What Science Has Forgotten

Many people think that science will eventually be able to explain everything that happens in nature, and that technology will be able to reproduce it. Perhaps that is so, but even then, that day lies far into the future. Probably a more likely scenario is that the further science and technology advance, the deeper the mysteries of the world will grow. Even with topics that we believe science has solved for good, when you take a closer look, you'll find that plenty of problems have slipped through the cracks or been swept under the carpet. Furthermore, these are often the issues that are closest to us and most important in our daily lives. Take hunches or intuitions or premonitions, for example. They may have rational-sounding explanations, but our gut feelings tell us something is not quite right after all. Such examples are not at all uncommon. When you think about it, there are lots of things that modern civilization has forgotten all about. Maybe the time has come to stop for a moment and try to remember. The seeds of forthcoming science and technology are impatiently waiting to be discovered among the things we have left behind.


The Datafied Body

In times of old, the human body was regarded as a miniature of the cosmos. In particular the female body was a model of the earth mother goddess and considered sacred. In early modern Europe, however, the body came to be seen as a kind of machine, and diseases and defects as something to repair. But as more and more of the body’s workings were revealed, people’s curiosity was reawakened. In Edo period Japan, for example, the body was likened to landscapes and sceneries. Soon, though, the body won’t even be a machine or a landscape any more, but a collection of data, controlled by a variety of devices and chemical substances.

When comparing civilization and wilderness, the wild is invariably depicted as rough and cruel. However, ever since ancient Rome invaded the rest of Europe, it is always civilization that has been cruel. The conquest of the Americas and the colonization of Africa are other brutal examples. Before efficiency and profit, civilization is unforgiving. Something similar has happened to our own bodies. Any minor deviation in glucose levels or blood pressure, even if only temporary, is stamped abnormal. Drugs are administered, and often strong physical suffering as well.


Perhaps the problem is not so much the abnormal values as the fact that we are losing sight of the “wild.” If we could eat what the body wants and do as the body wants, like animals in the wild, many of our illnesses could be avoided or would heal themselves. The tricky part is that we no longer know what our bodies want. It seems that our social positions, our interpersonal relationships and our efficiency-oriented lifestyles have become barriers that prevent us from hearing our inner “call of the wild.”