I’m close to finishing Mary Midgley’s fascinating, though far from faultless, analysis of the “myths and dramas” behind much modern science, Evolution as a Religion. I’ll put together a review once I’m done.
Here I’ll just note an interesting quote she takes from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, from a letter from the devil Screwtape to his subordinate Wormwood. He gives advice on the use of fashion in exaggerating endemic vices:
The use of Fashions is thought to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already near gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere ‘understanding’. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.
It had struck me as devilish that at the most critical moment in our collective debate about and response to climate change and peak oil, there should emerge a chorus of voices calling for greater acceptance of consumerism, corporations and infinite-growth economics…