Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beginning a new year

No, it's not "the" New Year, nor is it Chinese New Year; it's my new year.  Yesterday was my birthday, the start of my thirtieth year.  I'm not one given to voodoo, hoodoo, or superstition, at least as anything more than occasional light hearted jokes, but a friend of mine is into astrology and has been for quite some time, and I'll admit to the teenage foray into tarot when I was younger.  My friend even did birth charts for a while, including one for me and my son.  He's a reasonable, rational, highly intelligent person, member of Mensa, small business owner, and a big believer in science- and yet he plays with astrology for fun.  He pulled back from a lot of it because of the people that astrology attracts.  People looking for excuses, looking for something outside of themselves to blame for their own failings.  He sees astrology not as a way to predict the future or a view of what's to come, but as another way to interpret current happenings in his life and give him an idea of dynamics of which to be aware.  He and I have talked at length about how in Asian cultures, somewhere around thirty is when a person is finally viewed as an adult, and one can either master certain tasks or continue repeating the same mistakes.

As I write this, Ken is chasing Leucopus the cat with a toy pan from his kitchen, rambling on about how he wants to give the kitty a drink.  He does this out of love, and he wants to take care of her and help her, but for some reason love and affection is not the message that comes across to her. 

Back from saving the cat for the umpteenth time today , where was I?  Oh, yes!  Why do I join these two disjunct stories?  Because both illustrate tools and the importance of using the appropriate tool for a given job.  Astrology isn't a predictive device anymore than a correlation is, it's a hobby and a way to refocus your mind in ways that you might not have considered previously.  A toy pan is a plaything and not a practical device to be employed when trying to befriend felines.  Like any tool, each of these items has appropriate and inappropriate uses. 

Likewise, science is a tool with circumstances where its use is correct and justified, and other situations where its use is not.  Science can't tell me why my heart still jumps a beat when I see Dwight after an extended absence or a rough day, nor can science tell me why I seem to always bump into Eric Clapton's songs on days when my father is closer to the front of my mind than usual.  Science can't tell me why I prefer one piece of art to another, nor can it explain why, given the same experience, two people might remember vastly different details, or why Madoff felt it would be OK to steal millions from the Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel.  Science can present facts, data, correlations, probabilities, and statistics.  Science can explain chemical and physical phenomena in a very detached and unbiased way.  But humans have our own set of filters, called past experience, opinion and individual circumstances, through which we see the world and the facts that science presents to us.  And possibly most importantly, humans have ethics and free will.  We are the proverbial horse.  You can present all the facts and science you want, but in the end, we choose what we will do with those facts.  And therein lies the problem.  If scientists ignore the existence of free will and insist that only science must ever be considered when making vital, life changing decisions, then we loose half of ourselves and, essentially, our humanity and instead become automatons and machines.  And anyone who has seen a science fiction movie or read a science fiction book can tell you- humans don't trust robots.

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