The Role of the Ivory Tower in Legitimizing Science

Anyone know how to get in touch with the Doxacon folks to get transcripts or whatnot from the conference events? I’d love to cull that material.

Here’s my latest thesis that I’m using as a mental punching bag:

Why does the academy seem to have a legitimizing effect on the work of science? Let’s start with perhaps two trivial examples by way of illustration.

Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s famous novel works alone, having explicitly left the University of Ingolstadt before beginning his work on animating a corpse. His work is perceived to be unnatural almost because it is done alone, outside the academy. The public at large is horrified by the results. By comparison, contemporary electro-bio-chemist Dr. V. Reggie Edgerton of UCLA does absolutely horrifying experiments on rats to study the interplay of the brain, the spinal column and the body systems which is not only accepted calmly, but is lauded as having potentially enormous medical benefit down the road. And yet, I have this nagging suspicion that if the images of his experiments as they’re done in the clean, institutional settings of his academic lab were transported to the basement of his home, our perception of him would radically change.

In Spiderman, the arch-nemesis Green Goblin, aka Norman Osborn, is a corporate industrialist. In various portrayals of the character’s development he specifically uses the corporate structure and legal system to gain increasing control over Oscorp. Control which allows him to avoid oversight of his work. His work which is designed to covertly develop the tools for his villainous alter-ego the Green Goblin. Osborn isn’t even a PhD. His motivation is always greed, not knowledge.

So what is it about the ivory tower that helps create the aura of validity around scientific work? Is it simply Scientism, the post-modern religion of our secular culture that preaches Natural Materialism as an assumed worldview, and the academy as the church of that faith? Or is there more to it than that? I have to assume that there is more to it. After all, more and more people, especially in the USA, are overtly anti-intellectual, anti-science, and deeply rooted into fundamentalist pre-modern and modernist religious structures — and yet the pattern remains. More to the point, Shelley was working in a radically different culture in which science was still highly suspect.

No, I think there is some kind of assumption at work that the structure and nature of the university somehow constrains scientific work to within the confines of some kind of socio-culturally acceptable ethical boundaries. The problem is, it doesn’t. It doesn’t even come close.

This is not an essay which is going to attempt to answer the question. This is merely a draft to get the idea on paper and to scratch off the obvious red herring. It is a call for comment.

Keep in mind, that this is part of a long running project to produce art which is some kind of contemporary investigation of human nature through both a science fiction and Orthodox Christian lens.

Music Centric

Following up on this post from the other day about some kind of long term creative project which attempts to encapsulate an Orthodox view of anthropology through some kind of science fiction lens…

I think the obvious choice is to make it somehow dovetail with my abandoned “All This Time” music project of six to ten months ago. Why re-invent the wheel? Ultimately, my music is my world view.

As I begin to decide how this all comes together, there will be two primary drivers (1) incorporate those twenty songs somehow into the project and (2) ensure that the core of the expression of humanity presented in the project is the vehement affirmation of the free will as fundamental to our image and likeness of God.

Forget the Past, Live in History

I have no idea yet what this is going to look like.

I am about to turn 40 years old, and most of what I have spent my young adult life building is about to vanish.

All I know is who I am, what the Truth is, and that I am a very, very weird person.

It may be a book, a collection of music, a film, a comic book, a cartoon… right now I have no idea.

What I do know is that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien are great, but let’s face it, intentional or not, they wrote hippy fodder.

The 21st Century needs a different idiom to get people to ask the serious questions about what it means to be human and what it means to fight a righteous cause in the face of insurmountable odds — by which I mean the quest to willing assent to our salvation through God’s grace. To become human.

Science fiction, good science fiction, is obsessed with this question: what does it mean to be human? I, for one, am sick of leaving the attempts to answer this question to people who don’t already know what it is.

Doxacon is launching this year. Sadly, I can’t go. But hopefully i can get tapped into the dialog and find the right path.

I’m tired of sitting on the couch passively experiencing other people’s floundering attempts to find a truth they don’t know when I already know what it is. I need to do something. After all, I know the answer.

It may be a long time in coming.

But watch this space.