Another example is the use of Gaia, the name of a mythical Earth Goddess, in conceptualizing the processes of Geophysiology. To quote James Lovelock:>From Don:-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [MS Atheists] Re: Things People Trust: Homeopathy
Date: Sat, 19 Apr 2008 13:52:29 -0500 From: Don Butts <email@example.com>
To: firstname.lastname@example.org References: <email@example.com> <firstname.lastname@example.org>Yes, BUT -
Micah, if I were you I would take the existence of Qi with a truckload of salt. I am an atheist and a materialist. If there exists a form of energy called qi, I want to see some peer-reviewed physics papers to back it up.DonOn Tue, Apr 22, 2008 at 2:40 PM, Glen Sandberg <email@example.com> wrote:
Today we can do better than that. The ancients with their qualitative, not quantitative, systems of understanding nature were trying to express the idea of motivation, human or otherwise. Our physically refined concept of energy leaves out the very real processes of communication and control that now are articulated in the field of Cybernetics.
Norbert Wiener, in his 1948 book Cybernetics: Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine was fully aware of the broad significance of his new science to provide a vocabulary of ideas to conceptualize these aspects of real systems. The name Cybernetics is made from a Greek word for governor or steersman.
So we might say that an automatic heating system has one Qi of motivation, from the thermostat that provides one bit of information from the electrical contacts that tell if the room is warmer or cooler than the set point. The physical energy it uses to heat or cool the room is something else - it will use all it can get - and opening the window just turns on the heat!
We see purpose in the features that have evolved in living things by natural selection. But we should recognize that that's an idea we use to comprehend the working of natural systems. And a very real experience we have in the working of our own life processes. An epiphenomenon - real as an idea, not as a thing.
If Qi is a term intended to conceptualize a feeling of inner energy and motivation, I guess calling it Qi is as good a name as any. As good as Einstein's "God" is for the concept of cosmic awe and intelligence.Yes again, BUT:
The ancients did not have the physically-refined concept of energy, and it's our mistake to consider their idea of Qi as an example of that. And to consider natural law as though it represents a command from on high to be obeyed. And creation as an example of our human experience of intelligent design.
Out of our cultural context of lords and masters, leaders and followers, we don't give credit to the self-motivated character of natural reality. And our awareness of thought is cast in the mold of verbal communication because that's the way we have to explain it to others. See my essay The Miracle of Consciousness at:
Don Butts wrote:
Excellent essay, Glen. You have a very thorough understanding of the brain and it was a nice review for me! (I'm a neurologist). I'll have to admit that terms such as "Qi" don't stimulate any synapses in my brain and seem to bang up against a blank wall. To me it's just a vague mental state that means something to some people but strikes me as a nonsensical new-age construct like "life force." It strikes the same chord as "The Tao" does in my mind.
Like coevolution, Gaia rejects the apartheid of Victorian biology and geology, but it goes much farther. Gaia theory is about the evolution of a tightly coupled system whose constituents are the biota and their material environment, which comprises the atmosphere, the oceans, and the surface rocks. Self-regulation of important properties, such as climate and chemical composition, is seen as a consequence of this evolutionary process. Like living organisms and many closed-loop self-regulating systems, it would be expected to show emergent properties; that is, the whole will be more than the sum of the parts. This kind of system is notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to explain by cause-and-effect logic, as practicing inventors know to their cost. . . . . .My point is that an idea is good as far as it goes, but we should expect that its usefulness will have limits. It's a tool for conceptualizing something that we know about reality, but in another context we will need other tools.
Mims Carter wrote:I think we have to distinguish between the interpretive and the explanatory here. Terms like 'gaia', 'life force', 'qi', etc., are interpretive, like many theistic concepts. Theistic folks get in trouble when they confuse interpretation with
explanation. Explanation is science - logic, evidence, experimental verification. I may hold interpretive concepts, especially of complex subjects,
but I always rely on explanatory systems to understand them.