Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 813.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001 07:21:59 +0100
From: "Osher Doctorow" <email@example.com>
Subject: Science Fact and Fiction
From: Osher Doctorow firstname.lastname@example.org, Fr. April 20, 2001 8:19AM
Randall Pierce has asked in effect why more people do not look into science
fiction with their literary criticism and other humanities skills. I have
recently been looking at a related question, why more people from humanities
do not look into science fact, via the volume Engineers and Engineering in
the Renaissance by General W. B. Parsons, MIT Press: Cambridge Massachusetts
USA 1939/1968. It appears that the questions and answers may be related.
The difficulty seems to be Creative Genius. Superstition in Western
Civilization often ascribes it to immoral or licentious behavior in which
courtesy, respect for oneself and others, promises to oneself and others,
concern for the past and the future and the present as well as for humanity
and for knowledge and learning are all broken frequently. Nothing could be
further from the fact, it would appear. Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the
greatest Creative Geniuses of all time, quite explicitly stated his
preference for intellectual passion over sensuality. He was of course not
only concerned with art but with science and engineering - he worked as a
hydraulics engineer for Royalty in Italy. The rebellions of the religious
institutions against materialism and sensuality were the major driving
social forces of the Renaissance from the Catholic Church through the
Reformation through the Counter-Reformation.
Science fact and science fiction reach their best achievements in Creative
Genius through incorporation of the best of past Civilization and rebellion
against the worst of past Civilization and concern for present and future
Civilization. We who are taught to think in terms of all or none often find
this difficult to understand until our later years. Our political parties
even divide the world into the individual versus the plurality, the internal
versus the external, even though the past and the present and the future are
so much more revealing, as are conformity versus rebellion, learning versus
ignorance. Adding 100 people to an individual action does not make it any
better or worse in an ethical sense, and yet we have political parties
typically winning elections over such issues. Invading foreign nations for
good or ill purposes does not free us from responsibility to solve ongoing
problems in our own lives at home, and yet it is with us not only in every
generation but in almost every year and is in fact decided by our highest
political authorities much more frequently than the ordinary problems and
decisions at home.
We do not teach Renaissance, Nobility, Creative Genius in our classrooms -
we teach lack of discrimination, lack of integration, intra-disciplinary
episodic processing, infinitesimal details, and even lack of responsibility.
We teach rebellion without knowledge, knowledge without rebellion, illusions
of the tribe and of the individual, the material of which political
nightmares are made and centuries of destruction are born. In this
process, we lose Creative Genius and science fact and science fiction. Our
society rewards Ingenious Follower Scientist/Engineers/Politicians and not
Creative genius Humanists/Scientists. Then along comes a genocidal and
power-crazy person like Hitler, and we profess surprise, outrage, moral
disgust. Have we done everything in our power and in our responsibilities
to prevent the evil before it occurs?
Osher Doctorow Ph.D.
Ventura College, etc.
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