On the last Paratopia Presents: Talk Story Tyler Kokjohn and I discussed what science is and is not. It seems fairly clear that at its core what science is––all it is––is the ability to make sense of things through repeated observation. (And just as a weird side note here, I’m not typing at the moment; I’m using the dictation function. What the dictation function did in that last sentence was spell my first name instead of the word “observation.” Then after a few seconds, it changed it to the word “observation” on its own. What? Pretending that didn’t happen and moving on.…)
You know it strikes me that one of the things indigenous people around the world do is meticulously observe their environment and build pieces of their culture and agriculture around their observations. What they do is science. So why do Western scientists not see it that way? How are people who are immersed in their environments considered less scientific, not more, than the men and women who have divorced themselves from nature?
Something Tiokasin Ghosthorse said on an episode of the old Paratopia podcast has stuck with me. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, that plants teach songs to those who know how to listen. These songs help foster the plants’ growth and are specific to the regions in which they are taught. If, for example, the Lakota play a song taught to them by the corn in North Dakota to a cornfield in another land, that corn might not understand the song and it might not help it grow.
Hearing that, and seeing the robust crops Lakota produce, shouldn’t scientists be inclined to believe them? We know that different environments… well… are different, right? A lot of factors go into that involving earth, sun, influences of forces, and probably some factors we have yet to understand. Could music be one of these? Could communication? What if there’s a type of listening that involves the heart not ears? What if the heart is the Rosetta Stone of the plant and animal worlds? All worlds?
Since people like the Lakota say they come from the heart, not the brain, why can’t people who say they come from the brain, not the heart, take them at their word? Ironically, if aliens were to land and tell Western scientists that they grow crops through music, they’d be inclined to believe them!
Why? Because they’re not from here? What does this tell us not only about our own prejudice but about our arrogance that we are on the right track, the only track, no other “scientists” need apply.
Perhaps such a thing as plants talking to people sounds silly to a Western scientist; but is it any sillier than how the sun bakes us differently? How different environments produce different organisms? Gravity?
I don’t understand how we can blithely take what works for us and discard the rest as useless cultural overlay. We’ll say that such-and-such a people are masters of ______ but then not say how they came about that mastery. Or if we do, it’s not in a tone that suggests we need to adapt to their way of doing things. But the culture is intertwined with the result. It’s all of a tapestry, this mastery. A people born in the forest develop a culture of the forest because they are of the forest. Same with any terrain, right?
But now we live in an age where we destroy natural environments, which wrap their knowledge around and through us, for artificial ones that we (think we) can control. What does that culture look like? Take a look around. It’s not much deeper than a Miley Cirus tongue twirl–which won’t be funny in ten minutes when the reader is asking, “Miley who?”
What in our culture sustains? What in our culture do we sustain and sustains us? Who do we talk and listen to with our hearts?
Why does Western science get the first and final say in how reality works? If it is truly about observation, when does it observe itself, its environment, and the limits of its bubble? When will people who have cut off from natural environments and therefore from the heart–people who have migrated to the brain and built a shallow, temporary brain world–get that holy crap moment of truth when they realize that the flaw in their design is their design and the people who never lived this way aren’t superstitious or savage or uneducated or unscientific, but are actually the adults in the room?