Thursday, May 7, 2015

#127 / A Color That Pervades

The April 21, 2015 edition of The New York Times ran an article in its "ScienceTimes" section that was titled "Ever Green." You can try that link to see if The Times will let you through its paywall to read the article. On the day the article appeared, which is the same day I am actually writing this post, the online version was only available to paid subscribers. The author of the article was Natalie Angier, by the way, and I bet readers will be able to track down the article on the Internet, one way or another, by the time this posting appears in my Two Worlds blog.

I suppose that the article was timely, since April 22nd was "Earth Day," and "green" is the color of choice for the environmental movement. Green is the "color of life," as the article puts it. Angier's article discusses the color green, and its role in nature, and specifically how "green" figures in the process of photosynthesis, which is the basis for all life on Earth.

I found one minor comment in the article rather instructive, as a kind of allegory for the kind of human use of scientific knowledge about which I am deeply skeptical. 

The article assumes that the reader knows something about "color," and why we see the colors we do. Click the link if you'd like a Wikipedia refresher course. We largely "see" colors because the colored objects we look at are not absorbing the wavelengths of light that are associated with the color. One point made in the "Ever Green" article was that plants, for some reason, do not absorb all the wavelengths of light that when reflected seem "green" to us. Since plants turn light into food and oxygen (both pretty good things from our point of view), wouldn't it be great if we could "bioengineer" plants to absorb more of those green wavelengths, and make plants more "efficient?"

That question is raised in the article, and any frequent reader of this Two Worlds blog knows that I am no fan of bioengineering, in which human beings presume that they can redesign the Creation.

What struck me in reading the article was the passing observation that if it were possible to change how plants absorb light, to take in more, and more of the "green" wavelengths associated with photosynthesis, our plants would start looking "black," not "green."

Green: historically felt to be "the color of life."

Black: historically felt to be "the color of death."

Watch out, you bioengineers!

Image Credit:

1 comment:

  1. Historically felt superstitions have nothing to do with fact. You may think yourself clever for finding this poetic connection between black and death, but it exposes you as intellectually dishonest when your only argument is from logical fallacies like false analogy and equivocation.

    Human beings don't just presume, but actually do redesign living things all the time. Pets, livestock, and crops have all been "redesigned" to fit human needs over thousands of years.

    Bioengineering is like any science. It works even if you're "no fan" of it. For example, millions of people take insulin produced thanks to bioengineering.


Thanks for your comment!