Quote of the Week Selections, Fourth Quarter, 2002
prior quotes

Quote #262:
Nothing is Learned

Robert Grudin , Time and the Art of Living, p.110, Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

Few fallacies are more dangerous or easier to fall into than that by which, having read a given book, we assume that we will continue to know its contents permanently or, having mastered a discipline in the past, we assume that we control it in the present. Philosophically speaking, "to learn" is a verb with no legitimate past tense.

Quote #261:
This Book Is Not A Tree

William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, pp. 5-6, North Point Press, 2002.

This book is not a tree.

It is printed on a synthetic "paper" and bound into a book format developed by innovative book packager Charles Melcher or Melcher Media. Unlike the paper with which we are familiar with, it does not use any wood pulp or cotton fiber but is made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers. This material is not only water proof, extremely durable, and (in many localities) recyclable by conventional means, it is also the prototype for the book as a "technical nutrient", that is, as a product that can be broken down and circulated indefinitely in industrial cycles -- made and remade as "paper" or other products.

The tree, among the finest of nature's creations, plays a crucial and multifaceted role in our interdependent ecosystem. As such, it has been an important model and metaphor for our thinking, as you will discover. But also as such, it is not a fitting resource to use in producing so humble and transient a substance as paper. The use of an alternative material expresses our intention to evolve away from the use of wood fibers for paper as we seek more effective solutions. It represents one step toward a radically different approach to designing and producing the objects we use and enjoy, an emerging movement we see as the next industrial revolution. This revolution is founded on nature's surprisingly effective design principles, on human creativity and prosperity, and on respect, fair play, and good will. It has the power to transform both industry and environmentalism as we know them.

Quote #260:
Phenomenal Hierarchies

Philip Ball, Stories of the Invisible; A Guided Tour of Molecules, pp. 41 - 42, Oxford Press, 2001.

It seems possible that life—which we might loosely define as an organism that can reproduce, and respond to and extract sustenance from its environment—may be nothing but molecules and their relationships. Indeed, this seems extremely likely. It need not be disappointing; quite the contrary, it would be remarkable. That a conspiracy of molecules might have created King Lear is a possibility that makes the world seem an enchanted place.

I do not think it likely, however, that the human mind (let alone the wonders it concocts) will ever be explained in molecular terms, any more than Lear is explained by the alphabet. Most scientists do not believe so either. Phenomena are hierarchical: all things cannot be understood by considering only what transpires on a single rung. No matter how well I understand the way a transistor works, I will not be able to deduce from this knowledge why my computer crashes. If I sow seeds that fail to grow, I will do better to begin by thinking about the nutrient content, humidity, and temperature of my soil that by performing a genetic analysis of the seeds. Much of the skill in doing science resides in knowing where in the hierarchy you are looking—and, as a consequence, what is relevant and what is not.


© MG Taylor Corporation, 1995 - 2002

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