September 15, 2017 – On Being A Toddler

I have screwed up our posting schedule this week due to a number of work, personal, and academic-related comedies of errors.  However, I wanted to post about this topic due to some things I have observed with my Grandson and then we’ll get back to the regular schedule and rotation starting tomorrow.

I have had the great opportunity of spending time over the weekend and the first part of this week with my 2 1/2 year old grandson.  He is bright, inquisitive, energetic, and…a toddler.  For all of you who have experienced the joys of child-rearing, you can appreciate what that means.  It means his mind and body are running 100 mph, and he is intrigued by and willing to get into almost anything.  This does not make him bad or mischievous, rather it makes him a toddler.  He is learning about his boundaries, his environment and trying to understand the complexities of this multidimensional world around him, and he has the unending energy and persistence to do so.

What fascinates me is the “I know” answer I get from him when I answer the question “what are you doing?”  At that moment, he is staking the ground that he understands, while at the same time not being able to grasp all of the ramifications and interconnected events that are occurring to make what I am doing happen.  As a result, many times, he will attempt to do something similar and fail to obtain the same result because he doesn’t fully understand the underpinnings of what makes the whole process work.  He does, however, try over and over and over, until either getting too frustrated or asking for help.

In many ways, I am beginning to realize that we as adult humans, are still in many ways toddlers.  I am a firm believer in science and discovery.  The concept of using the scientific method to gain a better understanding of events, processes, foundational principles, etc. is something I utilize in my day to day work environment.  Having said that, there are many “facts” that we proclaim and accept as truth without having the true scientific proof to support us.  We impart causality to correlated events on a regular basis because we have a desire to say “I know” when looking at something we don’t fully understand, as if the fact that we don’t fully understand somehow makes us less of a person or, heaven forbid, ignorant…

There are many examples of this in the past that we laugh about today…thunder being gods bowling, an imbalance in body humours being responsible for disease, flies being created by rotting meat, etc.  Yet, still today we fall prey to the misconception that our current understanding is absolute and true because we know more than we did before.  Granted, science has brought us a long way towards better understanding our environment, but it still has a long way to go.  For example, while we understand how white blood cells help fight off infection, we still have no real understanding of what causes over 1/3 of all neurological issues.  While we understand that gravity causes all mass to accelerate at the same rate, we don’t truly understand how light can function both as a particle and a wave simultaneously.

The point is we are currently living in a culture where science has become both a means of discovery and understanding AND a theology all of its own.  Rather than continuing to question and require the type of rigor the scientific process demands, we accept false premises, faulty hypotheses, unrepeatable experiments, and overly expansive interpretations of scope-limited results to become canon in our day-to-day beliefs and demonize the nonbelieving “heretics” because they are “ignorant”.  This is a scary proposition.  It implies that all discovery is true until proven different, regardless of repeatability, and belittles the types of revolutionary discovery that actually improves our understanding. If you don’t believe me, go back and look at the causes of death for President Garfield after his assassination or any number of “serendipitous” events that led to major changes in scientific thought (e.g., penicillin, travel faster than Mach 1, etc.)  All of these impossibilities became truths, not because of active attempts to better ourselves but in spite of scientific truth of the day.

So, much like a toddler “understanding” that clothes get clean by pushing a button, we “understand” a lot of things that we may discover we better understand in the future…so long as we don’t burn all the heretics.

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