More Q than A
By R. D. Flavin

9-26-2014

Oliver Cob (a Water-bearer): ...Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care'll kill a cat, up-tails all, and a louse on the hangman.
The last line of Every Man in His Humour, Act I. Scene III, by Ben Jonson (1598, 1616). Some versions replace “louse” with “pox.”

     It's been claimed (by those who give a certain rodent's posterior) the idiom “Curiosity killed the cat” began with a line from a play by the English dramatist, Ben Jonson (1572-1637). Whether true or not, asking questions and seeking answers have certainly gotten many into trouble, indeed, at times it's been the cause of death. Still, scientists and explorers have more questions than answers. I've often remarked that we are the Universe’s way to know and experience itself. It's a wicked big Universe (maybe more than one) and our questions far out number the appropriate answers. Yet, we continue to ask...

     Many are familiar with the seemingly endless flow of “Why?” questions from two-year-olds. And, of course, “Because I said so!” can only work so many times, ...parenting may be troublesome on occasion. Doctors are still working on a cure for cancer and the common cold, scientists continue to wonder what the Universe is actually made of, how life began, and a zillion other questions, and we all ask ourselves (at some point) why we're here. I'd like to know why the Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series title since 1908, but I must except a general lack of talent as the only logical answer. Yeah, I'm tempted at times to go the 'cursed' route, but I don't believe in the supernatural.

     We question 'why' someone would become a terrorist, a serial killer, or watch FOX NEWS, and though some may offer a psychological explanation (chemical imbalance or abnormal growth or injury), the simplest answer is ...because they can. [Note: Please don't stop me if you've read/heard this one before.] There are basically two types of people in this world – those who do what they can and those who do what they can get away with. Example: You're at a busy street corner standing next to a really old lady with an expensive looking purse and you're both waiting for the light to change. Do you 1) walk out into traffic 'cause jaywalking is for brave-hearts and fools, 2) wait for the light to change and merrily cross the street, 3) wait for the light to change and extend an arm to help the old lady cross the street, or 4) knock the old broad down, grab her purse, and run like Hell in the opposite direction? Decisions, decisions...

     While we humbly admit there seem to be more questions than answers, we often forget Sir Isaac Newton's third Law of motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” We seldom plan ahead and anticipate the consequences of our endeavors. Once favored medical and scientific practices which seemed correct at the time are now regarded as failures, mistakes, and sometimes cruel and inhumane. DDT, or as it is sometimes called 'dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane', may have gotten its inventor a Noble Prize, but soon proved to be carcinogenic and especially bad for birds. Ditto with Pres. Jimmy Carter's usage of Paraquat (N,N′-dimethyl-4,4′-bipyridinium dichloride) on Mexican marijuana – the herbicide which produced nasty cases of Parkinson disease. Now, we're faced with zillions of polyurethane microbeads in dozens of cosmetics, scrubs, toothpastes, and other items which ...are non-biodegradable, too small to be filtered out at the local sewage or water treatment plant and are being dumped into our oceans, consumed by fish, which we eat, and perpetuated in an endless cycle... Basically, we're screwed.

     Now, none of the above is meant to imply we should stop asking questions (we shouldn't) or that our answers are always exquisitely right or horribly wrong (excluding those concerning the exact sciences of math and astronomy, of course – except when it comes to Hawkings who is allowed to change his mind), we will continue forward, fall occasionally, pick ourselves up, and move onwards into the unknown future (hopefully with more answers than questions and better television programs...). To question is to seek knowledge and with knowledge comes wisdom and with wisdom you get free fries and a soda... Some, however, do not believe in questioning and think they have all the answers they need. These 'know-it-all' folk appear to be divided into two categories – one good and the other most wicked.

     There are those who are satisfied and don't want to participate and grow with us and it's their right to be left alone with themselves. There are other 'know-it-all' folks who are basically delusional psychotics or pathetic simulacrums of independent sentience, i.e., fully functional humans replete with some questions and some answers. No one is perfect and if they say they are, calling 911 is a good start...

     Who, what, where, when, and how are generally good questions to start with. It's the damned answers which present the difficulty. “I 'dunno” is sometimes required, though always frowned upon. If it exists, it can be explained, but it might take some time and we are often an impatient species.

     While some strive to fit superfluid vacuum theory into a model of quantum gravity, others question why homo sapiens sapiens seem so intent on killing themselves or a least murdering a great many other homo sapiens sapiens. Is it human nature to be violent and to kill? When different people are asked, one will surely get different answers. Though I embrace science, Darwin's “Survival of the fittest” doesn't cut it when it comes to our religious and political wars. Some other action must be at work...

     Recently there's been much discussion concerning the fatal conflicts which regularly occur among chimpanzees and bonobo monkeys (Wilson, M. L. et al. 2014. “Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts.” Nature. 513: 414-417). For years many biologists (and anthropologists) have debated whether human intrusion into “their” environment was a factor or that the chimps and bonobos just like to fight to the death amongst themselves (territorial or sexual prowess is still to be determined). And, because nothing is easy in science, we question if human aggression is part of our animal heritage. Some call it “thinning the herd,” while others refer to war in terms of “ethnic cleansing” and “holy sacrifice.” One of the senior team-members of the above mentioned article commented, “War has nothing to do with what chimpanzees do.” Yet,the blood is just as red...

     We ask many questions about ourselves and the world and Universe around us, and must be content with the meager answers we get. Well, let's just hope we're not too content and keep asking harder and harder questions.

Wondering why some cry and others don't,
Rick


Return to