Sunday, May 6, 2018

424: Science

Oh my, I hadn’t seen anyone smoke a pipe in years. Didn’t know they still made them. But there was C.W. puffing away on one, sitting at a patio table. His shape was a lot like the late playwright Arthur Millar. He had books and papers scattered in front of him.

He motioned for me to join him and I did.

He waved a hand across the pile of material before him like he was giving it his blessing. “I think,” he said, “that I’ve about figured it out.”

“How to look anachronistic?”

He ignored me. “Why your species is so unwilling to move into the future,” he said.

“Elucidate.” I could tell he was in one of his serious moments, and I enjoy those.

“Do you ever think about the monumental and complex problems facing your planet?” he said.

“All the time.”

“Ever thing of what it will take to solve those problems?”

“Probably things that we haven’t thought of yet.”

“Precisely,” he said.

That made me feel good. He rarely acknowledges that I know anything.

“Continue, please,” I said.

“Ever wonder,” he said, continuing in a questioning mode, “why one of the world’s richest families, emanating by the way,” he said, “from your own state, has joined hands with major religious institutions and a dominant political party in a plan to abrogate your current system of educating your children? Ever say, to yourself, what do they have to gain by denouncing reason, science, and the ability to address problems in a cognitive way?”

“You are right. It doesn’t make sense.”

He smiled, nodded, and picked up a large book from the table. “Ever read this?” he asked. It was a worn copy of The Golden Bough, by Sir James George Frazer, a Scottish social anthropologist, influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. He is often considered one of the founding fathers of modern anthropology.

I nodded and smiled myself. “Yes, but it was a long time ago in a different lifetime.” A flood of memories washed over me. “I credit Frazer with freeing me from the shackles of mythology forged on me as a child.” I was sort of screwing with him by resorting to flowery language.

He ignored me. “Then you know how he recorded humankind’s cognitive process, beginning first with magic as a method of controlling the environment.”

“I seem to remember.”

“Then,” he continued, as it gradually dawned on your species that dances and incantations weren’t really able to change things, and that people didn’t suffer because you made a doll-like image of them suffer.”

“Go on.”

“So,” he said, “the thinkers of that time decided that external forces must guide their world. They chose religion, assuming there are personal agents, superior to man, controlling nature.  It has been said that this is a far more complex notion than that of magic, and requires a much higher degree of intelligence.”

“This is getting a bit deep,” I said.

“We’re almost there,” he said. “Hang with me.”

What else could I do?

“We are now at the point in the evolution of your people at which they thought that reliance on a divine source might be the best technology to be used in controlling the environment.”

“And some still do,” I said.

“Oddly enough,” he said. “This troubles the Falloonian Elders to no end.”

“I can see. What happened next?”

“In simple terms?”

“In simple terms, please.”

“In simple terms, religious contemplation led to complex thinking, and complex thinking led to science.”


“Science,” he said. “And as science emerged, your species hardened in its belief that the world had to be controlled, and, to a thoughtless few, that control had to be carried out on their terms, and for their ends.”

Oddly, someone once suggested that
alchemy led to the scientific method. - C.W.
“Well hell,” he said, “can’t you see?”

“See what?”

“How science got their way.”

“I think maybe I do.”

“Let me help move you along,” he said. “I haven’t got all day.” He puffed on his pipe until he started the smoke flowing in bullous clouds. It was aromatic and not unpleasant. “Humankind can conceive all sorts of weird ideas and proposals. The problem, then, is that science can test those ideas and proposals.”


“And how do you exert control over people with ideas that science can prove wrong?” He puffed again. “Let me give you an example. Let’s say you want to make people satisfied with their state of poverty. So, you tell them you’re going to cut their source of revenue and that will increase their income.”

“That sounds a bit familiar.”

“Doesn’t it though? Now, the problem is, as you well know, a second-year college student majoring in mathematics—some call that science—can prove that proposition false in a few moments. How do you maintain your control? You can’t kill all the college students.”

“No,” I said, “but how do you exert control over people with ideas that science can prove wrong?”

“Simple,” he said. He blew a huge cloud of smoke my way and I inhaled a bit of it. “You kill science.”

“But how?”

“First,” he said, “you kill all the teachers.”

I rose and walked away, staggering just a bit.

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