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Tag Archives: Loren Eiseley

Gee, Who Knew?

. . . we sometimes ascribe . . . intolerant behavior to religious prejudice – as though

English: photo of Loren Eiseley at age 15

English: photo of Loren Eiseley at age 15 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

there had been a clean break, with scientists all arrayed under the white banner of truth while the forces of obscurantism parade under the black flag of prejudice.

The truth is better, if less appealing. Like other members of the human race, scientists are capable of prejudice. They have occasionally persecuted other scientists, and they have not always been able to see that an old theory, given a hairsbreadth twist, might open an entirely new vista to the human reason.

Loren Eiseley, from “The Firmament of Time” (Atheneum Publishers, 1962)

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2013 in Quotations

 

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Holy Chip!

The rear LCD display on a Flip Video camrea

The rear LCD display on a Flip Video camrea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I was reading an article in the Wall Street two weekends ago about yet another technological revolution heading our way. Titled “Is Smart Making Us Dumb?” it explored the new wave of “smart” technology we’ll be seeing soon. There’s a trash bin that analyzes your recycling efficiency and posts the results on Facebook if you’re not “green” enough. There’s a fork that monitors how fast you’re eating and signals you to slow down if needed. Computer scientists are even working on a “smart kitchen” where you’ll be surrounded by video cameras and computers guiding your every move. It’s like Disney’s Tomorrow Land on steroids.

Fortunately, the article’s author, Evgeny Morozov, approaches the subject from a skeptical, critical viewpoint. He’s not all pie-eyed at the new shiny things. In fact, he calls attention to a frightening trend in the futurist, technology camp: fixing things like us.

Morozov quotes Google CFO, Patrick Pichette, as telling an Australian news program that his company’s computer scientists “see the world as a completely broken place” that can be fixed by technology. He also points out that Jane McGonigal, a game designer and futurist, often talks about how “reality is broken.” Finally, Morozov makes it clear that the word “smart” is “Silicon Valley’s shorthand for transforming present-day social reality and the hapless souls who inhabit it.” The religious overtones are hard to miss.

“The serpent said to the woman . . . ‘you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Gen. 3:5, ESV)

Over a half century ago, scientist and visionary Loren Eiseley, wrote in his book, “The Firmament of Time,” that technology will change man, and not for the better. “The rise of a science whose powers and creations seem awe-inspiringly remote . . . has come dangerously close to bringing into existence a type of man who is not human. He no longer thinks in the old terms; he has ceased to have a conscience. He is an instrument of power.”

We’d best open our eyes.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in Ideas, In The News

 

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The Word in the Wilderness

The Garden and the WildernessI’ve had a very successful week or so as far as finding some great books at thrift stores and library sales. Fortunately I’ve had the means to purchase the ones I really wanted. Not that any of these were particularly expensive, but times are a bit tight, after all. I’ll be doing another post soon to share these finds, but I wanted to do this post on one book that really started me thinking.

Now, this book isn’t anything rare or expensive. Nothing like that at all. But it is somewhat unique in that I doubt you would find anything like it being published today. Or used, for that matter. The book is titled “The Garden and the Wilderness,” and it was published in 1973 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. It was a high school textbook in a series from HBJ called “Literature: Uses of the Imagination.”

What this textbook does is take excerpts from the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (from The New English Bible, one of my favorite translations) and arranges them with writings from such authors as Carl Sandburg, Edwin Muir, Dylan Thomas, Loren Eiseley and William Blake, among others. The selections include essays, poetry, plays, short stories and folk songs. As the book’s introduction explains:

The Bible has enormous importance historically and as a sacred book. but it is also literature, with a central place in any serious study of the works of the human imagination. We hope that in years to come you will be stimulated to move from this volume and its companions to the Bible itself, and that some of you will even study the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek as paths to the rich absorbing writings found there.

Amazing.

Nearly 40 years ago, this textbook was used in some school, I can’t say for sure if it was a public or parochial school, though my hunch is that it was a public school. Here’s my question: Do you think such a book would find a place in any public school today? Would studying the rich themes of the “book of books” be considered too religious for our children? Despite the role these words played in the founding of our civilization?

In our increasingly secular American society, faith themes and ideas are increasingly marginalized, pushed aside, forgotten and ignored. The “war” isn’t on Christmas, but on religion in general.

The Word is, indeed, in the wilderness.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Education, Ideas, Old Books

 

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The Immense Journey

The Immense Journey

That is the title of one of my all-time favorite books. Written by the eminent anthropologist, Loren Eiseley, and published in 1957, it is the story of life, from its unknown origins in the dim past to its present state. Being an anthropologist, Eiseley focuses most of his attention on the evolution of Man.

I first read this book almost 20 years ago, and was riveted by Eiseley’s writing. I’m not normally a science geek, although I do find it interesting. But reading “The Immense Journey” was a revelation. He was that rarity, a poet-scientist, who could explain the path of life and evolution without making it tedious and mechanical. Indeed, he mainly rejected the easy, mechanistic explanations of how Man evolved to become what he is today.

Too many of today’s scientists, particularly evolutionary biologists, see everything concerning life as mechanism. Completely absent from their worldview are any purpose or meaning. Many times, the soulless prose of these scientists reflects their vision. Not so Loren Eiseley. He saw mystery not just in Man, but in all of life, and that sense of “owl-eyed wonder” (his words) illuminated his writing.

I quoted one of my favorite passages from this book a couple of Sundays back, but I want to share another of this author’s marvelous descriptions of wonder:

. . . but more delicate, elusive, quicker than the fins in water, is that mysterious principle known as “organization,” which leaves all other mysteries concerned with life stale and insignificant by comparison. For that without organization life does not persist is obvious. Yet this organization itself is not strictly the product of life, nor of selection. Like some dark and passing shadow within matter, it cups out the eyes’ small windows or spaces the notes of a meadow lark’s song in the interior of a  mottled egg. That principle – I am beginning to suspect – was there before the living in the deeps of water.

By all accounts Eiseley was a not a religious man in any traditional sense of the word. Yet he was no enemy of religion either. He was comfortable using religious imagery when it was called for, as in this quote from the editors’ preface to this edition of the book:

 . . . whether we speak of a God come down to earth or a man inspired toward God and betrayed upon a cross, the dream was great, and shook the world like a storm. I believe in Christ in every man who dies to contribute to a life beyond his life. I believe in Christ in all who defend the individual from the iron boot of the extending collective state . . .

Do yourself a favor. Read this book.

 

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Authors, Favorite Books, Ideas

 

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“Dead” Matter?

“Dead” Matter?

I would say that if “dead” matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows,and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers, and may not impossibly be, as Hardy has suggested, “but one mask of many worn by the Great Face behind.”

Loren Eiseley, from The Immense Journey

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Ideas, Quotations

 

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