Saturday, January 22, 2011


Optimists and Pessimists

Raymond B. Cowles (1896-1971), Desert Journal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 249:
[S]ince history began most men have divided themselves into two camps—the optimists and the pessimists. The optimists have always believed in a never-ending progress toward the day when man will have mastered "the arts of life" completely; the pessimists have always harked back to a "Golden Age" when life was better, when the streams ran clean and pure, the world was clothed in verdure, gardens yielded luxuriant crops, and herds waxed fat on the hillsides.

Today, the optimistic Prometheans hold center-stage, their faith and admiration turned to the new tribal-culture heroes—the big-business tycoon, the inventor, the scientist, the technologist, the manufacturer. The optimists accept the implicit promises of their new gods to provide not only magical new gadgets, but also limitless new substitutes for food and for diminishing resources. And they seem to imagine that all succeeding generations will enjoy still more glorious products of Promethean invention. The faith of these optimists, however, is a fantasy—a delusion perpetuated by seeing only the promise of science and refusing to recognize its warnings, among them the admonition that since men themselves are biological entities ultimately dependent on a biological environment for their own ultimate salvation, they must exist in harmony with it and live in equity with it.


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