Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Thought for Christmas

I think intense study of any subject can be an interesting thing. But the deeper one goes into the study of any subject (from Bosonic String Theory to the complex nether-regions of Tibetan Buddhism) the more one must begin to wonder whether one is engaging in study or in initiation. It can take a lifetime to be truly conversant with the most rarified margins of any complex system of thought. Even the best theoretical physicist cannot explain to a layperson the real complexities of loop quantum gravity, and the Dali Llama, despite his brilliance, could not explain the complexities the Tibetan theory of karma without a long period of intense study. Thus any true skeptic (and by that I mean someone who is skeptical not just of non-scientific theories but skeptical of everything) must wonder the degree to which the long term study of any field is as much an initiation into a 'mode of thought' as it is an objective process of learning. Tibetan Llamas are as much convinced of the truth of their world view as are physicists at MIT. And since both spend many years in a process of intense study, being initiated into a certain way of seeing the world, how do we know whether either of the groups is studying the truth behind apparences or simply putting the finer decorations on an ideology?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

1 comment:

doconnor said...

We can find out by doing experiments to see if the predictions made by the theory are correct. String theory is somewhat contraverisal because no experiments have been done on it, but all the sciencists who work on it know the theory does not deserve acceptance until it does predict the results of some experiements.

It's hard for me to believe people can spend their lives coming up with elaborate explainations for things with no underlying supporting evidence, but there are many examples, including Issaic Newton.