I never did High School biology. The reason for my
reticence in the area, other than a desire to learn Chemistry, was that I hated the very idea of dissection. Something wells up in me when I’m called on to take the stuff that should be inside something into the outside, separating things from the living thing that was once there.
Of course, dissection is merely a physical application of the modes of learning we often deal with. The human brain can only understand so much at once and so needs to be given knowledge in smaller, bite sized, pieces, which we then fit into our general working model of reality, placing the new bits of knowledge into a much larger edifice we have been building (for good or ill) for the entirety of our lives.
My unwillingness to dissect living things may have provided a useful insight, however. As with physical analysis, there are types of deconstructive analysis when it comes to ideas that may give us good ideas, but in so doing can kill the thing we’re analyzing (sure that frog heart looks cool, but it isn’t really functioning as a heart anymore, nor can it, as there is now nothing for it to be the heart of). Deconstruction of an edifice can help us to learn useful things about the parts of the edifice and even how the parts work together, but the result can be that we don’t have a working system of which the constituent parts were once functioning as a part of, and we may have lost something in the deconstruction.
I start this week with a post like this because many of the odd ideas I want to throw out for consideration of erstwhile passers-by of my little corner of the interwebs find much of their Genesis in this observation:
Some things can be fruitfully analyzed by taking them apart and looking at the pieces, but living things get killed that way.
I think this is true when it comes to the class of beliefs that are philosophically called “properly basic”, it is the reason that conversations with too many leading questions can be dangerous, to the asker, the answerer, and our society in general. It is even one of the reasons that I think we Christians in democratic nations may have gone astray in the way we discuss and think about politics. In each case, there is (something analagous to) a living thing; a worldview, a society, a belief structure, or a body politic, that in the process of analysis is murdered by the means by which we search for understanding of them.
This isn’t to say it’s bad to seek knowledge of the things in question. More what I’m saying is that we need to be careful when analyzing, and especially removing things from any of these things without understanding first the role those things we’ve analyzed are playing, and perhaps exploring whether or not they should be removed, or if there is a valid replacement that can allow the frog to keep living, since we will have worldviews, belief structures, societies and bodies politic, and we need them to either survive or have valid workable replacements before we destroy the ones we have.
Analysis is useful for understanding, but its only one facet of understanding.