19 November 2010

In Defense of a Useless Science

This is a bit of a follow-up on the "nada and nothing" post. The title of this is from Chapter One of Jean Bottero's Mesopotamia: Writing, Reason and the Gods. Bottero is defending Assyriology and probably more so, history, as a discipline, as a kind of science (which means "knowledge" after all) set against "pure" science.

Bottero says something incredibly pertinent to our Facebook Age in which our real belief is in the cleverness of our scientists who are now Technologists more than anything else (in other very important words, they are not discovering the truth of the universe, they are manipulating it without full knowledge of the results of that manipulation):

"The discipline to which I have devoted myself has made me especially incapable of intervening in the lives of my contemporaries, as I have turned all my attention to the past. I do not know what wise man once said that there are two large categories of scholars, one that speeds up the world and brings its end nearer by its discussions, its inventions, its experiments, and its teachings; the other that goes back in its curiosity to the origins of the world and as a result leaves the universe and its inhabitants in peace...Perhaps you could even agree with me that it would be best for the proper development of the world if a number of our contemporaries would be converted and assigned to that [latter] discipline."

A case in point from the world of micro-finance (financial "science").


  1. I think we have very little understanding of the real implications of the Facebook Age for the current generation of children growing up in the frenetic world of instant and thoughtless communication. There are a number of ways to use your words very powerfully, like a well-thought out blog post, but it's shocking to think that these kids probably won't be capable of writing anything long enough to count as a blog post. Okay, I know that's a gross overstatement, but yes, we need restore some peaceful/contemplative curiosity about the world itself and not about what we can do, inflict to it.

  2. Pretty funny that a well-thought-out blog post is a rarity too--primarily because no one wants to scroll through anything. If it doesn't fit on a page it's too long! Mostly even the commentary I like to read for point of view is simply commentary on commentary, or commentary on "journalism" that rarely delves into the consequences of political action.