Archive | September, 2011

Revisiting Tolkien on Mythology

29 Sep

 

Revisiting Tolkien on Mythology: How to get at the Real ‘Magic of Reality’ by going back to ‘Frodo the Hobbit’

I reproduce here a comment I made on John Landon’s Darwiniana.com blog.  I made my remark in light of Dawkins recent children’s book The Magic of Reality being discussed at various venues on the Internet and John’s reaction to it viz-a-viz scientism, nature, and human potential.  My point in doing so was, not so much to critique Dawkins’ approach to the issue, as to suggest a better way of going about it.  Admittedly, this is a kids book, written for children, in order to get them interested in learning more about science and getting inspired enough by the nature of our world to go into in it and do scientific research for themselves in order to uncover more of its “magic.”  But is that “magic (of reality)” more a product of human technical knowledge or discovering the wonder of nature in itself?  As I explain in my comment below, the answer to that question is essential.  Straight-jacket nature, and you’re left with “sorcery” not “magic.”

The modern world has produced many miracles.

But it’s produced an equal share of industrial & technological disasters as well.  Use the “magic” of science and nature the wrong way, or fail to mind its inherent worth as a system, and you make the world a living hell.

Technology Run Amok = Mordor/Isengard.

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http://darwiniana.com/2011/09/22/dawkins-and-magic-nah-back-to-frodo-the-hobbit/

09.22.11  Dawkins and magic? Nah, back to Frodo the Hobbit – Posted in General at 1:04 pm by nemo – The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins – review: A brilliant introduction to science for children

In case the Dawkins folks thought a children’s book would get a free ride here….

The title of this book is all wrong. Reductionist scientism has TOTALLY misunderstood ‘magic’ (worse than religion), and, at this point, I think kids should go back to reading all about Frodo the Hobbit. Man’s ‘magical’ potential is being suppressed by science, and Dawkins is on the front lines of the whole villainy.

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Can’t pass up commenting here …

Dawkins & Co. should re-read Frodo the Hobbit for themselves (if they haven’t done so already).  They should be re-visiting Tolkien on mythology, because then they’d discover the real story of this ‘magic’ behind reality. The point is, it’s art not mechanism that lies at the heart of real things in the world.  Elves in the Tolkien mythology understood this, they being the quintessential artists.  “Mechanism” as in strangle-holding Nature for purposes of “technologism” or “power” was what Sauron did; not “magic” as such, but “sorcery.”  If Dawkins and his followers really want to pursue this line of thought, they should at least get the basics right.

The “machine” comes from Mordor and Isengard, “magic” comes from the world of nature and experience.  The knowledge of Science/Nature, as such, is like a Palantir; good in itself, but all too prone to being used for the wrong reasons (i.e., technologism in the name of scientific advancement) [=Scientism], base utilitarianism, and the transformation of nature and people in the world to mere commodities for the benefit of social institutions and/or the powerful in society.

Dawkins, of course, isn’t Sauron, or even Saruman for that matter, but perhaps only a confused type of Denethor, daunted by the powers of his Palantir and the [metaphorical] Saurons of the world. … Reality is “magic”, but don’t expect to learn the craft from either the Denethors of “Science” nor the Grima Wormtongues of “Religion.”  … Best to learn it on its own terms.

Richard Dawkins: welcome to “Middle Earth”! …

Not “Middle World” as you call it, but a world that’s far richer and more poignant than anything that the wonders of human engineering, scientific advancement and technology have ever given us here upon this earth; a world that awaits us in the greater reading/study of History, Philosophy, Literature, and the other Humanities; a world in fact opened up for us all the more so for our learning about it through scientific research.  In the words of Gandalf the White to Theoden of Rohan on pgs. 151 and 153 of Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers “I bid you come out before your doors and look abroad” … “Cast aside your prop.” (LOTR, TTT, Ballantine Paperpack edition, 1973)

Dawkins & Company, then, should set aside their apparent “scientism” for the moment and step out into the world, seeing it for what it is: an experience. …

The fact is they know this, and they’ve already done it in large part (to address the Dawkins/Science critics).  How else, then, could science advocates also be the humanists they are, and see so much inspiration as they do in the study of nature through scientific method and research into the natural world? … The honest-to-goodness-truth is that it is only by viewing reality in such a light that one can see the world as being remotely “magical” and not just one more “assembly line” in the industry of creation. The byline of “scientism” may be the same; yet Science’s true, inspirational heart is in the right place.

So, science is fine; but when it becomes a mechanism of power and control rather than an artist’s brush for rendering the world as if on a canvas, that’s where it becomes its own worst enemy and the enemy of human progress. Therefore, it’s time the so-called, largely stereotyped and stereotypical “science movement” stepped into this larger world in earnest.  Once they do, they – and indeed our whole world – will never be the same for it.  That’s where the real magic of reality lies; not in the palantiri of technology, but in the arts of nature itself.  …

That’s the real “Magic of Reality.”  That’s Science’s real magic and nature’s too. Anything that falls short of it only produces more Mordors and Isengards.  We’ve seen enough of those in recent human history.

It’s time we restored Numenor instead to the annals of human experience and to the epic of human advancement.

Fixing the Economy: What’s the Solution? …

28 Sep

Fixing the Economy:  What’s the Solution?  Prophetic Fixes or Modern, Secular Ones?

  1. http://darwiniana.com/2011/09/21/ezekiel-and-economic-justice/
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-carey/ezekiel-1814-2532_b_970805.html

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32: Prophetic Vision for a Just Economic Future:  Ezekiel speaks compellingly to the current situation in the United States. … The society the prophet addresses suffers from a severe lack of perspective. It knows God’s standards. These appear in the verses our Lectionary passes over, Ezekiel 18:5-24.

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John Landon Writes: 

I find this perspective a bit ludicrous, and also seriously at risk of backfiring as a reactionary gesture.

To have to cite Ezekiel to promote economic justice is alarming: have we no better inspiration? I grant, and find fascinating, that the Prophets sounded a new note in history, next to the Buddhists, and the Greek democrats, and others. But their gesture was pretty thin soup.  In any case, to cite the prophets for a liberal cause is a sign that cause will be defeated by conservatives. Best to move on beyond religious pats on the back making it OK for religious thumbsuckers to pretend they are liberals.

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I agree with this prognosis.  The view being advanced by Carey is a bit absurd.  It’s a reactionary perspective to modern life, and yet it’s being to used to champion a neo-Progressive agenda re: the world.

Just goes to show you the times we live in.

Things must be crazy indeed to have to cite the OT Prophets as a corrective to our current problems, and on the part of the progressive Left, when it’s just that very religious vision that entrenched conservative culture and corporate capitalism in the first place.

Regardless, it’d be better to have a more modern, secular vision to draw from in fixing the economy.

But in drawing on this almost apocalyptic, Prophetic literature as the solution to our present troubles … this only bespeaks just how messed up our current social-economic system actually is that one has to look to archaic, Iron Age-style religious remedies to repair it.

The question (now) is what happens next … Will the economy be truly fixed or will its falling apart plunge us into a new dark age?  And if it can be fixed, by whom and through what?

I doubt the conservative-libertarian fixes of the Tea Party or
the Ron Paul types are going to help us here.

Yet, I honestly wonder whether liberal fixes (ala Obama’s proposed Buffett tax) are going to help either; band-aids I’m afraid on a major injury where you need surgery instead.

Maybe it is time to revisit Glass-Steagall (and other economic/financial policies of the FDR era).  …

Representatives Marcy Kaptur and Maurice Hinchey seem to
think it is.  Take a look …

  1. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.1489:
  2. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.2451: