You know who the Luddites were. Wikipedia informs us:
The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested — often by destroying mechanized looms — against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, that replaced them with less-skilled, low-wage labour, leaving them without work and changing their way of life. … The movement was named after Ned Ludd, a youth who had allegedly smashed two stocking frames thirty years earlier, and whose name had become emblematic of machine destroyers.
Three years ago, in Creationists — the New Luddites, we quoted that and said:
The Luddites mindlessly attacked machinery — the symbol of what they believed was destroying what they thought was an ideal, pre-industrial world. The creationists of today don’t have that kind of misinformed, anti-industrial motive, but they too are mindlessly attacking what they see as the symbol of what is changing their world — and their target is science.
So far, the creationists haven’t been rushing out of their trailer parks waiving their torches and pitchforks, on their way to burn down universities and research facilities. But could it happen? Given all the crazy anti-science propaganda they’re always getting from creationist websites (you know which ones we mean), we’re virtually certain that it will happen — at least sporadically.
From time to time we give some thought to the Luddism analogy, and today we suggest that the analogy of creationists to the Luddites is only one small example of a much larger phenomenon. As it was with the Luddite and the loom, and as it is with the creationist and evolution, so it also has been with the faith healer and the vaccine, or the guilds and the entrepreneurs, or the proverbial buggy whip makers and the automobile. Every innovation encounters resistance in a society accustomed to the earlier state of affairs.
But there is no progress without obsolescence. Version 2.0 of anything — if it’s better — must inevitably supersede version 1.0, and that always requires the inconvenience of upgrading.
In a scientific age where there are continuous improvements and innovations, there will also be continuous costs and difficulties for those whose skills and livelihoods were based on earlier ways of doing things. Progress almost always brings some pain. An age of continuous progress means continuous discomfort — and sometimes resentment.
The existence of a large (and ever-changing) group in a society that is experiencing anxiety creates an opportunity for a certain kind of politician, preacher, or other demagogue. Their natural constituents are those who resent the onward sweep of progress, and who see themselves as oppressed. Their opportunistic leaders oppose progress and promise to restore an imaginary golden age — which never existed — when everything was simple and everyone was happy. Their opponents, always described as wicked, greedy, or both, are society’s scientists, entrepreneurs, and other innovators, whose primary desire is for freedom — especially freedom from every kind of reactionary tyrant who would restrain them.
Thus our insight that creationism is but one small aspect of a far larger reality — one that will likely be with us forever. It makes sense to be aware of it, and not to be surprised when it appears.
What’s the solution? We don’t have one. Progress is desirable, but because it’s likely to be opposed, it isn’t inevitable. Efforts to restrain it should be expected, understood, and resisted.
Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.