. . . and more in this new Science Times article on the all too human proclivity for finding patterns, particularly faces, in found objects.
Science: February 2007 Archives
Wanna impress your friends with your knowledge of linguistic arcana? Tell them you, unlike the King James Bible translators, recognize that "yom" in context here is not "day," but an archaic cognate of the Akkadian umu, or "storm."
Just like Campus Crusade quotes Ugaritic in The Four Spiritual Laws! Anyway, from ancient Akkadian I went on to illustrate the similarity between turbulence topology and spiral galaxies, with a link to a fun fractal site called Fractaluniverse dot org.
Or at least I thought it was fun. A couple days ago I received the following email:
My website is not about god. Please remove your link to it at your soonest convenience.
Colin Hill, scientist
Which got me thinking about the current conflict between science and religion.
As long-time readers of this site have no doubt observed, I view the hostile relations between the two as counterproductive. The current assault on scientific insight by the devout misses the deep resonance between religious concepts and complex patterns evident in nature--a resonance that modern science can help us appreciate more now than ever before. Even if one chooses not to embrace religious faith--and I'm not goint to tip my hand either way--that people express their perceptions in religious metaphors is an observable phenomenon worthy of, yes, scientific inquiry.
Exhibit A: the old Bible frontispiece pictured here. The image is a scan from that notorious book of religious proselytization, The Fractal Geometry of Nature by Benoit Mandelbrot, the scientist who coined the term "fractal" and whose writings on turbulence underlay my hurricane post. If Benoit Mandelbrot is comfortable observing the connections between fractal and religious imagery, why not the Blingdom of God?
And I'm not alone. Arthur C. Clarke's book and documentary The Colours of Infinity describes how some people have come to refer to the Mandelbrot set as "the thumbprint of god," while people have been using Mandelbrot iterations to create Buddhabrots for well over a decade. The link between fractals and religious metaphore is so pervasive, in fact, that it inspired a successful April Fools hoax, "The Mandelbrot Monk," which purported to summarize a Harvard article on how a 13th century monk plotted the Mandelbrot set centuries before Mandelbrot himself.
In the spirit of doing unto others--a good rule no matter one's personal beliefs--I guess I'll remove the link to Mr. Hill's site. But if science is going to succeed in winning over the devout, it would do better not to mimic the obscurantist blindness we should all be striving to transcend.