17 July, 2007

Lunch with Microbiologists

The general populance needs to grow up.

Organisms get sick. Sometimes they die. And most are filled with mushy networks of organs and other various liquids and goos.

But the general, non-biologically-inclined, public seems hellbent on ignoring the most basic aspects of their own constitutions. In general, people wait until something is wrong and then go to a doctor and treat them like a plumber for a quick fix, like some lug nuts and a prescription can cure anything. It seems to me that it would be much wiser to go ahead and learn about the workings of one's own body in the first place so that the states of health, disease, and the various shades between can be better recognized and dealt with.

But maybe that's unreasonable, that'd require comprehensive and well-funded science education, as well as curiosity and a willingness to learn.

Or at least to be less squeamish. I've found that people in general really hate it when they're reminded that the meat on their plate came from a living animal, as if it reminds them on their own animal-ness somehow, or their responsibility in the death of another living organism despite their vaunted culture and whatnot.

So basically, I was at a joint lab lunch today with a bunch of animal researchers and microbiologists. Didn't happen today, because the restaurant was kind of empty and our table was kind of isolated. But to hear these more experienced scientists recount the disgust with which non-scientist people greet their work-related discussions kind of bothers me. I could understand a table of non-scientists getting up and walking away if we were gleefully debating the best ways to exsanguinate a mouse or to homogenize a tissue as though they were activities we look forward to as if they were cookies. However, in general, scientists discuss their research in respectful tones, and obfuscate their topics with jargon. But as soon as some soccer mom hears about taking fecal samples or sections of the anthrum for histology, she suddenly loses her appetite. Is it really so disgusting to be reminded that living things poop?

I guess that is one of the "greatest" talents of the human animal:

Collectively, we dupe ourselves into believing that we are beyond biology simply by grace of being human. Somehow, being human means trying really hard to ignore poop, pee, sweat, smegma, snot, puke, spit, and any of the various fluids produced by our genitalia. And we take it even further with our obsessions over clothing and shaving and hair styles.

A dog simply doesn't care if its hair is fashionably stylized so long as its not uncomfortable. Most bodily secretions provide very useful information to most animals. But we hide all of ours away to the point where we have deluded ourselves to the point where we think we are completely separate and above nature. How convenient it is to forget that the food on our plate, be it flesh or vegetable, was grown out in a field somewhere, nourished by the sun and soil! I guess that doesn't much matter though, when >50% of our body mass came from high fructose corn syrup...

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