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Go to: The Poetry of Science

Geoff 21's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Geoff 21

Musing over the obvious similarities between the gods, heroes and powers of ancient myth and the superheroes of DC/Marvel comics they seem like a paradigm for how people relate to religions and how they build them.

Adversarial stories with characters whose powers are usually explained by hastily cobbled-together misunderstandings of the latest scientific advances (The Hulk - radiation, Spiderman - DNA). But they are at least predominantly secular; the religious right try unsuccessfully to ape their style but can't do it. Sean Faircloth's 'Attack of the Theocrats' book cover would look to be strategically right on the money. By now I expect CERN has been attributed its own superhero.

In the same way as American culture has designed its own history it has been constructing a secular pantheon of gods. Shortfalls of knowledge by the authors appears to have little effect on the numbers, or level of enlightenment, of their readers. Since there are now 'Graphic Novels', like the 'Spider Jerusalem' or 'Preacher' series, there is an evolving arena of debate within and between comics and even the perhaps the educationally deprived follow these stories.

What has already been accomplished so well by Seth McFarlane with cartoons might also be done with the graphic novel.

What about a 'The Atheist' superhero, whose superpower is exposure of another hero's justification as imaginary, at which point their powers disappear like a puff of theology? I imagine an ironic style, a deep melodious voice with an English accent and an ever-courteous attack-mode...

Wed, 22 Aug 2012 12:40:38 UTC | #951135

Go to: The Poetry of Science

Geoff 21's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Geoff 21

In his autobiography Bertrand Russell remembers sharing a flat with T.S. Eliot, which must have juxtaposed science and poetry at an interesting level; 'come in under the shelter of this red rock' might not have sufficed Eliot had he strayed into theology at the dinner table.

The contemporary interest of the Bloomsbury group in the writings, especially the Principia Ethica, of G.E. Moore, whom they met, seems to have begun the open conversation of science (or rather, rationality) and poetry at the time.

Later Aldous Huxley, whose early death I would lament alongside Christopher Hitchens', wrote persuasively on the subject. He conjectures that, in a society not bound by religion, a Beethoven masterpiece might have been the 'Evolution' symphony and speculated that a scientifically versed poet could take imagery from microscopic cell structures.

In his well-nigh prescient novel 'Point Counterpoint' he is preoccupied with the contrasting world views of a scientist and a poet, the latter character being a thinly-disguised portrait of D.H. Lawrence. He acknowledges the charisma of the poet but is resistant to his insistence on intuitional notions like the importance of 'blood' which are chillingly reminiscent of the doctrines of nazism. There is also an Oswald Moseley character, but I won't spoil the story.

Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring', by the time of Disney's 'Fantasia', they chose to illustrate with an evolutionary narrative, showing just how recent is their descent into fundamentalism in some parts of the USA. Let's hope it's two generations to lose it, so two generations to get it back, given education.

These leading edge examples were intellectuals and distanced from ordinary people, except perhaps in sympathy. This may also be true today. The unifying principle beneath the myth and scriptures of all organised superstition is a (very) human narrative. Stories about people are what engage the imagination and we ignore that at our P. Witness the 'docu-dramas' about any field of science where concentration is on the personal lives of the protagonists, often to a point which obscures the science.

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 12:57:51 UTC | #950942

Go to: Petition: Free Pussy Riot

Geoff 21's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Geoff 21

The current New Scientist has much to say on Dobby the House Elf and other thugs like him. So many bad decisions, and he still believes he can control Russia the way they used to...


Wed, 15 Aug 2012 14:53:23 UTC | #950822

Go to: What Would Darwin Say to Today's Creationists?

Geoff 21's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Geoff 21

Metamag - I will take that as a 'no' then.

Tue, 17 Jul 2012 10:32:35 UTC | #949395

Go to: Teaching science in public schools without stepping around religion

Geoff 21's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by Geoff 21

+1 to Steve's @ 11.

"As a species we are successful but it has not always been so. For hundreds of thousands of years we advanced by slow steps, inventing tools like the wheel and techniques like metal smelting to make those tools. These skills were gradually accumulated by societies and passed down by practise and word of mouth; later they were preserved in writing, with the invention of the written word. New inventions were few and far between.

In Greece about 2500 years ago many thoughtful people began to try to understand the world around them. Much of what they thought was influenced by their feelings about the world and many early ideas were confused by that. Just a few tried to be logical and made up rules to find out if anything was true. They invented a lot of the tools, like geometry, which we still use today in these classes. The Greeks were conquered and dispersed but their writings survived and became influential over time.

Societies changed after that in the same old gradual way. It was not until the middle of the last thousand years that people began again to use logic and reason to discover un-obvious truths. Before that they had rushed to consult what the Greeks had said on any question, uncritically. These few people in different countries and over many years put together Scientific Method, which is what science is.

It's a method. It's not a set of conclusions, though it gets us them, nor a set of beliefs but a method. Since the invention of this method...... Electricity, Metal boats, Safe Sex, Plasma TV, Innoculation, Smart Bombs, The Web, The Higgs' Bosun, Metallica, the Eradication of Smallpox, Images of Ancient Galaxies, Nuclear Power, Invisible Computers, DNA, a living Stephen Hawking...

science is what has brought us to where we are. The method works and no other way is known of finding out what is true"

Then teach them scientific method.

Mon, 16 Jul 2012 16:07:53 UTC | #949322

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