Friday 19th of August 2022

a mighty couple...


Many philosophers have tried to pit the enlightenment of sciences against old humanities in various formats, as if we should distrust sciences from giving us the clues of what we should know.


Comes Peter Harrison published on the ABC religion and ethics department, trying to tame sciences by suggesting sciences is distrusted because of its enlightenment values, and that sciences should become “blended” with any other old forms of knowledge. Gus thinks that is demeaning and says that sciences are actually bigger than this. Sciences should strongly guide us in making our decisions more valuable, now and in the future. Meanwhile, a lot of “expert” knowledge is not scientific and this can be confusing. Thus some “expert knowledge” can be challenged. The enligtenment rationality of science should be valued far more than it is presently.

Here is Harrison:


Enlightenment rationality is often touted as a cure for the current crisis of confidence in expert knowledge.

It is not. If anything, it is deeply implicated in our present predicament.

Ironically, the remedy for our current epistemic crisis may lie less in an Enlightenment confidence in the rational powers of the individual than in the medieval idea of implicit faith to which Enlightenment reason has been traditionally opposed.

Consider, for a start, the central message of philosopher Immanuel Kant's classic essay What is Enlightenment? (1784), expressed in the maxim sapere aude - dare to know, or dare to think for yourself. This motto, drawn from the Roman poet Horace, embodies the spirit of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

(Bold above by Gus). Harrison’s conclusion:

We need more interaction between science and humanities, not less, if scientific knowledge is to occupy its rightful place in our society alongside other forms of knowledge.

In the meantime, let's also have less loose talk about "Enlightenment values" as a panacea for the present widespread and disturbing distrust of science.


Sadly, from his shaky start to the patronising end, Peter Harrison, (BSc, BA (Hons), PhD (Qld), MA (Yale), MA, DLitt (Oxford), FAHA) does not get the full scientific force that is coming towards us. He seems very young and erudite but he is misleading himself and others by seemingly batting for all teams. The same trick has also been used by religious leaders who adjust the scientific knowledge to fit their narrow-cast teachings, while removing the scientific bits that don’t fit. These religions also did the same trick with the portions of religious history that did not fit either, back in the fourth century.


By the end of his article, it appears that Harrison’s job was to promote the value of mixing esoteric blind faith values with a tad of Enlightenment in sciences, in order to solve our epistemic crisis… His last paragraph is quite unclear about what he means about “humanities” and its relationship with sciences. It could be my misunderstanding, because, sure, one needs to know the history of arts and sciences to understand the proposition of “enlightenment”. Precedence of research and illustration of ideas go hand in hand in making sciences progress.


And I do not feel an epistemic crisis coming on.


Presently, there is an unwarranted distrust of sciences for very few good (scientists can make mistakes, scientists can sometimes fiddle the research) and many bad reasons (99.999 per cent of proper science is annoyingly accurate these days). To remove “enlightenment values”, from understanding where sciences are coming from and going to, is akin to flying blind. Harrison wants people to be educated about science as the key to his dissertation. This is okay, but is this enough to stop the invasion of human manufactured godly-devices or prevent the influence of various arbitrary economics criteria penetrate into the rigour of sciences? Harrison’s position is unclear and I believe quite deceptive on this idea in which medieval morality can be manipulated to suit the religious side of the (his) story, ahead of sciences.


I for one prefer to reject many old moral compasses, or remove at least their religious components and reset them to their natural context with a bit of compassion added. Compassion is not unnatural, either. This compassion defuses the possible tensions that would exist under full-blown competition, which is so touted by capitalism, but only exists intermittently in nature. We see dolphins working together to get the sardines. The dolphins even collude with the sharks. Compassion goes one step further by tending to make us accept the duty to participate in whatever capacity we can in helping all, including the helpless.


Compassion evolves our humanness into humanism. We have evolved beyond the game of survival (though not by much), while we are wasting a lot of time and energies in entertaining uselessness -- including religious beliefs.


So what is our epistemic crisis? When we analyse ourselves, we discover we don’t know who we are. We are mostly ignorant of ourselves, as a species. Fair enough. But do we really have an epistemic crisis or is this crisis manufactured by peddlers of religious belief, as their belief is being questioned by sciences for being the snake oil it is? Is there value in snake oil?


Simply, our epistemic crisis starts with our inability to accept that we are animals and we are strongly influenced by this refusal. Sciences clearly tell us we are animals, religions tell us we are angels in waiting. Here comes the epistemic crisis. Our ability to lie to ourselves is huge at this level. We have preferred the silly angel solution for thousands of years, because let’s face it, it is more in tune with our self-inflated value of our ridiculous worth in a delicately poised planetary system, while we battle fake demons and other humans.


Religions give us the excuses to fight for “beliefs” as the religions flog beliefs in the name of a god or another. The narrative is simplistic, yet it has been made complicated by “experts” in theology, kings, popes and holly water in order to arcane it a bit more, to fool the average punter:


The story is that god created the earth, the sky, the animals, and that the first two humans goofed, tainting their descendants with the “original sin” for which we, us, humans, need “redemption” from.


Is this completely loony or not? Is this going to solve our epistemic crisis? Our existential value? If this does, you are more a fool that I thought you were…


In order to make the narrative a bit more voodoo, the “expert” story-tellers say the original goofers ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, an act which had been forbidden by god. Ahaha, now we’re getting somewhere… So, knowledge is bad says the story, and what is science but the attempt to know better… From then on, things don’t make more sense either. Having eaten from the fruit of knowledge, the idiot ancestors should have discovered the truth, but instead, the whole thing was a deceitful trick by god to see if the morons He (god is male) had created were trustworthy which they were not – and He knew they were not since He knows everything in past, present and future -- thus He (god is a male) had to chase them out of the gloriously manicured woods into the rough wilderness.


Wow! But wait, there is more! Because He (god is a male) is nice, He will send His (god is a male) son in a human format, so that we, humans, will have to painfully nail to a cross, for us to believe in redeeming points.


Come on, pull the other leg.


So, is this belief going to solve our epistemic crisis? Nupe, unless we’re morons and brainwashed from childhood to become brain-dead.


The fact is that many people are afraid of sciences. Sciences tell us who we really are, and we don’t like it. And sciences are quite accurate to the minute details being investigated day, day out. But sciences also deal with uncertainty and we have problem accepting uncertainty. We want salvation or damnation, not oblivion.


We still cling to straws when faced with the reality of evolution. How can we descend from a common ancestor that gave rise to the monkeys and the apes? Why is this so troubling?


Here we need to work on relationships and our understanding of the world we have created. The space in our mind is based on our stylistic inventions and on our core beliefs (right or wrong) in these inventions. Kant was saying similar stuff though he was still hanging onto his personally defined religious belief that Nietzsche described as an apology for the Christians. Then Kant thought he could be his own doctor.


Here we should make a strange detour via “Big Pharma”. There is a doctor in England who is advocating drug-free pain relief. He is on TV, at the moment. I have been doing this caper for years – practicing abstinence from medicinal stuff, apart from an aspirin tablet a couple of times a year after having indulged beyond my aging capacity to drink red ned – which for all intent, I use for health purpose only. Ahaha… Gus is an alcoholic. Sure, but I’m nice. And I use a form of secular meditation in which I realign my body with my mind. The technique is designed to make sure both work together. This eliminates tiredness, confusion and the possibility of micro-sleep at the wrong moment.


But the major point of this “meditation” that I touted back then in the late 1980s, was to solve say, depression without drug. You can read some excerpts of the work on this site.


Now “Big Pharma” would not exist without people popping pills of all sorts, including tonnes of vitamins, from over the counter to under the counter medicines. This is an industry using relative scientific research, not real sciences. There is a theory that depression is induced by the lack of certain chemicals in the brain. And this is true. But can our own brain and own body manufacture these chemicals from ordinary food should we be depressed? Of course they can, most of the time. So how can we reset the chemical factory in our own body to get us out of this depressed state? At this stage a psychological gymnastic of small action followed by reward will do the start up. Bigger actions and bigger rewards reinforce the progress towards a sustainable happiness. The meditation does the body/mind maintenance level and eliminates negative energy. Rewards? Scientific? May be may be not, but definitely, when applied to our life-chemical mechanism, reward provides a payoff to an expenditure of energy. It’s animalistic and it works. And it’s simple.


There is a theory that most medicines are only effective for up to five weeks and after that there is a problem, including addiction and a possible dive in the efficiency of the drugs. New stronger drugs or dosage have to be used. It’s a downhill rocky pathway, which fills the pockets of “Big Pharma”, especially when the government has to fork out a lot of what “we” cannot afford…


“Big Pharma” makes pills and invents ailments to fit these pills. Here we have to separate the necessary and the unnecessary pill-popping. Some pill-popping is necessary, but not all.


There is also the potential of adaptation to drugs. We know that some “viruses” or microbes will develop resistance to antibiotics. The process of resistance is complex. Scientific studies have found that there is a certain level of acceptance, adaptation then resistance to the treatment. In the time of Kant, most doctors were like charlatans who had accidentally discovered ways to improve our health – or kill us with some nasty substances which, to the end of the 19th century, included cocaine, heroin and opium.


More often than not our ailments are due to our lifestyle that includes lazy posture, bad food and lack of activity. The monkey needs to swing from tree to tree, not to be stuck in a cage, sitting on his bum doing accounts.


And it’s the same with our epistemic problem. We need to solve it for ourselves, scientifically, not by swallowing religion-like pills. Some people will argue that accepting the values of scientific enlightenment can be as bad, but they are not. In evolutionary terms, scientific enlightenment is much further ahead of faith on all fronts of human endeavours, because it does not demand blind dedication but an understanding of relative position in which we choose or not to help the human species, do the same for other species and protect this planet by understanding the rigour of sciences. Harrison is pedalling furiously again:


Nullius in verba is a good principle for "revolutionary science" (to use the terminology of historian of science Thomas Kuhn) but not so good for "normal science." The inchoate anti-authoritarianism of the Royal Society's foundational principle thus turns out to be a two-edged sword. Rejection of the authority of present scientific "masters" is what fuels climate change denial and any number of other science-sceptical movements.



Like many people, Harrisson has completely misunderstood the proposition of “global warming”. All scientific research is complex and bathes in questioning itself. Dogma is definite about its own bullshit values. Thus science and dogma cannot mix. They live on different planets. What drives climate change denial is “fossil fuels”. In this case, the main combative element against the science is “economy”. Not so strangely, sciences helped develop our modern economy. Without sciences we would still be in the dark ages. But now climate change science squarely challenges this economic system for good reasons. Our economic system is powerful and it’s not going down without a fight. The people who control capitalism, the cash, the power, the armaments and the belief systems – all designed to control the masses -- will rally against a “sordid” view that we are now doing something wrong to the planet, scientifically. We will dismiss global warming, against the solid evidence.


Thus, contrary to what Harrison proposes, the theorists of global warming are not the “normal science masters”. They are rejected by the majority of believers and by many economic gurus, including some “scientists” who are not prepared to make the hard yards and understand the processes that are turning us into vandals against this little planet.  Global warming is real and is anthropogenic -- and provable.


This is why at least there are enough people to support this unpopular cause, nonetheless, but they are hounded as communists, loonies, spoilsports, etc.


Harrison again:


From the seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century in England, intellectual activity was characterised by "common context" in which science derived its social status not primarily from its utility, but from its partnership with theology.


Again, I am not recommending the revival of this particular partnership - although it must be said that some present efforts to oppose science to religion are not a sensible strategy for re-establishing the cultural authority of the sciences. The general lesson is that science needs partnerships with value-endowing enterprises if it is to enjoy full public confidence.




Science acting alone can be dry and involves doubting its own processes by definition. As well there is little morality in sciences. But here we must realise that no-one in scientific research in the seventeenth century would have got a job unless they first subscribed to religious beliefs. These were the rules as dictated by the Imperium and most kings till the beginning of the 20th century. A few bright minds managed to separate themselves from the religious vice, but they were the exception. Now sciences are flying as free as possible from the religious gobbledygook. So why is science not getting full confidence from the public? Does it need a partnership with gobbledygook again?


The distrust of sciences problems are quite definable, from the mediocre mass media peddling false information about sciences to the religious doodahs now fighting for their own non-credible existence. As well, science, by its nature, needs to question itself all the time, to stay on the ball. This doubt is therefore exaggerated by the belief pushers.


As far as solving our relationships, the dubious morality which we have used for the last 4,000 years has pitifully failed, while sciences have actually increased our comforts, including the usage of fossil fuels. BETTER, improved sciences are telling us what we should have known from the onset (which we did – see Arrhenius): burning fossil fuels warms the planet, not by the flame we enjoy but by the CO2 by-product we add in quantities that the natural process cannot absorb. It’s simple, observable but we don’t want to see.


So which is going to be the ally of sciences? Which partnerships with value-endowing enterprises can science enter into for it to enjoy full public confidence? Definitely not religion -- nor economics, except on levels at which sciences can be accepted as beneficial to the “economy” such as providing engineered solutions to the problems we have created. The major moral thingy left to be the ally of sciences is a truly secular humanism, in which we refine our relationships with greater confidence and a genuine desire to protect this planet from our carelessness.


We will have to prevent people (mostly through the media) from peddling more lies or doubts about sciences, including Harrison himself. We need to use the secular “Enlightened confidence” in the rational powers of the individual and of the social context through sciences. If this is what Harrison means by “humanities”, then that’s okay -- especially in literature, in history, art, music, and philosophy. But that’s what science has done for a long time. This is certainly not a new concept, so what’s the beef?


In the end, sciences have to have the last say on our animalistic survival by helping us manage our main stylistic choices, including our loopy entertainment.


Compared to other forms of knowledge, science is now the key to all. And imagination, now fully secular, can be the bride of sciences. A mighty couple.


Gus Leonisky

Your local beaker...


the next step...


"piss a brick"...

Researchers have found a way to grow bricks sustainably from human urine.

Key points:
  • The bio-bricks' strength can be scaled up and down depending on how long the bacteria is allowed to grow
  • The bulk of bricks made worldwide produce copious amounts of carbon-dioxide
  • The process of making bio-bricks produces zero waste


The "bio-brick" is made by mixing sand with a bacteria that produces urase — an enzyme that breaks down the urea in urine while at the same time producing calcium carbonate.

When mixed, the result is a brick that is on-par with limestone bricks. But what's different is that the bio-bricks' strength can be scaled up and down depending on how long the bacteria is allowed to grow.

"The longer you allow the little bacteria to make the cement, the stronger the product is going to be. We can optimise that process," lead research supervisor Dyllon Randall said in an explainer released by the University of Cape Town...


Read more:


This interesting item tends to outdo the famous Aussie vernacular when going to the dunny (toilet): "shit a brick"...


Read from top.