Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Recommendation of the Day

My Inner Essentialist would like to recommend Silver Tips “Organic Twilight Tea” (Silver Tips, although I’ve not been there, seems to be, in terms of its product line, the New York equivalent of So.Cal’s excellent Chado). You can really taste that tea is part of the camellia classification. And speaking of such things, my outer Epicurean would like to make an interesting comment regarding a verse of Pirke Avos, which states that some would claim that God created the tongs used to forge the first pair of tongs. Perhaps the Rabbis of the Mishna did not mean it this way, but the whole idea that God had to create the “zero’th” pair of tongs, because you have to use tongs in creating tongs, seems silly to use moderns. As would the idea that God must have created the first wheel or the first watch. It almost seems like taking God’s name in vain to make some of these claims. Perhaps this wasn’t the intended tone, but the Mishna’s Nixonian “some would say” sounds almost derogatory to that opinion and the “logic” which produced it.

Yet, this turn of thought is exactly what is behind the notion of Intelligent Design. Does Intelligent Design involve a vain invocation of God? If so, would teaching it in school violate my right of religious practice which includes following, more or less (well, maybe I should have been a little stricter with my Sabbath observance, um, er …), the “10 commandments”?

A similar strange loop, as came out in comments on the Adventus blog, occurs with the idea of “law” and “order”: which comes first? The TV show ;)? Seriously, while the Torah seems to indicate law comes first (the wishful thinking – albeit a wish that has largely remained true, not all wishful thinking is wrongheaded! – of the Deuteronomists hoping they could with a series of laws maintain a culture), the Rabbis realized that each was necessary to the other. Did the Rabbis suggest that both literally came from God? Only in the sense of Ibsen’s vital lie: they realized that legal systems, even those given in theory to Moses at Sinai, must evolve.

So if evolution is so pervasive a concept in our lives, why is it so hard to conceive of biological evolution? Maybe the problem is not the idea of natural selection, but the idea of diversity: that, in reference to a recent Haftarah, progress requires a diversity from which to select the best, and that the classes into which we group things are not existential but rather matters of the tastes of our collective Inner Essentialists (albeit classification, equivalent to regression, is also the tool, par excellence, of science: an activity which is essentialist not out of Platonic commitments but out of the Pragmatism of Idealism: how Kantian, don’t you think? Pace Morrisette, isn’t Kant ironic?).

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