Thursday, October 14, 2004

Barking at scientific dogma

I can certainly take criticism, but here's a nasty Howard-bashing session at in response to my piece on nanotech and Kabbalah.

I'm a believer in letting readers get the last word in, so I won't respond here except to say one thing: As is the case in the debate in our little world over the feasibility of molecular manufacturing, it's far too easy to present a cartoon misrepresentation of the opposition, and then proceed to tear apart the fiction of your own creation. Having straddled the worlds of science and religion all my personal and professional life, it's frustrating to read the words of allegedly science-oriented people who clearly have no knowledge, themselves, of what religion means to many people. It seems like they should investigate before they write. Isn't that what they do for a living?

I'm not talking about the religious institutions clearly responsible for keeping mankind in the dark for centuries, but about the internal investigations that produce a "spiritual" feeling even among some of the most-brilliant scientists of this enlightened age. But, yes, it's much easier to dismiss any mention of religion as silly superstition. That way, you don't have to challenge yourself. Doesn't sound very scientific to me, though.

So, anyway, it's my fault. These are difficult concepts to communicate, so the fault lies with the communicator (me), and not the reader. These ideas have been a running theme through much of my writing since I was a kid, so every now and then you're likely to see a few of them bubbling to the surface on this very-public notebook of mine.

I did see a movie last night, called "What the Bleep do We Know," that addresses some of the issues that I touched on in NanoKabbalah -- the idea of quantum mechanics ultimately changing all of our assumptions of the nature of matter and our concept of God. The movie was a little frustrating for me to watch, though, since it went too far into some New Age stuff that was too flaky even for my tastes. Still, I recommend it for anybody who is curious and wants to learn a little more.

I guess I did just try to get in the last word. Kabbalists, like Buddhists, believe you should check your ego at the door. Looks like I have a long way to go.

NanoBot Backgrounder
NanoKabbalah in Salon on my birthday: Coincidence?
Nanotech arrogance will meet the Luddite hammer
The Kabbalah Nanotech Connection


Daniel said...

Howard, you're too kind to your critics. I found the ideas in your piece extremely well communicated and, it seems, that some of the commenters just didn't read what you actually wrote - they read what they wanted to hear. There is a knee-jerk reaction against religion (and religious comparisons) in the science world that simply doesn't make any sense.

I liked your Salon piece. I hope there's more like it.

Howard Lovy said...

Thank you, Daniel. As my friends and family already know, opposition only increases my determination. I appreciate the kind words.


Howard Lovy said...

I've been thinking a bit more about this, and I'm not sure I made clear that one of my main points is not that quantum mechanics and Kabbalistic imagery are one and the same. Clearly they're not. I'm also not advocating a mixing of religious voodoo with true scientific inquiry.

What I am trying to get across is that if scientists are the slightest bit interested in finding common ground with many of the "consumers" of their science, and truly want to avoid being caught in a brawl over public policy with the religious heads of state that set policy everywhere from the United States to the United Arab Emirates, then they need to understand the roots of religious inquiry and how the religious view the world. Kabbalah was as good a place as any to start because there are similarities with a scientist's quest for truth. Are they one and the same? Of course not. However, there is more common ground than both sides think.