In some recent posts I have touched upon issues of engineering such as that involved in the Higgins boat used on D-Day. This blog itself takes advantage of ever evolving information science in a number of ways. But science is a complex subject and I am feeling gloomy so that my take on all issues, including scientific ones is likely to be gloomy as well. So this is a rambling personal post on science as I am seeing it in this gloomy day’s frame of mind.
I think that there is always a question about what sort of science counts most and who determines the borders and values of various fields. I am just not going to get into that theoretical discussion very much in this post as I usually stay away from spending lots of time and space on theory on most posts in this blog. There is a whole history of the word “science”. The history of science itself is a separate and compelling subject. But most of that will be skipped over in this post. But this post is more nebulous and ill defined. If it were a matter of me defining science in more ideal terms I put a good bit of stock in Koch’s postulates as properly applied to varied subjects and phenomena.
I have a lot on my mind as my birthday approaches. But not all of it is made up of facts and opinions which relate to a single theme or topic I would choose to post about. Not every theme makes good blog posting material and this theme may not either but it is on my mind. I have taken an interest in science from many points of view for a long time. I have also put some skin in the game. I have a graduate minor in anthropology. I have also taken sociology, computer science, microbiology, political science and astrophysics as an undergraduate. While I am proud to be a humanist by education I consider myself a humanist informed by science education and the scientific method.
I also went to law school and have received an FCC and an insurance license and several religious certifications. I feel that there are some advantages to evaluating science and the progress of theory and technology in having as broad a background as possible.One thing which cannot be replaced in my view is an affinity with direct experience which is often cultivated in travel, seeking out raw nature and hobbies like gardening and beach-combing. I also believe that many human activities develop judgement and insight no less needed today than ever before.
I suppose I have the arrogance to believe that I have some holistic insight to share and so I have sought to share it and that has been a long time project with many people in my readership and audience at any time. However, I am far from where I would aspire to be in that regard. One of my lifelong dreams and ambitions has been to publish a science fiction novel and I have other passionately undertaken projects related to science. Some have been in the area of pure theory and some are very much applied. So, whatever else I may be I do not consider it very plausible to charge me with being anti-science.
The fact that I am turning fifty tends to darken my view of a lot of things. Probably a sense of fruitlessness in my own scientific endeavors is part of that sense of disillusionment. But I think I am unhappy about more than that. I know for certain that I am unhappy. I can remember times when the outlook in my life seemed more promising. I was never going to be as comfortable in life as some people are but I am aware that 2001: A Space Odyssey, Asimov’s books, ERB’s Tarzan novels and the many views of the Lunar Apollo program formed a kind of background for discussion when I was young that is less available to me now. There are people who look at such tends and one such book can be found here.
The costs of the modern age are always very real to a man like me. Therefore it is more bearable when the possible rewards of scientific progress seem real and compelling as well. Otherwise the grind can be very wearisome. Perhaps these days I am only feeling my own isolation and the dead ends of my own routes but I feel there are reasons to be concerned about the direction of many aspects of the development of science. The best science focuses in large part on discovery and carefully opens the floodgates of new insights into nature to an engineering community which invents and produces things where good and mighty social goals drive demand. Those goals are partially derived from the improving insights of science and partly from other real and authentic factors. We do not need and will not get perfect science. But there is an awful lot at stake.
I am writing this post about science. There is a great deal to be said about where science is going and I want to discuss a few things like helping fish to drive. These skills are valuable but other needs are pressing and not being met.
I also want to discuss the vastly more significant creation of really different DNA which could really e the most dangerous experiment ever performed. I want to colonize the Moon and Mars and it is a valuable thing to learn how other DNA could function in case microbes there from any source spread to Earth. But the risks of a single disease that could wipe out earth would be easier to control in a colonial setting than here operating in too much freedom in the laboratory. I also know that tons of material from the Moon and Mars reach Earth every year from natural causes. We must dare to imagine policy which motivates, directs and channels more science more effectively. I suppose a cute fish and a replicating molecule do not seem much like monsters to many people. But they can be seen as monsters although each on a very different scale. The truth is that there is no easily assigned definition of “terrifying and monstrous mis-allocations of resources” no do I want to single out these two groups of researchers. Transexual surgery (or gender reassignment medicine, whole streams of genetic research, entire types of food science are in my view nightmarish in implication and potential. While all are united in a willingness to ignore the 99.9999 percent of natural resources in the solar system which may be developed only by investing wisely in the filed of space colonization science. Also medical and social benefits which are possible go beyond description in such a short post as this. The risks are there to be sure but there are also mitigators of risk in abundance which are not often considered.
I have said before that I believe. and think that science in a wide variety of disciplines and manifestations is vital, important and an urgent priority for our society and the world. But not all science is created equal. What are our priorities and do our politics serve them?
This is not the occasion for me to hope for great new breakthroughs in my life. But it is an occasion for me to share some concerns highlighted by my own concerns. America, the world and my own life will in large part choose the future they will have by choosing to define science and the priorities if science in a particular way.