Sunday, September 7, 2008

Comments on "post-Western Cosmologies"

SAGREDO: in post-Western cosmologies ETNY touches upon a number of issues which are relevant to a discussion about cosmology. I agree that we cannot restrict our discussion to just the western scientific cosmology. Part of the motivation that brought us here together in this blog is the recognition that there is need for understanding by broad sectors of society of the new scientific knowledge about the universe, but in order to achieve this it is important not to disregard other cosmologies or points of view. Understanding new knowledge about the universe does not mean that it has to be imposed or that it has to be accepted. It only means that knowledge about the physical world could have some advantages. And you do not have to agree with this statement, but to highlight the point that knowledge is better than ignorance, consider this: there is a probability close to 50% that the strongest military power on planet Earth will soon have a vice-president (subsequently likely to become president) who is going to install a government blinded by ideology that does not accept evolution, or the big bang cosmology, or sex education, or stem cell research and rejects the notion that humans have caused global warming. That is a world-view. But I submit: in this world not all world-views are the same, some could be dangerous. So the discussion that we are undertaking in this blog is not an irrelevant exchange among academicians. It is a dialogue that should find useful connections towards understanding our place in planet Earth and the universe. We are making progress already by identifying key questions. All of the questions raised by ETNY are relevant: what is the relation between cosmologies and culture? How cosmologies appear and disappear? What cosmologies come packaged with globalization? etc. These are all great questions that we should attempt to answer here. ETNY also raises the concern of risking expanding into topics that cannot be dispatched with simple answers and will take us into interminable digressions. I agree. I propose that we structure these discussions around key fundamental questions first. We pose one question (like the introductory question here in "Big Bang Cosmology") and each one of us from our own field provides an answer. At least that lays out in front of us the differences and potential congruent points in specific topics. ETNY’s suggestion to start off by working the definition of COSMOLOGY from our own fields seems like the natural starting point. Let’s do it. My next post will be a definition of cosmology as seen from the camp of the astrophysicists. As we layout the foundation for this debate I propose we also work on the definitions of ‘world-view’ and ‘myth’ and their relation to cosmology. These terms are usually misused and only add to the fog that separates scientists from anthropologists and sociologists of science.