Sunday, January 17, 2016

White moderation continues to kill

When I die, I hope nobody mistakes my kindness for niceness. I am not a nice man.
Dr. King's life profoundly affected mine.

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice....Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
Martin Luther King, Jr., from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

The photo of Dr. King (D.C., August, 1963)  is from the National Archives and is the public domain.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Limbaugh and technology: a cautionary tale

A cautionary tale for me....

We're about a day away from the end of the darkest three weeks of the year.
The light has been surreal--grey upon grey.
There are no shadows, there are no edges to the light.
Winter is here.

I listened to some chatter on the radio today, some guy named Rush Limbaugh. I was fascinated.

The disconnect between reality and fantasy feeds a frothing class of folks who have been removed from the land, who fuel a suspect economy based on abstraction and fear, who know something is missing, and will use hate to fill the void.

Our science is about to let us manipulate genomes with impunity.
We are not ready, and I doubt that we ever will be.

Wes Jackson said it best--"we ought to stay out of the nuclei."
We won't so long as we can. of course.

I teach science, and I'm reasonably good at it, but there are days when I'd rather not think of what actually occurs in my classroom.
  • Jellyfish genes end up in bacteria, by the hands of young humans, mostly for the wow effect of seeing bacteria fluoresce.
  • Frogs and fetal pigs are sliced open with too little regard for the place their hearts last beat.
  • Pill bugs occasionally die through the carelessness of a young scientist.

The simplest, most powerful fight I have against our culture's unrestrained love of technological power may be letting students  plant basil seeds they harvested from dried flower heads using their fingers for something their fingers were meant to do.

The story of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge is a myth, of course, but it is a deep and disturbing old story that resonates today. I'm not sure the tiny black seeds of last summer's basil flowers can ever compete with the siren song of high tech, but I have seen the joy a germinating plant can bring to a child who has never sown a seed before.

So much of what we require our kids to do today has little to do with the mammalian body that blesses each of us.

We need more wildness.
We need more us.

Happy New Year, everyone.