Monday, February 18, 2008

Why Science?

Milky Way Galaxy Center Sagittarius via Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA 2006. Wow! That's one good reason. And it is the wow factor that gets us to throw away billions of dollars every year on Big Science instead of clean water for Africans and a host of other less glamorous problems here on Earth. To be fair, Science is addressing a lot of them, but politicians and people aren't. It's the Hollywood Syndrome. I suppose if Angelina Jolie, who does some nice work for Africa anyway, and Pamela Anderson, who's a good swimmer, were to dance butt-naked at a Clean Water Symposium in Darfur, it would get people watching, maybe showering together.

Still the question is a good one. From measuring things like Time, to changing things for our convenience, why do we go on when we had already reached a comfortable Nirvana of sorts with Science and Technology in the 1950's? It seems the more we question our existance and our situation, the more dissatisfied we are and the more we want to know. It's like Hamlet. There's something rotten in Denmark. Over 30,000 diseases plaguing mankind. And at the bitter end, Death staring us in the face. It doesn't make sense. While religions held sway, and our lives and cultures were manageable, with a bit of something for everyone, at least hope for an afterlife beyond pain, we soldiered on. Now we want what's immediate, what we can do, even if it doesn't really help us or change the planet for the better. In fact we'll take anything rather than this grim reality. Go to the Moon, colonize Mars, wreck our planet, just to get away from it all. We're a desperate culture now, grasping at straws.

This desperation used to be worked out through war, from the primative to the ceremonial, mostly in irrational bursts of war after war, leaving us with one stretch of 50 years or so of world peace in the last 5,000 years. Now that we're so rational and scientific, we now wage war in a rational and scientific way, but we still do it. So Science doesn't look like it's answering anything really important. At best a band-aid solution to some of our hurts, better than nothing. But Scientists will be miffed at this. At the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Geneva they want to understand how the Universe started out after a theoretical Big Bang. This must be important! We have to know this! Yes and no. Maybe the answer is Scientists are as vain as anyone else.

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