Unreal Nature

July 31, 2009

Flying Colors

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:15 am

“Restoration” is a very poorly chosen term, and strictly speaking, it signifies something which cannot be done. The genuine restoring of a painting is obviously something which is possible only to its original creator.”
— Max Sourner (1921), The Materials of the Artist

… a picture is never finished. No artist has ever painted an image frozen in time; all painting is a perpetual process, with every scene destined to rearrange its tonal contrasts as time does its work on the pigments. When John Ruskin said, “Every hue throughout your work is altered by every touch that you add in other places,” he might have added, “and all that happens subsequently.” When the artist has been reduced to the dust of centuries, time — sometimes personified by an overzealous restorer — goes on remodeling the colors, bringing darkness here and bleaching there, mocking our attempts to pronounce authoritatively on the coloristic intentions of the image’s creator. Even the simple act of cleaning is, as on art restorer noted, “an act of critical interpretation.”

Today’s extracts are taken from the book, Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color by Philip Ball (2001).

… By the eighteenth century there was still not one of the spectral colors with which artist considered themselves adequately supplied in pigments. For blues, azurite and ultramarine were scarce, and smalt, difficult to work with in the first place, had a tendency to fade owing to leaching of cobalt from the pigment particles. (The smalt sky of Valázquez’s otherwise radiant Immaculate Conception, produced about 1618 has turned a depressing brown.) Indigo, an organic dye, was not lightfast. The report of the discovery of Prussian blue in 1710 began by saying, “Painters who mix oil with their colors have few that represent blue, and those such that, rightly, they wish for [some] more satisfactory.”

The richest reds were lakes — primarily cochineal and madder — but these might not last. In Joshua Reynolds’s Anne, Countess of Albemarle (c. 1759-1760), the countess’s pallid face was once a healthier pink; the complexion has become deathly as the color drained from the (probably cochineal) red lake.

Of pure and bright purples there were still none, and for orange, realgar had only ever been used sparingly. Greens were still a particular problem. The Italian Giovanni Angelo Canini commented in the mid-seventeenth century that mixed greens should always be made up “fresher” than they actually appeared in nature because they would darken with age. A century later Robrt Dossie’s Handmaid to the Arts proclaimed that “the greens we are forced at present to compound from blue and yellow are seldom secure from flying or changing.”

This was largely the result of using fugitive yellow lakes. Foliage would often turn a bizarre and sickly blue color as the yellow component (sometimes a glaze over blue underpaint) lost its hue under the influence of light. Pieter Lastman’s Juno Discovering Jupiter with Io (c. 1618) has acquired dark blue-green vegetation, and Jan van Huysum’s Flowers in a Terracotta Vase(1746) had patchy blue leaves owing to the fading of the lake pigment. In 1830 J.-F.-L. Mérimée commented that “in several Flemish paintings, leaves of trees have become blue, because the yellow lake, mixed with ultramarine, has disappeared.”

It was hoped that Prussian blue, discovered in the early eighteenth century, would at least satisfy the desire for a blue to replace ultramarine. But already by the middle of the century, its tendency to fade had become evident. Dossie warned that the lighter, brighter, and most attractive varieties of Prussian blue (which contain white alumina) are “extremely subject to fly, or to turn to a greyish green.” This propensity to fade is accentuated when the pigment is mixed with a high proportion of white, as it often was for eighteenth-century skies. The skies in several paintings by Gainsborough (such as Gainsborough’s forest, c. 1749), Watteau (Récréation italienne, c. 1715-1716), and Canaletto (Venice: Campo San Vidal and Santa Maria della Carita, 1726-1728) are all pearly and washed out where once they would have been a deeper blue.

… The Impressionists and their successors would surely have benefited from the services of someone like [George] Field. As it was they tended to throw caution to the wind — and pay the price. Some of the new pigments, such as cobalt blue and lemon yellow (strontium chromate), aged very well; others did not at all. Zinc yellow (zinc chromate) goes greenish in oil, which proved disastrous for Georges Seurat’s carefully judged pointillism. Discoloration of zinc yellow is apparent in Bathers at Asnières (1883-1884), and the lawn of La Grande Jatte (1884-1885) is peppered with brown spots owing to deterioration of a chrome yellow. There can be few more emphatic examples of how the limitations of materials can undermine an artist’s delicate coloristic intentions.

If painters have difficulty with color stability, digital photographers have it a thousand times worse. We don’t even have a (dis)colored original. We have only a digital file — data — that must be read and interpreted. By what machine? By whom? In what cultural/historical context? We have profiled monitors and profiled paper/printer combinations and software conversions from files to monitor then from computer to printer. We have papers that are, at best known (hoped) to be stable for one hundred years — if, if you have ever managed to get a satisfactory print out of the series of interpretations in the journey from file to paper. 

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 30, 2009

Between Weapon and Tremor

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:22 am

… I’ve tried to grasp some fundamentals of excruciation, but unless I’m sundered myself, I won’t understand.

This is all taken from the essay A Descant on “Echo Location” by Alice Fulton in the book Introspections: American Poets on One of Their Own Poems edited by Robert Pack and Jay Parini. You can find the last part of the poem she is taling about in a previous post of mine, here.

At the start, the poem’s speaker is making a life mask of a model. There’s an element of sadism in the dominion of maker over creation, in saying to a pet theme, “Be still, so I can have my way with you.” Artists want to — have to — impose stasis on what-gives. Rather than letting the world thrash through them, they whip up their own versions of things. While artists have the power to expose and express, their objects are shuttered in the hush of various covers, unable to ward off attentions, however unwanted. When I delve into the external, ripping the surface, unfolding wings sticky with mucilage, prying those wings right off, if need be, to reach the pith and mechanism, am I motivated by a wish to comprehend or a wish to control? In reimagining others, I demolish some volatile aspect of their beings. I freeze-frame the breathing object, selecting form from the infinite strands of flux.

… maybe it was the arrows of medieval epics. Maybe it was the necessity of trembling. Somehow “quiver” became an entrancing word for me. In stanza six, a “quiver” inscribes the other with “thine,” rather than the possessive “mine” of stanza two. “Thine,” a willing concession of self, bespeaks reciprocity. In the sixth grade, we learned to diagram sentences. The prepositional phrases plunged like roots from the flat of syntax, and I understood a little of how English works. But where is the subject, where is the object, in the shrieks of mating cats or a dying rabbit’s cry? Working the external into words, I’d like to honor those emotive languages beyond grammar, outpourings so pure and heartfelt they would by lyrical were they not unlovely. As a verb, “quiver” signals crisis in the body. As a noun, it’s a vibrato, an arrow, and a case for arrows. From a small action, pulling and releasing the bowstring, come tremendous effects: death, mutilation. Like most poets, I’ve tried to grasp some fundamentals of excruciation, but unless I’m sundered myself, I won’t understand. I must be the echo of what I dissect. So quiver, oscillating between weapon and tremor, tells me.

She leaves out the uncertainty about how one knows where this “sundering” begins and where it ends. Why it matters to one person; to many people — or not.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

Inside/Outside II

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:04 am

See the first Inside/Outside post, here.

 

delahaye_talibanAlone
Taliban (2001) by Luc Delahaye

 

delahaye_talibanViewed

 

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 29, 2009

Denied

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:19 am

There is a report, A Partial Marvel in The Economist (July 16, 2009) that really bothers me. It’s about microfinance:

… Measuring the impact of microcredit is complicated by the fact that the counterfactual — what would have happened to a person who borrowed from a microlender if he had not done so — cannot easily be tested.

Understood. But look what researchers did to get around these problems:

… The pervasiveness of these self-selection issues has led researchers to devise experiments that allow them to ensure that participation in a programme is determined essentially by chance. Two new papers apply this idea to measure the effect of access to microcredit. Researchers from the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) worked with an Indian microfinance firm to ensure that 52 randomly chosen slums in the city of Hyderabad were given access to microfinance, while 52 other slums, which were equally suitable and where the lender was also keen to expand, were denied it. This allowed the researchers to see clearly the effect of microcredit on an entire community. Dean Karlan of Yale University and Jonathan Zinman of Dartmouth College carried out a similar exercise in the Philippines, this time at the level of the individual borrower. They tweaked the credit-scoring software of a microfinance firm so that only a random subset of people with marginal credit histories were accepted as clients. These clients could then be compared with those who sought credit but were denied it.

How can they justify randomly denying people the opportunity they seek? I know that this is done in medical testing/research, but the difference in medical outcome is potentially clear. A bogus treatment may cost a patient their health or even their life — and outcome is simple. Micro loans are not like that. They are hope and opportunity. Failing to succeed in a financial endeavor is not comparable to failing to get a good medical outcome. One can derive tremendous experiential benefit from trying to succeed with a micro loan.

Here is how the researchers characterise the results of their observations:

Broadly speaking, neither study found that microcredit reduced poverty. There was no effect on average household consumption, at least within a year to 18 months of the experiment. The study in the Philippines also measured the probability of being under the poverty line and the quality of food that people ate, and again found no effects. Microcredit may not even be the most useful financial service for the majority of poor people. Only one in five loans in the Hyderabad study actually led to the creation of a new business. Providing people with safe places to store their (small) savings may help them more in the long run.

Consumption. That’s it. The value of the loans is measured according to consumption. Is that all they can see?

The Economist article does, at the end, concede that there may be  other benefits:

… That said, microcredit did have discernible effects. In India, people in the slums that had access to microcredit were more likely to cut down on things like tobacco and alcohol in favour of durable goods (particularly items such as pushcarts or cooking pans that are used heavily by traders and food-stall owners). One reason average consumption failed to increase may therefore be that more people were diverting some of their own income into starting or expanding their businesses. Microcredit clearly allowed more people to overcome the barrier posed by start-up costs. The MIT researchers found that as many as one-third more businesses had opened in slums which had a microcredit branch. This may mean that even though there was no measurable impact on poverty during the study period, there may well be some over a longer time-frame as these businesses prosper.

Tiny loans are unlikely to be enough to allow these businesses to grow to an efficient scale, of course. But the role of microcredit in allowing people to signal their creditworthiness is valuable, especially if their success makes banks more willing to lend them larger sums and leads to even more economic activity. By being willing to take a risk on entrepreneurial sorts who lack any other way to start a business, microcredit may help reduce poverty in the long run, even if its short-run effects are negligible.

Sometimes (often) I think social researchers miss most of what is right in front of their eyes. It’s not all about numbers — or “consumption.”

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

A Single Firm Texture

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:03 am

Art has the faculty of enhancing and concentrating this union of quality and meaning in a way which vivifies both. Instead of canceling a separation between sense and meaning (asserted to be psychologically normal), it exemplifies in an accentuated and perfected manner the union characteristic of many other experiences through finding the exact qualitative media that fuse most completely with what is to be expressed.  [emphasis added]

That and what follows are taken from from the book, Art as Experience by John Dewey (1934).

… Esthetic experience is imaginative. This fact, in connection with a false idea of the nature of imagination, has obscured the larger fact that all conscious experience has of necessity some degree of imaginative quality. For while the roots of every experience are found in the interaction of a live creature with its environment, that experience becomes conscious, a matter of perception, only when meanings enter it that are derived from prior experiences. Imagination is the only gateway through which these meanings can find their way into a present interaction; or rather, as we have just seen, the conscious adjustment of the new and the old is imagination. Interaction of a living being with an environment is found in vegetative and animal life. But the experience enacted is human and conscious only as that which is given here and now is extended by meanings and values drawn from what is absent in fact and present only imaginatively.

There is always a gap between the here and now of direct interaction and the past interactions whose funded result constitutes the meanings with which we grasp and understand what is now occurring. Because of this gap, all conscious perception involves a risk; it is a venture into the unknown, for as it assimilates the present to the past it also brings about some reconstruction of that past.

I’m quoting out of order, here. The next bit is from the chapter that precedes the above:

The psychological conceptions that are implied in “rationalistic” philosophies of art are all associated with a fixed separation of sense and reason. The work of art is so obviously sensuous and yet contains such wealth of meaning, that it is defined as a cancellation of the separation, and as an embodiment through sense of the logical structure of the universe. Ordinarily, and apart from fine art, according to the theory, sense conceals and distorts a rational substance that is the reality behind appearances — to which sense perception is limited. The imagination by means of art, makes a concession to sense in employing its materials, but nevertheless uses sense to suggest underlying ideal truth. Art is thus a way of having the substantial cake of reason while also enjoying the sensuous pleasure of eating it.

But, in fact, the distinction of quality as sensuous and meaning as ideational is not primary but secondary and methodological. When a situation is construed as being or as containing a problem, we set facts that are given through perception on one side and possible meanings for these facts on the other. The distinction is a necessary instrumentality of reflection. The distinction between some elements of subject-matter as rational and others as sensible is always intermediary and transitive. Its office is to lead in the end to a perceptual experience in which the distinction is overcome — in which what were once conceptions become the inherent meanings of material mediated through sense. Even scientific conceptions have to receive embodiment in sense-perception to be accepted as more than ideas.

All observed objects that are identified without reflection (although their recognition may give rise to further reflection) exhibit an integral union of sense quality and meaning in a single firm texture. We recognize with the eye the green of the sea as belonging to the sea, not to the eye, and as a different quality from the green of a leaf; and the gray of a rock as different in quality from that of the lichen growing upon it. In all objects perceived for what they are without need for reflective inquiry, the quality is what it means, namely, the object to which it belongs. Art has the faculty of enhancing and concentrating this union of quality and meaning in a way which vivifies both. Instead of canceling a separation between sense and meaning (asserted to be psychologically normal), it exemplifies in an accentuated and perfected manner the union characteristic of many other experiences through finding the exact qualitative media that fuse most completely with what is to be expressed.

[ … ]

“Revelation” in art is the quickened expansion of experience. Philosophy is said to begin in wonder and end in understanding. Art departs from what has been understood and ends in wonder. In this end, the human contribution in art is also the quickened work of nature in man.

I enjoy reading Dewey. I’m sympathetic to much of what he says, and enjoy sorting out where and why I disagree with him. If you like the above, I highly recommend the book .

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 28, 2009

The Semantics of Birdsong

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:52 am

Toto, based in Japan, is one of the biggest bathroom- and kitchen-ceramics companies in the world. It earns around ¥500 billion ($5 billion) a year, over one-third of that from lavatories and related accessories alone. It is best known for its “Washlet” range including the Neorest, which in addition to all its other functions hides odours and plays sounds like running water or birdsong to drown out embarrassing noises.

That is from an article, Flush with ambition in The Economist (Jul 23, 2009). It worries me. If these toilets catch on as they have in Japan, will future urban citizens take the sound of birdsong to mean that somebody is taking a dump? Will they be puzzled to hear the sound of toilets when deep in the forest?

Here are more details about the Washlet:

… high-tech lavatories succeeded in Japan for unique reasons. Houses are generally small and many generations live together. Bathrooms are often the only place where there is any privacy, so homeowners are willing to spend more on them. Dwellings are kept cold in winter, so a warm seat is priceless.

… Mr Harimoto also has an environmental sales pitch. The Washlet’s highly engineered tornado-style flush uses 4.8 litres of water, compared with six or more in humbler lavatories. True, high-tech lavatories are energy hogs, accounting for 4% of household energy consumption in Japan — more than clothes dryers or dishwashers. But Toto has developed a fix for that as well: its lavatories boast software that “learns” what the typical pattern of use is in each household, so it can power down during quiet periods.

There are so many things I could say …

Here and here and here are YouTube videos of the Washlet. I couldn’t find one showing the birdsong feature.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

Shadow and Light Lie Stagnant

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:39 am

… A damp, soft warmth soaks the air like a sponge; a sharp stink, heavy, rotten, forces him to hold his breath; shadow and light lie stagnant in a motionless mixture of days and nights; are these the sensations of a man who peers out beyond the human? Beyond the glass of every cage there is the world as it was before man, or as it will be, to show that the world of man is not eternal and is not unique. Is it to realize this with his own eyes that Mr. Palomar reviews these stalls where pythons sleep, boas, bamboo rattlesnakes, the tree adder of the Bermudas?

But of the worlds from which man is excluded each case is only a tiny sample, torn from a natural continuum that might also never have existed, a few cubic meters of atmosphere that elaborate devices maintain at a certain degree of temperature and humidity. Thus every sample of this antediluvian bestiary is kept alive artificially, as if it were a hypothesis of the mind, a product of the imagination, a construction of language, a paradoxical line of reasoning meant to demonstrate that the only true world is our own . . .

crocodile_leg

As if the smell of the reptiles were only now becoming unbearable, Mr. Palomar suddenly feels a desire to go out into the open air. He has to cross the great hall of the crocodiles, where there is a line of tanks separated by barriers. In the dry part beside each tank lie the crocodiles, alone or in couples, a spent color, squat, rough, horrible, heavily stretched out, flattened against the ground the full length of their long, cruel snouts, their cold bellies, their broad tails. They all seem asleep, even those whose eyes are open, or perhaps all are sleepless in a dazed desolation, even with their eyes closed. From time to time one of them stirs slowly, barely raises himself on his short legs, crawls to the edge of the tank, lets himself drop with a flat thud, raising a wave. He floats, immersed in the water, as motionless as before. Is theirs a boundless patience, or a desperation without end? What are they waiting for, or what have they given up waiting for? In what time are they immersed? In that of the species, removed from the course of the hours that race from the birth to the death of the individual? Or in the time of geological eras, which shifts continents and solidifies the crust of emerged lands? Or in the slow cooling of the rays of the sun?

— from the chapter The Order of Squamata in the book, Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino (1983)

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 27, 2009

That Which Shall Not Be Discussed

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 9:00 am

Hmmm hmmm Stuart Kauffman mmmm hmmm hmph, and hummmmm ummmm nmph.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

The Cracked Ceiling of the Word House

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:46 am

People never tire of recalling that Leonardo da Vinci advised painters who lacked inspiration when faced with nature, to contemplate with a reflective eye the crack in an old wall! For there is a map of the universe in the lines that time draws on these old walls. And each of us has seen a few lines on the ceiling that appeared to chart a new continent. A poet knows all this. But in order to describe in his own way a universe of this kind, created by chance on the confines of sketch and dream, he goes to live in it. He finds a corner where he can abide in this cracked-ceiling world.

Thus we see a poet take the hollow road of a piece of molding in order to reach his hut in the corner of a cornice. In his Poèmes à l’autre moi (Poems to my other self) Pierre Albert-Birot “espouses,” as they say, “the curve that warms.” Soon its mild warmth calls upon us to curl up under the covers.

To begin with, Albert-Birot slips into the molding:

. . . Je suis tout droit les moulures
qui suivent tout droit le plafond

(I follow the line of the moldings
which follow that of the ceiling.)

But if we “listen” to the design of things, we encounter an angle, a trap detains the dreamer:

Mais il y a des angles d’où l’on ne peut plus sortir

(But there are angles from which one cannot escape.)

… It is easy for a rhetorician to criticize a text like this. Indeed, the critical mind has every reason to reject such images, such idle musings.

First of all, because they are not “reasonable,” because we do not live in “corners of the ceiling” while lolling in a comfortable bed, because a spider’s web is not, as the poet says, drapery — and, to be more personal, because an exaggerated image is bound to seem ridiculous to a philosopher who seeks to concentrate being in its center, and finds in a center of being a sort of unity of time, place and action.

Yes, but even when the criticisms of reason, the scorn of philosophy and poetic traditions unite to turn us from the poet’s labyrinthine dreams, it remains nonetheless true that the poet has made a trap for dreamers out of his poem. As for me, I let myself be caught. I followed the molding.

[ … ]

The intellectual philosopher who wants to hold words to their precise meaning, and uses them as the countless little tools of clear thinking, is bound to be surprised by the poet’s daring. And yet a syncretism of sensitivity keeps words from crystallizing into perfect solids. Unexpected adjectives collect about the focal meaning of the noun. A new environment allows the word to enter not only into one’s thoughts, but also into one’s daydreams. Language dreams.

The critical mind can do nothing about this. For it is a poetic fact that a dreamer can write of a curve that it is warm. But does anyone think that Bergson did not exceed meaning when he attributed grace to curves and, no doubt, inflexibility to straight lines?

… No doubt it is very rash on the part of a writer to accumulate, in the final pages of a chapter, disconnected ideas, images that only live in a single detail, and convictions, however sincere, which only last for an instant. But what else can be done by a phenomenologist who wants to brave teeming imagination, and for whom, frequently, a single word is the germ of a dream? When we read the works of a great word dreamer like Michel Leiris (particularly in his Biffures), we find ourselves experiencing in words, on the inside of words, secret movements of our own. Like friendship, words sometimes swell, at the dreamer’s will, in the loop of a syllable. While in other words, everything is calm, tight. Even as sober a man as Joseph Joubert recognizes the intimate repose of words when he speaks of certain ideas rather curiously as “huts.” Words — I often imagine this — are little houses, each with its cellar and garret. Common-sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in “foreign commerce,” on the same level as the others, as the passers-by, who are never dreamers. To go upstairs in the word house, is to withdraw, step by step; while to go down to the cellar is to dream, it is losing oneself in the distant corridors of an obscure etymology, looking for treasures that cannot be found in words. To mount and descend in the words themselves — this is a poet’s life.

All of the above is from from the chapter Corners in the book The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard (1958).

I really like his phrase, “a syncretism of sensitivity keeps words from crystallizing into perfect solids.” Hopefully it will enrage Dr. C (who has, himself, shown a preference for “ladies of elastic virtue“).

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

July 26, 2009

Moral Distinctions

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:11 am

The quotes below are from the book, Shapes (from the trilogy, Nature’s Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts) by Philip Ball 2009. They are meant as follow-up to my previous post:

… organisms are not just genes and the proteins made from them. There is all kinds of other stuff in the cell: sugars, fatty acids, hormones, small inorganic molecules like oxygen and nitric oxide, salts, and minerals such as those in bone and tooth. None of these substances is encoded in genes (that is, in the structure of our DNA), and you will never guess, by looking at the genome, that they were required at all, let alone what roles they play. And yet these substances tend to be highly organized and orchestrated in their interactions and their structures at the level of the cell (and at larger scales too). Where does that structure come from? Proteins often play a role in building it, but so too do physical forces, such as surface tension, electrical attraction, fluid viscosity. Gene-hunting tells us nothing about such things.

In short, questions in biology of a ‘how?’ nature need more than genetics — and frequently more than a reductionist approach. If nature is at all economical (and there is good reason to suppose that is often the case, though not invariably so), we can expect that she will choose to create at least some complex forms not by laborious piece-by-piece construction but by harnessing some of the organizational and pattern-forming phenomena we see in the non-living world. Evolution, via genetics, can exploit, tame and tune such phenomena; but it does not necessarily generate them. If this is so, we can expect to see similarities in the forms and patterns of living and purely inorganic systems, and to be able to explain them both in the same manner.

However, Ball quickly adds:

… I should add a cautionary note …

… It is popular, in some circles to denounce the so-called reductionist science of molecular biology and imply instead that the universe is somehow imbued with a creative potential that operates in a ‘holisic’ way. The fad for the notion of ‘complexity,’ which shows that sophisticated forms and patterns may emerge spontaneously from a miasma of interactions, may sometimes veer towards a kind of neo-vitalism in the way that it invokes a cosmic creativity. Worst of all is the tendency to make moral distinctions, so that ‘holistic science’ becomes good and ‘reductionist science’ meretricious. While I applaud a perspective that broadens the horizons of ‘black-box’ biology and argues for a role of spontaneous pattern formation in the living world, there is no getting away from the fact that most of biology, particularly at the molecular level, is hideously complicated. In distinction from complex, this means that the details really do matter: leave out one part of the chain of events, and the whole thing grinds to a halt. In such cases, one gains rather than loses understanding by turning up the magnifying power of the microscope. Until we get reductionistic about, say, the body’s immune response, we won’t know much about it, let alone develop the potential to tackle pathological dysfunctions such as AIDS. A reductionist view won’t necessarily provide an explanation of how it works, but without it we might not know quite what needs to be explained. Reductionism can be aesthetically unattractive, I know, but it is wonderfully useful.

I agree with his last bit (you may be surprised to hear), but I think he is doing what he claims to be warning against; he is strongly implying that he “makes a moral distinction” against the idea of ‘holistict science’ in general and complexity in particular (by italicizing and using single quotes around it). Both holistic and reductionist science are valuable and should be approached without prejudice.

I hope that I have not given anybody the impression that I ever “veer towards a kind of neo-vitalism.” Veering in general is to be discouraged (except on Saturdays and when discussing boogers or bananas or anything else that I feel like veering toward).

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

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