1984's DOUBLETHINK PREDICTS ACADEMIA'S
By Ed Driscoll · January 7, 2004 08:01 PM · Bobos In Paradise · God And Man At Dupont University · The Return of the Primitive
Near the end of 1984, George Orwell wrote this interchange between Winston Smith and O'Brien, his tormenter in one of Oceania's gulags:
'We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation -- anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature.'Despite the fact that Orwell intended 1984 as a warning, much more than an attempt at predicting the future, it seems like a lot of intellectuals took that passage to heart, as Steven Den Beste demonstrates in a tremendous post, apparently the first of a two part series:
The academics in non-rigorous fields were not even needed any longer to help bridge the gap between the scientists and laymen. In 1991, John Brockman wrote:Be sure to read what happens next, when in 1991, computer programmer Chip Morningstar was invited to give a speech at a two-day "interdisciplinary" Second International Conference on Cyberspace.In the past few years, the playing field of American intellectual life has shifted, and the traditional intellectual has become increasingly marginalized. A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person in the 1990s. Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost.But what Snow eventually referred to as a "third culture" began to appear, though not exactly in the way he expected. Scientists and other technical people began to reach out directly to the laymen, to explain what they were doing and why and what significance it had, and why it was so fascinating. (Blush, people like me.)
UPDATE: Whoops--Steven emailed me to inform me that his post is actually the second of what he believes will be a four-part series. Here's the first part.
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