The world needs your bright ideas. Honest.
Yes, I know. We live in an era of astounding technological and scientific advances. Detection and microsurgical correction of birth anomalies? Sure thing. In utero? Yup. In fact, fetal microsurgery is old news. This article, for example, was printed back in November. Of 1992.
The mobile phone I carry holds more computing power and memory than the desktop computer upon which I composed my dissertation, not quite twenty years ago. The price of that computer with the 20 megabyte hard drive, adjusted for inflation? $3,500. My 16 gigabyte phone? Free with my contract from the wireless service provider. The CD player in my 2006 truck is quaint; now cars come with MP4 (or is it 5 now? 6?) and satellite radio technology.
It is safe to assume that this Christmas, at least one of our grandchildren will request a gift that didn’t exist last year.
As a nation, we trust in the power of technological advances almost to the point of faith. We expect our knowledge and engineering to rescue us from all kinds of threats. Considering the resources devoted to basic research, it makes sense to expect scientific resolutions to our most pressing problems. [Rant: as an individual trained in the scientific method, and who served serious time in the hallowed halls that lead to ivory towers, I am distressed at the oversimplification with which scientific endeavors are reported to the American public. No scientific undertaking is purely objective. Politics and personal agendas play a part–sometimes too big a part–in influencing the questions scientists ask and what counts as evidence for or against any given hypothesis. And plain old garden variety human egos and reputations add a certain tinge and aroma to the proceedings, as well. In any scientific discipline you can name, I’ll wager there’s some long-running feud between two big names in the specialty. /Rant]
Me, I love science. I’m personally indebted to the remarkable discoveries that have allowed me to live in comfort and pretty good health all these years. Two hundred years ago, the excessive bleeding after my tonsillectomy would have done me in. So please don’t misunderstand me. I am pro-science, not anti-science.
But I’m inviting you to consider another invaluable source of problem-solving: Your noggin. Okay, all our noggins. Scientific inquiry is a wonderful use of our God-given intellect. But so is good old-fashioned puzzling, reflecting, worrying over–whatever term you like for thinking.
Spaghetti that’s already been broken in half so it doesn’t send little spaghetti-shards all over the kitchen when you attempt to fit the strands into the boiling pot? Genius. How about screw-on (and therefore screw-off) caps on bottled beverages? No more tragedies because somebody forgot the bottle opener. Self-adhesive postage stamps. Insulated lunch bags. I’m sure you can think of more examples.
Here’s the thing to remember: Our capacity for identifying problems, our ability to imagine a different way (because as my professor Freddy Bailey taught me, way back in my undergraduate days, a problem is nothing more than a set of circumstances that could be different), our idle thoughts and carefully-designed research protocols and everything in between–it’s all a gift of God.
And so I beg you: please, please, don’t quit thinking. Don’t stop ruminating over conundrums. Don’t abandon the solutions you dream up. Science is a tremendous blessing to us. Engineers devise all kinds of enhancements that improve our quality of life. But we still have room for plain old-fashioned good ideas. Think. Dream. Share. We’ll all be better for it.
8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Philippians 4: 8-9 (MSG)