Part Five: Communicating a Scientific Model
Professor Alfred de Grazia, New York University
Spring Semester, 1976
Prerequistites: A Bachelor's Degree.
(For undergraduates permission of the instructor or advisor is required. Call 598-3277.)
The course is organized around a central concept, "Revolutionary Primevalogy," by which is meant that drastic natural changes (disasters) have occurred in 14,000 years (roughly the Holocene period) and produced a self-developing homo sapiens whose very mind and all its works have been causally and environmentally conditioned by those changes.
Theories and evidence are drawn from various fields of the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. Specifically, political institutions and behavior are treated as relatives and adjuncts of human nature, behavior, and culture in general. "Enlightenment" over the ages has been almost entirely a burial and masking of symptoms; the basic problems of primeval mankind still rest with us and radical alternatives need to be searched out if those are not to determine the human future.
Primevalogy is a most difficult and complex field, both because of the clash of fundamental theories (religious-scientific, evolutionary-revolutionary), and because of the scarcity and ambiguity of data. Indeed the field hovers on the edge of being a non-field or anti-field. Sometimes one wonders: "If the events it deals with are provable, then the field cannot exist." This paradox is analogous to certain new problems of theoretical physics, where phenomena are so antitemporal or micro-temporal or spatially contradictory that to observe them as occurring seems to be a proof that they cannot occur.
The approach, nevertheless, is conventionally scientific, even though it opposes conventional science and orthodoxy. We are not dealing with ghosts or creatures from outer space. Nor do we prove the existence of God. We are simply doing the best that we can with whatever the pragmatic and operational modern scientific tools and works afford us.
Each session will be divided into two parts. From 6: 00 to 6: 50 p. m., the lecture will present a straightforward statement of the theory of revolutionary primevalogy. Following a brief intermission, the instructor will take up and assess objections to the theory as presented; criticism and discussion by class members will follow and will terminate the session at 7: 50 p. m. Since time may not permit all to participate who wish to do so, written comments and questions for written or oral reply may be submitted.
Towards the conclusion of the first session, members of the class will be asked to write a note to the instructor on their background and preferences for areas into which they might wish to delve when writing a paper for the course. Undergraduates may contribute a paper as well. The instructor will then, later on, make suggestions concerning possible topics. The final examination will consist of brief essays upon several of a list of questions that will be distributed well in advance.
Calendar of Lectures (Wednesdays, 6: 00 to 8: 00 P. M.)
(A proposed seminar of 1982) Professor Alfred de Grazia New York University
A. The ascribed and actual origins of all major religions in catastrophes: Cases: Mosaism, Mazdaism, Greco -- Romanism, Mesoamericanism, Hinduism.
B. The number and kinds of catastrophes claimed by religion.
A. The conversion of legendary experiences into forms of religious practices.
B. Cross-cultural identification of the principal deities and their traits.
A. The functions of catastrophic ideas in religion.
B. The sublimation of catastrophic religion in philosophy, ancient and modern.
C. Attempts to free religion and philosophy from catastrophe.
A. Dominance of catastrophism in early geology.
B. The uniformitarian reconstruction: gradualism and terrestrial isolationism.
A. Science fiction
B. The mass media
A. Problems of natural science models clashing with unconforming natural history
B. Evolution of Quantavolution: issues in the biological sciences
A. Catastrophism in contemporary religion
B. Psychological therapy and the catastrophic mentality
C. Cosmic and political catastrophism: the meaning of nuclear war
(Keyed to outline and fully cited in the master bibliography provided each member of the Seminar)
All works cited as the specific background of the seminar meetings will be available on Reserve. In some instances, purchase of the materials is possible: in other instances, duplication of the materials has to be arranged. Although it is expected that the instructor will be able to convey his own research in the course of the meetings, copies of his relevant works will also be available on loan; these include in published or Xeroxed form: Chaos and Creation: Quantavolution in the Natural and Human Science; Homo Schizo (in two volumes): The Origins of Man and Culture and Human Nature and Behavior; Solaria Binaria (with Earl R. Milton); Moses and the Management of Exodus; The Disastrous Love Affair of Moon and Mars (in Homer); The Lately Tortured Earth (Quantavolution in the Earth Sciences). In addition, members of the seminar will be Provided with a supplemental Bibliography of several hundred related items. They can expect to read at least 350 pages a week, apart from the reading they require for their research paper.
Each participant will be expected to write a brief, compact research paper along the lines of an article in Nature magazine. Examples of acceptable topics might be: "The Present State of Theory on the Origins of Tektites," "Astronomical Orientation of Towns, Temples, and Carvings in Prehistoric Meso-America;" "Origins and Decay of the Earth's Magnetic Field;" "A Possible Reconciliation of Virgil's Trojan Legend and the Historical Founding of Rome;" "Electrical Phenomena Depicted in the Rig Veda;" "Was Australopithecus Human?" "Popular Opinion Respecting the Historicity of Catastrophes;" "Sources of Catastrophic Expectations in Certain Human Subjects;" "Statistical Frequency of Catastrophe-relevant Literature, 1900- 1982, in Nature and Science magazines;" "Creation-time according to various Religions, Sects, and Writers;" "The Confirmation (Disproof) of Schaeffer's Theory of General Periodic Bronze Age Disasters in the Near East in the Light of Excavations since 1945;" "The categorizing of Donnelly's Ragnarok in the scientific and Popular Press, 1883 to 1890 in America and England;" "Current Astronomical opinion on the Fixity of Planetary Motions;" "Assessments of the Validity of Potassium40 - Argon40 Radiochronometry;" "Migrating Eels and Continental Drift;" etc. Each Participant will present a copy of his paper to all other members of the seminar. Depending upon their quality, and granted the need for this approach felt in various quarters, the papers may be published in a suitable format.