Educational Observations: Science, the Humanities, and Death (Part I)
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
So I'm a POSTMODERN CONSERVATIVE. I'll have a lot to say about what that means later. But one of beginning to explain why conservatism needs to be postmodern--or free of characteristic modern illusions (shared, to be sure, by most intellectuals who call themselves postmodern)--is to share some educational observations with you. I will, in fact, be doing a lot of that, often drawing from what I've written before:
1.There really is a massive contradiction between what we learn through SCIENCE and what we learn through the HUMANITIES. What we learn through SCIENCE seems more rigorous and more true, grounded as it is in an objective method. What we learn from the HUMANITIES seems to correspond better to our personal experiences. Poets (or even Taylor Swift) know more about love or just having sex than do the evolutionary biologists or the sexologists.
2. No person really believes what the scientists teach is completely true. Well, some people say they believe that, but nobody (except, maybe, the very rare [in our country] real Buddhist) really lives as if personal reality is nothing but an illusion to be gotten over. Socrates, it’s true, said that philosophy is learning how to die, which seems to mean using science to come to terms with one’s own ephemeral insignificance. Learning how to die, so the philosopher says, is using your mind to get over yourself. But Socrates never seems to have talked with anyone who actually lived that way.
3. Certainly Plato presented Socrates’ life as one of dramatic personal significance. Socrates, everyone knows, was courageous enough to die rather than surrender or even diss his singularly significant way of life. The fact that his death was a huge deal makes him real important, even for us.
4. Everyone knows that physics can account for everything but the nerdy, lonely, vain, envious, and somewhat self-forgetful physicist. There may be, for all I know, a perfect correspondence between the physicist’s mind and the cosmos. But the physicist, everyone also knows, is more than a mind, more than a big head. Even Sheldon on the funny TV show THE BIG BANG THEORY is an exaggeration, just as the other more pathetic and less self-sufficient characters are fairly realistic. Physicists want girlfriends, love their moms, and have friends for regular guy reasons too. The philosopher Leo Strauss said that the world—meaning cosmos or nature—is the home of the human mind, but even real guy philosophers (and in the classical world there was no difference between philosophers and scientists) are more than minds.
5. Sometimes nerdy scientists today put their hope in transhumanism—in biotechnological progress that will allow them to exist without bodily limitations and icky bodily desires and functions. Transhumanists, a study might show, are typically guys with really bad bodies who are full of unrequited love. They are so about the coming revenge of the nerds that they forget that even scientists and philosophers have to be animated by erotic longings that could only exist in beings with bodies, minds, and other stuff too—in persons.
The stories we tell define history. So who gets the mic in America?
- History is written by lions. But it's also recorded by lambs.
- In order to understand American history, we need to look at the events of the past as more prismatic than the narrative given to us in high school textbooks.
- Including different voices can paint a more full and vibrant portrait of America. Which is why more walks of American life can and should be storytellers.
A glass of juice has as much sugar, ounce for ounce, as a full-calorie soda. And those vitamins do almost nothing.
Quick: think back to childhood (if you've reached the scary clown you've gone too far). What did your parents or guardians give you to keep you quiet? If you're anything like most parents, it was juice. But here's the thing: juice is bad for you.
Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club
- Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
- It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
- This ability may come from a common ancestor
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