Abstracts: August 22nd, 2001

By Mary MidgleyGaia – the idea of life on earth as a single, self-sustaining system – is a big idea for the twenty-first century. It can help to provide solutions for many of the large problems which conventional politics is failing to address, from global warming to mental health and well-being. Mary Midgley sets out the scientific and intellectual origins of Gaian thinking, showing how it presents a deep challenge to the conceptual structures which guide our everyday thinking and behaviour. In particular, Midgley argues, the tendency of modern science to present itself as an inert store of neutral, ‘objective’ facts obscures the reality that scientific thinking has profound moral and social implications. It makes assumptions rooted in an Enlightenment view of the world which separated humans from the world they inhabit, obscuring the connections between rational thought, imagination and feeling. The result is that we are trapped in a narrow, individualistic view of society drawn from the seventeenth century, and that this view prevents us from thinking beyond recent theories of neo-Darwinism. This pamphlet sets a new moral agenda which will help to change the way we think about ourselves and the planet. It has important implications for public policy, from the governance of science to roads and car tax.

Published by Demos ISBN 1 84180 075 9. 9 pounds 95p www.demos.co.uk <http://www.demos.co.uk.