Buckminster Skeeter: Wanna buy a watch?

Friday, June 02, 2006

My Problem with Science

I've always considered myself an amateur scientist. I love to read about it and study it in my spare time. Being the child of a scientist I grew up with a respect for the various fields and viewed them as the intellectual and technological advancement of humankind. But is science really all that special? We'd all like to hope so. We depend on science to get us through every day safe and sound. Without civil engineering bridges would collapse. Without the medical sciences we would be a sickly race. Without computer technology communications would be slow and time consuming. It's no doubt that we cannot live without advancements in science.

But what bothers me is that we can do all these things and yet we still have not figured out simpler things. We can send a super-sonic rocket to the far reaches of the solar system, carrying a high tech digital infrared spectrometer, and have it return to use loaded with images, data, and interstellar samples. Yet each year some researcher is just now making a breakthrough in toothbrush design. How is it that the toothbrush has not already been perfected? We can implant a pigs heart into a human, control virus' and bacteria with state of the art pharmaceuticals, yet we do not know what causes a yawn. We developed highly sophisticated computer hardware and software capable of millions of computations per second but we get carpal-tunnel syndrome from using a keyboard. We build skyscrapers and other mega structures like they were tinker toys but I cannot seem to get my toilet to flush properly - even after replacing the flush kit.

Perhaps what really gives me an uneasy feeling is looking back at the history of science. So many times a 'breakthrough' is made only to be completely contradicted a few years later by a newer, better, safer product. Things like Lead in paint. Hey, great idea... Who knew that decades later people would be keeling over with cancer because the grew up in a room with lead based paint? Nutrition sciences really pisses me off. Coffee is bad for you.... No no it's good for you..... No wait.. It's neither.... Well maybe it is bad..... Or good. How is it that it has taken 1,000's of years of human intuition to determine that the anti-oxidants found in strawberries are among the most potent? Scientists recently discovered a specific gene mutation potentially linked to breast cancer but there is no medical cure for hiccups. I hate hiccups.

Archeology is questionable as well. Although I love the subject and agree with most theories there are many which I just see as sheer conjecture and guesswork - even though they are widely accepted as fact. For example - all the bones ever collected from any pre-human hominid could be piled up and they would fit in the bed of a pick up truck. ALL of them. There has never been one single complete skeleton of any pre-human hominid ever found. They just find little fragments and pieces. Yet they can ascertain, with some level of confidence, a complete evolution of present day man? Even go so far as to tell us all about their social behavior and intellectual capacity? Come on now... Sometimes I think science tries to fill in the gaps a little too much. Why can't they just say "we've got a pile of bones here that appear to be something that is not currently represented in the fauna of the earth"? Archaeologists have gotten lots of stuff wrong over the years... Watch any Discovery Channel special concerning an archeological topic and you will hear this phrase at least 2 times: "We now know.......". Oh.... Well, we always figured this.... But "We now know". NO shit.


Blogger mugwump said...

Spellbinding! The blog entry of the summer. A must read!

No, this is not sarcasm, I am practicing being a blog entry critic. I've decided it's what I want to do with my life.

4:49 AM  
Blogger mugwump said...

Now that I have a sec to sit and think I'd like to reply that I think science is indeed all that special. I do agree with you about some scientists trying too hard to fill in the gaps, but overall, what they have found is fascinating to me. A lot of it is questionable - but that is what I like about it. It allows me to come to my own conclusions. I enjoy the mystery. I've spent hours thinking about Lucy, the most complete skeleton that has been found so far. Was she really human? Was she really female? How do they know? Well, they say by looking at her pelvic bones that they determined she was female and that she walked erect which distinguishes her as human. But it leaves a lot to the imagination. I suppose if everything were cut and dried life would be boring to me.

What can be said with some degree of certainty is this: All life comes from pre-existing life. I still don't think humans and apes descended from some "common ancestor", but we do have ancestors. How far back? No one can say for sure. Maybe 3 million years. It's possible. I don't have to have the cold hard facts to be satisfied.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Buckminster Skeeter said...

Well, Lucy was NOT a human. Hominid, maybe, but not human. Her skeleton is fragmentary and very incomplete.
So how do they know that she was not some mutant, outcast from her kind? They found no others like her, or none of any similar species near her. Just because she had a rotated ball joint in her hip does that mean she walked upright by design? If someone found the elephant man's bones 30,000 years from now would they assume we all looked like that?

I agree that the mysteries that science brings to light (or rather creates) is the best part about it. I never claimed it isn't fascinating or thrilling - just questionable on many levels.

2:13 PM  
Blogger mugwump said...

Man, it turn's me on when you get all riled up like that! I wasn't disputing your entry. My questions were rhetorical, and I wasn't trying to prove that Lucy was human and walked upright. I was just stating what some scientists think.

4:29 AM  
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