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Daily Archives: September 1st, 2010

ThisWeekinScience | August 30, 2010

Thanks to Stephen Michael Kellat for this question on going to the moon. Hear what Dr. Michio Kaku had to say about it to Dr. Kiki in this quick segment from a 2008 interview. Distributed by Tubemogul.

Today, I present 3 quotations by the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), Robert M. Pirsig, and the first of these concerns the tendency of those of fervent belief to attempt to compensate for a deep-seated insecurity with the object of that belief by protecting it from any perceived attack or derision, and to ‘spread the word’ tirelessly.

Those beliefs we defend most tenaciously are often those we feel are most in need of defending from nonbelievers regardless of whether or not the beliefs in question really are under threat.

As one of my readers pointed out in the thread attached to one of yesterday’s posts (Thanks, Terry.) there’s a strong element of paranoia in the thinking of believers, and the more tightly one holds a belief the more one must protect it from all real or imagined “enemies” of the faith, more often imagined than real.

After all, we create our own devils just as we create our gods. Curious that the gods we worship almost always seem to be mental projections of ourselves, and no one seems suspicious about the similarity…

You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

This next one reflects a view I have concerning the objective but observer-dependent nature of reality, of ontology over epistemology, the primacy of what is over what we can know, rather than epistemology over ontology, what we can know as the limit of what is, as favored by many believers.

I think that while the sensory data we perceive isn’t reality in and of itself, it does have a source: a reality which exists whether we are observing it or not, whether we are there or not, but which is influenced by our sensory and behavioral interactions with it.

Quantum mechanics has come a long way since Schrödinger and his cat, and few theoretical physicists now take seriously the notion that observation on the macroscopic scale does anything more than create our subjective models of reality, much less literally create reality itself as subjective relativists assert.

Man is not the source of all things, as the subjective idealists would say. Nor is he the passive observer of all things, as the objective idealists and materialists would say. The Quality which creates the world emerges as a relationship between man and his experience. He is a participant in the creation of all things. The measure of all things…

And finally, a pithy little quote concerning the reason why only a limited number of ideas can pass scientific muster as worthy of investigation, why it is not possible to take the time to consider all of them, only those that are testable.

Most ideas ever conceived turn out to be wrong, if not downright useless and uninteresting:

The number of hypotheses available to explain any given phenomenon is infinite.

Robert Maynard Pirsig (born 6 September 1928), American philosopher and novelist.

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