Entry # 116: November 20th - Renaming the Site / Refocusing
I recently realized something. It's one of those things you carry along with you for quite a while until it finally sets in. For a very long time, this web site of mine has carried the subtitle "approaching the unexplained". This has been a variant of a previous title, "faces of the unexplained", testifying to my interest in The X-Files and related topics. Well, my interest in this series has not vanished, but it has turned into a different direction, maybe a more mature one. I wouldn't say I have ever believed in anything that could be called the "paranormal" (unless, of course, you'd understand it as something not yet within the realm of the scientifically explainable), but for sure I cultivated lots of affiliations towards that theme, and I let them take form on my web site.
Likewise, in something that almost feels like a previous life, I have been a Catholic, going to mass regularly. Yet I can never remember ever having felt truly adherent to any kind of belief system. I went along with it as far as my skepticism and sense of exploration would carry me, until a point of no return had been reached. Despite any still remaining affinities with some parts of psychological and philosophical elements inside Catholic faith (basically, ideas like trust, confidence, forgiveness, charity and tutoring, or what Erich Fromm in Escape from Freedom has called the maternal element), I can see no need for me to continue to pose as identifying with theological concepts I have never seriously embraced. At a certain point, you have to make a distinction between what is childish belief, i.e. fit for a child to believe, and what isn't.
Having come to realize that the central issue of science, of the scientific question, is not a banal one, is not even trivial, but crucial for, well, everything, I chose to drop all pretenses. I've always held that science, or more generally speaking, the quest for objectivity, is, indeed, the only option fit for adoption. Science is not a belief system. It is not a religion. It is not a teleological, soteriological system we hope to employ in our quest for "salvation". It's simply something that prevents us from falling into the trappings of solipsism, arrogance, superstition and irrationality. Science is humility. Its method teaches us to accept our mistakes along the way, and to learn from them. People who point out our mistakes are our friends. People who would never do that, aren't, however compassionate they may be.
Since childhood, I've had a recurrent fantasy of what I'd do once confronted with God, and what I'd say to him once he said something I didn't agree with. I always came up with the same answer: Who is he to tell me what's right? Should we respect a godhead, no matter what it did? Should we follow any authority blindly because it would have constructed itself as an authority? Never.
Well, this problem is solved. The burden of evidence for the god-hypothesis surely lies on the shoulders of those constantly bringing it up. So far, not a single piece of evidence points towards the existence of any god, or any super-natural being or entity or energy or occurrence. Any claims to the contrary have simply failed to deliver, since thousands of years. I believe it has been Richard Dawkins who pointed out that the argument from incredulity, i.e. formulations like "I can't imagine how the emergence of life came to pass without divine intervention", only point towards a lack of imagination and a refusal of critical thinking on the part of the speaker. What we can or cannot imagine is not the issue, inventing a Skyhook (to use Daniel Dennett's term) fit for explaining everything once our knowledge arrives at an impasse, and calling that Skyhook "god", solves nothing and only creates further problems.
But I don't want to go into that discussion right now.
The result, however, is clear: The theme of this web site remains the same, "approaching the unexplained" is the very essence of science. "Portentum ergo fit non contra naturam, sed contra quam est nota natura" - "Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature." This is a saying demonstrating that sometimes, even theology can be more intelligent than religion itself. (Augustine, of course, is a thinker of quite a different caliber than any (Un)Intelligent Design hacks of our times.) It is also the method of science illustrated: What we do not know, we only don't know YET. Something we don't understand is not a source of awe stopping all thought, but a source of awe calling for both humility and a concerted effort to work towards understanding it. Yet still, "approaching the unexplained" started to smack of an affiliation with the "para"normal and with alien abduction stories and related nonsense that is better explained in a scientific way. I have to thank the writings of Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan, amongst countless others, for clearing some confusion in my thinking.
So, what instead? The realization that what I've been building is something of an extended diary. Everything on this site, the explicitly so designated diary, the essays, the poems, the photo series, the reviews: everything has the diary principle as a basic common ground. Any utterance, despite its original purpose and agenda, also serves as an illustration of what was going on in the mind of the writer at a specific time.
I've always maintained that I want to add to the site, not replace. There are some exceptions, mostly in the realm of correcting outright mistakes in spelling or rescanning old photographs, or occasionally rewriting a review, but basically, I have always treated the site as an archive. There's a date available for each item added, so the chronological principle can be observed, it serves as a caveat as well: mind the nonsense of the past. It also should help keep me humble, or humbler.
Finally, I should start to more seriously acknowledge myself as an artist. Even if I'm not necessarily content or happy with all my artistic output in the past, as no serious artist should probably be, the fact remains that it very much appears as if I keep producing stuff that would fall into the realm of art. The artistic intention is apparent, the products sure look like attempts at art, and I keep making them - maybe it even is art!
Alas, artistically, I'm moving into Phase 5: Logoi kai Erga (words and deeds) now, which will carry a similar thread of practicality, science, logos instead of mythos, etc., as also emphasized by the title of poem Group 21: Vidyaa (learning, science).
Thus, a new focus: No misleading subtitle, but a clarification that this is the continuing archive of a personal quest with a main focus on art.
November 20th, 2005