Saturday, March 17, 2012

Etymologically, are BIOLOGISTS 'stupid' or 'thick' or what ??!!!

If you and I shared a meal together at a cafe, would any outsider automatically assume, a priori ,that one of us must have enjoyed the meal while the other of us must have been left indifferent?

Only biologists - or idiots - would.

(Or am I being redundant?)

Yes, I am hot under the collar, and with good reason.

The importance of just who is seated at the meal table (and how) has been noted as fundamental in all human cultures and over the entire course of recorded human history.

The term used to describe this crucial human ritual (in many societies the crucial ritual) is commensality.

It means simply the act of 'dining at a common table', end of story.

All at that table eat and get benefit from the food they eat - without denying some may eat more and get more benefit and vice versa.

It does NOT assume ,in advance, that some diners get no impact from the food they ate, good or bad; that's an impossible trick to pull off in human nutrition and I await the first scientist who proves me wrong.

It does, however, leave open a wealth of ways that commensality - that dining at a common table - can be arranged.

Let us consider just four variants to mix and match.

It is closed - only some can attend. It is open - all can attend.

It is hierarchical - whether or not all or only some can attend - some get the best seats and the most food.

It is egalitarian - perhaps only a few can attend, but within that group, all share seating choice and food amounts equally.

A few well know examples - in this case, from the Bible.

Jesus broke strict taboos to invite the poor, the sinner and the sick to dine with Himself and the rich and pious.

But some later Christian groups invited only those they judged 'saved' ( as we'd say today in Alabama) to their feasts, but at the feast all the 'saved' were judged equal participants.

Endless variety, in other words, lies within the simple meaning of commensality.

Some one hundred years ago some scientists -biologists - totally deranged the meaning of commensality for their own wicked, debased, ends and in the 'honor among thieves' fashion of scientists, almost all other scientists follow the biologists in lock step and use their warped definition.

Except (thanks be to God !) those social scientists actually researching real world commensal activities.

I would never deny that the biologists too are also studying a real world activity and that it too deserves a name that accurately and etymologically describes its key characteristic.

But commensality definitely isn't that word .

When I say we are living in the new AGE OF COMMENSALITY
since 1945, I simply mean that we are more and more realizing that humanity is within Nature, not above it.

So we exist within a highly complicated intertwining supra-dependency : all life on earth 'dines at a common table' of interconnected and inter-dependent resource and energy flows.

This is "global commensality" : all life on Earth is invited to a table the size of the entire Earth (and Solar System).

In plain English, if the Sun were to noticeably reduce its output for 80 years, even those bacteria deep in the mud at the very depths of the deepest basins of the ocean would eventually notice it.

They are not part of our Food Chain but they are part of our Air Chain and our Temperature Chain.

We dine together - on conventional food as well as air,water and heat - but we don't dine in harmony.

No,  all us life forms squabble amongst ourselves over what is our proper share.

This is not a sort of mutalistic 'hearts and roses' commensality - but it is commensality.

Hopeful human rationality - so often debased for evil ends - will this time let us see that we must learn to share the Earth with these various Golden Gooses and restrain our endless appetite, if we want to share some of their golden eggs far into the future.....

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