So what of the impact of science on culture, politics and religion? From the earliest beginnings of its roots in thinking by philosophers, whose intellectual machinations observed and interpreted the nature of things, it could now be argued that, from those beginnings come the roots of its downfall; our self destruction.
Our culture is driven by a desire for control of our lives, which in turn is determined and limited by our own genetic make up, our chemistry if you like, and the environment in which we evolved as individuals and as communities.
Religion is perhaps the result of a desire, for most of us in recognition of our mortality, to make sense of the chaos that results as every individual interprets their circumstances differently and therefore to give collective structure to it all. Politics originally seeks to formalise and legislate, to provide equity and security across the divisions between individuals, communities and religious belief systems and ultimately democracy, but politics has always conspired to fail us, because of self interest; because of our deeply ingrained, genetic survival instinct.
The science that attempts to explain and underpin it all ultimately fails us. Whilst it has achieved the most remarkable things, taken us to the moon, cured diseases, built bridges and enabled us to communicate with the world, it has, like most other aspects of our lives, been overcome by that cornerstone of culture, that of commerce and commercial interest. Politics and religion have, for better or worse, tried to limit its influence, but self interest, desire for survival and greed for consumption of ‘things’, is winning the day. It has captured hearts, minds and souls and enveloped our day to day approach to living and life itself and is causing us to lose touch with our place in the universe. Unless we can conceive of ways to halt this fairground ride as it hurtles out of control, it strikes me that the relevance and usefulness of science in our culture will be lost, because we will be lost.
Poet and friend, Kona Macphee wrote a short piece around six years ago in her enlightened blog, ‘That Elusive Clarity‘, which described a conversation with her daughter entitled “A Brief Blonde Sun” …
My daughter and I recently went to see “Tangled”, Disney’s take on the Rapunzel fairytale, in which Rapunzel’s evil, ancient captor perpetually restores her own youth via the power of Rapunzel’s magic hair.
“Would she stay young forever?” my daughter asked.
“I don’t know. I guess so. It’s magic hair.”
“But it couldn’t work forever!”
“What about when the sun explodes?”
With all that we try to achieve, shouldn’t we remind ourselves not only of what the future holds for our children but also that, regardless of how much we feel in control of our lives now … we’re not! Regardless of our continuing dreams that science will explain it all in the end … it won’t!
Such dreams are simply a kind of vanity, subsidised by hugely expensive quests to conquer space, fly to Mars, send satellites beyond our solar system, which is, let's face it, only one of billions inside our galaxy, the ‘Milky Way’, which, in turn, is only one of billions in the universe; to escape reality; to deny our mortality. Come on! Wake up! Smell the coffee!
Humanity may be the only current voice by which the known universe can understand itself, but ultimately I find it impossible to believe, right now, that we should be spending our money, expending the intellectual energies of our greatest minds in solving anything other than the many issues we have here, on our own gentle, amazing, beautiful but yielding and long suffering Mother Earth.