A statement by Charlene Spretnak from her book
The Resurgence of the Real (Addison-Wesley, NY, 1997, pp. 83-84),
suggested as appropriate after the fact to
a New York Academy of Sciences Conference on
"The Flight from Science and Reason" (June 1995):
Fellow citizens, reality has turned out to be a lot more complex than we thought. Our tradition, always conscientious and hard-working, clung so fiercely to the mechanistic, reductionist model of the natural world for 300 years that we got a lot wrong. Throughout this century, however, weve been gradually correcting our orientation. Now, with the breakthroughs of the new sciences, were making many exciting discoveries about the subtle interconnectedness in and among our bodies, nature, the biosphere, and the whole universe. This brings us a new respect, which we hope youll share, for other traditions that perceived that sort of interrelatedness all along, such as religion, art, and native peoples worldviews.
Just because the natural world is composed of all kinds of subtle processes, however, is no reason to be taken in by people claiming to have superhuman connections to that level of reality. Please be wary of such charlatans, who seem to be on the increase recently.
Our whole society is going through a postmodern transition, a massive sorting process in which we scientists are applying our new knowledge to all kinds of phenomena that were simply denied by the mechanistic model. The complexity of non-linear systems! Whoda thunked it, eh? Were in a real learning mode these days, but we want to proceed carefully. We want to be more open-minded than the mechanistic model allowed us to be in the past, but we will remain rigorous in our reexamination of our perceptions of the natural world. We hope youll appreciate that rigor because we dont want to replace old misconceptions with new ones.
Finally, we want to drop the pretense that science is beyond human foibles, as if the scientific method were some sort of transcendent mode of gaining knowledge. Like all other fields of human endeavor, science is subject to political pressures, internal trends, and cultural influences. Moreover, theres no getting around the fact that science sold itself to political ideologies, militarism, and corporate interests on many occasions. Yet we have the same split within our profession as that in the general public about the morality of such projects: Are they high-minded patriotism or mere opportunism with a Faustian zing?
Also, we no longer want to claim that scientific knowledge is the only valid kind. Our past arrogance was unwarranted and insulting to nonscientists. Clearly, any grandmother in the ghetto knows more about child development than did the Skinnerian behaviorists, to cite just one example of our "misplaced concreteness."
Our hope is that scientific knowledge will be recognized and honored as a well-intentioned and painstaking exploration of the Earth community and the universe. As we enter the new millennium, we hope to do a better job of sharing with the public all the amazing things we are learning about nature -- from the "memory" in cell behavior, to the moons of Jupiter. We believe that art, religion, and science are all humble explorations of our awe-inspiring cosmos. They need not be strangers any longer.