I was reading an article titled The Nastiest Feud in Science in the September 2018 edition of The Atlantic when I came to an uncanny realization. I stared blankly at my laptop, weighing in the consequences of what either side was proposing; The Impact theory versus the Deccan Traps. The urge to know our true origins as a species, and what may actually impinge our longevity as a species, is an innately personal one. How else would one rationalize being alive, lending their existence to the quest of worldly fulfillment?
But this particular article enthralled me the most, even though most scientific articles I read in The Atlantic tickle my mind for days to come. This particular one touched on something so personal and raw that it would seem utterly ridiculous in the context of scientific exploration. Bitter feuds, jibes being traded and hurling insults at one another are not traits you’d expect to find in scientific circles, and yet this just goes to prove that our intrinsic human instincts trump our need for rationality, even in the most rational ones of us-scientists.
I was particularly transfixed by this piece as it was the first scientific reading I’d come across that humanized scientists and expatiated on their out-of-character squabbles. The fact that feuds are often consigned to the least scientific circles of all, says a lot about how we view scientists in general, usually through the lens of their work instead of their humanity. Through their work, we acquire insight and knowledge but rarely do we find a scintilla of relatability as their work is often embraced as a collective human effort.
But collective human effort isn’t what I would call our advancements in science. Throughout the years, it might have compounded into what would seem as a collective achievement but it so clearly isn’t the case when you realize that most of the world, roughly 6 billion of us haven’t grasped the enormity of our existential conundrums. These conundrums, which originated our need to understand existence and the plane that allows such an existence, plagued us ever since we couldn’t quite understand what those shiny spots in the sky were.
Now that we know the nitty-gritty, it’s been a continuous upward path with breakthroughs in so many science-related fields that even clickbait journalism has enough salvo to attract readers everyday. We consume that literature, sometimes choking up when we realize how far we’ve come and how fortunate we are to live in world where nobody dies of colds and fevers anymore. But are we really entitled to that vicarious sense of pride, when most of us rarely ever contribute in its accomplishment?
What kind of civilization wastes millions of hours in the pursuit of profit and extravagance? What kind of civilization basks in its vilest traits and constantly eschews the noblest ones? While there might be an increase in interest in the STEM fields, current world politics doesn’t seem to point in that direction at all, and politics basically dominates the way the world works. It’s no secret to anyone that we’re far from being an advanced civilization, in which most resources would be directed to scientific exploration, but the vestiges of our inchoate curiosity that translated into the world we currently live in, ought to bolster our quest to become one.
I’m tired of reading about ephemera and the trivialities of the world, I know they may leaven the mood but I also know that’s not what we need. We’re a civilization that self-destructs often unconsciously, our planet faces grave reckonings in the face of a climate change coda that might change the course of our existence, the politicians in the most advanced countries would rather back up coal mining than seek a sustainable solution for our direst quandaries.
Our collective curiosity might have been quelled and lulled by forces that seem to thrive in the over-indulgence of our basest desires, but if there’s one person who can actually look at the night sky with its plethora of mystical stars and not feel an iota of curiosity, the End of the world would not be an unwelcome doom.