Balancing Evidence and Emotions

There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.

~ Oscar Levant


When I was a bright, inquisitive young boy, I was routinely told to work hard, to play by the rules, and to avoid arguing with adults. I was told to respect my elders. I was told arguing was impolite. I was also told to avoid people who acted differently than “normal” people.

Fast forward five decades to the nirvana of now. Nearly every day I am criticized for failing to focus only on evidence. Nearly every day I am asked to ignore emotions: “As a scientist, you need to stick to science.”

Rarely does a day pass without criticism for failing to serve as personal therapist for people who have difficulty accepting the brevity of human life. Rarely does a day go by when I am not asked to address the emotional response to my message: “You cannot merely present the evidence and leave me on my own. You must tell me how to cope with my terminal diagnosis.”

I’m a scientist. I’m not a therapist. I’m a conservation biologist. I’m not a counselor, shrink, or “life coach.” And I’m a human being, perennially grappling with the brevity of my own life, not to mention that of our species.

Few know more than me about relationships gone awry, shattered by various toxic combinations of evidence and emotions. Few have given away so much of themselves, or had more taken from them. What does my persistence reveal to you?

I’ve not received a paycheck for more than eight years. I offer my work as a gift, freely available to all. If you disagree with me, please ignore my evidence-rich work.

If you want me to collate and synthesize evidence, then pay me. A lot. If, on the other hand, you want me to act as your personal counselor, then pay me even more. Let’s start a bidding war. Do I hear $50? Who’ll give me $50?

You need not inform me that you believe my radio and video cohosts are mentally ill. Trust me, my cohosts are receiving similar messages about their cohost. As Jiddu Krishnamurti pointed out, “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

I’m willing to admit my insanity, at least compared to this profoundly sick society. After all, genius and madness likely are inextricably, genetically linked. A line from gonzo American journalist Hunter S. Thompson comes to mind: “I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

Find a person who has given more in defense of Earth: privilege, position, fiat currency, relationships. Become that person. Perhaps then we can talk. Until then, you have work to do.

Again I ask: What does my persistence in promulgating a message rooted in evidence reveal to you? Character? Will? Emotional instability? Genius? Insanity? Misguided radicalism? And what part of this whole affair is your business? Do you really want to spend your final days arguing with a man you’ve declared insane? Is that your own version of pursuing excellence?

So much drama. So much discord. So much denial. So much hatred. So little time.

Decades after my bright and inquisitive nature was acknowledged, I still fit into both categories, if I do say so myself. And I’m still searching for the “normal” people in this inane culture even as I continue to work hard and break all the societal rules I can.

Perhaps the optimists are correct, and this is the best of all possible worlds. Or maybe — as J. Robert Oppenheimer pointed out — the fears of the pessimists have come to pass and it is, indeed, the best of all possible worlds. Through either lens, this Earth is the one we have. Acceptance is a gift you give yourself. Only a fool would look a gift Earth in the mouth.