mad cows and sane marxists

Rahul Mahajan rahul at peaches.ph.utexas.edu
Tue Apr 9 00:41:16 MDT 1996


Gary:

>So what we have here is an instance not of the violation of the natural
>order by science but of bad science.  As a consequence our line of attack on
>this question should be that profits were put before people, not that
>natural laws were broken.

Yes. In fact, there are one or two scientists who have been warning about
this danger for years, but the bureaucrats and profiteers were happy to
ignore it.

>Now having said that I am vary mindful of Bhaskar's strictures about
>Prometheanism especially the notion that science can fix everythings.
>Prometheanism has it that there are no natural limits to human development.
>Perhaps comrade Brian is tending towards this.  Perhaps not. But the point
>remains that if all of Britain had shared Comrade Louis' views as to what is
>natural and what is not then the problem would not have occurred. Politics
>Comrade Brian would do well to ponder can never be reduced to the cognitive.
>There is always the ethichal category.

The question of whether science can fix everything is not worth talking
about. We neither know what the question means, nor, if we did, could we
conceivably answer it.

It is true, as Louis said, that we do many things which violate the natural
order. This is a well-defined matter and needs no invocation of any nature
mysticism. When we do this it's dangerous, there is no doubt. The
widespread use of antibiotics has tremendously sped up the rate of
evolution of various nasty little beasties, thus contributing to the
possibility of new super-plagues. The green revolution has led to serious
problems with the dependence of farming on oil and chemical fertilizers and
to greater precariousness of food supply, with the establishment of
monocultures where previously there was considerable diversity in strains.
The plus side is that we now live to 65 instead of 45 (world average), and
food production in the Third World has kept pace with or even advanced on
population growth (though not recently). We are going to keep on monkeying
with nature, not simply because of profit but because of need. The question
is not of whether to violate the natural order, but of how to do so in
order to minimize the repercussions while achieving certain goals. Errors
should of course be on the side of omission, since we have as yet a very
poor understanding of how to calculate repercussions. Sitting and doing
nothing, however, is only something that can be advocated by the
comfortable well-fed petty bourgeois.

Rahul




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