week 5 \ midterm blog-a-thon \ ben marafino

Artists should not be content with simply assuaging their creative drives – they should also aim for their art to also educate or inform about some greater societal issue. In  some cases, they may even be the canary in the coal mine – art, in all its forms, has an unique ability to inspire, to draw, and also to hold, one’s attention, and above all, to challenge. In an era dominated by rapidly changes in technology, culture, and society, as we have seen these past few weeks, it can become rather easy to become lost in it all, and to lose sight of the major issues facing humanity today. Most of what we’ve got to discuss over the last few weeks have been very similar – from the soullessness and depersonalization of urban-industrial society to the ethical issues posed by advances in medicine and biotechnology.

Art, however, can do much more than simply inform. In conjunction with the right kind of information, it can also educate. However, this proves contingent on its tone of presentation; art should not pontificate on how we ought to live and how to think about things. But it certainly should help to fulfill humanity’s obligation to itself – to harness the fullest potential of its collective intellect and to focus our attention on critical issues that truly merit it.  In this regard, my project addresses what I view as large deficits in public awareness of various issues where there really should be none to begin with, particularly about evolution.  To think that a significant majority of the population may not accept or even entertain evolution as a credible explanation of common human origins is, at best, alarming. For certain, it is entirely unacceptable in a world where scientific literacy is growing more important by the day, and that trend has shown no signs of letting up.

Many of the arguments against evolution are borne out of a common ignorance that presupposes that metaphysical, spiritual, and theological arguments hold the high ground – whatever it may be – over human reason. Humans have been able to construct systems that begin from simple initial conditions and gradually evolve into more complex and stable states. The whole process resembles evolution throughout – but the building blocks are even simpler than what nature has got to work with, and depending upon your interpretation of it, there’s no natural selection to worry about. In my project, I hope to have achieved some method of presenting this sort of semi-evolution in a manner that makes it more accessible to the public at large. It certainly is more aesthetically pleasing, and if you will, “grander,” than viewing the same thing on a dim computer screen. Therein lies the role of art – to make what might not have been previously, more palatable, digestible (insert your choice of word here) to the hoi polloi, as it were. This is not to suggest that people are in some way intellectually vapid, only that they have got a limited amount of time to educate themselves about issues – so why not make these sorts of presentations as eye-catching as possible?

 

 

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