Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dreams

A week ago to the day, I read an article in my local newspaper about a visit to the local university by "distinguished" speaker, Richard Dawkins, a scientist and author. Dawkins, an atheist, wrote the book The God Delusion in which he "asserts the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm religion has inflicted on society."

Honestly, I am not threatened by atheism or Dawkins's suggestion that belief in God is irrational. The truth of the matter is, in part, that belief in something intangible requires faith, and faith is, essentially, belief not based on factual proof. Although many can make - and have made - sound arguments for logical proof that God does exist, the fact of the matter is that even at the core of scientific theory itself there is a faith element. A theory, after all, is a person's best "speculation" of what is factual.

What disturbs me about Dawkins's assertion is the implications his thought process has on art and literature. I applaud science and all that has been done in the field, including biology, to expand the collective intelligence of the people. However, science is not the end all be all authority on judging the worth or value of all that exists - tangible and intangible. Neither does science have the final word on all that exists.

Take love, for example. I suppose one could scientifically explain the chemical reaction in a human body - or in any animal - regarding the phenomenon of physical attraction. But science cannot successfully predict physical attraction. If that were the case, then matchmaking web programs such as e-harmony and the like would work for everyone. Most likely, we all know people for which a scientifically made match has not worked. On the other end of the spectrum, there are probably cousins in Kentucky who are at this very moment consummating their love. "Cousin love" seems to go against "nature" and works against natural selection (although one could easily argue the converse - cousin love is natural selection in its finest moment).

My point is this: although I applaud the scientific movement, there is danger in attempting to reduce all phenomena into tiny pieces for scientific examination. The scientific method works to explain the tangible, but it is not the best method to explain what is intangible. And plenty of intangible is out there that I, for one, don't want subjected to the scientific method. A poem can be dissected into stanzas, lines, rhymes, rhythm, feet, syllables, morphemes, phonemes - but all of those elements must come together to construct meaning - meaning that says something about a time, a place, a society and can simultaneously speak to an individual in various ways to various degrees. Or meaning might be elusive and inaccessible to the everyone but the creator. Nevertheless, that doesn't make the creation less valid or worthy of being created. I find intense meaning in a poem written by e.e. cummings while others might only see nonsense when they read one of his poems. The scientific method fails to construct meaning in this respect, and neither do I crave the dissection of love, beauty, or art in order to find meaning. But this argument isn't new. It's simply Pater vs. Arnold revisited.

Nevertheless, the implications of such a movement, to scientize all that is seen and unseen (or to eliminate all that cannot be scientifically deduced), didn't work at the turn of the 20th century, and there is nothing new in the movement that suggests extreme scientization will work now. What kind of art - or happiness - was birthed out of Communism, a society that successfully eradicated God and all meaning that was not connected with purpose for the betterment of the people? I would argue that art created under the thumb of Communism was a reaction to being "under the thumb" rather than in celebration of the philosophy.

Do not throw out the scientific method and logic; do not throw out the possibility of God or create a formula for "good art" either.

These are my ruminations cultivated by Dawkins's dogma. I thought about all that I've poorly articulated here as I fell asleep that night. Then I had a dream.

In my dream, I was a little fish that befriended a big shark. We were standing on a beach discussing my friend's dilemma: the shark was on some type of quest - a life or death quest - and there were other sharks that wanted to destroy him. It was decided that we needed to swim somewhere regardless of the inherent danger. Together, we dove into a protected cove and made our way to the ocean. As we swam through the water, I was on the lookout for sharks that might want to attack my noticeably frightened friend.

What do you think that means?

12 comments:

Anthony said...

Not all scientists are on the same page about what science should be doing. These guys: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_rationalism have an interesting take - that science can NEVER be proven right; just proven wrong. I like them,,, hehe.

Most scientists would agree that many things cannot be tested and are thus outside the domain of science.

When you look at some "science", like M-Theory - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_M-theory - you realize it is really indistinguishable from religion.

I think you'll like this debate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPYhheJzYCI

Anthony said...

as for that dream... been watching Finding Nemo lately?

bluesugarpoet said...

Lol - funny that you said that about the dream. I saw a strong correlation, although I haven't seen the movie lately.

Looking forward to checking out what is going out there in the scientific debate. I figured that all scientists are not on the same page regarding what science should be doing, but some of the more vocal scientists seem to argue for "logical reasoning" to discover all truth. Of course one doesn't need to be a scientist to rally with that cry.

Ch@ndy said...

Not sure how helpful this is...but I got it from dreammoods.com

To see fish swimming in your dream, signifies insights from your unconscious mind. Thus to catch a fish, represents insights which have been brought to the surface. The fish is also an ancient symbol of Christianity and Christian beliefs. Consider also the common phrases "like a cold fish", "fish out of water" or something that is "fishy" about a situation. It may also imply a slippery or elusive situation.

To dream that you are eating fish, symbolizes your beliefs, spirituality, luck, energy and nourishment. It is food for the soul.

To see a dead fish, signifies disappointment and loss of power/wealth.

To dream of cooking fish, indicates that you are incorporating your new realizations with your spiritual feelings and knowledge. If you are cleaning fish, then it suggests that you are altering your emotional expression in a way that will be presentable to others. You are censoring yourself and not expressing how you completely feel.

bluesugarpoet said...

Wow - to dream of a shark means this:

"To see a shark in your dream, represents a person whom you see as greedy and unscrupulous. This person goes after what what he or she wants with no regards to the well-being and sensitivity of others. The shark may also be an aspect of your own personality which exhibit these qualities. Alternatively, you may be going through a difficult, painful, or unpleasant emotional period. The shark symbolizes feelings of anger, hostility, and fierceness. You may be an emotional threat to yourself or to others."

I might quite literally be scaring the hell out of myself!

bluesugarpoet said...

This is from that same site:

Swimming
"To dream that you are swimming, suggests that you are exploring aspects of your unconscious mind and emotions. The dream may be a sign that you are seeking some sort of emotional support. It is a common dream image for people going through therapy.

To dream that you are swimming underwater, suggests that you are completely submerged in your own feelings. You are forcing yourself to deal with your emotional difficulties."

So I'm going crazy? That's no revelation.

Mimi said...

The dream may be a sign that you are seeking some sort of emotional support.

We're all here for you.

bluesugarpoet said...

Did I mention I am moving yet again?

Thanx, mimi. You KNOW I need you all very much. You are my people!

Ch@ndy said...

I love being your people!

pjd said...

OK, the dream: From the hoo-ha quoted from the dream interpretation site (who decided this stuff, anyway?), it appears that some small but intrepid part of yourself is ushering the rest of yourself, which normally is strong and self-reliant, through a dangerous and threatening emotional time. And in particular, a set of emotions with which you are not accustomed to dealing. There, does that about sum it up?

Now, on to the science vs non-science debate, which has been raging for centuries, but in the reverse sense (think Galileo and all the others who defied the Church to find basic truths the Church fervently denied):

I don't really care what others say and am not interested in experts who promote one dogma. I have found my philosophy, and it works for me. I'm not sure I can articulate it in a comment, but I'll try:

There is more in the universe than we understand. Love is a good example. Sentience is another. But I also believe that eventually--maybe in ten thousand years--we'll discover, or come up with theories about, what those things are and how they act. Gravity is an interesting one because for a long time people understood that things fall, but no one knew why. God made things fall, right? Now we know how mass attracts other mass. Do we truly understand it? No.

Science for the sake of understanding more around us is good. Science for the purpose of removing meaning from life is bad. Curiosity is another of those things, like love, that we should not squelch.

Science and irrational faith are not mutually exclusive. I don't particularly believe in one God that designed, built, and maintains everything, but I do believe in things much larger than ourselves, and when we act certain ways we have a sense of harmony and when we act other ways we have a sense of discord, and that leads me to believe in something larger than what we can currently observe, measure, dissect, and explain.

On the flip side, Religion (with a capital R) has been a power tool since it was first conceived. Faith and spirituality are what it claims to be about, but Religion is, at its core, a power structure and political force.

To me, scientists who rail against irrational thought are less threatening than religious leaders who rail against science. Why? A fundamentalist scientist, at the end of the day, is willing to be proven wrong by the evidence before him (or her). A fundamentalist religious zealot is not.

I haven't followed the link that Anthony provided, but the idea that science can never be proven right is a good one, but not because faith is more important than science. Rather, because we only understand the tiniest fraction of a percentage of a blip of a fraction of what is, and often scientific discovery refutes previous scientific "discovery." The more we understand, the more we see where we were wrong before.

The "good scientists" are the ones who believe that. The "bad scientists" are the ones who use the promise of science and logical thought as a club to bludgeon anyone who has an irrational, faith-based belief system.

So, my philosophy: We need to constantly seek to understand more about ourselves and the universe. One day we will understand it all (if we don't blow each other up first). At the same time, we need to embrace irrational thought and feeling as evidence of "something larger that we don't understand." Finally, people should embrace whatever their faith tells them, but they should eschew Religion and anything that smacks of dogma promising Answers. (Which I guess is sort of a dogma in itself, isn't it?)

bluesugarpoet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bluesugarpoet said...

Ooooo - nice dream interpretation! Yes, that is kind of a kooky dream interpretation site. Luckily I didn't dream of pickles or that I was ascending stairs. This is a mostly PG-13 blog, after all.

I love how you've articulated about the science vs. non-science debate. In particular, I like that you've brought "curiosity" to the table. What would we do if curiosity were squelched? Yikes. Makes me think of Ayn Rand's Anthem or Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 or Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron."

The point you've made about Religion is interesting, and you might find it interesting that I agree with you on that point more than I disagree. "Religion" does not equate "knowing God." Speaking particularly of Christianity, there are all types of "religious" people who aren't Christ-like at all. And those people certainly don't understand the underlying principals of Christianity as demonstrated by their words or actions. That's not to say that Christ followers don't get angry or make mistakes, but I think a true Christ follower attempts to engender love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control more so than not - even if done so imperfectly. Trust me - I would consider myself to be part of the global Church community, but more than once I've been on the receiving end of a dogmatic diatribe aimed at saving my soul from hell and damnation (which, according to their words and actions, I was already a lost cause). Let me tell you, the receiving end of that is a scary place to be. What's keeping that person from literally pulling out the "Sword of Truth" and applying it to my neck?

Yes, there is so much that we can't see and don't understand - the "tiniest fraction of a blip" nicely describes the extent of human understanding. Nevertheless, I do believe that truth can be found in the most unlikely places by any means. All truth, whatever it is and wherever it is found, is from God. And my God is big enough to work that way (*sigh* - you'll just have to file that thought under "irrational, faith-based" kookery, lol).

Only on one point do we differ. Rather than eschew Religion, I say that we ought to do whatever we can to bring the ship around. If the underlying principles of a Religion are good, then harness that political mass for good. Hold a mirror up to it, and lovingly drone truth into their ears. And, sometimes,turn over a few tables in the temple courts. Every organization is filled with gems and nut cases. While I shun pedophilia, I don't know where the world would be without Mother Theresa.

So I guess I do preach a dogma too. Be selfless. Every single one of you, whether male or female, Muslim or Christian, gay or straight, etc. are made in God's image. Seek God, and you will find Him. Got questions for God? Ask Him. And then be prepared to listen - not for the answer that you think you want to hear, but for what He is trying to tell you (which is, IMHO, the most difficult principle to live - the "listening" part). Above all, love others as we are loved by God.

Thanks, all, for joining in the discussion!