Saturday, February 11, 2006

Castration and my toilet: Great American inginuity...It was great while it lasted.

UPDATE: "Chinese To Develop Sciences, Technology" Washington Post, Feb. 10, 2006

This is a tale of American, her inginuity, her ability to make food fast and computers faster (with effective grammar/spellchecks that have rendered us unable to spell anything on hour own). This is an example of the resiliancy of American spirit in the face of adversity.

Unfortunately, this is also a story about how it has nothing to do with America. The great American inginuity that made America what it is will just as easily make India, China, etc. back into what they once were, centers of innovation and .

You see, since our first meeting, the toilet seat in The B&G's Paris bureau has been broken. It favors female use (or use by uncooth males who choose not to lift up the toilet seat). I'm a traditional Southern gentlemen, so not lifting the seat when I'm shaking the dew of my lilly is simply not an option (though I rarely put the seat back down). Unfortunately, the seat on this toilet doesn't stay up on its own (probably made in France).

Finally, one day, I got fed up having to lean over to hold up the seat while I micturate (God bless the Cohen Brothers), and in a moment of genius, not so unlike Newton creating calculus or John Nash's developement of Game Theory, I fixed the damn toilet. In the spirit of Macgyver dismantalling an atomic submarine with a matchstick and a wine bottle, I used a coat-hanger and a pair of wire cutters.

Not only did I fix the toilet, but I accessorized. You see, the loop at the end of the coat hanger could double as a flower holder (like in the new VW beetles) or as a candle holder to get rid of that new poo-poo smell.

My major fault: I dropped that grey towel in the toilet after I took those pictures.

Anyway, God bless America, right? Nope.

There was a time when America was the leader in science and engineering, and as a result the most powerful nation in the world. Sure, America is still the most powerful nation in the world, but we're afraid that's changing. What is being called the "War on Science" is the reason.

The most recent indicator is the TIME magazine article on science in America. This is just another of the hundreds of articles we will one day look back on and say, "Shit, we should have seen it coming."

I can't get my hands on a copy of the magazine, but we're pretty sure the answer to their "Is America flunking science question?" is yes. An emphatic yes.


In the National Science Board's most recent report, they note that, of the 2.8 million science and engineering first university degrees (bachelors degrees) in the world, 1.2 million were in Asia (to students from Asian universities), 830,000 were from European universities, and only 400,000 were in the US. (see graph at left)

If you want a good idea of how significant this is, you can look at chapter 7 of Friedman's The World is Flat. As he quotes the NSB:
The number of jobs requiring science and engineering skills in the U.S. labor force is growing almost 5 percent per year. In comparison, the rest of the labor force is growing at just over 1 percent. Before September 11, 2001, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that science and engineering occupations would increase at three times the rate of all occupations.

A lot of the most recent problems in American science are a result of certain religious stigmas about science (which is the inspiration for this article). That's not to say that it's all the reason, since American students are perhaps the most apathetic students in the world, to make a huge generalization.

Before moving on to God, we're going to mention the stark contrast between the American spiral of science and engineering students to the spike of degrees coming from Asia. Going to Freidman again:
Science and engineering degrees now represent 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees earned in China, 33 percent in South Korea, and 41 percent in Taiwan. By contrast, the percentage of those taking a bachelor's degree in science and engineering in the United States remains at roughly 31 percent. Factoring out science degrees, the number of Americans who graduate with just engineering degrees is 5 percent, as compared to 25 percent in Russia and 46 percent in China...
Man, does that suck.

I'm not going to rewrite the whole chapter. You get the point: science and engineering breed innovation, innovation leads to new technology, new technology leads to big money. An economy that constantly innovates is a powerful economy. Am I wrong?

Well, what's the newest element in the "War on Science"? His name is Ken Ham. His photo (right, from this PBS documentary) reminds me of the Bill Hicks talk about evolution where he says something along the lines of "Why is it that so many people who are against the idea of evolution just seem bitter that they missed the boat, like God took 'em out of the oven too early."

Kenny believes that the Bible can be taken literally and that the world is 6,000 years old. He's going around the country teaching children to tell their teachers that, like their teachers, they weren't around when the world was created but they "know" someone who was: God.

That's great, Kenny. Make sure you tell them also that God is still working on the cure for cancer, a better source of renewable energy, a perfect democracy, a way to stop weapons proliferation, a way to stop global warming, and a solution to the lack of potable water in the world.

One good sign, though, I get the impression from the article that they've finally realized that evolution has nothing to do with how the earth was created or by whom, so they're focussing some on the Big Bang.

We have two solutions to the science/religion "debate" in America. One, any male who believes that the Bible should be taken word for word must castrate himself, for the Lord said to Matthew (Matt. 19: 12):
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.
Let there be eunuchs! This will curb, after a generation, the flow of fundamentalists who aren't willing to dig deep into the questions of religion (like, explain how the choice between paradise and eternal torture is a choice, and if not how do we have free will?)

DISCLAIMER: We are not anti-religion, -Christian, etc. We believe in God, we just don't know what it's name is. We're under the impression that everybody is worshipping the same being and they don't even know it. Moreover, we know that Kenny doesn't represent most Christians, but it is up to devout Christians to silence men like him who are tainting the religion.

Second solution to the religion/science debate, support men like Jack Danforth, a former Republican senator and Episcopal minister who for several years now has been fed up with the fact that religion has hijacked politics.

We have a third solution as well, but we fear that it is too reasonable to work for Kenny.

We'll talk about that later. Until then, be ready for incredible innovations like my toilet-seat-holder-upper to start coming from China, India, Taiwan, etc. Not from the US.

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