The Immense Folly of the Scientific Enterprise

The naive but widespread belief is that science and medicine, by finding cures for common diseases, solving the perennial problem of hunger, and protecting humans from predators and the elements, have been unmitigated benefits. According to this view, researchers like Pasteur, Fleming, and Salk are among the greatest of humanity’s benefactors. However, this common belief is only true when viewed from a narrowly human-centric perspective.

In a state of Nature, which is the state that existed before we humans became dominant, death is an ever-present reality. The maturity rates – the percentage of individuals that live long enough to reproduce – among other species of organisms is extremely low, in all cases being less than 50%, and in many cases much lower than that. Among species whose reproductive behaviour involves producing large numbers of eggs, such as fish, frogs, and octopuses, the maturity rate is probably less than 1%.[1] Modern human beings, on the other hand, aim for a maturity rate of 100%, foolishly believing that this is undoubtedly a good thing.

Scientists believe that they have outwitted Nature by removing the natural checks – predators, disease, war, and starvation – that serve to limit the populations of every other species on Earth. But the truth is that, by removing these natural checks in our case, they have made much more likely a catastrophe that will greatly imperil our survival; in other words, they have made the long-term survival of the human race much less, rather than more, likely.

How long has the spectacular “success” wrought by science lasted? A mere few hundred years. And in evolutionary terms, this is but the proverbial blink of an eye, or the frenzied copulation of two gnats – certainly nothing to brag about. For the fact is that our ancestors, who suffered periodically the trials and tribulations of disease, war, famine, and predation by other species, nevertheless were able to survive for hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of years, a period that is more than 1,000 or 10,000 times longer than the period during which science has been performing its diabolical wizardry, thereby enabling the unchecked rise in the human population from roughly tens or hundreds of millions to its current alarming total of almost eight billion, a figure that has not yet ceased to increase. And what is more, because of other scientific discoveries and the technological inventions that are based on them, a great many of these human beings are consuming far more – in terms of energy, natural resources, and other living creatures, while producing prodigious amounts of waste and pollution – than their ancestors were capable of consuming and producing.

As paradoxical as this may sound, it is science and medicine that now pose the greatest threats to the long-term survival of humanity. And they have done so by repeatedly and dangerously violating the most fundamental of all of Nature’s laws, the Law of Balance. By wanting to save every single child that is born, we are setting the stage for a man-made disaster of catastrophic proportions. There is no greater proof of our collective stupidity than this – our failure to understand that, in order for our species to remain for a long time on the Earth, co-existing harmoniously with its many other inhabitants, we must have both the courtesy and the good sense to limit our numbers, as well as our consumption of the living creatures and the non-living things that we find on the Earth. But instead, we have become enslaved to a model of progress that sees destructive economic growth as the primary goal of human development. In truth, this model is nothing more than a frenzied orgy of collective stupidity and excess that will soon lead to our doom if we do not change and moderate our incredibly selfish ways.

There are only two possible outcomes to the situation that has been created by the great folly of the scientific enterprise: either we limit our numbers and our ever-increasing consumption voluntarily, or this reduction will be forced on us in ways that will not at all be to our liking. To want simply to maintain the status quo, which option many people believe is also possible, meaning that our numbers and our voracious consumption of the Earth’s living creatures and its non-living resources can continue to increase without any check on their rapid rise, is to behave like the mythical ostrich that buries its head in the sand whenever it is faced with a difficult situation or problem that it does not want to confront, while hoping that the situation or problem will resolve itself or simply disappear. But what is much more likely to occur is that we selfish, stupid, vainglorious, and overly clever human beings will disappear, all because we were not able to limit our numbers and our constantly multiplying artificial desires before it is too late.

[1] In The Soul of an Octopus, author Sy Montgomery quotes a researcher who estimates that only about 2 out of every 10,000 octopus eggs lives to reach maturity. If we consider this abysmally low survival rate from the typical human perspective of individual survival, we would consider such a reproductive process to be incredibly and horrifically inefficient – imagine if only one out of every hundred or thousand babies born survived to reproduce! But seen from the holistic perspective, these kinds of reproductive strategies are not so senseless, for the great numbers of eggs and young produced by these creatures will go to feed other organisms that, in turn, may serve as nourishment for those few members of the species that manage to survive to adulthood. In a very real sense, the great majority of young are sacrificed to provide food for the adult individuals that do manage to grow and reproduce, thus allowing for the survival of the species and for the maintenance of a wide variety of different kinds of life in its environment. This natural generosity, which is a fairly common phenomenon in Nature, is in stark contrast to our human selfishness, which selfishly seeks to expropriate and guard as much of Nature’s abundance solely for our human use and consumption.