Monday, June 18, 2007

On Paradigms, Farce, and Nature

“We live by a set of intellectual constructs first articulated by a handful of European scholars several hundred years ago. One of the architects of the modern world view, [Francis] Bacon laid out an approach to knowledge which we still hold to today. Bacon saw knowledge as a tool for gaining control over the environment. Bacon proclaimed that a new method for dealing with the world was called for; one that could ‘enlarge the bounds of the human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.’ According to Bacon ‘objective knowledge’ would allow people to take ‘command over things natural—over bodies, medicine, mechanical powers and infinite others of this kind.’ Every school child is weaned on Bacon’s scientific method. We are encouraged to create distance between ourselves and the world, to detach ourselves so that we can sever our natural relationships with things and turn them into objects for manipulation.”
— Jeremy Rifkin, Declaration of a Heretic

[What's interesting about this is that full-time Muslim schools in the West do nothing to confront prevailing notions. Obsessed with accreditation and "saving kids" from moral blights (which is not really working), the brains of these schools do not notice that the intellectual paradigms will continue the farce at their own hands. To many people, environmentalist Jeremy Rifkin comes off a bit too radical. Nonetheless, in his books Rifkin has made many insightful observations that make tolerant some of his own thick, doomsayer, conspiracy-paranoid style.]

“Our knowledge of nature does not reach to its human import, to questions of meaning and goodness. This gap between nature studied scientifically and life lived naturally opens directly and necessarily because of the deliberate choice of modern science for ‘objectivity,’ for a stance outside of and removed from the world of our experience, from the world as it presents itself to us and as we engage it. Our natural science is, quite deliberately, most unnatural, not only in what it enables us to do to one another, but even more in what it teaches us to think about who and what we are.”
— Leon R. Kass, Toward a More Natural Science

“Normally, new ideas in a field of science are advanced by young scientists, who often take a contrary approach. But younger cosmologists are even more intolerant of departures from the big bang faith than their more senior colleagues are. Worst of all, astronomical textbooks no longer treat cosmology as an open subject. Instead the authors take the attitude that the correct theory has been found. Powerful mechanisms encourage this conformity. Scientific advances depend on the availability of funding, equipment, and journals in which to publish. Access to these resources is granted through a peer-review process. Those of us who have been around long enough know that peer review and the refereeing of papers have become a form of censorship. It is extraordinarily difficult to get financial support or viewing time on a telescope unless one writes a proposal that follows the party line.”
— Geoffrey Burbidge,


Anonymous Abu Dharr said...

Alija Izetbegovic in his "Islam between East & West," discusses the legacy of Bacon's thought. The 'Knowledge is Power' theme, as Rifkin points out, stems from this paradigm.

Perhaps the Islamic attitude would be
"Knowledge enlightens."

6/21/2007 10:35 PM  
Anonymous M.Husayn said...

Dear Friend,
Many thanks for this thought provoking post.

6/26/2007 9:31 AM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Thanks, Abu Dharr and M. I like the quote from Izetbegovic, God rest his soul.

6/26/2007 10:04 AM  
Anonymous irving said...

A thought-provoking post indeed, though the geniuses who really move the world into new wyas of thinking rarely come from the kind of peer-reviewed pressure cooker that is so aptly described. Yet even those scientists advance knowledge little by little. The truth will out, or in the words of Attar:

The sea will be the sea,
Whatever the drop's philosophy.

Ya Haqq!

7/01/2007 1:53 PM  

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