Science thwarted – for now

I often play devil’s advocate on political issues and sometimes do it with glee, but the Harper government’s involvement in the recent International Polar Year Conference in Montreal leaves me wondering about the negative role it is playing in politicizing science.

 Let me first say my daughter is a scholarship winning research scientist working on her PHD, so I have a natural bias towards people in lab coats working away in order to find solutions and the truth about countless mysteries, and in most cases their work is based on discovery and not the latest trend in political or social causes.

That said, I can think of only one reason our government may be weary, and that is that it is not the scientists they don’t trust, but the media themselves. My prediction is based on my opinion that most of the science is published in obscure (to layman) journals, which most of us don’t read, and probably most media other than specialists will likely not view as timely or controversial enough to sell front covers. After all, the main focus of a journal is furthering scientific research and publishing details of scientific analysis so that the studies can be reproduced by other scientists.

I am ruling out the publications themselves as immediately necessary in the chain of public information as they are mostly infected by scientific standards for peer review. I then have to point to the human connection between scientist and interviewer. I believe that generalization and cause and effect about complex issues always fill a better sound byte than the mass of data available. After all, in order to explain a concept of even basic science to laymen one has to be analogous or restructure the information for simplicity. The meaning may get lost in the message.

Enter the journalist with his/her salivation for a hot word or catchy phrase. The new “Climate Change” vocabulary, or something that might reverse an attitude held by those in power, is a staple of the main stream media adopted role of undermining authority – the so-called left wing bias and assault on institutions – and exposing injustice. One must admit that the role of the media is to expose, and to announce it quickly sells off the shelf faster. Just ask an expert our media would say –especially since that expertise comes with the price of half truth and misunderstanding in translation.

 The government’s control then is a double edged sword and allows the media to skirt around the questions that are most wanted to sell newspapers and instead make conclusions about non-conclusions such as the story that government agents are controlling scientists at our Montreal Polar Conference, which is more about the government’s attitude than the truth of science. Why not, you can’t ask the real obvious questions like “is climate change real, and if so, is it man made?” It is a pretty effective tactic. What it also does though, is create mistrust and enhances suspicion which will not go away. Perhaps not answered by scientific journals themselves, but the questions will get asked somehow. Politicizing science breaks down trust and polarizes those that can use the information to form their own opinions.

Note to self: Faith

I posted on another site about the rejection of religion as a crisis of moral value – only to suggest that its absence has to be replaced by a strong moral code and therefore outright rejection isn’t good enough. Western secular values I asserted are founded or at least intertwined with religious principles but we repulse these in favor of reason and the further denial of faith.  Faith becomes an obscure mysticism in which dark thoughts or imaginative conclusions are not based in reality. The denial of faith in these terms is a denial of the unknown, the unobservable.

I am interested in faith as its absence represents to me a second crisis, not just in value, but in belief, and to have faith it seems to me is as plausible and valuable to have as reason. Forgetting philosophical foundations for a moment, as I am looking loosely at qualities of faith and less towards definitions, I find that faith fundamentally propels us in direction and motivates us to continue to seek truth. One might say reason and experience do this also by seeking truth. Faith however can seek the realization of truth and its realization is what we believe in. Though some would object and refer to faith is the inability to seek truth, I believe faith is linked to reason and provide us with certainty, daily.

I believe we know ourselves and our place in time and existence through faith. For one, we have a representation of ourselves that we uphold. We believe things about ourselves that we present to the world. We look at ourselves in the mirror each morning and have faith that we have souls which ideally have value.  Without faith, we are less than upholding. We lack value in ourselves, and we deny ourselves this right to assert our existence.

Faith offers us a higher existence, at least one which is believable. Reason says we are imperfect, and I must criticize myself against an unknown and unattainable ideal. I believe this is the existential void. My favourite subject of mental health would be better served through faith than reason. I am perfect in me. I can embrace faith as an opportunity to achieve fulfillment. I don’t have to deny its plausibility or feel threatened by traditions that aren’t my own such as religion. I don’t have to live in obscurity. I just have to have faith.

Stability is the new ‘drop out’ point

Have you ever used a word for years and realized you no longer know what it means? I found myself looking up neuroticism and neurosis this evening, trying to describe my ever anxious feeling of incompleteness in the search for meaning. I wasn’t being neurotic about the word itself necessarily, I just wanted to check in to see if it was safe to use. I found this lovely tidbit from Jung:

 [Contemporary man] is blind to the fact that, with all his rationality and efficiency, he is possessed by “powers” that are beyond his control. His gods and demons have not disappeared at all; they have merely got new names. They keep him on the run with restlessness, vague apprehensions, psychological complications, an insatiable need for pills, alcohol, tobacco, food – and, above all, a large array of neuroses. (Jung, 1964:82).

Now I’m not defining myself in such objective terms, after all why would I put myself to the match-stick like this? No, what I do understand from this and other references are the subtle ways that neurosis exists such as depression and anxiety, fear, compulsive and impulsive behavior, all characteristics that oppose living a rich, complex and full life apparently.

So my question becomes, is being Meta cognoscent the same as being neurotic? Is the mere fact that you are delving into thought and meaning to address the unknown qualities of life, developing personal models of understanding as you go, a form of neurosis? Is it the opposite of accepting nothingness as the answer, or perhaps just living in the moment? Perhaps that’s it: The more we strive to understand, the more neurotic we become.

But what does that say for our belief systems. Are we void of the opportunity for abstract thought because neuroticism is a negative condition of the process? After all, concepts such as justice and equality – aspects of a civil existence – are not sitting around ready to be picked up from the coffee table when we are “in the moment.” They need to be massaged and investigated, compared and stripped of their predicaments, rooted and rediscovered and most of all expressed!

One of the inquiries I have going at the moment is the impact of Islam on Canadian society and the xenophobia that exists. I’m interested in the language and culture that is used for example to re-enforce oppression of immigrants and where this language originates from (I’m using it now as I lump people together.) It is an important issue and should be understood in order to be able to see in the daylight. I think it’s at least an important enough issue to warrant my attention as a citizen.

Stability, a contradiction to neurosis is achieved when you let go. Being able to let go defies the challenge to seek truth. Stability therefore is the new drop out point. It says you can, but you won’t. It says you have the power but are not empowered. It says yes but no thanks and it breeds ignorance. We should perhaps all be obsessed. At least that’s how I’m modeling it today. Let me think about it more, I’m feeling a little neurotic.

Your thoughts?

Johnny #12

Johnny and I were waiting on Roberta’s doorstep when the lights of Jenny’s Jeep pulled in the drive. Roberta jumped out alone and told us Jenny would get a ride out – that she had to stay until the end. Start without her she had told Roberta. Seconds later Mike arrived with Jeffrey and Len. The two Torontonians left their car in Alliston rather than try and find their way out to St’ Johns in the dark.

 Roberta had one of those rec. rooms loaded with all the goodies for entertaining. There was fully stocked bar with a draft tap, a pool table, and the sauna off the bathroom equipped with extra towels and bathing suits. It wasn’t that warm that night but everyone helped themselves to a drink and donned bathing gear as Johnny pulled the cover off the hot-tub. Just over 80 degrees he told us. Wow. I flipped on the outdoor sound system and tuned it to classic rock.

Johnny was already in as Len, Jeffrey and I followed. Mike was taking his time. Half a minute later, Roberta came out in a two piece that showed off her athletic body. I had always liked camping or going swimming with Roberta. She had a confidence about her body that felt natural. Maybe it was the way I looked at her as she caught me staring. She flicked her toe in the water, splashing me in the face, beaming a smile.  Mike came out a moment after. For a shorter guy he was well muscled and he knew it. He swaggered over to the hot-tub and pulled the towel off his shoulders to reveal a broad chest and well cut abs. There was room in the hot-tub for a couple more as it was huge. Roberta said it was an 8 person. I laughed at that and reminded her of all the wild parties you saw in porn movies with 8 people in a hot tub. Roberta just smiled.

Jeffrey It turned out, was starting his own gallery in Toronto. He’d tried to sell his own work but never found the market. We sat there talking about business for an hour, each having another drink until Johnny asked out loud where Jenny had got to. “She should be here by now – the show is over.”

Roberta replied,” She was with that Professor guy. She said they had some business to take care of, something about her portfolio.”

“I gave her a watch today; you’d think she would use it,” said Johnny.

                Mike got up and went into the house. He brought back his phone and handed it to Johnny. “Give her a call.”

                Johnny rang Jenny’s number. It picked up but her voice was muffled on the other end. “I’ll be there soon. Give me another half an hour. Frank is just looking at some of my work. He says it’s really developed since school.”

                “Where are you,” asked Johnny. The phone clicked dead at that moment.

                “What’s going on,” I asked.

                “It’s nothing, probably.” Jenny is meeting with the Professor, looking at her portfolio Johnny said.

“At 11:30 at night?” said Len. “Woo, that Professor Frank sure likes his artists.”

                 “What are you saying?” Whatever it was it was probably the wrong thing to say to Johnny at that moment.

                “Nothing Man – Just. Well, Professor Miller had a reputation for being a Lothario in College.

                “Lo…what?”

                “He means he seduces women,” replied Jeffrey, completing Len’s thought.

Johnny jumped up, grabbed his towel and stormed into the house. You could hear the door of the bathroom close. I ran after him. “Hey, what are you doing, you can’t go back there, and you’re in no shape.”

“Johnny, wait,” called Roberta.

                “I can if I want to.” Johnny was pissed. What ever we thought might be happening in a surreal way, Johnny believed was happening.

                “It’s all in your head man. Nothing is happening. You know she love’s you.” I said through the door.

                “I don’t know that at all.”

“Tell you what, I’ll drive back into town and find her. I’m sure they are at some café on the strip, maybe Wilfred’s or something.” I picked the most bohemian, artsy Café I could think of but I new there were half a dozen others and that it was a stretch. Johnny opened the door. He had only been leaning with his hands on the sink, staring into the mirror and had not changed clothes.

A voice from behind asked if everything was all right. It was Mike. Mike had a wallet in his hand, a small leather bag. “Hey guys, I know something that will make the party a bit livelier.” He zipped open the leather wallet and pulled out a baggie filled with white powder. “Something I keep for special occasions and you sound like you could escape for a while until this blows over.” He said to Johnny laughing at his words.

                “What the fuck are you doing,” I said. “Are you out of your mind? That stuff could kill you.” I realized I sounded like the youth counselor and tried to catch my words back. After all, we were all adults here and a criminal substance from a lawyer was less risky than Johnny’s attempt at a DUI.

                “I’m getting dressed and heading out.” I said. I didn’t want to wait any longer in case Johnny forced himself into the car with me. Last thing I wanted was an unexploded bomb beside me in the car. “Wait here and have some fun,” I told Johnny. Lighten up a little. You’re so tense. I’ll be back with Jenny in no time you’ll see.”

I spun the GT out of the gravel drive and headed for town. All the wrong thoughts were racing through my mind. All the thoughts about Jenny getting it on with Frank the professor in some throw back to the good old days. Or maybe it was a price she was paying for his contacts in Toronto; seedy, sleazy Frank. I raced faster not thinking about police at this hour, they’d be at the student bars breaking up fights between those lost soles who didn’t make it home or had no place to go but start trouble in town. Alliston held more surprises to come.

Chaos averting?

I just had a dream that made me feel good about my work and helped me to understand and possibly explain some of the challenges I have. The challenges are not because of lack of attention or effort they spring from an inability to control the process or information. Here’s the dream as I can remember it.

 I’m working with a team of people on a particular community subject and people are waiting for me to come into the scene and start. As I come in to this areas there are large round tables filled with computer power cables and no computers – these are being carried by the team with me. They are as simple devices as two or three pieces of paper, some are tablets, but the one I start using is three pages. The cover, the interface including the screen, and a page I insert to change the pick up image from colour to monochrome because of light issues.

What is happening is on the screen in my paper computer are subjects in real time providing input on the subject in a community forum and there is no staging – video conferencing with the masses. The device we’re using as a camera in each of the video pick up locations is a pen with a projector/camera on one end and microphone on the other, and this just gets passed around. The multiple computers on the project table show multiple subjects in different locations but all of them including the one we are in are rather like shopping malls or community centers with so, so much activity going on at the same time and everything seems like a mess and people talking over each other but the team is picking up data nevertheless, and catching and categorizing pieces of information and feeding things back to the live experience.

One of the things I am doing is writing on a split screen so that information being collected is seen by both the viewer in the remote location and it is going through the categorizing and work being done with the team. It’s all being truncated or abbreviated. We are spending very little time looking for meaning, and there are a couple of leading questions each time to get the meaning from people, and guide them in the right way of finding the next level of truth or investigation. Everyone was moving forward.

At one point ahead of this scene as I am about to arrive I am watching some colleagues trying to make sense of a collision in cyberspace where they appear – I am speaking to them as they go about delivering their event activity and they are all having trouble, and people with new problems just keep coming into the frame – and I am looking at them in real time also, watching these things converge, and I physically hold the processor up and start to tilt it on the same axis that I am looking at and all the people in the processor – which is chaotic and uncontrollable – come together in my real life view. In an instance, I see them in both virtual and real time and believe for a second they are actually inside the computer. It’s one of those real prophetic moments of dream nonsense that when you remove yourself from the dream leaves you with certain awareness about the challenges you have been having.

The relevance is exceptional. I have to control a large amount of real time process and move things forward in my work. I have multiple and seemingly different conversations going on at the same time, and a lot of expectations for solving problems, and unlike my dream, there is no team sifting it together. It felt more like a conference than a project – even so. As well, there are a lot of people waiting on my actions and that of the team –clamoring for things to move forward.

With current technologies and the restrictions on process – form following function kind of thing, there’s a lot of staging that feels, well, staged, there doesn’t seem to be any real way of moving forward other than by sheer luck and personal leadership.

So the challenge becomes how much of a natural process can you allow, and how much leadership needs to take place. It’s obvious that being central to the process is not going to go away because this is a reflection of reality, and I can’t imagine not having the process of project management in place because there  many steps to assist the outcome. Yet there is a huge difference between the forms of “pipelining” information and having it flow freely without responsibility to manage it. I some ways the dream was closer to community engagement as it only focused on the facilitation aspect. In some ways the process was only to nudge things forward on their own timelines which clearly doesn’t work for event planning.

I am inside these ideas in a very real way as I am trying to be competent in the environment I have committed to work in, and there are too many critical paths and clashes of information retrieval and stages of work for me to be effective and they draw together at the same time. I also have to consider where my own cognitive process is and what kind of process fits the requirements and how I might adapt. It is interesting that I think for all of us there are chaotic times in the planning and delivery, I just feel like it’s a little backed up for me and it’s always chaotic due to the multiples environments. I do know I can function in the chaos to a degree as I do this most of the time anyway, but I also know I’m not effective in some areas only because of the chaos.

I’d be interesting in hearing some opinion on this one. There seems to be threads of reason in the dream and how it is reflected in reality. If I accept that there will always be chaos, should I be trying to develop a solution? Or should I perform under a function that says we can’t accommodate chaos, which is sort of like saying we shouldn’t respond and just go about our set ways.

Also interesting is the relevance of the tools we use. I started using the paper computer in this dream and had to make adjustments on the fly when it kept shifting around on the table of power chords, so the rlevance of technology is important as well. Sometimes when I’m in chaos I can’t follow up what gets sent out or worked on elctronically and I’m unable to attach a task to a project unless i go backwards and with multiple projects it still comes down to using memory where a better system would be able to attach e-mail and workflow to a virtual time-line within each project without any extra steps. Interesting how this dream seeks out new technology.

Books on writing

Have to link to this website for inspiration. It’s a list of must reads about writing as a New Year’s Resolution. Don’t know if the books will end up on my shelf but I like the quotes, especially this one.”Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.” Thank you, thank you wise gods of the lateral and abstract web search.