11 a.m., August 9, 2020
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This online, general audience discussion Forum will be on the topic of:
“Fear of Science and its Origins”
It’s easy today to see examples of opposition to scientific conclusions. If the denial of global warming isn’t enough, we have the current polarization around masks and exposure to COVID.
It starts in childhood, where we are told by people twice our size and strength who give us the food and shelter we need that we are to behave in certain ways and, especially, restrain natural Impulses.
Consequences of disobedience depend on the trainers, but the response is usually successful. Sometimes an external enforcer is invoked, perhaps a hands-on god, or karma, or whatever you want to call it, but it is comforting that something is reining in the willful and selfish. This training pattern is then learned and helps to bind social grouping — a primary function of religion; another Is explanation of the unknown, which supports the need for miracles. The more impossible the miracle, the more powerful the miracle-maker.
Science has to say there are no miracles — mysteries yes, magic no. But if there are no miracles, what’s seen as impossible is impossible. Here is where probability and numbers come in. If we can’t prove impossible, then it may be possible, and that’s what gambling casinos and sport fandom and much faith are based on. We know the odds, but we don’t want to hear them, or we angelize “overcoming the odds” where that applies. And faith is another good word; it supports hope, a key and unquantified word in our vocabulary.
In medicine, Paracelsus, a Swiss physician in the Renaissance, said “The dose makes the poison.” Few doctors would argue against that today, yet we have so many people who think that if something is good, more is better, or vice versa, especially with foods and their ingredients. It’s easier to say that than to ask “how much” and count. Our numbers-man Paracelsus would agree.
It also helps to distort reality; in fact it may be that we need to distort reality in order to stay sane and avoid the terror of the existential abyss. I’ll leave that for the psychologists and philosophers, but I’d like to know/see more on this idea.
Another distortion of reality is related to risk. Risk is angelized especially among men, as the risker may be seen as a better protector and thus a better mate/father of children. Maybe in cave-man days – times have changed, but values lag and the glory of risk is still there.
One of the important distortions of reality is the theatre in all its forms: TV and Netflix, live drama, theme parks, movies, and even dreams. Imagine is a good word. We fill our lives with these activities of make-believe, anchored by the knowledge that it Is all “fake news.” But what is it making us believe?
Allan Griff is an unretired senior, born 1933 in New York City, the only child of immigrant Lithuanian-Jewish parents (a social worker and a nurse). He was educated there (Cornell chemical engineering, Columbia anthropology), self-dependent since college and self-employed since 1961.
Allan identifies as traditional Jewish and knows history and traditions well, but is not affiliated with any religious group, and sees Western Christian culture as an extension of Jewish origin and a primary source of his values. As a scientist, he sees Darwinian survival principles as applying to culture as well as biology.
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