This is Science September 28, 2005 – Posted in: Aberrant Normalcy

Gene Wilder goes MadScience has brought us wondrous things. It is responsible for the computer you use to read this blog, and it is responsible for the light over your head and the electricity that powers your equipment. Too numerous to count, the benefits of science can not be overlooked.

Yet I often cringe and curse at the coldness, the icy logic of science that more and more often seems to me horrific and brutish. Take for example this recent discovery of a giant squid in its native habitat. I perfectly understand why scientists are interested in such a creature. But if you read the article, you will discover how they lured the giant squid with baited hooks and “observed” it for more than four hours while the poor creature struggled to get itself free, eventually leaving one of its arms behind.

Now, let’s change the characters around for a moment. You may remember the story of the hiker who became stuck under a rock and had to cut off his own arm with a pocketknife to escape. Could you imagine this scenario happening with an observer just a few feet away “watching” the man struggle with life and death for hours, doing nothing to help, until he cut his limb off to flee?

We watched a creature suffer for hours, all for “science.”

We infect rodents and simians with horrific diseases. We drop cats from great heights to their death to test the limits of their agility. The best and brightest minds of our generation and of those past use their talents to build missles, bioweapons, things that kill. All in the name of “science.”

Why is it that science, more often than not, has no heart? Is it something inbred in the culture of science that says heart has no place in the pursuit of “scientific truth”?

A recent article in New Scientist relayed an interview with John Templeton who said the following: “Science creates vast power rapidly. Sixty years ago it was nuclear bombs; now it’s bioweapons. Along the way, science and technology have created vast advances in useful things that are a great blessing. The amount of practical progress I have seen in my 92 years is so vast as to be almost unbelievable. But science does not itself create “stewardship” — the wisdom and capability to direct power towards beneficient ends and to prevent it from serving malevolent ends. To invest in advancing power without investing in stewardship is folly.”

If it’s “unscientific” to have compassion for a suffering being, then so be it. I’ll choose compassion over science any day. My knowledge of the furtive giant squid can wait until another, future day, when I can watch it peacefully, and without cutting off its limb.