Thursday, 25 September 2014

Science, the arts and philosophy must be integrated before science can help with the answers

This gloomy picture (Chirico) is titled 'Philosopher and Poet' - why choose that title is not obvious, but to me it could represent the frozen condition of a lack of positive underlying progress in both general science ("philosopher") and culture in general ("poet"). The blankness of the screen confronted by a rigid figure and a weird, detached something beside it, the figure with no arms to challenge the blankness and create something new on the screen ... It could be interpreted as our present global civilization in its reluctance to get moving and examining in any depth the future for our planet and its inhabitants; science having no answers and the humanities mired in repetitiveness, trivia and nostalgia.

Sitting and meditating doesn't change anything. Nor does science per se. Nor our playing around with the remarkable capacities of present-day technology. Do we want change or are we content to concentrate on trying to make life better for our individual selves and those selves that are alike to us?

Most of the inhabitants of our present global civilization live in the present 'dream-world' of unlimited growth with the excitement of ill-regulated competition, the available escapes into fantasy and the comforts of procrastination. All that gives to some - but not all - zest and meaning to life. They would prefer to leave change to chance, to 'Nature' or to 'God'. It is easier to bury misgivings about the future in the minutiae of living and to let the demon of environmental degradation do its worst.

Of course the Syai vision that this blog is basically about is not the only vision of a future life-sustainable world under the governance of (supposedly) intelligent beings. Even with our biosphere burdened with such a large human population as we now have, such a world is still possible. It would require spreading that population out over a changed landscape, integrating human needs and talents with the requirements of the natural environment to flourish and to heal itself from the cancerous imbalances already inflicted upon it by such as weeds, pests and depletions of our supportive flora and fauna.

The Syai vision of home-villages is a plausible possibility. At least some of our scientific theorists are also on to such a possibility: two of them are mentioned in 'New Scientist' (July, 1914), namely Porrit and Sanderson. Unlimited growth and urban congestion would become gradual, measured growth, taking humanity in a new direction with probably slower, more prudential technological advances (one would hope not longer associated with weaponry development).

Most of us ardently desire something like this rather that continuing on a path to extinction or at least to the total destruction of anything resembling a civilization worth living in for most of us. What, then,is the key to real progress and sustainability?  In a sense, it is meditation and appropriate concentration on what matters, because it is from the mind that individual and collective decisions originate.

The scientist deals directly with what I would call base-reality - the world as revealed to us in unemotional observation, discovery and prediction. So long as base-reality has its rightful place in our thinking, a path of change is opened to a level of well-being that is sustainable. Science cannot give us reasons on philosophical, ethical grounds why we should take this path, It is up to all the faculties of our consciousness to fashion a human future grounded in a species-survival ethic. Science can only give us valuable clues as to how to achieve this. And it does so mainly due to its predictive power. The "Why do it" has to come from other reaches of the mind, namely, culture, values-prioritization (morals), the creative imagination (the arts) and religion (spirituality). But with respect to religion, we cannot any longer afford the indulgence of not aligning these broader reaches of the mind with base-reality. Fantasy and escape into dream-world can enrich our lives, but it must be "put in its place"!  We cannot go on ordering our lives according false-to-fact constructions of 'reality', at odds with base-reality. Much of tradition and much of religion has to be re-interpreted or abandoned. A great deal of simplification will be required in the spirit of 'Occam's Razor'. As in the Syai world, religion would harmlessly "simplify" into culture, wisdom-myths and seasonal festivity.

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