Thursday, May 7, 2009

Of several sciences

Here's something you don't see by itself every day: a garden arranged and maintained according to the tenets of the Darwinian evolutionary theory.

If modern agriculture can compensate, Henslow's heirs aren't interested: "We do not dig if we can avoid it, we do not fertilize, we do not water, we do not spray. The plants either survive or die," Mr. Parker says. "The reason that these trees look so good . . . is that these are the survivors. They will survive under our conditions. . . . You grow them tough, they'll stay tough."

In case anyone hasn't gotten the point, he adds, "This is an evolutionary garden. What would you expect us to do?"

In a tangentially related vein, vaccinophobia is, predictably, causing outbreaks. People who have a disease are generally more contagious than those who do not (particularly if they've had the vaccine). Why were vaccines developed in the first place, you ask? Maybe it's because the diseases they now prevent - measles, mumps, etc. - actually killed people?

Finally, as a chemist-in-training, I couldn't resist this headline. Strictly speaking, everything is made of chemicals, and then some. Humans are made of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Cotton is made of hydrocarbon and carbohydrate polymers. So, if a bed sheet is "made without chemicals," what exactly is left for it to be made of? Perhaps articles like this should clarify which class of chemicals are being added - like formaldehyde, which doesn't naturally occur in the human body - instead of clumping life into organisms plus clouds of "chemicals" whose structures actually aren't all that different.

1 comment:

Evan said...

The backlash against vaccination is, in my opinion, one of the greatest real public-health threats of our time. In the developed world, we die of simple aging or diseases of indolence, but this bizarre anti-vaccination movement is threatening to change that, and in parts of the Third World already has.

It's also a great case in point against the popular conception that religion is anti-science. The anti-vaccine phenomenon is mostly a child of secular new-ageish pseudo-science.