Suppose that the ultimate standard of our work were to be, not professionalism and profitability, but health and the durability of human and natural communities. Suppose we learn to ask of any proposed innovation the question ...: What will this do to our community....Suppose, in short, that we should take seriously the proposition that our arts and sciences have the power to help us adapt and survive. What then?
Well we certainly would have a healthier, prettier, more diverse and interesting world, a world less toxic and explosive, than we have now.Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle
The scientist, a woman, is sitting in a room surrounded by monitors detailing invisible events miles away. She is smiling, so I imagine she is happy. She is happy thinking thought about things that do not exist except in her mind and on her monitors.
In her hand she holds champagne. Grapes fed the rays of the sun, lashing together carbon dioxide and water, were consumed by yeast. Electrons spilled, compounds changed. The yeast grow and divide, grow and divide, until poisoned by the same ethanol they produced.
That we can smash a couple of protons together at energies beyond comprehension, spending money beyond imagination, to search for the God particle in the name of physics speaks to our conceit.
That we celebrate such deeds while holding champagne in our hands, only dimly aware of the daily miracles that make wine, that make bread, that allow us to breathe, to drink, to eat while chasing our conceits at the expense of our neighbors speaks to our ignorance.
Michio Kaku, a physicist, writes in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal that this will help us "understand...the instant of genesis." He has said that finding new particles might "affect our conception of who we are in the universe."
Dr. Kaku speaks metaphorically, I suppose, and I reckon he'd be a fine musician of Bremen, but he does not speak for me.
Yesterday, the same Dr. Kaku said:
This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 -- what happened in the beginning. This is a Genesis machine. It’ll help to recreate the most glorious event in the history of the universe.
If you cannot find your "conception," your place, your existence in the life around you, you are not going to find it anywhere. Not in a book, not in a monitor, not in a 17 mile slinky toy buried beneath Europe.
The mindless pursuit of knowledge is a very dangerous game. If you're going to quote Genesis, Dr. Kaku, you'd do well to take a peek at Genesis 2:17. It is a fable, but a wise one.
Science allows us to see the world more clearly, to find patterns, to predict events. All science requires a filament attached to the natural, observable universe, a universe we cannot hope to ever fully understand, a universe not made in the image of man, a universe that may prove less forgiving than the gods we have created for our comfort.