Jubilious Science

I’m not really one for entering into the Jubilee spirit but I came across this in my old notes and thought it was time for some more history in this blog.

It comes from the Clarion which was a socialist weekly edited by Robert Blatchford and the extracts are from the regular contributor “Dangle” (pen name for A.M. Thompson) on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

The article on “Jubilious Science” is mostly concerned with scientific explanations of ourselves:

“Science, of course, knows all about it.
Thus I learn from Grant Allen that ‘Life owes its origin to the chemically separative action of ethereal undulations on the cooled surface of the Earth.’
Which, though it looks likes as if meant something does not precisely explain whether the hen or the egg was the first ethereal undulation on that lay.”

Dangle then turns his attention to Charles Richet who
“…in his ‘Study of General Psychology’ adds to our enlightenment with the assertion that ‘What strikes the students of living creatures is the fact that they are made to live.’
What a glorious and thrice-blessed thing is science.”

“The time is at hand my friend, my handsome young friends, when characters will be made to order, in all the latest most fashionable styles, fits guaranteed, warranted in every seam, and two-and-a-half per cent discount for cash.”

But Dangle was no simple anti-science curmudgeon, it was simply that, “I have waxed enthusiastic in my time about so many scientific discoveries, that I am no longer able to trot out the pristine glow.”

Maybe the jaded Dangle simply needed the “system of rejuvenescence” proposed by M. Brown-Sequard. Unfortunatley as Dangle points out at the end of the article no new super-race had been created; there was no rejuvenescence. Indeed, “Brown-Sequard, who was going to make old men young again, has since very imprudently gone dead.”

The caustic humour of Alex Thompson was still evident in another piece for the Clarion which appeared in 1910. Scientists, he wrote, were busy resolving us to our component essences, and by and by would construct things like us out of the waste products of their laboratories. He concluded:

They will regulate our characters, our feelings, our aspect, and our whole lives with the accuracy and certainty of a mathematical demonstration. They will leave us no appetites, no desires, no passions, no gratifications, no emotions, no worries, and no ailments; we shall just have to live, they will do the rest…When we are done with and not wanted any more, they will politely hand us [a] kind of lozenge, and we shall be effectually converted back to the sort of gases they made us from…Nothing remains to ordinary mortals but to surrender themselves blindly to the tender care of the scientists, and let them make of us whatsoever they will.

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