Other Ways of Knowing Besides Science & Theory

16Mar11

Eric McLuhan has explained his father’s aversion to using theory thus: ‘When McLuhan insisted that he did not use theories, he meant that he did not use them in the way that people expect theories to be used. “I don’t have a Theory of Communication” means “I don’t work in the way of Normal Science. I don’t start with a theory to prove or disprove or submit to the torturers. I start with—and stick with—observation.” He cared less for ideas about actuality than he cared for actuality itself.” McLuhan, E. (2008). Marshall McLuhan’s theory of communication: The Yegg. Global Media Journal — Canadian Edition, 1(1). 25-43. [pdf download available at right under blogroll]

Science isn’t everything by Deboral Chan

I think the reason people don’t often care about “real” science, and only care about pop science, has something to do with how we all had to experience science class. I got A-pluses in chemistry class, and I did this by briefly storing arbitrary facts in my brain, then spitting them back out on the multiple choice exam. I then, of course, proceeded to forget them forever. The facts I had to learn didn’t seem to have any relevance to my day-to-day life.alt text

Blind devotion to Western science can lead to harmful dismissal of other forms of science. For example, Carl Sagan noted in The Demon Haunted World that Western science was just beginning to confirm the medicinal properties of the herbs traditionally used by indigenous peoples.

By and large, the oppressive force of science is in its application. Western science has been — and often continues to be — oppressive to minorities. An example of this oppression over minorities would be in the practice of psychiatry, in which psychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Zucker diagnoses gender-variant boys with “Gender Identity Disorder” in an attempt to ward off homosexuality.

To a lesser extent, Marshall McLuhan was often dismissed as crazy and irrational. In fact, he was irrational; he was operating from incredibly perceptive social and emotional intuition, instead of purely scientific rationality. What’s more, his predictions have come true — the Internet now exists! Nietzsche made predictions that came true too, in ways that “rational” science, performed by people who did not suffer from “delusions,” could not have forecasted.

Today, people with brains that make connections and perceive relationships that psychologically typical brains cannot, are at best being put on normalizing medications. In the worst cases, such individuals are institutionalized. Of course, this is for the safety and protection of “normal” people, who would like to live their lives without having to fear unpredictable behaviour in others. Clearly, the issue is not black and white.

I think the main problem with the institution of science today is that it is “objectivist” like Ayn Rand, and purely materialistic. Ayn Rand believed that science was able to discover absolute, capital-T Truth. But this was a false notion.

Scientists know that there will always be observations made in the future that have not yet been made, and these will — sometimes slightly, sometimes dramatically — alter how we view the world. If we make the mistake of believing that we know everything there is to know, we risk making the same mistake as, say, scientists who did not yet know that the internal combustion engine* could destroy our Earth’s climate.

The institution of science often forgets that — as Professor Jordan Peterson likes to emphasize — our lives themselves are not based in materialism; they are based in existentialism. Consciousness is immaterial. Pain is not rational; it cannot be logically argued away. In fact, that will make it worse. Pain is a subjective experience that people will not readily admit is a mere epiphenomenon of their neural mechanisms. Pain is more real than that.

The problem with pure science as it is taught in today’s schools is that it only looks at the static past and present, with little hopeful gazes toward the future. Traditional and contemporary religion and mythology make it clear that arrogant rationality and logical thinking are not the highest virtues. Neurologically speaking, we unconsciously react with our emotions and motivations first, and then come up with the logic for them after.

All in all, rationality isn’t the highest virtue. I think Hermione Granger in Harry Potter said it best:

“Harry — you’re a great wizard, you know.”

“I’m not as good as you,” said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let him go.

“Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery and — oh Harry — be careful!”      http://thevarsity.ca/articles/44010

 



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