It is easy for those of us who would reap the benefits of nuclear energy and the (supposive) benefits of genetic modification to herald these as today’s “technological cures.” However, I suspect that the people of Fukishma, Nine Mile Island, Chernobyl, the Native Americans whose land is mined, our great-grandchildren, and the very land itself shall decry our foolish egoism. Much the way we decry our grandparents and great-grandparents who saw it fit to strip us of old growth forests, rivers flowing with fish, mercury-free oceans, an ozone layer, and the very stability of the global climate.
Most opponents of genetic modification (GM) and nuclear energy feel they must argue on the grounds of science. This is nonsense. Too long we have bowed before the Priests of Science. Too long we have let them hold the keys to reality, to morality, and even to the meaning of life. And: see how they define it! (And I say see, not listen, for words are the illusion they spin.) The meaning of life has become: live as well as possible right now, regardless of past or future implications. The definition of “living well?” It is, of course, strictly materialistic: nice car, nice house, nice clothes, good looking spouse, and money (to buy more stuff: material).
Oh, no doubt science cloaks itself, time and again, in morality. Nuclear will save us from global warming. Monsanto’s GM foods are saving the world from starvation. But, these worldviews, (while, oh so conveniently, bring great wealth to the hands of a few) are little more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or if you prefer the sheeple metaphor of today: a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
The advocates of “Science” most closely match, in habit of mind, those we call “Christian Fundamentalists.” By this I mean a group whose worldview has strict limits set by authority figures (Stephen Hawkins and Darwin or the Bible). Today, it is science fundamentalists who lead both cultural thought and behavior. Not, necessarily, the scientists themselves. They are often acutely aware of the limits of science, much as a good minister or Christian is aware of the limits of her/his religion. Due to this leadership in thought and actions, it is vital to understand the Religion of Science, of Science Fundamentalists, the adherents of the materialistic worldview. The unspoken foundation is that progress is good and technology holds the keys to the future good. The Religion of Science exists in the land of strict rationalism and logic, for the historical pendulum has swung from the land of the emotional and superstitious to its other extreme.
If history has anything to teach us, it is humans’ capacity (a tendency?) to reach for the power of the gods. And even science itself must admit that atoms and genetics are the building blocks of creation. To reach for the power of the gods is to bring their wrath. It is to build the tower of Babel, that shall be –inevitably- destroyed and the people scattered. As merely one species among billions, we have no right to play with that which contains the power to harm so many.
I plea that we recognize the very strict limits of Science to explain and control the world. I plea that we recognize, the limits of human nature, which uses the brilliant tools of error and mistake to learn (historically we also used story and myth, but these are largely tools of distraction or propaganda today). For when the tools of error and mistake, over-reach the boundaries of morality, they become (quite literally) weapons of mass destruction. They become Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Legacies that live on in mutated genes and radioactivity long after the original perpetrators and victims are dead. Live on, not as in the Holocaust, which lives on in memory and story, a place that seeks redemption, a lesson to dredge out of the horror. No, these weapons, which we now play with, live on in the hard, unforgiving chemical reality. A reality in which there is no redemption.