Razor Edge

Double-Edge-Shaver-Razor-Blade

According to Carlos Castaneda clarity is one of the enemies of knowledge.

This applies to all fields of human activity, including academia.

If you know the answer in advance, there’s no point in arguing or doing a research. A scholar or a a scientist needs to stay puzzled, as well be aware of the limits of his knowledge.

At the same time, however, there must be a sense of commitment, perseverance, and even stubbornness with pursuing a research question. After all, what’s the value of a scholarly investigation if it’s given up easily?

So on the one hand a scholar needs to be determined in his inquiries and views. On the other hand he needs to keep an open mind for a fresh perspective.

Finding a proper balance may not be easy. The term “golden middle” is not appropriate here. Rather, it’s a razor edge, as slightest leaning towards either side can lead to a disaster.

Yet the efforts are worth the result.

After all, razor edge is just another challenge – although a tough one – on the way towards a man of knowledge.

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Adam and Eve Were Right

They sure were when they took an apple from that garden.

The apple tree symbolizes knowledge and truth-seeking. By no wonder it was a serpent who “tricked” the first humans on Earth to taste an apple. For serpent symbolizes profound wisdom.

It’s no wonder either that God (at least that “early version” of God) prohibited Adam from eating. Religion and science seldom go together. Religious mind and that seeking truth despite all dogmas contradict each other.

I don’t need God who would prohibit me from understanding the Universe.

But the funniest is this: science is closer to God than religion.

Not sure if the Christian omnipotent God realizes that.

Amen.

Adam Eve Riddle

Knowledge Vs. Wisdom

I am now reading an inspiring Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a prominent psychiatrist of the 20th century and a Holocaust survivor. The book conveys a powerful message about the human search for meaning in life.

One of the author’s ideas that stand out in my mind most vividly is the distinction between knowledge and wisdom.

Let me quote Viktor Frankl here (translated from Russian):

Our scientists need something more than knowledge: they also need to have wisdom. And I define wisdom as knowledge combined with awareness of its limits.

“Knowledge combined with awareness of its limits” – isn’t that truly powerful?

A true scientist, scholar, or anyone who claims to have critical thinking must be always ready to change his point of view under the pressure of facts and evidence.

Most people are not ready to do that, as for them it is much more pleasant to know than to seek. Even people with strong intellect may get rigid in theirs views and answers.

Yet every knowledge is limited and reality always comes up with facts “not matching the theory”. In order to notice them, one just needn’t turn away.

To always feel the limits of your knowledge, your discourse, be always ready to review your theories due to new circumstances, be open to the unknown – this is what wisdom is.

I couldn’t agree more on this with Viktor Frankl.

To conclude with the author’s words, check out his famous short video below on the search for meaning. Perhaps this will serve as a motivation to check out his great book.

It Takes Courage To Be A True Scientist

A scientist or a scholar is not necessarily someone sitting in a lab carrying out an experiment or conducting a boring – at first sight – academic research.

Science is about being open to the world, getting excited about unsolved problems, and becoming inspired when seeking solutions to them.

Everyone is an inborn scientist in this respect.

Yet there is an important remark to be made here.

A true scientist – or anyone who claims to have critical thinking – must be always ready to change his point of view under the pressure of facts and evidence.

Most people are not ready to do that, as life teaches us. Unfortunately, even people with strong intellect may get rigid in theirs views and answers. For many it is much more pleasant to know than to seek.

Yet every knowledge is limited and reality always comes up with facts “not matching the theory”. In order to notice them, one just needn’t turn away. As Doctor House said: “A true scientist always seeks evidence to overthrow his theory”. Unlike an average person who looks at the facts supporting his views while ignoring everything else.

To always feel the limits of your knowledge, your discourse, be always ready to review your theories due to new circumstances, be open to the unknown – this is what true science is.

A true scientist, scholar, student – anyone seeking to understand the world – never stops learning, even if his worldview gets mutated, transformed or broken along the way.

It takes balls to be a true Man. It takes intellectual courage to be a true scientist.

Science Is Closer to God Than Religion

God-and-scientistIt has been claimed that all sciences – physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics, sociology, etc. – seek to reveal objective laws that govern the world. The assumption here – and not just assumption, but also feeling – that there are laws out there that connect everything. Even outside the scientific world we can feel this on a daily basis by striving for better life, trying to understand what needs to be done to live better, that is find out what laws we need to follow.

What do scientists do? They use available scientific tools – experiments, observations, empirical data and so on to reveal hidden patterns behind facts, events and situations that are at first glance not related. Our world is regulated even though we don’t understand all the laws. Galileo, who was condemned by the Inquisition, told that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. So there is this “book of nature” out there. Darwin, who was despised by Christianity, referred to the “purpose of evolution”. So he felt there is a purpose, and there are objective laws.

And now let’s think about the Bible, for instance. The Bible often describes God as law. Strange, isn’t it? Usually this is interpreted as the need to obey orders. Yet if you think about it, another interpretation makes more sense. God is Law, i.e the combination of all laws of nature, both learnt and not learnt yet. 

This is why it seems scientists are closer to God than religious people.

Martial art or martial science?

The phrase “martial arts” is a buzz word used by everyone. The ‘martial’ component derives from ‘Mars’ – the ancient Roman god of war. The ‘art’ component implies something that is created. The idea of “martial arts”, however, is much deeper than it may seem. Any kind of fighting or self-defense system is as much a science as it is an art. This is because in real life, in contrast to dictionaries, art and science are inseparable friends.

Let’s check the definitions first. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, art can be broadly understood as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” Creation and expression are the key words here. In this regard, it is worth mentioning Bruce Lee who viewed martial arts as “honestly expressing yourself.” Science is defined as “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.” The key word here is knowledge, while “scientific method” includes experiments and observations. In other words, science is learning through experiments and observation.

As suggested earlier, art and science can be reconciled. Consider cooking, for instance. Is a science or an art? Many would agree that cooking is both a science and an art. Even it we consider the “real scientists”, i.e. people engaged in scientific, research and academic activities, they display creativity too. Only the product of their work is intellectual, not physical (like in case of sculptors, painters, artists, etc.). Similarly, if yon consider “real men of art”, they must acquire certain skills and knowledge – that is learn – before they can create a piece of art. So scientific goes hand in hand with artistic here.

The same principle applies to martial arts, which can be a misleading term sometimes. Any martial art is a science. A side kick, or yop chagi, in taekwon-do will be powerful and effective if the hips, knees, and feet are all engaged at the correct angles. An irimi nage throw in aikido requires a lot of precision in controlling the opponent’s inertia and using your center of gravity. The technical examples are literally countless. Each and every technique requires thousands of repetitions and hours of learning before it can be truly mastered and become automatic. This process of acquiring skills is science. Furthermore, with martial arts there are always new things to learn, there will never be a moment when you will know everything, This is like being a lifelong student, and this is science too. Last but not least, like in “traditional science”, in martial arts you need to try, test and challenge things that don’t work best for you. And this is science also.

After acquiring at least the basic skills, you can start being creative. For instance, during the free sparring you select those techniques which are best in terms of timing, speed, power, surprise, etc. In other words, you start improvising. Such process of creative improvisation is art. As an another example, during a training you try to make your traditional forms as aesthetic, elegant yet at the same time powerful as possible. This is art too. As Ron Goin nicely put it in his blog post on martial art vs. science: “some people will practice their martial art with the same sense of intensity and personal expression as a dancer who practices ballet.” Finally, facing an unexpected attack in an unfamiliar environment forces you to be creative and inventive, which is also art.

To summarize, any martial art is both an art and a science. I like the guitar analogy here. First you need to learn basic chords, rhythms, finger style picking, etc. After a while you can start playing others’ songs, and eventually improvise and create your own music, The processes of science (learning) and art (creation) are intertwined here. The same goes for martial arts – there is no art without science, and vice versa.

Can science be imparital?

It has been claimed that true science must be impartial, in this context meaning “based on objective criteria”. The ‘impartial’ characteristic is especially actively promoted by academic staff in social sciences. This is easy to understand, as it is in social sciences (like sociology, psychology, political science, etc.) where it is most difficult to remain impartial, that is unbiased and unprejudiced. Unlike natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) that study the outside world, the focus of social sciences is a human being and human relations. The question is, however, do social sciences really need to be impartial?

Let me give an example here which is a burning question at the same time. Many speak today that the world is undergoing a serious and fundamental crisis. In economics, for example. this crisis is manifested as the crisis of global capitalism. In politics this is fading away of nation-states. And so on and so forth. Hundreds of brilliant academic minds are offering their ‘recipes’ of how to handle the present challenges. Are their recommendations impartial in this case? In other words, is it really possible, to adopt a neutral stance in the time of a global transformation, and propose “an objective development of a theory” (as the academia likes to put it) without any form of advocacy for a particular vision of a perfect society?

I doubt so.

And even if it is possible for a social science researcher to remain impartial, what is the real use of it? Is an objective theory really more important than a just and fair society, for example? I really want to believe this is not the case.

That is why when I hear a recommendation like “to approach the research as a test of theory” and “eliminate the social and political objectives”, I am far too skeptical. Science as a system of acquiring knowledge must indeed strive to be impartial to avoid the risk of abuse and manipulation. However, knowledge also commits to action, and only action – not just ideas – brings true knowledge and is the key to the future. As Karl Marx nicely put it: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”