Jason Rosenhouse wrote "Replying to Knop" and asked:
...someone will have to explain to me Knop's point. He writes that the creation and appreciation of art is not science. Indeed it isn't. It also is not knowledge. What is it, exactly, that I can be said to know as the result of pondering great works of art?
This what Rob Knop wrote:
Consider, for example, art. Yes, there is science in understanding how materials combine to make sculptures, or how pigments combine to make colors. Yes, there is science in understanding what it is about human cognition and/or sociological predisposition that leads people to find some kind of art more pleasing than another. But the art itself-- the creation of it, the appreciation of it, and the understanding of it's meaning for what it is itself-- that is not science. That can be very creative, it can be very deep, it can require tremendous intelligence, and it can involve scholarship... but it's not science. This is what people are talking about when they talk about “other ways of knowing” besides just knowing the empirical results of scientific experiments and the additional predictions of theories supported by those experiments.
Ever see the movie "Harvey," Jason? It's one of Jimmy Stewart's best performances and one of my favorite movies, right up there with "It's a Wonderful Life." (Okay, it's no "Clockwork Orange" but it's a good example of its type.) I think there is a kind of knowledge that can be gained from that movie, any movie, and it's not science and it is knowledge.
Jimmy Stewart played Elwood P. Dowd, a middle-aged eccentric bachelor living in a small Midwestern town. He doesn't have a job and he lives on his deceased father's and his sister's money. He's a great guy, the kindest, friendliest man in the town and he's got a warm smile for everyone he meets. He is well known and well liked and he is seen around town a lot, the library, the market, the barbershop. However, he's an embarrassment to his socially prominent sister, Veta Louise, and his niece, Myrtle Mae. Elwood's "eccentricities" render the ladies "socially questionable." So, they make arrangements to have Elwood committed.
Elwood, you see, has an invisible friend, a six-foot rabbit named Harvey. Harvey goes everywhere with Elwood and is, among other things, everything you want a friend to be; intelligent, kind, truthful, a clever conversationalist, always willing to listen and full of good advice. Elwood, as the cliche goes, doesn't suffer from insanity, he enjoys every minute of it.
What you can learn from that movie about Rob Knop and your question is that Elwood is like Rob Knop. It's a parable in the "Gospel of Harvey." Rob too is an embarrassment to the other science bloggers because of his religious "eccentricities."
Sometimes Elwood can get a little irritated with his sister, and other people, when they are bumping into Harvey or sitting on the same bar stool. They just ignore Harvey altogether, like he wasn't really there and hard for Elwood to understand at first. He's there, right in front of their faces, so rude. They just won't look at him. How can you fail to see a six-foot tall white rabbit? Other times Elwood can tell you're pretending to see Harvey and trying to fool him and he almost admits he knows that other people can't see Harvey. Elwood can handle reality but only in small doses.
And so, we see too that Rob can get a little irritated with ads on science blogs and other bloggers who don't know how to avoid stepping on his god's toes.
One of Elwood's favorite places is the town bar. Elwood likes a little drink now and then. When telling us about what Harvey and himself do with their time, Elwood says, I paraphrase:
We sit in the bar, have a drink or two, and very soon the faces of the other people turn towards me and they smile . . . We came as strangers -- soon we have friends. They come over. They sit with us. They drink with us. They talk to us. They tell us about the great big terrible things they've done and the great big wonderful things they're going to do. Their hopes, their regrets. Their loves, their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. Then I introduce them to Harvey, and he's bigger and grander than anything they can offer me. When they leave, they leave impressed.
A lot of people feel the same way about Jesus:
"And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am his own.
And the joy we share
as we tarry there
few others have ever known."
So, seeing Jesus may not differ much from the charming, humorous, harmless dementia of an aging alcoholic. Now, see what you're learning?
On the way to the asylum Elwood wanders off and Veta Louise is committed by mistake before anyone notices the mix-up. The asylum doctors aren't all that quick witted, you know scientists. Psychology is often the object of a disdain in movies. It's always the cold, clinical voice of modern science, droning at us to straighten up and get in line while missing the point of what makes life worth living. Psychology is just trying to break the beauty and intricate design behind the human brain, the choices we make with it, and the personalities it forms into a mass of electrochemical impulses popping in our synapses which we have no real control over.
Rob and Elwood are at war with that and as Elwood says to his shrink; “Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.”
You guys want to return Rob to reality, even if reality is the last thing he needs, same as Elwood. As Elwood is about to receive his treatment, another character observes, “After this he'll be a perfectly normal human being. And you know what stinkers they are!” All things considered, insanity may be the only reasonable alternative. It's not a real religion, but just an incredible soy substitute.
Life is, after all, a constant battle to fight off maturity and only the ephemeral is of lasting value. It doesn't have to make sense. It just has to work. Reality? Who needs reality, there are dirty dishes in reality. And another problem with reality is there's no background music. I didn't create reality... I'm just trapped in it, but Elwood did create his reality.