The 5th Annual Question
January 18, 2002 10:34 AM   Subscribe

The 5th Annual Question is: What is your question? Read answers from Brian Greene, Brian Eno, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Howard Gardner, Daniel Dennett, and, yes, Alan Alda (and many others).
posted by mattpfeff (13 comments total)
If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it do you really care? And if someone hears it, do you still not care? And if it doesn't fall do you care? Is there anything you care about other than getting a good parking space at a ball park?
posted by Postroad at 11:33 AM on January 18, 2002

Wow, two Daniel Dennett posts in the same day.
posted by mrbula at 11:40 AM on January 18, 2002

OMG - not THE Alan Alda...?!?!
posted by davidmsc at 11:46 AM on January 18, 2002

The only question I could take seriously was Brian Eno's "why do we decorate?"

I mean, that's a good question.
posted by swift at 11:46 AM on January 18, 2002

Do we discover reality or do we create it? Are we simply learning more about our minds and how they work? Is the search for truth merely a quest for aesthetics?

Everytime we think we have caught nature in a contradiction it seems to find an elegant way out of it. Sometimes it seems, eerily, as if there is someone there making up the answers and the rules almost spontaneously.

Let me ask a meta-question. Can we think of possible answers to all of these questions that we would find satisfactory?
posted by vacapinta at 11:47 AM on January 18, 2002

While I have found previous EDGE questions features fascinating, this one was way too general. All it does is bring out a fragmented group of individual obsessions, a few of them interesting, but most of them skippable. It would have been much better if EDGE has asked all of these great minds something a little more specific, like "Who wrote the book of love?" or "Who put the bomp in the bomp-shu-bomp-shu-bomp," or ANYTHING that would make them look up from their navels for a moment.
posted by Faze at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2002

Yes. THAT Alan Alda. "I'm not a particularly intelligent person, but I play one on TV."
posted by Faze at 12:19 PM on January 18, 2002

Thanks very much for the link: I remember adoring reading last year's Question results, and I think it was one of the most interesting websites I visited all of last year. Here, again, we find a cavalcade of intelligent, pertinent, surprising questions.

Particularly notable to me was John Horgan's question about the so-called Michael Persinger 'God machine'. This device (which I first read about in Wired) emits electromagnetic fields that mess with your brain in a manner that causes mystical experiences of enlightenment or visitation. It's one of those inventions I haven't really stopped thinking about since my initial reading... its potential implications and effects are astonishing.
posted by Marquis at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2002

I loved this link! I think it's way more interesting (and Mr. Alda way smarter -- did you read his full question?) than some of ya.

My question -- which at least portions of many of their questions approximate -- is, "Where do we get our sense of morality from? And who says your morality should inform my own?" Here's another way of asking it that may hit closer to home: "What limitations, if any, are placed upon the progressive political ideal of tolerance?" Taken to an extreme, one of the things I'm getting at is, why do we rotely condemn murder and other 'wrongs' that society has labeled 'morally bankrupt'? Why do we dogmatically accept conventional notions of 'right' and 'wrong', instead of skeptically scrutinizing them, with a willingness to abandon them as outmoded relics, if on every other matter we pride ourselves on jettisoning the status quo to embrace 'newer, better' ways of understanding and doing things?

Am I advocating rejecting traditionally held notions of 'right' and 'wrong'? (e.g., Do I think what happened on September 11th is morally neutral?) A resounding 'no'. But why are wired that way, and isn't it entirely possible that our 'morality' could eventually evolve, over the millennia, into something entirely dissimilar from what it is now? (i.e., as microorganisms, presumably, we battled to the death against competing microorganisms without moral concern; who's to say that, along with consciousness, the moral sense we've attained today isn't merely temporal, likely to be replaced with some higher sense of being in generations hence?)

I think another hit off the bong is in order. (May I throw that into the ring as another potential MeFi tagline?)
posted by verdezza at 2:00 PM on January 18, 2002

> "What limitations, if any, are placed upon the
> progressive political ideal of tolerance?"

The idea of tolerance implodes when one is asked to tolerate intolerance. No one wants to do that; but equally no one is able to define the point at which a person passes from what he must tolerate, in order to be considered tolerant, to what he need not tolerate. No one has been able to say where we pass from "You and I disagree on a question of tolerance, and I'm cool with that" to "You're intolerant and I don't like you."

In fact, judging by the behavior of persons for whom tolerance is an ego ideal, the latter position tends to absorb the former completely: if you aren't broadminded enough to agree with me you must be an intolerant bastard, and since I don't have to tolerate intolerance I don't have to tolerate you.
posted by jfuller at 2:44 PM on January 18, 2002

swift, i think the better question is, "once we've decorated, why do we redecorate?"
posted by jellybuzz at 3:56 PM on January 18, 2002

Wow, two Daniel Dennett posts in the same day.

"I've got to admit it's getting better; it's getting better every time"...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:02 PM on January 18, 2002

"Where are my keys?"
posted by Dan Brilliant at 5:17 AM on January 20, 2002

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