Saturday, May 30, 2009

"...very trendy in the 1960s..."

Some of our members and perhaps our other readers are wondering how they might come to know Father Jaki better. There are two ways, each of which has a special advantage. There are some fifty books and perhaps another fifty booklets and leaflets of his writing, most of which are in print. (See the links on the right for where to get them.) Also, to my knowledge there are at least three of his lectures recorded - those he gave at the Chesterton Conferences in 2004, 2005, and 2006 - which will give you a hint of his character. Possibly the best book to introduce him in a more personal way is his autobiography, which has a variety of interesting little stories, such as the famous one about the confrontation with Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann and others - perhaps I will post that next week. Which reminds me I forgot to find the excerpt about the medieval monastery... next week for that too.

But one of the many interesting parts of that autobiography is his miniature "review" of his first book on science, The Relevance of Physics, which concludes with a very Chestertonian and funny paradox:

So much for the moment for The Relevance, which in fact was just as much about the irrelevance of physics as about its relevance. The word relevance was very trendy in the 1960s, though not so much its reverse, which is irrelevance. At a time when so many new trends tried to sell themselves by claiming to be relevant, no serious publisher would have considered, even for a moment, bringing out a book with the title, "The Irrelevance of Physics." Still, as I showed in the book, some prominent physicists missed no opportunity to warn that wholesale disaster was in the making if mankind continued to lull itself into believing that science in general and physics in particular were relevant to the point of eventually ushering in the golden age.
[Jaki, A Mind's Matter: An Intellectual Autobiography, 11-12]

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