This blog is highly personal, makes no attempt at being politically correct, will occasionaly offend your sensibility, and certainly does not represent the opinions of the people I work with or for.
Us, Humans
avatar
The recent announcement of the first synthetic species on the planet, a species "whose parent is a computer", to quote Craig Venter, has obviously spawned some criticisms; mainly from the fundamentalists who would wish us to do nothing but read the bible and pray all day long. By the way, TED has put the video of the announcement online. It is worth watching because getting the information from the source is orders of magnitude better than reading the stupid articles that you will find in news outlets (most of them written by "journalists" who have no clue).

I recently read an essay by Dijkstra (yes, "the" Edsger Dijkstra) in which he said: "Science is hated because its mastery requires too much hard work, and, by the same token, its practitioners, the scientists, are hated because of their power they derive from it".

I purposely took only this sentence rather than longer extracts from the essay because I thought that it actually summarised the entire point.

People are quick to point out the small mistakes made in the name of Science. The case of the cane toad's introduction in Australia (I took than one just because I recently read about it), reminds us, that sometimes we overlook things and make mistakes, but Science is a process, a learning process, and we are bound to make mistakes during our learning process, the important thing being to learn from them.

But defending Science is not the purpose of this entry. Instead I which I could make people understand something simple. Something simple about ourselves: We are a technological species. That's what we do, that's what we are, that's what we have always be and will ever be. Being a technological species means that we have a deep instinct inside us, to learn more and show our creativity by learning to master the mysteries of the universe around us (and if we have to "kill God" in the process, well, so be it). If we had to summary the main feature of our kind in one sentence that would be: We are a technological species.

I am sure that there are lots of species in the universe which are not technologically driven. For instance, Cameron's Na'vis on Pandora, certainly don't care knowing if Riemann's hypothesis is true or not, or how does one break the light speed barrier, and I am sure that they are quite happy about that, but us, here on Earth, we care.

Of course, technology doesn't make us "good", neither does it make us "bad". We have lots of other mental or social tools available to us to address those aspects, but this is not the purpose of Science. (Even though, as we were reminded recently, the study of morality and ethics might greatly benefit from a scientific approach...)

Anyway, I wish that one day, as a species, we would stop polluting everybody with the fundamentalists fears, look at ourselves in a mirror and just accept a simple fact: Science (and Mathematics) is hard, sometimes look intimidating, can be misused, give us powers that we might think we do not deserve, but above all, that's what we do.


ps: Thinking of it, the Creationists will now have a point: at least a part of life on Earth has been intelligently designed (even if it is a small bacterial colony locked up in an underground scientific bunker)
[ add a comment ]

Archives