Reply To: October 6: Science and Potery

Author Replies # Posted on October 6, 2014 at 16:06

Mary Midgley Seminar:

Following our discussion this morning I looked into Mary Midgley a bit more online. I came across an interview she did with a journalist from The Guardian just this March which I found interesting to read as it gave her a bit more dimension! While a poor substitute for an actual seminar with her, it at least gives a rough peek into her life, albeit from some random guy’s perspective. If any of you felt similarly curious about the philosopher then voila:

(I was amused that two of her sons turned out to be physicists.) 🙂

In any event, I found Midgley to be a rather approachable read. Whether this is because we’ve been over this territory before or just because she has an easy writing style I’m not entirely sure. As I mentioned in the seminar, Midgley did provide a new vocabulary in which to discuss the void between science and humanities, this time grounding it in the division between mind and body. I was interested in her discussion about theoretical physics and religion. Midgley points out that of all the scientific disciplines theoretical physics has successfully combined science and religion. Midgley doesn’t provide an answer about this and instead asks, “Is there perhaps some special reason why religious talk of this kind can count as a proper language for physics, but becomes inappropriate and scandalous when the chemical and biological concerns of Gaian thinking are in question?” I suppose that an investigation of this size would merit its own book, but I wish it were easy enough to answer and slip into this chapter. 🙂 At the very least it is an interesting question to keep in the back of the mind going forward.

As for the poetry/art aspect of our discussion, I really quite enjoyed it. I think it successfully illustrated the possibilities for education through narratives which are hidden in various art forms. I think sometimes pulling heart strings garners more action than ‘hard facts’. As we seem to need immediate action in dealing with environmental degradation perhaps it is time to attempt a new strategy in engaging people. Personally, I feel humour helps when it comes to tackling such vast and depressing issues such as climate change. Not to make light of it, but to come at the topic from another angle. For me, the painting I chose has a tongue in cheek drama to it. While it does not resonate in the same heartfelt way as childhood poetry and songs, it makes me feel slightly connected to a larger community of people expressing themselves through art, and as such makes me feel a bit hopeful.