The Discursive and the Recursive
This posting in pure James S. Hans, and what he says in his book The Question of Value. He says what many others are saying: we are one a one-way track to nowhere. But he does the best job of explained how this track was constructed. The only other book that comes close for me is Telling the Truth About History – which says much the same thing from an historical perspective.
I am keenly aware of my audience here: people who read little, and are likely to stay that way. What can I say to them? Probably not much. I am talking about a lack of awareness so huge it is probably insurmountable. If past experience is any indication, a few readers will understand what I am saying immediately – and the rest never will. But let me proceed anyway; it will help me clarify my thoughts.
The modern world was based on a belief in reason – most famously Rene Descartes‘ Cogito ergo sum. Without understand it at all, most people still believe this – and will not give it up. To put it another way, they believe they are in control of their life – when they are out of the loop entirely.
This is probably a good place to start – but also the place I lose almost everyone immediately. If they were still with me, I would steer them to the Scientific American, and the article about The Inflation Debate. This is typical of the latest debates in scientific circles. Most will simply say they are not interested in something so esoteric as inflation theory. But they are missing the point: science is now using the recursive approach to problem-solving. This adopts a different stance. In the past Newton, for example, reasoned from first principles – one of them being that God exists, and is the center of all being – the discursive approach.
The recursive approach assumes that what we know now is only a first pass at understanding, and we will have to take additional passes at understanding reality – beginning with the basics each time. This is so radical that places like Scientific American have never made it explicit – but simply assumed its readers already knew it.
Its advertisers would be offended. For example, there is a huge 15-page advertisement paid for by Malaysia, right in the middle of the magazine. A number of scientific organizations have been embarrassed recently by disclosures of how much money they have received from repressive Islamic governments. They would all be offended by any suggestion that the truth is not known for all time.