Peak Civilization

The fate of most human endeavors is that they reach a peak of attainment, which is then followed by a decline due to excess on the one hand and neglect on the other hand. “Classical” music is a favorite example of mine. The form peaked around the turn of the 20th century, then went over the top into — variously — cacophony, atonality, and arrythmic confusion. The best of contemporary “classical” music is merely derivative of the form as it was at its peak.

So it is with myriad endeavors, the most important of which is the endeavor of rational inquiry. In the West, rational inquiry seems to have peaked in the early 1960s. I needn’t remind you of the subsequent descent: mobs, riots, the din of “entertainment”, quasi-religious movements from hippiedom to “climate change”, and on and on into the night.

It all makes me glad that I came of age in the 1950s, when civilized discourse was still possible and scientists were dedicated to the pursuit of truth, not the projection of their hopes, fears, and feelings.