Friday, September 01, 2006

We have to learn to think in a new way

For years I kept a yellowed, tattered copy of an interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor. I've subsequently lost the piece -- a victim of too many moves and periodic purges of old books and magazines. Attempts to recover it via library and Internet searches have been futile (especially given that I can't remember who conducted it or even what publication it appeared in).

The reason I kept the interview for as long as I did was because I was struck by both the arrogance and intellectual daring contained in one particular question posed by the interviewer. It went something like this:

"Do you think a politician could be found guilty of political malpractice for explaining foreign policy in terms of Newtonian physics as opposed to the Einsteinian sort as a concession to the general public's limited cranial capacity?"

Brzezinski's response, as I recall was a surprisingly nonchalant "No, I do not think so", conceding that the linear, mechanistic Newtonian worldview provided a familiar and convenient context within which to frame issues for the public -- even if it falls short of identifying our full menu of options and their consequences.

While the aloofness and arrogance of both interviewer and interviewee were appalling, I was nonetheless surprised that a political figure would even acknowledge the importance of understanding human affairs from within the context of what Buckminster Fuller calls "Nature's Coordinate System" -- the way the world works.

Fuller's first published book was entitled Nine Chains To The Moon. It included a chapter entitled "E=Mc2 = Mrs. Murphy's Horsepower" wherein he explains the relevance of Einstein's famous equation to people's everyday lives. It even impressed Einstein himself.

This all came flashing back to me as I recently read about the Potsdam "Denkschrift" 2005 authored by Hans-Peter Durr (Director of Max Planck Institute for Physics), J. Daniel Dahm and Rudolf zur Lippe. This document was inspired by the 1955 Einstein-Russell Manifesto calling for a new way of thinking that would "guarantee war, in the future, to be completely banned as an instrument of politics and conflict resolution". It was officially released during the 2005 Year of Einstein observances and has been signed by over 130 scientists and activists. (GW)

The Potsdam Denkrschrift

"Th[e] wide variety of crises today confronting us and threatening to exceed our ability to cope are the expression of a mental crisis in the relation between us humans and our living world. They are symptoms of deeper causes that we have thus far neglected to seek and reveal. They are closely connected with the materialistic-mechanistic worldview favored all over the world today and with its prior history." (Potsdam Manifesto & Potsdam Denkschrift).


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