Darwin and mental atrophy

There are many instances of societies in which progress unravels, but can the same predicament befall individuals? It may have happened to Charles Darwin, Seymour Cray and to Thomas Midgley, the inventor of leaded gasoline and CFCs. The present project investigates the role that ordinary human behaviour plays in progress traps. The highly complex area of cerebral specialization no doubt holds many clues, but it is surely unwise to discourage those whose background is not scientific from pursuing science and technology. Problem-solving in technology may benefit from those with broad life-experience. It is also unwise to deter artistic, or intuitive pursuits, since a specialist's rogorous intellectualism can become unproductive over the long term. No-one said it better than Charles Darwin himself:

    "This curious and lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies, and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive."1

more on this: http://www.progresstrap.org/content/darwin-and-poetry

1. Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 18091882, Edited by Norah Barlow, Norton, London, 1992, p. 139.


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"The Progress Trap - and how to avoid it" Copyright Daniel O'Leary, registered at
the Copyright Office, Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Canada on April 5, 1991 (ref 405917)