How to deal with science

Friday, August 20, 2010

6:15 AM. A little hard to get moving today.

Remember to balance. You observed the exhaustion in your son-in-law’s eyes from work and child and too little sleep. Your life is easier than his – but you are older, too. So, be wary of disregarding balance, in your continued enthusiasm and avid interest and deep satisfaction. Any of these might tempt a person into imbalance; together they are a powerful lure.

It isn’t much different from Hemingway in the middle of writing a book, I imagine.

No, quite wrong. He tried to balance every day. You do that mentally but not physically.

All right, I’m trying to be careful. And I just got that (of course) this is as much for the benefit of those who can overhear us as for myself.

Of course, for you are only one example, and they are the ones who will turn an example into a movement, if they choose to do so. We almost said “trend” but something that becomes trend-y goes out of favor just as quickly, for just as little reason. But – there are ramifications to this beyond your personal experiences. If there were not, it would still be worth your while to do it, and anything worth your while is worth our while, but it would be in subtle ways entirely different. It would be more as it was until December 2005 when Joseph came in, in response to your (prompted) invitation. Everything since has been of a different order than everything before hand.

So. If you are ready to proceed, we are ready.

Proceed ahead. You’re doing pretty well already!

We’ve done this before. Compose yourself a little.

Yes, I got a little scattered. Okay.

The winnowing of physically possible characteristics proceeds over time by the non-presence of every necessary factor. In other words – but said in that clumsy fashion first so as to get your attention – the lack of any one critical ingredient is enough to prevent any traits dependent upon it from manifesting. However if that lack is then provided – in the following generation, say, as the result of a mating with a partner who furnished it – the traits that had been unable to manifest are again enabled. This is one view of recessive genes.

Now, if the mention of the word “genes” is somewhat of a shock, because not in the accustomed context, so much the better. It is important to remember that though this work and these understandings may proceed – and may have to proceed – in the absence of science, they don’t proceed in defiance of science. And a few words on that subject are needed.

Science remains ignorant of many things. In such matters one is forced into one of three courses. Proceed without science, or attempt to bring the subject matter within the realm of science, or stay with science and discard what is not known. Each of these courses has its advantages and its proper place in the scheme of things; each is appropriate for various types of people with various tasks, priorities, obligations. None is categorically wrong. Like weeds that are defined as “plants out of place,” attitudes toward science may be appropriate for one’s task or not, and there is nothing more to be said on the subject.

What science does know, however, it would be silly to disregard even if it need be totally reinterpreted, for what is going to substitute for detailed analysis and investigation and synthesis and further analysis? Thus, if you are examining the transmission of traits, is it worthwhile to proceed as if Gregor Mendel had never existed, as if his work was irrelevant to the human body of knowledge and, more important, as if his work had not served to point people in the right direction so as to lead to so much that he could not imagine?

If your work is important – we remind you all – so is everyone else’s. That doesn’t mean that everyone else’s is important to you, or accessible to you, even. It only means (one more time) you never have the data to judge where anyone’s work fits into the total picture – anyone else’s, or yours. It is merely a matter of avoiding the twin errors of excessive pride and excessive humility.

So. Genetics. We’re not saying it would be worth your while to study the loss of genetic transmission of possibilities (which is how we see it). It may be, or may not be, and who will prompt you more reliably than your own guidance. We say merely that if you wish further insight into the physical factors governing the transmission of possibilities, that is one very worked-out field of inquiry.

The reason to bring genetics into the discussion that started with rings and threads is so that you see more clearly that we are offering less a new point of view than

Sorry, got that backwards, as thoughts were intruding and competing. Trying again —

Yes. Not new facts never before observed in human history – how likely would that be? – but new interpretations of known facts, and new associations of data usually considered only separately if at all.

The entire subject of genetics is not wrong, nor is it irrelevant! It is, however, misleading as every other field of knowledge is misleading, unless seen in proper context. And conversely, fields of inquiry may be incomplete, or skewed, in the absence of the taking account of genetics. It is not science that is the opposition here, but a superstitious approach to science and a setting it up on a pedestal above equally valid means of inquiry. This has been your society’s norm, but not for much longer.

We don’t seem to be making a lot of headway on the question of rings and threads.

That’s what you think. In this case the journey – the process of associating subjects not previously considered together – is worth more than the goal, which can only be one more analogy, useful but limited. You will remember, we began with a thoroughly mechanistic and ungrounded analogy and have begun to tie it in to your everyday experience and conventional scientific understanding. That isn’t exactly a waste of time.

Take Hemingway as once again an example. His life is well known in outline and detail, however much overgrown the facts may be by the Myth. Take, for instance, his great generosity in financial matters – and his equally monumental pettiness, cattiness, in talking of others.

Those are two traits that might seem to belong to two different individuals. One thinks of a person as being generous or petty; one imposes an idea of consistency upon whatever one’s image of another person happens to be. If there are utterly inconsistent – in fact, contradictory – traits observable in a person’s life, it isn’t enough to say he was one way in one mood, another way in a different mood. (It might be enough, if you knew what a “mood” was!) In practice, that is how you understand, or, or properly said, how you gloss over the difficulty. But if you understand the underlying situation, it becomes tautological.

Hemingway’s person-group contained a great range of traits, some of which manifested as financial generosity, some as backbiting of the most uncharitable kind. Each was a legitimate part of his heritage. That last sentence may stop you. If so, good. We say it again: Each was a legitimate part of his heritage.

Legitimacy, you see, has nothing to do with desirability or admirability. It means, simply, something that has a right to be there. And herein is the germ of an essay in itself. Mark it, when you outline the day’s catch, for you won’t want to let it go unpursued. And to the extent that we can rely on you to keep track of untaken side-trails, just so far can we pursue main trails more easily. Note to anyone reading this: You might try the same technique. In pursuing any main trail, jot down possible side-trails on a piece of paper and continue as you were going. Over time this will add richness of texture.

We have talked of Hemingway’s greatness. Greatness – as you well know, Frank, for it is a saying you have quoted more than once over the years – consists of touching more than one extreme at the same time. (This, as opposed to merely to staking out any given extreme.)

But what does that mean in our context? It means, greatness consists in being able to function by turning a difficulty to advantage. The difficulty is the great range of contradictory elements within one’s person-group. The advantage is in bringing them into productive relationship. Even surviving such an experiment, such a predicament, may be a manifestation of greatness, may be a great accomplishment, even if nothing external results within time-space, for we are here looking at the creation of the individual as tool rather than as product.

I understand that, but maybe I’d better rephrase it. As I understand it, you’re saying, once a person has held greatly divergent elements together in a lifetime, it is easier for others to do the same, and thus the very living-out of these possibilities is an achievement.

Yes, and more, but you have come to the end of your rope, here.

I have. I can scarcely form the letters.

Enough, then, until next time. Don’t let yourself get discouraged or impatient; we are accomplishing what we need to accomplish. But get some exercise today. Take a walk or something.

We’ll see. Till later.

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