Before I start let me say a few words of caution. Firstly, I’m not in any way qualified to critic anyone on philosophical arguments. This means that if you’re undecided about this matter I would not recommend you seek enlightenment in this post – for the same reason as to why I wouldn’t recommend you read a lay person’s essay on galaxy evolution in order to decide between hierarchical and monolithic collapse theories . I’m also not here to defend Sam Harris‘ views in light of other people’s criticisms – you should read those posts for that, plus Sam Harris’ reply. I’m writing this because I saw myself profoundly changing my mind about something that is important to me, and publicly exposing an argument is still the best way to find flaws in it. A test, if you will. To put it in other words, I’m writing this for my own benefit, not anyone else’s.
I generally have little time to indulge too much in learning things which are not work related. I spend a lot of time not working (well, just enough!), but I spend only a small fraction of that time intellectually engaged in new ideas. This is not necessarily something I’m sad about – note that I’m excluding music, fiction, friends and general travel from this. That’s what takes up most of my free time – but I do find it harder and harder to sit down and actively learn. Again, note that I spend a lot of time reading about things and consuming information, but I’m generally happy to take other people’s opinions on most issues. Sure, I make an educated guess on who to trust (and that on itself takes some effort), but by large I don’t have the time to do the necessary research to (semi-)seriously challenge many of these opinions. It’s worth making the distinction between active and passive learning and, outside of work, my learning is decidedly dominated by the latter.
As most of you know, I’ve been smitten with Professor Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Solar System. This is hardly a surprise for those who know me (all of you I presume) – Brian Cox is a great communicator, unashamedly passionate about science and the physical world, the show is about some of my favourite things in life and the photography is spot on from top to bottom. So of course I like it. But more than liking it (loving it!), I feel the need to point out just how much credit Brian Cox deserves for this, and just how many miles away this show is from anything else on TV right now.
This became even more desperately apparent after watching Horizon’s take on Cosmology last night. I’ve learnt to lower my expectations on Horizon shows, but I hadn’t seen an episode for a while. Cosmology is one of my favourite things in life (also my job – aren’t I lucky?), a lot of people I respect were on this show, and the BBC does have a tendency for good photography so of course I was going to like it. Right? Wrong.