Friday, May 1, 2009

Science makes me feel lucky (and giddy, for good measure)

It is easy to take the value of science for granted when all you do each day is to uncritically use its byproducts without stopping to think about what makes such a technology possible in the first place.

So... it is refreshing to me to watch the clip above every so often and be reminded of just how far we have come and just how much knowledge the human species has accumulated over the years. How lucky I am to live in the days when I have the ability to climate-control my living space so that I can sit nice and cool in an air-conditioned room in the dead of summer, sipping on a ice-cold Crush's finest orange root beer while the sun gives its best effort to sterilize my roof and lawn. How nice is it to be able to walk outside in the cold Midwestern winter, crunching through the layers of snow for hours without getting frost-bitten because of today's high tech clothing that traps body heat while allowing perspiration and keeping out moisture... all without weighing a ton.

It's a great comfort to live in a time when I can take over-the-counter medicine for minor aches and pain, and when I can be mostly certain that I'll be able to walk out of a doctor's office alive (they don't just bleed you to death as a way of fixing everything anymore) after allowing him and his colleagues a good look at what my internal organs are doing without having to be cut open. Coming down with an illness that has neurological symptoms doesn't immediately causes you to be accused of witchcraft and liable to follow the end path of Joan of Arc and the other 'heretics' that got either burned or stoned to death nowadays... well.. in most places of the world, that is.

And, get this, I can make my favorite opera singers sing for me all day long... over and over again at my command. All it takes is to hit a little button on the stereo and - voila! - endless acoustic bliss. It a luxury many people who are a lot more talented and deserving than I am never had the chance to enjoy. Mozart could only hear his music performed when someone paid for the musicians to do it for him.... live. The rest of the time he just had to do his best to re-create it in his memory. And he could only hear the musicians that he could travel to see live performances of while I have heard... or at least glimpsed at (since recordings sometimes can't capture a performance the way it really sounds in live setting) many great musicians and actors and other sorts of performance artists via CD, DVD, television and internet broadcasts that I wouldn't be able to ever experience in person.

Scientists don't know everything. Of course not. But they are the first to admit it and to keep working hard in order to know more and more. The incomplete knowledge we have today is a whole lot better than what we had a century ago (and beyond that). I just don't get it when some folks seem so keen on just dismissing this massively useful though 'incomplete' knowledge for its 'imperfection' in order to argue for some theology that offers nothing more than assurances it can't deliver. And I don't understand why some religious people are still fighting to discredit a scientific theory like evolution by natural selection without even knowing what the theory addresses and states (and not states) in the first place... all in their quest to pit the science against their religious teaching.

"The word of God is the creation we behold, and it is in this word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man -----
In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, but the scripture called the Creation."
- Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

1 comment:

Georg said...

Hi Smorgy,

As you say, thanks to science and to R+D, life has become easier and in some ways simply wonderful. Like CD's, recordings, Flight Simulators
or cars that not only run but do so on very little gas.

But not everything that has been invented for making life easier or more comfortable is really good for you. Take your ice-cold Crush's finest orange root beer: to drink ice-cold stuff is not good for you.
It is even very bad. Try the tepid stuff, would be better for your tummy.

Same goes for air conditioners. I have been told in the US people live all the time in such conditioned surroundings. But when you step out to join Mother Nature you get a nasty cold pronto.

As to those high-tech clothes, forget it. If it is very hot, wear pure cotton plus a hat on your head. And when it is very cold, wear some thick pullovers made of PURE wool and you will survive in style.

Don't buy Goretex: that's shit incarnate. After some time it starts to absorb water like a sponge.

As to the Great Hadron Collider (Teilchenbeschleuniger) I am a fan of it, too. Just hope they manage to repair it fast and avoid grilling the magnets and the insulation next time. After some successful runs, maybe we'll be able feed on dark matter next time and will know what has happened before the Big Bang took place.

Liked that Cox chap. First-class English.