The Prophets of Deuteronomy
Where is Eliot Spitzer When You Need Him?

Something like Mr. Spock in the Air

When Stalin and successors ruled Russia, there was strict media censorship. You didn’t speak against the state. Nowadays there is no state censorship, yet the media kowtows as though there was. The censorship is self-imposed. “There is no person who tells [me] what you can and what you can’t do.“ says journalist Nikolai Svanidze, recently quoted in the Economist. “It is in the air."

Lot’s of things are “in the air.” In fact, that expression and concept is found here:

Furthermore, [it is] you [God made alive] though you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.    Eph 2:1-2

The “air” of Ephesians has unfavorable connotations, much like the “air” in Russia. In both settings it represents an oppressive mindset. It also has “authority;" it is so pervasive that it molds people’s thinking without their being aware of it.

For example, a contempt of authority is these days “in the air.” National leaders, teachers, and police officers who once enjoyed an almost automatic authority, now find themselves challenged at every turn….not just challenged when they do wrong, but challenged regardless of what they do.

Is scientific, critical thinking…as the be-all and end-all…. also “in the air” today? I think so. An intense distrust of any input that can’t be quantified, analyzed and proven. If it in any way smacks of emotion, it is something to suppress, almost something to be ashamed of. But if we can put it in measurable terms…..ahhh, now we’re talking! Carl Jung dealt with ostensibly scientific matters of the human psyche. Yet instead of "abstract scientific terminology," he declared that  he prefered dramatic, mythological terminology. It is more expressive, and besides, the former “is wont to toy with the notion that its theoretic formulations may one fine day be resolved into algebraic equations.”

Though it masquerades as the pinnacle of wisdom today, “critical thinking” is in reality a most shallow way of thinking. It is content to merely describe “magical” things, and yet imagines that by so doing it has arrived at understanding what these things are.

Here’s an example I've found on the internet of someone who thinks this way: a fellow named Ragoth:

I love music, and I play blues and jazz (as well as rock and metal). It's incredibly moving, often with very abstract themes. I also enjoy the feeling of love. However, I will readily admit that music is really just patterns of compressed air interacting with the ear and auditory networks of the brain. Likewise, love is a complex cascade of chemical signals carried out in the brain that affects the rest of the body. Does this take away from the "magic" of either of these? Not at all, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, to me, it's all the more wonderful to know that these are the kinds of things that molecules, in the right kind of order, can do.

Sheesh! That’s what music is? That’s what love is? Or has he not rather merely described some of its physical effects? The truly intriguing question of their nature….their “magic” as he puts it, he tosses aside as if it were the husk of the corn. Now, that would be fine if he realized he was doing it, but he appears to realize nothing of the sort. In describing physical effects, he carries on as if he’s solved two of life’s greatest mysteries.

I even hesitate to mention Ragoth by name (but I’ve overcome that hesitation) because it's hardly just him. Such thinking is increasing becoming the norm among today’s “critical, scientific thinkers.” It’s “in the air,” so to speak. People pick it up.

Here's one from Moristotle:

As I was publishing Tuesday's post, I felt vaguely uncomfortable that the photographs I was including were not of Monet's (or any other human being's) art, but of "Nature's art." I remembered that when I looked out a window in one of the galleries and spied the pond, I felt more drawn to it than to any of the man-made objects inside. And I supposed that individuals all over the world, of whatever religion (or irreligion) probably respond more reliably to the beauty of a lily pond than they do to any man-made work of art. Respond to Nature, that is.

He is drawn to nature. Aren’t we all, just like at the Plantation Gardens? Yet he’s “vaguely uncomfortable” about it. He fights it, as if it is something to be ashamed of, since he can’t scientifically account for it. (though they try to account for it…..via the ridiculous field of evolutionary psychologyin which every quirk of human nature is attributed to our ancient struggle for survival.)

In so many ways we sense intelligence behind physics, behind life, behind our environment, but critical thinking has us reject what we sense, at least until it can be confirmed by science….which it can’t be…..science has its limits.

Physicist Heinrich Hertz observed regarding the-then recent mathematics describing electromagnetism: "One cannot escape the feeling that these equations have an existence and an intelligence of their own, that they are wiser than we are, wiser even than their discoverers, that we get more out of them than was originally put into them." [italics mine] Little did he reckon on the determination of today’s critical thinkers, the ones who consider Mr. Spock Spocktheir role model. They have indeed learned to “escape the feeling,” or at least not to let interfere with life in any significant way.

The aforementioned Carl Jung observed that belief in God or gods was near universal. He didn’t pass judgment upon this, but instead recognized it as a basic need of humanity. To ignore or contradict it in one‘s practice, he maintained, would be irresponsible psychotherapy. The next time I need my head examined, that’s the kind of guy I’ll seek out, rather than some modern-day critical type who declares: “first think we have to do is get rid of this nutcake religion!”

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

Screech

It's interresting that you use Mr. Spock from Star Trek to make your point. However, even Mr. Spock, with all his "logic," eventually embraces human emotion in the later movies (Star Trek IV, V, VI and several "Next Generation" episodes).

Not that it matters much, but it's much less depressing thinking about that than the current state of the financial system...

tom sheepandgoats

The financial mess will be my next post. (probably) I've also imagined that you might tackle it, having once worked in that field, though you appear to have much on your plate these days.

Interestingly, this fellow Ragoth said in his blog: "However, things have, by nearly every measure, gotten better as time progresses...." I replied "I can think of some measures by which they have not. In fact, quite a few measures." And now that the you-know-what has hit the fan in the financial world, I just thought of another one.

Screech

I may. However being second in command of a new company has a lot of responsibility. It seems to me that all of the things that I have been telling my family and friends, namely, that the financial industry was being reckless and was showing growth when all they were doing was playing a ball and shell game, have come to light.

I perceive that we are now going to have to pay the bill. It won't be pretty at all, but things will still function after a fashion.

vargas

You can add avarice to one of the many pervasive scents stinking up the air of this system as well. I certainly don't envy the next man who will be president in a few months. It will be interesting to see how the new administration will handle the mess.

It is also interesting how people won't see the futility of band-aid solutions. I listen to many radio shows that examine the issues surrounding the financial meltdown and so many prognosticators, yet again, propose changes in regulation (Huh?, where were they when the Wall Street fat cats were wheeling and dealing before the meltdown?) changes in how the treasury secretary should handle things, changes in how banks and mortgage companies do business and so on and so forth, none of it getting to the root of the whole issue - human greed and selfishness.


Awake In Rochester

Good post! I think that our society has become to scientific, or tech minded. I think it is one of those pendulum swings of our society. Hopefully it will right itself soon.

Mr. Spock is my favorite Star Trek character because he was always conflicted.

tom sheepandgoats

Vargas....

New regulation.....now THERE'S an idea! Agree with your comment. New regs are fine, I guess, but let no one think they're the final answer. More like a new block from the virus software companies. They bad guys immediately devote themselves to getting around it.

Awake.....Yeah, it was hard not to like Spock. He was my favorite, too.

tafka pb

I'm an atheist, but I have very little faith in humans or in the notion that scientific inquiry will solve everything.

New discoveries erase old ones. Research constradicts research. Etc.

However, I think far more dangerous to the planet and the human race are those among us who reject almost all science out of hand, because they have faith in some deity. (Sarah Palin comes to mind.)

People who reject evolution, or embrace "intelligent design" without bothering to read that the "evidence" for ID is utter crap.

Or, they reject evolution because it contradicts what is in their holy book, and don't even consider the possibility that perhaps their deity is powerful enough or smart enough to devise the system of evolution.

I don't fear emotions, or chalk up every "feeling" to the firing of synapses or releasing of chemicals. But, I don't think that there's some all-seeing, all-knowing invisible man who has a plan for me.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I fear the Mr. Spocks of the world far, far less than I do the Sarah Palins (or the Ned Flanderses, if we need a fictional reference). I fear the people who don't "think." They "believe" or "have faith in" things that they have not researched. And, I don't mean religion. I mean anything. I mean, the people who read mass-forwarded e-mails about Barack Obama or 9/11 or Lindsay Lohan or whatever, and they believe them. They believe them because someone has taken the time to write them down. They believe them because a friend clicked the forward button, and their friend "believes" things, too.

(This is a long comment. I apologize, but I'm feeling this.) :)

Case in point: I need to lose some weight, and so I went back on the Atkins diet that I had great success with a few years ago. I mentioned this to my office manager, because she brought in doughnuts and I didn't want her to think I was rude.

She looked at me askance and said, "Oh, didn't he die?"

"Who?"

"Dr. Atkins."

"Yes," I said, wondering if she had been taught the concept of mortality.

"And, you're still going to do that diet?"

"Yes, why?"

"Because Dr. Atkins died of a heart attack, right?"

"No, Dr. Atkins died when he slipped on some ice and hit his head. And he was 72."

Why did she think Dr. Atkins died of a heart attack? Someone forwarded her something on the Internet a few years ago.

Anyway, thanks for comment on my blog. I think I may turn this comment into a post with a link here, if that's all right with you.

tom sheepandgoats

Perhaps we are not too far apart in our thinking...or at least there is some common ground.

You may have discerned that this blog advocates the views of, not religion in general, but one in particular. I agree with you on the incompatibility of religions and governments today. As for myself, science interests me a great deal, though I accept some of it's findings as merely tentative, and a small amount I put on hold since it contradicts other facts I consider more well-established.

"they reject evolution because it contradicts what is in their holy book, and don't even consider the possibility that perhaps their deity is powerful enough or smart enough to devise the system of evolution."

The question is not could he....or course he could....but did he. The scriptures present logical and satisfying answers to the most puzzling questions of life, but it all falls apart unless we allow that God established life the way he says he did.

Also, we've no dispute with "microevolution" of the sort that Darwin observed...changes in beaks, feet, colors, etc. The dance of mutation and natural selection likely accounts for all of it, as scientists maintain. "Macro" is a different matter, however....the evolutionary processes are insufficient drivers to account for variety of life forms.

In other words, the same process that can drive micro cannot drive macro, in our view. Just as one can walk to the kitchen to get a drink of water, but one cannot walk to Alpha Centauri for the same (or any other) purpose.

And yes....as far as making your response a post for your own blog....go for it. And thanks for expressing yourself here.

HA! I just checked. There it is already. And with the smilely face, I "got" the mild sarcasm of "feeling this." Good work. Not to mention the positive ID of Ned Flanderes, who I at first took to be some unknown character of some classic novel.

Now, let me check to see if you have responded on the Dan 2:44 post.....yes! There it is. And ....yes....I like your self deprecation humor characterising your own writing as "drivel!" (though it's actually quite good.....and prolific....Dan 2:44 is well down on the list already) How come, though, when I click on "recent comments" I am sent to your cover page instead of the comment itself. A technical error, I suspect, that you may want to rectify.


Bill Canaday

I always held Mr. Spock in high regard. It was somehow comforting to think that it was possible for a (half) human to get every fact correct. Then I saw the episode where his mother recommended that his human side be tested and developed, too. In those few words, she pointed out that Spock was only half a person ... and it was the non-human half which was being developed.

I think I know a few people who, although 100% human in the biological sense, could tell us what it means to be only half-human and find that the other half of themselves gets all the positive attention.

tom sheepandgoats

Perhaps Spock's appeal for me was only that he was less annoying than McCoy or Kirk.

Ragoth

Hey Tom,

I figured I'd make a quick reply in defense of that post, iffin' ya don't mind, as we used to say back home.

I'm interested in what exactly you mean by the "magic" of music or love? The phenomenal qualia of them? The emotions that rush through your entire body when you listen to Bach, or Grieg, or Handel, or Metallica, or Led Zeppelin (hey, I played in an orchestra for a while and do a lot of metal guitar on my own time. I have eclectic music tastes.) As I said, I experience these quite as fully as everyone else (and to be honest, sometimes I feel more than a lot of people I know).

What is more human than to be reduced to tears over an opera aria? I know I've had that experience a lot.

Now, to dig a bit deeper in this, I will also admit that as a musician myself, I am often very interested in the technicalities of how a piece is performed. I want to know how a guitarist plays a solo - I want the score to the piece because I want to reproduce it myself for my own enjoyment (as I said, I love playing and performing music as much as listening to it). And so there is always a part of my brain that is picking apart the score while I'm listening to a given piece (usually this starts the third or fourth time I'm listening to something - I enjoy the full experience first before trying to play it myself). In short, i think musicians listen to musically differently than most people anyway, but I don't think this is a bad thing. Architects are often able to discern what's "really special" about a given building that most people would simply walk by.

Also, especially in modern music, it's quite important to know the exact effects that have been used on a given sound wave. Compression is the easiest example that comes to mind - you clip the peaks and troughs of a sound wave beyond a certain threshold. This gives it a "distorted" or "fuzzy" sound that is so famous in rock music.

Note, there is no other difference in pure compression like this - the instrument is played the same, presumably the listener is the same - the only difference is the actual, physical waveform which enters the ear. And yet, this produces a profound difference in the way the sound is processed by the brain. In general, to be a bit flippant, older individuals tend to say "Ugh!" to it, and young, angsty kids flock to it. C'est la vie.

So, to summarize - from a sound engineer or musician's standpoint, it is incredibly important to know that actual physics of what's going on when music is played, because manipulating the physical waveform produces profound differences in emotional response. For one brief example, a lot of contemporary studios are doing heavy compression with a high gain increase to make up for it...I really dislike this sound. It's good for dance clubs, I guess, but when I listen to an album, I want to be able to hear individual guitar picks or strums, and I want to hear the full experience of the instrument being played.

Anyways, on the bigger issue.

I think we're talking past one another at this point. I've admitted here and on my blog that I am a methodological materialist. When I'm talking about behavior, emotions, thoughts, etc., I am indeed making the assumption that all of these are products of brain activity. Some people call this the "mind" or the "soul." Okay, sure. Put whatever label you want on it, but, mechanically speaking, it's the brain working away.

So, yes, indeed, when I talk about the emotional response to music, that assumes that there is a functioning brain with a functioning auditory cortex which can interpret signals coming in from a functioning ear. That's a mechanical viewpoint to discuss it. In everyday conversation, I'm much more likely to say "Man, that symphony moved me! It was a amazing! Did you hear that cello solo?!" Much in the same way as I might say "I drove to work today" without mentioning all the mechanics of what's going on under the hood, or the theory of friction that explains why force applied to my tires is imparted onto the road, which allows me to move forward. Would you still say "Is that what driving 'is?!'" I would argue that yes, in part, that is what driving mechanically is.

I think we're arguing at different levels of explanation. You want to take the larger "mind/soul"-oriented viewpoint, which is fine. I have no problem with that. We can both talk on that level and probably never disagree with one another. Our disagreement appears to be on the mechanical level. I would argue that first, a brain is necessary, and second, a brain is sufficient to produce all those wonderful things that we discuss from a more abstract viewpoint. I feel that you would disagree with at least the second of my propositions. At which point I would ask you explain the interaction of music and the "soul" or whatever concept you want to invoke.

So...yeah, basically I feel that the real point of contention here is the mechanical level of explanation, and our differing opinions on materialism and dualism. If you disagree with that, or want to explain more deeply what exactly else you feel is necessary to include in the account of music (at a mechanical or abstract level, whichever one you want to argue at), then please feel free to reply.

As always, good talking with you, and an interesting read.

P.S. - Are you actually going to see the new Star Trek movie? I'm worried that my love for the original series and movies is going to ruin any attempt to restart it.

tom sheepandgoats

Thanks, Ragoth.

I've quoted some remarks of yours & you've put them in context. I appreciate that. And the accompanying music lesson is a pure treat.

I agree with your statement that "I think we're arguing at different levels of explanation."

And I guess I'm out of the loop a bit. I hadn't heard of the new movie. I really haven't seen many of the movies, (none of the Next Generation ones) though I've probably seen every TV episode. Personal favorite is Star Trek IV (the one with the whale).

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