Freud and the attack on nature

The idea of subjugating and manipulating nature, as the earliest farmers did, still drives human endeavor. As Sigmund Freud put it in Civilization and its Discontents,* "Against the dreaded external world one can only defend oneself by...becoming a member of the human community, and, with the help, going over to the attack on nature and subjecting her to the human will."

Indeed science and religion have regarded Nature as a force to be feared and dominated, if possible. In 1543, when Copernicus established that the earth was not at the center of creation, revolving as it does about the sun, his findings had the effect of displacing the Pope as the sole focus of divine enterprise and communication. Note that Galileo's work remained on the Catholic Church's index of forbidden works for centuries. Instead of adjusting to the new facts, the church became ever more severe in its assertion of authority over man and nature, ushering in the dreaded Inquisition. Even the printer of Gutenberg's Bible was obliged under pain of death by fire, to hand over the secret of multiple identical reproduction, considered by the Inquisition as possible only with the help of the devil. **

However, after the scientific revolution, centuries of development eroded the spiritual authority of religion, and church and science are today polarized, separate persuasions. As it happens, both are subject to to human nature and there are instances of captains of industry refusing to adapt to changes that have made their products obsolete***. In many cases, the corporation `in denial' has suffered or disappeared. In the early 21st century there is stubborn resistance to change that would mitigate environmental degradation; thus we attack nature at our own risk.


  * Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, W. W. Norton, New York, 1989, p. 27.
 ** Philip B. Meggs, History of Graphic Design, van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1983, p. 81.
*** Danny Miller, The Icarus Paradox: how exceptional companies bring about their own downfall, Harper Business, New York, 1990, p 18

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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)