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because humanity isn't rational and somehow I don't think that I'm going to persuade many people to be rational for instance right now once again they're
talking about there being a wave of mysticism that's taking over in the United States more and more people are interested in astrology in the new way of the new something of new age I guess
they call it and various assorted non senses of that sort and I don't think there's a new record essence of that
sort of thing I think it's always there I think that people have never stopped believing in anything that has no germ of sense to it then why do you want to
mislead us if we are so totally irrational and always have been what do you want to teach with rationality the rational solution of problems as the basis of your what you do right for two
reasons in the first place I have to live with myself I feel that since I do appreciate rationality I do believe I have a kind of ability to be a skeptic
to insist on evidence to want things to make sense I have the duty to say so just as some people feel that they have the call to spread God's Word I believe
that if there's such a thing as God's Word its rationality and I have the call to spread it and secondly even though I don't think I'll convert the world to rationality I may influence an
occasional person here and there and every small addition to the sum total of rationality is precious and I would like to be responsible for as many drops as
we can possibly add to that small pond well let's let's enlarge the pond tell me what the motivation would be for someone to embrace the rational ethic
that you relate to well for one thing you understand the universe better to believe in nonsense is really to limit yourself terribly to live in fear of all sorts of
things that don't exist imagine if you will how it must have been in the old days when you believed in in ogres and and devils and all kinds of monsters and
evil fairies I mean the whole world was filled with intelligences superior to your own that were malicious and evil and you lived in terror now heaven only
knows that there are evils in the world and there are dangers but you might as well concentrate those that really exist and not create them for yourself and try
to live surrounded by these imaginary menaces but even you say heaven only knows even you resort to something that is quite that irrational well you know that's the English language I say I'm
enthusiastic about the source oh but if you look at the derivation of the word enthusiasm it means God within a person since nobody believes that a human being all
on his own can accomplish great things when you get the enthusiastic person who doesn't complicate things it's because some God is acting upon him therefore I use the word enthusiasm even I don't
believe that it's some God working in me now wait a minute let me let me go back over this if I may you want to serve mankind and you believe that you can do
that best by emphasizing the rationale within us but clearly the gods the terrors must have served us at least well enough for us to have maintained
them all of these eons why do you want to take them away from us they served us because we knew so little about the world we live in uncertainty we know that at any time disaster might strike
we cannot foresee the future it is very uncomfortable to live under such conditions people make up ways of controlling the future they dream about fairy godmothers
give them gifts they go and ask questions of fortune tellers of all kinds to give them a hint as to what may be in store for them and how they may best persuade fate to deal kindly with
them or if they're religious they'll pray to God something like that it gives them a feeling of security now there's no use having false security if there's nothing else available that's what
people go for but now if for instance a person insists on some sort of mumbo-jumbo instead of let us say taking advantage of modern medicine then you
know he's virtually committing suicide and I would hate to see people go to these faith healers and things like that then how do you how do you explain to what do you attribute what you yourself
described as a as a renaissance in a sense of mysticism if you will of the non-rational here at the end of more than a century of rationalism of
scientific ISM well for one thing that's easier to be irrational gives you certain answers any one would rather go to somebody who'll say two plus two
equals five and there's no mistake about it than to go to someone who says well modern scientific research says that two plus two is usually four but we can't always be certain of course they'll go
for the certainty even if it's wrong it depends on what you what you promise why do people go out and buy fakes fake oil stock of all kinds con men always get rich they sell people all kinds of
ridiculous things they play all kinds of games which just take money away why because in each case they promise that the person will make a lot of money and
the eagerness to get rich easy they get rich quick schemes that people fall for and what they lose money over well this is a kind of a get-rich-quick scheme of the mind these are con men of the Spirit
if you will they're selling you some a full security that sounds good knowledge of the future that doesn't really exist assurance that you'll be safe when you're not really safe and
you'll give them all the money you can in return for it same thing like they like like betting which peas under which shell you say same thing as the as the old con man's
device and yet obviously there must be some subjective satisfaction here some subjective satisfaction given by the claim to irrationality and some fear as
to those who have mastered reason after all this is that again the century of science perhaps as we look to see what science has done what it has brought us it would seem to us that greater safety
going to security reasonably can be assumed to reside in the mystical well it sounds good when you say that because you think of chemical pollution and
nuclear weapons and all the things that modern science has brought through its misuse and largely by politicians and businessmen and so on but nobody really
wants to abandon science and it never happens for instance you want to go back to the good old days when you could just be mystical when if you did happen to get appendicitis you died in agony
because there was nothing anyone could do for you if you did have to go to the hospital these were butcher shops of sheer torture because there are no answers no anesthesia there are a million things that people won't abandon
people complain all the time about Modern Life about what has science done for us try to take away their automobiles and television sets they won't they won't give it up so that
while it's fashionable to say that it is better to do as the old as the older generations did no one really wants to do it you show me a person who longs for
the simple life and I'll show you someone who's living in a penthouse in Manhattan well those people you were referring - before those who are embracing a kind of mysticism most of them don't live in
penthouses in Manhattan most of them do feel that the modern world is too damn puzzling and that they want to return to simpler though in a sense as you suggest more mystical elements oh well now let's
distinguish let's distinguish there are people who live shall we say simple lives who are not sophisticated who are not extremely educated who are clinging
to the faiths of their fathers that's one thing that's one thing they get a lot of satisfaction out of it but there are also people of the shirley maclaine type who've got everything they want and
who still fool around with mysticism not because they want the simple life but simply because they want some kind of security that they can't find some assurance that something they haven't
got they can get on the cheap for instance you believe you've lived in the past that there's a transmigration of souls that perhaps you won't really
die you'll have another life someday I mean there are million things that constitute a denial that death exists but isn't science fiction itself such a function of imagination such a function
of futurism that is it in its own way it does the same thing it depends as and everything else there is good and bad there is good science fiction there is
bad science fiction good science fiction tries to invent a society which is different from our own distinctly different but which holds lessons for
our own in other words you suppose that you've got a science a society in which space travel is common let us say what problems arise what's special what
special difficulties do people who are engaged in space travel but what are they facing etc etc now this is no promise to you that life will be easy as a matter of fact I think
that most science fiction stories tend to be on the grim side that that unfavorable futures make for better stories and favorable ones and a friend
of mine says that science fiction writers are Scouts sent out by mankind to survey the future and to come back and say that way like quicksands this looks pretty good if we can get over a
hill and so on we don't predict not deliberately sometimes we hit now something that actually comes to pass I've done that myself but that's largely accidental the
main thing we do is just see if we can illuminate the human condition under a particular system of thinking that is suppose we lived in a society other than
our own now it's just another version of literature in other words good literature all of it is supposed to illuminate the human condition but it's interesting that you say so much of
science fiction is negative in a sense as grim I think you use the word grim I'm thinking two of the negative utopias I think many of us used to think that books about the future writings about
the future were always very positive and then we came to brave new world which in its own way was written so many decades ago a kind of science fiction and a
negative utopia brave new world 1984 and a great number of well this happens all the time for a simple reason that it's it's makes for better drama you write a
story about how everything is just fine people fall asleep over it even even stories which have happy endings are grim until the happy ending think of all the fairy tales you read I you know
sometimes people say why dontcha Rijn go back to those good old fairy tales and I always say I recite the plot of Hansel and Gretel here are these poor this poor woodcutting families starving to death
and the mother not the stepmother the mother suggests they send out the two kids and just let them starve so they don't have to feed them and they send them out twice and then when they finally lost because they put out bread
crumbs in the birds I've eaten it they come across a witch who's going to eat them so you've got abandonment you've got child abuse you've got cannibalism finally it ends happily but you can imagine what the kid is suffered
till he gets there why do you put that in these are folktales the grimmer you make them the more relief there is of the happy ending and unfortunately people are going to realize that the
grimness is true the happy ending is false do you follow that that same pattern yourself in your science fiction in a way I do there's always danger there's always risk it always seems as
though the right side whoever they may be is not going to win out and then my stories they always do but yes there's grimness whatever happened to Edward Bellamy's approach of looking backward
which one could think of a very positive utopia well there you have something like Thomas More's utopia which gave the whole thing its name there you're trying to sell something you're trying to sell
the idea that everything be wonderful if only you had a single tax on land or everything be wonderful if only you had socialism or everything would be wonderful if simply everyone held their possessions in common or if everyone
went to church and followed the golden rule so naturally you're presenting a wonderful world but much more common and much more effective are the ones that
show what not to do like in Gulliver's Travels when you have the world of little people who mirror they all the follies and corruption of 18th century
England and you'll laugh at it because these are little six-inch people who are doing all this you see and you don't stop to think that what that what the author is doing is to deliberately
English society and get you a laugh at him because you think it's science fiction do you have a political agenda if I may call it that or if to what extent do you have a political agenda I
think that may be a better question well let's put it this way I am firmly convinced that the problems we face all the problems humanity faces now are global in nature in other words if the
ozone layer is disappearing it's disappearing for everybody not just for Americans or just rejections if we're dealing with overpopulation the effect on the earth is universal
with pollution there's only one ocean one atmosphere we're polluting it for all of us whoever pulls it and there's no way in which we're ever going to solve these problems all by ourselves no
nation can do it by itself the only way a sensible a sensible attack on these problems can be made is by International Cooperation a global effort so I'm all for international cooperation I'm
against not only war but I'm against the fact that the world spends half a trillion dollars every year just preparing for war such they don't dare fight and that half trillion dollars
that goes into weapons of war into standing armies into all kinds of has arrived can't be used for anything else and isn't so that we're short on dough for things to combat acid rain for
instance we can't figure out what to do about a host of problems because we're spending not only all our money but all our effort and all our emotion on this useless thing of nation versus nation
which may be destroy us all now when you go through that litany it comes back again I must say to the notion of how in the world do you equate that those
threats things we are doing to ourselves with this rationality that you assume to prevail in the nature of human nature well what stands in the way
of us attacking these things in a global sense mostly irrational feelings about I'm better than you are each nation suspects its neighbors there is a kind of
awareness of enormous differences that don't really exist you know what is the major difference between the Northern Irish who are Protestant and the
Northern Ireland who are Catholic Protestants and Catholic exists together in all the world why why can't they exist together in Northern Ireland what keeps them apart keeps them killing each
other for decade after decade what is there about the Israelis and the Palestinians it makes it impossible for them to see each other's point of view there's a difference in religion yes but
surely we're past the idea of wars of religion there is this foolishness which I can only think of as foolishness that is a whole world sliding into the abyss
people are ignoring that fact and fighting with each other who cares who's going to win when everyone's going to lose so that we have irrationality
keeping us from really attempting to tackle the problems you know as I listen to you and listen very carefully I can't help but think of another novelist another novel can't think of that
segment in the brothers of the Grand Inquisitor and the accusation made to the Christ figure that he demanded too much of us worked on the assumption that
we human beings were capable of issuing miracles issuing the search for bread etc you want us to do something that it
would seem this century has demonstrated we're not capable of doing we can do it if we really want to because we have done it in the past me or in the process of doing it when when the Revolutionary
War was over and the United States had won its independence there were 13 independent states in the nation Congress was a United Nations that Timon couldn't it couldn't late it
couldn't pass taxes couldn't collect money except voluntary contributions as the United Nations does it couldn't establish laws each each state established laws the nation would certainly have fallen apart into Arling
segments and been destroyed except that we had the Constitutional Convention in which the states gave up their sovereign power and formed a federal union which was to have the sovereign power and it
continued and eighty years later over the issue of slavery some some states were sorry they had given up their sovereign power and try to take it back well if we were to turn to the individuals who pointed the way to us
out of that morass to Jefferson and Madison and Hamilton and Washington and others do you find their counterpart today do you find that counterpart in the scientific community for instance
well yes I do as a matter of fact I can point out the individuals properly I'm sure you couldn't at that time you know distance lends enchantment and gives you perspective but what do I see when I
look at things I see that Reagan and Gorbachev standing there with their arms around each other's shoulder talking like buddies and you stop to think of it this is Gorbachev to whom Reagan must be
an imperialist dog and threat to Reagan Gorbachev must be an evil em and evil imperialists and the question is why are they such friends and the answer is they
have no choice and I think throughout all through the world today you see cooperation because people have no choice you see right now there's going to be an economic summit every year the
seven industrial nations meet at an economic summit what they accomplish I don't know but there's the feeling they have to get together and talk we cooperate and with questions of the oceans we cooperate on whether the it's
amazing how much the United States and Soviet Union how much information they pass each other on space for their own good nobody's doing this for the good of anyone else they're doing this for their
own good and this is going to increase people are going to realize increasingly that they're going to have to be nice to each other not because the Bible says so not because niceness is nice but only
because the other way there is death is there any indication as far as you're concerned that scientists more than others understand this yes we are all
this first place there's only one science of all the cultural aspects of humanity the only one which is not broken up into national or regional splinters this science different nations
have different languages they may have different religions may have different dietary may have different holidays different ways of thinking but there's only one science in other words the laws of nature that are discovered by an
Englishman or by a German or by an American work in Nigeria and Indonesia and everywhere else and when a when the Chinese or Japanese join in modern
science they do what we do they do science as we do there's only one science it's the only thing that encompasses all of men that's why there are nuclear weapons in so many different
countries because there is that unity correct well when the nuclear weapons were were invented there were a group of scientists led by James Franck who
formed the group that asked President Truman not to use it or to use it in an unoccupied area to show it exists but not to use it on a city they were
outvoted by admittedly some other scientists but also just about unanimously by the military and political leaders of the nation now afterwards a number of scientists felt
extremely guilty about it some left nuclear physics and got to work in other fields where they could bear to be with themselves I never heard of a politician or a military man I were worrying about it in the slightest so while scientists
aren't perfect by any means I really and seriously believe they are closer to reality and rationality others are and it seems to me that that's a perfect place for us to end our program and for me to thank you isaac
asimov for joining me today with this essentially ending on this note of optimism thank you so much yeah
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