Posted by: terrapraeta | January 27, 2008

Science, Post Modernism and Intuition


People runnin everywhere
Dont know where to go
Dont know where I am
Cant see past the next step
Dont have time to think past the last mile
Have no time to look around
Just run around, run around and think why
Does anybody really know what time it is
Does anybody really care If so I cant imagine why
Weve all got time enough to die

Chicago Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I have observed a number of really interesting discussions, recently. Discussions that I find myself connecting with multiple perspectives and therefore unwilling or unable to join one side or another.

This is not usually a problem I have. Although I tend to think of myself as a moderate ( in a literal sense as opposed to politically), I also have established a fairly self-consistent and comprehensive world view. Sometimes that world view gets shaken, or modified, but rarely does it completely fail to help me come to terms with new ideas.

Starting at then end (because, really, where else would I start?), I got a crash course in post-modern thought. On a very superficial level, it appeals to me quite a lot. Moralistically, I am a relativist, culturally, I recognize that it is far more important how culture works for its participants than how it looks (or appeals) to those outside, and I know in my bones that there is no true objectivity. There is only a semblance of objectivity that individuals agree to abide by in particular circumstances. However, it seems to me that post modernism, taken to its logical conclusion, would imply that you cannot judge a moral or cultural component based even upon functionality; that you cannot even agree upon constructs to enable communication or scientific inquiry because we must assume that all of our experiences and thoughts are so radically different that they are incomparable.

You have to know that the moderate in me says phoey to that. (And perhaps I am taking it too far: it was a crash course after all)

The relationship between post modernism and science seems quite clear to me. Science is founded on the premise that the world is as it appears to be. That it is predictable, repeatable, and fundamentally outside of, separated from the observer. Post Modernism could ignore science, by focusing its attention exclusively on the humanities. But generally, it does not.

I have always been a big fan of science: as a kid, I honestly considered a couple of different science careers for myself. I ended up leaning toward the soft sciences and humanities, but it will always be a part of me. Armchair astronomy, cosmology, physics… anthropology and evolutionary theory. These are some of my greatest passions.

But as I have listened to the arguments unfold, I have come to recognize that science has distinct limitations, as well. I have talked before about the limitations of reductionism. If you want to figure out acceleration in Earth standard conditions, science can be very useful, but to date it has been completely unable to address the question of why (ie, what gravity is and how it works the way it does). I am coming to the conclusion that, perhaps, this is not because we have not learned enough yet but rather because science is fundamentally unsuited to answer that question.

In the course of discussion on this topic, I started to wonder whether intuitive thinking could, possibly, be the missing link. Is it possible, for example, for two individuals with well developed intuitive ‘muscles’ to observe – hypothesize – test – theorize in a reproducible, externally testable way. This sounds really bizarre, but it occurs to me that perhaps complex phenomenon might be understandable and even explicable in an environment where reductionism is abolished and intuition is expanded. I don’t know what it would look like: we simply do not have this skill as modern peoples, but I think the possibilities are amazing enough that I would like to ponder it some more.

(Originally Posted November 15, 2006)

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Responses

  1. Do you know about Goethean science?
    Have a look at the Nature Institute.

  2. Hey Nicole,

    Good link, thank you! I had not run across them before…

    tp

  3. You’re welcome.

    By the way, it’s Nicola, not Nicole, and it’s a male name in Italy. πŸ™‚

  4. I’m sorry Nicola… that was (one of many) a typo πŸ˜‰

    tp


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