Saturday, April 22, 2017

Full Disclosure: I Feel Ambivalent About Science #ScienceMarch

Egyptian clock face from a book on curious mechanical devices published in 1354 before science
fell out of favor with religious fundamentalists in the Ottoman empire.

People are marching for science today and I have to admit I'm ambivalent. Of course I agree that refusing to account for human impact on the atmosphere is a fool's errand and we have an overabundance of fools ready to drive straight off the cliff of climate chaos. They do this for one reason: profit. 

Science is such a large, amorphous thing that it's hard not to feel that it's inherently neutral i.e. a tool, which can be used for good or used for evil.

On reflection, I have to say science has been used much more often for evil. 
Source: Radical Penguin
Mining, the original sin against Mother Earth, was possible because of science. So was fashioning all those weapons that emerged from violating the planet's tender crust.

A short list of other bad things made possible by science:

Nuclear weapons
Nuclear energy
Flying killer robots
Factory farming
Napalm and other chemical weapons
Agent Orange aka Roundup
Rivers so polluted they burst into flames, or run with the colors of dye
Little screens that isolate us from one another
Mass surveillance and the end of privacy
The financial crash of '08, because computing made trading derivatives feasible
Corporate mass media with its vast cloud of propaganda 

The U.S. hustled to harvest the scientists who served the Nazis and imperial Japan at the end of WWII, offering immunity from prosecution (and a coverup) in exchange for what they knew. 

NASA and missile technology was thus captured via the Germans, while biological warfare know-how was the Japanese speciality. The U.S. then tested the biological weapons on Koreans during the 1950's.

The U.S. space program, which is constantly touted to school age children as science at its shiniest and most thrilling, is military in purpose. Controlling weapons via satellites requires controlling space to protect your satellites. 

Why has science so often served elites bent on power and destruction? Because it is an incredibly powerful tool, and elites will buy, steal or kidnap whoever they need to for the expertise they desire. 

I am reminded this Earth Day of something I heard Winona LaDuke say. Her father visited Harvard when she was a student there and told her he was proud of her, but he wasn't interested in hearing her philosophy until she learned to grow corn.

All the wisdom we need to know about how to live on Earth is still with us. Science did not and does not need to invent the solutions to the mess we're in. Native wisdom says: protect the water, the air and the earth because you belong to it. You are part of it, and your life depends upon it.

Only a little bit of your life depends on science. I love modern medicine when it saves someone from dying of a burst appendix but I also know that chemicals and other pollution have caused many diseases endemic to my lifetime: cancer, birth defects, spectrum disorders. 

Computing how many parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere represent a climate tipping point is useless for pulling us back from the edge without the political will to admit how much of the problem is caused by the Pentagon. Science isn't going to fix that.

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