In a previous post, I shared several reasons why the attitude towards science of some people scares me. In that post, I mentioned the example of a politician who talked about the horrible matter of rape in a very incorrect, nonsensical way. More recently, another politician, who has a medical degree (which implies that he also must have had some undergraduate science education), stated his disdain of aspects of science including evolution, embryology and the big bang on religious grounds.
Do you want to know the worst part of this? These two gentlemen are part of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
I will not discuss in depth the relationship between science and religion except to say that they do not have to be at odds with each other. However, I need to point out how hypocritical is to condemn science while enjoying its benefits. Hypocrisy is one of the most despicable attitudes that a human being can have. Sadly, no human being is exempt of displaying this to some extent. The thing is that we would expect more of the people who are supposed to lead us.
To fear and disdain science is one of the worst mistakes that a society, any society, could make. The only reason that we are who we are as a species is that we have used our intelligence to understand the universe around us and to devise ways to survive despite our inherent physical weaknesses. Compared to many other organisms on this earth of ours, we are not very big, very fast, or even moderately strong. We do not have sharp fangs or strong claws. Nonetheless, we have tamed the planet; heck, we have gone to space, we have walked on the Moon! And again, the only reason why we have been able to do so is through science and technology.
There are many (too many for comfort) episodes in our history where, using politics or religion as an excuse, science is seen in a negative light. In some cases, as we have just seen, science is even equaled with unspeakable evil.
Incidentally, there is nothing inherently wrong with politics or religion; the problem is when people do not follow the ideals that religion and politics represent. This is what causes problems and injustice.
But I digress.
Science is probably the main tool that has allowed us to fend off monsters. The word “monsters” usually speaks of beings that can easily overpower us and kill us. Humanity has had dealings with many of those, from the saber-toothed tiger (imagine a lion-like animal more or less built like a bear, likely with a bad attitude and sporting a pair of 20-inch canines) to the ancient reptile Megalania, which probably interacted with early settlers of the Australian region (imagine a 20-plus feet venomous reptile). In fact, it has been suggested that Megalania is the largest venomous animal ever discovered.
Then again, monsters are sometimes not so easy to see. Think about viruses and other microorganisms. In all fairness, the vast majority of those are not harmful and some are even beneficial to us. However, there are some of those which will easily kill us as any monster can.
Science gave us the tools to recognize them for what they are, they are not bad spirits, or witchcraft, but biological entities that we can kill. We have used science and technology to invent medications, sterile techniques and other strategies to keep these tiny beasts at bay.
In a forthcoming science fiction novel, titled “Monsters“, author Peter Cawdron explores one of the possible futures in which humanity turns away from science and its little sister, technology, and the dire consequences that this brings upon us. Why did this novel reminded me of my fear for my science?
From the author: “The thrust of “Monsters” is that monsters come in all shapes and sizes (from bacteria to people wanting to rule the world), and that we shouldn’t take the times in which we live for granted. The scientific knowledge we have accumulated is precious and extremely rare in this history of mankind. It could be lost quite easily to monsters.”
My favorite scene from the novel, you ask?
“Look at me. I am a general. I command thousands.”
Bruce pulled his lips tight with disdain. He spoke softly, but with depth and resonance in his voice.
“I am a reader. I command monsters.”
Monsters will be available on Amazon from Oct 31.
PLEASE read it; you will not be disappointed. I think it would make a great movie and I have said so at every possible opportunity…
Full disclosure – Peter Cawdron is a friend and a fellow blogger, and I happen to like his science fiction work. I read an advanced copy of the novel. He gave me permission to quote it.