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The Science Myth

Scientific progress is the main justification of an optimistic industrial world view, as it is really the only positive thing that can be said about the state of the world today. We have sacrificed many things, but we’ve gained in science. And from this scientific gain it is argued that it follow that the quality of life for most people is better today than in the past. Likewise, as there is no limit to science we can presume this will continue. Yet this establishment argument is debatable. No one disputes that there has been and continues to be significant scientific progress. And so the argument goes that in the long run this scientific progress will solve all of our problems and propel humanity into some kind of fantasy world. What, if any, environmental or social "capital" that may be expended in this scientific gain is reckoned to be worth it.

Unfortunately, the twentieth and most likely the twenty first century will not be known to future generations as the age of scientific progress. Rather, it will be known as the age of genetic degradation. The extinction rate of the world is a thousand times higher than normal. It is estimated that dozens of species go extinct every day. Moreover, from pollution and other stressors even humankind’s genes have been undermined along with those of many other creatures.

We can never get back the genetic information we destroy. The benefit of having a faster computer today rather than tomorrow can be calculated, the value of whole species of plants, insects, bacteria, and animals to the biosphere and ourselves cannot. The rapid modern scientific progress will only benefit a small portion of a few generations, a mere second in the history of humanity, whereas retaining and promoting bio-diversity benefits all subsequent generations.

An analogy is a man that finishes building a shed an hour early at the cost of his hand. For the rest of his life he’ll wish he had his hand back. The extra hour of shed is soon forgotten. So it will be for any generation that remembers our time.

At best, future generations will wonder of what beautiful flowers we destroyed, what useful insects and bacteria we squashed, what elegant birds we killed, what majestic trees we cut down. They will wonder with frustration in their hearts and despise us. At worst the environment and humanity will fall on hard times and some of the organisms we have driven to extinction - which today a tough love attitude may not think twice about - are the very organisms the ecosystem would need to adapt to the new conditions, and humanity drives itself to extinction. Perhaps life will go on, but is this a reasonable condolence for consuming humanity’s future and that of our creatures?


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