Saturday, June 07, 2014

I'm wasn't a big fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson anyway, but...

I guess there is a place for Prof. Tyson in explaining The Science to everyone.  I get that.

And I really should stop reading Salon.  But, alas, today I did:

It’s also worth noting the difference between a full conception of philosophy and the caricature of it that Tyson has in mind. When Tyson, in the Nerdist podcast, laments the fact that philosophy seems to be overly concerned with deep questions, he cites the old Zen koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
This reductio ad absurdum of the spirit of philosophy may be the root of his own ignorance of the importance of the discipline, as well as his open hostility toward it. (None of this is even to mention that he’s confusing Western philosophy with an Eastern spiritual practice.) But the perspectivism and nuance of full-strength philosophy provide the catalyst that can transmute the lead of knowledge into the gold of flourishing.

I think I will try to contact him and explain something about Zen to him...if I can't get a hold of him I will publish a response to him here.


Chriss Pagani said...
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genkaku said...

Your post caught my eye. I read the article. I sent it along to a friend who knows quite a lot about science (but I do not feel comfortable naming). Anyway, as grist for your mill, here is the response she sent me:

Sorry, Adam, but you are wrong. No good scientist---and Neil is that---has an “overweening insistence on the intellect”.

To me, the word “reason” refers to being reasonable as opposed to unreason. Using reason---being reasonable--- does not exclude using imagination and the ability to be happy with a good poem, or music, or any of the arts. Or in meditation or tai chi or whatever. I’ve done them all, and I call myself a scientist. But I’m with Neil when it comes to defending science.

Neil is a well-rounded, mature person with a great sense of humor and capacity for happiness. His job (which he enjoys, as I enjoy my small efforts in writing about science) is educating people in science because OPPOSITION to scientific findings is getting worse in this country. For instance, the far right claims that people who talk about pollution, global warming and other ecological problems are lying members of the “leftish intelligentsia” who are trying to deprive the God-appointed people (mostly men) of their God-given right to make money, no matter how.

The Salon essay was written by a young (well, a lot younger than I am) man called Steve Neumann (not to be confused with the soccer player) who has a BA in accounting, works training guide dogs, and calls himself a philosopher-poet. He seems to think that Neil is guilty of “scientism---an inordinate belief in the ability of science to definitively describe all of reality, and also that any questions that can’t be answered by science simply aren’t worth asking”. I’m quoting him. It’s incredibly silly. Anyone who knows anything about science knows that science is always about the possible, the probable, the maybe. Not about definitive answers. Since scientific ideas depend on evidence to back them up, they change when the evidence changes. Neil makes that clear.

Most amusing is the bit about “open hostility” toward philosophy. Most of the scientifically-minded people I’ve known (including me) are up on and enjoy philosophy of all sorts. The most rampant open hostility these days is to science. This country abounds in crazy superstitions about race, gender, other people’s philosophies, even vaccinations!

Poor Mr. Neumann. If only he could realize that the likes of Neil de Grasse Tyson are explaining that science IS the workable “fusion of reason and imagination”. Maybe he should take up soccer.

Chriss Pagani said...
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Chriss Pagani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.