Gaia’s nodes

Looking forward to some good midterm presentations today. Meanwhile, we’re about to finish This Will Change Everything…

Do we need a new idea of masculinity? Probably, but I can’t say that’s the first thing that springs to mind when I dream of a better future. I do dream of a world in which our daughters are unhampered by gender and other moral irrelevancies, so on second thought maybe I’m not so far from Tino Sehgal‘s dream after all. But will our grandsons still be indulged in what a psychotherapist of my acquaintance calls our “thing”-centered sociability and style of communicating? I don’t happen to think that’s all bad, at least with respect to the things I value (like MLB post-season games).

Speaking of (m)ad men and their “hidden persuaders”: I am a bit concerned about Helen Fisher‘s evident sanguinity towards the future’s growing “arsenal of [chemical] weapons to manipulate ourselves and others.” That’s a theme Richard Powers explores in Generosity, I hope we’ll get a chance to talk about it at semester’s end.

Same for Henry Happending’s  “gamete market,” Marco Iacoboni‘s custom-tailored brain stimulation Happiness,  and Karl Sabbagh’s suppression of aggression. That last may seem unobjectionable, but I’m reminded of William James at Chautauqua. There he found placid, unaggressive adult learners who seemed to him to have swapped the martial spirit for bloodless insipidity. If we’re going to try and engineer ourselves into pacifists, must we become excessively passive in the bargain? Would it be worth the price?

Jesse Bering reminds me of James too, with his pragmatic inclination to look not for precise, isomorphic accuracy of fit between our beliefs and the world  but first, instead, for signs of their workability. Does this mesh well with his interest in parsimony? Does “simple” always work? Ask Rube Goldberg.*

Clifford Pickover, on the other hand, seems un-Jamesian with his confidence in mathematics to explain the color of the sunset without expressing a correlative interest in its subjective significance.

Lee Smolin seems fine with such “human projections,” and is ready to toss timeless and transcendent Platonic Ideas  as irrelevant. He wants to liberate us from the future (and the past).

Paul Steinhardt wonders about “events before the Big Bang.” Me too.

Mark Pagel says bring on a New Dualism so we can join the immortals. There’s a projection for you.

More modestly: let’s keep working on those pluripotent stem cells, I’d like to be a healthy nonagenarian too, design by *Goldberg. And, Lou Gehrig should not be a disease.  (Go Giants!)

Finally, Brian Goodwin says we need to get close again to Mother Earth.  I still don’t know about “Gaia,” but it does not necessarily befall a “node” (does it?) to know things. Is that how we have to think of ourselves, if we’re to respect the organic natural and cultural unity (and “native wisdom”) of our world?

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