Scientific Curiosity

I just finished an article which was a commentary on the weather prognosticators’ inability to predict the precise pathway of Hurricane Irma.  I myself have had similar reactions to the limitations of this science.  But, whereas the writer’s conclusion was that we don’t know everything about predicting the weather, or  medicine and the many other aspects and branches of modern science; my take was that the author stopped way short of where he might have led us readers.  I deduced that he was perfectly at ease with where, at the curb side, he had dropped us, flummoxed by our continued human ignorance.  My conclusions took me much, much further.

If Western humanity has any distinctiveness, it derives from a notion that there is much to be discovered about our universe, and that our purpose in this world to draw back the curtains and discover what makes everything operate as it does. God has implanted with us as a collective specie these abilities to know and unpack cosmic “secrets.”  This is not the time to be throwing our hands up and capitulating to our limitations.  Our weather folks have sophisticated instruments by which they know when and where hurricanes are forming and why.  They can determine and know their intensity, velocity and strength.  They feed all their data into super computers whose powers are little more than a half century old.  That they haven’t yet “broken the code” to decipher precisely the pathway of these storms isn’t something to be lamely accepted, derided and mourned.  It is the proverbial gauntlet, thrown down to us as a challenge to go further, study the phenomena deeper, calculate and fold in even more data, create better machines and models so that, in the future we shall be even more adept at our predictions.

The tragedy of our times is that we are witnessing an anti-intellectual, anti-science, dark age.  It is an unfolding that seeks to gut the funding for the very agencies and programs that have brought us to the level of sophisticated, scientific knowledge that we enjoy at this moment in human history.  This regression threatens the enterprise of discovery and advancement just at the moment when break-throughs in medicine and pharmacology, hydrology, and agriculture, to name but a few areas of modern science, are most critical to our continued well being and futures.

There was an episode of West Wing in which a probe, the Galaxy Five, upon landing on Mars, failed to begin communicating with Earth.  The president had scheduled a closed circuit, educational program with school children all over the United States.  When the probe’s systems shut down, there were those who assumed that so, too, would the T.V. program.  Why have it when the main attraction was not operating?  The answer was that, even…or especially…in failure, it wasn’t a reason to quit.  Rather, there was the challenge to move past what we hadn’t perfected, to discover and to probe harder, smarter, and more astutely.  Failure was the impetus to try harder.

The human thirst for knowledge is one of the greatest gifts of God, and the ultimate blessing is the opportunity to seek and assimilate, and then to continue that seeking.  The never ending goal isn’t to just up and accept our limitations, but to explore and discover, thereby advancing humanity’s capacities, knowledge and capabilities.

One day soon, with the help of satellites and computers, charts and graphs, hurricane hunters and just plain human brains, focus, sweat and grit, we shall perfect our abilities to chart the direction of monster storms and maybe even affect how they are formed, how they move, and how to direct them away from doing the catastrophic damage they do.

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