Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Reason for Hope

Last October I was channel surfing and landed on Book TV, that subset of CSPAN that broadcasts author interviews. The evening’s show was a panel at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: "A Discussion with Bay Area Science Writers," and included Michael Pollan and Richard Rhodes among others.

At one point the moderator brought up the subject of science as a double-edged sword – the thing that can bring us so many miracles but also makes possible nukes and napalm – and Richard Rhodes said something that seemed to me to be so spot-on and moving that I tracked down a CD of the panel and transcribed the relevant bit myself:

"I don’t see anything else that can save us except science. It’s the only human discipline that requires evidential support and adjusts itself accordingly when the evidence isn’t there. With all of the fraud, with all of the confusion, with all of the excursions into horrors like eugenics, never the less science does actually progress, in the sense that we learn more about our world from year to year. And in addition to that – and this is a more spiritual reason for hope, I think, out of this wonderful, rich, discipline – it’s inexhaustible. The world is fractal. It’s equally complicated at every level. You can go down and down and down into the universe or up and out and out into the universe and it’s equally complicated.

"Anyone who follows astronomy must be as amazed as I am at how astronomers keep finding ways to tease more information out of seemingly tiny bits of light. It’s fascinating to me how this happens, and of course it’s made a world that is infinitely richer and more various than we ever imagined before. So it’s always been a source of hope for me."

Warm, yet rational, thoughts for your Holiday Season!


Post a Comment

<< Home