23052011

I get asked a fair bit, "Why are you studying science?"

And questions, well some more than others, have a way of echoing in my head, sometimes months after the original asking. Perhaps it's when I give a flippant, no-thought reply, and then feel guilty that I should have put more work into it. For instance, some of my common responses to the above question include

"Because I want to learn to fly."

"To fix global warming"

"I want to clone myself."

etc. All partially true, if only in a dreamscape.

But today as I made my daily migration across the road from work for an iced coffee (the checkout chick stated 'one day you'll get something other than an iced coffee' to which I replied 'and then the world will collapse.'), I thought about it, and realised something.

I'm like a priest trying to regain my faith, but with science. I used to proselytize science, I used to be a noisy advocate of the scientific method. Then some cynicism set in. I began to see that every measurement has random error, is prone to transposition error. Every statement of fact has near-infinite qualifiers - E.g. "I am 40 years old".

You get my drift. Nothing's precise. Entropy has its hand everywhere.

But more than all these pseudo intellectual qualifiers, I think gear destroyed a lot of my faith in science. Isn't a foundation of science the assumption that man is a free-willed, independent beast? When he loses that independence, that ability to make his own choices on a matter as simple as whether he will spend his wages on gear or food, then you start to lose faith in believing that individuals can change anything. Perhaps every choice we make is really just a result of chemical levels in parts of our brain. No rational decision, no choice, just constantly altering simple chemical levels that make us think we're choosing what we do. When one chemical overrides so many others, you start to get a fatalistic viewpoint on everything.

So maybe that's why I'm doing science. To remind myself that despite errors, despite qualifiers, we do have some control on our surrounds, and we are not merely slaves to this ancient chemistry.

Listening: Drones 'hidden' album - Gala Mill. Took six months on order through Rockinghorse

Reading: Permutation City, Greg Egan

Thinking: Katie Strandley died 20 years ago Saturday (maybe 19 years, unsure). This doesn't seem to matter to anybody. Does dying at 20 mean that you're forgotten by all but immediate family? Is life just an effort to affect others, to force yourself into their memories?

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