Monday, January 02, 2006

"Dangerous Questions" from Edge

That would be Edge, not The Edge. I wouldn't want to screw up anything trivial talking about this outfit. There was so much intelligence there that my monitor began to tremble and there was a little trail of white smoke coming fom the CPU while I was visiting. Gene Expressions points to an annual inquiry posed at Edge called "Dangerous Questions." Last years question was: "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" This year's question is

The Edge Annual Question — 2006


The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?

If you are in a hurry, skip it. If not, amble on over to Edge and learn about what they call The Third Culture. Here I learned all I ever needed to know about intellectuals. And here I discovered this modest non-tentative statement...

The role of the intellectual includes communicating. Intellectuals are not just people who know things but people who shape the thoughts of their generation. An intellectual is a synthesizer, a publicist, a communicator. In his 1987 book The Last Intellectuals, the cultural historian Russell Jacoby bemoaned the passing of a generation of public thinkers and their replacement by bloodless academicians. He was right, but also wrong. The third-culture thinkers are the new public intellectuals.

America now is the intellectual seedbed for Europe and Asia. This trend started with the prewar emigration of Albert Einstein and other European scientists and was further fueled by the post- Sputnik boom in scientific education in our universities. The emergence of the third culture introduces new modes of intellectual discourse and reaffirms the preeminence of America in the realm of important ideas. Throughout history, intellectual life has been marked by the fact that only a small number of people have done the serious thinking for everybody else. What we are witnessing is a passing of the torch from one group of thinkers, the traditional literary intellectuals, to a new group, the intellectuals of the emerging third culture.

If I run out af anything to think about, I now have a place to visit that will get me back on the tracks.

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