new photo blog

i started this blog in 2006, and it's shifted along with my interests through the years. it's been witness to a lot of learning for me...

still, i feel that i need a home for my photography -- so from now on, i'll be posting my pictures on the journal on my reworked website. if you like my photos, you might decide to follow me there!

my first post is here -- check it out!

as for this blog, i'm not sure what will happen. i don't think i'm willing to let it go, and certainly i'll keep it as an archive, but i need some time to figure it out.

for those of you that pop in from time to time, thanks for the visits and encouragement.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

what are flowers for?

what are flowers for?
if you like the picture, please click it... comments follow
i heard this interview of richard dawkins at WNYC radiolab entitled 'in defense of darwin' this morning and it fit perfectly with the picture i shot yesterday.

i took the time to write down a bit of the interview here...


Q: your daughter is driving around with you and you look and… she’s 6 years old. she sees a field of flowers. you say to her, well, what do you think they’re for? she says 'well, to make the world pretty and to help bees make honey for us. and you think, well, i’m sorry to tell her that this wasn’t true. and i explained to her that the flowers are not there to make the world beautiful and they are not there to delight bees or anything else. they’re in the world to copy their DNA.'

this is to a six-year old.

(audience laughs)

but essentially what you’re doing there is you’re addressing you’re opening the notion to her that the world is a purposeless, indifferent machine where the meaning of things is not clear, if it exists at all. you’ve found it, i think, kind of brave to say to your daughter , look, step into the wind…

(richard interrupts)

A: no, exciting! it’s a far more exciting view of flowers to understand what they’re really doing and, as six years old, she had no problem understanding that. i explained it to her.

but to come to your ‘what’s it for’ question, it’s a piece of massive presumption to think that the ‘what it’s for’ question deserves an answer. there’s no reason at all why something should have a ‘for’ about it. if i said to you, ‘what is the sun for?’ or 'what is mt. everest for', you would say 'don’t be so silly... it’s not an appropriate question'… but, because it’s flowers, you sort of feel there ought to be a ‘what is it for’ question.

Q: no actually i think it’s a harder question than that. i think most human beings have some deep impulse to explain their being here to wonder about the origins of here and the destiny of them and here. and that question, the meaning of it all is not a silly question.

A: that’s not a silly question and it has a perfectly good answer, which is not an answer to be couched in the language of purpose. it’s an answer to be couched in the language of scientific causation. what brought us all to be here… what is the explanation for our existence… that has a perfectly good scientific answer… and you go back in evolutionary time to the origin of life, and you go back before the origin of life to the origin of the world, the origin of the solar system, the origin of the universe… and that becomes deeply mysterious. needless to say, it’s not a question i could even begin to answer and i don’t think that, at the present stage, physics can either. but to the extent that there’s going to be an answer, it’s going to come from science and that is a deeply satisfying kind of answer to the question, 'why are we here?' we already have, in principle, the answer to that question and it is not an answer of the form ‘we are here in order to achieve some purpose’ it’s an answer of the form, ‘we are here because something happened, which led that something else that happened, which led to something else that happened'.

Q: are you … let me ask you the harder question … is this hard-looking and this telling your 6-year old, this leads to this leads to this, this kind of reductionist way of thinking about everything … does that seem to you to be less than joyously imaginative ?

A: no, i think that’s kind of super-romantic to actually understand that flowers are devices … beautiful devices, elegant devices which are shaped precisely to attract insects and hummingbirds and bats to take pollen from one to another… that is such a mind-blowing thought compared to the tame, sort of washed-out view that flowers are just sort of nice things to have around.’

(audience claps)

interviewer to audience: 'don’t encourage him.'

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