Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wired and Down to Earth

Down to Earth links to an article in Wired on green "heresies" (offenses against a supposed "green" ideology), specifically organics and genetic engineering.

C.P.Snow had his famous lecture on the Two Cultures many years ago. I think I sniff a whiff of that in some of the "green"/environmental controversies. There's the reasonably hard science of the climatologists. Most greens accept and believe that. But there's also some romanticism, often with an anti-scientific edge. I'd see that in Prof. Pollan's most recent book with its attacks on "nutritionism." Sometimes the greens/locavores seem to be the modern Luddites, distrusting the modern works of the mind.

While many years ago I decided I wanted to be a historian (and failed, but that's another story), I also then, and now, was very interested in science. Whether it was the science fiction of Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov, or the science writing of Asimov and Gamow, I got off on the ability of smart men (few women mentioned back then) to understand the natural world. (Perhaps it was genetic; my father had a BA in chemistry and BS in chemical engineering before his health forced him into farming.)

I've never lost my interest in science (though string theory is way beyond me, I still have problems with subatomic particles). And I've never lost my faith in the mind. While I acknowledge the problems often raised (usually eugenics is the first one) the mind is the only instrument we've got and we've come a long, long way since I was a boy.

So, while not a scientist, you can reasonably accuse me of great faith in science. And I don't see the great divide between the "natural" and the "engineered". All of which is a long-winded way of saying I agree that "organic farming" shouldn't be "privileged", to use current terminology over conventional farming. And the only way to progress from where we are is to use all our tools, including genetic engineering. It's easy for humans to be over-confident in their smarts, but the only alternative is faith in dumbness.


Sara said...

As Down To Earth's designated science geek, I applaud you faith in science. I am a locavore, technogeek scientist Mom. Those things are not mutually exclusive. Thanks for a balanced and insightful view.

Bill Harshaw said...

Thank you for the comment.