Bare Bones Biology 212 – Thinking From Both Ends

“Some people (cling) to angst as if it were a virtue. I let it go with relief. Optimism (is) a gift at birth. Bottles (are) half full, not half empty.” (Dick Francis, “To the Hilt”)

140624-snake-ASC_9468RSss copyIn fact, any bottle or glass that is half full is also half empty, and if, for example, you live out-of-doors in rattlesnake country, as I do, you would be wise to look first to the rattlesnake’s fangs, and then to its beauty. (This picture is not a rattlesnake. Upside? We are keeping it to eat mice. The mice are very cute. Downside? Hanta virus, and there was a very serious recent case of someone who did not KNOW about Hanta virus.)

Here’s a small example of withholding the half-empty information in order to influence decision making and sell stuff. Take a look at the hybrid sunflower seeds I bought last week in Santa Fe. Pretty picture on the front of the package. Writing on the back explains that these sunflowers are better than most, because they “do not drip pollen on your beautiful tabletop.” OK, that’s the good news. Now tell us the rest. No such luck. The package does not mention the downside. Everything has a downside.

I assume the downside of these hybrid sunflowers is that they cannot make viable seeds. At least that is a common result of hybridization. Like a mule, which is also a hybrid organism. Mules are very useful animals with special talents, but unfortunately they are sterile and so cannot make more mules. These seeds, I assume, are also sterile. That’s why they don’t make pollen and that’s also why they probably don’t make fertile seeds.

I’m not saying we should mope about in “angst” because we don’t know how to make wise decisions. But we do need to take responsibility for both ends of each problem. The good and bad, the yin and yang, the half-full and half-empty. Find ALL the information you need to make wise decisions, which is all the good and all the bad – fact check the information – discuss it with people who have genuine expertise and with people who will be affected by your decisions — and make a plan.

We cannot grow a healthy community when some people are not willing to look at the downside; other people are getting rich by withholding the information we need to make wise decisions; and everyone else is confused because they don’t see the connection between the upside and the downside. Or they choose to ignore the fact that everything has a downside. And that’s the kind of human interactions we are promoting today.

So what are we doing instead? We are fighting it out, which is the same as not deciding. When we choose to not research the downside and the upside, or in other ways avoid our responsibility to make wise decisions – we are deciding to not decide. Not making decisions is a choice; that’s why I say there are always more than two choices attached to any problem. When you choose to not choose wisely, you are in fact choosing to let someone else choose for you. You are choosing to be the victim of other people’s choices.

Here’s a really big and very important example.
First I’ll give a glass-half-full opinion:

“We should encourage growth of the human population because population growth maintains economic growth.”

Here is a half empty opinion:

“We should try to avoid human overpopulation because in the long run the economy will crash from not having enough resources to feed the growth AND because human over-growth kills off other parts of the Biosystem that create the resources.”

There are data to support both answers, but if you are fighting on the side of either answer by claiming the other is not true — rather than studying and discussing the problem from both ends – then we all are losing forever our precious opportunity to make wise choices now.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFanc and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM, in Bryan, Texas.

A copy of this podcast can be downloaded at:

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: