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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Science, Exploration, Feeling and Imagination: Andrea Wulf on Alexander von Humboldt


 Science, Exploration, Feeling and Imagination: Andrea Wulf on Alexander von Humboldt
by 
Karla Poewe

The book



Image result for free images of Andrea Wulf
Author and her book

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In the last blog, I pointed out that Greta Thunberg's biological creed on the "climate crisis" places her in the sphere of nationalism. Nationalism is based on the assumptions that human beings are social animals with a natural affinity for leaders. In her story, our assumed climate crisis is the result of failed leaders with the consequence of children starving from economic growth. Hence she calls on a group of committed Scientists4Future who will tell the truth that leads to corrective action. The story, I argued puts her in the sphere of nationalism of the kind, for example, that emerged from the Weimar Republic and ended in a mediating Führer that ended in disaster. I did this by referring to the film Metropolis.

Here I want simply to point students or young people to a historical perspective that develops a sense of what science with sensitivity to environment and human beings should be, a science that is not limited to binary thinking, nor to an absence of emotion, and that is not spoken out from within a bubble for propaganda purposes.

Andrea Wulf is the author of two biographies about Alexander von Humboldt the utterly fascinating explorer who practised exact science but argues that it is only meaningful when combined with emotion, art, and imagination. He influenced many famous politicians, poets, and scientists -- Jefferson, Goethe and Emerson, and Darwin, for example.

Image result for free images of Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt


Here is the link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXL2dMkWViY 







Alexander von Humboldt comes from a tradition, he was born in Prussia, that influenced me as I show in my book about fieldwork experience and science in Africa:

 



Friday, September 27, 2019

The Secular Creed of Greta Thunberg: Myth based on Science





The Secular Creed of Greta Thunberg: Myth based on Science

By Karla Poewe


As the video included in this piece shows, Greta Thunberg speaks out her creed as follows:

We are Homo sapiens sapiens
of the family Hominidae
of the order Primates
of the class Mammalia
of the kingdom animalia
We are part of nature
We are social animals
We are naturally drawn to our leaders

Here is the fundamental black and white reality that, she says, is a natural expression of her being a child with Asperger’s syndrome and selective mutism. It makes her the unique proponent of a world whose carbon footprint will become no more than ancient history, if and only if we follow the right advice now. All we need to do, is to see her as a child-prophet who confronts world leaders with a clear choice, one as clear as black is from white, where only white can be chosen and acted upon to create the new world.

What is the perspective from which she sees the human being? She is most clear about this too? We view our condition from our place in nature, and specifically from that of the world of social animals who, as scientists observe, are naturally drawn to leaders—our leaders—that is leaders of the world of social animals of which we are the natural followers. 

But the world of social animals is far too broad a concept for Greta Thunberg. After all, would it not also include dangerous animals driven by instincts to kill and dominate—to live without foresight for carbon emissions control? How abhorrent concepts of instinct, unpredictability, wild emotion, reliance on the senses must be to a young teenager like Greta Thunberg.

So Thunberg dichotomizes further. Her social world consists only of Children dying from Economic Growth and Leaders to which they are naturally drawn. — But these leaders to whom we are naturally drawn, by whom we are naturally influenced, to whom we naturally listen, have for the most part failed their responsibility. Therefore, the children who are victimized by irresponsible leaders, need a mediator or mediators between Leaders and Economic Growth, as if the latter were Moloch; or as if Economic Growth were personified as Moloch, the ancient (heaven forbid, biblical) god associated with the sacrifice of children.

I bracket the word “biblical” because, of course, it has no place in Greta Thunberg’s thinking nor in that which influences it. The Influencers or Leaders are presidents, celebrities, politicians, CEOs, and journalists. Most importantly, however, since these Influencers failed to meet their responsibility, Thunberg needs Mediators. She finds them in the form of specific “Scientists” and, having found them, admonishes influential Leaders to listen. By Mediators are meant the Scientists for Future who stand for consensus among scientists about climate change. And the consensus that must be accepted is that climate is changed by human beings.[1]It is these scientists too that justify young people’s activism, for example, the demonstrations of Fridays for Future or Climate Strikes. Likewise, Thunberg’s language comes largely from this group, hence the familiar phrases, “best available science”, “mass extinction”, “tipping points” and “climate emergency.” 

But why are human beings the creators of this emergency? The answer is clear too. We do not know the basic facts. “We have not been told or, more importantly, we have never been told by the right people.” When we are told the facts by the right people, we act (See the link below).
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The Thunberg-phenomenon has a vague resemblance to the film Metropolis. In 1924 A German film producer named Fritz Lang visited New York. The skyscrapers and masses of people most of who lived like slaves inspired him. Returned to Germany, he excited the völkisch writer Thea von Harbou who soon wrote the screenplay Metropolis. It is the city of the future of technology where masses of workers (called Hands) labour with great effort on a 'Heart Machine' that keeps the city functioning.

The conditions and nature of the work was, however, extremely oppressive. Consequently, desperate workers began listening to a young saintly girl who promises them a Mediator, one who will help them regain a balance between the Heart and Brain. In the meantime, she prevents an open revolt of the worker against the Brain, meaning the Lord of the Metropolis. The Mediator (son of the Lord of the city who was not corrupted by the Lord's offer of every indulgence imaginable) finally succeeds to prevent the rebellion.

The central meaning of this science fiction fantasy is that the sleep-walking mass of workers (the Hand) is unable to negotiate change on their own behalf, thus threatening revolt. They need a Führer (the Mediator) to make the Brain (the Leader) listen.

In the nineteen-twenties, post-WWI Germans believed that only a strong Mediator could end the paralyzing quarrels among the various political Parties and their leaders and make them listen and act to set things right.


Maria and Children