If we don’t know its function, it must not have one

The appendix is shown to support the immune system, in contrast to the previous view of it having no function at all. And what about junk DNA, do we know it doesn’t have a function?

Western science has had a tendency to assume that if we don’t know its function, it must not have one. It is obviously a silly assumption.

So the question then is, where and how do I do the same? Where do I assume that if I don’t know the function of something, it must not have one?

When I look, I find I do it all the time.

For instance, two Norwegians are in prison in Kongo, accused of and taken to court for having murdered their driver. From a Norwegian view, many aspects of the process is absurd, bizarre and Kafkaesque, something that you would expect from a surrealist play and not real life. So it is easy to assume that the people down there are plain stupid, or possibly crazy, and see their actions as having no function.

But knowing a little about the history and situation in Kongo, it starts making more sense. They have every reason to be suspicious of whites, to assume the worst about them, based on their history. They have every reason to appear a little crazy, considering what they have been going through over the last few decades. It is very understandable if they see this as an opportunity to milk a few white people for money, and prioritize that over justice as we see it in narrow legal terms. And much of what they do may be in the service of creating confusion and intimidation.

So looking a little closer, their actions make a little more sense. It has a function for them. It even serves them, in different ways. Using our usual western approaches to work with this situation, such as Norwegian lawyers and diplomacy, does not work very well. But understanding more of how it appears from their perspective, and the function their actions have for them, allows us to play the game more according to their rules, and that may be more effective. Who knows. It is at least worth a try, and some do try that approach.

This happens whenever I see someone saying or doing something, and I don’t quite understand where they are coming from. It is easy to assume that if I don’t understand the function it has for them, it must not have a function. But, of course, it usually – or always – does. I am just not aware of it yet.

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