Tuesday, October 14, 2014

[Yasmin_discussions] "The Plight of the Supernatural in an Art-Science World."


we are pleased to open the YASMIN discussion "The Plight of the
Supernatural in an Art-Science World."


This will be a difficult discussion to engage in on line since we will
be talking about sensitive
questions of values and belief so we hope YASMINERS will respect each
other in a vigorous

Stephen Nowlin who proposed the discussion will serve as moderator.
He invited the following respondents :

Discussants will include:

Nancy Lowe, artist, catalyst for art-science collaborations

Director of Symbiosis Art+Science Alliance (symbASA)

http://symbasa.org .

Margaret Wertheim

Author, "Physics on the Fringe," co-curator, "Crochet Coral Reef"

Director, The Institute For Figuring, Los Angeles


Andres Collazo, PhD


Director, Beckman Institute Biological Imaging Center

California Institute of Technology


Daniel Lewis, PhD

Author, Curator

Chief Curator of Manuscripts (History of Science, Medicine, and Technology)

Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens


Joseph Klein, DMus

Distinguished Teaching Professor

Chair, Division of Composition Studies

University of North Texas College of Music


Martha Blassnigg, PhD

Reader in the Anthropology of Media | Transtechnology Research |
Editor, Transtechnology Research Open Access Papers | Associate
Editor, Leonardo Reviews and L|R|Q * Plymouth University


Here is Stephen's opening statement:

Roger Malina

Dear Yasminers --

I have been invited by YASMIN to begin the topic of the next Yasmin
discussion, "The Plight of the Supernatural in an Art-Science World."

I'm Stephen Nowlin, an artist and curator, and director of the
Williamson Gallery at Art Center College of Design which is located in
Pasadena, California. I make stuff, curate, write, and think a lot
about the intersection of art and science. Some of my activities may
be glimpsed athttp://williamsongallery.net/google .

I consider the "supernatural" to be a simple subject that's rather
complicated to discuss -- a tricky navigation around the shoals of
mythology, science fact, religious faith, empirical reason, academic
scholarship, gut feeling. I hope this iteration of an age-old topic
will ensue candidly, thoughtfully, and respectfully. I also think it's
a new discussion now -- not the same one that took place thousands of
years ago or six-hundred years ago, or in the eighteenth century. It's
not a tired one, it's a critically relevant one for our moment and for
the art-science enterprise.

Of many definitions and sensations of the supernatural, two general
ones interest me in particular -- first, the magical supernatural that
forms the commonplace definition of the term, the supernatural that
informs religion and a general belief that something not-natural,
mystical, and typically considered to be more "meaningful" than
physics rules the universe. And second, the definition that allows the
term supernatural to be used in a secular manner to describe a cosmos
that is complex in ways we don't yet fully understand or might never
-- a "beyond-nature" notion derived from the recognition that there
may be epistemological limits to what science can tell us about the

I'd like to start out with a statement about the first definition.
This notion of the supernatural assumes there is a material cosmos
that science can approach and know, but that this material cosmos is
administered by a higher-order magical component that science cannot
know and which controls the true ultimate nature of things. In this
difinition, the natural world is a stage-set which veils the magic. I
regard the assumption of this supernatural to be a stubborn inherited
meme, a pervasive fiction interwoven throughout many global cultures,
that has and continues to send human reason careening in wrong and
often destructive directions regarding both religious and
non-religious subjects, politics, militarism, human rights, ethical
and moral behavior, coincidence, fate, many others. It is time for the
academic community to proactively repudiate this ubiquitous concept of
a magical supernatural universe as an intellectual fraud.

My position and description are not unique -- a familiar skeptical
view. But what may be unique is that I suggest the called-for
repudiation should not be undertaken as an attack on religion, but
rather as an attack on the concept of the supernatural itself.

Stephen Nowlin

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