[EAS] The Will to Reason

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Feb 1 22:11:11 EST 2006

Dear Colleagues -

The first item in Bob Park's last mailing 
<http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN06/wn012706.html> is a
beautifully succinct statement about a malaise of our time:

>New Horizons, which is on its way to Pluto, is the fastest
>spacecraft ever built.  Even so, the trip will take nine years.
>At the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics meeting
>last year, an award was given for a paper about a new propulsion
>system that could do it in a day.  So why are we doing it the
>old-fashioned way?  Because it works.  There are two worlds.
>There is the world that sends robots to explore Mars, finds a
>vaccine for cervical cancer, unravels the structure of DNA,
>invents Global Positioning, etc.  And then there is an alternate
>world that discovers cold fusion, homeopathy, the Podkletnov
>gravity shield, hydrinos, and the Heim space drive.  Inhabitants
>of both worlds speak similar languages, look alike, even have
>identical DNA.  It's not just that things don't work in the
>alternate world, that can happen even in the real world.  But in
>the alternate world it doesn't seem to make any difference.

How do we lose our will to reason? Are we too panicked or too comfortable?
Or feeling too helpless? What little I knew of Kant and C. Wright 
Mills from college
I have forgotten. Ironically, Google, our idiot savant, quickly led 
me to this Mills quote:

>"Science, it turns out, is not a technological Second Coming.  That 
>its techniques and its rationality are given a central place in a 
>society does not mean that men live reasonably and without myth, 
>fraud, and superstition.  Universal education may lead to 
>technological idiocy and nationalist provinciality--rather than to 
>the informed and independent intelligence. The mass distribution of 
>historic culture may not lift the level of cultural sensibility, but 
>rather, merely banalize it--and compete mightily with the chance for 
>creative innovation.  A high level of bureaucratic rationality and 
>of technology does not mean a high level of either individual or 
>social intelligence.  From the first you cannot infer the second." 
>(p. 168)
>C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford 
>University Press, 1976 [1959].


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