Saturday, May 28, 2016

Thomas Hardy vs. the NGSS

This is a year old, but I like it, and it' my party....

Basil seeds taken from a seed pod.

"I rather like this . . . outside all laws except gravitation and germination."
Sue Bridehead, Jude the Obscure

All of us are bound by the laws of physics, entropy, and mortality.

All of us are open systems consuming organic materials, stripping off the energy and stuff we need to live, then tossing off the useless remnants to be put back together again and again and again by the sun, as close to a corporeal god as humans will witness.

This week thousands of children here in NJ took the state biology "competency" test, at significant cost in time and money. Turns out you can be competent in biology without knowing anything about life.


Few folks read Hardy's Jude the Obscure anymore, and aside from his rich descriptions of life before electricity and petroleum raised our culture to its current (and temporary) fantasies, I've little reason myself.

Sue and Jude had "escaped" (temporarily) from the culture that molded the roles of men and women of the time.

"You only think you like it; you don't. You are quite a product of civilization."
Jude in response to Sue
Image by Steve Paine, CC

Our children are the product of the lies we share with them. The images and the voices on the screens we give them, knowingly and willingly, help create the fantastic and false universe they live in.

Technology perpetuates fantasies; science, done right, demolishes them. They both grant humans immense power to manipulate the world.

The European Church, the center of power in the western world, supported science early on, until the truths of science shattered deep truths of the Church.

When we confound technology with science, when we insist that engineering hold the same place as science in a classroom, we are perpetuating our fantasies at our peril.

None of us live outside the laws of gravitation, or germination, of life, of entropy, and of, ultimately, death.

If a child "understands" entropy without a nightmare or two, you're teaching tech not science.


Alfred said...

Science is humankind's methodical, empirical effort to reveal and predict the composition and mechanisms of Nature. Technology is humankind's efforts to manipulate both in order to transcend the current limitations of our biology and environment. Both are neutral when separate from motive, but even the most benignly intended technology can separate us from our humanity.

We must be ever so humble and careful in choosing what we engineer so that, in our ever-evolving understanding of Nature's secrets and our race for technological advancement, we strive for scientific research and technology that maintains a dynamic harmony with Nature and is in accordance with ecological and humanitarian ethics (Principia Ecolologica), rather than reductionistic science and technology that seeks to impose dominance over some aspect of Nature. Each of these goals will lead to one of two eventualities: our evolution toward godliness or our self-destructive spiral into extinction, taking our cohabitating flora and fauna with us.

doyle said...

Dear Al,

Good Lord, just got around to this and it's YOU!

I'd argue that hardly anything in science is neutral--what we believe directly affects what we see, but you know this already. Our models are even more imperfect than the critters we've become.

I suspect that we're not particularly special when it comes to extinction, a very common end for just about all species eventually. I used to worry about us taking out most everything else, but short of a major thermonuclear war, very unlikely, and unlikely even if we do fire away all our bombs. Life is tenacious.

We simply know too little (and will always know to little) to handle the power our brains unleash. I agree with Wes Jackson--we should stay out of the nuclei of both atoms and cells.

Our literature reminds us over and again the dangers of hubris, and over and over again we fly to the sun as Icarus did. We simply cannot help ourselves.