‘The Fragile Species’

Consider the brain as a forest. Think of what that might suggest.

The neuroscientist, Christof Koch asks us to make that comparison.

Not just any forest. Compare it to the Amazon. Caspar Henderson quotes Koch.

Caspar Henderson, Granta Publications, London, 2017.

‘Scientists are only beginning to map the human brain, for example, revealing it as vastly more complex than any computer we can conceive. Our current understanding of physical reality is woefully incomplete. On Page 152 Koch compares the brain, not just to any forest, to the Amazon rain forest. ‘While it is not precise or literal, it reminds everyone of the diversity and complexity of the Amazon rain forest.’ He tells us: ‘The best estimate of the number of trees of the Amazon is 390 billion. Of our brain,’ he says, ‘the best estimate in terms of the neurons is about 86 billion.’ We talk of ‘logging’ as a major problem for our forests, too often for forests burnt, as they have been, in our catastrophic bushfires.

What if we are undermining the Amazon and other forests and the brain?

The Amazon rainforest is amazing. It makes its own rain. What’s the level of destruction now! The brain has other ways of being destroyed. One is by an education system that undermines the quality of thinking because its approach separates the sciences from the humanities!

Do you know this great American writer about science? Lewis Thomas M.D.?

In 1992, in his collections of essays in The Fragile Species, he wrote the following in this essay: Science and the Health of the Earth’

‘Human beings simply cannot go on as they are going, exhausting the earth’s resources, altering the composition of the earth’s atmosphere, depleting the numbers and varieties of other species upon whose survival we, in the end, depend. It is not simply wrong. It is a piece of stupidity on the grandest scale for us to assume that we can simply take over the earth as though it were part farm, part park, part zoo, and domesticate it, and still survive as a species.’ [p. 122.]

Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1992

In 1992 he said, ‘We are about to learn better, and we will be lucky if we learn in time.’

http://www.rockefeller.edu › lewis-thomas-prize › about

An International Award for Writing About Science The Lewis Thomas Prize was established in 1993 by the trustees of The Rockefeller University. The prize was initially to be called for the Scientist as Poet! Here are some of the recipients: Steven Weinberg. Oliver Sacks. E.O. Wilson. Richard Fortey. Jared Diamond. Kay Redfield Jamison. Frances Ashcroft. Sylvia Earle. Atul Gawande. Siddhartha Mukherjee.

They speak clearly to all of us. Are we going to change our ways in time?

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