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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 06/14/2004
Volume 2, #127

The End of Science, Did You Say?

Today is a special day. Because it's a special story and it concerns everybody, you and me, the superheroes, the religions, the visions, and certainly all of science.

The End of Science I just finished reading a book called THE END OF SCIENCE by a senior writer of the Scientific American. In that work, John Horgan, the author, contends, quite effectively, that science will not just go on and on as most people suspect but rather, having reached the zenith of discovery with such giants as Einstein and Nils Bohr (quantum theory), there really is very little more that's essential to discover. Just a further elaboration of what's already been discovered, the Special Theory of Gravitation and the magical success of "quantum uncertainty", even though Einstein's macroworld findings and Bohr's microuniverse are irreconcilable. Each in their way have marked the twentieth century as the pinnacle of scientific discovery and there's little prospect of being able to test such secondary theories as "vibrating strings" because there's simply no possibility of empirical verification in sight.

As for the particle physicists, until we can find the money and means to build a supercollider that's long enough to bridge the gap between earth and Mars, they're not going to go any further -- except to find more of the same. So there'll just be variations of what we already know, including more and more of the same in gene theory, more of the same in microbiology, somewhat enriched by symbiosis, so that survival of the fittest becomes meaningful in the sense that natural selection is thereby given the time to have happened, which was not the case without the punctuated additions of symbiotic rather than selective advances.

Now, why am I bringing this up here, on a comics web site? Because man, that's what the whole superhero concept is about. It's about the most important thing there is that will, in spite of Horgan, keep science going, in spite of Horgan and the many illustrious scientists he interviewed in his well documented but not always agreed with work. There can be no end of science until there's an end to death. It's just that simple and obvious. Instead of science shrinking down to smaller and smaller goals as it fades out, it will rise to greater ones as the focus and reason for human science becomes clearer, namely human mortality.

Think about this for a moment. The superheroes were our way of dealing with mortality.

Like the Olympians, they are vastly powerful and essentially deathless. The immortals.

In fact, the biggest mistake DC ever made was to give us "the death of Superman." It didn't go over very well, and now, in their effort to "humanize" Superman, they've been reducing his powers, which runs directly counter to the whole idea and its value. Because all of it, science, superheroes, literature, the arts, our religions and metaphysics are concerned with one essential problem, mortality! Indeed, it's the only problem.

Interesting to note too that one of our most creative and brilliant scientists, David Bohm, has provided us with a vision of science that fully embraces ultimate problems. His "implicate order" encompasses science, metaphysics in a way that invites the mind to return to an earlier neo-Platonic view of reality known as "the doctrine of emanation".

In some quarters it's also known as "the perennial philosophy" and it does embrace large segments of some of the major more mystical religious views of the west, and more particularly of the east. It also challenges the particularity of defined organized religions while serving essentially as a final mode of belief.

So whatever it's supposed to be the end of, in this case, science, it simply can't be so. It may change its name, its modus operandi. It may embrace (and has in many cases already begun to embrace) channeling, connecting with life forms and personalities not in the flesh, as in the case of the brilliant series of books by the thinker Norman Friedman and his analyses of the character Seth, channeled by the late Jane Roberts.

It has even invaded the realm of psychology in the work especially of thinkers like Ken Wilber and that giant among thinkers, the late Sri Aurobindo.

In a way, this column is also personal. I have arrived at a late age, as they say. I have passed through many doors, those of science, of philosophy, of metaphysics, the arts. I have learned not to shut out types of experience that are not commonly acceptable or accessible. And I have learned to make special efforts not to forget the uncommon things we all experience but tend to push to the back of our minds where they'll cause as little trouble and confusion as possible. "The dust gathers on the dishes every night" as the rabbi says, and I make it a point to clean those dishes regularly.

Sometime in late 1941, I was brought to a DC Christmas party. I wound up writing Superman. Reluctantly, at first. And then I discovered him. I discovered that he was really one of our ways of dealing with death at a time when death stalked the world in many grisly forms in World War II. But, I mention this here to remind you that the end of science is not upon us yet. Because the end of science has to do with mortality. Once we understand that, but not before, will the quest be at an end.

Note that I do not believe the problem is insoluble. I also believe that certain others have solved the problem. Since we're dealing with what we anticipate as the end of the personal ego, the self we know as ourselves, the solution will always have to be personal. And for some, perhaps a very few, science is indeed at an end. In the meantime, for the rest of us, let's keep our superheroes as they were. They are reminders, goal posts, essential points of focus for the way we live our lives.

--Alvin

<< 06/07/2004 | 06/14/2004 | 06/21/2004 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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