Friday, April 08, 2011

Quote of the day

"[I'm a pessimist,] but there's no point in being miserable about it."

--Cormac McCarthy

Imagine: Cormac McCarthy, Werner Herzog, and Lawrence Krauss (director of Arizona State University's Origins Project), for an hour, talking about the intersections between art and science. That's what NPR's Science Friday treated its listeners to this afternoon. Highlights: McCarthy is up to speed on subatomic particle research and cave paintings (Herzog's 3-D film of recently-discovered 30,000-year-old cave paintings looks spectacular); Herzog reads a long passage from All the Pretty Horses; each waxes philosophical on how to think about and respond to the given, inarguable facts of our species'--and the planet's--eventual, inevitable demise.

Here's the link to the audio. It's an hour long, but you'll want to hear it. It's a very few pennies of your tax dollars at work. If this contributes to our nation's coming financial apocalypse, well, I'm really quite okay with that.

2 comments:

R. Sherman said...

I think it was Bertrand Russell who first freaked out about the philosophical problems with entropy, i.e. heat death. The problem with scientists, I think, is that that they've forgotten that all scientific questions are essentially philosophical, as is all art. Attempting to segregate them leads to madness. Whether we can reel it back in, remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I'll blame Kant.

Or Dick Cheney.

Cheers.

John B. said...

Randall,
You really would have enjoyed the program, then: the stated assumption is that both scientists and artists are about the business of describing the world for an audience. The discussion of the cave paintings was a case in point: empirical research can say only so much about them in terms of their materials; beyond that, though, they are indeed artworks requiring interpretation which will give insight into what these people thought and believed about the world. In such an instance, novelists, filmmakers and painters are on equal, if different, footing with scientists.

I think it's true that some scientists are so immersed in the empirical weeds that they have trouble seeing more of the epistemological prairie. The ones we tend to hear the most about, though, strike me as not having forgotten that their work isn't value-neutral.