tisdag 1 december 2009

The Age of Unreason and Reason of Fredrik the Great

The respected former British chancellor of the exchequer Nigel Lawson writes in his book
  • ...those worried about imminent environmental catastrophe, as compared, for examples, to nuclear terrorism or even large meteoric collisions, need not worry about saving this planet. They are already living on another one ... We appear to have entered a new age of unreason ... It is from this, above all, that we really need to save the planet.

Yes, it appears that we live in an age of unreason, but why is it so? Don't we still live in an Age of Reason as a continuation of the Age of Enligthenment in the 18th century? 

Why have politicians jumped on an alarmist train threatening to push human civilization to the brink of ruin? When did the Age of Reason end?

The answer is: In the beginning of the 20th century when modern physics was born as a reaction to an apparent collapse of classical rational physics which had served as the foundation of the Age of Reason for 200 years. At the same time classical art and music collapsed into cubism and atonal music. I describe this in 
In short, with the modern physics of relativity theory and quantum mechanics, physics became irrational, incomprehensible, unreasonable and magical. This opened to irrational and unreasonable politics throwing humanity into a 1st World War and then a 2nd. We have not yet recovered from these shocks. 

So there we stand. What role can reason play in an Age of Unreason? Is it possible to again make physics rational, reasonable and understandable and build a society and politics on that ground?

Maybe, because in the long run we can expect reason to be more functional than unreason.

For example, suppose one more EU politician than Vaclav Klaus would say: Since science gives no evidence to alert an AGW alarm at enormous costs, let us be reasonable and call off Copenhagen and do something meaningful and reasonable instead to make it possible for the people on this planet to live reasonable lives in an Age of Reason. 

Suppose Fredrik Reinfeldt in dream got this idea, got convinced that it was reasonable and determined to sell it to EU and the World. That could make him a new enlightened Frederick the Great!  So Fredrik,  take a nap and see if the dream comes...at least try for 10 minutes...

Remember Fredrik that Frederick also aspired to be a philosopher-king like the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and stood close to the French Enlightenment, admiring above all its greatest thinker, Voltaire, with whom he corresponded frequently. Listen to these wise words
of him:
  • I have no fault to find with those who teach geometry. That science is the only one which has not produced sects; it is founded on analysis and on synthesis and on the calculus; it does not occupy itself with the probable truth; moreover it has the same method in every country. 

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