Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shakes his head ...

Do the folks organizing the Year of Science not know what a science is?  Or do they just not care?

Physics is the study of matter and energy and their interactions.  Chemistry is the study of the composition and properties of substances.  Biology is the study of living organisms. (Don't ask me to draw precise boundaries between physics, physical chemistry, and molecular biology.) Ecology is the study of the interrelations between living organisms and their environment.

What you don't see in any of those definitions is a value judgment.

This month's YoS theme is Biodiversity and Conservation.  Is anything wrong with preservation and efficiency? No (at least within limits). But this month's theme is about what to DO with nature, not how stuff in nature WORKS.

What goes beyond a reasonable limit? One extreme approach toward maintaining biodiversity (NOT suggested by the YoS folks) is the voluntary human extinction movement. That values conservation of every species but one: us.

My other gripe with this month's theme is that "conservation" sometimes masks a retreat from the notion of progress. Take eliminating the smogs that once blighted London and Los Angeles. Progress -- better ways of generating power; catalytic converters; more efficient auto engines -- had at least as much to do with that happy outcome as conservation -- driving fewer miles.

A note to YoS organizers: if it's not too late, let's talk about ... science.

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