Thursday, August 22, 2013

In moral terms, WWII boils down to one simple - scientific - question : are the small a part of the future, or just of the past ?

 G F Hegel, the 19th century's most influential philosopher, was famous for claiming that history wasn't an endless cycles of birth, maturity and death laced with infinite variations , as people had always observed.

Instead, he ventured that history has a single purpose and a single goal  - together with a linear unbreakable path upwards to that goal  - linear, unidirectional "Progress" with a capital "P".
Herbert Spencer and a thousand others said that , scientifically, Progress of this sort actually existed, wasn't just an intellectual debating point, and that Darwin's Evolution showed not just why it happened but why it had to happen.

Species and cultures and societies and businesses and empires started out young as small ,weak and foolish and just mightier and mightier and wiser and wider as they got older and older.

The small were useful - yesterday - but now they were just speed bumps in the way of Progress.

Tomorrow had no place for them.

This was the general tenor of the Modern Age between the 1870s and the 1960s.

Many people made moral arguments against this claim - but morality carried far less weight in this age than did science.

Henry Dawson also made moral arguments against this scientific central dogma , but where he seemed downright foolish to his colleagues was that he also said that he had scientific evidence - proof - that this dogma wasn't actually confirmed out there,  in the real world.

A man of deeds ,not words, his scientific articles cut little ice : that had to wait for someone like Stephen Jay Gould a half century later.

By then  ,of course, Gould was writing to the half converted.

But what had made the world change its mind ?

Blame on the events of that momentous year 1945.

1945 was both the apogee and nadir of the Modern Age.

Apogee with one project from Manhattan that assembled a scientific team almost as big and strong as The Bomb's explosion itself.

Nadir with another project from Manhattan that had a scientific team almost as small and as weak as those that manufactured the cure and almost as small and as weak as the intended patients.

Robert Oppenheimer led one team ; Henry Dawson the other.

Time is starting to tell as to who ultimately had the greater impact.....

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