Iain Boal on Thu, 9 Dec 2021 16:46:11 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> The Dawn of Everything (very short review)

"As a one-time theoretical physicist, I find this quote from Gosden to be out-dated, overly reductive, and incorrect, at least as far as the most thoughtful scientists go."

Hmm. Well, there are thoughtful scientists who would immediately recognise in the Gosden gobbet the story of the late 20th century 'vital sciences’. This mid-century coinage was Warren Weaver's (rainmaker and moneybags of the Rockefeller foundation); he conjured up the field later redubbed 'molecular biology'. After the shame of Hiroshima the physicists who moved into biology, in the wake of Schrödinger's Dublin manifesto entitled “What is Life?”, mostly internalised Weaver’s programmatic invocation of the successes of wartime code-breaking, importing the congenial metaphorics of cryptanalysis and its fundamental scriptism. The cult of the atom/gene and nucleic acid was, it might be said, an opportunist projection indeed "derived from abstraction” - with its now outdated, overly reductive and incorrect 'central dogma'. No question, it bore several decades of low-hanging fruit for the new “men of letters”,  the alphabetic priesthood of biotech/synbio startups and money managers, but has proved a terrible loss, agnotologically speaking, for organismic natural history, and in general disastrous for a biology worthy of the name. 
Darwin, by the way, was hardly shocked by evolution - his scientific grandfather Erasmus was an evolutionist. A true shock for Darwin the naturalist, amounting perhaps to a pagan epiphany, was delivered by John Gould, the ‘bird man’, who worked furiously in the museum of the Zoological Society during the fortnight following the arrival on January 4th 1837 of the consignment of Galapagos specimens, whose evolution had been insulated from the continental mainland. Based primarily on beak morphology Gould - ornithologist to the British empire and Victoria’s gardener/taxidermist - identified thirteen kinds of finches. (This number was later reduced to nine; some proved to be mocking birds.) Nevertheless for Darwin, already alert to the role of biogeography in the stunning variety of living forms, this verdict by a trusted friend and zoologist provided decisive evidence of the thoroughgoing natural instability, non-fixity, and yes, destruction/extinction of species, a reality not easily imagined by English gentlemen, even those who spent their days breeding variegation into animals and plants. The Beagle's circumnavigation of the globe on hydrographic imperial business was unable to dislodge the commitment of its squire-naturalist to the psychic unity of humankind and the ‘sacred cause' of abolition. What could not survive was any belief in the biblical account, in the mythos at the heart of Christian geogony.

For a liberation biology,

On 8 Dec 2021, at 22:59, Michael Goldhaber <michael@goldhaber.org> wrote:

As a one-time theoretical physicist, I find this quote from Gosden to be out-dated, overly reductive, and incorrect, at least as far as the most thoughtful scientists go.

Scientific understanding doesn’t “derive from abstraction,” but rather the other way round. It doesn’t separate humans from the world , but rather emphasizes our total embededness in it. It is no coincidence that almost all aspects of the current environmental movement, whether against the destruction of species , the concerns about global warming, the dire effects of plastics, etc.,  come from scientific observations. Nor is it  any coincidence that scientists for the most part are instigators and fervent supporters of that movement. 

Darwin, after all, is generally considered a scientist, yet the most basic and originally shocking point of evolutionary theory is that we are related to all other living things.  Ethologists constantly emphasize how close we are in behavior to other animals , etc., etc., etc. And, by the way, since Einstein physicists have agreed that matter and energy are the same.



On Dec 8, 2021, at 2:15 PM, mp <mp@aktivix.org> wrote:
Scientific understanding
derives from abstraction, through the quantification of matter, energy
and force by means of mathematics, but also through logical reasoning
from elementary starting points, such as Newton’s Laws, towards the true
profusion of the world. Science separates people from the world, whereas
magic immerses us in it, raising also questions of our moral
relationship with the universe in a way that science does not..." (2020: 8).

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@kein.org
#  @nettime_bot tweets mail w/ sender unless #ANON is in Subject: