History and Thought LO12905

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@CompuServe.COM)
15 Mar 97 18:02:28 EST

Replying to LO12889 --

Jackie says, "I tend to think the dichotomy of rational/irrational is a
false one, that it is context dependent. After Goedel's work in logic and
paradox, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Schroedinger, von Neumann,
etc., etc.,the whole science and truth game is up for grabs, so I feel one
might as well enjoy the ride. As Niels Bohr put it: "There are some
things so serious that you have to laugh at them.""

These works that Jackie mentions apply to the periphery of daily reality,
not the core, and have too often been used as rationalizations for
avoidance of, or the denial of, facts. Jackie discusses history as a
subjective field. Certainly true. But in the development of our
perspective on reality, scientists make great use of the principle of
"REPEATABILITY". Something is assumed to be true -- it is a fact -- if
controlled experiments conducted by different people result in the same,
predictable outcome.

Let's be clear -- Heisenberg, Godel, Russel, chaos, and complexity theory
do not undo the 4,000 years of scientific progress that has been made, and
they do not, in the normal course of daily life, muddle the boundaries
between rational and irrational. Rocket ships still fly, my brakes still
work, the oven cooks the food, and my TV still receives garbage.
Predictable garbage. Seinfeld is on at the same time every week.

What Heisenberg et al said was that in fairly exotic environments, the
standard rules we live by break down, and no longer apply. Where are
those exotic places? Well, in places none of spend a lot of time.
Subatomic particles, systems of mathematical logic, systems of axioms, and
near the boundaries of chaos.

Occasionally, these places do impact us, but this does not spell the end
of rational thought. So for example, as a freak snow storm passes
through, I know that planes tend to fly less often and less reliably in
snow, so I make some adjustments in my plans. I use my rational
capacities to consider options and create alternatives. I plan for
uncertainty. I stilll exclude some possibilities even though Heisenberg
assures me they are possible. I don't plan for a hole to open up and
swallow me. Possible, but...

Even the 5 disciplines are based very heavily on the use of reason.

Does it mean Aristotle is wrong because he had typical views of slaves and
women (not to mention men)? Aristotle's views have passed the test of
_repeatability_, so I think he is not wrong. It may be that some day
someone will articulate a richer view of thought based on women's ways of
thinking. That is happening to some extent. When that addition to the
culture is made, it will enrich our views, but it will not make Aristotle
wrong. Einstein, for example, did not make Newton wrong, he just enriched
our views of reality. Newton's rules still apply to virtually every thing
we do.

So in the spirit of Jackie's notion that 'one has to let go,' let me
encourage everyone to let go of the notion that modern science has somehow
shown that science -- or reason -- is invalid. Not so.

On the other hand, the notion that the future will hold broader options
than the past is also correct. How we use reason has been enriched
immensely. Reason, for example, led us away from witchburning,
blood-letting, and other practices. In the future, we will discover still
more -- and more effective -- options.


Rol Fessenden 76234.3636@compuserve.com

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>