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Marching in Circles: Faustian Thinking and the Myth of Science

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From flickr.com: .I was walking among the fires of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look l
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First published at Global Research

"In our society those who have best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion: the more intelligent, the less sane." George Orwell, 1984

"This has inspired me to new heights, to wage war against these forces ['the unfruitful ocean'] and subdue them." Faust from Goethe's Faust

The recent marches on April 22nd to promote science and to celebrate Earth Day were perhaps well-intentioned, but they were delusional and conducted without any sense of irony. They served power and its propaganda. Obviously science has benefited us in certain ways, but it has become untethered from any sense of moral limits in its embrace of instrumental rationality and its unending efforts to sabotage faith in human freedom by rationally "proving" its illogical deterministic credo. And in doing so it has created and sustained a nightmarish world on the brink of destruction and undermined people's will to resist this death march. Ostensibly rational, it has engendered a spiritual alienation that goes to the roots of the world crisis.

"In short," says Dostoevsky's underground man, "one may say anything about the history of the world -- anything that might enter the most disordered imagination. The only thing one can't say is that it's rational."

For two of the major problems the world faces -- world destruction with nuclear weapons and the poisoning of the earth's ecology and atmosphere -- are the result of the marriage of science and technique that has given birth to the technological "babies" (Little Boy and Fat Man) that were used by the U.S. to massacre hundreds of thousands of Japanese and now threaten to incinerate everyone, and the chemical and toxic inventions that have despoiled the earth, air, and water and continue to kill people worldwide through America's endless war-making and industrial applications.

The Save-the-Earth-Science marchers failed, for self-serving reasons or ignorance, to see the obvious. But their failure goes even deeper than omitting the links between science, war, and pollution.

In our technopoly, logical thinking has become illogical; cause and effect, means and ends have been inverted. The causes of our problems are touted as the means to end them. These "solutions" are always offered with a straight face, as if they made perfect sense. This is how societies operate when in the grip of myths. In this case, the myths of science, progress, and history. Such myths render the obvious invisible as they create a hopeless inevitability in people who can imagine no alternative and have been convinced that science is the secret to salvation and the means to the things they have learned to desire, including longevity and perhaps "immortality." And these things have become the means to additional means in an endless loop from which, by definition, ends are absent. As a result, the search for truth, celebrated as a goal of science, is slyly eliminated.

In this comforting yet absurd myth, science is viewed as the "miraculous knight of reason." John Saul Ralston elaborates:

"Science led the way in the battle against the forces of darkness. Discoveries were celebrated as if new territories were won on the road to a place of eternal light where knowledge would reign. And yet these very real advances in the uncovering of nature's secrets seemed increasingly to create a world which escaped the control of society. New knowledge and new positive powers in the hands of man seemed inevitably to be matched with new inaccessible elites and a new sophistication in the arts of violence and destruction".As for the scientists, the vast majority of whom continue to believe in the inviolability of progress, they still do so with the driven purity of terrorists."

Comforted and paradoxically terrorized by our creations, yet immobilized by our myths, we seem to lack the imaginations to conceive a different approach. So we applaud what seems so "sensible": marching for science to save the planet. Meaning well becomes a substitute for missing the meaning of our contradictory thinking and the myth that sustains it.

Delude ourselves as we might, the probability of making all possibility impossible is very real. Poised on the edge of nuclear conflagration and environmental collapse, we tell ourselves that reasonable minds will prevail, knowing, if we choose to think at all, that the central experiences of the past century -- the mass slaughter of human beings with progressively more "advanced" weapons and ecological destruction as a result of scientific/technological "advances" (we are always advancing in the myth) -- were not prevented by such "reasonableness." In fact, instrumental reason and its perverted logic of efficiency -- our Gods -- caused them.

We inhabit a nightmare, and reason is insufficient to awaken us. "The madman," wrote G. K. Chesterton, "is the man who has lost everything except his reason." This is true even when the reasoning is faulty.

This scientific/technological nightmare is a world where everything has become a means and the ends no longer exist. We are travelling at breakneck speed to nowhere, but as long as long as we keep moving in our "usefulness," no one seems to notice that we are traveling in circles and getting nowhere.

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Edward Curtin is a widely published author. His new book is Seeking Truth in A Country of Lies - https://www.claritypress.com/product/seeking-truth-in-a-country-of-lies/ His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

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