Neil deGrasse Tyson
“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson
"The greatest good is the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole of nature."
For those who want to completely separate humans from the animal kingdom you are like a leaf that did not know it was part of a tree.
"Our unique attributes evolved over a period of roughly 6 million years. They represent modifications of great ape attributes that are roughly 10 million years old, primate attributes that are roughly 55 million years old, mammalian attributes that are roughly 245 million years old, vertebrate attributes that are roughly 600 million years old, and attributes of nucleated cells that are perhaps 1,500 million years old.
If you think it is unnecessary to go that far back in the tree of life to understand our own attributes, consider the humbling fact that we share with nematodes [roundworms] the same gene that controls appetite. At most, our unique attributes are like an addition onto a vast multiroom mansion. It is sheer hubris to think that we can ignore all but the newest room." David Sloan Wilson, Evolution for Everyone, 2007
The ancient "Reptilian" components of our brain she calls our "Lizard Legacy"; the paleomammalian emotional brain she(Connie Barlow)calls our "Furry Li'l Mammal." Our neomammalian neocortex is our "Monkey Mind." And our distinctively hominid prefrontal cortex (at our forehead), with its executive function and capacity to override our base instincts becomes our "Higher Porpoise."
At its core the religious impulse is a supernatural explanation for natural events or an explanation for the unknowable current mysteries of the universe. The human primate demands an explanation even when one is beyond its reach. It sees agency where there may be none at all or maybe something all together different than anything human beings can imagine. A miraculous explanation in the mind is a passing dream but in written form it is religions staying power. A supernatural explanation is better than no explanation for a pattern seeking primate.
"Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of the imagination."
"The analysis of disgust and shame...shows us that human beings typically have a problematic relationship to their mortality and animality, and that this problematic relationship causes not just inner tension, but also aggression toward others. If ideals of respect and reciprocity are to have a chance of prevailing, they must contend against the forces of narcissism and misanthropy that these emotions so frequently involve."
-Hiding from Humanity by Martha Nussbaum
"Kierkegaard's torment was the direct result of seeing the world as it really is in relation to his situation as a creature. The prison of one's character is painstakingly built to deny one thing and one thing alone: one's creatureliness. The creatureliness is the terror. Once admit that you are a defecating creature and you invite the primeval ocean of creature anxiety to flood over you. But it is more than creature anxiety, it is also man's anxiety, the anxiety that results from the human paradox that man is an animal who is conscious of his animal limitation. Anxiety is the result of the perception of the truth of one's condition. What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression—and with all this yet to die."
"The individual has to protect himself against the world, and he can do this only as any other animal would: by narrowing down the world, shutting off experience, developing an obliviousness both to the terrors of the world and to his own anxieties. Otherwise he would be crippled for action. We cannot repeat too often the great lesson of Freudian psychology: that repression is normal self-protection and creative self-restriction—in a real sense, man's natural substitute for instinct. Rank has a perfect, key term for this natural human talent: he calls it "partialization" and very rightly sees that life is impossible without it.What we call the well-adjusted man has just this capacity to partialize the world for comfortable action.
In other words, men aren't built to be gods, to take in the whole world; they are built like other creatures, to take in the piece of ground in front of their noses. Gods can take in the whole of creation because they alone can make sense of it, know what it is all about and for. But as soon as a man lifts his nose from the ground and starts sniffing at eternal problems like life and death, the meaning of a rose or a star cluster—then he is in trouble. Most men spare themselves this trouble by keeping their minds on the small problems of their lives just as their society maps these problems out for them. These are what Kierkegaard called the "immediate" men and the "Philistines." They "tranquilize themselves with the trivial"—and so they can lead normal lives.
The neurotic is having trouble with the balance of cultural illusion and natural reality; the possible horrible truth about himself and the world is seeping into his consciousness. The average man is at least secure that the cultural game is the truth, the unshakable, durable truth.
"What would the average man do with a full consciousness of absurdity? He has fashioned his character for the precise purpose of putting it between himself and the facts of life; it is his special tour-de-force that allows him to ignore incongruities, to nourish himself on impossibilities, to thrive on blindness. He accomplishes thereby a peculiarly human victory: the ability to be smug about terror. Sartre has called man a "useless passion" because he is so hopelessly bungled, so deluded about his true condition. He wants to be a god with only the equipment of an animal, and so he thrives on fantasies. As Ortega so well put it in the epigraph we have used for this chapter, man uses his ideas for the defense of his existence, to frighten away reality. This is a serious game, the defense of one's existence—how take it away from people and leave them joyous?"
Thanks to 2bsirius
Some thoughts to share:
I think like you the table of knowledge is big enough for literature and science. There is this tension between those who emphasize literature and those who highlight science. Literature is not the problem unless it is dogmatic literature that poses an obstacle to scientific inquiry and curiosity. I think the literature community feels threatened by the Scientific community as being judged as not relevant or superfluous. And the Scientific community feels literature at times "muddies the water to make it seem deep" as Nietzsche opined.
For me I think we can eat from both of these fruits without becoming an us vs. them dichotomy. The appetite for knowledge should be diverse and not limited by one genre.
I think what could be part of the problematic communication is the emphasis and what one highlights. This thrust of emphasis does not cover the deep ambiguities but I do think Aronra is doing a necessary work. The problem with Creationism is that it denies human mortality, fragility and our deep connection to the Earth. The problem with Scientism is that it can be a means to be "smug about reality" and acquire a false sense of control and deny the existential anxiety - the human condition. I do not put Professor Anton or Aronra in these but there is a line of tension there. There are many ways to view the Circle and what we highlight is part of the conversation.
"One of the ironies of the creative process is that it partly cripples itself in order to function. I mean that, usually, in order to turn out a piece of work the author has to exaggerate the emphasis of it, to oppose it in a forcefully competitive way to other versions of the truth; and he gets carried away by his own exaggeration, as his distinctive image is built on it...the problem is to find the truth underneath the exaggeration."
It is not a right and wrong or black and white issue but rather a difference of what one highlights. Pathos is a variable that impacts what you underline.
Let me paint a picture for you. Religious dogma is a thick sheet of ice and the person is trapped underneath it. To use a quote from Kafka it sometimes takes an Axe to break the frozen sea. I see the New Atheism as an Axe that for some it is the only instrument to break the sheet of ice and allow them some fresh air of reason and scientific wonder. For those individuals the New Atheism was a necessary good. I think religious liberals feel that their thin ice of religion is being attacked by that Axe and it seems superfluous. I think that is the misunderstanding. The New Atheism is most beneficial for the thick ice not the thin ice.
For some people they don't even realize there is a world beyond the ice sheet and for those people I see the New Atheism as a benefit. Now that does not mean it is completely without fault. There could be problems with the style and delivery that turn people off or make them go deeper into dogma. Perhaps a more indirect approach of wonder and skepticism is better to thaw the ice instead of break it with a blunt instrument. A warmth of intellectual stimulation would be better to thaw out the ice of dogma for some.
For a large number of people in the world religion is a real influence in life that takes on many forms that are not always soft or benign. Religion often gets in the way of a child's full potential to education and greater vision. For this reason alone I cannot view religion as something to behold in passive appreciation. There are other foes to contend with such as racism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, fascism and many other isms so it should be acknowledged that there are many variables to the problems in the world and humans with or without religion have a will to power that needs to be checked by the persistent voice of reason.
"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
-Sir Isaac Newton
"The last thing man can admit to himself is that his life-ways are arbitrary: this is one of the reasons that people often show derisive glee and scorn over the 'strange' customs of other lands—it is a defense against the awareness that his own way of life may be just as fundamentally contrived as any other. One culture is always a potential menace to another because it is a living example that life can go on heroically without a value framework totally alien to one's own."
Man is cursed with a burden no animal has to bear: he is conscious that his own end is inevitable, that his stomach will die. [Herein we have the origins of civilization] As soon as you have symbols you have artificial self-transcendence via culture. Everything cultural is fabricated and given meaning by the mind, a meaning that was not given by physical nature . . . . [but] the terror of death still rumbles underneath the cultural repression. What men have done is to shift the fear of death onto the higher level of cultural perpetuity . . . . men must now hold for dear life onto the self-transcending meanings of the society in which they live . . . a new kind of instability and anxiety are created.
In seeking to avoid evil [(death)], man is responsible for bringing more evil into the world than organisms could ever do merely by exercising their digestive tracts. It is man’s ingenuity, rather than his animal nature, that has given his fellow creatures such a bitter earthly fate.
Anything that reduces the other organisms and adds to one’s own size and importance is a direct way to gain self-feeling . . . . in man we find that he is in an almost constant struggle not to be diminished in his organismic importance.
Persons have to keep from going mad by biting off small pieces of reality which they can get some command over and some satisfaction from. This means that their noblest passions are played out in the narrowest and most unreflective ways, and this is what undoes them. From this point of view the main problem for human beings has to be expressed in the following paradox; Men and women must have a fetish in order to survive and to have ‘normal mental health.’ But this shrinkage of vision that permits them to survive also at the same time prevents them from having the overall understanding they need to plan for and control the effects of their shrinkage of experience. A paradox this bitter sends a chill through all reflective people.
Men’s fears are buried deeply by repression, which gives to everyday life its tranquil façade; only occasionally does the desperation show through, and only for some people. It is repression, then, that great discovery of psychoanalysis that explains how well men can hide their basic motivations even from themselves. But men also live in a dimension of care freeness, trust, hope, and joy which gives them buoyancy beyond that which repression alone could give. This, as we saw with Rank, is achieved by the symbolic engineering of culture, which everywhere serves men as an antidote to terror by giving them a new and durable life beyond that of the body.
Ernest Becker, Escape From Evil
"You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hard-tack, and a little sugar and coffee."
"I will remain what I am until I die...for where an Indian is shut up in one place his body becomes weak. "
Among the Lakota, no one had a greater reputation for bravery. Once, on the Yellowstone River in 1872, he and four other warriors had strolled out between the lines in the midst of a battle with soldiers guarding a railroad crew. Sitting Bull calmly sat down. With the bullets pattering around him, he filled his pipe, smoked it, passed it back and forth to his companions until the bowl was empty. Then he reamed it out and walked away.
His Lakota name -- Tatanka-Iyotanka -- described an intractable buffalo bull, sitting on its haunches, resolute in the face of danger.
-PBS, New Perspectives on the West
It just takes a brief view of human history and a minimal knowledge of current events to see that anyone can be impacted by tragedy no matter who they are. The fragility is universal. Some humans rush to judgment when tragedy happens and blame the very victims of tragic events instead of understanding and accepting that they are just as vulnerable as any other being to cruel fate. As Aristotle stated Luck is when the other person gets hit with an arrow. Let us try not to be so solipsistic and realize other beings are not so lucky on this blue planet.
"She (nature) destroys us--coldly, cruelly, relentlessly, as it seems to us, and possibly through the very things that occasioned our satisfaction. it was precisely because of these dangers with which nature threatens us that we came together and created civilization, which is also, among other things, intended to make our communal life possible. For the principal task of civilization, its actual rasion d' etre, is to defend us against nature."
"If the world shoud break and fall on him, it would strike him fearless."
“Pulvis et umbra sumus. (We are but dust and shadow.)”
“Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul, or rain or shine
the joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself, upon the past has power,
but what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.”