Friday, December 31, 2010

Pseudo-Religious Pseudoscience

Another thought on Brooks's column re my last post: consider the reliably potty way such things as cosmology, relativity and, especially, quantum mechanics are viewed by many, if not most, who actually read and think about them. Even scientists well acquainted with them aid and abet this sometimes, making wild claims distant from their fields. So, the strangenesses and philosophical difficulties of quantum mechanics are contrasted with earlier certainties, as if there have never been such things. Meanwhile, the astonishing precision and power of general relativity and quantum mechanics, their confirmation by experiment, their theoretical predictions of the universe's beginning and future in far more detail and testability than any prior religious tales, the extraordinary advances in biology and physiology, all far less a part of how most view them. Even evolution, ever more confirmed as science, is ever more wildly applied to such things as psychology and gender socialization. Part of all this, of course, is the sheer difficulty of the math and concepts. But part, too, is the search in science for a substitute for religion, and, at that, an inadequate one, rather than an illumination of the universe in different terms, and, at that, oft denying that any such thing is happening.

Even Brooks notes the primary role of communal, social institutions, and the threat to them. Everybody does, even on the right: their take on religion, immigration, the nuclear family and its vicissitudes, demand for social change all bespeak their perception of a threat to their group identity and institutions. The reconstruction of those institutions--desperately needed--can arise from a realistic grasp of their origins, which would allow a new appreciation of a common humanity, or a retreat into an artificial tribalism, extending only to Self and denying the common humanity of the Other.

One of these is likely to have a better result than the other, but is less likely, in that it will be opposed by those most enabled in the deeply unsatisfactory current reality, whose interests lie elsewhere.

1 comment:

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