G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Myths of Salvation and Bringing Babies


John Ashbery:

"The prevalence of those gray flakes falling?

They are sun motes. You have slept in the sun

Longer than the sphinx, and are none the wiser for it."

Mark Verno, The Guardian, August 3 2012:

"...There are, of course, differences between scientific and religious myths. For one thing, scientific myths are far less long-lived than religious ones. The great faiths of the world daily turn to myths that are thousands of years old and find truth leaping off the page as they read them. Scientific myths, on the other hand, do well if they last more than a century. Who today reads Newton? Both kinds of myth seek evidence in their support. The difference here is that scientific stories seek empirical evidence – and when the empirical evidence fails, the myth fails too, which is what appears to be happening to the selfish gene. Conversely, religious myths seek proof of a more personal kind. These myths work when they speak in their details about the truths of life..."





“...‘That mathematics reduces in principle to formal proofs is a shaky idea’ peculiar to this century,  (William) Thurston asserts. ‘In practice, mathematicians prove theorems in a social context,’ he says. ‘It is a socially conditioned body of knowledge and techniques.’ The logician Kurt Godel demonstrated more than 60 years ago through his incompleteness theorem that ‘it is impossible to codify mathematics,’ Thurston notes. Any set of axioms yields statements that are self-evidently true but cannot be demonstrated with those axioms. Bertrand Russell pointed out even earlier that set theory, which is the basis of much of mathematics, is rife with logical contradictions related to the problem of self-reference… ‘Set theory is based on polite lies, things we agree on even though we know they’re not true,’ Thurston says. ‘In some ways, the foundation of mathematics has an air of unreality.’...”


The Times of India reported on January 5 2015:

"Indians had mastered aviation thousands of years before the Wright brothers, claimed a controversial paper presented at the 102nd Indian Science Congress here on Sunday..."

This has created quite a flutter.  Of all of the comments against it, I liked this one best: “…The knowledge of our ancient heritage has been rather readily available over the recent past, as any Google search would show, to anyone who seeks it. But today this ancient heritage is being invoked as a weapon, not for the advancement of science but to suppress it. It has taken the form of a chauvinism that suggests we have nothing new to learn, we already knew it all... “ (Hartosh Singh Bal, The Caravan, January 8 2015)
 
I was amused by the claim of ancient India's flight in aviation but not outraged by it  because even today's science and its supporters- mostly secular liberals- too make such claims. As John Gray puts it: Science has not displaced mythical thinking but has instead become a channel for it.

It is not just some speakers at the 102nd Indian Science Congress  need to see the world and themselves more as they really are but can the rest of us shake off our need for myths, the principal among them is: salvation through science?

John Gray again: 

"...Modern myths are myths of salvation stated in secular terms. What both kinds of myths have in common is that they answer to a need for meaning that cannot be denied. In order to survive, humans have invented science. Pursued consistently, scientific inquiry acts to undermine myth. But life without myth is impossible, so science has become a channel for myths – chief among them, a myth of salvation through science. When truth is at odds with meaning, it is meaning that wins. Why this should be so is a delicate question. Why is meaning so important? Why do humans need a reason to live? Is it because they could not endure life if they did not believe it contained hidden significance? Or does the demand for meaning come from attaching too much sense to language – from thinking that our lives are books we have not yet learnt to read?..." 

('The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths', 2013)

Artist: Warren Miller, The New Yorker,  November 3 1962

No comments: