A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
The damage incurred consists of two parts. Qualitatively - hundreds of people were denied the use of the field for several weeks. Quantitatively - the repair of the field cost a lot of money. So if justice is sought in this matter, what might it contain?
In 1945 George Orwell published his classic novel Animal Farm, an allegorical and scathing look into the philosophical heart of socialism. The smartest animals on the farm were the pigs, and by the end of his book they were walking upright on their hind legs, in order to imitate the humans.
I was reminded of this vivid imagery when I read an article about the work of a genetic research scientist. Read carefully the words of Craig Venter:
“We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. I am creating artificial life. This is a very important philosophical step in the history of our species”.
I don’t understand the science of what they are undertaking, but in lay terms as I best as I can fathom the article, Venter and his team are transplanting the DNA of a cell into the bacterial cell of a different organism. That new cell then assumes the life-form of the gene code that has been transplanted into it. In essence, a new specie is created.
Mr. Venter further says that he is “100% confident that the same technique would work for the artificially created chromosome. We are dealing in big ideas. We are trying to create a new value system for life”.
“WE ARE TRYING TO CREATE A NEW VALUE SYSTEM FOR LIFE”.
As Dorothy might have said, “Toto – we are not in Kansas anymore”.
It wasn’t so long ago we learned that science could create existing species in a test tube. Now it could be close to the creation of entire species that don’t currently exist. We cannot possibly foresee the long term implications of this, and in taking such steps without thinking them through to their conclusion, we let some very large genies out of the bottle. And there will be no putting them back.
We are living very fast here in the 21st Century. Our technological capabilities are moving faster than our willingness to grapple with their implications. I am no Luddite, and I am not opposed to progress or exploration. Science has and can continue to help us tremendously. But I believe it is appropriate for our political and social institutions to debate these matters before such capabilities are merely unleashed upon an entire world by a small handful of people.
Such unprecedented discoveries will rewrite our “social DNA”. They call for vigorous consideration in many areas, not the least of which are social, anthropological, moral, and yes, spiritual dimensions.
This is much bigger than just the science of it all.
Brookfield Now blogger Kyle Prast posted an article this week entitled Whatever Happened to Truth?
I thought of her post when I read the Crossroads Section of Sunday's Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, which has a major article on the subject of child poverty in Milwaukee. The article consists of comments from seven community leaders who represent a cross section of education, social work, health care, charity organizations, and the Church.
Oscar Wilde once remarked that, “we don’t appreciate a sunset because we don’t have to pay for it”. He was right - it is in our nature to devalue that which is familiar to us.I love Lake Michigan, and need to acknowledge that when I write about it with respect to policy, my objectivity is suspect. Our Great Lake is a looming battle ground, as a water-wasting nation continues in its denial, and our politically driven rush to ethanol-ize gasoline strains our water tables to the breaking point. But before we consider policy, let’s take a step back and consider what it may mean to us on a more personal level.
The name “Michigan” derives from the Indian dialect; they called it Missi-Ken, a lyrical and appropriate name meaning “large lake”. The best times of my life have been spent on her shores, in her waters, or gliding atop her surface. I recall a golden evening with my son, sitting atop the towering Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Perched hundreds of feet above the shore as we gazed out towards Wisconsin, Miss-Ken’s sheer vastness laid hold of his spirit, and quieted him. As the sun slid down the horizon like the slow closing of an enormous, incandescent eye, it emblazoned the sky with scenes of such texture and hue as to shame the canvas of Raphael. I watched him try to absorb it all, and matched him in his silence.
I had not planned to make this a two-part series, but an insighftul commentator on my first post asked, "so what should we do about childhood poverty", and "do those kids deserve their fate"? These are fair questions, and if I am to raise this issue, then I need to accept the responsibility of answering them.
I'll answer the second question first. No, these children most certainly do NOT deserve their fate. I assume that all who read BrookfieldNow would answer the same to this question, and that little time is needed for its debate. So we move on to the larger and tougher matter - what are we to DO about it.
We have been reading and hearing about the ever growing chorus of concern about childhood obesity, both in our community and our country. Certainly it is a constant refrain in the world of education. There seems to be no disputing the sobering data, nor arguing against its conclusions. But I would like to throw something into the debate that is seldom heard: the matter of technology and the impact it is having on our kids.
I'll start with some disclosure. I own and use most of the conveniences that our amazing technology has provided to us. In particular, I am a bit of an audiophile, and use the gadgets that make listening to music easy and selective. Furthermore, technology is morally neutral and cannot be considered either good or bad. But I believe the question of how much we use it, and the place we allow it in our lives IS a moral issue. And I believe it is an issue with respect to the matter of childhood obesity.
When it comes to the issue of battling cancer, the two biggest weapons we have are avoiding certain behavior and early detection.
As far as early detection is concerned, Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin are currently offering free prostate cancer screenings to men who meet the following criteria: