Science is a powerful tool. It’s built on a couple of foundational principles:
1. there is someone watching,
2. only what that person sees can be studied, and
3. only what is analyzed in a structured way is real.
Everything else is emotion (this discussion is punctuated with images from Yellowstone, for you to respond to emotionally and contemplate as we go along)…
…until it’s studied in a structured way, which might be through fields such as chemistry, biology or physics. Then it is understood.
By “understood” is meant that the emotion is explained away, the weakness of bodily experience is dispelled as an error, and the observer is reunited with his or her true self, a kind of mathematical intelligence, or God. It’s a beautiful conception.
Those are the foundations. Scientists today are often a very secular group, of course, with little interest in God, working to find practical applications of natural processes, which can be used industrially. Sometimes, they work to expand the body of their type of knowledge.
The rules of the process, however, remain, secular or not. There is, however, a bit of a glitch in this system. It is the act of observation.
Simply, what is observed is not necessarily emotional, and the observer is not necessarily separate from what is being observed. Those are just basic foundational blocks for this system, but, truthfully, this system can say nothing about those things, because they have been removed from it right from the beginning.
Here’s one example. Yellowstone’s Back Norris Geyser Basin (below) can be viewed emotionally by this system, but can only be understood once it is analyzed.
There are some difficulties with this approach. First, watching is participatory. I am the tree I observe above. This puts a bit of a snag into the first rule, that there is someone watching. There is someone ‘being’ present, that’s for sure, but not separate from what’s observed. It follows that the observer is also the observed object — not in the measurable technical ways demanded by scientific knowledge, for sure, but in a real enough way, in which the measurable technical ways are actually merely the expression of the separation of the observer and the observed. That’s a foundational bias. It’s based on the assumption that humans, the observer, and the world are separate, and that tool making is a higher order of intelligence than body imaging. It’s militarily true, certainly, but it’s not entirely true. If you doubt it, please look at the image below.
Look, Ma! No Tree!
A little rough-and-ready fun with Photoshop, sure, but that’s not my point. The absence of the tree changes the scene. That difference in balance, and even in presence, is a reading of the your self, the observer in this instance. If the tree had not been here I would have made a different image, as I scanned the basin, waiting for my mind to come to focus within it, as it did with the tree.
This effect is definitely what scientific thought wants to dispel. The problem is that by dispelling this effect, the subtlety of the viewer, and the connection between viewer and earth, are broken. This is marginally OK if you’re hoping to survive this Vale of Tears in order to have a better life in Heaven, but otherwise it leads to illness. Another weakness of the scientific method is that understanding is not the only goal. If understanding blocks other goals, it is not, actually, understanding. For example, a portable, disassociated intelligence such as most people are trained in in the West today, can view this scene in the Norris Back Basin …
… but the actual experience of observation can’t be observed with this tool. Does that matter? Yes, because in the scientific paradigm only what is analyzed an “understood” is real, which is to say that a response to the above scene as a moment of beauty is going to be read as an emotional response, leading to other emotional responses, leading, eventually to a vast network of social responses, and the contemporary state of affairs, in which the world is viewed as a human social construct, in direct opposition to the state goals of science for objective, non-humanized knowledge.
Don’t get me wrong. Those are all good things. It’s just that this system has forgotten that it is embedded in context, and immediate consequences are not necessarily the same as long-term ones, on the same principle that subatomic physical processes are not the same as ones at the level of peanut butter sandwiches. On a day to day level, I heard many people at the Mammoth Hot Springs and at the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone explain the colours in hot springs …
… as the result of various communities of microorganisms living in matted communities in the hot, mineral rich water. “Look at the mats!” they kept saying, already separating their bodily and emotional responses from learned ones from the biological sciences right at the beginning of their explanations— already separating them from the scene, even though it was their bodies, and how they were reading them in the landscape, that was the actual attraction.
This continual sacrifice of bodies and what bodies know and how, in the natural world, they unite with the mind (which is a bodily organ as well), is unhealthy. It leaves bodies with nothing to do, except to keep moving, in the hope that something observable will turn up, even though the refinements to identity created by the biases within scientific thinking pretty much ensure that nothing is going to show up. Here is a selection of a crowd of many hundreds of people at the Grand Prismatic Spring, the eye of the earth herself, walking, walking, walking right past because they did not do the single most important thing.
They did not stop. Seeing is stopping.
It is “being present”.
It is being there. It is “being there.”
Our ancestors called us “human beings” not “human thinkings” for a reason.
A renewed science would do well to reconsider its Descartian foundation (I think therefore I am) with one from Indigenous experience, which would be more like (I am part of this therefore I am.)
Understanding that intellectually, however, would only be an initial, first step. This science would have to go further than understanding. Without dispelling it, because understanding is important. It would go further, though.
Human capacities would be returned to us, and strengthened.
And the earth at the same time.
Next: expanding the social group to include non-humans.