Dangerous Ideas [1]

[ Fri. Apr. 6. 2007 ]

IN this special anthology, leading public thinkers _ scientists, writers and philosophers such as Richard Dawkins,
Howard Gardner, Freeman Dyson, Jared Diamond and Ray Kurzweil _ respond to a question proposed by Stephen
Pinker: `What is your dangerous idea?'
John Brockman clarifies the question in his introduction: he wanted `statements of fact or policy that are defended
with evidence and argument by serious scientists and thinkers but which are felt to challenge the collective decency
of an age.'
Good ideas really shouldn't be thought of as dangerous, so several writers shadow-box around the question a bit,
but nearly all of them come up with something original and thought-provoking.
One of my own favourites was about the lab rats that learned to prefer Schoenberg to Mozart, but there is
something here for every interest. Common topics are religion (especially its troubled relationship to science),
psychology (especially free will), politics, and the impact of technological change (genetic engineering, and the
clash between our instincts and our computer-dominated culture).
Contributions are all quite short, ranging from less than a page up to perhaps five pages, which makes it all too
easy to give oneself mental indigestion. Other than that, however, it is a veritable feast of ideas.
In a word: Zesty.