Since we can’t see where we are headed, should we stop research altogether? This reminds me of a wise old airline employee to whom I was bragging that I had stopped flying with his company because of their lousy safety record. “Listen, sir,” he said to me. “If your exit visa from this life is stamped ‘death by aircraft,’ even if you stay in your bed, the airplane will find you and crash upon you.” At this, the dawn of the technology century, it is not fashionable to pay attention to forces outside reason. We should reconsider. All the more so, if we are under the illusion that we understand enough of our universe to successfully regulate its future course, as Joy suggests.
We shouldn’t forget that what we do as human beings is part of nature. I am not advocating that we do as we please, on the grounds that it is natural, but rather that we hold nature-including our actions-in awe. As we fashion grand strategies to “regulate the ozone problem,” or any other complex aspect of our world, we should be respectful of the unpredictable ways nature may react. And we should approach with equal respect the presumption that the natural human urge to probe our universe should be restricted.
I suggest we broaden our perspective to the fullness of our humanity, which besides reason includes feelings and beliefs. Sometimes, as we drive the car of scientific and technological progress, we’ll veer because our reason says so. At other times we’ll follow our feelings, or we’ll be guided by faith. Most of the time, we’ll steer with all three of these human forces guiding us in concert, as they have guided human actions for thousands of years. As we do so, we should stay vigilant, ready to stop, when danger is imminent, using our full humanity to make that determination. If we do so, our turning point will be very different from where it may seem today, based on early rational assessments…that have failed us so often. Let us have faith in ourselves, our fellow human beings and our universe. And let’s keep in mind that our car is not the only moving thing out there.