Where’s the beef?

Last night I watched an episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” that kind of perturbed me. The plot was that these two little girls were killed in a fire and at the mid point of the show the cops had arrested the father for the crime. But then he made an emotional plea to one of the detectives (including trying to commit suicide in front of her) and the cops re-examined the case. They brought in a fire expert who concluded the deaths were accidental.

It was an interesting turn for a crime show because there was no real crime, but I found myself a little disappointed. “You mean there’s no murderer for me to hate?” I asked the television. Silence was its only reply, so I threw a bottle of brandy at it. I wanted a bad guy who could be defeated.

OK, so let me take a left turn here. I’ve often, when reading about neuroscience, or psychology, or philosophy, come across a fact that bedazzles me. I think to myself, “This is fascinating. Why doesn’t everyone know about this? Why isn’t everyone talking about this?” It’s a question(s) that really confounds me. I walk past people on the street talking about celebrity gossip, or office gossip, or what their stupid kids are doing, or what Mitt Romney is doing and I’m baffled how they can think those topics are important whereas, say, arguments against the existence of free will aren’t.

Now, there might be an obvious explanation for this difference of priorities between myself and the vast stinking masses of mankind. It’s possible I’m just intellectually superior to most people and their feeble brains can’t begin to comprehend my thoughts. Perhaps… but I think there’s something more.

I’ve always been baffled by sports. Why do people give a fuck about such a meaningless activity? I’m also baffled by people’s interest in the granular detail of politics. I mean, sure, I’m interested in who wins the presidential election, but why does anyone care about the Governor of Arizona yelling at Obama or some offhand comment Ron Paul makes. But, as I think about it, I get it. Sports and politics have conflict. It’s my team or side against the other bastards. We want to crush them, to DESTROY THEM!!! Humans are tribal creatures. But science has none of that. If you figure out what protein this gene programs for, it might have great ramifications, maybe cure some illness, but nobody really loses. The gene doesn’t care if you’ve figured it out. There’s no conflict.

That was the problem with that “Law & Order.” The was no loser. And the same is true with much of science.

(Obviously, the politics of science – scientists racing to beat each other to a Nobel Prize – has plenty of conflict, but that’s a different story.)

3 Responses to “Where’s the beef?”


  1. John Saleeby

    Oh, but you have to see the original Japanese cut of “Godzilla” . . .

  2. Wil

    Is there any conflict in “Godzilla”?

  3. John Saleeby

    Conflict? Conflict like a muhfuh!