SCIENCE GIVETH AND SCIENCE TAKETH AWAY
Today as I battled my way out of sleep, brushing aside the hard little balls of matter gathered in corners of my ancient eyes, shook off the dizziness punch a night of sleep gives me, and tried to focus my light wave gatherers on my dear little wife’s form who was gathered into a comfortable ball in my recliner, my ears heard a strange superstitious praise of god going on in the box Earthlings call TV. Trying to get the synapses going that connect my prefrontal cortex to my sound receivers, I noticed that simultaneously my brain was sending signals that were moving muscles to turn my body to look at the TV box.
And what to my wondering ears and eyes should appear but a whole big huge family and a tiny Amelia dear. A male voice was ineptly trying to give meaning to the birth and survival of a human species baby Amelia by claiming that some hypothetical superbeing had given his little baby being a will to survive, to come into life and exit out of the mom/womb and onto the earth, that everything called miraculous had colluded to make this baby live when it was only 21 weeks at birth—a new record, boxing fans!
Though I’d entered the scene barefooted, in my blue jockey shorts, unprepared for intellectual life as of yet, my first thoughts were MONEY AND SCIENCE. Immediately my sound gatherers heard my mouth lungs throat teeth and lips forming the words to my wife, “I wonder just how many millions of tax dollars it cost to keep little Amelia alive (not begrudging it, just wondering when the money would receive its due praise) and, then, next my brain surfaced for consciousness to hear several more thoughts in rapid succession about all the science and scientific progress that had gone into developing and deploying the techniques that kept little baby Amelia alive. Yet I did not hear from the TV dad one bit of praise for the science and the money without which baby Amelia would have died in god’s good old world of 10 BCE (before the common era) or 500 CE (common era) or 1700 even, but only praise for this imaginary being that the human male Earthling and his family had conjured up out of nowhere to explain the phenomena before them. If awareness were the floor beneath their feet, they would have been levitating about ten feet above it they were so out of touch with it.
Yet who can really blame the poor dumb Earthling animal—science, through evolutionary psychology, has shown us (through experiments having to do with severing the corpus callosum in half) that the left brain will and must, like the good robot it is, make sense out of, give meaning to, and explain every chain of synapses that fires within it, playing a sort of connect a dot to reality game with all the bits of phenomena arriving from outside the human body. Otherwise it would make the human being in which it lives act or speak in such a way as to make other Earthlings observing his behavior say that the first being has gone crazy. The scariest part of that insanity judgment is that the things that humans agree about as sane thoughts and actions, like thoughts and words about hypothetical superbeings, are not always grounded in the reality floor. Take war for example! Most human beings, I guess, live in a sort of suspended levitation all their lives.
Just last night as I sat in my recliner at midnight, idly tickling the synapses in my frontal lobes with empty TV waves, that old scary thought from a long ago time entered my mind, “what is my life all about, what does it mean” and my whole awareness lifted out of the chair with a chilling umph. Jobless, retired and facing a move (if my wife should take a job in Newport or Vancouver in the next few weeks), a move out of the current routine that supplies meaning to my brainlife by structuring my synapses into some sort of standard Earthling animal behavior, I feared I might suddenly find myself out of touch with the meaning-giving reality some call their daily routine. Fortunately, in my recover life AAB (after alcoholic behavior), I have discovered the capacity for one part of my brain, the rational bit, to tell the other, the limbic system, “O shut up and calm down, idiot. You’re making up fears.” And, lo, the fear departed and the red sea parted and the humanly conscious me asserted it’s dominance over the animal me that lives in my instincts. The human god in me spoke to the animal god in me and all was well.
Needless to say, I’m on a fine run this morning, having one of those days when symbol and metaphor play connect a dot with all the bits of fact and fancy my webs of synapses have formed into memory packages until the way before me lays out smooth and full of the meaning that satisfies. I could go on for quite a bit, but another part of my brain cries out for me to go and do algebra problems, “for won’t that be fun too,” says a voice in my head that I know is mine and not the voice of some hypothetical superbeing. Yes—science hath given much and science hath also taken away, and pity the poor Earthling, ignorant of science, who must make sense of it all while still believing in hypothetical superbeings and magic.