Friday, January 22, 2010

Grey is in...

Here's a great opinion piece from the New York Times that approximates what i've been driving at here. Must There Be a Bottom Line? is a review of a book by philosopher Barbara Herrnstein Smith who argues that science and religion constitute distinct, but not necessarily incompatible, epistemological systems.

Insofar as we think of these systems as representing an "underneath-it-all" reality, they are certainly mutually-exclusive. But Smith argues that this type of thinking is not particularly productive (or correct). Instead, it is worthwhile to think of science and religion as providing different kinds of services, equally valuable in their respective markets.

This sort of pragmatism appears to be gaining force these days. While Smith's argument is sure to upset a collection of stuffy folk committed to a black-and-white portrayal of reality, her book likely speaks to many others who recognize that such rigidity is futile. Our world is perpetually in flux; capturing its reality requires a flexible mind.

Incidentally, mental elasticity is also good for your health. Confronting one's own conceptions of reality bolsters new neuronal connections and helps individuals maintain a sharp mind throughout their golden years. Jack Mezirow from Columbia University offers that such mental confrontations, or "disorienting dilemmas," are the essential nutrients for cognitive development in aging (see more).

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