With Regard to Science
And in saying this I am not advocating a return to medievalist metaphysics, or leaving a door open so that I can whip out my own bizarre theories and try to convert you
But it needs to be said: Things are not so straightforward as all of the rationalists are walking around pretending.
Things look very clear cut in the text books — but that is not science, that is dogma — and dogma always has the fat trimmed off. If you have ever actually engaged in scientific experimentation then what I am saying now will be immediately obvious to you — there is no such thing as a clean experiment.
It almost never works out in practice like it does in the first year physics book — with all the sig figs being where they are supposed to be, and the law being obvious and apparent. Where it does — like in the Millikan Oil Drop experiment (which is an astoundingly beautiful experiment) the environment has been highly contrived to produce the desired results. That doesn’t at all mean that the result is invalid — but it does mean that narrative has a central place in the process.
Life as it comes to us is messy — and anyone who tells you that science does not posses narrative is lying. As soon as you construct an experiment — and I don’t mean quantum interaction with consciousness or any foofy shit like that — just a simple pendulum experiment, you are no longer observing — you are creating a situation which does not exist by itself in nature. You are imposing a narrative — and the order of your results partially reflects order in nature, and partially the order of the experiment.
Science education does us a great dis-service when it presents the ideas of inertia and force and acceleration as if they are self evident and clear. People argued about those concepts for almost 2000 years before getting a satisfactory formal representation. When you go and memorize that, and then hold yourself up like you thought of it yourself you are just being a buffoon. And it is assuredly not the case that one can tell from the outset, from a priori reasoning how much narrative, and what the narrative should be that will make sense of the columns of numbers. Or even which columns you should use.
Study your science history — it doesn’t matter what field you are looking into — there are 25 blind alleys to every well traveled thoroughfare that is used today, and a lot of what we use today is going to end up getting tossed out.
George Santayana says that we are born “in play” — life is already going when we get here — and it is important to remember that we will simply never get back to the beginning to see how it all came together. What we have is a whole mess of instincts, feelings, ideas, and words — and we are surrounded by complex and constantly changing phenomena that have deep symmetrical patterns — some of which appear to be more objective and some of which appear to be more subjective.
We take for granted that the life of a plant can be reduced to it’s chemistry — and I for one believe that there are good reasons to think this is the case. But it is important to acknowledge that you yourself have never actually seen that this is the case. You have never taken a plant apart on the molecular level, and put it back together, and observed the transition from a non-living set of chemical equations to a biological organism. You can take reductionism on faith, or you can accept it by way of an inductive argument, but you don’t get it through deduction, and you don’t get it through empiricism. You are accepting it based on the preponderance of the evidence, and a couple of value judgments besides. You are accepting a whole collection of abstractions, which you have likewise constructed partly from data, and partly from narrative. It all pulls together and makes a pretty coherent picture — which happens to leave out most of reality, and is filled with errors.
If you forget this, especially when you are arguing for a reason based life, then you fall into the same trap as every other faith on the planet — of assuming greater support for your own position than is actually warranted. The only reason to do that is to buoy up your ego. Put it aside man — you aren’t that important — the plant is important. AND YOU DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT THE PLANT IS.
And that is OK — lets look together…
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