Monday, December 31, 2018

f) Considering the Missing Key to Stephen Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisteria”

... and this one was the climax of my journey.  Doesn't matter much that few seem to get it or care, this one is my gem.  The culmination of my heroic introspective journey.  See, I was a genuine dharma bum, as a young man I threw myself to experiencing life and the road, the wind and my own wits.  Been able to walk in many shoes for a distance, known many beautiful people and have enjoyed many wonderful discussions, seen many ups and downs.  Back in those 70s, 80s our country wasn't so scared and angry.  Being of poor but healthy honest stock people hired me, so I had opportunities to work many diverse jobs and live many experiences over the succeeding decades.    Considering the odds I've had a great ride.  

I'm a bonafide student of the University of Life you could say.  Among my early professors were a parade of enthusiastic research librarians before the days of personal computers.   Next to living, there was keeping up on science news and proactively researching things that interested me and since understanding myself and the entire Earth and her story interested me, it's been a busy life.  I dare say I've been attentive to every day, good and bad.  These days I'd label myself an Earth Centrist and I've accumulated some deep understanding.  Here I was finally able to summarize it in a way that feels complete and that opens whole new vistas for me.  I fancy this my U of L Master's Thesis.    ;- )
(Evening Jan 1, 2019:  Spent many hours today reviewing this 6 post collection and making final changes, then more final adjustments, plus adding some closing observations at the end of this piece.  I do believe this annotated collection is now finished.   
Happy New Year to you and best wishes, cc.)
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The Missing Key to Stephen Gould’s
“Nonoverlapping Magisteria”

“… missing was a much more fundamental division crying out for recognition.  Specifically,                                        
the magisteria of Physical Reality vs the magisteria of our Human Mindscape. …”
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The increasingly shrill and disconnected from physical reality attacks on science by faith-based organizations and individuals has me thinking about an essay evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen J. Gould wrote some twenty years ago in an attempt to address the tension between scientific truths and religious truths.
His solution was the notion of “Non-overlapping Magisteria” which delineated two teaching “authorities” (magisterium), the “magisteria of science” and the “magisteria of religion.” It wasn’t his original idea, rather a continuation of a centuries old dialogue between scientists and the Catholic Church that I don’t have the space to get into.
In any event, Gould concluded there should be no conflict because each realm has its’ own domain of “teaching authority.” Since these “magisteria” do not overlap, they cannot contradict each other and should be able to exist in mutual respect.
When it first came out
I loved the idea because of my own struggling intellectual spiritual journey which was embedded within gathering and learning from sober scientific knowledge about this Earth, while dealing with the spiritual aspect of ‘touching Earth’ and having experienced ‘God’s breath’ against my back, so to speak.
Gould’s idea was interesting and it gained a lot of attention and lively discussion, but in the end seems to have offered little to either side. For myself, the criticisms made sense and my enthusiasm diminished. Still, the conflict kept echoing like an unresolved challenge as I increasingly engaged faith-shackled contrarians towards science.
In the years since I’ve kept learning more about Earth’s amazing evolution and geophysics and also the scientific process itself. A process that’s basically a set of rules for gathering and assessing our observations in an honest, open and disciplined manner that all who've learned to understand science can access and trust.
Recently it occurred to me that what Stephen Gould was missing was a much more fundamental divide that is crying out for recognition. 
Specifically, the Magisteria of Physical Reality vs the Magisteria of our Human Mindscape.
In this perspective we acknowledge that Earth and her physical processes and the pageant of evolution are the fundamental timeless touchstones of reality.  Part of Earth’s physical reality is that we humans were created by Earth out of her processes.  
Science shows us that we belong to the mammalian branch of Earth’s animal kingdom.  Yet, it’s undeniable that something quite unique happened some six million years ago when certain apes took a wild improbable evolutionary turn.
By and by besides the marvel of our two hands, we developed two feet and legs that could stand tall or run for hours and a brain that learned rapidly. During that evolutionary process something extraordinary fantastical was born, the Human Mindscape.
On the outside hominids learned to make tools, hunt, fish, and select plants, plus they mastered fire for cooking and better living.
On the inside our brains were benefiting from the new super nourishment while human curiosity and adventures started filling and stretching our mindscapes with experiences and knowledge beyond anything the "natural" physical Earth ever knew.
While the human mind and spirit are ineffable mysteries, they are also of tremendous consequence and real-world physical power. They drove our growing ability to study and manipulate our world, to communicate and record our experiences and to formulate explanations for a world full of mysteries, threats and wonders.
People learned to think and gossip and paint pictures upon the canvas of cave walls, or even better, upon the canvas of each other’s imaginations. We’ve been adding to our brain’s awareness and complexity ever since.
Of course, while all this was going on the human mind was also wondering about the ‘Why’ of the world it observed and the difficult, fragile, short lives we were allotted. In seeking answers to unknowable questions it seems inevitable that Gods would inhabit our mindscape. I suspect inspired by buried memories of being coddled within mom’s protective loving bosom those first couple years of life.
No doubt these “Gods” enabled further successes, though not through super-natural interventions, but rather through their ability to form, conform, reform and transform the mindscapes of the masses of people beginning to congregate. Thus, combining pragmatic civil societal needs with universally felt, but keenly personal questions, fears, and dreams.
After the middle ages tribal stories, accepted ancient doctrines and religious “truths” were no longer enough to satisfy our mindscape’s growing desire for ever more understanding and power over the Earth. The human brain took another tremendous leap forward in awareness with the Intellectual Enlightenment and the birth of serious disciplined scientific study.
Science’s success was dazzling in its ability to learn about, control and manipulate Earth’s physical resources and to transform entire environments.
Science was so successful that today most people believe we are the masters of our world and most have fallen into the hubristic trap of believing our ever fertile mindscape is reality.  Which brings me back to Gould’s magisterium and his missing key. 
The missing key is appreciating the fundamental “Magisteria of Physical Reality,” and recognizing both science and religion are products of the “Magisteria of Our Mindscape.
Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we should still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our mindscape. 
Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable. 
What’s the point? 
Religions, God, heaven, hell, political beliefs, even science, they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.
Here we are, 2018, sober assessment of physical facts is out of fashion and fantasy thinking in the service of ruthless avarice is in.
Now it literally threatening to topple USA’s government Of The People, By The People, and For The People, in favor of a Me First, profits are more important than people, oligarch run machine. 
Well, unless an awful lot of sideliners start getting engaged in our democratic process.
All the while the actual physical creation outside of our conceited little minds keeps on unfolding, following well understood geophysical rules regardless. 
Ignore at our own peril.

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December 31, 2018/January 1, 2019  
I don't doubt these efforts leave much room for improvement , but I know it's a good solid start.  I don't doubt all this needs a good deal of work, but I know it's a good solid start.  Still I can only get so far, stuck within my own world.  Being isolated in the outback of Colorado is why I've been trying to network with likeminded folks through the internet a good decade now always striving to improve and better enunciate what I was trying to get across.  By and by I got acquainted with most the Who's Who's on both sides of the public climate science debate/dialogue.    
The "we demand debate" contrarians run and hide from my challenges and Virtual Debates like the intellectual cowards they are.    
Unfortunately it seems that science communicators and scientists just as soon also avoid me.  My tone wasn't nice enough.  I'm too much of the streets, too direct.  Got nothing to teach them.  Fine and interesting when I happen to be defending them.  Unfortunately, they were too busy and distracted to notice what a potent political resource Mr. Citizenschallenge could have developed into with some serious coaching.  Well, before the corporate alt-right brainwashed a third of our country and kicked electoral ass and gave our government to a band of vandals.  
I blame it on my side being too insular and possessing a surprising lack of situational awareness and community.  Never really appreciating the depth or passion of the massive ruthless fundamentally dishonest effort to confuse, stupefy and brainwash Americans into believing their utter self-destructive nonsense.  Nor the stakes we were playing for.  
Too little recognition of the need for direct intellectual confrontation.  Rather than politely talking past each other, we should have been directly and forcefully addressing the deceptions and tactics being used, rather than playing by their script.  But no.  So there you have it, today's national and global political situation are the fruits of our complacency.
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Then some honorable mentions.   ;- )


An abuse of free-speech rights
August 7, 2018, Four Corners Free Press

Back in January, my Four Corners Free Press column was built around a talk by climate scientist Dr. Trenberth, an authority on our planet’s global heat and moisture distribution engine. In March there was a letter to the FCFP editor offering an alternative.
The writer offhandedly dismissed the scientific “consensus” as though it were just another opinion, while lamenting the politicization of science (apparently oblivious to the reality that his letter was nothing but a gross politicization). …

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Saving La Plata? 
(My working title was: This is what democracy looks like.)
March 11, 2018, Four Corners Free Press

Children of the Intellectual Enlightenment, liberals, progressives, seekers of objective facts and rational learning based on constructive debates, believers in our pluralistic society and our democratic way of government, please look around and take note. We are in deep trouble.
For decades while we’ve been distracted with our own concerns, the Koch brothers and friends have been busy spreading their tentacles ever deeper into USA’s election process and they are getting poised for a hostile takeover bid this election season.
They are consolidating their forces and targeting liberal bastions for takedown. Their strategy is to find a local issue that raises blood pressures. Then they feed anxious people their Libertarian Siren Song, heavily dosed with contrived hostility and misinformation.
Here in Durango we have an example unfolding that I want to look at. …

http://fourcornersfreepress.com/saving-la-plata/

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We need a real dialogue about climate
January 1, 2018, Four Corners Free Press

“… Speaking of honestly representing the science, on Nov. 9 Dr. Kevin Trenberth (the senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and a lead author for IPCC’s Scientific Assessment in 1995, 2001, and 2007, a giant in the field of climate assessment) gave a talk at the Fort Lewis College Climate Symposium explaining what scientists have learned about our planet. It sounded to me like a potential Blue Team opening statement.
Since climate scientists and the science itself are under attack today as never before, it’s critical for more citizens to become aware and engaged. That’s why I want to share what Trenberth explained to us, along with some additional facts that make clear what an internally consistent understanding researchers have achieved.
Trenberth underscored that pretty much all climate scientists agree.  …”


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