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“The Two Cultures” Today — by Roger Kimball

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Earlier today I blogged on Kristof’s piece yesterday in the NYTimes. Here’s another perspective:


I think there are times when the science and culture cycles are “far apart” or in conflict. Then there are other times when they are virtually indistinguishable, melded, fusing. I don’t think Kimball sees this because he’s focusing on critiques from decades ago, when Science and Culture were, indeed, estranged and at odds. This is not the case today, however. In shorthand, think of science as the guy in the lab coat, the investors and the “new products” and the consumers. Think of culture as the entertainer, the literary man and their agents and the fans. 40 years ago the scientists were pocket-protected. They were so out of the cultural eye that no one even called them “nerds” or “geeks” yet. The new products were culturally forbidding “plastics,” as the businessman put it to Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. They were reviled by the culture vultures. Your Dylan types were hangin’ in the square with acoustic guitars like complete unknowns. Keroac and Vonnegut were supremely skeptical of (or oblivious to) society’s techno-accelerants. Indeed, their agents created and marketed a kind of stoned Luddite social movement. But hey, Kimball. That ain’t the way it is today, buddy. Innovation and Culture are running neck and neck, melting into each other. The scientists are stars. The nerds are heroes. Sergey Brin and the rest are kind of like Bill Graham or Tim Leary in the 60s. Everyone knows ‘em. Shoot, their the culture. The investors and consumers are everyone, everyday, especially, especially, especially the “culture gear.” In the same breath, the writers and entertainers are hooked up, webbed and wired. Art is a computer program and a new process to get it on paper or the wall. Music is an iPod with a million tunes or a gen-next dude with a recording studio in his pocket. The agents are all coders and network types. You can knock Wired magazine as techno-fluff or a style rag. But look at it as Science morphing to Culture. It’s all on the same beat. This happens from time to time, (not that often). Kimball misses it because he’s focusing on an old critique of an even older observation about an era when the two were really at odds. pmob1
Wow! What a great article to consider. This blog is a graduate level course. .............................. Comments: In the this article, the "two cultures" are divided by the rift "between scientists and literary intellectuals (and the general public, too, of course)", Kimball writes. In other words, between scientists and everyone else. And the problem is "that the gulf between [them] has grown wider as science has become ever more specialized and complex." Had he been able to see it, he might have added, "As the implications of Darwinism become more pervasive." I argue that something has happened in the field of science that had not fully taken hold in 1994 when Roger Kimball published this piece in the New Criterion. (And still hasn't fully taken hold, but is taking hold.) In 1994, "science", all fields of science, was so thoroughly dominated by the Darwinism juggernaut that non-scientist intellectuals like F. R. Leavis (refered to in Kimball's article) knew of no way to object to the encroachment of the philosophical materialism into the world of moral behavior except to rail against the spokesmen like C.P. Snow (the main character in Kimball's article). The philosophical materialism of Darwinism was "science". No one considered that they might not be interchangeable. Neo-Darwinian evolution had been proven. It was fact. (Even today, listen to NPR. Neo-Darwinsim, according to NPR at least, is held by ALL scientists, challened by none. Like RobD in an earlier comment, whatever is not Darwinian has been considered by "scientists" and is not science.) Like a pervasive gas expanding into every cranny of knowledge chisled out of time by mankind. Darwinism had been on the march for some time from science into politics. Kimball mentions the signs: "...“the results of science” confront us daily with the most extreme moral challenges, from abortion on demand and the prospects of genetic engineering to the more amorphous challenges generated by our society’s assumption that every problem facing mankind is susceptible to technological intervention and control." All of these challenges were the logical outworkings of the "scientific" arena--where Darwin was unassailable--into the political and cultural realms. Morality was giving way to "science". Kimball was not aware, indeed few "intellectuals" were aware, that Darwinism could be challenged, much less would be challenged. What to do? Darwin was fact, period. Life evolved from the soup. The only morality, the only _real_ morality was survival of the fittest. All else was just fluff, nice fluff, but completely unenforcable because "science" had proven "how we got here" and how we got here was blind chance, a complete accident. There was no Creator, no Lawgiver, certainly no Author of Ten Commandments! One person's idea about what is moral is just as good as anybody's. What I do in private is none of your business. This line of reasoning was founded on "science". Kimball really saw no way of dealing with the flood tide: "If mankind was to confront the moral challenges of modern science “in full intelligent possession of its humanity” and maintain “a basic living deference towards that to which, opening as it does into the unknown and itself unmeasurable, we know we belong,” then the realm of culture had to be protected from the reductive forces of a crude scientific rationalism." But how he didn't really know. What is "humanity" after all? Nothing but a freak accident. Kimball tries to argue for the value of humanity and culture. But, from where Kimball stood, as far as any man could see, the rift between the two cultures could only and would only grow wider with no end in site. No outcome was evident except that science would rend more and more of the human fabric. But, as I say, I believe something has happened in "science" that can and will close much (all? doubtful) of the rift between science and everyone else. You guessed it. Just as the implications of Darwinism pervaded every field of knowledge, culture and politics to open the rift, so too the implications of ID can and should and will close the rift. Morality, good or bad, is grounded in whatever is believed to be fact. Fact is the sphere of science. Now science, real science, empirical science, factual science has discovered that the existence of certain unique and complex structures of matter in biological systems cannot be explained by any known "natural" physical processes. More specifically, the theoretical process of natural selection operating over vast time expanses cannot explain structures that are irreducibly complex. Such structures, to have occurred independently thousands, perhaps millions of times in nature, defy the mathematics of probiblity and known laws of physics. These structures are evidence of Intelligent Design. From Kimball's point of view, from the literary intellectual's and indeed the general public's point of view, the fact of Intelligent Design will be seen as having always been "self-evident". That Intelligent Design in nature is "self-evident" automatically closes the gap between the scientist and everyone else. Scientists do not have "special" knowledge (unknowable but to scientists); scientists have "more extensive" knowledge (some extent of which can be known by anyone and everyone.) What are the implications? All. All implications are back on the table. The possibility that the rift of the "Two Cultures" will close is not only possible, but perhaps certain for a century or two. To speculate only a little. Science has evidence that an Intelligence greater than mankind was at work in the design of living systems. For what purpose? There is much to explore in purposes. All history once again can contribute, all the fields of literature, art, music can contribute. It is evident that an Intelligence greater than mankind designed living systems in specific ways. What right does anyone suppose we have tinkering with the design? What predictions can we make with respect to the outcomes of such tinkering? Will tinkering lead to the hoped-for outcomes? Or will the Intelligent Designer have designed biological systems effectively resistant to tinkering dooming outcomes to futility? Does abortion on demand really secure the way to "a better life" or has experience shown otherwise? If the design of living systems is Intelligently Designed with intelligence far superior to our own, can we study the design to emulate and develop our technologies? Has the Intelligence responsible for the design tried to communicate with man? Have we looked? Have we listened? There are implications of ID. They can and must be explored. There is now a "third way" that Kimball did not know about in 1994 in his valient attempts to meet the onslaught of the worldview of science--that science would discover a foundation for a different worldview. Red Reader
Hello William i'm a french scientist interessted by ID. Unfortunatly, il don't speak fluent english so i can't tranlate my own research I think that the ID problem needs scientific and philosophic investigation. ID problem is near Aristote, Plotin and islamic gnose. If you have friends who understand fluent french, maybee, they could read my blog, especially my philosophic and scientific investigations. I have studied physics and mathematics, ex-ingeneer student at School of Mine, phD in pharmacology and philosophy Sincerely yours http://www.u-blog.net/FulcanelliSciences http://www.u-blog.net/FulcanelliPhilo My book, i'm a theist philosopher http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/2738469078/qid=1130247278/sr=8-3/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i3_xgl14/171-9860028-7594664 Fulcanelli

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