by National Medal of Science winner Lynn Margulis
Originally published in the Rock Creek Free Press

Lynn Margulis endorsed the work of David Ray Griffin, the unofficial “Dean of 9/11 Studies”

I comment here on the nanotechnology aspect of Jerry Mazza’s masterful review (Rock Creek Free Press, January 2010, page 6) of David Ray Griffin’s extraordinary 2009 book, The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report about 9/11 is Unscientific and False.

By the time we (Dorion Sagan – my eldest son and Sciencewriters partner – and I) met David Griffin in 2003 in his native habitat at the Center for Process Studies (which is on the campus of the Claremont School of Theology in southern California), he had written over two dozen books, none of which I had ever read or even heard of. We immensely enjoyed a three-day scientific-philosophical meeting on the Darwinian-evolutionary view of life that had been organized by Griffin’s sage mentor, the sweet-tempered but razor sharp, Jimmy Carter-sounding, octogenarian professor emeritus and director, John B. Cobb, Jr. The results of this fascinating meeting have since been published (Cobb, ed. 2008).

At that meeting, Griffin’s talk was sober, academic, competent, scholarly – and entirely new to me: Christian theology in a much broader philosophical context than any to which I had ever been exposed. The science-friendly philosophical outlook Griffin espoused apparently was developed by Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947), the English mathematician-philosopher who became a Harvard professor, or by Cobb. Why would I have known anything about this theological-philosophical work? My own expertise after all is in protoctist and organellar genetics. With close colleagues I reconstruct the origin and evolution of nucleated cells in the Proterozoic Eon. Where I understood DRG’s talk at all, he made clear to me his honesty. Truth, especially scientifically/empirically established truth, seemed intrinsic to his Christianity. As a typical agnostic scientist overtly critical of organized, and even disorganized, religion, I was surprised by the scientific commitment to approaching empirical truth in a religious context rather than the usual authority-pleasing consensus.

Griffin went on to elaborate that, although as a Whiteheadian he embraces the methods and results of science, he is critical of the entire international scientific enterprise as generally practiced today. Not only do scientists extrapolate their intrinsically specialized empirical knowledge into intellectual territory where it does not belong, but they don’t heed Whitehead’s recognition that, after all, scientists –like all people – have an emotional life and an inner spirit. The acclaimed “objectivity of science,” on close scholarly inspection (by, say, Cobb, Griffin and other Whiteheadians), often translates into tribalism, jingoism, naiveté, denial of obvious truths, uncritical service to The State, and other forms of profoundly dangerous ignorance. Scientists, as do all groups of people, share unstated philosophical assumptions. For example, they not only have faith in the consistency and “knowability” of the real world, but they often assume that the concrete particulars of the world are adequately described by the abstractions that have proved useful for limited purposes in their own disciplines – an assumption that Whitehead called the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness.”

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