Wednesday, July 26, 2006

First Post

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. - John Donne, Meditation XVII. 1624


to anyone who finds this blog at such an early stage. I hope this blog is good enough to rise above the din of innumerable other blogs to deserve your eyes and ears.

The image to which this blog is set is a painting by Rembrandt called Philosopher in Meditation. It is perhaps my favorite painting of all time because it is more than just a stunning example of skill. It speaks to me in the way that only art can.

At the time of painting, 1632, much science was still performed in this way. A single man, perhaps a group, sitting in room discussing ideas of vaguely scientific, but still heavily philosophical subject matter. Newton had yet to write his Principia, Galileo would be condemned by the Church in less than a year, and Rene Descartes wasn't even done with his Treatise on the World.

Fast forward nearly 400 years. Even with all our techno-wonders and finely tuned scientific protocols, the painting still has power and pertinence. For at its core, we are still nothing more than one person, sitting in room, contemplating what we see. It's so simple, so elegant, and yet so complex and convoluted at the same time. Science is a beautiful thing that causes my heart to skip a beat with every issue of Scientific American, Smithsonian, or New Scientist.

I see before me a world full of scientific wonders of which these magazines only give me a glimpse. Being analyzed by the greatest minds our society has yet produced, I feel confident that any of these mysteries, no matter how deep, can be solved. I am filled with confidence and, most importantly, hope.

Yet, at the same time, I see countless numbers of people acting and thinking in ways more at home in the Dark Ages. I see a veritable army of people ranting and raving about God in front of an Alabama court house. I see wars being perpetuated by savages and led by even worse. I see a public not only ignorant of the wonders that I read about every week, but scared of them. Many people talk about the growing divide between the "Haves" and the "Have Nots." I doubt they mean intellectually.

Perhaps exacerbating this problem is the lack of a good front man for science and skeptical thought. We have no new Carl Sagan after the death of the first. No new friendly and charismatic face to trumpet science.

Science langours with stunning and exciting discoveries and no way to tell the common lay person. With no focus and no voice, science the world over is an army without a general.

While I'm probably not the best candidate, and I'm certainly far from Carl Sagan's abilities, I consider myself highly intelligent, a polymath, charismatic, and well spoken. All of these characteristics can only help to further the expansion and understanding of science and thought.

In a sense, I am humbly offering my skills to the mission of scientific understanding and discourse. Well, perhaps not too humbly. I am as arrogant as the next person, and some of this is certainly self-serving.

I am especially driven to do this to not only expand scientific understanding, but to also set the record straight on as many subjects as possible. When I see religious zealots, or charlatans, or politicians relying on, and even encouraging public stupidity and ignorance, I am infuriated.

These people lie, connive, dissemble, and otherwise pull the proverbial wool over our eyes. They are parasites feasting on fear, ignorance, and misunderstanding. They not only deserve, but need to be expunged from society if we are to continue our advancement on both social and technological levels.

I could withdraw. I could leave society to its foibles. I certainly have the means and the brainpower to do so. But, for some reason, I can't. I care about the world and about the silly little species to which I belong.

In some deep sense, I believe in the phrase that opened this entry. I care because no matter how far I withdraw, the world of man will intrude. It spawned me and, as of yet, I can not escape it. I care because I am a part of mankind, and as any gear within a machine, if I do not do my part, the machine will cease to function, and each gear will lose all importance.

I care because I am part of mankind, and without it, I am lost.

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