I recently came across an analogy found in historian William Irwin Thompson’s 1974 book Passages About Earth: An Exploration of the New Planetary Culture. (Page 119). This struck me as being particularly relevant to the world view many of us have in the second decade of the 21st century. It is the belief that answers to the really Big Questions can be found by simply observing the information that is given to us from our empirical observations of the world that surrounds us. Indeed Thompson’s analogy really reminds me of the position taken by many materialist-reductionists when faced with empirical information that doesn’t fit into the present paradigm:
“Imagine insects with a life span of two weeks, and then imagine further that they are trying to build up a science about the nature of time and history. Clearly, they cannot build a model on the basis of a few days in summer. So let us endow them with a language and a culture through which they can pass on their knowledge to future generations. Summer passes, then autumn; finally it is winter. The winter insects are a whole new breed, and they perfect a new and revolutionary science on the basis of the ‘hard facts’ of their perceptions of snow. As for the myths and legends of summer: certainly the intelligent insects are not going to believe the superstitions of their primitive ancestors.”
We can all learn much from this simple tale …..