Neil de Grasse Tyson is the new public face of science. He is smart, charming, has a great back-story of achievement in the face of societal obstacles along with, let’s be honest here, one of the coolest names of all time. His popular television series Cosmos has introduced millions of viewers to the wonders of the scientific world, from the smallest to the unfathomably large and spanning billions of years. When he speaks about science, people listen.
So people are listening to a recent Facebook post that quotes him saying: “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
There’s something very comforting about that statement, isn’t there? It feels a bit like someone telling you: “I promise you everything will turn out fine.” In fact it is exactly like that. Tyson’s quote is not a statement of scientific fact (nor could it be – what experiment could you do to determine whether or not it is true?). It is a promise, a statement of belief about science and truth that he shares with the community of scientists.
Public discourse about truth and belief has been largely centered on the dispute between science and religion – science knows, religion believes – which has led us to a muddled view that does justice to neither concept. Science has no room for belief, only evidence – or so they say. Descriptive Psychology has the conceptual power to sort this out, and has. Here’s how: Continue reading Belief in Science
This is the second in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists. This series requires a more careful reading than most prior posts on this blog; I believe the work you put into it will be well-rewarded.
The world makes sense, and so do people. They make sense now.
— Peter G. Ossorio, The Behavior of Persons, p. 2
The child Bertrand Russell lived in a world that did not make sense to him. His was not a mild puzzlement or a small discontent; he was in the grip of a profound, terrifying existential dilemma. His world made no sense, and he had no real place in it.
Russell’s early life was nightmarish. His parents died when he was young, but their deaths and the scandalous circumstances surrounding them were kept from him. He was sent to live with his Grandparents. He began to bond with his Grandfather, who also died unexpectedly, leaving Bertie in the care of his angry, hyper-religious Grandmother with her myriad rigid rules based on the view that man is inherently evil and must be constrained. Her world made no sense to him but it was all he knew.
All this changed when a tutor introduced Bertie to geometry. Working through one of Euclid’s theorems, he saw in a flash of insight that it was true of logical necessity – and in that moment his world changed. He saw that one could know reality with total certainty, through logical proof. This world made sense and it had a place for him, which he proceeded to act from with increasing brilliance and fervor. The “delicious experience of knowing something with total certainly” was the ultimate satisfaction that held Russell’s world together until the fatal day he encountered the Paradox that blew his world apart. Continue reading Russell’s World
This is the first in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists. This series requires a more careful reading than most prior posts on this blog; I believe the work you put into it will be well-rewarded.
Worlds are subtle, pervasive, powerful. We are to our worlds as fish are to water: We take our world as given, existing outside of and independent of us. We live in the world; all our actions take place in and are shaped by our world; without the world we could not exist.
But fishy metaphors can only take us so far. Persons, whether we realize it or not, shape our worlds fully as much as the world shapes us. We almost certainly don’t consciously create or choose our world. But sometimes events occur that blow our worlds apart, and we are faced with the task of putting it back together, or reconstructing it in a new form. In either case we engage in active, conscious choice and creation. We recognize once and for all that we are not fish. Continue reading In a World of Logicians and Their Ways: Russell’s Paradox Redux