Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You are Ein Stein

Earlier this year, Gideon Rachman asked in the Financial Times "Where have all the thinkers gone?" Contemplating the Foreign Policy list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers 2010 and comparing it to who might have been on that list 150 years ago, he finds today's "crop of thinkers seem[s] unimpressive" and it gives him "the impression that we are living in a trivial age." Rachman proposes several explanations for this impression of his. We may only recognize great thinkers for what they are when enough time has passed. We may not appreciate them as long as they are living, breathing things who burp and dye their graying hair. Today's intellectual giants may live in China and the Financial Times hasn't heard of them. Or, the times of great thinkers are over due to specialized networks:
"In the modern world more people have access to knowledge and the ability to publish. The internet also makes collaboration much easier and modern universities promote specialisation. So it could be that the way that knowledge advances these days is through networks of specialists working together, across the globe – rather than through a single, towering intellect pulling together a great theory in the reading room of the British Museum."

Jonah Lehrer from The Frontal Cortex speculates that the apparent dearth of intellectuals is due to the "lessened importance of the individual" because "the era of the lone genius is coming to an end," for which he cites a study showing that teamwork and collaboration is on the rise in modern research.

There's the obvious thing to say about Lehrer's argument. There has never been something like a lone genius. You don't contribute to a society's knowledge and well-being without being part of that society. Scientific research has never been done in intellectual vacuum. All the great thinkers had their friends, their correspondences, their mentors and colleagues. But maybe more important, that teamwork is on the rise doesn't lessen the importance of the individual. It just integrates it better and, truth be said, makes it less apparent. But either way, it is questionable that the number of peer reviewed articles from large collaborations has anything to do with intellectuals to begin with.

I think the reasons for Rachman's impression are more mundane. He is probably right with the suggestion that it is difficult to recognize a great thinker while they're still thinking. There's 7 billions people on the planet and all of them have something to say. A lot of them say smart things occasionally, some say smart things most of the time, but all that smartness may turn out to be bullshit anyway. Take that guy Kurzweil with his Singularity prediction for 2045. Chances are, in the year 2045 he'll be little more than a curiosity. And some people that today might appear completely nuts will turn out to be right on the spot. Time will tell, so give it time.

The only real possibility there won't be no intellectuals in the future (aside from stupidity spreading and progress stagnating) is that thinking indeed becomes truly collective. However, as I argued in my earlier post on Collective Intelligence, we are far from that. In today's collaborations knowledge is not emergent. It is not something that really happens on the collective level. It is simply an assembly of many small parts. Yes, the parts profit from the other parts' contributions and if you put a group of smart people together they can work with each others contribution faster, but it's still a piece-by-piece work.

The prototypical example for a system that is more than the sum of its pieces is a frog. If assembled correctly, it croaks and jumps and that's emergent features. The prototypical example for a system that is the sum of its pieces is lot of bricks. It gets you a wall, alright, and maybe even a house. But it doesn't actually acquire new abilities. Today's specialist networks are brick walls, not frogs. The thinking still has to be done by the individual. We're all just bricks in the wall.

"Ein Stein" is German for "a stone."

So what do you think? Do you share Rachman's impression that today's intellectuals are disappointing? And if so, what do you think the reason is?

85 comments:

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

Just before the revolution comes, the pundits always say: "Ho hum, it appears that physics is virtually wrapped up. Just a few more details need to be worked out in the Ptolemaic paradigm, or the Newtonian paradigm, or the current paradigm. Might as well look for a new line of work.

We have gone through a long, weary and relatively fruitless journey through the darkness for the last 35 years. That only makes it more likely that we will emerge into the light of a bold new understanding of nature.

Exciting ideas are out there, e.g., those relating to deterministic chaos, multi-leveled models that replace strict reductionist models, fractal modeling, etc.

We are just waiting for the light to dawn anew.

RLO

Steven Colyer said...

Hi Bee,

You'd be doubly damned dangerous if you added a business degree to your already impressive credentials. There actually IS a "Science" to Business. It's called "modeling." Turning the Complicated into well-meshing parts, so that the serious business, the Complex, can better be handled. Or just audit a course in Organizational Psychology. There's tons more math in Psych than most people think.

We have come a long way since Jung.

One question though is: have we gotten better, because of better Psychology?

I'm gonna weigh in as .... Society as a whole? Yes. The Individual? No, not really. We now need less people to do what has to be done, which feeds back into Society in a negative way, meaning a greater tax burden to Socialist-ly support the increasing numbers of unemployed.

Good thoughts on there never really "were" lone Giants.

E.g., Edison was an egomaniac. He had plenty of help with his inventions. But he was also the charter member and president of The Thomas Edison Fan Club, and he was brilliant in running it.

So, do I share Gideon Rachman's impression that today's intellectuals are disappointing?

Nope, not at all. If anything, the current system suppresses creativity and makes it harder for them to be heard with all the noise. But the cream still rises to the top, and creativity is far from dead.

We're all just bricks in the wall.

I'm thinking of Pink Floyd, for some reason.

Oldershaw, if you say PARADIGM just one more time, I think I'm going to blow a gasket. Give it a rest, Rob, seriously. You just embarrass yourself. Why don't you see that?

I do like fractals though, so I'm not mad at you.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

The awarding of the "great thinker" seal of approval is definitely a 20-20 hindsight affair.

Even after 1905, Einstein had to work in the Patent office, promoted from 3rd class to 2nd class technical expert, for something like 8 years before he got a decent job offer.

His Nobel Prize was delayed many times, even after 1919, because there were serious doubts about whether he was a great thinker or something quite a bit less.

The worth of individual thinkers and the worth of [watch out Steve, here it comes] paradigms, is determined well after they appear on the stage. And well after their time in purgatory.

It has always been this way.

So as not to cause anxiety, I will try to moderate my proselytizing [which I do not really enjoy that much either], but you know how it is with the lovestruck.

RLO

Steven Colyer said...

Gasket blown.

Goodbye, cruel world.

Steven Colyer said...

Einstein was Jewish, in a time in Europe when it was horrible to be so. That was one factor in his being unable to find work after getting his PhD in Physics.

Also, he sent out a paper with his Post-Doc resume, with an error. He knew it had an error, but he sent it out anyway. That could not have helped.

He actually liked his job, because it gave him time to think. Also, he was damned good at it. Before it failed, his father's and Uncle's electrical company had a long run of successes. That's where he learned, firsthand, electromagnetism, in his Uncle Jacob's lab. He would have made a damned fine Engineer.

His Jewishness also factored into the delay of his winning his Nobel, as the Jews were blamed for the lousy Versailles treaty after World War One.

Also, Hans Lorentz didn't like that Special Relativity rendered the ether unnecessary. Relativity was a hot potato back then.

Einstein was also an iconoclast. And nobody likes those people, do they Rob?

Although I'm not sure if the following two mistakes were made before or after his Nobel, if it was before they may have factored into the delay as well: His insulting Marie's Curie's looks, and his denunciation of Nobel winner Philip Lenard. Big mistake (although his criticism was technically correct, if I recall correctly), that last one, Albert could have used more tact.

Ah, young people! What can you do?

It's all in Walter Issacson's book, "Einstein." Have you read that, Rob?

Sincerely,
Zombie Steve

Uncle Al said...

Where have all the thinkers gone? Uncle Al is an empiricist. "This is not the answer we are seeking." The 21st century is about social advocacy. Personal achievement must bow to zero risk assumption through managed mediocrity assuring diversity (admission by reason of disqualification). Official productivity only exists within administrative metrics, re The Great and Powerful Lysenko.

Our great thinkers support social concerns, not manifestations of the Evil IQ. Cortez toppled the Aztec empire, created Mexico, and killed a continent of locals doing it. What were his feelings?

This is why Al Gore and Barack Obama are Nobel Laureates. They were not stained by earning their rewards, they deserve them. Both are Official Great Thinkers.

Arun said...

I think the real measure is how fast/well is human knowledge advancing, and not whether there are thinkers deemed great or not. How well are we doing there?

If we look at the phenomenon of multiple simultaneous discovery (e.g.. http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/busses-come-in-threes-why-do-proofs-come-in-twos/ and the increasing number of people involved in research, then it becomes necessary to publish small advances as soon as one has them. But then the next small step will be likely taken by somebody else, and the collection of end-to-end work which characterizes the "great thinker" will not happen.

So what? Who cares? The only problem is that with the proliferation of small results, it becomes harder to keep up.

Steven Colyer said...

That was a very cool link, Arun, thank you. But the proof of Fermat's Last theorem and Poincare's conjecture didn't come in 2's did they? Or pretty much the whole works of Leonhard Euler.

I think the real measure is how fast/well is human knowledge advancing, and not whether there are thinkers deemed great or not. How well are we doing there?

Good thought, and I would say: VERY well. Possibly TOO well. It's a race IMO to see if we extinct ourselves with our powerful and rapidly increasing Technology. Social advances must keep up. Will they? I can't say. Not looking good though, as how can we "improve" humanity?

Especially with Rupert Murdoch running loose and applying Machiavellian thought, everywhere we turn.

This is why I am not afraid to die. Freedom from Rupert Murdoch. Forever. Nice. ;-)

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

ein stein

a stone

one stone

one beer

one helluva scientist

Bee said...

Very lyrical :o) Reg your first comment, I tend to agree with you. The saying "The darkest hour is just before the dawn" never made a lot of sense to me but in meaning I think it applies here. Best,

B.

Steven Colyer said...

The darkest hour is at midnight Bee. That's why it never made any sense to you. Because it's wrong, and you're smart.

Here's an expression many intelligent people don't understand. Does this make sense to you?

"A penny saved is a penny earned."

I know the answer. :-)

Arun said...

But the proof of Fermat's Last theorem and Poincare's conjecture didn't come in 2's did they? Or pretty much the whole works of Leonhard Euler.

Leonhard Euler is from the time when we had great thinkers.

And why are not Andrew Wiles and Grigori Perlman classified as great thinkers?

-- The point is not that all discoveries come in 2s. Of course they don't. The point is that compared to previous times, the risk of not publishing a result and losing priority is higher.

Arun said...

The darkest hour is at midnight Bee.

A near full moon midnight is quite bright. A near full moon dawn could be quite dark (the moon is setting).

In fact for the bright phases of the moon, the moon is high in the sky at midnight, and low in the sky at dawn.

That is why the darkest hour is typically just before dawn :)

Steven Colyer said...

In fact for the bright phases of the moon, the moon is high in the sky at midnight, and low in the sky at dawn.

I think in terms of New Moons, not Full Moons.

Dammit Occam, where is my razor?

Imagine a spherical cow in a vacuum ...

I think too scientifically ...

:-(

Steven Colyer said...

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk to you again.


That was for Phil Warnell, featuring Columbia mathematician Art Garfunkel.

I am really embarrassed I made that mistake. I don't make many. Thank you for pointing it out to me, Arun.

I think in the bad old days, I would not have made that mistake because in the bad old days, in the days of horses and constant warfare and non-existent dentistry and so lives that rarely passed 30, I would have been an officer serving a general, and known that about the moon, just from personal experience, not Science.

And as an added bonus, there would have been "loot", or at least the hope thereof. ;-)

cody said...

Aw, blogger ate my comment!

Okay, so I tend to agree with you a lot, and I really think time will tell. I also have my own favorite modern intellectuals, though all have strong detractors.

However, I think there are some other effects to mention.

First, as our society have grown in size and inter-connectedness (and since we were all handed personal printing presses and global-distribution systems) there has been a lot more noise in the public discourse, and sadly, marketing is an effective competitor to substance. So we get the noise of the religious right and Murdoch, and with the elevated noise the signal is hard to detect. (The outright anti-intellectualism baffles me.)

On the other hand I think the signal is also stronger (there are more intellectuals), but that a stronger signal paradoxically both helps and hurts---more intellectuals who are more accessible means they all appear less prominently.

Additionally, "science is difficult," and determining who's right and who isn't (worse still who is lying) is not trivial, especially for us mere mortals. (Call it real-time intractable?)

There is also some effect of diminishing returns on understanding the universe; science converges on the truth, so it was easier to make bigger steps when the truth was less-well bounded by previous knowledge.

Lastly, I think for me personally, hindsight is only 20/20 because I wear rose-colored (prescription) glasses.

Now I'm thinking this is all drival and that truly times never change a whole lot. I'll bet people were asking this exact question 100, 200, 300... years ago, at least back to the Greeks!

Thanks Bee!

cody said...

Arun, thanks for the explanation! I've been confused by that saying as well.

Arun said...

I hope it is a correct explanation :)

Exl Blogger said...

I think our age has lots of great intellectuals, but there are merely smart people doing amazing things and there are the public intellectuals that journalists can place in the center of their stories. Steven Hawking, Steve Jobs, and Craig Ventor come to mind instantly.

There is sort of a sampling bias from the 20th century, because there was a huge break in the way we lived between maybe 1890 and 1930. European civilization was being remade along with science and art and dating and bathroom plumbing. The intellectuals of that era seem like giants because of fault they bestrode.

I think we have been a relatively static period. In physics, the Standard Model has worked all too well. There was an economic conventional wisdom that seemed to produce modern prosperity. Medicine has been reduced to valuable but incremental improvements. Even when things are changing rapidly, it often takes a while to recognize the fact. (Science was publishing articles with positive results measuring the aether well into the 20s.) At some point will look backwards and realize how far we have come, and the great intellectuals will suddenly appear, and we will discover that they had been with us all along.

P.S. I though the quote was that it is always darkest before it starts getting lighter again. That's a result of our dark/light metric being continuous.

Rorie said...

I think that Rachman is an an idiot who confuses his own ignorant world view with the universe.

Bee said...

Hi Arun,

I suppose it depends not only on the moon phase but also on the weather and the distance to the next major city. I guess most of us live in areas where it's never really dark. But anyway, what I actually meant is that I've spend a lot of sleepless nights and the hour before dawn is not the worst. It's the hour in which you can get up, go for a walk, listen to the birds and wait for sunrise. And living far up North around midsummer, one might add that sometimes the darkest hour is even after sunrise. Best,

B.

Luke said...

Argh, Blogger ate my long comment.

I don't want to type it up again but the gist of the argument was this:

the reason the intellectual has gone (in physics at least) is because the vast sum of knowledge is so large that it takes a lifetime to even just learn it all. A hundred years ago, one could learn it all easily because there simply wasn't a lot to learn. Nowadays a physicist must learn a very large and wide toolbox to even begin to understand the problems with the all ready worked out theory. Couple that to the fact that tens of thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) of people have attempted to solve the problems nowadays. This means that the obvious solution is always tried and worked out. The problems we face are also incredibly difficult and we have spent so much time studying our theories in depth that most of the obvious and straightforward consequences have been worked on. Thousands of people do this. A hundred years ago there were simply so few people working on it that it was bound to come down to just a few.

Think about it this way, if you have a new theory you are going to apply it to a bunch of situations. These situations are typically going to be fairly self-explanatory as a natural way of applying the theory. A hundred years ago, say, it would take maybe a month to work through all the mathematical and physical consequences of such a theory (for arguments sake). You would have almost no competition and could easily achieve many of the desired applications. Nowadays, you come up with a new theory and post it to the arxiv, thousands of people around the world might see it, come up with an interesting application and then publish it. So what one person might have been able to do in a few papers worth, is done quickly by many people.

So, what I have to say is that no the intellectual is not gone and is still alive and well. It's just that the problems have gotten very very difficult to solve and it takes very deep and critical thinking to solve them. Additionally, all the previous methods of trying to solve the problems have been done and they don't work. Additionally all the rather obvious routes of trying a new method to solve it have failed as well. Thus it will take some very ingenious and clever thinking to work these out and that doesn't come along often.

In a case like Einstein, the ideas he came up with were very visual and easy to understand. Nowadays, the potential thought experiments would be about looking at a holographic universe maybe, or perhaps thinking of things entirely in terms of information. These are not everyday things that are easy to visualise and play around with. Not to belittle Einstein, it took a great mind to realise what was going on, but I'd have to say it is much easier to visualise and work out the mathematics of special relativity. Nowadays, one just can't come up with a simple though experiment and write down the Standard Model, at least I would have my doubts if they could since it is very complicated and not an easy to understand concept like catching up with a beam of light on a train.

I promised I wouldn't make a long comment but I just kept thinking up ideas as I typed. In conclusion, no the intellectual is still alive and well, it's just that problems are difficult and much harder to solve and not as easily as accessible as they were a hundred years ago.

Bee said...

Hi Luke,

There's certainly truth in what you say. But I'd think the main effect would be that your average intellectual is older, not that there's fewer. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee

Thanks for this very relevant article considering a question that’s also been on my mind as of late. The points that have been raised, citing the increased complexity of the world today, larger numbers of educated, the difficulty of the problems we face and all the others I find more or less as excuses, rather than explanations. That’s mainly because I think the question is actually phrased wrong; as it shouldn’t be “where have the intellectuals gone”, yet rather “why are so few intellectuals considered as heroes today”.

The reason I say this, being because I’m sincerely convinced that many people today no longer have an interest in such heroes or you might say they’re not interested in heroes at all anymore; other then perhaps one, with that being themselves. I think what has been missed here is the paradigm shift that’s taken place over the last fifty years or so, which has been punctuated with its symptoms, such as the rise in popularity of what’s called reality shows, electronic social networks formed mostly to compensate for general social ineptitude, high levels of scepticism and fear.

The irony of course being, is if there ever was a time where we desperately need heroes, it would be today; yet the reason there not to be had, is we no longer believe in them and no longer believe they can help us. Actually Steven Colyer , although for a different purpose, beat me to those who I considered as some of the many prophets that recognized the coming of times we now find ourselves in, with him giving note to the song of Simon and Garfunkel “Sounds of Silence”.

So in short my answer to the question is the reason we don’t find these people is we no longer look for them, yet rather for their counterparts being anti-heroes, which are seemingly plentiful.

Best,

Phil

P.S. I must again apologize for my many corrections.

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

Bee,

I apologise if I got the point across that there are fewer intellectuals, at least in physics, there are more then ever if anything. I think my point was that intellectuals today are not disappointing, as your questions asked, but rather that to get to the forefront of the field requires a much larger investment of time then it did, say, 50 years ago, due to the shear amount of information one much process.

Additionally, I think this causes an apparent disappoint because no one is coming up with 'grand' ideas. I think this is just blatantly false due in part to the large amount of information that one must learn and the overall complexity. It's simply much harder to come up with a very clever grand new theory.

Plato said...

Bee:There's 7 billions people on the planet and all of them have something to say.

Since the eighties there has been a population increase of 3 billion people on the planet accumulated roughly to your figure.

So this presents opportunities in terms of numbers of people who if they had set their minds too it, would have increased sectors of that society according to the trades as participants in the question of, as long as the potential is realized and the opportunities in terms of electronic communication is realized.

My own journey and efforts to keep those lines of communication open is a current struggle.

I see where trends in my own grandchildren have me asking with all these devices, are they a good thing as to providing independence as to supporting themselves in the future...yet they are the future as a potential to changes in the way we will do things. Middle East.

The older baby boomers are to become the wise resource of direction that we can offer as not heroes but as wise counsel as to importance and as to approach and living that can be most prudent for that younger generation's future.

This coincides with the potential realized of collaboration and contribution on that electronic media, but also the dangers of the youth in their needs for having self opinion and security needed as they are learning on the journey to survive as independent beings with a purpose to life.

I reminded my own wife of the views our parents had of us as we became the people of the way culture has changed and what they had nostalgically felt about their own lives. The old pictures help to foster some of that look at their lives for myself and what they had gone through.

So the relation of that potential as to population based does offer new opportunities for a new look at the idea of collaboration and information dissemination.

Best,

Plato said...

Arun:The only problem is that with the proliferation of small results, it becomes harder to keep up.

That's the secret though isn't it as to keeping current with what's going on, and why dissemination of information must be ongoing.

It keeps society relevant in terms of keeping up with what's going on, and provides a platform on what can be, if, they see a direction not everyone else sees.

It can be small steps of clarification that helps move perspective in a direction that can provide for new ways in which to deal with things.

Best,

Tim van Beek said...

Steven Colyer said:

Einstein was Jewish, in a time in Europe when it was horrible to be so. That was one factor in his being unable to find work after getting his PhD in Physics.

AFAIK Einstein left academia after getting his Diplom (equivalent to a master), he never wrote a dissertation.
There has been a lot of speculation why he did not get any job in academia after his Diplom, but the one that is most convincing IMHO is that he did not get any letter of recommendation from any professor that knew him, because he had offended everyone in one way or another.

Eric said...

I think there is a real social cause for the lack of heroes and lone geniuses creating major contributions. In the past there was a much bigger distinction between the working man and the person whose work depends on thinking about things in new ways. Higher education is now almost considered a right rather than a privilege. A much higher technical knowledge base is distributed among a much larger proportion of the population. Access to the cutting edge of knowledge is accessible to a very large population.

But knowledge is much different from ingenuity and
creativity. Now everyone is an expert, at least in their own minds, and they can weigh in and push their views through a wide variety of communication avenues. In economics a very large population participates in various ways to create a moving consensus that often does not reflect actual reality. It is just as often a sentiment indicator. With the large number of people participating in science new ideas are also subject to sentiment and promotion, just as in economics.

There is a big difference between knowledge of the current state of physics and the ability to further that knowledge. Ironically, in centuries past when fewer people participated in science there was much less of this mob influence on sentiment regarding scientific ideas. Good ideas actually got worked on. Now just as often there is a whole rabble of people who mistake their technical knowledge of the current state of physics. And they mistake that knowledge for talent in physics. That is, creative talent in physics. Now politics decides when bad idea, like the multiverse, dies. And it is the people most capable of self promotion that decides where physics goes.

It used to be you could be an introvert and still contribute to science. That is no longer the case and the loudest and most persistant voice gets the microphone. An Einstein in today's civilization does not have a chance.

Steven Colyer said...

AFAIK Einstein left academia after getting his Diploma (equivalent to a Masters), he never wrote a dissertation.

Thanks, I thought he got a PhD. If by Masters you meant "knowledge equivalent to" what is known today, no argument. I'm going by what I recall of Isaacson's biography. He does say he sent around a paper, I don't recall him saying it was his dissertation. I recall Einstein wrote his first paper at age 16, a very good one. That wasn't the one he sent around.

There has been a lot of speculation why he did not get any job in academia after his Diploma, but the one that is most convincing IMHO is that he did not get any letter of recommendation from any professor that knew him, because he had offended everyone in one way or another.

This is most likely correct. Isaacson singles out one professor in particular, the Head of the Math Dept. I believe, who slowly over Einstein's tenure came to dislike Einstein's cocky questioning of authority. Don't have the book handy or I'd quote name and page.

I'm currently reading Robert Crease's "The Great Equations," and he makes a good point in conclusion. Essentially, the greatest scientists were "discontent with what they saw, had an anticipatory vision of what might be, and the ability to organize an inquiry to seek it (philosophers call this process the hermeneutic circle)."

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

Eric: "Now politics decides when bad idea, like the multiverse, dies. And it is the people most capable of self promotion that decides where physics goes.

It used to be you could be an introvert and still contribute to science. That is no longer the case and the loudest and most persistant voice gets the microphone. An Einstein in today's civilization does not have a chance.
-----------------------------

What you say does characterize the somewhat unfortunate circumstances in present day theoretical physics.

However, if we take the longer view of things, perhaps things are not so bleak. The longer a mediocre situation persists, the greater is the pressure for substantive change.

In the present circumstances, Einstein would have to wait much longer for Planck and others to start championing his breakthroughs, but it would happen eventually.

All the politicking, and hyping, and ballyhooing about mediocre models is for nought when nature reveals its secrets and shows everyone the difference between shirt and shinola.

We just need some more input from the LHC and a major advance in dark matter search and things could definitely change in a revolutionary way.

RLO

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

Just in from the Xenon100 experiment, which is the most definitive "WIMP" search so far.

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1104/1104.2549v1.pdf

Complete no-show. Previous false-positives rejected.

See Not Even Wrong for discussion.

Nature has spoken again.

SUSY in serious trouble, if not long dead.

Nature has a way of sorting things out.

RLO

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I guess few agree with me that we no longer find heroes because we no longer look for them. I would say the last of such heroes would have been John F. Kennedy. It is to ask if Kennedy in of himself had a vision which few others had, or rather did he merely serve as a lightening rod where the general vision’ s potential could be focused so it might be realized.

I would argue that the reason this vision was accepted and more importantly realized, as many people shared the same high expectations for humanity and Kennedy simply being one understanding it necessary to set a goal that the general populous could easily grasp and measure, as to have it confirmed. In contrast I would say the majority today don’t have the feeling that our species is one capable of great things, having a destiny to fulfill and against such a backdrop people of clarify vision have no space in which to immerge.

So my contention remains, that we first must look at the reasons why this space is no longer to be found, before we ask what happened to the ones of vision. That is we must find reason to stop focusing on our times as one of problems and difficulty and start looking upon it being one of challenges and opportunity. That is its only when this space is again made available, will those ones will appear to give us places within this space where we might travel to as to arrive.


“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

-John F. Kennedy, Rice University, September 12, 1962

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Colyer said...

JFK? How about Desmond Tutu? Mother Teresa? Benito Aquino. Heroes are everywhere, everyday. Cops and firemen and service people who die in the line of duty. AP Physics high school teachers who insist on hard work, honesty and integrity, and change lives in the process.

Then there's the anti-heroes. bin Laden, and the other filthy rich, with notable exceptions like Lazaridis and Branson, et. al. Spin it like Machiavelli, wear an American flag on your lapel, and get re-elected. It's a war. That never ends.

Bee said...

How did we get from intellectuals to heroes? Or you trying to say Mother Theresa scores as intellectual these days? *Clap, clap* back on topic now...

Steven Colyer said...

Phil started it, Bee don't blame me!

Because Bee, our greatest intellectuals ARE amongst our greatest heroes, if not THE greatest.

It is, are, our greatest intellectuals, thoughout time, who move our species forward. Without them, we stagnate, and Europe's own history, indeed the history of every continent, is rife with examples.

When intellectualism is stifled ... when Hypatia, the last of the Ancient Greeks, is raped, flayed and murdered, all of us suffer.

When the Library of Alexanderia is burned to the ground, we all die a little.

When Constantinople is sacked, when Mao invokes his anti-intellectual "Cultural Revolution", when Trent Lott deep in the heart of American Stupidland asks "What good is Math and Science, it never did anything for ME!?", the world hurts.

So yeah, I like your initial thoughts re China. The Sleeping Giant. Been rising, about to rise more.

I'm pretty prescient, not perfect but more often than not, and I see China and India breaking out in the upcoming century. In every way. And keep your eye on Brazil. At least in your peripheral vision.

Bee said...

Hi Steven,
Yes, the intellectuals are heroes, but not necessarily the other way round is what I'm saying. Best,

B.

Steven Colyer said...

OK Bee, I gotcha. But read Christopher Hitchens' brutal attack on Mother Teresa. Like many clergy, she came off as a "Regular gal," of "modest" intelligence. She was anything BUT. She knew what she was doing, and succeeded spectacularly.

Which is not to say I agree with Hitchens' attack piece/book entirely. He's a bit mean-spirited. But, he's an ... intellectual!

The gist of what I and others are saying is that no, intellectualism is far from dead.

Luke makes good points. Yes Luke, the current intellectual has to learn SO much more than say, Einstein had to learn roughly 100 years before Bee and Stefan got their PhD's. But so? In Einstein's day, Physics education was real heavy on the thermodynamics, especially Boltzman's work, and Electromagnetism, a bit older but not much more.

Today? A 4-year degree is still a four-year degree. They just compress the oldest stuff more. Einstein didn't have to worry about QM and Relativity and Particle Physics, we do. So? Shrug. It doesn't take a "lifetime" Luke to get "current", I think that's hyperbole.

Can I offer ... "half a lifetime", instead?

;-)

But Bee, at issue is the ANTI-intellectualism that is rising, at least here in America. Thank goodness you live in Europe, where i'd like to think Knowledge and a Good Education are still respected.

At this rate, it won't be long before I start looking into property values in Canada, even though I'm not a cut-and-run guy, and probably won't leave, dammit. I mean it's sick here. The extremists rule, at least the airways.

And the Internet? It's both our damnation and our salvation.

Damnation, because 3-sigma results are spread around the Internet like wildfire, and we've become overly metricized. Salvation, because it DOES encourage Democracy, whether or not Mao's descendants at the top of the PRC food chain like it or not, and try to control it.

Weird, but like Eric says, the hackers like Assange may end up saving us in the end. We'll see. No worries, ftm.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

To restate my general position on this specific topic, consider the following.

During his lifetime, Einstein was often reviled, often ignored, often written off as a crackpot.

To wit: His professors disliked him in a nasty and determined way. He was viewed as a mouthy trouble-maker, and that is why he had major troubles getting his first job, even after strenuous efforts and even appeals from his relatives to potential employers.

Many physicists thought his relativity approach and his photon concept were completely nuts. Some never changed their minds.

In his later life he was written off as an over-the-hill dinosaur who did not appreciate the Platonic wisdom of the modern era.
(Just wait and see how this latter benighted assessment is falsified in the coming years.)

Bottom line: The attributions of "genius" and "intellectual hero" are solidified only after a very long period of purgatory.

It takes 50 to 100 years to sort things out.

RLO

Steven Colyer said...

Robert, from page 181 of Robert P. Crease's book, "The Great Equations", which everyone age 14 and up should read, in his essay: "Crazy Ideas", re crackpots who mail stuff to real honest PhD. bonified earned-their-position post-post-Docs:

Once upon a time these letters arrived in brown envelopes in crabbed handwritten script; today they are emailed with links to flashy Web pages. The usual subjects are astrophysics, cosmology, unification theories, and the overthrow of Western science. Einstein is invoked, either as emblematic of mainstream science (as the author's archenemy), or of the misunderstood loner outside it (as the author's precursor). ..... Few who receive crazy-idea letters reply. It's assumed to be counterproductive and perhaps even dangerous, reinforcing the authors' sense of being misunderstood and inviting more urgent appeals. the recipients quickly peruse the letters, then toss them into a "crackpot letter" drawer. Hardly anyone I know throws them out.

Eric said...

Robert,
"In his later life he was written off as an over-the-hill dinosaur who did not appreciate the Platonic wisdom of the modern era. (Just wait and see how this latter benighted assessment is falsified in the coming years.)"

Just you wait, even ideas like tele-parallelism will come back into fashion eventually when people finally realize what is happening at the galactic perimeter. It is all a matter of temperature and it alone determines on what scale the dividing line occurs between quantum and classical effects, such as rigid entanglement, occurs.

Eric said...

Steven, I think you are doing the same thing with intellectuals and genius as you did with hero and intellectual, that is, confusing the two. There are many intellectuals in science and other fields today. They have a lot of knowledge and there is a very high reverence for the Ph.D beside their name. What goes along with those letters is of course a lot of knowledge and a history of great effort acquiring that knowledge.

However, you show way too much deference to authority in your posts. A lot of those respected people are deluded.( I do not think Bee is one of them. she has her head on straight.) Just like a genius is a hero but not necessarily vice versa, so to might a genius be an intellectual, but not vice versa. The thing they both have in common is knowledge. There are a lot of highly respected but deluded intellectuals out there that are given way too much respect. People like a certain person whose first name is Brian (fill in his last name) who have captured the cultural imagination and done enormous damage to science.

Being "just" an intellectual simply does not cut it. It would not matter except that so many people give them added respect for the knowledge they have acquired. This lead people to believe their deluded conclusions. It doesn't hurt either that they are polished.

Steven Colyer said...

Eric,

If by "Brian" you meant Brian Greene, you could have done better. You could have brought up Kaku, or especially, Susskind. Brian Greene is adorable to me, as is Roger Penrose. That doesn't mean I agree with everything those people say, I don't, but that also doesn't mean I can PROVE that they are wrong, because I also can't.

One thing about Brian. To date, he is the ONLY person who says Loop Quantum Gravity AND String theory can exists in the same Universe? Is he simply being diplomatic, or is he right?

I do not not know. Sabine isn't just BEE, she is the "Queen Bee of Phenomenology", that is to say "Theory based on Experimental Results," which is The Scientific Method, in action. Me a big fan.

So I'll listen to her, before I change my mind on anything, which I have done before, sometimes 180 degrees, and am more than willing to do in the future, should a good, Aristotelian logical argument, warrant it.

One other thing, and I'll do Greene, perhaps, one better on this.

I see no reason why Causal Dynamical Triangulations on the smallest scales, Loops are the next highest scales, and Strings on a bit higher scale yet, can't all be true. There is not evidence, yet, to prove me wrong IMO. Nor is there enough to prove me right, also IMO. And they may all be wrong as well. Be open-minded, is my mantra, but DO strike, when the iron is hot, just not at ... at 3-sigma.

But when all else fails, yes Eric, I tend to consult the experts.

One person I would very much like to hear from on all this, is Stefan Scherer. Of all the fields in Physics, it his specialty, Condensate Physics, that is the hottest.

You know, Lasers, Superfluidity, Superconductivity, quantum hall effect. The stuff where the quantum world is made macroscopically REAL and observable, usually at very Low Temperatures, other than lasers that lase at whatever temp you want them to lase is, but the sexiest stuff is near Absolute Zero.

Steven Colyer said...

I once asked Lubos, very publicly, what it would take to explore the "Planck Scale". I thought it would be a particle accelerator/collider on the scale of Saturn's orbit.

Lubos said, no, it would be on the scale of the Universe itself.

Which reminds me of this exchange between Bee and Peter Woit at not even Wrong, proving yet again that Bee asks good questions, as all good scientists do:

Bee: “you’d need a collider as big as the universe itself for that”
Last time I read that I believe the collider was as big as the Milky way. Just out of curiosity, does anybody know of an estimate for that?

Peter: Bee,

Assuming similar magnets, collider energy scales linearly with size. So, very roughly saying the Tevatron is 1km in radius and gives collision energies of 1TeV=10^3 GeV, you need a factor of 10^16 to get to the Planck Scale. If I believe Wikipedia the Milky Way is 10^17km or so in radius, so a Planck scale collider would fit nicely.

One other problem is luminosity, since interesting cross-sections fall off quickly with energy. It might not be possible to get sufficient luminosity to produce a useful number of events. Then there’s the minor problem that string theory doesn’t actually predict anything about what will happen if you built such a machine…

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

There is a Scandinavian saying:

"Eat less, chew more".

A possible corollary might be:

Talk less, think more.

RLO

Steven Colyer said...

There's a New Jersey saying:

Shut the hell up, and put your money where your mouth is.

Phil Warnell said...

There is an old Canuk adage which warns, “The trouble with pissing contests has to do with the consequential risks of a Backreaction” :-)

Steven Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Colyer said...

LOL, Phil! And don't eat the yellow snow! Frank Zappa said that, I think. :-)

Rob, see if you can tell what year the following was written. It was written about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, by a fellow intellectual of ours, and I think it's very prescient. Can you relate to it?

This imagined beyond which the scientist has proved he cannot penetrate, will become the playground of the imagination of every mystic and dreamer. The existence of such a domain will be the basis of an orgy of rationalizing. It will be made the substance of the soul; the spirits of the dead will populate it; God will lurk in its shadows; the principle of vital processes will have its seat here; and it will be the medium of telepathic communication. One group will find in the failure of the physical law of cause and effect the solution of the age-long problem of the freedom of the will; and on the other hand the atheist will find the justification of his contention that chance rules the universe.

Since thought will conform to reality, understanding and conquest of the world will proceed at an accelerating pace. I venture to think there will also be a favorable effect on man's character; the mean man will react with pessimism, but a certain courageous nobility is needed to look at a situation like this in the face. And in the end, when man has fully partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, there will be this difference between the first Eden and the last, that man will not become a god, but will remain forever humble.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

Hmmm, must have been a head gasket.

Thomas Larsson said...

With my limited knowledge about German slang, I was under the impression that "Ein Stein" actually meant "One ball" in this context. Prussian officials could be quite cruel when renaming Jewish immigrants, and probably Einstein's ancestor suffered from this physical defect.

Bee said...

If that used to be a German slang, it must have died long before my time as I've never heard it.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven and Bee,

What defines as a hero for me in the sense this article intends, is someone who captures both the hearts and the minds of those they affect. However, more importantly, they serve to awaken their imaginations, as to have them knock down the walls where they constitute as being at best only bricks. My point being, is such people have little chance if the general environment tends to place restrictions on what those minds can imagine and thus in such cases the examination of matters of the heart (or the human spirit if you will) are often more important than those of the mind.

”He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.”

-Abraham Maslow

Best,

Phil

Georg said...

"Ein Stein" is German for "a stone."

I once had a boss named "Dobbelstein".
Guess what kind of jokes were made on him?

"Who is greater than Einstein?"

:=)
Georg

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Georg,

It’s simply another way of saying one has intestinal fortitude, or in contemporary vernacular having the stones for something. Then again it fails the political correctness test, as it not being universally applicable. So then perhaps more appropriately it should be Stämmigsubstanz :-)

Best,

Phil

Georg said...

Hello Phil,
in German a stone is a stone, nothing else....
Georg

Michael Gogins said...

I think the main problem with finding "hero intellectuals" in physics is the success of the Standard Model. But it has quite apparent flaws. Fixing them is apparently quite difficult. We have no way to know when, if ever, we will actually fix them, presumably with a revolutionary new theory. Until that time, no hero physics intellectual. After that time, we will realize who the hero physics intellectual(s) is(are) -- or rather has(have) been all along.

Regards,
Mike

Zephir said...

/*...intoday's collaborations knowledge is not emergent. It is not something that really happens on the collective level. It is simply an assembly of many small parts...*/

Only if you ignore new metatheories, like the AWT. Of course, scientific community can recognize it by itself, because emergent phenomena of systems cannot be observed within these systems, until undergo phase separation. You cannot observe density fluctuations of water surface with its surface waves in the same way, like we cannot observe quantum fluctuations (virtual particles) with using of light - which is actually reason, why we cannot observe Higgs boson or WIMPs, for example.

Zephir said...

This may be the example of collective approach to science.

Bee said...

Zephir: Could you do me the favor and actually read what I wrote before commenting? I have defined clearly what I mean with collective intelligence and explained why collaboration presently isn't an example, not even remotely. Of course there is in some sense (some other sense than I talked about it) a 'collective approach' to science, there always has been. Best,

B.

Tim van Beek said...

Steven Colyer said:

If by Masters you meant "knowledge equivalent to" what is known today, no argument.

No, I meant to say that a German (or Swiss) Diplom is the same as an English or US-American master degree :-)


Essentially, the greatest scientists were "discontent with what they saw, had an anticipatory vision of what might be, and the ability to organize an inquiry to seek it.

I think that is true for every big and ultimately successful project, wether it is coming up with a better theory of gravitation, or coming up with a new cell phone that is just more that cell phones where before.

You need to focus on a specific theme where you are sure you can contribute (a great strength of Einstein) and get help with the aspects you do not understand (a strength of Einstein, who relied on his friend Marcel Grossmann to explain differential geometry to him).

Einstein is also a good example that it can be both a strength and a weakness to walk outside the mainstream. And he is a good example that a genius is rightfully celebrated for her/his breakthrough, but that the degree of inventive ingenuity is usually exaggerated in the myths surrounding them.

Steven Colyer said...

Thank you, Tim. I especially don't like the Myth that as he got more into Mathematics he made less contributions to Physics. While technically true, Maths are a wide and wonderful playing field. Applied maths is my baby, only recently decided. But if anyone, including Einstein, is looking for oranges in an apple grove and doesn't find them, that doesn't mean oranges don't exist.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

Before 1925, Einstein used the Faraday approach to understanding nature, and the Maxwell approach to mathematically describing what he had come to understand.

After 1925, as his emphasis became ever more focused towards unified field theory, he gradually switched to what might be called the Dirac approach: searching for "beautiful mathematics" that would unify the increasingly Balkanized state of theoretical physics.

Einstein was aware of the dangers of the Dirac approach, but he said: 'Someone should try and I am well-positioned to take the risk'.

If a unified physics is ever to be obtained, it will be by going back to Einstein's original approach. Many people have tried the Dirac approach. It has generated some very impressive mathematical advances, but it has not gotten us closer to a deeper, more unified, understanding of the physical world, i.e., nature.

Pax,
RLO

Steven Colyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Colyer said...

Pax yourself, Rob, and good words, mostly.

I just learned Maxwell was fond of mechanical analogies; sad he died of cancer at 48. It was Oliver Heaviside who reduced Maxwell's 16 or 20 equations to the four beauties we know of today. You should like Heaviside, Rob, as he was known as "The Last of the Great Amateurs."

Heaviside's autobiography was titled "Wicked People I Have Known", which makes me a sad puppy because I was going name my own autobiography that! But now I'd be declared a copycat, so, no. :-(

Einstein worked on 2-1/2 failed theories, if I recall correctly. The half was because he died before completing it. His last note of calculations featured the number 9 heavily, I don't know why. I think his first dead end was extending Kaluza-Klein. Perhaps String Theorists should take note. ;-)

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee,

I think there is so many different branches in physics, that no-one is able to follow every or many branches. It just costs time, that people don't have.

Best, Kay

Neil Bates said...

I think a big reason is, thinkers find their new ideas either shot down by unimaginative gate-keepers, or else lost in a blizzard of superficially similar novelty of low quality.

Neil Bates said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Neil,

It is pleasant to discover that here at least we find having something in common as being true. That is it being the environment as more relevant to having great thinkers to being found; more so then any short fall in the potential of current individuals or the methods they incorporate. I don’t believe that genius by itself creates its own space, yet is rather dependant up its existence. This is to propose that just as our reality needing space as defined by its dimensions lending it the correct number and quality of degrees of freedom to exist, also thought requiring the same.

Best,

Phil

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

In light of the Xenon100 results, maybe it's time to discuss "WIMPs" dark matter.

This dubiously-motivated hypothesis may be the phogiston of our era.

RLO

Steven Colyer said...

Those results only deny the results of that particular experiment, Rob, they don't falsify that WIMPS exist. Don't get carried away, man.

Personally, I don't know, but hope, they don't exist. The reason I hope not is I think the "hot" field in Physics grad school, "Dark Matter Phenomenology", is too influenced by Astrophysics. Also, I have a strong feeling we'll know what Dark "Energy" is before we know what Dark "Matter" is. I think Physics is barking up the wrong tree. Good neighbothood, wrong tree.

But I may be wrong. Shrug, dunno, intuition isn't always right.

Bee said...

Guys: This is not the place to discuss the Xenon100 results.

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

....or Heroes?

Of course our views of Newton could take on new proportions given the understanding of the historical/rhetorical context and opinions given by those wiser then our self?:)

Did those more knowledgeable have all the information as best to define the personage as to be decisive about the context of their hero? Their correction later in life.

Did they understand the context of the darker side of Newton to believe that he could have failed(cultural ignorance of the times) because of alchemy to believe that he was on a search to be a better person while dealing with an infliction by which bio-diversity was Newton's own issue human issue with which to contend with? Newton saw it in the earth?

Best,

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

It is true that nearly all found as heroes are given attributes that they never actually deserved. However it is the idea of a hero that stands as more important than their actual embodiment. The problem today being the fashion is to create heroes, not to project an idea or ideal, yet rather to have something for us to later tear down, so that our own ineptitudes and weaknesses can be justified.

This is different than it was in times ending not long ago, where we would forgive our heroes for their defects and rather than tear them down, only at worst to have them compared, that is as to leave room for even greater heroes without finding reason or utility for destroying the precious few that we have.

“ We may admire Sir Isaac Newton on this occasion, but then we must not censure Descartes.

The opinion that generally prevails in England with regard to these new philosophers is, that the latter was a dreamer, and the former a sage.

Very few people in England read Descartes, whose works indeed are now useless. On the other side, but a small number peruse those of Sir Isaac, because to do this the student must be deeply skilled in the mathematics, otherwise those works will be unintelligible to him. But notwithstanding this, these great men are the subject of everyone's discourse. Sir Isaac Newton is allowed every advantage, whilst Descartes is not indulged a single one. According to some, it is to the former that we owe the discovery of a vacuum, that the air is a heavy body, and the invention of telescopes. In a word, Sir Isaac Newton is here as the Hercules of fabulous story, to whom the ignorant ascribed all the feats of ancient heroes

.........I indeed believe that very few will presume to compare his philosophy in any respect with that of Sir Isaac Newton. The former is an essay, the latter a masterpiece. But then the man who first brought us to the path of truth, was perhaps as great a genius as he who afterwards conducted us through it.

Descartes gave sight to the blind. These saw the errors of antiquity and of the sciences. The path he struck out is since become boundless. Rohault's little work was, during some years, a complete system of physics; but now all the Transactions of the several academies in Europe put together do not form so much as the beginning of a system. In fathoming this abyss no bottom has been found. We are now to examine what discoveries Sir Isaac Newton has made in it.” .


-François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) “Letters on England” Letter XIV: On Descartes and Sir Isaac Newton ,Written in 1727 upon Newton’s Death ,The Echo Library (2009)

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

It is true that nearly all found as heroes are given attributes that they never actually deserved. However it is the idea of a hero that stands as more important than their actual embodiment. The problem today being the fashion is to create heroes, not to project an idea or ideal, yet rather to have something for us to later tear down, so that our own ineptitudes and weaknesses can be justified.

This is different than it was in times ending not long ago, where we would forgive our heroes for their defects and rather than tear them down, only at worst to have them compared, that is as to leave room for even greater heroes without finding reason or utility for destroying the precious few that we have.

"We may admire Sir Isaac Newton on this occasion, but then we must not censure Descartes.

The opinion that generally prevails in England with regard to these new philosophers is, that the latter was a dreamer, and the former a sage.

Very few people in England read Descartes, whose works indeed are now useless. On the other side, but a small number peruse those of Sir Isaac, because to do this the student must be deeply skilled in the mathematics, otherwise those works will be unintelligible to him. But notwithstanding this, these great men are the subject of everyone's discourse. Sir Isaac Newton is allowed every advantage, whilst Descartes is not indulged a single one. According to some, it is to the former that we owe the discovery of a vacuum, that the air is a heavy body, and the invention of telescopes. In a word, Sir Isaac Newton is here as the Hercules of fabulous story, to whom the ignorant ascribed all the feats of ancient heroes

.........I indeed believe that very few will presume to compare his philosophy in any respect with that of Sir Isaac Newton. The former is an essay, the latter a masterpiece. But then the man who first brought us to the path of truth, was perhaps as great a genius as he who afterwards conducted us through it.

Descartes gave sight to the blind. These saw the errors of antiquity and of the sciences. The path he struck out is since become boundless. Rohault's little work was, during some years, a complete system of physics; but now all the Transactions of the several academies in Europe put together do not form so much as the beginning of a system. In fathoming this abyss no bottom has been found. We are now to examine what discoveries Sir Isaac Newton has made in it.”
.

-François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) “Letters on England” Letter XIV: On Descartes and Sir Isaac Newton ,Written in 1727 upon Newton’s Death ,The Echo Library (2009)

Best,

Phil

P.S. Bee, this a HTML trimmed down version as the first didn't pass the test of the unseen critic :-)

Steven Colyer said...

It is true that nearly all found as heroes are given attributes that they never actually deserved.

With the notable exceptions of Einstein, Dirac and Feynman, and Pauli on a good day. ;-)

Plato said...

Phil:The problem today being the fashion is to create heroes, not to project an idea or ideal,

Trying to get my thoughts together.

Idea and Ideal are telling to me as well.

There is a difference for me as well, as to the judgements coming, this need for I told you so.... because so and so supports this or that....it's really not speaking about the substance of the idea... that the idea may/can manifest later, as an ideal. Say wha'ts wrong with it, not the personages who carry them.

So you may refer to Kennedy speech....yet such ideals are more heroic to me then the heroes that people like to manifest as representative of the ideals.

There is to much that go along with the personality that may be in contradiction of all that may seem good as to being heroic and on a pedestal...so again it is about the ideal and not the person?

It is this that perspective forms around in conclusive "materialistic notions" as a result of perspective arriving at it's conclusion, that the world appears as like. The person, is as you say, yet how did such an idea arrive as to being an ideal?

Is the mathematics "immaterial" or symbolic of an image? Of course, I point toward Dirac as I raise that question.

Best,

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Plato,

Another thought which crossed my mind, is that not believing in heroes anymore might in part be assignable to the philosophy of science itself, being generalized incorrectly in respect to matters of humanity in regards to general understanding. That is as the very heart of science (correctly) demands that doubt always be maintained, that this has been extended by many to serve as to mean they should find nothing or no one worthy to be trusted (believed in); that is no matter to what extent this trust is limited to.

I would relate this to being when science becomes perceived by many as a faith based religion, as opposed to being a methodology of discovery and understanding; that’s when methodology is replaced as being credo so its applicability isn’t considered. So rather than understand that doubt is to challenge us to improve on ideas, by giving methods and measures as to how they may be evaluated, its thought to mean all ideas should be considered false without the need for evaluation, since their refuting being inevitable. So as there being this connection between ideas and ideals, it’s not hard to see how such a misconception could be extended to them as well.

So the bottom line being science is not something that can be simply believed if it is to be used for guidance, yet rather needed to be struggled to be understood by way of having it explored. What I find interesting is this could be said to apply to any philosophy and not just science.

Best,

Phil

Plato said...

Phil:That is as the very heart of science (correctly) demands that doubt always be maintained, that this has been extended by many to serve as to mean they should find nothing or no one worthy to be trusted (believed in); that is no matter to what extent this trust is limited to.

Having spent quite a few years now around science minds, I agree with your wording. Do we want to become like heroes characterized, or do you want to act like a scientist?

Doubt, and what is to be falsified, could be misconstrued as well as, about the person, and not the idea, or ideal over time. As to the ideal, it requires experimental application after construction. Only then, after a time, and through exploration do we then surmise that "the ideal" has to changed because it is not consistent with what is in operation with what is happening in nature. This has to run it's full course.

One's selective use of "heroes" is a non starter for me.:)

Faith based, or other wise, is to realize that "whatever you accept" becomes part of the reality you choose to live.

Are these then degrees of what you can accept as a person, as a scientist, yet we find that Heroes can believe in a God.

Just a thought here then. How do you cope with this faith based assertion?

Atheistically, one can judge the heroes as to being mislead, because of the demands of science and falsifying. Does this fly in face of the idea and the ideal about striving to be like a scientist?

Best,