In a neat little essay, Adam Frank writes something that resonates to some extent with some blatterings I wrote down almost a year ago. It is about the good old science versus religion debate, and about how both sides (in their simplistic form) get it wrong.
I think Frank gets it right. On both sides, to some extent, there is too great a stress on ‘knowing’ - that is, the idea that we can grasp something like ‘objective’ reality. For example, traditional, monotheistic, doctrinal religion revolves all around ‘knowing’ – with certainty – that God exists, and that all the religious and moral doctrines flowing from that fact are always and everywhere correct. There is no place for any spiritual, direct experience of the divine; it is essentially about following the literal ‘truth’ of a book. This can be seen at its worst in calvinism – which is why I think this is one of the most flawed versions of religion.
On the other hand, in positivist, materialist science a similar stress on objective ‘knowing’ can be discerned. Here, too, there is no place for something like experience, at it is reduced to whatever happens in atoms. Mankind is seen as nothing more than essentially a big machine. At its other end, there is a zeal for discovering what the universe is composed of; whether there are parallel universes, whether there is a Theory of Everything, etc. At some hypothetical endpoint of science, we are supposed to ’know’ everything and then be happy with it. This is a sort of ‘nihilism’ that, to me at least, is not only unsatisfying, but also a misrecognition of what it is like to ‘experience’ the world.
The fact that I can experience myself and my own consciousness for me at least is a sort of wonder for which science has no adequate explanation in terms of its meaning (that is, it can describe how it mechanically comes into being, but the experience in itself is idiosyncratic). Frank says something similar. Quoting Sartre, who said ”Even if God did exist, that would change nothing” (interpreted as meaning that even if we would have ‘knowledge’ of a God, that would still leave the mystery of existence untouched), he proposes that we should focus on the act of being rather than the act of knowing.
This is where ‘spirituality’ (screw that word) comes in. But rather than having to do with ridiculous New Agey stuff, this is a call for abandoning the bastions of certainty, found in monotheistic religion and science, which only lead to needless disputes, and focusing on the immediate experience of the self. And then maybe with its connection to other parts of being. I think this is in a nutshell what Heidegger is about. But you can also find it in the eradication of the Cartesian mind-body divide in tenets of Eastern thinking. And in mysticism. Or do drugs.
What exactly are we looking for? What fuels so much of the passion and intensity behind the debates over religion, the debates between religions and the debates surrounding science and religion? At the heart of these debates you will often find the issue of “knowing.”
Knowing if God exists, or not. Knowing how the Universe began and if a creator was necessary, or not. Knowing how human beings “became” and what constitutes appropriate moral codes in light of that becoming. Always and again, the emphasis is on knowledge, on the certainty of understanding something, of knowing some fact and its meaning. What a tragic mistake.
The great comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, “People don’t want the meaning of life, they want the experience of life.” He could not have hit the nail more firmly on the head.
One thing I have never understood in the vitriol that people manage to dredge up in these science vs. religion battles is their lack clarity about goals. Is human spiritual endeavor really about “knowing” the existence of a superbeing? Does this academic “knowing”, as in “I can prove this to be true,” really what lies behind the spiritual genius of people like the ninth century Sufi poet Rumi, the 13th century Zen teacher Dogen, or more modem examples like Martin Luther King or Ghandi?
There are many reasons human beings institutionalized their spiritual longing into religions. Those reasons often devolved into considerations of power, control and real estate. Those institutions certainly have needed to enforce creed and doctrine, i.e. “knowledge.”
But the reasons individuals find their lives transformed by spiritual longing are intimate and deeply personal affairs having little to do with dusty “proofs for the existence of God.” As all those “spiritual but not religious” folks popping up in surveys on religion will tell you, the essence of the question is about experience, not facts.
Along a similar vein, in the pro-science/anti-religion camps one often hears the quest for understanding the universe put in equally ultimate, quasi-theological terms. Finding the final theory, the Theory of Everything, is held up as a kind of moment “when the truth shall be revealed once and for all.” While many practicing scientists might not see it this way, the scientific knowledge/enlightenment trope has been there in popular culture for a long time reaching all the back to Faust and up through movies like Pi.
As the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said “Even if God did exist, that would change nothing.” One way to interpret his meaning was that a formulaic “knowledge” of a superbeing’s existence is beside the point when the real issue before us every day, all day is the verb “to be.”
It’s the act of being that gives rise to our suffering and our moments of enlightenment. Right there, right in the very experience of life, is the warm, embodied truth we long for so completely.
Spirituality, at its best, points us away from easy codifications when it shows us how to immerse ourselves in the simple, inescapable act of being. Science at its root is also an expression of reverence and awe for the endless varied, resonantly beautiful experience we can find ourselves immersed in. So knowing the meaning of life as encoded in a religious creed on a page or an equation on a blackboard is not the issue. A deeper, richer experience of this one life: that is the issue!
So, can we stop thinking that discussions about science and religion have to focus on who has the best set of facts?
When it comes to the natural world, it’s hard to see how science is not going win the “facts” war hands down. But if we broaden our view to see being as the central issue, then connections between science and spiritual longing might be seen in an entirely different light.
Your Scene Sucks has been around for a couple of years, documenting those fragmented youth cultures revolving around being hip, the Internet, and music (or being not so hip, eating vegan and fighting fascism and what not). But now, they also have a book! You can order it here, featuring all 38 scenesters.
Meanwhile, I’ve selected a couple that stand out…
One of the most pretentious of all hipsters, fixies are primarily located in Williamsburg, Portland, San Francisco and wherever else snobs congregate these days. They tend to hang out at cafés, bike shops and anywhere else they can turn their nose at other hipsters. Usually enrolled in some form of printmaking or photography at their art school, the fixie spends more time complaining about things rather than creating them.
she’s the girl you see at all the “scene” shows, putting her chest piece prominently on display for all her super-indie (see: pop-punk) friends to admire. much like other scenesters, she is completely void of any originality and bases her identity off of whatever she sees everyone else doing.
she updates her livejournal on an hourly basis, making sure to keep everyone informed about her ever-evolving and always drama-filled relationships. speaking of boys, she only dates ones with the exact same taste in music, because in the end isn’t that what matters most?
Playlist the blood brothers taking back sunday motion city soundtrack thursday cartel
Bookmarks madradhair livejournal perezhilton
with a wardrobe that looks like it was donated to a thrift store by either crosby, stills or nash in 1971 and a beard that has its own zip code, this indie icon has a devout army of worshippers who follow his every whispered word.
the lethargic lo-fi lethario is known to lock himself in a cabin for months on end to craft minimalistic folksy songs. by the end of his self-imposed exile, all he has produced is a stream of hushed whispers with barely fingerpicked guitar strums.
Playlist iron and wine bon iver blitzen trapper m. ward jose gonzalez
Bookmarks sub pop records pitchfork media passing afternoon
Often considered the neon pink-headed step child of the goth community, the over-the-top fashion of the Cybergoth is typically scoffed at by traditional Goths. Looking something like a mix of Rainbow Brite meets The Matrix, they are by far one of the most flamboyant misfits of the goth subculture.
Playlist angelspit vnv nation icon of coil dawn of ashes psyclon nine
Ahh, good old LA. Always looks better from a distance then when you’re in the middle of it. Check this nice timelapsed video of a twilight landing at LAX, taken from the cockpit. Ignore the crappy music.
The role of the United States is, basically, to try to smooth the way behind the scenes for something approximating a South Korean-type endgame, where a transitional regime affiliated with the old powers agrees to play by new rules, paving the way for an opposition coalition to win in the future. Is that possible? I don’t think anybody can say for sure. But we don’t need to know, because second-best outcomes follow the same path.
The worst-case scenario would be for Egypt to arrive at a truly revolutionary situation, with the collapse of the government and the seizure of power by a temporarily united opposition. This is the most likely scenario to lead to an Islamic regime, precisely because the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized non-state political force, which privileges it in a situation of political chaos.
Nearly as bad would be for the army to side explicitly with the Mubarak regime and crush the Egyptian people by force, as this would make the Egyptian regime transparently illegitimate, and would make it practically impossible for the United States to continue its relationship with Egypt as it has in the past (and the Egyptian regime would, undoubtedly, look for other sponsorship to shore up its position). The only way to avoid either scenario would be to rely on the military to ease the current regime out, and do so in a context of some dialogue with the opposition. This appears to be pretty much what the United States is quietly nudging the military to do behind the scenes.
(Picture: A relatively recent screenshot of Tahrir Square, Cairo, where fighter jets scrambled over earlier today and people are making preparations to stay during the night, from this live-blog.)
While we don’t know exactly how the Egyptian government choked off Internet access, there’s no centralized red button that the government—or anyone—can push to turn it off. Evidence suggests a government official called Egypt’s four biggest Internet service providers—Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, and Etisalat Misr—and told them to halt connections. (Vodafone has said it cooperated because the regime has the legal authority to order such a halt.) An engineer at each ISP would then access the ISP’s routers, which contain lists of all the IP addresses accessible through that provider, and delete most or all of those IP addresses, thus cutting off anyone who wants to access them from within or outside the country. That doesn’t mean each ISP had to physically power down their computers; they simply had to change some lines of code.
Egypt didn’t shut down the entire Internet. About 93 percent of Egyptian networks have been disabled, according to Renesys, a company that monitors global Internet activity. One major ISP, Noor Group, is still up and running. Perhaps not coincidentally, Noor happens to host Egypt’s stock exchange. Web connections used by the government and military are also likely still operating on their own private ISPs. Some Egyptian users might also be able to use old-fashioned dial-up connections.
Withholding the Internet in Egypt is relatively easy, compared with other more democratic countries. For one thing, there are only four major ISPs, each of which has relatively few routers connecting them to the outside world. By comparison, anyone who wanted to shut down the Internet in the United States would have to deal with many different companies. And while Egypt can legally disable telecom companies by executive decree, American companies might fall under various regulatory umbrellas that limit the government’s power to disrupt communication channels. Members of Congress have proposed creating a “kill switch” that would shut down the Internet at the push of a button in the case of a “cybersecurity emergency,” but erecting such a blockade would be logistically difficult.
Manu Dibango’s Soul Makossa is considered by many to be the first disco song. The 1970 album with the same title is a great Afro jazz album that I have recently discovered. This is a very low-paced, dreamy track and therefore perfect as this week’s Sunday Chill Track:
As of 4:10 pm local time, the protests in Cairo and other major cities in Egypt continue, even after the night curfew has started. Multiple deaths have been reported today and some have been recorded on video. Mubarak has ordered the military to join the riot police in Cairo. He is about to make a statement on Egyptian television.
The blog DesignBoom has a great photo series of some of the most original, beautiful subway stations around. The picture above is of Stockholm’s ‘Tunnelbana’ system, which has been built into the rocky underground of the city.
the subway system in stockholm, sweden features art installations in almost every station. the city’s 100 stations feature art by almost 140 artists and it is often called the world’s longest art gallery. the system may focus on artwork, but it also features a number of stations with unusual architecture. the t-centralen station is one of the most distinctive designed by per olof ultvedt in 1975. the station features a massive mural painted on the cavern like ceiling that exposes the rocky core of the city. many of the system’s stations also feature this unique cavern ceiling that gives them an organic feeling and unique atmosphere.
This is Munich’s relatively new U-bahn system:
munich’s u-bahn subway system only began in 1972, but it has quickly grown into a 98 station system spread across the entire city. because of its young age munich had the advantage of learning from the mistakes of other systems creating spacious and efficient stations. while the first stations were quite plain, the architecture of its new stations is often quite daring. some stand out stations include the colourful dulferstrasse station designed by peter lanz and jurgen rauch and westfriedhof, which features lighting installations by ingo mauer.
In Shanghai, they have a crazy ‘Bund’ sightseeing tunnel, with lightning effects, music and sounds.
the bund sightseeing tunnel located in shanghai, china isn’t technically a subway system but rather a short distance transporter. measuring only 647m long, the train tunnel connects the bund to pudong. along the way the rider is bombarded with lighting effects, music and special effects that turn the ride into something out of this world.
And in Barcelona, the lay-out of the Drassanes station seems to be inspired by 2001:
the spanish firm on-a arquitectura recently remodeled the barcelona subway station drassanes. the space’s new design was based on the concept of using the same materials as the subway cars that drive through the station. a white concrete covers the walls and slowly blends into the floors which were made vibration proof. the ceiling was made black to contrast the white and is lined with long angular light fixtures. other corridors in the station feature a mosaic of oversized tiles in a variety of vivid colours.
I never liked Technic LEGO. As a kid, I was more from the medieval, pirate age and spacefaring LEGO departments. But this is pretty awesome: a manual to construct five badass LEGO guns.
That’s right. Check the hilarious trailer to the manual book below.
Badass LEGO Guns shows you how to build five impressive weapons entirely from LEGO Technic parts. With the help of rubber bands, some sanding, and a touch of Krazy Glue, you’ll build five complex and functional guns that shoot plastic LEGO bricks or rubber bands at high speed with surprising accuracy. The easy-to-follow building instructions include complete parts lists, assembly tips, and a discussion of general design principles.Learn to build:
* Thriller, a powerful crossbow pistol with smooth cocking and chambering mechanisms
* Parabella, a pint-sized, rubber-band shooting marvel
* The Warbeast, a sophisticated, fully-automatic bullpup submachine gun
* Liliputt, a semi-automatic pistol with a nine-brick magazine
* Mini-Thriller, a folding crossbow pistol
Heel lang geleden, toen Pasen en Pinksteren nog op één dag vielen, pleitte de antirevolutionaire politiek leider Abraham Kuyper voor het omvormen van de Eerste Kamer naar een “belangenkamer” (zie: A. Kuyper, Handenarbeid, 1889). In plaats van vertegenwoordigers van, toen nog, een territoriaal district, zouden in deze belangenkamer afgevaardigden moeten zitten van belangrijke groepen en entiteiten in de samenleving: de kerk, de universiteit, de vakbond, de werkgevers, enzovoort. Een dergelijke corporatistische vertegenwoordiging zou volgens Kuyper een betere afspiegeling van de samenleving zijn dan één die gebaseerd was op het algemeen kiesrecht.
Kuyper heeft zijn plannen er nooit door gekregen. Maar anno 2011 lijkt het erop dat zijn ideeën meer dan ooit bewaarheid zijn. Check dit artikel in Trouw, over het “lobbycircus” in de Eerste Kamer. Volgens D66-kandidaat Ernst Bakker ‘dreigen’ Eerste Kamerleden ‘veredelde belangenbehartigers’ te worden. Het Kamerlidmaatschap wordt in toenemende mate gecombineerd met hoge nevenfuncties in het bedrijfsleven, in de semi-overheid, of bij ngo’s.
Maar het CDA spant wel de kroon, want hun lijstaanvoerder is *roffel* Elco Brinkman. Lobbykoning nummer één in Nederland, jarenlang bovenaan in Volkskrant-lijstjes van meest invloedrijke Nederlanders. Een grotere netwerker bestaat niet. De lijst aan nevenfuncties, commissariaten en adviesfuncties die deze man heeft bekleed zou deze halve blog vullen.
En weet u wat nou het aardige is? Dat diezelfde Eerste Kamer als waar deze belangenbehartigers zo dadelijk in komen, thans wetgeving traineert waarmee het aantal nevenfuncties voor bestuurders drastisch ingeperkt wordt. Deze wetgeving is al anderhalf jaar geleden door de Tweede Kamer aangenomen, maar de Eerste Kamer weigert het in stemming te brengen. Dat is namelijk zo’n beetje het enige machtsmiddel dat de Eerste Kamer heeft.
Ach ja, Nederland. Misschien is het wel aardig om deze informatie in uw achterhoofd te houden, wanneer u zo dadelijk gaat stemmen voor de Provinciale Staten.
Eerste Kamerleden dreigen veredelde belangenbehartigers te worden. De Kamer dreigt ‘één groot lobbycircuit te worden’, zegt afzwaaiend burgemeester van Hilversum Ernst Bakker (D66) woensdag in het Nederlands Dagblad. “Ik zou bijna zeggen: lobbycircus.”
Bakker heeft er kritiek op dat mensen hun Kamerlidmaatschap combineren met hoge functies in het bedrijfsleven, soms zelf bij lobbygroepen zoals Bouwend Nederland. Dan ontstaat volgens hem de indruk dat er mensen in de Kamer zitten die ook andere belangen dienen.
De wetgeving waarmee het aantal nevenfuncties voor bestuurders drastisch ingeperkt moet worden, wordt door de Eerste Kamer op de lange baan geschoven. Dat stelt een meerderheid van SP, PvdA, PVV en GroenLinks in EenVandaag.
De partijen verwijten de Eerste Kamer wetgeving te traineren door een omstreden wetsvoorstel over de inperking van het aantal nevenfuncties te weigeren in stemming te brengen. Het wetsvoorstel –goedgekeurd door de Tweede Kamer- wacht inmiddels anderhalf jaar op stemming. Hero Brinkman in EenVandaag: “Het is het enige machtsmiddel dat de Eerste Kamer heeft, namelijk traineren, niets is erger dan de wil van volk niet uitvoeren en dat is wat deze Eerste Kamer doet. Er is een complete cultuur van belangenverstrengeling in de Eerste Kamer.” Die belangenverstrengeling door de vele nevenfuncties van Eerste Kamerleden is volgens de kamermeerderheid de reden voor de vertraging.
A lot of people in the pro-piracy camp point to record labels as a justification for piracy. Record labels are evil, and therefore theft is justified. I’m not going to make an analogy with the meat industry here, and ask why these same people don’t also steal meat from the store (that would be justified too). Instead, I’m going to point at the alternative rock/folk band Wilco, which has founded its own record label. dBpm Records is run by their own manager, and will henceforth distribute their music. So I’m assuming they’re not being ripped off in terms of royalties.
Would you reward Wilco for the fruits of their labor, and buy or legally download a cd, now that you know they run their own label?
According to a press release, dBpm Records will put out all future Wilco releases “and more,” and will be run by the band’s manager, Tony Margherita, out of offices in Easthampton, Massachusetts. ANTI- Records will distribute the label, as well as other services. The band are currently working on their next album at their Chicago studio, the Loft.
“This is an idea we’ve discussed for years,” bandleader Jeff Tweedy said in a statement. “We really like doing things ourselves, so having our own label feels pretty natural to me. And, to be working with ANTI- a label that has its roots in a label that was started by a punk rock guy to sell his own records seems like a perfect fit for us.”
At a press conference Tuesday, the World Heritage Committee officially recognized the Gap Between Rich and Poor as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” describing the global wealth divide as the “most colossal and enduring of mankind’s creations.”"Of all the epic structures the human race has devised, none is more staggering or imposing than the Gap Between Rich and Poor,” committee chairman Henri Jean-Baptiste said. “It is a tremendous, millennia-old expanse that fills us with both wonder and humility.”
“And thanks to careful maintenance through the ages, this massive relic survives intact, instilling in each new generation a sense of awe,” Jean- Baptiste added.
The vast chasm of wealth, which stretches across most of the inhabited world, attracts millions of stunned observers each year, many of whom have found its immensity too overwhelming even to contemplate. By far the largest man-made structure on Earth, it is readily visible from locations as far-flung as Eastern Europe, China, Africa, and Brazil, as well as all 50 U.S. states.
According to anthropologists, untold millions of slaves and serfs toiled their whole lives to complete the gap. Records indicate the work likely began around 10,000 years ago, when the world’s first landed elites convinced their subjects that construction of such a monument was the will of a divine authority, a belief still widely held today.
Though historians have repeatedly disproved such claims, theories still persist among many that the Gap Between Rich and Poor was built by the Jews.
While numerous individuals have tried to cross the Gap Between Rich and Poor, evidence suggests that only a small fraction have ever succeeded and many have died in the attempt.
Its official recognition as the Eighth Wonder of the World marks the culmination of a dramatic turnaround from just 50 years ago, when popular movements called for the gap’s closure. However, due to a small group of dedicated politicians and industry leaders, vigorous preservation efforts were begun around 1980 to restore—and greatly expand—the age-old structure.
“It’s breathtaking,” said Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, a longtime champion and benefactor of the rift’s conservation.
We’re used to something in American political ads, but this trumps everything I’ve seen in preposterousness. Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota starts what’s likely his presidential campaign with this completely over the top cinematic ad.
A couple of years ago, I had to take a cab from a Manhattan hotel to JFK airport really early in the morning, at 5.30 am or so.
It was already light outside.
It was very otherwordly to be driven through an, at that time, completely deserted Manhattan. The streets, normally bustling with traffic, were now empty, and you could see a mile away through the corridors between the high-rise buildings.
That’s what this cool exhibition of photos of empty public spaces in New York by Christopher Thomas reminds me of.