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Category Archives: NATURE

Scientific age’s 10 sets of premises

“There is nothing that will cure the senses but the soul, and nothing that will cure the soul but the senses” –– OSCAR WILDE

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NEW JERSEY — From Willis Harman’s Global Mind Change, the promise of the 21st century, we learned that there is a set of 10 premises, which, if encountered in a textbook a few decades ago, would hardly have aroused a question. It is humbling to the educated Westerner to realize that to an indeterminable extent, science, like the traditional belief systems of “primitive” cultures, describes a world that is shaped by its built-in assumptions, observes Harman.
The rational set of premises for a scientific age, according to Harman, are the following:
1. The only conceivable ways in which we can acquire knowledge are through our physical senses, and perhaps by some sort of information transmission through the genes. The sole way in which we extend our understanding of the nature of the universe is through empirical science–that is, the exploration of the measurable world through instrumentation that augments our physical senses.
2. All qualitative properties (at least the ones we can talk about scientifically) are ultimately reducible to quantitative ones (for example, color is reduced to wavelength, thought to measurable brain waves, hate and love to the chemical composition of glandular secretions).
3. There is a clear demarcation between the objective world, which can be perceived by anyone, and subjective experience, which is perceived by the individual alone, in the privacy of his/her own mind. Scientific knowledge deals with the former; the latter may be important to the individual, but its exploration does not lead to the same kind of publicly verifiable knowledge.
4. The concept of free will is a prescientific attempt to explain behavior that scientific analysis reveals is due to a combination of forces impinging on the individual from the outside, together with pressures and tensions internal to the organism.
5. What we know as consciousness or awareness of our thoughts and feelings is a secondary phenomenon arising from physical and biochemical processes in the brain.
6. What we know as memory is strictly a matter of stored data in the central nervous system, somewhat analogous to the storage of information in a digital computer.
7. The nature of time being what it is, there is obviously no way in which we can obtain knowledge of future events, other than by rational prediction from known causes and past regularities.
8. Since mental activity is simply a matter of dynamically varying states in the physical organism (primarily in the brain), it is completely impossible for this mental activity to exert any effect directly on the physical world outside the organism.
9. The evolution of the universe and of man has come about through physical causes (such as random mutation, natural selection), and there is no justification for any concept of universal purpose in the evolution, or in the development of consciousness, or in the strivings of the individual.
10. Individual consciousness does not survive the death of the organism; or if there is any meaningful sense in which the individual consciousness persists after the death of the physical body we can neither comprehend it in this life or in any way obtain knowledge about it.

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Posted by on January 14, 2017 in NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY, SCIENCE

 

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Is superstition a menu in McDo and Jollibee?

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”  Bertrand Russell

By Alex P. Vidal

DO we still believe in superstition in this age of cybernetics and space travel?

There are people nowadays who continue to consider superstition as part of their way of life.

But what really is superstition? Is it a menu in the McDonald’s and Jollibee?

Superstition does not merely apply to religion or bigoted and vicious religious practices that place artificial limits to man’s intellectual pursuits.

Partly influenced by religious dogmatism, some superstitious beliefs originated from ancient folklore passed from one generation to another.

Some of them are: Napoleon’s fear of black cats; Socrates’ evil eye; and Julius Caesar dreaded dreams.

Henry VIII claimed witchcraft trapped him into marrying with former mistress Anne Boleyn, mother of Queen Elizabeth I.

Peter the Great suffered a pathological terror of crossing bridges.

Samuel Johnson entered and exited a building with his right foot foremost.

“Bad-luck superstition still keep many people from walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella indoors, or boarding an airplane on Friday the 13th,” Charles Panati narrates in Extraordinary Origins of Everything Things.

“On the other hand, the same people, hoping for good luck, might cross their fingers or, knock wood.”

IRRATIONAL

Panati thinks that superstition beliefs, given their irrational nature, should have receded with the arrival of education and the advent of science.

Yet even today, he observes, when objective evidence is valued highly, few people, if pressed, would not admit to secretly cherishing one, or two, or many superstitions.

Panati says that across America, tens of thousands of lottery tickets are penciled in every day based on nothing more or less than people’s “lucky” numbers.

“Perhaps this is how it should be, for superstitions are an ancient part of our human heritage,” explains Panati.

According to him, archaeologists identify Neanderthal man, who roamed throughout Western Asia 50,000 years ago, as having produced the first superstitious (and spiritual) belief: survival in an afterlife.

Whereas earlier Homo sapiens abandoned the dead, Neanderthals buried their dead with ritual funerals, interring with their body food, weapons, and fire charcoals to be used in the next life.

Panati says the superstition and the birth of spirituality go hand and hand is not surprising. Throughout history, one person’s superstition was often another’s religion.

The Christian Emperor Constantine called paganism superstition, while the pagan statesman Tacitus called Christianity a pernicious, irrational belief.

VENERATION

Protestants regarded the Catholic veneration of saints and relics as superstitious, while Christians similarly viewed Hindu practices.

“Today there seems to be no logical reason why a wishbone symbolizes good luck while a broken mirror augurs the opposite,” Panati elaborates. “But in earlier times, every superstition had a purposeful origin, a cultural background, and a practical explanation.”

Superstitions arose in a straightforward manner. This was how Panati explained it:

Primitive man, seeking answers for phenomena such as lightning, thunder, eclipses, birth, and death, and lacking knowledge of the laws of nature, developed a belief in unseen spirits.

He observed that animals possessed a sixth sense to danger and imagined that spirits whispered secret warning to them. And the miracle of a tree sprouting from a seed, or a frog from a tadpole, pointed to otherworldly intervention.

His daily existence fraught with hardships, he assumed that the world was more populated with vengeful spirits than with beneficent ones. (Thus the preponderance of superstitious beliefs we inherited involve ways to protect ourselves from evil.)

PROTECT

To protect himself in what seemed like a helter-skelter world, ancient man adopted the foot of a rabbit, the flip of a coin, and a four-leaf clover.

It was an attempt to impose will on chaos.

And when one amulet failed, he tried another, then another.

In this way, thousands of ordinary objects, expressions, and incantations assumed magical significance.

In a sense, we do the same thing today. A student writes a prize-winning paper with a certain pen and that pen becomes “lucky.”

A horse player scores high on a rainy day and weather is then factored into his betting.

We make the ordinary extraordinary.

In fact, there’s scarcely a thing in our environment around which some culture has not woven a superstitious claim: mistletoe, garlic, apples, horseshoes, umbrella, hiccups, stumbling, crossed fingers, rainbows. And that’s barely the beginning.

“Though we now have scientific explanations for many once-mysterious phenomena, daily life still holds enough unpredictability that we turn, especially in times of misfortune, to superstitions to account for the unaccountable, to impose our own wishes on world vicissitudes,” concludes Panati.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in EDUCATION, NATURE

 

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We upset the balance of nature

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein

 By Alex P. Vidal

IT was Sir Francis Bacon who exhorted us to obey our nature if we wish to command it.

By obeying, it doesn’t mean we will not enjoy from its wealth.

By commanding, it doesn’t mean we will destroy it.

The laws of nature definitely are in consonance with our existence, thus there is no need to exploit and ravage nature for our whims and caprices.

There is no need to rape the environment for our own irrational selfishness and greed.

The following are some of the ways in which man has upset nature’s balance and reduced our supplies of natural wealth:

  1. Destruction of vast forest areas. Enormous quantities of lumber were taken from our forests for buildings, furniture, fuel, and other useful purposes.

But because of the apparent abundance of forests, lumbering practices were very wasteful. Little heed was given to the replanting of trees to keep our forests producing for the future.

  1. Destruction of wild life. When forests are cut away, the homes of countless animals are destroyed, and these animals die.

The balance of nature has been upset at a vital point, and entire species may vanish as a result.

Added to this is the effect of needless trapping and shooting of animals for sport.

Examples of species made extinct or nearly extinct by man most particularly in America are: American bison (buffalo), antelope, passenger pigeon.

FARM

  1. Reckless use of farm lands. Nature’s orderly processes keep soils permanently fertile.

But when man’s sole interest is to extract the maximum crop from his farm each year, regardless of the consequences, the soil soon loses its essential minerals and cannot support plant life at all. The soil, moreover, loosened and laid bare by the planting and harvesting of a single crop, and the wind and the rain easily carry it away.

  1. Overgrazing of pasture lands. Sheep- and cattle-raisers, through lack of planning and foresight, have pastured their animals on the same land year after year.

Here, too, the result has been to lay bare the soil, so that it falls victim to erosion.

  1. Pollution of streams. The dumping of sewage and industrial wastes into streams and rivers makes these waters unhealthy for water life.

The result is the destruction of large numbers of fish, oysters, and other valuable organisms.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in EDUCATION, NATURE

 

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