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Dr. Magnus Pyke | Visionary?

Magnus Alfred Pyke (Paddington, London, 29 December 1908 – 19 October 1992)

Dr. Pyke was a British scientist and media figure, who, although apparently quite eccentric and playing up to the mad scientist stereotype, succeeded in explaining science to a lay audience. He was known for his enthusiastic way of waving his arms around as he spoke.

Although Pyke was known for bringing science to a lay audience, in The Science Myth (and similar writings, such as Slaves Unaware?) he was also a critic of the way in which citizens of industrialized nations have historically been lured into social conformity by the comforts and security offered by applied sciences or technology, and the associated industrial/economic propaganda and advertising.

He claims that this has entailed the loss of important individual freedoms in the name of an ever-increasing gross national product or standard of living, measured monetarily, with some associated negation of independent human values, common sense and individuality, family and community, health, safety and ergonomics.

Citizens are forced to conform to the one-size-fits-all rigid structure of modern industrial society.

He cites associated problems such as coronary disease related to diet, psychological and social problems stemming from work-related stress and training leading to people being “…softly and persistently hammered into shape until — Pinocchio in reverse — from being a living creature… becomes for forty hours an insensate puppet…” and educational systems, which “knock out of the ingenious adolescent all of the ‘nonsense’ of the young, this being most of his or her eagerness and ingeniousness”.

A blast from the past.

This video features the now long-gone Dr Magnus Pike. He was a huge UK name way back in the 70’s and 80’s. Some may say he was the archetypal mad scientist, which of course he was not! After the video was released, he was said to be annoyed by people coming up to him and shouting “Science!” at him.

Pyke professes that there are alternative systems to that of the Western industrialized nations which could retain many of the benefits of science and technology, allow a reasonable standard of living, but still make room for the “good life”, many aspects of which were enjoyed by pre-industrial societies.

He asserts that the Western work environment fails youthful expectations to an even greater extent than the schools: “(a)t school, success is judged in terms of work, whereas in industrial life this is not so…” after young people hasten to leave school for the benefit of the social significance of the work, rather than for the work itself, they find that “(w)ork seldom seems to the worker to have meaning or worth…” and “achievement is judged by the pay envelope which may have no relation to the difficulty of the work.”

He criticizes misplaced values of the Western system in statements such as the following:

  • “The main body of the citizenry, the ‘workers,’ are kept segregated from the drones, the women at home, the children, the old and the idle …the necessary doctrine of the division of labor makes this regimentation necessary. But it has the effect of setting economic effort apart and dividing the day and the week into “work” and “everything else”.
  • “This way of thinking has so deranged our minds that we have come to accept that only when we are actually carrying out paid industrial work are we serving our purpose on earth.”
  • “To minds so deformed, the things that ‘retired’ people do are not considered to be of value. They are empty, merely something to do.”
  • “The leisure pursuits of the senior executive seem to be corroded with competitiveness, superficial sociability, display, and conspicuous consumption. He must own an automobile of a certain size and make, not necessarily to travel in, but to prove that he can afford it.”

He claims that just as wise nations may not wish to retain a demanding and overbearing monarchy that requires too many unjustified sacrifices, it is “up to the nations who have committed themselves to scientific technology and power to temper the rigors of efficiency and productivity…

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