Science, Rock, and Jelly

September 3, 2007

The great fear of many rationalists today is that a wave of religious zealotry is sweeping over the world, poised to undo the progress of both science and liberal democracy. The intellectual enemy is rigidity of thought, a kind of mental fascism. But many people in Western society who describe themselves as “spiritual” are not rigid at all. Recently I found myself debating with some cuddly New Agers. Its like trying to nail jelly to the wall.

When you log in at wordpress.com the front page displays an array of latest blog posts in various categories. You can dip your toes in many different ponds at random which is strange and refreshing for a few minutes each day. So a few days back the headline “Whats Happening in Science” linked to something about The Vetruvian Man. Intrigued, I clicked over and found something that was all about golden rectangles in Da Vinci’s pictures, and the cosmic significance of this. Alright in its way, but I found myself a bit disgruntled that this was labelled as the hot new thing in Science. Even stranger, the post was tagged “Quantum Physics”. So I left a somewhat sarcastic comment. The owner of the blog, Kristina, replied politely but confusingly, and a rather strange thread continued for a short while. (I think she has stopped accepting my comments… ) Well, it was quite rude of me to be so pushy in someone else’s world, but if you take a short look, you will see what I mean about the jelly thing.

So does this matter ? I have had many hippy/new-age/moon-crystal kinda friends over the years and if you switch off certain parts of your brain they can be lovely to be with – just sit on the carpet, hold hands, drink tea, stare at the mandala, chat and drift, and time vanishes. Peace, harmony, joy. But then you realise you’ve got be somewhere and they’ve lost the keys again. aaagghhhhhh.

So fundamentalist religion is like a rock, and new age spirituality is like jelly oozing through your fingers. At first you think you have a hold of it, but a few moments later your fingers are sticky and the carpet is wet.

So what is the right metaphor for Science ?

p.s. for our American chums, remember that jelly=jello and jam=jelly. And as for wearing your vest on top of your shirt, well what can I say.


Pluto : Bush is after us

September 1, 2007

A few weeks back I noted that the “Please Save Pluto” petition web page was full of rather unpleasant entries. Laurel Kornfeld stressed that there is a somewhat saner “save Pluto” website and has since emailed me privately to let me know that the Please Save Pluto site has now been cleaned up. Course, the intellectual analysis is just as deep as before … but thats Web 2.0 for you. I really like this one :

  • 1849. Adam Cardon | August 9th, 2007 at 1:02 am

    I cannot believe that those dum-dums said that pluto is not a planet!! I for one am so angry that I wrote to the president of the united states of america and he said he would get back to me on it. so dont worry everyone. Pluto will be a planet again soon.

Oh crikey. Everything is going horribly wrong for Bush and he could do with a popular victory. Is he going to make the IAU an offer it can’t refuse ????