Big Reply 7

Gary Goodman (sap@TANK.RGS.UKY.EDU)
Mon, 8 Jul 1996 19:29:22 EDT

Big Reply 7

"The only real justification for our concepts and our system of
concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of our experience;
beyond that they have no legitimacy. I am convinced that the
philosophers have had a harmful effect upon the progress of scientific
thinking in removing certain fundamental concepts from the domain of
empiricism, where they are under our control, to the intangible heights
of the a priori."
--Albert Einstein, On the Meaning of Relativity

Clyde Davenport (clyde@BUS.HIROSHIMA-PU.AC.JP on Wednesday, June 19,
1996, 9:15:48 AM) replied to me:

I had commented:

>>IF we can recreate a civic religion that is both science and democracy
friendly: IF we can learn to extend the idea of truth beyond the
reductionist's test of refutation; IF we learn to fully accept the
multivalent and fuzzy relativity of reality; we may then have a

Clyde commented:

>What you are saying here is similar to what I said before about going
back to a more natural level of science, although this may only be a
misinterpretation. In regard to my previous comment about the paradox,
it is not necessarily that I wish to return quite simply to a
pre-Enlightenment religious view of the world. Well, actually, in some
ways I do in regard to recovering a more animistic notion of reality
which sees the world as a living thing rather than dead matter. But
here what I wanted to say was that for a while I believed that the
Christian (or Judeo-Christian, or Islamic) tradition of religion in the
West was entirely negative (Leslie White's thesis about Christianity and
environmental destruction, Carolyn Merchant's connection between the
Inquisition and scientific techniques, etc.) and thus turned my gaze to
Buddhism and East Asia, through my study of Buddhism and East Asian
thought I have found the same kind of contradictions cropping up in
their attitude towards the natural world, towards politics, towards
social relations, etc. This has been enlightening for me personally.
The West which is my own background has stopped being the monstrous
other I imagined it to be, and my view of Asia while losing some of its
idealism has deepened and matured. I appreciate how they were
imperfectly trying to realize the same sorts of things that the Western
tradition was (also imperfectly). And by comparing each civilizations
strengths and weaknesses you get a better idea of what the human
potential really is. Thus, my optimism.<

I had always suspected that C. P. Snow had done a lot of mischief with
his nonsense about the great gap between Artists and Men of Letters
(written in the early 50s) and Scientists, and here is good proof. Not
that the lingering effects of Logic-Positivism (although their
reductionist two-mode logic had been almost immediately superseded in
the field of Logic by more realistic and powerful multi -variant types
of Logic, for some odd reason many writers of science text seemed
convinced no advance had occurred since the early Thirties).

As for Leslie White...

"Science is not merely a collection of facts and formulas. It is
preeminently a way of dealing with experience. The word may be
appropriately used as a verb: one _sciences_,i.e., ideals with
experience according to certain assumptions and with certain techniques.
Science is one of two basic ways of dealing with experience. The other
is art. And this word too, may appropriately be used as a verb; one may
_art_ as well as science. The purpose of science and art is one: to
render experience intelligible, i.e., to assist man to adjust himself to
his environment in order that he may live. But although working toward
the same goal. science and art approach it from opposite directions.
Science deals with particulars in terms of universals: Uncle Tom
disappears in the mass of Negro slaves. Art deals with universals in
terms of particulars: the whole gamut of Negro slavery confronts us in
the person of Uncle Tom, Art and science thus grasp a common experience,
by opposite but inseparable poles."
--Leslie A. White, The Science of Cultures.

I never bought the argument. A problem is that White is so effective a
writer he carried us past the logical and practical ambiguities to his
conclusion. And he was much too fond of Either/Or.

Science of course uses Inductive as well as Deductive reasoning, is very
creative in its setting up of the hypothesis to be tested. Many of the
greatest ideas in Science by the accounts of the innovators came from
bursts of Artistic Imagination -- very often visual. Eureka! abound --
hardly the stereotypical plodding researcher.

But what tipped me off more than anything is White's description of Art.
As a visual artist, a teacher of Art, and now something of a writer, I
know Art is often far more plodding than popular fancy would like to
admit, and quite pragmatic for the most part, works from the particular
toward the general. No working artist would buy into White's description
of the process. So he got it wrong from both directions!

"Only the extension of scientific methods of thought far beyond their
legitimate limits of application led to the much deplored division in
the world of ideas between the fields of science on the one side and the
fields of religion and art on the other."
-- Werner Heisenberg

What some do not realize, for example, that MASS PRODUCTION and the
assembly line were inventions of artisans and artists -- not
technologists. Just think of the thousands of pots and trade items
cranked out. The Division of Labor in the shops and studios... Art
created the Industrial Revolution.

"....The perception that all the phenomena of Nature are systematically
interconnected drives science on to prove this systematic
interconnection throughout, both in general and in detail. But an
adequate, exhaustive scientific statement of this interconnection. the
formulation on thought of an exact picture of the world system in which
we live, is impossible for us, and will always remain impossible....
Each mental image of the world system is and remains in actual fact
limited, objectively through the historical stage and subjectively
through the physical and mental constitution of its maker...."
--Friedrich Engels, Anti-Duhring, 1878

Science, of course, is very much an art as much as it is a mechanical
technique. And most scientists I ever meet were interested in many form
of art. Or were amateur artists of one sort or another. I suspected also
this need to bi-polarize EVERYTHING is an artifact of not just Aristotle
but the Indo-Aryan Language itself..

Look at the dichotomies in Clyde's comments: Pre-Enlightement POV versus
post Enlightenment one. Materialism versus Animism. The Environment
versus Christianity. East versus West.

(BTW, though pretty familiar with the Inquisition I must admit to have
somehow completely missed "Carolyn Merchant's connection between the
Inquisition and scientific techniques" which considering the timing and
details I am aware of seems at first glance to be blithering nonsense --
anyone tell me the book or article this is in. I'd love to see how this
"connection" was made?)

This type of though patterns can hardly be laid at Science's door, and
if anything it has been Science more than anything which has at least
partially freed us from this.

Interesting I too spent considerable time exploring the philosophies of
the East and also found many contradictions and ambiguities (with
ambiguity even made a virtue in some schools of thought). I also found
fewer differences than I would have expected, once past the different
jargon. But then we easily forget that the Semitic Religious Tradition
most of us were raised in is very much an Oriental one. The inputs of
the East into the West seem to goes back into early hominid times if we
believe the evidence of migrations and trade patterns.

I also suspect that some of the touted East Vs West is a hang-over form
the Chinese Room fads and other fashionable accounts of the Exotic World
of the Orient out of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Sold a lot of silk
screens and dense texts but also created an illusion of great
differences. Like advertising convinces people of the differences
between identical brand-name products.

"...while knowledge of the Cause which produces effects upon
consciousness is impossible, the existence of a Cause for those effects
is a datum of consciousness. Belief in a Power which transcends
knowledge is that fundamental element in Religion which survives all its
changes of form. This inexpugnable belief [has] proved to be likewise
that on which all exact Science is based. And this is also the
implication to which we are now led back by Force, ever changing its
manifestations but unchanged in quantity throughout all past time and
all future time, is that which we find alone makes possible each
concrete interpretation, and at last unifies all concrete

Toward some conclusion of this order, inquiry, scientific,
metaphysical, and theological, has been, and still is, manifestly
advancing.... Scientific progress is progress in that adjustment of
thought to things which we saw is going on, and must continue to go on,
but which can never arrive at anything like perfection. Still, though
Science can never be reduced to this form, and though only at a far
distant time can it be brought anywhere near it, a good deal may even
now be done in the way of approximation."
--Herbert Spencer, First Principles, 1862.

I had continued:

>>IF we can again talk of morality with either a snicker or the threat
of Hellfire we may have a chance.<<

Davenport commented:

>The case about hell may be more complicated than it seems. In the
Buddhist context: "Conversely, one may argue that the intensification
of the descriptions of hell and paradise reflects a radicalization of
traditional Buddhism in the face of a certain agnosticism--of which Chan
[Zen] may be one expression. Bernard Groethuysen has shown that this
was precisely the case in the Western context of post-Reformation."
(_The Rhetoric of Immediacy, Bernard Faure, Princeton Un Pr, 1991, p.

Well, maybe. But this seems a stretch. There are numerous other
explanations of the development of the concept of Hell which seem a
might more likely, but that is a BIG can of worms. Besides Hell was a
powerful concept in Europe well before the Reformation in a form
indistinguishable from that heard in many a Sunday Sermon. Remember the
preachers in their stern and plain Calvinistic churches did not have
those visual aids in the Medieval churches... They had to create word

My point anyway was the use of Hell as a stick to herd people toward
"Good," was one that had always been flawed, and no longer has any
measurable spiritual strength outside certain hysterics. It drives many
preachers up the wall Hell no longer seems very frightening to most of
the congregation. Even worse Heaven seems even more unbelievable.

And as justifications for morality the carrot-and-stick technique is as
sadly laughable as the treatment of Antisocial Personalities
predominating in our prisons with methodology equally out of the Dark
Ages. Or the attempts of addle-brained jurist to use "shame" and
humiliation to effect behavior change on often sociopathic criminals
without any conscience!

I went on:

>>But if we continue to see Providence as a projection of ourselves into
the divine sphere. Persist in confusing loyalty and faith, have both
pluralized and privatized our worship. At the same time we allow
religion to feel besieged, despite respectable numbers (far above the
church membership at the start of the Am. Revolution of but one in five
for instance), feeling that if people do not manifest absolute and
liberate belief in the divine the secular will vanish, we too may
vanish. (Perhaps helping to explain the widespread myth of a world-wide
conspiracy against Christianity. Or whichever religion one queries.)<<

Clyde replied:

>Christianity has a long history of feeling besieged (from its
beginnings). Buddhism had a quieter start, but in China and Japan of the
medieval period the doctrine that people were in an era of degenerate
faith became very strong. The modern era is thus not unique in this

And of course the Jews not only felt the World was Against Them, it
often was! (You ain't Paranoid if Everyone IS Out to Get You!). But
Christianity has never been nearly as unified as its tailored history
would like to present. Much, if not all, of its history has been that of
sectional and internal disputes. The Great Schism was merely the final
act of a division going back to the end of the First Century. We had
periods of Two or more Popes, many religious wars of Christians upon
Christian over issues that now seem very trite. And of course most
victims of the Inquisition were Christians.

"Science is useful not only in a practical way, but also in that it
determines how we think and feel. Religions have always embodied a view
of nature. Even the Bible begins with an account of cosmology. Today,
such thoughts about nature come primarily from science. They are as
imaginative and fantastic as ever. But today people ascribe a very
limited role to science. They continue to talk of the arts and music as
culture, but neglect the fact that our view of ourselves and our
perception of what our world is like are equally and vitally a part of
-- Victor Weisskopf

As for feeling besieged... Much of this was deliberate. Like in 1984 or
Mein Kampf. The need for an External Enemy even if one had to be created
out of almost nothing (like Satan). Yet this is certainly true of many
Oriental and Eastern Religions. This unity in the face of the Enemy is
an old but powerful method of societal control.

I had also commented:

>>Understanding better how we got here is VITAL to moving on from

Clyde Davenport adds:

>I couldn't agree more.<

"The most spiritual element in science is its skepticism, its courage
to doubt everything and believe nothing without sufficient evidence....
Just as credulity has made our medieval saints, so has doubt made our
modern gods who overcome nature and blessed man."
-- Hu Shin, Ph.D. [Chinese ambassador to US 1938-1942], 1927

I had ended with:

>>So here is a place for The Science of Humankind...<<

To which CD added:

>Well, I still think the focus of science should be on nature, and
people's place in nature. Our humanity grows from this connection I

Of course, but when wasn't it always?

"Every natural science would be worthless if its claims could not be
tested by observation of nature; every art would be worthless if it was
no longer able to move men, no longer able to illuminate for them the
meaning of existence."
--Werner Heisenberg, 1960

"The belief that all things are made of a single substance is as old as
thought itself; but ours is the generation which, first of all in
history, is able to perceive the unity of Nature not as a baseless dogma
or a hapless aspiration, but a principle of science based on proof as
sharp and clear as anything which is known."
--Karl K. Darrow, The Renaissance of Physics, 1936, pg. 301

Gary Goodman
McDaniels, KY

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