Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ask a "Dangerous" Question, Get a Banal Answer

For some unfathomable reason, The Edge World Question Center has asked academics what they think the most dangerous idea is. Apparently they have some authority to answer the question.

"Open Source currency" as described by Douglas Rushkoff sounds interesting, as does Rupert Sheldrake's reflection on the unsolved problem of animal navigation. After reading Metropolitan Zizioulas's Being and Communion, I hope to revisit certain concepts of relativity. Lee Smolin describes one of these concepts as Relationalism, "according to which the world is a network of relationships which evolve in time. There is no absolute background and the properties of anything are only defined in terms of its participation in this network of relations."

Though I doubt Christian theology can neglect the absolute, Smolin might have a partial grasp on something.

After reading too much Jorge Luis Borges, I have realized a solution to the problem provoked by the Benjamin Libet experiments, which are mentioned in the article. The experiments indicated that unconscious intention precedes any conscious sense of intention. Libet used this to deny free will. I respond with an opinion of surreal kookery:

the human will in fact has a limited capacity to affect the past, preparing the past organism from a future time, as some have described the "final causes" at work in biology.

The collection as a whole is rather amusing. There are many village atheists and plenty of those very odd neuroscientists and their epigones who deny that the self exists. A few realize that atheism discourages any further reproduction and that they shall be overrun by the prolific and credulous masses. Apparently this does not encourage them to have more babies.

A few respondents even try to turn scientific research into a religion. A particularly hillarious example thereof:

But what if? What if we appropriated the craft, the artistry, the methods of formal religion to get the message across? Imagine 'Einstein's Witnesses' going door to door or TV evangelists passionately espousing the beauty of evolution.

Imagine a Church of Latter Day Scientists where believers could gather. Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way. Or others rejoicing in the nuclear force that makes possible the sunlight of our star and the starlight of distant suns. And can't you just hear the hymns sung to the antiquity of the universe, its abiding laws, and the heaven above that 'we' will all one day inhabit, together, commingled, spread out like a nebula against a diamond sky?

One day, the sites we hold most sacred just might be the astronomical observatories, the particle accelerators, the university research installations, and other laboratories where the high priests of science — the biologists, the physicists, the astronomers, the chemists — engage in the noble pursuit of uncovering the workings of nature herself. And today's museums, expositional halls, and planetaria may then become tomorrow's houses of worship, where these revealed truths, and the wonder of our interconnectedness with the cosmos, are glorified in song by the devout and the soulful.

"Hallelujah!", they will sing. "May the force be with you!"

This was written by Carolyn Porco, Planetary Scientist; Cassini Imaging Science Team Leader; Director CICLOPS, Boulder CO; Adjunct Professor, University of Colorado, University of Arizona.

Apparently she is also a victim of the mind tricks of some secret cult of would-be Jedi. Any scientist who worships her tools is as cracked as those ancient paynim reputed to worship idols made by their own hands.

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