As I've noted elsewhere, scientists are increasingly willing to consider the possibility that things may, in some cases, affect other things:
Welcome to the new science of ecotoxicology in which scientists try to understand how the synthetic chemicals we're pouring into our environment affect the way earthly life goes about its business.Well, thank goodness that we have a "new science" upon this tired earth - a science based on "laboratory research that leads to wider study," which has already revolutionized our thinking by suggesting that things may happen in the world that are overlooked in the laboratory.
Recent research about musk fragrances and mussels illustrates this point. When gills from live mussels were exposed to water with low concentrations of six commercial musks, they were not poisoned....That was expected.
But after two hours, the researchers washed the gills and put them in musk-free water that also contained a red dye. Cells in the gill tissue took up the dye. That was not expected.
Those cells have a mechanism to detect a foreign substance...and keep it out. That worked for cells not exposed to the musk in the first place. Cells that had been exposed lost this natural defense.
That finding has a disturbing global implication....Cells in many animal species, including humans, use the same protective mechanism to ward off foreign substances.
Laboratory research that leads to wider study is a hallmark of ecotoxicology. Scientists wouldn't know what to look for in the field without it.
Yet, "it is a virtual certainty that other effects are occurring in the field that we are presently overlooking in the lab," note the editors of Environmental Science & Technology, an American Chemical Society journal, which devoted a special issue to this new science.
Science, to me, has always been about the investigation of relationships: how things affect other things. Forgive me for harping on this yet again, but the shelves of our bookstores are groaning under the weight of pop-science books about chaos theory. At this point, the concept that you can't necessarily ignore even the most minute aspects of a dynamic system should be pretty well understood.