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The progress of "Homo rapiens",
This review is from: Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions (Paperback)
According to Gray, the Enlightenment cast off the shackles of one religion, only to forge replacement fetters. The new religion, based on "humanism" is called "progress". This faith rests on the notion that the human condition can be constantly and continuously improved - forever. Instead of a metaphysical paradise, the new religion proposes one that can be achieved here and now. We act, he says, in the false belief that "science" is the new divinity. With so many problems having been solved through the application of science and technology, we've come to believe ALL obstacles can be overcome. What this faith ignores, Gray warns, is the finite supply of resources our planet has to sustain this programme.
In this collection of thought-provoking essays, Gray closely and critically scrutinises the new "faith" and explains its manifestations. In a trinity of themes, he looks at "progress", "terrorism" and "politics". The "scare quotes" are necessary here, because the reader may discover wholly new definitions of these terms within these pages. With incisive wit and deep insight, he examines the dedication to "progress" - where it came from and what it means now. A careful observer, he explains that "progress" is meaningful in the process of science. In the hands of politicians, industry and modern education, it is but a superstition. The world, he says, is "suffering from disseminated primatemaia - a plague of people." In his view "Homo sapiens" has evolved into "Homo rapiens", stripping the planet of resources with little idea of the impact it's having. The plague must be curtailed like any other infection. The first step in that therapy is shedding the belief that resources are limitless and technology can replace shortfalls.
He is scornful of the "war on terror", knowing that clumsy thinking followed by clumsy action easily creates more terrorists than it eliminates. The "crusade" now under way is simply generating fresh enemies. These antagonists are perhaps even more dedicated to destruction than those who launched the World Trade Center attacks. In "Washington's New Jacobins", Gray demonstrates the fallacies of using authority and military power to impart ideologies. It wasn't successful in the French or Communist revolutions, so there's little reason for thinking it will be accomplished by the Anglo-American Axis. The evangelists of the new faith are the neo-cons in Washington and their acolytes on Downing Street . "Dr Billy Graham has joined forces with Dr Strangelove", forging a bizarre and dangerous alliance.
As a heretic against the new orthodoxy, Gray seems to be standing alone. Heretics can be destructive, but they can also provide constructive pointers. Gray's approach isn't a hysterical rant - he's too knowledgeable for that. Instead of grand, sweeping and futile gestures such as Afghanistan and Iraq, Gray seeks a gradualist approach to issues. His method requires scrutiny and understanding of the underlying conditions of any issue. The approach requires work and people to perform the tasks. Read this and find out where you can make a contribution.