at the time, as it seemed to be utterly deterministic:  there is no you, beyond your neurons, and no creativity beyond what was pre-wired for you.  At least if Jaynes explained away our gods as the workings of pre-conscious minds (rather like schizophrenics, with auditory hallucinations), he still emphasized that consciousness arose in part from language, and was expanded by our ability to create and understand metaphor.  In other words, we did have some say: Homer shaped Shakespeare shaped Joyce shaped Finny, telescoped: standing on the shoulders of those who came before me, and that very fact makes our consciousness a plastic and constantly evolving entity.  With who knows what effects thanks to the age of modern computers.

Dennett wants to expand from consciousness-as-chipset to God-as-chipset.  That's fine; I'd be interested to see how he expands that, where it intersects Jaynes, and whether he sees a neurological evolution away from religious belief.  If it's all just to show that God is Santa Claus, well, thanks, but that's been done to death.
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« Reply #10 on: Jul 30, 2009 at 14:35 »

It's been a few weeks since I picked that one up, but I'll let you know.

I did finish A Tale of Two Cities over my vacation, very much enjoyed it.  But it took 50+ pages until I felt comfortable with the antiquated language.  When I read the final sentence I thought, "Oh, so that's where that came from."  Most famous first and last sentences?  Enjoyable book, glad I read it.  Doubt I'll be rushing out to read Little Dorrit anytime soon but maybe I'll check out some Dickens in the future, at least the cherry has been popped.

Also read Diary of an Underachiever by I forget who.  It was sort of an autobiography of a guy who never really did that much (that society would recognize as working towards success) other than write the book.  Good read though, the guy can write.

Currently reading The Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling.  Some good ol' Steampunk.

Not sure when I'll get back to the Dennett, but will let you know how it turns out though it sounds like you probably nailed it.
« Last Edit: Jul 30, 2009 at 14:37 by jonzr » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: Jul 31, 2009 at 02:12 »

Quote from: jonzr
And what % of them were even educated at all, I wonder.Quote from: jonzr
How many could even afford to both own a book and eat? Iliad would have required at least four such scrolls.  Plus they were expensive.  Literature, in Athens, was a communal experience, via public readings, visiting speakers, or the numerous dramatic festivals held every year.  

In 17th c Europe, most of the wealthy class would want to have a decent library-- 10 or 20 books, at least--  for display if not intense study.  Also, the priests seemed always to be able to afford both eating and reading in quiet contemplation.  Go figure.

Quote from: jonzr
Religious and/or philosophical texts? Quote from: jonzr
Good analogy, but what did the well educated person read in 5th century Athens and 17th century Europe, what were they educated on?Quote from: jonzr
I suppose it speaks to what was valued then vs today re: education. Certainly, the arts have taken a beating, usually cut from budgets as unnecessary/extravagant.Quote from: jonzr
I think we need science,Quote from: finny
To say nothing of income and job woes.Quote from: finny
I'd be curious to know how posters here would answer that question: "How are you living?"Quote from: finny
Is the essence of art the antithesis of rationalism?

No; but that is a lie commonly attributed to (alternately) Nietszche or Descartes.  I have come to believe that it started when Plato divested the poets of their moral duties.

Quote from: finny
Isn't mystery at the heart of science, religion, and art? Quote from: finny
If modern society is out of balance (Koyaanisnazis!), why doesn't art flourish from some basic human need, a drought of the Dionysian? Quote from: finny
Aren't the institutions of control in our modern world just more evolved versions of those that existed in 5th century Athens or 17th century Europe? (Isn't what separates domesticated dogs of today from those of a thousand years ago just more creature comforts?)History<
Quote
Hasn't there always existed a war between order and wildness, and if it tilted precariously out of balance circa the Industrial Revolution, then shouldn't the book I want to write so badly be about returning that wildness to modern life in ways that defy logical explication?

It should be about time, yes.

Quote from: finny
I'm reminded of a childhood dream...  Perhaps what I apprehended then, at some unfathomably young age, was that like Persephone we are that sun-yellow corn, to have its mortal season in this world.

My dream is one that smells.  I get an odor every now and then. It is at one time comforting and then at another, nauseating.  Been happening for as long as I can remember.




Quote from: jonzr
I did finish A Tale of Two Cities over my vacation, very much enjoyed it. But it took 50+ pages until I felt comfortable with the antiquated language. When I read the final sentence I thought, "Oh, so that's where that came from." Quote from: jonzr
Doubt I'll be rushing out to read Little Dorrit anytime soon but maybe I'll check out some Dickens in the future, at least the cherry has been popped.Tom Jones, Moll Flanders<Pickwick Papers
« Last Edit: Jul 31, 2009 at 02:26 by pensodyssey » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: Jul 31, 2009 at 08:43 »

Quote from: jonzr
I did finish A Tale of Two Cities over my vacation, very much enjoyed it. But it took 50+ pages until I felt comfortable with the antiquated language. When I read the final sentence I thought, "Oh, so that's where that came from."

Quote from: penso
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« Reply #13 on: Jul 31, 2009 at 12:49 »

Quote from: jonzr
Well, even if you're ridiculing me and I don't even know it ...

Don't think he's ridiculing you, just general Pensoidal smartassery.

Quote from: pensodyssey
There should be a law of the conservation of happiness and suffering, to parallel the laws concerning matter and energy.

"The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. Let us not speak well of it either. Let us not speak of it at all. It is true the population has increased." - Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Quote from: pensodyssey
Quote from: pensodyssey
Quote from: pensodyssey
If my law [FW: or Pozzo's Law]<Quote from: pensodyssey
Thucydides (I know you hate the mention of the name, Finny) argues in his History that societies are at their most prosperous when they submit to traditional religious and codified laws, but at the same time have open arguments about the course of action for the state.

I find that formulation very pleasing, and I cannot explain why.

Quote from: pensodyssey
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« Reply #14 on: Jul 31, 2009 at 13:29 »

Damn, I can't hang with this conversation, so I'm gonna stand over there and listen after this.  But how am I living?

Well.  Can't be so loquacious as the findude, but I'd say that my happiness level is mostly consistent. I am content.  Over the last year I've awakened from a stupor that consumed most of my adult life.  Now, I'm in a good place.

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« Reply #15 on: Jul 31, 2009 at 14:03 »

Damn, I can't hang with this conversation...


Yes you can.  You started the damn thing!

Over the last year I've awakened from a stupor that consumed most of my adult life.


That would seriously impede my FF draft strategy.  


This made me think of Basho's death haiku.  There are various translations, with the first line dealing with being sickened while traveling.  The version I'm familiar with continues:  my dreams arose to march again / into hollow lands...  Of course, sometimes death can mean the death of the old. 
« Last Edit: Jul 31, 2009 at 14:16 by Finnegans Wake » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: Jul 31, 2009 at 21:50 »

Quote from: finny
Quote from: jonzr
Quote from: finny
Quote from:  pensodyssey

There should be a law of the conservation of happiness and suffering, to parallel the laws concerning matter and energy.
"The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh. Let us not then speak ill of our generation, it is not any unhappier than its predecessors. Let us not speak well of it either. Let us not speak of it at all. It is true the population has increased." - Samuel Beckett, Waiting for GodotQuote from: finny
Quote from: finny
I find that formulation very pleasing, and I cannot explain why.

Thucydides has a lot to recommend him.  In the end though, I have to put him down because of his snobbery; for example, he endorses religion as a method of social control while snickering at those who might actually believe such nonsense.  A little too cynical for me.  But he was also an upper-class twit so there you go.

Quote from: finny
Quote from: finny
And I suspect that most Americans, oblivious or impervious to real suffering, would trot out a long list of complaints, invariably predictable by life stage.Quote from: finny
Quote from: finny
I am happy to hear the rain.

More Pound:  The wind is part of the process.  The rain is part of the process.

Quote from: finny
There is the sharp dichotomy of awareness. Of the Zen mind and of, what, the determining factors of lifestyle: of politics, of how much money I have in the bank and how much I will need as time goes on, of the demands of my calendar (taking the car for service, social engagements) and the demands of mundane tasks (gutters need cleaned, front stoop needs repainted), from the big and uncontrollable to the things I can address with my own two hands. The search for meaning amidst all this, and the knowledge that there is meaning every day that is easily overlooked. Life continues to incite curiosity in me. Life is good. Yes, that is all.

Oddly, or not, I came to the same conclusion.  The meaning of life is living.


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