Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was sitting at a table, sharing a meal with friends, when he suddenly blurted out, “Have you thanked a scientist today?”
“What for?”, his friends, somewhat startled, asked.
“Just about everything you see on this table!”, he replied. “Not to mention the table itself, which is mostly plastic, and there weren’t any plastics until scientists invented them and figured out how to make them cheaply and effectively, starting less than 100 years ago. Ditto the tableware and cups. And the plates. All of which we’re going to throw away! Just 70 years ago or so, we would have had to sign up a whole bunch of us to wash the dishes so we could clean up after this party.
“And let’s talk about the food! You see anything here grew out of this back yard?”
“Um, no …”
“So somebody, somewhere, had to grow and raise all this stuff, probably using machines powered by gasoline, neither of which was around 150 years ago. And even with the machines, they probably wouldn’t have been able to grow enough grub to feed all these people without some pretty heavy duty scientific breeding programs – including GMOs – without which a bunch of us would be going hungry, especially if we didn’t just happen to be a pack of insanely rich (by the rest of the world’s standards) white peeps.
“And then it all had to get to us! Any idea how many of us on this pile of volcanic rock would get fed without all the ships and planes – all made possible by scientists – that motor and fly in here on an hourly basis? And the trucks that cart the cargo from the harbors and airports to the markets, and from the markets to this plastic table?
“But wait, there’s more! How did we all find out about this party? Cell phones, emails, even print newsletters. Wasn’t too long ago that the coconut telegraph was made out of real coconuts. Yeah, your cable bill was smaller, but so was your audience!”
“Sheesh”, his friends cried. “Next thing we know, you’ll be telling us that the National Science Foundation funds something useful, and not just snail sex.”
“It would if we actually gave it money instead of grief“, YFNA retorted. “I’m not done yet either. We just heard a spiel about how this Jesus of Nazareth character told off his homies when they tried to stop little kids from coming to see him, right? And how his homies and everyone else thought that was weird because kids didn’t count for nothin’, right?”
“Your kids don’t count for nothin’, huh? Quite the opposite! We’d do just about anything for our kids! Except teach ’em about sex and money, the two things they most need to make a go of the world – but I’ll let that pass for now. We certainly don’t just toss our kids out the door to play in the street so they don’t bother the grownups, like they did in Jesus’s time. How could they do that?”
“I guess you think you know?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve got a guess. And here’s that guess. The adults didn’t wish to make any kind of real investment in their kids until they knew that they were going to live to be adults! In the ancient world – hell, in the USA through the 19th century – about 20% of all kids died before their first birthday, and half of them were worm food before age 10! What Jesus is said to have done was radical because he invested emotional energy into little persons who might not get to be big persons. It was almost like getting personal with a pet cow that you know is going to die as soon as harvest time comes around – and not before, you hope.
“Yeah, it’s a great metaphor for teaching people how and why to invest emotional energy in other people who you might otherwise think are expendable. Like, ferinstance, people without dinero in a culture that worships gold über Alles. But it also testifies to a world without science and scientists. Nowadays, we can cherish our children because we have a pretty good chance of keeping our children around. Long enough for them to get to be teenagers and learn how to infuriate us. But, before science and scientists, lots of parents never got the chance to ground their little rebels and take away their cells and car keys. It’s natural to build emotional walls against kids when you have no way of knowing when the next smallpox or scarlet fever epidemic is going to roar through town and sweep them away.
“So, I say again: for the good things we see before us, have you thanked a scientist today?”
“Guess we’d better.”
“I’d agree with that …”
Charley and Charlene,
Many many words of wisdom from a Ph.d scientist, dammit!
Thank you for Amoeba’s Lorica.
Happy Holidays and 2016!?!