Thursday, October 20, 2011

the OTHER Manhattan Project

The problems of 'Doctor D', 'Miss H' and of Charlie don't seemed to have loomed up very large in the work of historians, novelists, composers or movie makers in the 75 years since those problems first began.

Set along the mean hospital corridors of an America almost as much at war with itself as it was with the Axis, these problems seemed then - and seem to most now - far too small to consider posing alongside the grander epic themes of WWII.

But one person's hill of beans is another's monumental ground changer and I guess I am just one of those guys.

The physical bullets may have stopped flying but I think World War Two's real battle - which I think was an intellectual battle - goes on as strong as ever.

Did I actually say 'intellectual battle' ?

Silly me - I of course meant a battle between scientists - with scientists like Heinrich Himmler on the much bigger side.

That battle was all about confronting the messy,untidy,unequal variety one finds in Nature and in human society: it was all about whether we should celebrate it or should we seek to eliminate it.

We all think we know the relatively few who sought to tame and eliminate variety and diversity during World War Two, but is this actually true - or is it simply the propaganda of the victors talking ?

The story of 'Doctor D' (Doctor Martin Henry Dawson) should make us question the easy division of the participants in World War Two into two neat piles of the good guys and the bad guys.

The world is still divided between those scientists (and citizens) who think reality is fundamentally, at its base, simple, predictable and hence perfectible - and those who see it as irreductibly unpredictable and hence endlessly variegated.

The big battle today is over humans' ability to change the climate for better or for worse .

Back then, the big battle was over whether we want to create, at the point of a syringe, a volk democracy of equally healthy and strong people or whether we can learn to accept a messy hierarchy of differing talents and healths among human kind.

I hope Dawson's story will not merely seem like ancient history but rather will move people to look again at our current environmental disputes in a different light....