Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

October 23, 2010


Filed under: gardening, Soapbox — paragardener @ 9:19 am

This story takes place in the far distant future, in a complex of skyscrapers inhabited by Cubicle People.

The Cubicle People excel at certain tasks like accounting and proofreading. It is their way to rent out their specialized
labor and pay for everything else to be done for them: they import all of their food, all of their clothing, even their
all-important office machines.

One day one of the Planter People journeyed deep into the Cubicleplex to speak with her lawyer. Their consultation
complete, the planter offered a customary token of thanks, the seeds from one tomato.

“What are these?” asked her lawyer, brow suddenly furrowed in puzzlement.

“These are tomato seeds. Each one has a tiny tomato plant folded up in it. If you bury it shallowly in soil and water it
and give it plenty of light, it’ll sprout into a plant which will grow up and produce oodles of tomatoes.”
The lawyer went and spoke to the people in the science department, and asked them if tomatoes could indeed grow all on
their own from such a tiny seed.

The first scientist rejected it out of hand. “The idea of a product that can manufacture itself is something that some of
the people in R & D have been searching for since way back in the modern era. However, the well-established law of the
Conservation of Inputs proves that this dream is futile, like free energy or predicting the weather,” said Dr. Jerkknee.

The second scientist wasn’t as sure. Even though it meant everyone would laugh at him, Dr. Epticskull took half of the
seeds and began planting them around the building. A couple of seeds went into the plastic mulch that supported the plastic
plants in the lobby. A couple of seeds went into the sand of the executive Zen Garden. A couple more seeds went into a
stony fountain, and a couple into cups of dirt set below the Low Pressure Sodium lamps of the parking garage.

Months later, the lawyer returned to ask the scientists about their progress. Dr. Jerkknee had nothing new to say at all,
of course. But even Dr. Epticskull’s sprouts had all failed. “I did everything I could do to reproduce conditions as the
Planter described them, but none of the seeds developed into a new tomato. I must reluctantly reject the hypothesis of
seeds growing into tomatoes, and admit that it has no more basis than Planter myths.”

Though their methods remain unproven, even unscientific, the Planter People just keep gathering in the bushelfuls…



  1. Well, the “scientists” didn’t go about it in a very scientific way! The Planter person said SOIL and water, not plastic mulch, stone, or sand … Of course, they didn’t ask any further questions of the Planter, either, figuring they knew better, I suppose. I’m torn when it comes to science in daily life. I’m all for being pragmatic, but I don’t think science has nothing to teach us, either. Unfortunately, under modern economic systems, scientists often have an incentive to say what they’re paid to say (thinking here about Monsanto’s scientists or funded studies, also big pharma). Often too stuff like herbal remedies or the possibility that organic farming can be done on a large scale is just rejected out of hand with no actual experimentation, just as you illustrate.

    I could also see your story being used as an allegory about religious belief.

    Comment by estraven — October 23, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

    • Yah, I think that Jesus told a story pretty much like this one, though when he tells it it’s a “parable.”

      I didn’t mean to imply that science has nothing to teach us. But it has only so much scope – limited by culture and technology and the institutions that carry science on. All the time, I find myself having to adopt ways that aren’t particularly supported by any science.

      Comment by paragardener — October 24, 2010 @ 12:06 am

    • Talents, anyone? anyone? estraven?

      Comment by Linnea — October 24, 2010 @ 4:55 am

  2. Great story!

    I think it’s an allegory about anything the mainstream does not care to study in earnest or in good faith. The Planters (or similar) say that vitamin E prevents heart attacks and stroke, by which they mean actual vitamin E in the 8 forms in which it is found in food. I.e. in nature. So the Cubicle People do a study, except they only use one of the 8 forms and they don’t even actually use that, they use an artificial, lab-manufactured substance. A bit like planting tomato seeds in plastic mulch.

    Besides that, science is heavily politicized, to the point where many beliefs (even when based on evidence) are simply considered heresy. Science is overwhelmingly on the side of the 9/11 Truth movement, for instance, but it’s career suicide to admit this. Or — even worse, I suppose — perhaps the Official scientists aren’t even able to understand the problem, in the same way that the scientists in the story don’t know the difference between sand and soil, or a dixie cup of soil vs. a planting bed.

    Comment by freelearner — October 24, 2010 @ 4:12 am

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