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Re:Neanderthal Man

Aug 22, 1997 07:53 AM
by Bart Lidofsky


> You mean learning something takes WORK? (I can only assume this
> was a jest and not a serious rebuttal ...)

Well, time and effort.

> "Remember, what we perceive as physical reality, while not the
> whole of reality, is certainly part of reality, and therefore
> valid. And science is the measurement and explanation of what we
> perceive to be reality. Science may only tell part of the story,
> but what it tells is true, just not the whole truth."
> Again, this might be perhaps addressing a five-year-old, but I
> choose not to be insulted and rather take it in stride. I
> disagree, politely, that scientific studies are necessarily
> dealing with even a small slice of "reality." (define "reality"
> please! Can we prove it exists ... ?)

There is some confusion here, as evidenced by...

> First of all, "science" is not a monolithic institution but a
> maelstrom of SCIENTISTS, with egos, competing for limited funds,
> with quite contradictory hypotheses and understandings of their
> own field and its history.

You misunderstand. I am using science as a definition, not the
scientific commnuity as an institution.

> Secondly, the physical world around us may not be as "given" as
> we like to think, to borrow a postmodernist term first used by
> the existentialists. We need not get into Foucault and Derrida
> and the social construction of perception and the world we take
> as real, but suffice it to say that science today, taken as a
> whole, is neither especially valid nor completely false. Like
> most of us, modern physical scientists are groping in the dark
> along barely understood principles.

The problem with at least the popularized form of postmodernist
philosophy, especially when applied to fields like history,
science, and mathematics, is the assumption that since all human
works contain a degree of subjectivity, all human works are
completely subjective. Which is another way of saying the ego is
all. In fact, there are degrees of subjectivity and objectivity,
and, while we cannot get rid of subjectivity entirely, we CAN, in
some areas, approach it so it gets arbitrarily close to zero.

> Now, to the substantial points of Bart's response:
> > (The best thing about modern science is that if you don't like
> > something, just hang on five minutes, the "facts" will soon be
> > different.)
> "In modern physics, please show a case where that has happened,
> as opposed to the current theory being proven to be a special
> case of a more general theory."
> Let's start with astrophysics and archeoanthropology, my
> particular interests. The major theory of the Sun just last
> century was that our glowing companion was a lump of coal (or
> some such substance) burning through combustion of oxygen. It
> was assumed at that time (late last century) that the earth was
> only 100,000 or so years old, tectonic plates were not yet
> discovered, and most fossils were incompletely catalogued and
> grouped. Lennaeus and his model of physical descent were
> dominant, while many anthropologists and archeologists still
> labored under a Biblical conception of a few thousand years.
> Clearly Linnaeus and Darwin were at the forefront of
> archeological thought.
> With the new atomic understanding of matter early this century,
> the Sun was no longer creating heat and light by combustion, but
> rather by fission. A somewhat later nuclear model of matter
> replaced this notion with combustion by fusion, which is still
> the dominant model today. (This shift can all be traced through
> the scientific journals from the 40s and 50s, and is not a
> special theory holding true to a more general theory.) The Sun
> was now 5 billion years old, at least, and probably a 4th
> generation star if the (new) age of the universe was 20 billion
> or so. Meanwhile theories of the universe contrasted wildly,
> from steady state to expanding to shrinking.

You are talking about engineering, though, not basic theory. For
example, the steady state vs. expanding vs. shrinking were all
based on the same basic foundations; the disagreement was in what
the starting condition was. For example, the difference between
whether the universe is continually expanding or whether it is
expanding then collapsing is based not on theories of physics,
but on estimates of the weight of interstellar matter.

> There are other oddities but I will leave them for the moment,
> merely summing up that current nuclear thermodynamics does not
> account for these models.

But, would a theory that would cover this invalidate the other
theories, or relegate them to the class of "special case"?

> The age of the Sun, its exact composition, temperature, and
> combustion are "facts" which change by the decade. Look over
> some old textbooks given to undergraduates, Compare last
> century's texts to this century's, see the revisions, deletions,
> new inclusions, and see what I mean.

When I say, "modern physics", I am referring to Einstein and

> As for the age of the universe and the age of man, I have seen
> WILDLY divergent theories. Reputable anthropologists want to
> push back the emergence of hominid forms to circa 10 million BCE,
> while the Leakeys won't go that far -- say only 5 to 6 million
> BCE, and others, conservatives, place the date at about 2 and one
> half million BCE. (Two Vedic-influenced archeologists I know
> will go MUCH further back than any of these, see FORBIDDEN
> thrill ...) All, however, will agree that these are in some loose
> and still unspecified way our genetic ancestors. The Biblical
> model continues to influence this science subtly, as we witness
> in their search for a SINGLE HUMAN FEMALE ANCESTOR (humorously
> called "Eve") who was the progenitor of the whole existing homo
> sapiens tribe.

Even the Biblical model is influenced by so-called fundamentalist
Christians, who believe that their interpretation of the King
James mistranslation is the inerrent word of God. But tell me,
is there any theory at all, or anything close to one, or anything
which would not require a complete tossing out of the major
theories of the basis of the universe that would allow for 50
foot tall humanoids who were our physical anscestors?

> I do believe Bart is right that HPB is contending in her works
> with 19th century science, a "straw man" for us today. Our work,
> if really useful, would be to bring Theosophical teachings,
> stripped of their embedded 19th century context, to bear on
> CURRENT scholarship and MODERN theories. Unless we would rather
> sit in our lodges and let the inquirers come to us. I strongly
> suspect, however, that by sitting around and merely preserving
> the old teachings, it is we who will be left behind, while the
> world is the worse off for our high indifference.

Well, we agree on that one.

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