8/21/2005

Booman Tribune ~ The End of... Everything

The End of... Everything

by Devilstower
Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 12:35:01 PM EDT
This is a diary about the end of the world.

No, I haven't been going over my newspaper with a highlighter, looking for signs of the end times. I haven't been studying the proper type of cow needed to sanctify the Second Temple. I haven't been contemplating the probability of a bird flu pandemic, or the effects of the Russians marketing long range bombers to the Chinese.

This is about a quieter end. An end with all the inevitable entropy-driven ignominy as that which awaits us all personally. What I'm going to talk about is not a popular thought, and not yet mainstream thought, but for some people it's starting to look like a sickeningly sure bet. For everyone who has that little achy feeling down deep in their guts that Things Just Aren't Quite Right... this one's for you.

And it starts in 1989.

Part I: The Most Unpopular Man in Science

Actually, the story starts better than two million years ago, when hominids figured out that stone plus pig skull equaled a lot more bacon for diner. Some time after that came the fire thing. Around 40,000 years ago, there was an explosion of technology -- almost the Cambrian of the mind -- and about 30,000 years after that, along came agriculture. After that, it was all just fiddly bits.

What happened in 1989 was that Scientific American writer, John Horgan, began to follow around some of the top scientists and researchers in the world. He shot the physics breeze with Roger Penrose. Discussed evolutionary science with Stephen Jay Gould. Put some hair on black holes with Stephen Hawking. And contemplated structures with Freeman Dyson.

Jealous much? I know I am. And Horgan wasn't limited to this foursome. He interviewed scores of scientists, from the old guard to the young Turks, across almost every field imaginable. He didn't limit his discussions to only the so-called "hard scientists," but branched out to talk with luminaries of the mind like Karl Popper and Noam Chomsky. He interviewed these men (and precious few women) in their homes and laboratories. He talked to them about their personal lives and their professional dreams.

In 1996, the results of his world-wide science groupie junket were published, but even the title of the book was enough to set teeth on edge for many of the people he had interviewed. Horgan called his book The End of Science.

Once, Horgan said, science had made great discoveries. Scientists had ferreted out the structure of the atom, the cause of evolution, and the nature of DNA. They had taken electricity from side-show wonder into the lab, and into the home. Where man had once lived in a state of decidedly non-blissful ignorance, full of disease and superstition, science had allowed us to understand and manipulate the world around us. Science had produced one big idea after another, and all those ideas had reshaped the world. The trouble was, according to Horgan, the well of ideas was running dry....

Booman Tribune ~ The End of... Everything

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