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I'm the mind swaying silently from behind observing the kind of timeless rhyme ancient cultures perceived divine
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    C.P. Snow (1905-1980)


    No Field of Study Is An Island

    Is it important to understand physical anthropology if you're a social worker? To comprehend human evolutionary biology if you're an ethicist? Or is does it even matter if you're a mathematician and think it irrelevant to appreciate Shakespeare? C.P. Snow, 20th century English physicist and novelist, realized the intellectual impoverishment that both scientists and humanists had in their ignorance of one another's disciplines. He articulated his thesis in an influential 1959 Rede Lecture given at the University of Cambridge entitled The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. He believed that the quality of education around the world was declining and that the over-emphasis of specialization was creating intellectual barriers between the humanities and the sciences that would become a hindrance in solving the world's problems.

    The Program And Its Context

    Today, in an ever-accelerating world, where technology and globalization have completely transformed the ways in which we not only interact with one another but how we think of one another, is a rising trend among leading thinkers around the globe for increased interaction between all the sciences. Far removed from the arcane notions of the "Ivory Tower" of the academic intelligentsia "controlling" in a sense the intellectual currency of society, our new context, in large part due to the democratizing power of the Internet, global trade, and accelerated development of myriad forms of media in the exchange of ideas, has galvanized a new sense of awareness that interdisciplinary dialogue and constructive cross-pollination of academic fields is in order. The lines have already begun to blur.

    It should be acknowledged, however, that specialization has its place and should be encouraged; in a variety of fields it is definitely necessary to further enrich a respective discipline's academic culture, but what is equally important, if not more important, is an appreciation of other forms of knowledge or methodologies that contrast one's own specific field of discipline. In other words, there is no need for mutual antagonism between the humanities and the sciences, but rather a belief that dialogue could perhaps enrich our mutual understanding of the world in ways we are only slowly beginning to realize. For example, E.O. Wilson and Mark Hauser can add insight into morality and aesthetic judgment based on genetic predisposition and physiological phenomenon; and even Janna Lewis and Rebecca Goldstein argue that mathematicians tend to use values like beauty and elegance to describe mathematical formulas.

    Conversations

    SeedMagazine.com created a video series concerning this very subject, which was the inspiration of this post, entitled "The 50th Anniversary of the 'Two Cultures': Where are we now?". Interviews include E.O. Wilson, Janna Lewis, Rebecca Goldstein, and Mark Hauser (as mentioned) along with Laszlo Barabasi and Steven Pinker.


    Seedmagazine.com


    To view the interviews in their entirety, go to this link: The Two Cultures

    So what do you think? Is dialogue important between the "two cultures"? Does it serve any pragmatic purpose, or is all of this just intellectual noise? Can real progress be gained to "build bridges", or will the two cultures always communicate at cross-purposes, where science is science and the humanities are the humanities, and "never the twain shall meet"? Feel free to leave a response if you like.
    Mon, Jun 8, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: Science, culture, dialogue, humanities
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    SANSULA Dominik Eulberg musicvideo from dirk rauscher on Vimeo.



    "Nature is man's teacher. She unfolds her treasures to his search, unseals his eye, illumes his mind, and purifies his heart; an influence breathes from all the sights and sounds of her existence."

    ~Alfred Billings Street
    Wed, May 20, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: art, nature
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    Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges writes:

    "...the solution of a mystery is always less impressive than the mystery itself. Mystery has something of the supernatural about it, and even of the divine; its solution, however, is always tainted by a sleight of hand."


    Though it is clear to us that in many ways we all need a sense of closure, there is also a certain aspect in revelation that seems anticlimactic; where an opportunity for infinite speculative possibilities are suspended, if not entirely terminated, due to the logical conflict resolution of let's say, a story. We might be introduced to a mystery or a plot twist and initially await its reason for being, perhaps even being annoyed for its unhurried solution. But imagine for a minute the experience of astonishment this mystery effected on you, the feeling of suspense, the seeming impossibility in the nature of the twist, or even the shocking turn of events it cascades towards possible outcomes, futures, or even inviting us to re-contextualize our previous notions. Your mind is captivated, or maybe even initially unperturbed, but since we are wired for order and structure, we begin to make sense of what we just experienced. Our mind wanders, journeying along logical and even intuitive roads, gathering reason and ingenuity; an inner monologue of creative solutions we entertain, even if they turn out being wrong in the end.

    There can be a secret delight in these mental exchanges, where our subjective self becomes a part of the story with our own unique anticipations. Where in a sense, if only for selfish moments, we become co-creators of the story with our imaginative musings. We are not quite at the denouement yet, not near the revelatory finale. Yet the fun is in the possibilities, and not so much in the official endgame. Solutions can in certain cases be an anticlimax where in dissipating the mystery exhausts the story's interest for us, an interest in speculative reasoning that the mystery empowers. It's the same reason why most of us don't bother with learning how magicians perform their magic tricks - part of the fun is in the feeling of amazement it gives us. To learn their secrets, we would lose that sense of wonder. Yet we are liberated in our ignorance. This is why we love mystery, because we fall in love with the mystery itself, in the freedom it gives us. Our minds, our imaginations, are free to roam wherever they take us.

    Famed producer J.J. Abrams shared his thoughts at a TED conference in March 2007 entitled "The Mystery Box". He echoes the same sentiments a Borges or a Chesterton would feel concerning the idea of conserving a sense of the mysterious.



    The idea of mystery has been as excruciating to me as much as it has been a mentor. It's like nature's way of tough love, a reminder that we can never know all the answers because we are limited. But within this realization there is a license for humility as much as there is a sense of freedom, for our imaginations to wander, for our minds to wonder, and even for our hearts to hope, despite the impossible.

    "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
    ~ Albert Einstein



    Tue, May 19, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: mystery, imagination
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    "You remember that existence of God thing that I had so much trouble understanding? Well guess what? I think I'm starting to grasp it now. Maybe just maybe it's a concept that similar to zero in mathematics. In other words, it's a symbol that denies the absence of meaning — The meaning that's necessitated by the delineation of one system from another. In analog that's God, in digital that's zero."
    - Tachkoma droid explaining the concept of God to a droid, Ghost in the Shell (Stand Alone Complex)

    "A child once asked me if I believe in God. I said, 'God is a concept like zero — does zero exist?'"
    - Larry Bierman

    "The Babylonians invented it, the Greeks banned it, the Hindus worshipped it, and the Church used it to fend off heretics. For centuries, the power of zero savored of the demonic; once harnessed, it became the most important tool in mathematics. [Zero has journeyed through history] as an Eastern philosophical concept [and struggled] to gain acceptance in Europe, and [has become] the apotheosis of the mystery of the black hole. Today, zero lies at the heart of one of the biggest scientific controversies of all time, the quest for a theory of everything..."
    - Zero, The Biography of a Dangerous Idea (Charles Seife) - notations added by me

    "Zero and infinity always looked suspiciously alike. Multiply zero by anything and you get zero. Multiply infinity by anything and you get infinity. Dividing a number by zero yields infinity; dividing a number by infinity yields zero. Adding zero to a number leaves the number unchanged. Adding a number to infinity leaves infinity unchanged....Zero and infinity are two sides of the same coin - equal and opposite, yin and yang, equally powerful adversaries at either end of the realm of numbers. The troublesome nature of zero lies with the strange power of the infinite, and it is possible to understand the infinite by studying zero."
    - Charles Seife
    Tue, May 19, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: God, zero, infinity
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