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All watched over by the machine-like prose of science fiction

June 1st, 2011 (07:28 am)

In the first two episodes of All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, Adam Curtis lays the blame for the current economic crisis and last century's ecological crisis on ideas propagated by two works of science fiction masquerading as non-fiction. The first is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a frankly risible book, whose philosophy of Objectivism led to decades of fiscal mismanagement and economic blunders. The second is Eugene P Odum's Fundamentals of Ecology, which posited a deeply-flawed model of nature and society that corrupted several branches of science and technology for much of the twentieth century.

And while it may be stretching a point, given that Atlas Shrugged was a work of fiction but Fundamentals of Ecology claimed to be scientific non-fiction, I have to wonder how healthy has been science fiction's magpie and indiscriminate approach to scientific and pseudo-scientific theories through the decades. Not just John W Campbell's championing of Dianetics, or even L Ron Hubbard's creation of Scientology, but also, for example, Jack Vance basing his The Languages of Pao on the Sapir-Worf Hypothesis. In fact, it might be said that science fiction has been little more than a delivery mechanism for bad ideas to impressionable members of society.

(Rest of post on It Doesn't Have To Be Right...)