Friday, December 07, 2007

Along for the ride

My daughter, whom I have mentioned before in these pages, has gotten further in the study of science than in Porter in her direct lineage going back to the 1680s, was studying for a Biology test last night. She enjoys studying by explaining things to people as she goes through her notes. When no one is around to hear, she will talk to herself. Last night, she had told me she wanted my help studying for a government test, which she knew I would enjoy.Then, catching me in a good mood, she pulled out an 11,000 page biology book and began explaining three methods of cloning to me. She explained a lot of other stuff too, but cloning is in the news sometimes, so I at least knew what that was. As I strained to understand a modicum of what she was explaining,it struck me that the life I am leading has been dependent upon a pretty small group of geniuses and near geniuses, and I am just along for the ride.

Not only would I have never discovered how to clone something, the concept of cloning itself would have never occured to me. The same is true with just about everything that has ever been invented or explained by science. I struggle to understand the freshman textbook, the real heros of this world came up with the ideas that someone else who only dimly understands them, dumb down for college freshman texts I don't understand.

I have no idea how I got to work, oh, I know I drove a car, but how does it work ? Why do the very walls surrounding me right now not collapse and send me through the floor, in a building that has been standing since 1859 ? How the hell did anyone ever now enough to tell me that it is going to rain today ? If I was placed on this earth with no knowledge of science (which I guess I was) would I ever be able to figure out that the earth revolves around the sun ? That a year is 365 days ? That if I plowed a field and sprinkled seeds in the furrow, that I could grow dinner for next year ? would the concept of the fishing pole ever come to me, or would I spend my time throwing rocks at fish ? Would it occur to me to heat meat, or would I eat it raw ?

My partner Allensworth once met a man who had been instrumental in translating Mayan hyrogliphics..As he correctly pointed out to me at the time "You could have stared at that stuff for forty years and never figured it out. " No, but then again, I have spent my life working on transferring money from one pocket to another. That must be worth something .I guess, it just seems to pale in comparison with the Salk vaccine. How in the hell does this computer work ?

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