Monday, December 30, 2013

From Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer

"There could be no greater irony: For all the sublimity of art, physics, music, mathematics and other manifestations of human genius, everything depends on the mundane, frustrating, often debased vocation known as politics (and its most exacting subspecialty -- statecraft). Because if we don't get politics right, everything else risks extinction."

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Summary of Classical Greek Philosophy

469 BC – 399 BC
The teaching of Socrates was to “know yourself.” Plato in his description of justice taught that you should also be true to yourself, especially as to what is your particular merit and what you deserve or is your due. Aristotle was the philosopher of temperance, moderation, and the “golden mean.” Of course, if you really know yourself, and are really truthful or honest with yourself and about what you deserve, then it becomes obvious why we should all act with some moderation.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King

Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. probably made the two greatest contributions to political thought in the second half of the Twentieth Century. They confronted the injustice of apartheid and segregation. They became moral leaders who worked on behalf of the primary moral concept of equality. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be remembered as an advocate of nonviolence as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Nelson Mandela will be remembered as the leader who, after spending 27 years in prison, became the President of South Africa and advocated a policy of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela had incredible resolve against entrenched injustice, but they will also be remembered for their great sense of individual and human dignity. The successful application of the ideas of non-violence and of forgiveness and reconciliation was quite an accomplishment in the context of the Twentieth Century. Not only their ideas, but their examples as individual leaders in this context, can even now be recognized as having enduring value.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
    -Nelson Mandela

“So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. ”
    - The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Biology Will Become the Primary Paradigm in this Century

Biology rather than physics will become the primary paradigm or model of thought
in this century.  This is in part due to the genome project and the influence that it will have on scientific research.  It will also, however, be a result of a much broader understanding of co-evolution and our interaction with the world in which  we live.

“By natural selection we are not indifferent to our fate.”
It will be driven by our need to incorporate human values and also our need to live in a pluralistic global community.  Biology will not become the new paradigm, however, until it develops a methodology and multidimensional understanding of human nature that is  broad enough  to include not only the life sciences, but also the other basic sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.

Epistemology is the study of ways of knowing and biology is an epistemological process.  Unlike physics and chemistry, biology also relates to information, which in human biology is both genetic and cultural.  In evolutionary biology and in culture the transmission of information is also historical.  Life means the presence of intrinsic and functional values.  Biological diversity and complexity are based on information about how to compose, maintain, reproduce, and transmit life processes.  This is the type of self-affirming information that is lost in the reduction of biology to physics and chemistry.

There are emergent properties, synergies, and functional and cultural values that are lost in the translation to the basic elements.  By natural selection we are not indifferent to our fate. We are also, to some degree, capable of modifying our environment and transcending nature with our human individual and cultural values. It has been noted that life is a countercurrent to entropy and culture may be a countercurrent to natural selection.  

Ecology is the interaction between an organism and its environment.  Adaption is an ecological word. One could surmise an entanglement of a factual realism based on literal correspondence and a practical and sometimes metaphysical realism that incorporates our desire for both survival and well-being.  In moral terms these would include both a Socratic quest and a humanistic commitment.  The Socratic quest, however, can result in an unproductive and pedantic skepticism without a humanistic commitment.  A humanistic commitment, whether secular or religious, on the other hand, also needs to some degree to be open-ended and questioning to avoid what Eric Hoffer, after World War ll and in response to fanaticism of all kinds, described as the “true believer.”