Archive - Dec 3, 2012

Date

#visionforum - Finding My Religion - Picasso's Theory of Relativity

Saturday evening, Kim and I went to the Connecticut Forum discussion, Vision and Brilliance which featured Neil deGrasse Tyson, Neri Oxman and Neil Gaiman. The event was sold out; packed with geeks that most likely rarely make it to the Bushnell. I must admit that the only other time I've been to the Bushnell as to see Blue Man Group a couple years ago.

Others have written about what a great event it was, so I'm going to share a few of my thoughts about specific parts of the content. In the slides before the event started, it mentioned that the hashtag for the event was #visionforum. Yet then they played the standard announcement at the beginning of the events at the Bushnell about turning off all electrical devices and not taking photos. A lot of people had their cellphones out as the event started, but the tweeting subsided pretty quickly. Unfortunately, but my phone and Kim's were low on battery power and I didn't get to tweet as much as I would have liked.

John Dankowsky started off with a standard introductory question and the panelists answered the way I had already heard them speak in YouTube videos. Then he moved on to a question about what is vision and brilliance? Where does it come from. The three panelists all seemed to agree and give the same answer in slightly different ways. Vision and brilliance comes from doing what you love. From having a job you don't want to take a vacation from. Tie to that was an important aspect of keeping at your passion, even though others might not understand what you are talking about.

This played out particularly notably between Neri Oxman and Neil Gaiman. Oxman went off on topics about 3D and 4D printing; printing cartilage, printing DNA, and time after time, Gaiman seemed to say, that gives me a great idea for another story. Picasso's theory of relativity, a house seed, and several other ideas.

Oxman had talked about Cubism and the Theory of Relativity emerging at about the same time and how closely related they were in her mind. They were both about taking observations and trying to make sense of them. They both built upon the what was known at the time. It led to some interesting talks about intelligence. Intelligence, at least as it is measured by humans is about learning from others, from not having to rediscover tools or fire in each new generation. I could almost hear President Obama paraphrased into, "You didn't discover that by yourself." I could imagine some conservatives writhing at the idea about how connected and dependent we really are on one another.

After the break, there was a discussion about science and religion. It seemed to fall back on what I believe is a misguided false dichotomy between religion and science. The discussion drifted into the idea of "God of the Gaps", God, described in terms of what science can't explain. I got tired of that discussion over three decades ago in a science and religion philosophy class in college. Tyson spoke favorably about Jefferson's Bible, where Jefferson left out the miraculous and supernatural stuff.

Yet this struck me as anti-science, a sort of science of the gaps. Science is about observing, forming hypotheses and testing them. It is not about discarding observations that contradict current scientific theories. It seemed that Oxman managed to capture the spiritual aspect much more wisely, with an ability to appreciate the beauty of both arts and sciences.

Recently, there was an interview on NPR about a new book about prayer, which broke prayer down to three key forms: Help, Thanks, and Wow. I thought the author was brilliant. We all pray those three prayers in different ways, and Wow is a special place where science, arts, and religion can all meet. It also sums up, fairly nicely, the response to many great ideas that were shared at CT Forum's panel discussion Vision and Brilliance.

The tweeting continued until Sunday, with people talking about another CT Forum nerdfest; perhaps making it an annual event. I know that I have plenty more to write about the event, but I wanted to get these initial thoughts down before the new week started.

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