“ "Insofar as she recognized at all that she was dreaming, she realized that she must be exploring her subconscious mind. She had heard it said that humans are supposed only to use about a tenth of their brains, and that no one was really clear what the other nine tenths were for, but she had certainly never heard it suggested that they were used for storing penguins." ”—Douglas Adams, English writer (1952-2001)
“ "It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…’
‘You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?’
‘No’, said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, ‘nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.’
‘Odd’, said Arthur, ‘I thought you said it was a democracy.’
‘I did’, said Ford. ‘It is.’
‘So’, said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, ‘why don’t people get rid of the lizards?’
‘It honestly doesn’t occur to them’, said Ford. ‘They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.’
‘You mean they actually vote for the lizards?’
‘Oh yes’, said Ford with a shrug, ‘of course.’
‘But’, said Arthur, going for the big one again, ‘why?’
‘Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard’, said Ford, ‘the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?’
‘I said’, said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, ‘have you got any gin?’
‘I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.’
Ford shrugged again.
‘Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them’, he said. ‘They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.’
‘But that’s terrible’, said Arthur.
‘Listen, bud’, said Ford, ‘if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say “That’s terrible” I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.” ”—Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, 1984
“ "The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away, and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be." ”—Douglas Adams, English writer and dramatist (1952-2001), in a Speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge, UK, (1998)
“ "Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see." ”—Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, 1987
“ “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what it is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” ”—Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“ "Change. It’s a wonderful thing. Look, you know how subatomic particles don’t obey physical laws? They act according to chance, chaos, coincidence. They run into each other in the middle of the universe somewhere and bang! Energy! We’re the same as that. That’s the great thing about the universe: unpredictable. That’s why it’s so much fun." ”—Tony Stonem a fictional character from the British television series Skins. Portrayed by Nicholas Hoult, the character was created by Bryan Elsley.
Due strade divergevano in un bosco giallo
e mi dispiaceva non poterle percorrere entrambe
ed essendo un solo viaggiatore, rimasi a lungo
a guardarne una fino a che potei
Poi presi l’altra, perché era altrettanto bella,
e aveva forse l’ aspetto migliore,
perché era erbosa e meno consumata;
Sebbene il passaggio le avesse rese
ed entrambe quella mattina erano lì uguali
con foglie che nessun passo aveva annerito.
Oh, misi da parte la prima per un altro giorno!
Pur sapendo come una strada porti ad un’altra,
dubitavo se mai sarei tornato indietro.
Lo racconterò con un sospiro
da qualche parte tra anni e anni:
due strade divergevano in un bosco, e io -
io presi la meno percorsa,
e quello ha fatto tutta la differenza.
“In this pilgrimage in search of modernity I lost my way at many points only to find myself again. I returned to the source and discovered that modernity is not outside but within us. It is today and the most ancient antiquity; it is tomorrow and the beginning of the world; it is a thousand years old and yet newborn. It speaks in Nahuatl, draws Chinese ideograms from the 9th century, and appears on the television screen. This intact present, recently unearthed, shakes off the dust of centuries, smiles and suddenly starts to fly, disappearing through the window.
A simultaneous plurality of time and presence: modernity breaks with the immediate past only to recover an age-old past and transform a tiny fertility figure from the neolithic into our contemporary. We pursue modernity in her incessant metamorphoses yet we never manage to trap her. She always escapes: each encounter ends in flight. We embrace her and she disappears immediately: it was just a little air. It is the instant, that bird that is everywhere and nowhere. We want to trap it alive but it flaps its wings and vanishes in the form of a handful of syllables. We are left empty-handed. Then the doors of perception open slightly and the other time appears, the real one we were searching for without knowing it: the present, the presence.” ”—Octavio Paz, Mexican writer, poet, and diplomat, and the winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature. (1914-1998)
“Jean Baudrillard on history, literature and media
"The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” - Ecclesiastes
“History is a strong myth, perhaps, along with the unconscious, the last great myth. It is a myth that at once subtended the possibility of an »objective« enchainment of events and causes and the possibility of a narrative enchainment of discourse. The age of history, if one can call it that, is also the age of the novel. It is this fabulous character, the mythical energy of an event or of a narrative, that today seems to be increasingly lost.
Behind a performative and demonstrative logic: the obsession with historical fidelity, with a perfect rendering […], this negative and implacable fidelity to the materiality of the past, to a particular scene of the past or of the present, to the restitution of an absolute simulacrum of the past or the present, which was substituted for all other value — we are complicitous in this, and this is irreversible. Because cinema itself contributed to the disappearance of history, and to the advent of the archive. Photography and cinema contributed in large part to the secularization of history, to fixing it in its visible »objective« form at the expense of the myths that once traversed it.
Today cinema can place all its talent, all its technology in the service of reanimating what it itself contributed to liquidating. It only resurrects ghosts, and it itself is lost therein.”
”—Jean Baudrillard, French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. (1929-2007), Simulacra and Simulation (translated by Sheila Faria Glaser) (tnx fuckyeahphilosophy)
"… it’s better for you to restrain your impatience and wait to open the book at home. Now. Yes, you are in your room, calm; you open the book to page one, no, to the last page, first you want to see how long it is. It’s not too long, fortunately. Long novels written today are perhaps a contradiction: the dimension of time has been shattered; we cannot love or think except in fragments of time each of which goes off along its own trajectory and immediately disappears. We can rediscover the continuity of time only in the novels of that period when time no longer seemed stopped and did not yet seem to have exploded, a period that lasted no more than a hundred years.
“The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him life; it went out from him truth. It came to him short-lived actions; it went out from him immortal thoughts. It came to him business; it went from him poetry. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.
Or, I might say, it depends on how far the process has gone, of transmuting life into truth. In proportion to the completeness of the distillation, so will the purity and imperishableness of the product be. But none is quite perfect. As no air-pump can by any means make a perfect vacuum, so neither can any artist entirely exclude the conventional, the local, the perishable from his book, or write a book of pure thought, that shall be as efficient, in all respects, to a remote posterity, as to contemporaries, or rather to the second age. Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the succeeding. The books of an older period will not fit this.
Yet hence arises a great mischief. The sacredness which attaches to the act of creation, the act of thought, is transferred to the record. The poet chanting was felt to be a divine man: henceforth the chant is divine also. The writer was a just and wise spirit: henceforward it is settled the book is perfect; as love of the hero corrupts into worship of his statue. Instantly the book becomes noxious: the guide is a tyrant. The sluggish and perverted minds of the multitude, slow to open to the incursions of Reason, having once so opened, having once received this book, stands upon it, and makes an outcry if it is disparaged. Colleges are built on it. Books are written on it by thinkers, not by Man Thinking; by men of talent, that is, who start wrong, who set out from accepted dogmas, not from their own sight of principles. Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given; forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books.
Instead of Man Thinking, we have the bookworm. Hence the book-learned class, who value books, as such; not as related to nature and the human constitution, but as making a sort of Third Estate with the world and the soul. Hence the restorers of readings, the emendators, the bibliomaniacs of all degrees.
Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire. I had better never see a book than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system. The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. This every man is entitled to; this every man contains within him, although in almost all men obstructed, and as yet unborn. The soul active sees absolute truth and utters truth, or creates. In this action it is genius; not the privilege of here and there a favorite, but the sound estate of every man. In its essence it is progressive. The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any kind, stop with some past utterance of genius. This is good, say they, – let us hold by this. They pin me down. They look backward and not forward. But genius looks forward: the eyes of man are set in his forehead, not in his hindhead: man hopes: genius creates.” ”—Ralph Waldo Emerson,“The American Scholar,” an oration delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge on August 31, 1837. Published in Emerson’s Nature; Addresses and Lectures, (J. Munroe, 1849), p. 83. Also available online here. Cited in Entersection.
“ "What really knocks me out is a good book, that when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it." ”—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irreprehensible, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing. The synchronicity phenomena point, it seems to me, in this direction, for they show that the nonpsychic can behave like the psychic, and vice versa, without there being any causal connection between them.” ”—Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker, and the founder of analytical psychology (1875-1961)
“ "The story of humankind is that of work substitution and human enhancement. The Neolithic revolution brought the substitution of some human physical work by animal work. The Industrial revolution brought more substitution of human physical work by machine work. The Digital revolution is implying a significant substitution of human brain work by computers and ICTs in general.
Whenever a substitution has taken place, men have been able to focus on more qualitative tasks, entering a virtuous cycle: the more qualitative the tasks, the more his intelligence develops; and the more intelligent he gets, more qualitative tasks he can perform…. As obesity might be the side-effect of physical work substitution by machines, mental laziness can become the watermark of mental work substitution by computers, thus having a negative effect instead of a positive one.” ”—Ismael Peña-Lopez, lecturer at the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science cited in Does Google Make Us Stupid?by Janna Quitney Anderson, Elon University, and Lee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project, February 19, 2010
“ "(…) It is impossible for a human individual, for mankind, to have real knowledge without at the same time having virtue. When it is said…that our knowledge has gone far beyond our morality, this is the same thing as to say that we need to rediscover how to join the attention of the heart to the powers of the mind and the perceptions of the senses. And this is to say, simply, that our being must catch up with our knowing." ”—Jacob Needleman in All Those Shining Worlds in Parabola vol. 29 no. 2, Summer 2004, “Web of Life”, p. 25 viaJacob Needleman on the complementarity of knowledge and virtue
“Nicholas Carr on what the internet is doing to our brains?
“Reading, explains Maryanne Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It’s not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains. Experiments demonstrate that readers of ideograms, such as the Chinese, develop a mental circuitry for reading that is very different from the circuitry found in those of us whose written language employs an alphabet. The variations extend across many regions of the brain, including those that govern such essential cognitive functions as memory and the interpretation of visual and auditory stimuli. We can expect as well that the circuits woven by our use of the Net will be different from those woven by our reading of books and other printed works. (…)
The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating “like clockwork.” Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating “like computers.” But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain’s plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level. (…)
It suggests a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive. The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network’s reigning business model as well. (…)
For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.”
But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski. (…) The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. (…)
In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).” ”—Nicholas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains, The Atlantic, July/August 2008. See also: Does Google Make Us Stupid? by Janna Quitney Anderson, Elon University, and Lee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project
“While the proliferation of technology and media can challenge humans’ capacity to concentrate there were signs that we are developing “fluid intelligence-the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, independent of acquired knowledge.” (…) By 2020, people’s use of the internet has enhanced human intelligence; as people are allowed unprecedented access to more information they become smarter and make better choices.Nicholas Carr was wrong: Google does not make us stupid.” — Jamais Cascio, writer and ethical futurist
“I feel compelled to agree with myself. But I would add that the Net’s effect on our intellectual lives will not be measured simply by average IQ scores. What the Net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence, away from what might be called a meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence. The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking.” — Nicholas Carr, American writer who has published books and articles on technology, business, and culture
“Google will make us more informed. The smartest person in the world could well be behind a plow in China or India. Providing universal access to information will allow such people to realize their full potential, providing benefits to the entire world.” — Hal Varian, Google, chief economis
The resources of the internet and search engines will shift cognitive capacities. We won’t have to remember as much, but we’ll have to think harder and have better critical thinking and analytical skills. Less time devoted to memorization gives people more time to master those new skills.
“Google will make us stupid and intelligent at the same time. In the future, we will live in a transparent 3D mobile media cloud that surrounds us everywhere. In this cloud, we will use intelligent machines, to whom we delegate both simple and complex tasks. Therefore, we will lose the skills we needed in the old days (e.g., reading paper maps while driving a car). But we will gain the skill to make better choices (e.g., knowing to choose the mortgage that is best for you instead of best for the bank). All in all, I think the gains outweigh the losses.” — Marcel Bullinga, Dutch Futurist at futurecheck.com
“What the internet (here subsumed tongue-in-cheek under “Google”) does is to support SOME parts of human intelligence, such as analysis, by REPLACING other parts such as memory. Thus, people will be more intelligent about, say, the logistics of moving around a geography because “Google” will remember the facts and relationships of various locations on their behalf. People will be better able to compare the revolutions of 1848 and 1789 because “Google” will remind them of all the details as needed. This is the continuation ad infinitum of the process launched by abacuses and calculators: we have become more “stupid” by losing our arithmetic skills but more intelligent at evaluating numbers.” — Andreas Kluth, writer, Economist magazine
“The question is flawed: Google will make intelligence different. As Carr himself suggests, Plato argued that reading and writing would make us stupid, and from the perspective of a preliterate, he was correct. Holding in your head information that is easily discoverable on Google will no longer be a mark of intelligence, but a side-show act. Being able to quickly and effectively discover information and solve problems, rather than do it “in your head,” will be the metric we use." — Alex Halavais, vice president, Association of Internet Researchers
“What Google does do is simply to enable us to shift certain tasks to the network — we no longer need to rote-learn certain seldomly-used facts (the periodic table, the post code of Ballarat) if they’re only a search away, for example. That’s problematic, of course — we put an awful amount of trust in places such as Wikipedia where such information is stored, and in search engines like Google through which we retrieve it — but it doesn’t make us stupid, any more than having access to a library (or in fact, access to writing) makes us stupid. That said, I don’t know that the reverse is true, either: Google and the Net also don’t automatically make us smarter. By 2020, we will have even more access to even more information, using even more sophisticated search and retrieval tools — but how smartly we can make use of this potential depends on whether our media literacies and capacities have caught up, too.” — Axel Bruns, Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology
Technology isn’t the problem here. It is people’s inherent character traits. The internet and search engines just enable people to be more of what they already are. If they are motivated to learn and shrewd, they will use new tools to explore in exciting new ways. If they are lazy or incapable of concentrating, they will find new ways to be distracted and goof off.
“There’s no doubt that the internet is an extension of human intelligence, both individual and collective. But the extent to which it’s able to augment intelligence depends on how much people are able to make it conform to their needs. Being able to look up who starred in the 2nd season of the Tracey Ullman show on Wikipedia is the lowest form of intelligence augmentation; being able to build social networks and interactive software that helps you answer specific questions or enrich your intellectual life is much more powerful. This will matter even more as the internet becomes more pervasive. Already my iPhone functions as the external, silicon lobe of my brain. For it to help me become even smarter, it will need to be even more effective and flexible than it already is. What worries me is that device manufacturers and internet developers are more concerned with lock-in than they are with making people smarter. That means it will be a constant struggle for individuals to reclaim their intelligence from the networks they increasingly depend upon.” — Dylan Tweney, senior editor, Wired magazine
“The answer is really: both. Google has already made us smarter, able to make faster choices from more information. Children, to say nothing of adults, scientists and professionals in virtually every field, can seek and discover knowledge in ways and with scope and scale that was unfathomable before Google. Google has undoubtedly expanded our access to knowledge that can be experienced on a screen, or even processed through algorithms, or mapped. Yet Google has also made us careless too, or stupid when, for instance, Google driving directions don’t get us to the right place. It has confused and overwhelmed us with choices, and with sources that are not easily differentiated or verified. Perhaps it’s even alienated us from the physical world itself — from knowledge and intelligence that comes from seeing, touching, hearing, breathing and tasting life. From looking into someone’s eyes and having them look back into ours. Perhaps it’s made us impatient, or shortened our attention spans, or diminished our ability to understand long thoughts. It’s enlightened anxiety. We know more than ever, and this makes us crazy.” — Andrew Nachison, co-founder, We Media
“Cambridge-based researchers provide new evidence that the human brain lives “on the edge of chaos”, at a critical transition point between randomness and order. (…) the dynamics of human brain networks have something important in common with some superficially very different systems in nature. Computational networks showing these characteristics have also been shown to have optimal memory (data storage) and information-processing capacity. In particular, critical systems are able to respond very rapidly and extensively to minor changes in their inputs. (…)
The researchers used state-of-the-art brain imaging techniques to measure dynamic changes in the synchronization of activity between different regions of the functional network in the human brain. Their results suggest that the brain operates in a self-organized critical state. To support this conclusion, they also investigated the synchronization of activity in computational models, and demonstrated that the dynamic profile they had found in the brain was exactly reflected in the models. Collectively, these results amount to strong evidence in favour of the idea that human brain dynamics exist at a critical point on the edge of chaos.” ”—The human brain is on the edge of chaos, Physorg, March 20th, 2009.
“Richard P. Feynman on the conflict between science and religion
“I do believe that there is a conflict between science and religion, religion more or less defined that way. And in order to bring the question to a position that is easy to discuss, by making the thing very definite, instead of trying to make a very difficult theological study, I would present a problem which I see happens from time to time.
A young man of a religious family goes to the university, say, and studies science. As a consequence of his study of science, he begins, naturally, to doubt as it is necessary in his studies. So first he begins to doubt, and then he begins to disbelieve, perhaps, in his father’s God. By „God” I mean the kind of personal God, to which one prays, who has something to do with creation, as one prays for moral values, perhaps. This phenomenon happens often. It is not an isolated or an imaginary case. In fact, I believe, although I have no direct statistics, that more than half of the scientists do not believe in their father’s God, or in God in a conventional sense. Most scientists do not believe in it. Why? What happens? By answering this question I think that we will point up most clearly the problems of the relation of religion and science.
Well, why is it? There are three possibilities. The first is that the young man is taught by the scientists, and I have already pointed out, they are atheists, and so their evil is spread from the teacher to the student, perpetually… (Thank you for the laughter.) If you take this point of view, I believe it shows that you know less of science than I know of religion. (…)
Another answer may be that a little knowledge is dangerous; this young man has learned a little bit and thinks he knows it all, but soon he will grow out of this sophomoric sophistication and come to realize that the world is more complicated, and he will begin again to understand that there must be a God.
I don’t think it is necessary that he come out of it. There are many scientists – men who hope to call themselves mature – who still don’t believe in God. In fact, as I would like to explain later, the answer is not that the young man thinks he knows it all – it is the exact opposite.
A third answer you might get is that this young man really doesn’t understand science correctly. I do not believe that science can disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible. And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God – an ordinary God of religion — a consistent possibility?
Yes, it is consistent. Despite the fact that I said that more than half of the scientists don’t believe in God, many scientists do believe in both science and God, in a perfectly consistent way. But this consistency, although possible, is not easy to attain, and I would like to try to discuss two things: Why it is not easy to attain, and whether it is worth attempting to attain it. (…)
Attitude of uncertainty
The first source of difficulty is this – that it is imperative in science to doubt; it is absolutely necessary, for progress in science, to have uncertainty as a fundamental part of your inner nature. To make progress in understanding we must remain modest and allow that we do not know. Nothing is certain or proved beyond all doubt. You investigate for curiosity, because it is unknown, not because you know the answer. And as you develop more information in the sciences, it is not that you are finding out the truth, but that you are finding out that this or that is more or less likely.
That is, if we investigate further, we find that the statements of science are not of what is true and what is not true, but statements of what is known to different degrees of certainty: “It is very much more likely that so and so is true than that it is not true;” or “such and such is almost certain but there is still a little bit of doubt;” or – at the other extreme – “well, we really don’t know.” (…)
I think that when we know that we actually do live in uncertainty, then we ought to admit it; it is of great value to realize that we do not know the answers to different questions. This attitude of mind – this attitude of uncertainty – is vital to the scientist, and it is this attitude of mind which the student must first acquire. It becomes a habit of thought. Once acquired, one cannot retreat from it any more. (…) (2)
[Young man] learns to doubt, that it is necessary to doubt, that it is valuable to doubt. So, he begins to question everything. The question that might have been before, „Is there a God or isn’t there a God” changes to the question „How sure am I that there is a God?” He now has a new and subtle problem that is different than it was before. (…) (1)
This very subtle change is a great stroke and represents a parting of the ways between science and religion. I do not believe a real scientist can ever believe in the same way again. Although there are scientists who believe in God, I do not believe that they think of God in the same way as religious people do. If they are consistent with their science, I think that they say something like this to themselves: “I am almost certain there is a God. The doubt is very small.” That is quite different from saying, “I know that there is a God.” I do not believe that a scientist can ever obtain that view – that really religious understanding, that real knowledge that there is a God – that absolute certainty which religious people have. (…) (2)
Of course it is true that the man does not usually start by doubting directly the existence of God. He usually starts by doubting some other details of the belief, such as the belief in an afterlife, or some of the details of Christ’s life, or something like this. But in order to make this question as sharp as possible, to be frank with it, I will simplify it and will come right directly to the question of this problem about whether there is a God or not. (1)
Belief in God – and the facts of science
That brings us to the second difficulty our student has in trying to weld science and religion: Why does it often end up that the belief in God – at least, the God of the religious type – is considered to be very unreasonable, very unlikely? I think that the answer has to do with the scientific things – the facts or partial facts – that the man learns. (…)(2)
The result of this self - study or thinking, or whatever it is, often ends with a conclusion that is very close to certainty that there is a God. And it often ends, on the other hand, with the claim that it is almost certainly wrong to believe that there is a God. (…)
Now the second difficulty that the student has when he studies science, and which is, in a measure, a kind of conflict between science and religion, because it is a human difficulty that happens when you are educated two ways. Although we may argue theologically and on a high-class philosophical level that there is no conflict, it is still true that the young man who comes from a religious family gets into some argument with himself and his friends when he studies science, so there is some kind of a conflict.
Well, the second origin of a type of conflict is associated with the facts, or, more carefully, the partial facts that he learns in the science. For example, he learns about the size of the universe. The size of the universe is very impressive, with us on a tiny particle that whirls around the sun. That’s one sun among a hundred thousand million suns in this galaxy, itself among a billion galaxies. And again, he learns about the close biological relationship of man to the animals and of one form of life to another and that man is a latecomer in a long and vast, evolving drama. Can the rest be just a scaffolding for His creation? And yet again there are the atoms, of which all appears to be constructed following immutable laws. Nothing can escape it. The stars are made of the same stuff, the animals are made of the same stuff—but in some such complexity as to mysteriously appear alive.
It is a great adventure to contemplate the universe, beyond man, to contemplate what it would be like without man, as it was in a great part of its long history and as it is in a great majority of places. When this objective view is finally attained, and the mystery and majesty of matter are fully appreciated, to then turn the objective eye back on man viewed as matter, to view life as part of this universal mystery of greatest depth, is to sense an experience which is very rare, and very exciting. It usually ends in laughter and a delight in the futility of trying to understand what this atom in the universe is, this thing—atoms with curiosity—that looks at itself and wonders why it wonders. Well, these scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.” (…)(1)
Religion has many aspects; it answers all kinds of questions. First, for example, it answers questions about what things are, where they come from, what man is, what God is – the properties of God, and so on. Let me call this the metaphysical aspect of religion. It also tells us another thing – how to behave. Leave out of this the idea of how to behave in certain ceremonies, and what rites to perform; I mean it tells us how to behave in life in general, in a moral way. It gives answers to moral questions; it gives a moral and ethical code. Let me call this the ethical aspect of religion.
Now, we know that, even with moral values granted, human beings are very weak; they must be reminded of the moral values in order that they may be able to follow their consciences. It is not simply a matter of having a right conscience; it is also a question of maintaining strength to do what you know is right. And it is necessary that religion give strength and comfort and the inspiration to follow these moral views. This is the inspirational aspect of religion. It gives inspiration not only for moral conduct – it gives inspiration for the arts and for all kinds of great thoughts and actions as well. (…)
So these three things are very well interconnected. The difficulty is this: that science occasionally conflicts with the first of the three categories – the metaphysical aspect of religion. For instance, in the past there was an argument about whether the earth was the center of the universe – whether the earth moved around the sun or stayed still. The result of all this was a terrible strife and difficulty, but it was finally resolved – with religion retreating in this particular case. More recently there was a conflict over the question of whether man has animal ancestry. (…)
After all, the earth moves around the sun – isn’t it best to torn the other cheek? Does it make any difference whether the earth is standing still or moving around the son? We can expect conflict again. Science is developing and new things will be found out which will he in disagreement with the present‑day metaphysical theory of certain religions. In fact, even with all the past retreats of religion, there is still real conflict for particular individuals when they learn about the science and they have heard about the religion. The thing has not been integrated very well; there are real conflicts here – and yet morals are not affected.
As a matter of fact, the conflict is doubly difficult in this metaphysical region. (…) The spirit of uncertainty in science is an attitude toward the metaphysical questions that is quite different from the certainty and faith that is demanded in religion. There is definitely a conflict, I believe – both in fact and in spirit – over the metaphysical aspects of religion.
In my opinion, it is not possible for religion to find a set of metaphysical ideas which will be guaranteed not to get into conflicts with an ever‑advancing and always‑changing science which is going into an unknown. We don’t know how to answer the questions; it is impossible to find an answer which someday will not be found to be wrong. The difficulty arises because science and religion are both trying to answer questions in the same realm here. (…)
Science and moral questions
(…) The typical human problem, and one whose answer religion aims to supply, is always of the following form: Should I do this? Should we do this? Should the government do this? To answer this question we can resolve it into two parts: First — If I do this, what will happen? – and second – Do I want that to happen? What would come of it of value – of good?
Now a question of the form: If I do this, what will happen? is strictly scientific. As a matter of fact, science can be defined as a method for, and a body of information obtained by, trying to answer only questions which can be put into the form: If I do this, what will happen? The technique of it, fundamentally, is: Try it and see. Then you put together a large amount of information from such experiences. All scientists will agree that a question – any question, philosophical or other – which cannot be put into the form that can be tested by experiment (or, in simple terms, that cannot be put into the form: If I do this, what will happen?) is not a scientific question; it is outside the realm of science.
I claim that whether you want something to happen or not – what value there is in the result, and how you judge the value of the result (which is the other end of the question: Should I do this?) – must lie outside of science because it is not a question that you can answer only by knowing what happens; you still have to judge what happens – in a moral way. So, for this theoretical reason I think that there is a complete consistency between the moral view – or the ethical aspect of religion – and scientific information.
Turning to the third aspect of religion – the inspirational aspect – brings me to the central question that I would like to present to this imaginary panel. The source of inspiration today – for strength and for comfort – in any religion is very closely knit with the metaphysical aspect; that is, the inspiration comes from working for God, for obeying his will, feeling one with God. Emotional ties to the moral code – based in this manner – begin to be severely weakened when doubt, even a small amount of doubt, is expressed as to the existence of God; so when the belief in God becomes uncertain, this particular method of obtaining inspiration fails.
I don’t know the answer to this central problem – the problem of maintaining the real value of religion, as a source of strength and of courage to most men, while, at the same time, not requiring an absolute faith in the metaphysical aspects. (2)
The heritages of Western civilization
Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure - the adventure into the unknown, an unknown that must be recognized as unknown in order to be explored, the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered, the attitude that all is uncertain. To summarize it: humility of the intellect.
The other great heritage is Christian ethics—the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual, the humility of the spirit.
These two heritages are logically, thoroughly consistent. But logic is not all. One needs one’s heart to follow an idea. If people are going back to religion, what are they going back to? Is the modern church a place to give comfort to a man who doubts God? More, one who disbelieves in God? Is the modern church the place to give comfort and encouragement to the value of such doubts? So far, haven’t we drawn strength and comfort to maintain the one or the other of these consistent heritages in a way which attacks the values of the other? Is this unavoidable? How can we draw inspiration to support these two pillars of Western civilization so that they may stand together in full vigor, mutually unafraid? That, I don’t know. But that, I think, is the best I can do on the relationship of science and religion, the religion which has been in the past and still is, therefore, a source of moral code as well as inspiration to follow that code. (1)”
“ "Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love." ”—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
“ "Immature love says: "I love you because I need you." Mature love says: "I need you because I love you." ”—Erich Fromm, social psychologist, psychoanalyst, humanistic philosopher (1900-1980), The Art of Loving, Harper & Row, New York, 1956, p.41.
"You are not at all like my rose,’ he said. ‘As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.’
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
'You are beautiful, but you are empty,' he went on. 'One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you — the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”
“ "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." ”—Mahatma Gandhi was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement (1869-1948)
“ "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win." ”—Mahatma Gandhi was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement (1869-1948)
“ "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible." ”—Thomas Edward Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia in the Introductory Chapter to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1997, p. 6.
“Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” ”—Khalil Gibran, Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer (1883-1931)