May 2024 Half-Way Update

More than half-way through May and I’ve not posted since the last weekend in April . Distracted by several things since the Robert Pirsig Association’s inaugural #ZMM50th anniversary Chautauqua on Sunday 28th.

      • Partly just reflection time on where next (?) for the RPA and taking the weather-window opportunity (at last) for garden chores and walking on the coast and moors through which to cogitate and meditate.
      • Partly diversion at short-notice last week to do a session for Teesside “Skeptics in the Pub” – brief presentation and longer discussion on “There is More Than Science – It’s Complicated.
      • Partly planning for the old-school 50th (and last?) anniversary reunion plus winding-up and archiving of the original “old-boys” alumni association.

And largely detail arrangements and bookings for two upcoming US trips.

      • Early June – the day after the above reunion (!) – the International Society for Systems Sciences (ISSS) 2024 conference in Washington DC, where I’m hoping to meet in person a number of important thinkers, and hoping I will have a session on language to communicate between scientific and humanistic (systems) thinkers (of which that there is “more than” science – above – is first-base – the need for such dialogue. (The #ItsComplicated tag is the systems response to “complexity sciences”.)
      • Early July – after a couple of weeks back home in UK – the ZMM50thRide, starting (for me) with events in Minneapolis, Mn and  ending with events in Bozeman, Mt.

Anyway, although I’ve not written on Psybertron in that time a couple of things have come up in recent weeks and days:

      • The whole decade-long Gender Self-ID debacle having come to a head –  in the UK – in the final version of the Cass Report, despite the findings being released 2 years earlier. Meltdown amidst Greens and ScotsNats factions with sanity restored in (Tory) Westminster government via Gillian Keegan. Would that the more social / liberal / democrat parties catch up rather than beating-up Tories with fake propaganda! We have until the November (?) election to sort this out. (Related – in local club and government democracy, two separate debacles in votes of no confidence against good-faith volunteers instead of progressive policy or constructive action.) #BinaryDestructionRules #MisunderstoodDemocracy
      • A fascinating discussion between Philip Ball & Iain McGilchrist about Philip’s latest book on the new paradigm / new biology of “Life” – Templeton-sponsored which will antagonise the scientistic 🙂
        (Some notes below, but if you can’t face watching the whole, just appreciate Philip’s first reaction to Iain’s input at 14:26 – “strategic” handling of meaning and purpose taboos in science.)
      • To be compared with a less than fascinating X/Twitter thread with James Croft (a Humanists UK Chaplain) in reaction to a one minute clip of Liz Oldfield correcting a misguided (scientistic) take on where the “spiritual” aspect of McGilchrist’s work fits real life. Real life which in Liz’s case involves Christian theistic belief. Mine doesn’t but she is so right about the morality of attention. The thread went back to Iain’s 2009 book Master and Emissary and early critical responses from Owen Flanagan (an appalling review in Nature?) and Kenan Malik (a talking past each other, off on the wrong foot, misunderstanding? Really about this RSA Report – pdf download here.) Content-free and meta to Iain’s actual content – in fact an illustration of the embedded received wisdom in science’s reaction to non-scientific taboos. Open to clarifying discussion if criticisms can be made of specific content?


More (raw) notes on watching the Philip Ball dialogue with Iain McGilchrist:

Philip’s nagging doubts in the productive operations of science as editor at Nature. (Same starting point for me, nagging doubts about something missing in physical science modelling of real-world organic, human organisations.)

“Systems Biology at Harvard” – Same systems response to complexity

Iain – “The barren-ness of the reductive exercise on causality.”

14:26 Philip’s “strategic” reaction to Iain’s first input
Meaning and purpose taboos.

The machine metaphor is the problem. (If we’re going to use computing machine / systems language – as I do – we have to be very clear it’s a very special non-mechanistic kind of machine we’re talking about – above some complexity threshold – an organism.)

What’s missing is something in “informational terms” – a computational metaphor in some sense.

Embryonic development beyond genetics.

Information as “to give form” – a verb.

It’s all there.


Post Note – I am a fan of Malik in several contexts, and in particular found his “Quest for a Moral Compass” excellent, and yet even then I remarked as “telling” on his “scientistic” tendencies that kept these cultural / moral / values issues distinct from factual truths – something I’d already detected in his engagement in the post-9/11 God vs Science wars (and probably his earlier reaction to McGilchrist). They are distinct – #GoodFences – but that’s no excuse not to understand the true relationship between them, an understanding that it’s nothing so crass as to suggest that one can be explained causally in terms of the other. In fact that’s the point here – that barren-ness!


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