Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Thinking Outside the Usual Ground Scope

This post is presented as a comment to the NBCNEWS.com article linked below.

Whether we understand them or not, as well as whether we agree with them or not, cultural traditions and beliefs are something to be respected. Just as to say that the physical impact of what we do in furthering the advancement of knowledge is just as important as whatever potential knowledge might be gained.

It is important not only because of the desires of those whose input we over rule, or of the complex natural systems we may be negatively impacting. The further important consideration here is our ongoing hold of why we inquire in the first place. This is so because how we go about the process of inquiring says a great deal about how we view what we inquire of, and what we intend to do with with new knowledge after we attain it.

A good part of this can be seen in the difference of approach that, say, a native inhabitant of an environment would go about exploring new territory, or even new aspects of a known environment, so as to better understand and adapt to it; as opposed to the industrialist who seeks merely to find more resource to exploit. One retains a reverence and awe of what they seek to understand (primitive or superstitious thought that might be), and the other sees only obstacles to overcome in the more efficient attainment of feed stocks, that would be wasted otherwise. A metaphor I've always felt was, at least partly, expressed in the book Moby-Dick.

You see this same kind of mentality, as well as hubris in my opinion, in the way physicists are applying ever greater energies to the impact of particles which which to hammer away at the nature of matter. Even if we ignore the possibility (however low the probability is) that they are ignoring one of the most basic aspects of very complex systems; namely that small inputs can have very large, and quite unexpected, affects, we are still left to wonder at what this kind violence says about our stance toward that which we seek to understand.

The bottom line in all of this for me is the simple notion that there are always other ways to go about what ought to be a joyous process of discovery; where joyous encompasses the embrace of humility, awe and great curiosity. As in not spending more money on monster colliders, but putting that money into a more vigorous space program instead. Do that not only because nature has already created its own ways of accelerating various bits (which might surprise us in contrast), but also because we could come up with non-invasive accelerators; rings that would allow us the means to explore relativistic mass in new ways, not to mention creating energy gathering instruments (where visible light is but one) limited only by our imagination, and our will to apply both patience and effort, along with a certain kind of morality in both the approach to new knowledge, as well as what motivates us to use it.

Is this so much to ask of Science? Even allowing for the fact that it will probably slow discoveries down to various degrees? 

I would submit that it isn't but I will leave it to the reader to make up their own minds about it.

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