Topic: Must Read
Another thing about Last and First Men that strikes me as impressively prescient is Stapledon’s description of the corruption of science. As he imagines it, the intellectual decline of the First Men causes the once fluid doctrines of science to crystallize into a fixed and intricate dogma. The distinctions between science and religion gradually fade away; scientists themselves develop into a priestly caste.
To contemplate the follies of contemporary scientism is to certify the clarity of Stapledon’s vision. Countless people who scoff at the idea of God give their faith to Science (I capitalize intentionally)—yet few of them appear to have the smallest grasp of science as such. Indeed, the empirical mode of thought and the protocols of scientific method are anathema to such true believers as the followers of Al Gore. For to think critically about global warming is to commit an act of heresy—and the heretic is not to be debated. He is to be liquidated. Hence the shrill insistence that where global warming is concerned, “the debate is over.” Hence the frequent comparisons of global warming skeptics to Holocaust deniers.
Of course, few people are fanatically attached to such pseudo-scientific causes as global warming and stem cells. But even where fanaticism is lacking, a corrosive faith festers. The argument that such-and-such a position or policy violates the principles of “good science” is held to be unanswerable. But what is “good science”? Many things may indeed be scientifically possible. Whether or not they’re good and desirable is another question entirely. But those who place their faith in Science have no desire to take up that question.
Thus in the name of Science, debate is quashed, criticism is suppressed and the heretic is persecuted. Or to put it another way, in the name of modern scientific religion, science is being destroyed. Imagine the outcry if Al Gore proposed to demolish Europe’s Gothic cathedrals. But we’re letting him and people like him get away with the demolition of another and equally glorious achievement of Western civilization, our scientific heritage. Olaf Stapledon saw it coming. He should be living at this hour.