Wedndell Berry on cloning and science in general.

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Wedndell Berry on cloning and science in general.

Post  cradlerc on Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:34 pm

This has been a strange summer for me, reading wise. Usually, I read a whole lot. Not so much this summer. But Wendell Berry has been my soul food. I picked up a copy of What Are People For when I was in the Pacific Northwest, in honor of my friends there who have been inspired by him. I had always avoided reading him before, but I was thinking through a lot of stuff about place and suburbia and food and felt drawn to this book (it's very good, as it turns out).

I've just started Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition, in which he takes on commercial science, and E.O. Wilson in particular.

A couple of passages stopped me in my tracks:

He writes that to treat life mechanistically "is to give up on life, to carry it beyond change and redemption, and to increase the proximity of despair. Cloming, to use the most obvious example--is not a way to improve sheep. On the contrary, it is a way to stall the sheep's lineage and make it unimprovable. No true breeder could consent to it, for true breeders have their farm and their market in mind, and always are trying to breed a better sheep."
Huh. What an obvious point that I had never, ever thought about before. And isn't it interesting that those who claim to "believe" in evolution don't trust its processes. apparently?

He also points out, in another passage, that our language about the world has becomeso informed by a commercialized form of science that we are now impoverished. He writes, "As a result we have a lot of genuinely concerned people calling upon us to 'save' a world which their language simultaneously reduces to an assemblage of perfectly featureless and dispiritied 'ecosystems', 'organisms,' 'environments,' 'mechanisms,' and the like. It is impossible to prefigure the salvation of the world in the same language by which the world has been dismembered and defaced."
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cradlerc

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Love that second quote

Post  VicarJoe on Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:39 am

But I wanted to reply to the first one, as it overlaps a bit with a book I was reading just this morning. I'm re-reading Utopias Elsewhere, by Anthony Daniels, in which he travels to several communist regimes in the late 1980s, desirous to get a final picture of what that system looked like before it gave up the ghost (the writing was on the wall). And one of the things he discusses in the first chapter, where he travels to Albania, is how the mechanistic, scientific mindset always imagines that everything is better planned. Nothing should grow or wane, be born or pass away, organically. Nothing. Organic life is a failure of reason. Only when life is planned under the dictates of perfect rationalism, so the theory goes, will it finally produce utopia. Organicism is the enemy of progress. So, as a case in point, it will do no good for young people to be inspired by certain ideas or careers and to pursue their own dreams--how would THAT produce an ordered, rational collective where all our needs are met? Instead, rationalist planners will determine what the society needs and assign the young to certain roles. And what should be grown. And what things should cost. And where people will live. And it will all be reasoned out and planned to the last detail. Because who doesn't know that it's better to live in a rational society?

On a lighter note, Daniels goes to Albania's Museum of Atheism (because of course it has one) and compares it to the Museum of Atheism in the USSR (because of course it has one). Apparently, such museums trace evolution from the amoeba to the dear leader, be it Lenin or Enver Hoxha.
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From the amoeba to the leader? LOL.

Post  cradlerc on Fri Jul 31, 2009 1:09 pm

How perfect. That actually reminds me of something Madeleine L'Engle wrote once, about people who embrace things like communism aspiring to be, basically, amoebas--no change, no death, no growth. But then, her horror of disembodied rationalism is clearly evident in Wrinkle in Time.

It's the fear of the body, perhaps?
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