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Monday, September 19, 2005

An Easter Bunny in Georgia

Guess what was once taught and debated by the brightest minds in the world?

-the brain served to cool the blood
-the world consisted of earth, wind, water, and fire
-major catastrophes were caused by heavenly wrath
-the sun and planets revolved around the earth

It was all utter nonsense of course, and Ancient Greece was all the better for it. That the Greeks debated what we now know are nonsensical ideas belies the point that their interest was marked and accentuated by the debate itself. Debating something means that in your minds eye you are looking to the pros and cons of an argument, and are applying critical thinking. Nowadays we know better, and ancient beliefs don't hold much scrutiny to a critical eye. But that doesn't mean that us smarter folks wouldn't be passionately stirred to debate with some rube who comes up with the theory the earth is hollow, that the Easter Bunny exists, or that Santa Claus is coming to town. That the Ancient Greeks debated topics that have as much relevance as Santa Claus should tell us something, since after all didn't western civilization derive from such an intellectual ferment? Indeed, arguing about stupid ideas is just the thing for idle minds.

Enter the evolution argument. Evangelical Christians believe that we need a little Deistic hocus pocus to make the world work, and that evolution doesn't quite cut it when compared to the simple elegance of a Garden of Eden. To which I must add, bring it on! And while you're at it, introduce into the curricula the world views of Hindus', Buddhists and animists into the argument as well. You see, when an argument is stupid enough, it gets the critical juices flowing, and forces people to think, which is a whole lot better than reducing the world to the rote memorization of facts. And who knows, perhaps Lord Shiva will win out in the end, as I may likely find out in my next reincarnation.


Joseph W. Freynik said...

Beware, my friend,
The matrix has you.

All the "falacies" that you name were creative attempts to explain certain observed phenomena. Mental models. Theories.

Just like . . . say . . . evolution?

You're ridicule of your brothers and sisters from years gone by is both arrogant and near-sighted. Will scientists on blogs (or their 45th century equivalent) be ridiculing you and your Darwin-worshipping colleagues? I think that they will, though not for reasons you might expect.

Because evolution will be seen as short-sighted. Myopic about itself and its abilities and, most of all, its limitations. The obsession with form and function to the exclusion of all else. The obsession with being the only game in town.

I believe that the intelligent design debate in the schools would move science ahead much more rapidly and be GOOD for science, not because it has any real substance, (though I do find it interesting) rather because it will allow our students and teachers to see science "from the outside" as the tool that it is. It is nothing more. And, further, it is useless without the creative process of coming up with new theories. All science can do is test and disprove. It can't even prove positive. Progress in science depends upon the creative inspiration of theory generation and that is something that is beyond calculation, doesn't fit into a test tube and resists the double blind study. So, until you can come up with a better theory, go ahead and ridicule the poor slobs who went before, who you have disproven. Don't worry about where those new theories will come from. Don't trouble your mind about the creative process. Just remember it's all nuts and bolts. If you can only find a microscope powerful enough maybe you can pry open the human brain and find the store of creative energy that lies hidden inside. Perhaps you can build yourself a nice shiny new soul.

But then again, maybe there is no spoon.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. Mesmer,

I find your articles really interesting. How should I cite you?
Can you let me know?


A.J. Stanson said...


That is an order.