Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hero fireman faces official punishment for risking his life in a rescue

This really IS the Unhinged Kingdom

A fireman is facing disciplinary action after plunging into a river to rescue a drowning woman. Tam Brown, 42, is the subject of an internal investigation by Tayside Fire and Rescue because he breached safety rules during the rescue in the River Tay in Perth. He spent eight minutes in the cold water and at one stage feared that he would be swept to his death. But after dragging the 20-year-old woman to safety he was told by his employer that he had acted improperly by risking his life.

Mr Brown, who has 15 years' experience as a fireman, was hailed as a hero by the young woman's family but Tayside Fire and Rescue said that he had broken the brigade's "standing instructions" on safety procedures.

He said yesterday: "I was expected to watch that young girl die in front of me. As a father and a caring human being, I couldn't live with myself if I'd had to do that."

The woman, who has not been identified, is believed to have jumped into the river on March 6 as "a cry for help". A member of the public called 999 and she was thrown a rope, but she was in danger of being sucked under by the current.

Many drowning victims die before the emergency services arrive. Mr Brown said: "We had seconds to act. The girl was losing consciousness. We had one harness, so I put that on and went down 20ft on a safety line, grabbed her and held her out of the water. My colleagues tried to pull us towards steps, but the current was so bad and the rope was pulled so hard it snapped. "My own life hung in the balance as I swam for the steps with her in my arms. But we got there and were pulled out. I was in the water for eight minutes and it was heart-stoppingly cold, but we saved her."

The brigade's rules state: "Personnel should not enter the water." The fire crew should instead have tried to haul the woman out using poles and ropes. Stephen Hunter, chief fire officer of Tayside Fire and Rescue, admitted that fire engines in Perth were not equipped with the correct poles and ropes, but insisted that Mr Brown had broken the rules. He said: "Firefighter safety is of paramount importance to us. Although our duties include rescues from flooding, there is no statutory obligation to carry out rescues from moving water. "We know they broke procedure because we know he went into the water. We are investigating exactly what happened, and once that is concluded we will consider what action is necessary. That could include disciplinary action."

Steve Hill, chairman of the Perth branch of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "Not one senior officer has congratulated Tam or the other officers who attended that night. They should be elated they saved a life but are traumatised that they face disiplinary action instead." He added: "Contradicting an order can lead to dismissal. If Tam hadn't gone in, the public might have tried to save her and we could have ended up with several dead."


UK Regulations Barring Religious Schools from Teaching Against Homosexuality Approved

Sexual Orientation Regulations Pass House of Lords

The UK's Sexual Orientation Regulations, that will make it illegal for Christian schools, services and businesses to operate according to their religious principles, passed its last hurdle last night in a vote in the House of Lords. A last minute attempt to defeat the legislation failed. A motion by Baroness O'Caithain that would have scrapped the Regulations on the grounds of anti-religious discrimination was voted down 168 votes to 122. The regulations will be implemented at the end of April.

During the brief debate, Baroness Detta O'Caithain said the SORs are seriously flawed and drew attention to the now notorious breaches of proper democratic procedure by the government who, she said, did not allow proper parliamentary scrutiny. The Peers were not allowed to change the wording of the law but only to vote yes or no. With the passage of the SOR's, she said, the state had decided that "a citizen's right to manifest sexual orientation is absolute, but the right to manifest religious belief is not."

Hundreds of Christians and others concerned for democratic freedom of religious expression attended a prayer rally outside the Houses of Parliament while the debate took place in the House of Lords. While they were given little time in Parliament or the Upper House, the SOR's have been the subject of months of debate in the media since the beginning of January when the Catholic Church, the Church of England, Evangelical, Muslim and Jewish groups warned they would spell the effective end of freedom of religious expression in Britain.

In early January, Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, made international headlines when he said that attempting to force Catholic adoption agencies to adopt children to homosexual couples would leave the Church no choice but to close the agencies. Others said that there was more at stake than only one group or social service, but that the democratic principle of freedom of religious expression was under direct threat. Since the January decision by Prime Minister Tony Blair, a government document was released indicating that the school curriculum would be included and faith-based schools would not be allowed to teach traditional social mores "as if they were objectively true."

While Cardinal Murphy O'Connor indicated that he still held out hopes that some form of accommodation could be found in the twenty-one month "adjustment period" granted churches, others were less sanguine about the government's good will. LifeSiteNews.com spoke to Fr. Timothy Finigan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark and the founder of the Association of Priests for the Gospel of Life who said, "I don't think it will be productive to negotiate with the government over this. Clearly the regulations are as they are and they have shown that they are not prepared to negotiate or make concessions. The offer of the adjustment period shows that."

While the exemption requested by the Church for the adoption agencies was turned down by Tony Blair, what they got with the government's offer of a delaying period, said Fr. Finigan, "was a kind of stay of execution. But there's nothing there for them. In the meantime, they still have to refer children to be adopted to homosexual couples." Militant gay activists, he said, will almost certainly now move on to the next phase of test legal cases against smaller Christian or Muslim institutions such as schools or boarding houses. "The one thing the government doesn't want to see right now is priests and ministers in prison. That means they are going to start with schools or businesses. They've been pushing hard in education for years," Fr. Finigan said.

Since 1944, Catholic schools in Britain have been partially subsidized by the government. Lord Pilkington of Oxenford said that inasmuch as the SOR's assert that individual "human rights" trumped the rights of voluntary societies, they challenge the democratic foundation of the state. "It is absolutely wrong for a democratic state to assert that the churches and their voluntary societies cannot follow their doctrine merely because the state pays the money. In this, as I say, they break 200 years of tradition." Lord Pilkington said.


British kids sentenced to rot in their failed schools

`An education ought to be very good, to justify depriving a child of its liberty." I copied this down as an angry schoolgirl, when I was reading John Stuart Mill, though I am no longer sure it was he who wrote it. In any case, it is true. There can be no justification for sentencing children to long hours in schools that are no good to 11 years of compulsory boredom, mismanagement and bad influences. There can be no justification for spending billions on this long incarceration only to let the prisoners out, having blighted their best years, unfit to deal with the world. Yet that, in this rich country, is precisely what we do.

All too many children leave school at 16 - and later - barely literate and numerate. Employers complain about school-leavers' "skills gap", meaning the wretched young things are so ignorant, incompetent and ill-disciplined that they are useless in a job, and need basic remedial training.

Colleges and universities complain that students arrive unable to construct a sentence, let alone write an essay. The brightest of undergraduates - the cream of our education system - need remedial teaching at university. Meanwhile the number of Neets - young people not in education, employment or training - has risen by a quarter since Labour came to power. Surely the disgraceful failure of education in this country is now an established fact?

Yet what is the response of the education secretary to this astonishing failure? It is to make it compulsory for all children to stay in our abysmal education system until the age of 18. Alan Johnson announced plans last week to raise the school-leaving age from 16 to 18. Children must choose between school, college, apprenticeships or work-based training. Teenagers who refuse to do so will face on-the-spot fines, Asbos and even jail. Employers who do not comply with work-based learning schemes will face sanctions, as will parents who put their children between 16 and 18 to work, without offering them training.

It beggars belief. Of course in an ideal world, all children should receive education until at least 18. Tertiary education or training ought to be available to everybody, according to his or her interests and abilities, and I firmly believe the taxpayer should pay for that. However, in the real world of British education, it makes little to sense to impose, by compulsion, the tedium and misery of British schooling for two more long years on those whom it has already failed and humiliated.

If the Department for Education and Skills cannot now make people literate and numerate by 16, if our schools cannot avoid producing disorderly children who wreck classes or play truant, how does it expect to change anything by enforcing two more benighted years of the same damn thing?

Bright schoolchildren and their teachers often talk of the relief they feel when the Asbo set leaves school at 16, so they can get on with their A-level classes in relative peace and quiet. Forcing class-wreckers to stay around would damage still further the chances of those children who want to study. The same applies to sending unwilling teenagers to colleges; they will undermine them. As for workplace training, the government has been making ambitious promises about apprenticeships for 10 years; why does it expect, suddenly, to be able to fulfil them now?

It is hardly fair to anyone to impose angry and unwilling 17 and 18-year-olds on schools and colleges they don't want to go to. School is simply all wrong for some children. It is economically unsound to impose them and their needs on employers who would rather not hire them. Though these teenagers need help and attention, forcing them to stay in education against their will is not the answer.

The real answer, which seems beyond this government or its predecessors, is to make early education work. What all children need is basic literacy, numeracy, good manners and self-discipline. Everything can follow from that, in or out of school, whatever the child's abilities. Since, however, we must despair of schools producing children who are educated in this fundamental sense, we are I suppose looking at damage limitation.

What do you do with problem teenagers of 16 to 18? Clearly it is a good idea to give them something constructive to do, and keep them off the streets. I often think it would be a good idea to offer them something that was fun, along the lines of what privileged children do. I mean extreme sports or adventure holidays. People usually harrumph with indignation at delinquents being taken by social services on expensive rock-climbing and whitewater rafting adventures, like rich kids. But these things develop character and confidence. They teach cooperation (which is why rich parents pay for them).

It is particularly good for children who have been neglected on sink estates to have some good clean fun - something more interesting than drugs and gangs. If I were education secretary I would be funding activity clubs for the Asbo set, like the Rugby Portobello Trust near me in central London, which would be so much fun that Neets would go to them willingly, and maybe get a little education by stealth. The Rugby Portobello offers sessions in music, IT, cooking and even mentorship for young people in running a charity.

Above all, as education secretary, I would consider why so many children, particularly boys, come to hate school. I do agree with the suggestion that the model of schoolroom teaching is unsuitable, after a certain age, for some children, many of them boys, and many of them the least bright or the most bright.

Mixed ability teaching is of course a nonsense, and so I suspect for many children is the feminised, politically correct conventionality and Gradgrind tedium of what passes for liberal education. So are the national curriculum and the mark-grubbing GCSE and A-level. I wouldn't blame any child of mine for opting out.

The education secretary, clearly a fairly able man, ought to understand this. He opted out of school at 15, without any qualifications. Forcing teenagers into this nonsense for still longer, until 18, is an unjustified assault on their freedom.


Just Say No to this `radical rethink' on drugs

The latest British review of the drug problem peddles dangerous myths about helpless addicts, and suggests making the state drugdealer-in-chief

After a two-year review of the drugs problem in the UK, a prestigious commission established by the UK Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) has come up with a `radical rethink' aiming to influence the impending major government review of the National Drugs Strategy (1). Another current campaign against addiction - the `Get Unhooked' TV and cinema adverts featuring smokers impaled on fish-hooks - reveals the prevailing contempt for those regarded as being in the grip of a chemical dependency that also pervades the RSA report (2).

The common theme is that the user of drugs (whether nicotine, heroin or alcohol) is an automaton, a being without intentions and unable to make choices, a physiological system that requires pharmacological correction. To pursue the official metaphor, the drug user is on a par with a fish, a level of vertebrate life so low that only the most fundamentalist of animal rights activists can be bothered to protest against fishing.

The `Get Unhooked' adverts offer a powerful endorsement of the myths underlying both current drugs policy and the RSA's radical rethink. These myths are exposed by Theodore Dalrymple, whose devastating critique of `pharmacological lies and the addiction bureaucracy' is informed by the experience of working as a psychiatrist at a British prison (3).

The first myth is the notion that addiction is the result of an unfortunate accident: one minute the hapless victim is swimming happily in the pond of life and the next is impaled by the hook of the malign substance. The apparently random victim is instantly at the mercy of whoever holds the rod and line - and in the advert is agonisingly dragged along the floor. But, as Dalrymple shows, becoming addicted to heroin requires effort and discipline, determination and time. Though the notions that the drug is the active agent and the addict the passive victim are popular among users and drug workers alike, they deny both the responsibility of the individual for adopting this lifestyle and the possibility of rejecting it. The image of the pathetic addict squirming on the hook is also contradicted by the reality of the busy and purposeful life required to sustain a drug habit.

The second great myth is that withdrawal from drugs is a deeply traumatic process - like removing a barbed hook from your mouth. This myth has reached a high pitch of histrionic exaggeration in relation to heroin, in the familiar `cold turkey' horrors dramatised in novels and films. Reporting both extensive professional experience and the medical literature, Dalrymple confirms that heroin withdrawal is an uncomfortable, but not a serious condition, with a much lower rate of complications than withdrawal from alcohol, barbiturates or benzodiazepines.

A third myth is that once the victim is ensnared on the hook, addiction immediately becomes a chronic disease requiring medical treatment - in the forms of diverse regimes of detoxification and rehabilitation. This is contradicted by the familiar experience that many users of drugs abandon the habit spontaneously - if supply is interrupted (by imprisonment) or by some change in circumstances (a new relationship, having a baby). As Dalrymple observes, `a motive is both a necessary and a sufficient condition for them to give up'. This does not work for chronic diseases such as tuberculosis or rheumatoid arthritis. The `treatment' of opiate dependency with methadone - the mainstay of medical management of heroin addicts for decades - has had such a low success rate (in terms of achieving abstinence) that the goal of treatment has largely shifted to achieving `maintenance' on an indefinite supply of this stupefying drug.

Methadone has been associated with a steady expansion of heroin use (and a large number of deaths from methadone overdoses). The RSA's answer is more, but `better and more consistent' methadone prescribing, and - the ultimate badge of radicalism in drugs policy - `heroin prescribing wherever appropriate'. This is popular with the police who believe that it may reduce crime, but not with GPs who will be expected to do the prescribing. It is difficult to think of measures more likely to encourage both the scale of heroin abuse and the mortality and morbidity associated with it (apart, perhaps, from the provision of `shooting galleries' for intravenous drug use and rewarding addicts with residential rehab programmes of the sort promoted by celebrities - both measures approved in the RSA report).

The RSA report proclaims as the essence of its innovative approach its emphasis on `harm minimisation' as the central theme of drugs policy. Of course, `harm minimisation', the mainstay of official drugs `guidelines' since at least 1991, has been another spectacular failure (4). Depriving self-indulgent actions of their worst consequences is likely to encourage them to spread. Dalrymple is alert to the wider implications: `[I]f consequences are removed from enough actions, then the very concept of human agency evaporates, life itself becomes meaningless, and is thenceforth a vacuum in which people oscillate between boredom and oblivion.' The concept of harm minimisation assumes that the authorities take over responsibility for the consequences of individuals' behaviour. It is `inherently infantilising'.

The dogma promoted by the RSA report, that drug addiction is a chronic disease, is both absurd and irresponsible. Drug addiction, as Dalrymple insists, is `a moral or spiritual condition that will never yield to medical treatment'. The medicalisation of drug abuse is a combination of `moral cowardice, displacement activity and employment opportunity'.

I would heartily endorse Dalrymple's radical first step towards tackling the drugs problem: close down all clinics claiming to treat drug addicts (on the basis of my experience as an inner-city GP, I would also recommend closing down drug treatment programmes in primary care). Addicts would then have to face the truth: `They are as responsible for their actions as anyone else.' This measure might help to set them free - and it might also help to release doctors from the corrosive deceptions underlying current drug policies. It is striking that while the RSA report is piously non-judgmental towards drug users and eschews coercive policies, it seethes with righteous indignation at GPs who might refuse to follow its dogmatic approach and insists twice in the five pages of its executive summary that GPs should not be allowed `to opt out of providing drugs treatment'. The notion that doctors should be coerced into providing dangerous treatments for their patients in the hope that this might reduce the crime rate reflects the damaging effect of drug policy on the ethics of medical practice.

Dalrymple concludes with a discussion of the case for the legalisation of drugs, which he concedes is `not a straightforward matter'. After considering both philosophical and prudential arguments, `on balance' he does not favour legalisation - the only point on which he is in accord with the RSA. While recognising the enormous cost to individuals and to society of our relationship with our most familiar intoxicant, alcohol, I believe that we have to learn to live with other `substances', too, without resorting to criminal legislation. However, I strongly agree with Dalrymple's emphasis that `far more important in the long run than the question of legalisation.is our attitude towards addiction'.

The radicalism of the RSA's rethink of drugs policy is symbolised by its bold insistence on the repeal of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act - and its replacement with a Misuse of Substances Act. But changing the labels - while perpetuating the myths about drug use - will do nothing to tackle the damaging effects of drugs on individuals and society. The RSA report concedes that `drugs education' - a concept scarcely less mind-numbing than heroin addiction - has failed. The answer? Never mind that `there has been too little evaluation for anyone to be certain what works', we need more of the same, with the heart-sinking rider that it `should be focused more on primary schools'.

Why not teach children something interesting and inspiring, that might give them the truly radical idea that culture and society have more to offer than drug-induced oblivion?


Medical Leftism

No wonder the intellectual standard of many medical journal articles is so low when we have the sort of shallow thinking displayed below. That lives are saved when tyrannies are deposed or faced down by democratic forces is obviously too deep a thought for these would-be wise ones

Physicians from around the world urged the publisher of The Lancet medical journal to cut its links to weapons sales, calling on the editors to find another publisher if Reed Elsevier refused to stop hosting arms fairs. The doctors made their appeal in the latest edition of The Lancet, released Friday. Editors at The Lancet responded by backing the doctors, calling the situation "bizarre and untenable." They wrote in Friday's edition that - in the interest of health - they may have to consider an "organized campaign" against their own publisher. "The Lancet is one of the most respected international medical journals and should not be linked to an industry involved in weapons designed to cause physical harm and death," wrote Dr. Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, and Dr. Michael Pelly, the association's international adviser.

Some scientists have called for a boycott of journals published by Reed Elsevier Group PLC. Editors at the British Medical Journal have appealed to researchers to stop sending certain studies to The Lancet and other Reed Elsevier titles. On Friday, The Lancet published three pages of protest letters from leading doctors and organizations, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Doctors for Iraq and the People's Health Movement, a public health watchdog.

Reed Elsevier said it supported The Lancet editors' right to free speech, but had no plans to stop its involvement with arms fairs. "We accept that Reed Elsevier publications may occasionally take editorial positions which are critical of their owners," the company said in a statement. "We do not, however, see any conflict between Reed Elsevier's connections with the scientific and health communities and the legitimate defense industry."

The Lancet first learned of its publisher's involvement in the arms industry in 2005. Supported by Britain's Ministry of Defense, Reed Elsevier hosts arms fairs around the world that have showcased weapons - including a 1,100-pound cluster bomb, one of the deadliest known bombs. At the time, editor Richard Horton informed the journal's international advisory board, which urged Reed Elsevier to divest itself of its arms trade business. Last month, criticism of the company gained renewed prominence when the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust withdrew $3.9 million of its investment from the company, because of the publisher's ties to the arms industry. "The Lancet has a particular commitment to child survival, and cluster bombs are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in children, and cause horrendous disabilities," Horton said. "It is completely incompatible for Reed Elsevier to be in this business and also to be a health science publisher." The Lancet's editors said they spoke regularly to Reed Elsevier about their concerns, and have asked for further meetings, but have yet to receive a response.


Britain: Any shade of politics you like, so long as it's green

The dangers of the new consensus around the politics of global warming

Listening to this week's statements about global warming made it sound as if the political climate is the one experiencing rapid change. UK prime minister Tony Blair claims his government's new Climate Change Bill is `revolutionary' and compares the challenge of global warming to the struggle against the Nazis and the Soviet Union. Prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown declares that it will require a `new world order' to save the planet from man-made global warming. David Cameron, Conservative Party leader and favourite to win the next General Election, says he will `open up a second front in the green revolution' to combat climate change. Meanwhile, commentators talk of global warming as `the key battleground in British politics' and warn that the parties are `set for war over climate change'.

Blimey. Revolutions, political wars and new world orders? Rarely do we hear such passionate talk in the dull world of managerial politics today. So what revolutionary measures are the political leaders fighting for? Behind which banners are they fighting their civil war over the future of the planet? Err, Blair and Brown's New Labour wants to abolish incandescent lightbulbs and standby switches on television sets. And Cameron's Conservatives want to tax us more for flying. To the barricades!

This week's explosion of hot air over global warming marks a new record in the denigration of political language. Behind the overcooked talk about changing the world and saving the planet, the crusade against global warming represents the latest stage in the politics of low expectations and small-mindedness. And far from climate change being a battlefield for any big political `war', the issue is being used to confine debate to an even narrower, more conformist strip of ground.

We have been told many times by political leaders that ours is the era when `choice' is king. Now we can see what they meant. We can choose any shade of politics we like, just so long as it is green. This fits into the pattern of what they call `informed choice', whereby we are expected to make the choices that they inform us are the correct ones.

If we hope to live in a democratic society, any attempt to limit political debate or banish alternative views must be seriously put to question. And there are good reasons for questioning this new political consensus that are quite separate from any debate about the science of climate change. First because, despite the bold talk of all the party leaders, it represents the abdication of political leadership. And second because it reflects an underlying anti-humanist mood in public life.

What we normally call a political consensus is not formed by different parties spontaneously reaching the same conclusions. It comes about when one party imposes its principles on the political agenda, shifting the middle ground and forcing its opponents to accommodate to its programme. That was what the postwar Labour government achieved in the 1940s, and what Margaret Thatcher's Tory governments managed in the 1980s.

Today's consensus around the politics of global warming is different. Nobody could seriously suggest that the UK's invisible Green Party has redrawn the political map. Instead the major parties have all gravitated towards greenery on global warming because they lack any political principles of their own.

With their public standing at an all-time low, politicians are attracted to the issue of climate change because it allows them to scramble out of the mire and back on to the moral high ground. Rather than fending off endless allegations of sleaze or trying to explain why they cannot run a decent health service, Blair and Brown are set free to make portentous speeches about saving the planet. And instead of tackling the tricky issues of coming up with alternative policies on the economy or Iraq, Cameron can strike statesmanlike poses while hugging a glacier.

Blair's remarks this week hinted at how he has suddenly seized upon the global warming issue to provide an ersatz sense of mission for his faltering government. `People that have been in Downing Street over the years have faced issues to do with the Cold War, the Depression and the rise of fascism', the prime minister told a group of teenagers. `Climate change is a bit of a different type of challenge, but a challenge I believe is the biggest long-term threat facing our world.' By recasting climate change as a sort of Nazi or Soviet threat facing the current generation of leaders, Blair elevates himself on to a higher plane of history.

The rise and rise of the politics of global warming also reveals another big problem with leaders today. Lacking any of the political authority of their predecessors, they are continually looking for something else to lean on as a source of public legitimacy. Here they have sought to latch on to the science of climate change. They are dragging scientists on to the stage to try to justify their own petty authoritarian policies, in an echo of the way that the tobacco industry once used men in white coats to advertise its wares.

I am all for the elevation of science and respect for scientists. But this attempt to use science to lend some respect and authority to politicians who lack it represents something far less noble: the abdication of political leadership. Rather than forging and fighting for their own political vision of the future, party leaders are hiding behind scientists and claiming that the science proves that the time for debate is over.

Let us leave aside for now the vexed and complex question of the actual science of climate change. I am no climatologist, but then you surely do not need to be to see that the simplistic, conformist politics of global warming are about something else. Even if we were to accept that some of the far-reaching expert predictions about climate change were true, there would be no necessary straight line from those scientists' estimates to the sort of policies now being proposed by Brown or David Miliband or Cameron. Instead, they are using the language of science to express their own politics of low expectations and policing our behaviour.

When humanity has been faced with great challenges in history, the solution has been to go forward, to apply human ingenuity and endeavour to overcoming problems by advancing society. There is no record of tackling future problems by going backwards or restraining development. Yet that is what is effectively proposed through the politics of global warming.

It is about rationing, giving up the gains of the past, flying less and making do and mending more - a message captured in Brown's typically penny-pinching statement that in future people will have to `count the carbon as well as the pennies'. And as for the developing world, they can forget about getting anywhere near the semi-civilised standards of living achieved in the West. It is strikingly ironic in this context to hear the likes of Cameron talk about a `green revolution' - a term which, only a few years ago, described the use of new science and technology to revolutionise industrial food production in Africa, an advance that the new green (counter-)revolution of `sustainable agriculture' frowns upon.

The adoption of these attitudes across the political class represents something far more important than the cynical tax grab which some critics have claimed it all is. The crusade against manmade global warming is underpinned by a much broader loss of faith in our manmade society and its once-proud accomplishments, from industrialised farming to flying the world. You only had to listen to Cameron, supposedly the great white hope of UK politics, sounding off this week about how many species are threatened with extinction `because of mankind's relentless grab for the finite resources of our shared home' to realise how mainstream mankind-bashing has now become.

Forget the revolutionary rhetoric; these ideas are deeply conservative, backward, and reactionary. To challenge them is not a job for scientific inquiry, since that is not really what such prejudices are based upon, but for political argument. The pressing need is to recast notions of human agency, and develop a future-oriented vision based on a belief in our ability to tackle problems through economic and social advance.

For starters, here is one straightforward historical idea that might sound `revolutionary' today: the more control humanity is able to exercise over nature, and the larger the `footprint' we make on the planet, the better the future is likely to be.


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