Thursday, January 13, 2011

Arizona and dead birds/fish

My views on these things may not be particularly mainstream or popular.

Concerning the Arizona shootings:  violent language and images in the media (e.g., Sarah Palin's "target" map) do not cause violent behavior.  Rather, the violent impulses and thoughts of the populace promote a desire and support for violent imagery.  If enough people did not care for this kind of imagery, there would be no market for it and it would vanish. Same thing with any kind of free speech to which some people object.  There must be enough people willing to consume it to promote its continued existence.

This is where I say, read Lloyd Demause.

Dead birds in the sky and dead fish in the water:  the explanations for this seem like scientific best-guesses.  Like scientists from older times, contemporary scientists like to make "educated" guesses for causes of things they don't understand. 

Respected scientists in an earlier era believed that worms were born spontaneously from meat (if you left meat out for a few days, worms would be seen on it), and that each sperm cell carried a complete, tiny little human called a homunculus. This was the best science, thinking, and guesswork of that time.  No scientists ever want to say, "We just don't know," so they put forth these best-guess theories, which were later proven absolutely wrong.

This is how I see contemporary scientists who are trying to develop a "real" explanation for these kinds of phenomena.  My belief is that we just haven't yet developed the science to offer a true and provable answer.

Another good contemporary example is anti-depressants.  Doctors know that they work, and how some, like SSRIs (Prozac and its ilk), actually behave in the brain.  But they don't know why those behaviors in the brain often combat depression...but sometimes don't work at all.  Contemporary science is particularly prone to guesswork when it comes to the brain and brain chemistry.  Freud was all about guesswork based on observation and filtered through his own experience.  A lot of his ideas seem to be right, but this psychology, though it often holds up under clinical treatment, requires a lot of belief without proof, just like religion.

There was a very smart writer in the early 20th century who did not seek to explain unusual phenomena -- he simply found reports of them and collected and published them.  Unlike scientists, he had the courage to say "These things happened, and we don't know why," embracing the kind of doubts that scientists tried to cover up, wish away or explain in a totally guesswork manner.

This writer's name was Charles Fort.  Jim Steinmeyer wrote an excellent biography of him several years back, and Fort's collected works are still in print.  (Odd bedfellows:  the novelist Theodore Dreiser was a great champion of Fort's,)

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