The Contingent Nature of Reality

To approach and understand any reality involves balancing what is known, unknown, and perhaps unknowable, a task that we undertake through both reason and personal myths or explanatory narratives. Logos (reason) and mythos (myths) could thus be said to define two different aspects of the world and our experience within it: the knowable and the unknowable. Both comprise tools that offer explanatory methods with which to better understand and interpret the world and its phenomena as explananda.

To understand the nature of the phenomena and realities of our universe—including those that we are unable to physically study due to the limitations of our senses and the lack of adequate instrumentation—science has gradually adopted a rational, objective, and systematic methodology. When we refer to science as a monolithic discipline, we are in fact referring to the objective and systematic methods employed by science to understand and explain both the perceptible and imperceptible events of nature.

A survey of the history of our scientific progress provides a perfect window into the indispensable role that the use of models has played in advancing our knowledge. In many ways, these models have provided the test bed through which mythos and logos become reciprocal and complementary links in our chains of understanding. Such models employ and rely upon the available technology to develop, test, and utilize explanatory narratives, and in so doing shape our mythos through the most current implements of logos.

When confronted with the underlying nature of any reality, including perennial questions about the origin and purpose of our existence, we thus find it necessary to engage both logos and mythos to intuit the answers that we seek. For while myths provide a steppingstone for the advancement of rationality, the ongoing discovery of new evidence allows us to continually adapt and refine the mythic with the tools of logic. Some have argued that the ultimate bridge between these seemingly diametrical realms is "practice," which provides the observer with the necessary level of insight and understanding about the inherently contingent nature of the realities that one perceives.

Featured Speakers

Merlin W. Donald, PhD, F.R.S.C., Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology & Faculty of Education, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario.

James Giordano, PhD, Director, Center for Neurotechnology Studies; Senior Research Associate, Wellcome Centre for Neuroethics, Oxford University.

J.A. Scott Kelso, PhD, Glenwood and Martha Creech Chair in Science; Professor of Complex Systems and Brain Sciences, Florida Atlantic University.

Peter A. Moskovitz, MD, Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic and Neurological Surgery, George Washington University Medical Center, Washington DC.


Time:  6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Date:  Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Location: The New York Academy of Sciences
              7 World Trade Center
              250 Greenwich Street, 40th Floor
              New York, NY 10007
Tickets: $20.00 (Refreshments Served)

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2010 Symposia Series

Shifting Realities: Myths, Models & Morality
The Contingent Nature of Reality
May 12, 2010
The New York Academy of Sciences
Life, Death & the Pursuit of Morality
June 22, 2010
The New York Academy of Sciences

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