Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Art of Science (redirected from Rj's Friendster Blog)

The Art of Science

In the back of mind, I have a hazy collection of images of my life as a toddler. Most of these are jumbled together with images that have been lifted-- not from the actual memories that I once upon a time experienced-- but from the pages of old family picture albums. However, though the mind's eye may have difficulty recalling the physical realities of that time, I find that it's easier for me to remember the sort of ideas of the world I held then. Memories of what I was thinking are clearer than the images of the life I was living at three years of age. One might say that this is an illusion, and yes, it very well may be. But its a better illusion than most.

What strikes me about those days was my fascination with the pursuit of science. Perhaps it was the childhood growth into a love of animals and the natural world they represented. It could have been something subconsciously implanted by the presence of my father, a scientist himself. Or maybe it was something as obscure and superficial as Indiana Jones, the adventurer-academician. Whatever it was, what consumed me was the singular pursuit of KNOWING as much about something that I fell in love with. For me, there was a sort of crazy pleasure to be had when I could tell exactly what sort of dinosauria was illustrated in my books, along with it's approximate placement in geological history and probable behaviour: Triceratops Horridus, common name "Triceratops", a successful species of the mid-late Cretaceous period, two prominent brow horns, single nose horn, distinct from other Ceratopsia by a solid bone frill protrusion from the skull. Evidence of herd behaviour and probable organized defense. Underdeveloped eyesight suggests near-sightedness, much like today's rhinos. Side-placed eyes suggest evolution as an herbivore, confirmed by large stomach area and prominent molars. Beak suggests diet of woody shrubs, probable ecology in lightly forested areas with an abundance of shrubs, and space for a herd of possibly up to fifty animals, each weighing around the area of three tons.

Of course, I wouldn't have said it with that sort of language when i was three, but the propositions were the same. What this points to is the way I know that when my heart was set on something, the end I wished to achieve was knowledge.

This desire for knowledge led me to the field of science. Science itself is something much more broader and interesting than the textbook "systematic, empirical, quantitative inquiry of phenomena through repeatable procedures to arrive at rational conclusions". That's easy to understand, and anyone who's gone through all those science classes and labs can get a brain-vomit just thinking about it. But what I'm talking about is outside the laboratory, outside the research and the statistics. What I'm talking about is the rational mind as a state of self. What I'm talking about is the pursuit of knowledge as life unto itself.

There's an interesting statement in the NBC television series "Heroes", in the episode titled "Six Months Ago". In the episode, the character of Dr. Chandra Suresh is speaking to a man who would later be known as the villain Sylar. Suresh, a geneticist, says that everything is found in the brain. The statement piqued my interest, because it led to the idea that everything about a human being is found in knowledge. This idea may seem dehumanizing and a bit abrasive in its disregard of the realm of the emotion, but its not too much of a stretch to say that emotion itself rests on knowledge. Everything in the human experience is driven by knowledge and the working of the mind. Consciousness itself is an act of engaging the mind with the world around it.

The oracle at Delphi said "know yourself". Socrates says that to know oneself is really the device by which one cares for oneself. The "self" is said to be the soul, and the "soul" is the synthesis of spirit and consciousness, spirit being the velocity of the soul, and consciousness its body that moves and develops. I acknowledge this may seem a bit abstract, but this has a lot of bearing upon what the scientific life is really concerned about. Science is how we come to know and understand things. It is the tool of this desire to care for oneself. A change in what we know is the fundamental change that leads to the development of the soul.

Jesus said His was the "Way, the Truth, and the Life; all who believe in Me shall be saved." Look at the interrelationship of the three words: way, truth, life. It pretty much sums what humans beings are about. Life is always about finding one's way through it, a progression. The purpose of which is to determine a truth, to arrive at a certain knowledge. The operative word of the second statement is belief. Belief in itself is also a knowledge.(the talk about faith/belief being a valid sort of knowledge is a debate that this entry doesn't intend to go into; rather, the basic point is that knowledge is the core of any human endeavor.)

That is where I place science-- in the field of the human life spent seeking a path of truth.

What makes science so beautiful is the way that it unlocks the world and presents it to our minds as a likely truth, rather than as a construction of the imagination. It presents something reasonable, that people can agree to agree or disagree upon. It is articulates something that society can be based upon, even though its individuals are swayed and biased in so many different ways. Science is a level field for the discourse of rational society, where the nuances of the individual give way to the predominance of societal rationality. It is a sort of knowledge that asserts itself, not as an absolute truth, but as a reasonable truth. It is the sort of knowledge that does not lay claim to objectivity, but unabashedly and with amazing integrity displays the limitations of its subjectivity on the table of scrutiny. When I think of science, I find the most humanizing of all fields of study. And in the end, all fields of study inevitably tie back to science.

And of course, thinkers like Foucault like to confuse us even more (and present us with a deeper way of giving our souls two-cents worth of attention) by presenting a scientific inquiry into science.

This is, to me, what being a human is: it is the art of knowledge,the art of science.

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