Monday, February 22, 2010

Rusty Sprockets



And now, for something completely different, to break up the monotony from the recent plethora of photos. This is what happens when one permits free association of thoughts on an idle Sunday morning at one's favorite coffee shop. You've been warned.

Preamble

Observations; contextually not necessarily thematic; discontinuous; pseudo-random (or as random as one's cerebellum permits; but that's another story).

I.

The 2010 Winter Olympics as a television event: I tuned in, briefly, on Friday evening, after another long work day. Many of these winter sports appear to be as thrilling of a spectator sport as watching glaciers thaw and crumble. Which I did enjoy watching, on PBS's Nova program, afterward.

I enjoy more the hidden clues to sports journalist's small lives, the few opportunities they enjoy to play grown-up, big-boy reporters, like the newsies get to do every day. This was overtly obvious as they unfolded story after story about the various athletes and their personal journeys that led each one to Calgary. It was sad, almost pathetic. I mean, really; since Tiger's been gone, their lives have been an utter Gehenna.

I have little sympathy for sports. This I attribute to my upbringing, where sports did not play a significant role, my parents doing little to encourage me, and some health issues further preventing my participation. I like the theory that, in our culture, sports serves as a proxy for warfare, an organized role-playing that mimics the physical skills of hand-to-hand combat, minus the smell of Cordite. Superficial injuries are plentiful, but the spectator is left with a dearth of actual carnage; bones, flesh and internal organs splayed asunder amidst the spatter and taint of blood. We'll leave that to the spectator's imagination, or the latest "teen rated" video game.

This theory of sports-as-proxy-warfare falls down in the face of our post-9/11 foreign policy. In actual practice, sports are a primitive and ineffective substitute for a society's hunger for warfare, especially our overly-organized professional variety, where the analogy is more aptly that of the Gladiatorial spectacle, recreational blood-lust, rather than that driven by political necessity.

II.

In the world of popular journalism I've noted a decline in the quantity and quality of science and technology reportage. It has become obvious that these categories are not of prime importance to the Editorial Class. They appear to be relegated to secondary interest, like the "feel-good" news stories, used to pad out the body of a news program, stories of the arcane, curious or cutsie.

My sense is that both sports and financial journalists should be tasked with covering science and technology reportage, since they are intimately acquainted with handling hard, numerical data on a daily basis. They could just as easily announce the statistics of glacial recession, in meters per day, as they could the stock ticker or baseball stats. Numbers is numbers, I always say.

The biggest problem I perceive in the world of science culture today is that it has merged into the world of politics and religion so as to be almost entirely unrecognizable. I have no problem with various religions pontificating about the origins of mankind; that's part of religion's duty, to explain the infinite in finite terms, to bring the eternal down onto our mortal level. But when science interjects and says "that's not your place to explain this," then it becomes obvious that they've overstepped their grounds.

It would be better for science to remain silent on the question of the veracity of religious authority; be silent and let religion be wrong about life's origins if that is the case, instead of jumping in and arguing the merits of religion itself, which science is not in a position to do so adequately. This may come as a shock to some, but there are more systems of truth than mere Aristotelian logic; science does not have the market cornered on Truth.

There is as much a sense of the necessity of belief interwoven with the politics of science as there is the hard, unbiased logic of the Scientific Method.

Science and technology have emerged as discrete fields of speciality, where science provides the philosophical basis of belief, and technology provides a means for providing consumer products necessary to sustain an unsustainable standard of living. Technicians, Engineers and Scientists are discrete professions; this has not always been so.

These categories of practice come to resemble that of the Laity versus the Clergy; Deacons, Elders and Priests; an hierarchy of practice, a one-way function: The Priest can perform the duty of Deacon or Elder, but not the reverse.

The crux of the determinant is proximity to the sacred, the Holy-of-Holies being mathematical, and the office of Scientific Priesthood maintained by a self-supporting system of academic tenure ship.

III.

My negative opinion of the science culture is born out of an early appreciation of the purity of the Scientific Method, that most logical of methodologies that inevitably, through an iterative process, and if followed with the utmost in intellectual honesty, leads to Truth.

Science and Technology are both Big Business, together representing a complete social system; the one supported by taxpayer dollars, the other through unbridled free enterprise.

Science is intrinsically Socialist; Technology is intrinsically Capitalist.

Pure science cannot thrive in a capitalist-dominated milieu, for its theoretical nature precludes practical application. It depends for its support upon a mutually agreed-upon social contract. Technology is applied science, the theoretical made practical, its ultimate measure of practicality being the corporate ledger sheet.

Science is Moses climbing Mount Sinai, in search of Truth. Technology is Moses coming down from the Holy Mountain, tablets in hand. Except that now the tablets have come to resemble the iPad and its future progeny, its bright screen aglow with the promise of a brighter future, the hymnal and liturgy for a New Religion.

~Joe

Post-Script

Overheard at Winning Coffee while these thoughts were being penned: "Free love is a bad idea if you're ugly."

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~Joe

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