02 July 2010

Daily Quotation

Bon vivant, wit, and tireless author, Chesterton lost the debate about the future direction of society to his contemporaries H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, and George Bernard Shaw.  Chesterton saw the implications of their vision of twentieth-century society, and he predicted exactly what would come of it.  Chesterton is not a congenial stylist to the modern reader; his witticisms are formal, his references to contemporaries, lost in time.  But his essential points are chillingly clear.

Originally published in 1922, this astonishingly prescient text [Eugenics and Other Evils:  An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized Society] has much to say about our understanding of genetics then (and now), and about the mass seduction of pseudoscience. Chesterton's was one of the few voices to oppose eugenics in the early twentieth century.  He saw right through it as fraudulent on every level, and he predicted where it would lead, with great accuracy.  His critics were legion; they reviled him as reactionary, ridiculous, ignorant, hysterical, incoherent, and blindly prejudiced, noting with dismay that "his influence in leading people in the wrong direction is considerable."  Yet Chesterton was right, and the consensus of scientists, political leaders and the intelligentsia was wrong.  Chesterton lived to see the horrors of Nazi Germany.  This book is worth reading because, in retrospect, it is clear that Chesterton's arguments were perfectly sensible and deserving of an answer, and yet he was simply shouted down.  And because the most repellent ideas of eugenics are being promoted again in the twenty-first century, under various guises.  The editor of this edition has included many quotations form eugenicists of the 1920s, which read astonishingly like the words of contemporary prophets of doom.  Some things never change--including, unfortunately, the gullibility of press and public.  We human beings don't like to look back at our past mistakes.  But we should. 
~ Michael Crichton - Next ~

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