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Context and Limitation

The Balance of Yang and Yin
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Context and Limitation
...Scientific method is an incredibly powerful tool, yet it has decided limitations...

We live in the Age of Man. Since the rise of scientific method, we have learned more and more about the way things work and have advanced technologically at an astounding rate.

In and of itself, this is not a bad thing at all. Our life expectancy and quality of life far surpass those enjoyed by our forebears, and there's no indication that this trend will soon abate.

Scientific method is an incredibly powerful tool... yet it has decided limitations. Its main method of inquiry- isolating variables in order to determine what role they play in a system- by definition neglects the kernel of truth contained within the old adage, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." If, for instance, one were to pick apart a living organism atom by atom he would be left with a pile of dust...but where in that pile would be "life?" Despite our scientific progress, I think it's safe to say we're not close to understanding everything; and, given our perceptive abilities, we likely never will. There's just always something more, as when a three-year-old keeps asking, "Why?" Whether or not one believes in "God," at some point we just don't have the answers because whatever we do know is based upon something we don't.

I'm reminded of the joke where the scientists have finally succeeded in cloning anything from a mere lump of dirt. They challenge God to a contest, which He accepts. He picks up some dirt and fashions a perfect poodle. Now, it's the scientists' turn. As they bend down to get their raw material, God interjects, "Ah-ah-ah...you make your own dirt."

We have lost much of our reverence for the universe we inhabit. Our awe has been replaced by an arrogance - hubris- which threatens to destroy us. Somewhere, along the road, we have begun to feel an illusory mastery over things; when, in fact, we are simply only beginning to understand them in a fundamentally different way. It's not that it's a bad way: in fact, I would posit that in order to understand one point of view we must understand another in order to provide the context through which critical evaluation can occur. But if we allow ourselves to be seduced by the notion that we are in (total) control of things then we have lost the balance and our way. Interestingly, our infatuation with scientific method has had the dual effect of not only increasing our knowledge of things, but also of enriching the context in which we are able to enjoy the whole.

Really, as creatures whose capacities are decidedly limited (especially where it comes to our base instincts), we cannot help but look at parts rather than the entire picture. It's simply easier for us to do so. Indeed, if we were to live our lives thinking about the whole we would never get anything done, because: a) we can't envision the whole to begin with, and b) it's constantly changing. The picture is just too vast and too dynamic for any of us to comprehend. So, we fall back on our critical faculties, limited as they are, and go to the extreme: we make distinctions that are valid on the level we see, but which are superficial when looked at on a deeper, more integrated level: Cooperation is better than competition. The free market is always right. We should care for ourselves before others. We seldom think about the big picture, and even less frequently act in accordance with it, preferring instead to seize upon extremes in which we easily confuse the concept of principle with those of lack of critical thought and laziness.

In the end, then, this is a plea for tolerance: for understanding that your neighbor's or friend's politics, religion or economic philosophy is simply part of the big picture. As is yours. Understanding that you give each other context, and that you are right and so is he.

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Yang and yin - Beyond Black and White
I would like to invite you to share your thoughts and experiences through comments, messages, starting your own topics and, even, sending us your articles. What's your take of the balance of all things? Do you see the glass half-full or half-empty? Share and help everyone see and keep the balance!

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