Friday, April 13, 2007

E.F. Schumacher's prescience

This post, by John Nery of Newstand had me pulling out my dog-eared copy of E.F. Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed again. He wrote the book in 1977. In a chapter that critiques how the methods used to study inanimate matter have burst their bounds and are used to study living matter and is giving rise to a materialistic, reductionist worldview in the West, in page 120, this jumped out:
All the same, it is evident that the instructional sciences, even though they do not lead to guidance on how to conduct our lives, are shaping our lives, through the technologies derived from them. Whether these results are for good or evil is a question entirely out of their province. In this sense, it is correct to say that these sciences are ethically neutral. It remains true, however, that there is no science without scientists, and that questions of good and evil, even if they lie outside the province of science, cannot be considered to lie outside the province of the scientist. It is no exaggeration today to talk about a crisis of (instructional) science. If it continues to be a juggernaut outside humanistic control there will be a reaction and revulsion against it which would not exclude the possibility of violence [my emphasis].

Again, that was in 1977. It jumped out because I read an interview a couple of weeks ago of Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol on the source of Muslim animosity toward the West. He said American foreign policy has something to do with it, but he also says:
I proposed a similar argument [that Dinesh D'Souza proposed in the book TheEnemy at Home] and said that what most Muslims hate is the materialism of the West, not the Christianity of the West. Today, the West is repugnant to many traditional Muslims because it looks like a civilization that has abandoned God and is trying to seduce the Muslims to do the same thing. I also noted in the article that Muslims who are exposed to the religiosity of the West, like that found in America, like and even admire it. For example, when “The Little House on the Prairie” was aired in Turkey in the early 80’s, all conservative Muslim families that I know were its greatest fans. Nowadays similar families are worried that their children will be corrupted by America’s pop culture.


I think that D’Souza’s attempt to explore the root causes of 9/11, and the hatred against America in general, is not only just justified, but absolutely necessary. Understanding the motivations of a terrorist doesn’t mean finding an excuse for him; it just helps you develop long-term solutions to the problem.

Shall we add 'prophet' to Professor Schumacher's resume?


grifter said...

you changed your name pala to 'Jeq'. hi, Jeq.

cvj said...

I don't think E.F. Schumacher intended to be an apologist for Fundamentalists (whether Islamic or Christian).

Jego said...

That's correct, cvj. It was a warning. If there's anything he's an apologist for, it's the freedom of the human spirit which shouldnt be shackled by fundamentalism, not even by the fundamentalism of science (one of the topics of the chapter I took the quote from). Prof. Schumacher will be the first to condemn all manner of dogmatism.

This reminds me of something Jefferson wrote: "I have sworn on the altar of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man."