Photograph of a doll’s head by Laura Woolsey who with her colleagues are studying the natural world developments at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, NY.
It was there that she found this peaceable head with its hair of moss.
This landfill was closed in 2001. Her colleague, William Bryant Logan, an arborist described in the NY Times on July 20, 2019 (The Lessons of a Hideous Forest) how salt marshlands had been overtaken by 150 million tons of trash and garbage 225 feet high by the time of the closure of the landfill.
The scientists are studying the mechanisms by which this piece of earth is restoring itself to an equilibrium in which humans are not intervening.
WHAT WE KNOW
Steven Pinker, American born Canada 1954, linguist, psychologist
The findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken.
We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree …
We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes.
We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small.
We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being.
There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are.
And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.