Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
Kilby, Clyde S.
[Editorial comment: the lost myth], pp. [unnumbered]-163 PDF (10.1 MB)
therefore, insofar as it is related to the progressive stages of certainty described by Bacon seems to be the result of an oversell which was neither intended by the best practitioners of the method nor indeed inherent in the method. Rather the despair is owing to two popular misunderstandings. One is the supposition that science actually does move "as if by machinery" toward its goals, the other that its reach is endless. Not infrequently leading scientists have pointed out that believing such an apparently obvious thing as the "simple sensuous perception" is actually an act of faith and that imagination is about as necessary in all real science as in artistic creativity. Warren Weaver, vice-president for the natural and medical sciences of the Rockefeller Foundation, declares "the shocking fact is that science simply does not have detailed and precise access to what we ordinarily call the external world." Instead of dealing with hard, real fact, Weaver insists that science is "playing a subtle game with nature, all based on an unproved and unprovable faith that this procedure is meaningful and 158 rewarding.' As to the supposed infinite outreach of science, Dr. Charles Singer of the University of London, writing on the history of science in the latest edition of the Britannica Encyclopedia, says that there "cannot be a 'science' of the whole universe; for it is impossible to attain this by adding the sciences together, and there are vast regions of experience, such as art, literature, and philosophy, that are refractory to scientific treatment." It is a popular belief in Science Unlimited, a faith that nothing whatever is beyond the reach of science and that any other approach to truth is as antiquated as an auto graveyard, which has left us, in Matthew Arnold's words, with the feeling of Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born. Another possible cause of our despair is the seeming revelations of science about a mechanistic universe, man's animal origin, psychological behaviorism, and the like, leaving us with the feeling of being hardly more than biological specimens. A minor sign of this, I think, is the increasing frequency of our adoption of words like "react," "interact", and "feedback." The "Broadcaster," a little sheet of announcements at my college, has more than once read, "Come out this evening at 8:00 and interact with Professor Brown on So-and-So." The suggestion seems to be that no arrival at anything like a truth or even a tenable conclusion is to be reached and that only a kind of low-grade cerebral game on the order of ping-pong will be played. After this little stunt we can drink a bit of coffee, then go on our way as if nothing had really happened. The discovery of any real certainty must be left, apparently, to the computer. Yet the ancient ideal of Truth, Beauty and Goodness has never been abrogated. The universe, if we are to believe the majority of the scientists themselves, is more than physical, and its structures, harmonies and meaning rise above measurement. The universal must precede rather than follow the sensuous perception before any greatly significant meaning can appear, and the effort of man to dispossess himself of a "given," to stand outside himself and act "as if by machinery," is both impossible and, as to any ultimate knowledge, the surest means of falsification. Hence it is possible, if one will, fo find readily at hand a vertical as well as a horizontal and at least a working approximation to the absolute and transcendent. "The cosmic religious experience is the strongest and noblest mainspring of scientific research," said Albert Einstein. "The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness."' The conclusion seems clear that we must pursue values and truth as wise men have always pursued them, that is, by summoning the whole man to thought within a hierarchical universe. This, then, is my first suggestion for the repossession of our lost myth.