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Thoughts on Becoming a Grandfather

Thoughts on Becoming a Grandfather

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Published by Steve Savage
A first time grandfathers thoughts about the world my granddaughter will inherit
A first time grandfathers thoughts about the world my granddaughter will inherit

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Steve Savage on Dec 16, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Thoughts on Becoming a Grandfather:
As I write this document, my first grandchild is in the process of beingborn about 500 miles north of here. I’m praying for a safe delivery. This is a good time to reflect on the world she is coming into and whichshe will inherit down the line. She will be one of a growing number of kids with a diverse, international background (Polish, Swedish, Germanand Chinese). She will probably be bilingual and live in different partsof the world through her life. I feel very good about her chances for agood life with health, food, shelter, education, interesting experienceand supportive family.But her life experience will be different from mine in many ways. Bythe time she is 40 or 50 the population of this planet will likely(hopefully) be leveling off at 9-10 Billion and the average age of peoplewill have been getting steadily older. I can’t predict what will happento the economic order or what will have happened when my baby-boom generation almost inevitably breaks or greatly alters our socialsystems (social security, Medicare, elder care…). I hope that she willbe able to look back to our time and wonder why it took us so long toshift from fossil fuels to whatever forms of energy her generation willbe using.I wish I could be sure that the world she will experience in adulthoodwill be good. I’m a great believer in the potential for human innovationto deal with issues as they emerge, but some issues worry mesignificantly and move me towards action to try to prevent them fromcompromising her world:
If we are going to meet the challenges of the next several decades weare going to need a system of government that can make hard choicesand reach workable compromises. The tenor of US politics todaymakes this increasingly unlikely. Both ends of the political spectrumseem to be devoid of statesmanship and little interested in serving theinterests of anyone put the party/cause. The rhetoric is increasinglyhostile and particularly on the Right tends towards eliminationism. Iam particularly disturbed by the sort of speech and attitude that isbecoming more common among some of my fellow Christians – itmakes me think of the passage, “…most people’s love will grow cold.”(Matthew 24:12). I will speak-out against hyper-partisanship as muchas I can.
As a scientist I am deeply concerned by the diverse range of forcesthat are threatening to undermine the engine of science andtechnology that has done so much to improve human life, particularlyover the last century. I see a population that is uninformed aboutmany of the basics of science and almost completely ill-equipped tokeep up with the ever-accelerating pace of scientific knowledge.Perhaps in reaction to that, many are tending towards “vitalist” beliefslike the progressively less scientific belief in the superiority of “Organic”, “BioDynamic”, or “Raw food.” Many are easily frightenedby the vast industry I will call “FEAR, Inc.” from things like rBST, GMOs,and, worst of all, vaccines. If this trend continues, my greatgrandchildren will face scourges like Polio that nearly killed my mother80 years ago and should have been long eradicated from humanexperience. There are growing segments of the population that arewilling to casually reject the science on complex topics they barelyunderstand like evolution or climate change. I will speak-out againstanti-science in any way I can.
Bad Science
I hold my fellow scientists responsible for some of this trend. Scientistsbasically “suck” at communication. We write in convoluted, “precise”language and then let the results be hidden behind “pay-walls”. WhenI’m trying to refute some distortion of information coming out of FEARInc., I all-to-frequently find that the paper I need is unavailable to meunless I’m willing to pay >$20 to see it. There are also many scientistswho are guilty of “agenda science,” doing studies with the goal of supporting a world-view, not with the goal of understanding the truthor finding the best alternative. This is particularly rife within the vastacademic ranks of pro-Organic scientists. We scientists are also reallybad at dealing with issues that become intensely political, as the“Climate-gate” event demonstrated. I will speak-out against badscience as much as I can and I will try to find ways to help scientistscommunicate better.
Cultural Extinction
Demographic trends point to the declining influence of several majorworld cultures as countries sink to extremely low birth rates. Japaneseand Russian cultures are already in serious decline, and most Europeannations are as well. Chinese culture is going to face a strange anduncharted future demographic landscape because of the one-childpolicy. Various Islamic cultures will be a major part of the last gasp of human population increase, so that by the middle of my granddaughter’s life, Muslims will be a much larger proportion of the worldpopulation. I realize that there are many different sub-cultures within
Islam, but some of those have beliefs that are incompatible with theother major world cultures, and conflict with the relatively recent andpartial “consensus” about basic human rights, the role of women, andinternational law. I’m not saying that one or any of the various worldcultures is perfect – they certainly are not, but these trends lead to anunknown that makes me uncomfortable for my grand daughter’sfuture. I really don’t know what to “do” about this issue (as if I haveany influence at all).
I don’t know if I have a conclusion. It may seem weird for me to bethinking about such heavy stuff at an exciting moment like this. Toassure you that I’m at least semi-normal I’ll say a little about what elseI’m thinking.I’m excited to watch this young one (and hopefully more) grow up. I’mexcited to watch my son and daughter-in-law negotiate the job of parenting – I think they will be great parents. I look forward to spoilingthis kid when I can, teaching her about gardening, and about myvineyard. I look forward to showing her my favorite places in the worldlike Western Colorado, New Zealand, Northern Italy and our San Diegobeaches. I’ll do my best to make sure she hears important music likethe “The Goldberg Variations”, “The Sultans of Swing,” “The Messiah,”and “Alice’s Restaurant.” I’ll make sure she eventually watches “ThePrincess Bride” and “The King of Hearts.” I look forward to eventuallytalking to her about my faith and about science and why I don’t findthem in conflict. I seriously doubt that she will grow up to haveanything to do with agriculture – very few people do, but I hope to beable to give her some perspective on why she should appreciate thefew people that do grow our food.Happy news! About 5 hours after I wrote this, we got this picture of baby Kay Savage. 7 lb 15 oz. Mother and baby doing great!

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