Archive for the ‘Humanism’ Category

Soap contained radium for health benefits

September 6, 2011

…immediately before and during the first half of World War I, (Arthur Koestler’s father) made a fortune (soon lost) by manufacturing and selling soap that contained radium. Radioactivity was then a recently discovered phenomenon, and many believed the rays to be life-enhancing and disease-curing.

Theodore Dalrymple

Let’s just say there is a limit to man’s knowledge of his own best interests…

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what is wisdom? Where can it be found? … it can be found only inside oneself

November 17, 2009

…what is wisdom? Where can it be found? … it can be found only inside oneself.

E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

Whereas God says, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ Prov.1.7

I can’t justify it, but it was a deep and sincere prayer – a prayer for strength to subdue my instincts

October 13, 2009

Despite being a critic of religion,  Bertrand Russell’s biographer, Ray Monk, writes that he once prayed on his knees to God in the San Zeno Maggiore, Verona. He was struggling to control his sexual passions. Russell wrote:

I can’t justify it, but it was a deep and sincere prayer – a prayer for strength to subdue my instincts.

Clearly his rationalism wasn’t of much help at that time.

I do not believe that there is any way of obtaining knowledge except the scientific way

October 11, 2009

I do not believe that there is any way of obtaining knowledge except the scientific way. Some of the problems with which philosophy has concerned itself can be solved by scientific methods; others cannot. Those which cannot are insoluble.

Bertrand Russell (speaking in 1922), in Bertrand Russell; The Ghost of Madness, Ray Monk, p.20

Does he know this through the scientific method? Of course, it would be impossible to prove scientifically. But then, he claims to know one thing that isn’t proven by science. Not the first of Mr Russell’s problems that are ‘insoluble’.

there is nothing that cannot be understood, that there is nothing that cannot be explained, and that everything is extraordinarily simple

October 11, 2009

The (atheist) scientist, Peter Atkins, in his book ‘The Creation’, claims that, ‘there is nothing that cannot be understood, that there is nothing that cannot be explained, and that everything is extraordinarily simple.’

His assertion is, in reality, a faith, a belief that the simplicity we require really is in the world. Why should the world be simple? Who made that decision? Who imposed it? There is no answer, for nowhere can we find any such guarantee. The leap from effectiveness to truth is a leap of faith. The reality of Atkins’ assertion is that it is a statement of this faith. And its passion arises from the way his faith has been tested by the revelations of 20th C. science, most vividly of quantum and chaos theory. For these revelations are, at heart, revelations of complexity.

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There is more wisdom in Locke’s observation:

We cannot fathom the mystery of a single flower. Nor is it intended that we should.

John Locke

Science has explained nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness

October 10, 2009

Science has explained nothing; the more we know the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness.

Aldous Huxley

And this was before quantum mechanics and DNA were discovered…

A man can do all things if he but wills them

October 7, 2009

A man can do all things if he but wills them.

Leon Battista Albert, early Renaissance thinker, quoted in Kenneth Clark, Civilization, 1971, p.104

We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched

October 5, 2009

We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched.

Wittgenstein, in Appleyard, Understanding the Present, p.16

Elsa Einstein was once asked if she understood her famous husband’s theory of relativity. She replied, “Oh, no, although he has explained it to me many times — but it is not necessary to my happiness.”

ibid., p.38

It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening of custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, or a rich country inhabited by starving poor

October 5, 2009

It is science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening of custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, or a rich country inhabited by starving poor… Who indeed could afford to ignore science today? At every turn we have to seek its aid… The future belongs to science and those who make friends with science.”

Jawaharlal Nehru (Indian Prime Minister. 18891964) in Bryan Appleyard, Understanding the Present, p.4

That’s faith! That’s science as panacea.

The knowledge of what exists does not automatically teach us anything about what should exist

October 5, 2009

The knowledge of what exists does not automatically teach us anything about what should exist. The knowledge of truth as such is a wonderful thing, but it is so little capable of serving as a guide that it cannot even prove the justification and the value of the aspiration to know the truth.

Einstein, in THE DRAMA OF ALBERT EINSTEIN, Antonina Vallentin

Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.

ibid.