Finding my place in an unsettled time

It is always a little dangerous to mix science and politics. This is because science is the study of the material world and, hence, has concrete, verifiable answers. Whereas politics is the study of — OK, I’m not sure what politics is. Wait, I’m not even sure if “politics” are singular or plural. Let me look it up. 

OK, politics is “the art or science of government and the debate over power and control of groups of people.” Something like that, anyway. The definition varies with the source. Anyway, that makes politics singular with multiple methods for exercising it. However, anyone should be able to see, at a glance, that mixing power and control with the outcomes of science would be a dangerous thing. If you think fake news is bad, try a little fake science. 

I guess it’s inevitable that the two often get mixed together. That’s because we all live in different, material settings, and each different, material setting requires different relationships between people and the places they are in.

In fact, every different place probably requires a different relationship between people. Obviously, people who grow parking lots have different interests than people who grow corn. 

Personally, my material setting is a little low on money. There seem to be a lot of people in this category, and I read that it is science’s fault for making robots that can take our orders for hamburgers. So I am looking into getting a job making robots, or at least fixing them when they break down. I don’t know though. It would just take so much work to learn how.

I am a person of place and so are you. This used to mean a lot more than it does now because, in the past couple of generations, people have stopped staying in the same places. I think it used to be that the place you were part of sort of became part of who you were. Now it seems like we live in so many different places that we lose part of our self-knowledge. Of course, for some people, that may not be a bad thing. 

We are all in a place that affects our lives in ways we seldom appreciate. For example, because I do not live in Africa, my chance of getting malaria is low. However, my odds of having heart disease are higher than most Africans. That is because many Africans die from malaria before they have a chance to develop heart disease.

We are all at a place in time too. Our place in time includes our “time in life” and our “time in history.” Because I live in the 21st century, I am spared dying from small pox. Because of my age, I probably will not die in battle. I guess I am too old for a glorious, heroic ending.

I am far more likely to succumb to some pathetic wasting illness that will be painful for everyone involved. I wish I’d realized this when I still had the energy to be heroic.

We tend to take our place and time in this world for granted. Worse, we tend to think the place we’re in is normal. For example, Darwin assumed that the species that existed when he wrote “The Origin of the Species” were the best possible species for that place and time. What if the species he found were actually rather poor in their abilities to survive and were on their way out? It’s hard to know where we are in time.

What if our present government is the best government we have ever had, and we are prepared to spring forward to even greater heights and achievement? But maybe this is the worst government we’ve ever had, and we’re doomed to oblivion as a nation. We kind of know what science is. We have no idea about politics.

Gary McCallister, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), is a professor emeritus of biological sciences at Colorado Mesa University.


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