My good friend Aaron Schwenzfeier asked me if I had read any books that talked about the information from my last entry – about the continuity of an animal with its habitat. The rest of this post is my response, with some modifications.
The short answer is no, I haven’t read any single text that shows this continuity. The closest I could come would be something like Lynn Margulis’ works, or James Lovelock’s and others’ works with the Gaia hypothesis.
In a world where everything needs to be validated by “science,” it’s no sufficient to use common-sense to combine the different principles you’ve learned into a coherent whole.
The “animal-as-continuous-with-habitat” is an obvious thing, but who’s going to write about it? What science would you cite? I’m not sure there is much. There are some studies coming around about the importance of environment with regard to physical activity, even health (for instance, the Framingham study that correlates social group with obesity) but they’re few and far between. It’s hard to quantify. And that’s what science wants – quantities. Qualities are still derided.
The other part, “eat in season, locally,” is the same thing – continuity with environment. But dieticians can’t quantify that, again. They can count calories, vitamin content, etc. They can count other things (OCD), but they can’t count the effect of eating things from other places than your natural geography.
Activity levels waxing and waning with the seasons is as old as life itself. All animals do this, not just human animals. The squirrel hides nuts away for the cold winter, builds a large layer of fat to keep itself warm, etc.
Is there a way to measure that, though?
Finally, how do you measure happiness? A few studies have tried, and they create “scientific” versions of happiness – with plenty of “categories” to rate different aspects by. Is that how happiness is made? What about the feeling of safety and security that comes from living within your tribe? How would you measure that.
And even if you could, what would happen? What if you realize, through the course of your research career, that a feeling of happiness and safety was all that really mattered? What would you say? How would you say it? How would a message like that be taken by your scientific colleagues? By the general public?
The other thing, and perhaps the biggest impediment to getting real answers about things, about the true “optimal state” of the human animal, is revealed by this question – Why does science measure what it does, and not the other things? What is guiding science? Who gains from scientific research?
You’re in The Cul-tcha
Culture dictates all. So, what does our culture value most? Money. Our culture is built around the flow of money. An economic depression is the most terrifying thing imaginable in our society (other than a nuclear holocaust).
I’d go so far to say that much, if not most, of science is guided by money. You need funding to do science. So you have to do science in a way that gets that funding. If you can get funding for a particular research design and not another, you’ll choose the design that gets you the money.
Who is paying that money? I would hazard a guess, again, that much, if not most of the money being donated to the pursuit of science is being donated by people who want to make more money from that science.
They are pursuing science for the sake of money. Not for the sake of discovering “truth.”
A few examples of this, taken from the ideas in my post:
The studies done on continuity of animal with habitat are largely from zoo populations – trying to discover how to keep zoo animals alive. Why would you do that? What is a zoo for? What does a zoo tell people who visit it? How does a zoo treat animals? I’ll let you answer those questions for yourself.
Studies of diet largely focus on quantity of micro/macronutrients and the physiology of the body. Almost none involve the fact that that body is not a “physiology” without its habitat and social environment. There is no isolated “body” to study…it doesn’t exist alone, in a vacuum. But, further, and again – What is the purpose of dietary research, and to what ends is that research put? Who gains from dietary research?
Our measurement of chronobiology has largely been to discover how to handle “shift workers,” and make them healthier and more productive. There is some research on circadian and ultradian clocks, but it isn’t integrated into anything else. It’s just “science.” Another problem, I guess, that should be mentioned. Science for science’s sake is even less effective than science for money’s sake. It may produce amazing information, but what happens to that information, if it is done in a culture that is separate from the main flow of science? It sits there. It doesn’t get used or analyzed, or integrated into the big picture.
Studies of happiness and culture are similarly isolated from other science. There has bee a trend in the past ten years to combine scientific zones of study, in fields like psychoneuroimmunology, or social ecology, etc. But they aren’t really making themselves heard that strongly.