As an introduction to part two of this Thanksgiving Science Spectacular, ask yourself “Do I trust science, or do I believe in science.?” If you are not quite sure you understand the question, please read on. Even if you are sure that you understand the question, take a few minutes to see if you can digest this turkey of an essay.
Science, the New Religion
I love science; I really do. I never cared much for literature, but I have always loved science. I think we can learn a lot from science, and I think we could learn a lot more from science, were resources in this world allocated differently, but no matter how much we learn from science, we completely fail to learn our lesson.
The lesson we never seem to learn is: What we are doing is not working. Things are getting worse, not better. We’re failing as a culture, and the consequences of our failure are enormous and life-threatening.
Every year the evidence of this fact grows. We’re wrecking the planet. Our way of life, how we conduct ourselves as human beings, is totally out of sync with the carrying capacity of planet Earth. At this point, the evidence could hardly be more stark.
We know there’s hardly any fish left in the sea. You’ve heard the old expression, “There’s plenty of other fish in the sea.” well it ain’t true no more. With the human population topping 7 billion, there’s plenty of other potential mates, if you are a human being. That’s true enough, but for fish, not so much. Science set us straight on that.
Scientists also pointed out the dead zones in the ocean, where algal blooms fueled by agricultural runoff, suck all the oxygen out of the water, so nothing else can survive there. Scientists explained why an island of plastic trash bigger than Texas formed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Scientists found PCBs in the blood of wild arctic polar bears, and told us about the mercury concentrations in fish. Scientists created, and then warned us about, persistent organic pollutants like dioxin, benzene and the whole brave new world of unpronounceable organochlorines like DDT. Scientists have informed us about the ongoing and accelerating acidification of the world’s oceans, and even told us what’s driving it, which seems to be, in fact, global warming.
And how about that global warming. Those scientists had to work overtime to convince us of that, didn’t they, but they finally did. We can now say with confidence that human activity is warming the planet, and changing the makeup of the Earth’s atmosphere in ways likely to negatively effect the health and well-being of damn near every human being on the planet, let alone the wildlife.
Don’t I wish they would let the wildlife alone, but they don’t. Scientists tell us that the human population continues to explode like bacteria, displacing habitat and driving countless species of plant and animal into extinction. Countless, because scientists don’t even have time to discover and name a lot of these species before they get wiped off of the face of the earth forever, in our never ending quest to replace lush, incomprehensibly complex natural ecosystems with simplified, impoverished, dysfunctional, man-made environments that only function to serve an expanding human population, and poorly at that.
And scientists have informed us that the expanding human population leaves in it’s wake, an ungodly, I mean holy fucking shit you cannot even imagine how much, amount of waste. Toxic waste, bio-accumulative waste, non-biodegradable waste, radioactive waste, carcinogenic waste, mutagenic waste, medical waste, human waste, solid waste, airborne waste, water soluble waste, take your pick. We’ve got it all, and we’re making more every day. In a billion years of life on Earth, there was never a thing called waste, until about 10,000 years ago, when our culture was born. Waste is our invention, and it takes a lot of science to produce the tremendous variety and abundance of waste that we discard each year.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see it, and in fact, rocket scientists often don’t see it, because they are so damn busy building rockets, but the science is pretty fucking convincing for anyone who wants to look at it. We’re making a terrific mess of things here on planet Earth. Another thing that the science is pretty clear about, is that that we could have never made such a terrific mess of things without the help of an awful lot of scientists.
To be fair, it wasn’t so much science that wrecked the world, there’s nothing wrong with learning about the world. It was that bastard technology. Science is a beautiful woman; technology is her pimp. Technology uses science to turn tricks. That is, technology is always looking for ways to use science to manipulate and exploit the world, for the purpose of making money, winning wars, or both. Yes, science is a whore, and so are most scientists. They work for whoever pays them the most money, and they do what the customer wants. What the customer wants, generally, is to extract more money from the Earth and it’s inhabitants. There’s nothing noble, beautiful or altruistic about that.
So, even though we have plenty of scientists telling us that we’re making an enormous mess of things, we have a thousand times more scientists focused on finding new ways to fuck things up even worse. Scientists dreamed-up nuclear power and convinced us it was safe. They did the same thing for deep water oil drilling. Scientists figured out how to get oil and natural gas out of shale, and gave us fracking. Scientists are turning life on Earth into patentable intellectual property by playing Russian roulette with a gene gun, and other scientists are working on new strategies to sell you this stuff, even though it’s killing you. Scientists are doing all kinds of crazy shit, and most of it is not helping the situation one bit, and they are all getting paid to do it.
Still, we are so infatuated with this beautiful woman we call science, that we hardly notice that she’s robbing us blind, lying to us and stealing our future. Even when science tells us the truth: that we are rapidly replacing our global life support system with poison, we don’t say, “Oh my god, look at what we’ve done.” Instead we say, “Wow, that looks like a serious problem, we had better get some more scientists working to solve it.” That’s what I mean when I say “We fail to learn our lesson from science.”
We don’t trust science, or take what it tells us about the world seriously, so we don’t learn anything from science. Instead, we think that no matter how bad things get, science will save us. We don’t believe science, we believe in science, which is a very different thing. Belief in science is not a rational conclusion based in fact, it is a religious belief founded in faith.
Very little evidence supports the idea that science solves problems, but we have plenty of evidence that science has created bigger problems than we know how to deal with. Still, we speak of science with reverence. Science has become our religion. Even people who know nothing about science, believe in science, and think it’s going to save us.
Ever since science convinced us that our other religions were just a collection of quaint stories and superstitions, we’ve treated science as our savior. That’s why we throw so much money at science. We don’t want to know more about the world we live in, we want scientists to save us.
Well there’s your science fix for today. Remember, the truth will set you free, but religion, even the Church of Science, is the opiate of the masses. Happy Thanksgiving!