“Ideology minus science equals sophistry.”
— Dr. Richard Cordes
Last night, Richard and I were attempting to define the political-social unreality of the day. My thought was significantly simpler: the Trump of the 2016 campaign was a Cardiff Giant — not an actual human being, yet viewed by many as a giant among men. Our two ideas continue to stick in my mind.
I’m reminded of the introduction to Thomas Merton’s book, “Gandhi on Non-Violence” (New Directions; 1964). Merton wrote about another book, that compared Western Man to a one-eyed giant, in his behaviors while invading the non-white nations of the world. He noted that Western Man had “science without wisdom,” which resulted in his destructive features of his relationship to non-whites and nature.
The peoples of Africa, the Americas, and Asia had wisdom without the advances in science that allowed Western Man to dominate them. Yet Western Man lacked the wisdom to exercise a wholesome control on the technological advances that outpaced his level of being. Thus, he failed to see non-western peoples as his siblings — when in fact they were his elder siblings, with an intimate association with the lands they inhabited.
From the earliest European contacts with the Native People of the northeast in the sixteenth century, many of the technologically-advanced Western Man held the Indians in contempt. Some viewed Indians as “less-than-human.” In part, of course, it was the justification for the violent theft of their lands. The resistance to the encroachments upon their territories continues today at Standing Rock, adding links to the 500-year chain.
That spirit of the American Indian haunts this nation. Attempts to dismiss grave injustices by pretending that they took place in the distant past deny the realities of Standing Rock — which is merely the most widely-known of assaults on Indians today. Yet there is a new dynamic: a political-economic viewpoint that denies science, when that science gets in the way of making a profit.
It is rooted in a mechanical mentality — behavior as unconscious as a bicycle — that lacks the ethical/ moral consciousness that defines being truly human. It’s participants are reduced to mere cogs in a machine that rejects the science of climate change, just as surely as it rejects the ceremonies of Native People.
Few things could possibly illustrate that as clearly as the pipelines that now crisscross so much of the Earth’s surface today, as if nature was another machine. The ideology minus science that the president-elect’s administration is intent upon expanding the mechanical, to construct, in effect, the Trump Tower of Babel.
Henry David Thoreau spoke of the eternal struggle people experience in recognizing what they actually see. They tend to “see” what they expect to see, or what they hope to see. Yet reality is often far more complex than what society expects, much less hopes, to see. We need to join together, to become a two-eyed giant. We need to combine science and wisdom, before the blind greed of the machine destroys the environment — including human society — beyond repair.