Celebrate human achievement

In: Uncategorized

22 Apr 2010

Returning to watch the start of the 1973 BBC series on the Ascent of Man on DVD I was struck my how much the intellectual climate has changed since then.  Green ideas have  marginalised the broadly humanistic assumptions which were then prevalent. Even the idea of the “ascent of man” would be seen by many today as absurd.

These were the opening words by Jacob Bronowski in the first episode:

“Man is a singular creature. He has a set of gifts which make him unique among the animals: so that, unlike them, he is not a figure in the landscape – he is a shaper of the landscape. In body and in mind he is the explorer of nature, the ubiquitous animal, who did not find but has made his home in every continent”.

Today it is rare to find such confidence in human potential in the mainstream media. Not only would the use of the word “man” be derided as sexist but the notion of humans shaping nature for their own benefit is the antithesis of the green orthodoxy.

Fortunately there are a few exceptions. Michael Specter, a writer for the New Yorker and the author of Denialism, shows considerable faith in science and humanity in this Ted talk (hat tip to Sean Collins of the American Situation for the link). I have also mentioned Specter in posts on 19 October 2006 and 7 December 2009 (which includes a link to an extract of his book).