Bare Bones Biology 082 – Compassion

Practical compassion, energizes life-affirming behaviors. Sometimes known as win-win, practical compassion requires us to understand the needs of the others, and to use that understanding to develop mutually rewarding long-term outcomes. This is not easy when we interact with other living things that aren’t human, because many of the needs of other organisms are different from our own. That’s where science can help us out.

But, you may well say, we have given up on science. We tried it and it clearly didn’t do what we wanted. I would agree completely if we were talking about technology. We have mostly used our technology to despoil, not to affirm life. Especially in recent time. But I’m talking about science, not technology. Science doesn’t do things. Science is a method to learn about the laws of nature and how they function. To learn about light, for example, or how does energy work.

But science doesn’t do anything, therefore science does not promise anything. It simply tries to learn about the laws of nature. The laws of nature are not our responsibility. If we use our knowledge of science to do something or make something, that would be technology. It is our responsibility how we use our knowledge. There is no way that humans can change the laws of nature, but what we humans decide to do with our understanding of the laws of nature is our human responsibility, and I agree with you completely. For the most part our recent uses of technology have not been life affirming. We have failed in our responsibility.

“Nature does not forgive. It is caught in the finality of its impersonal structure.
Nature must be true to its immutable laws. When these laws are broken it must
go on down its path of uniformity.”

In this excerpt, Martin Luther King, Jr., is describing the basic law of cause and effect. For what we have done by misusing our knowledge of science, we are paying the price. We can’t stop the effects of what we have done any more than we could un-throw a rock. But we could stop throwing rocks if we are interested in growing a better future for human kind.

We could stop fighting over our ideas and start collaborating in a compassionate search for a better way of life. We could use our scientific knowledge to inform our practical compassion that I described last week
– and we could use our compassionate human values to inform the way we use our scientific knowledge.

Instead, we continue to fight over ideas. Like – what is more true – science or compassion.

What hogwash – it’s all true. We are human. We are compassionate beings. Our cultures function best when they affirm our compassionate needs. That doesn’t mean EVERYTHING functions better when we affirm our own compassionate needs. Science is not about compassion. Science is a way to study phenomena without the added confusion caused by our emotional needs.

Scoffing at religion because it centers around our emotional needs is self-defeating. Scoffing at science because it does not center around our emotional needs is also self-defeating. We can do better than either of these.

I think every scientist and every technologist should be responsible to learn and apply the basic principles of practical compassion. I also think that every person who claims to be compassionate, or caring, should be responsible to learn about the basic functions of our living world and use her understanding to inform her politics and her good works. Everyone else should do both.

Otherwise, the efforts on all sides, no matter how well intended, will end in ever more wars (OK, you call them debates) over silliness. Science versus compassion. Me versus you. Individual versus the population, and the population versus the whole living, breathing earth. And the result will continue to be lose, lose, lose, lose, lose and lose.

Bare Bones Biology 082 – Compassion
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM
Audio will be posted later at
WWW.BareBonesBiology.com

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