Reply To: October 6: Science and Potery

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Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche # Posted on October 9, 2014 at 03:51

Mary Midgley – Science and Poetry- Reflection by Sarah Rodrigue-Allouche

I missed the seminar on Midgley’s book “Science and Poetry” and I have to say that it seems it has been a very inspirational one. It was a pleasure to read my colleagues’ feedbacks and the poems they had brought to class. I found the book extremely interesting to read but as Nisa wrote, it did not bring anything new to the debate we have had for the past year now. The argument that Western dissociative mind (between mind and body, between spirit and matter) is at the root of our ecological crisis has already been discussed extensively, when we read Carolyn Merchant “The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution” for example and will be discussed again at the next seminar when we’ll discuss Worthy’s “Invisible Nature”.
Yet, I really enjoyed reading Midgley because she deeply discusses some famous modern scientists’ arguments such as Richard Dawkins or Brian Goodwin. The points she makes about integrating two competitive worldviews in order to get a better understanding of our world does really speak to me, especially now in this current phase of my life where I am a volunteer for Shumei Natural Agriculture Farm. Shumei’s goal is to grow food spiritually: to communicate with the plants, to give them love and gratitude in order for them to thrive. But Shumei’s guidelines for gardening are also based on scientific and empirical observations of Mokichi Okada, the organization’s founder, after years spent in the field in contact with plants.
I do believe that the beautiful abundant crops here on the farm are a perfect embodiment of what Midgley supports: integrating a poetic worldview with a scientific one. The fact that Shumei’s members trust that the soil is endowed with spiritual power given by the Moon, the Sun and the Universe and that this spiritual power enables the plants to grow without any input of fertilizers does not spare them to know exactly in rational scientific terms what it means to grow plants, what nutrients the plants need and what is the chemical composition of the farm’s soil. Knowing about it in scientific terms does not deplete the poetry of this spiritual gardening lifestyle.
As Morag wrote “sometimes pulling heart strings garners more actions than ‘hard facts’” and indeed trying to touch people with some love, poetry and spirituality is probably the key to many of our issues. We had already discussed this idea in our class hosted by the History of Art department: how the Arts have a role to play in our current crisis. I do believe that romantic ecology is a good philosophy for facing the terrible disconnection between humans and Nature, and I did appreciate reading all of my colleagues’ poems. The diversity of the cultures represented within our Master Program reveals that romantic ecology is universal. Thanks to Yaqi and Gao, we get Eastern approaches, something extremely valuable to me as I now live within a Japanese spiritual community. Yet, after reading my Chinese colleagues’ comments about Midgley’s book, I also regret that the British philosopher did not discuss the Eastern worldviews more and narrowed herself to Western thought, something underlined by Yaqi and Gao.
To conclude, I would say that I am really happy to have arrived at a point in life where I feel I can safely include the poetic worldview to the scientific one and that I do not need to choose one perspective over the other. Actually, romantic ecology has only given me the will to study biology and natural history in depth, and to do it with a child’s mind and an open heart.