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since June 19, 2001

Index to The Happy Days Ahead

The Happy Days Ahead

By Robert A. Heinlein

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The Happy Days Ahead                           545

The Age of Unreason

    Having been reared in the most bigoted of Bible Belt fundamentalism in which every word of the King James version of the Bible is the literal word of God—then having broken loose at thirteen when I first laid hands on THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES and THE DESCENT OF MAN—I should have been unsurprised by the anti-intellectual and anti-science ground swell in this country.
    I knew that our American temperament, practical as sharp tools on one side, was never more than three quarters of an inch from mindless hysteria on the other side.  I knew this—my first long story was IF THIS GOES ON—, a yarn based on the assumption that my compatriots were capable of throwing away their dearly-bought liberties to submit to a crude and ridiculous religious dictatorship.[1]
    (In forty years of letters about that story no one has ever criticized this assumption; I infer that I am not alone in believing it.)
    I had read much about the Ku Klux Klan during the Tragic Era, talked with many who had experienced it, then experienced its nationwide recrudescence in the early 1920's.  I had seen damfoolishness from dance marathons to flagpole sitters, and had made considerable study of crowd behavior and mass delusions.  I had noted, rather casually, the initial slow growth of anti-science-&-intellectism.
    Yet the durned thing shocked me.
    Let me list some signs:
    a) I CHING;
    b) Back-to-nature cults;
    c) The collapse of basic education;
    d) The current respectability of natal homological astrology among "intelligentsia"—e.g. professors, N.Y. lit'rary people, etc.;

546                            EXPANDED UNIVERSE

    e) "Experts" on nuclear power and nuclear weapons who know nothing whatever of mathematical physics and are smug in admitting it;
    f) "Experts" on the ecology of northern Alaska who have never been there and are not mathematically equipped to analyse a problem in ecology;
    g) People who watch television several hours a day and derive all their opinions therefrom—and expound them;
    h) People who watch television several hours a day;
    i) The return of creationism — "Equal time for Yahweh; "
    j) The return of witchcraft.

    The mindless yahoos, people who think linearly like a savage instead of inductively or deductively, and people who used to be respectful to learned opinion or at least kept quiet, now are aggressively on the attack.  Facts and logic don't count; their intuition is the source of "truth."[2]
    If any item on the above list strikes you as rational, I won't debate it with you; you are part of the problem.
    But I will illustrate what I mean in categories where I think I might be misunderstood.
a) I CHING— easier than "reading the augurs" but with nothing else to recommend it.  Chinese fortune cookies are just as as accurate—and you get to eat the cookie.  Nevertheless this bit of oriental nonsense is treated with solemn seriousness by many "educated" people.  It is popular enough to make profitable the sale of books, equipment, magazine articles, and personal instruction.  Paralleling I CHING is the wide-spread use of Tarot cards.  Fortunetelling by cards used to be a playful parlor game, a mating rite—a nubile girl limited by the vocabulary and public manners of the Mauve Decade could convey to a rutty young male almost any message by how she chose to "read his fortune"—with no impropriety.  But neither he nor she took the cards seriously.
    Tarot cards formerly were used only by Gypsy or

The Happy Days Ahead                           547

fake-Gypsy fortunetellers; they were not an article of commerce, were not easy to find.  Today they are as easy to buy as liquor during prohibition, and also books on their "interpretation."  Reading the Tarot is taken with deep seriousness by a dismaying number of people—having the Hanging Man turn up can cause great anguish.
b) Back-to-nature cults: I do not mean nudist resorts or "liberated" beaches.  The growing realization that human bodies are not obscene is a sane, healthy counter trend in our crazy culture.[3]  By back-to-nature cults I mean people who band together to "return to the land" to grow their own food without pesticides, without artificial fertilizers, without power machinery, self-reliant in all ways …but with no comprehension that a spading fork implies coal mines, iron ore, blast furnaces, steel mills, factories, etc., that any building more complex than a log cabin or a sod house implies a building-materials industry, etc.
If all of us tried to go back-to-nature, most of us would starve rather quickly.  These back-to-nature freaks can't do arithmetic.
c) The collapse of basic education—no need to repeat.
d) Natal horological astrology—Baseline: fifty-odd years ago astrology was commonly regarded as a ridiculous former superstition, one all but a tiny minority had outgrown.  It is now the orthodoxy of many, possibly a majority.  This pathological change parallels the decay of public education.
    Stipulated: Ancient astrologers were scientists in being able to predict certain aspects of descriptive astronomy such as eclipses, positions of the sun, moon, and naked-eye planets, etc.  Whether or not they believed the fortunetelling they supplied to their kings, patrons, or clients is irrelevant.  The test of a science is its ability to predict; in the cited phenomena the Chaldean priests (for example) performed remarkable feats of prediction with handcrafted naked-eye instruments.

548                            EXPANDED UNIVERSE

It has long been known that Sol is the heat engine that controls our weather.  Recently, with the discovery of solar wind, the Van Allen belts, et al., we have become aware of previously unsuspected variables affecting us and our weather, and successful predictions are being made empirically—no satisfactory theory.
    "What sign were you born under?"—I don't recall having heard that question until sometime after World War Two.  Today it is almost impossible to attend a social gathering (including parties made up almost solely of university staff and spouses) without being asked that question or hearing it asked of someone else.
    Today natal horological astrology is so widely accepted that those who believe in it take it for granted that anyone they meet believes in it, too—if you don't, you're some sort of a nut.  I don't know what percentage of the population believe in natal homological astrology (sorry about that clumsy expression but I wish to limit this precisely to the notion that the exact time, date, latitude, and longitude of your birth and the pattern of the Sun, Moon, and planets with respect to the Zodiac at that exact time all constitute a factor affecting your life comparable in importance to your genetic inheritance and your rearing and education)—I don't know the percentage of True Believers but it is high enough that newspaper editors will omit any feature or secondary news rather than leave out the daily horoscope.
    Or possibly more important than heredity and environment in the minds of True Believers since it is seriously alleged that this natal heavenly pattern affects every day of your life—good days for new business ventures—a bad day to start a trip—and so forth, endlessly.

continued… Test of Science


  1. Heinlein speaks of the "American temperament, practical as sharp tools on one side," that was "never more than three quarters of an inch from mindless hysteria on the other side,"  a temperament that conceivably can cause the American people to be "capable of throwing away their dearly-bought liberties to submit to a crude and ridiculous religious dictatorship."  It seems to me that he overlooked what may have become clearer to him over time, although he describes the symptoms of the madness quite well in the following pages in commenting on the aspects of the age of unreason.
        What he appears to overlook is that reason based on science and mathematics alone is insufficient to keep society sane.  It appears that people have an inner need for spirituality.  Having rejected the traditional Christian and other religions whose premises provide the often seemingly oppressive demands that people find too hard to obey, they create new versions of religions to fill the void left by the traditional religions.
        What separated the practicality of the American people by three quarters of an inch from mindless hysteria, was the set of morals that the traditional religions prescribed and on whom our laws were based.
        By declaring themselves free from the oppression of religions that for thousands of years indoctrinated society in the principles of the patriarchy—as the feminists put it—the opponents of the traditional religions made it possible for those who still have the need for religious spirituality to invent new religions of their own liking, religions that they can fashion and mold to provide new moral laws and new ways of rationalizing that are longer bound by traditional morals.
        Under the principles of modern liberalism, where each person is the centre of the universe (see also: The Copernican myths) to which all else relates and where all moralities are judged in relation to a given individual's liking, measured by the extent to which new moral standards make him feel good, only one outcome is possible.  A multitude of new religions arises on account of the lack of a unifying set of absolute moral standards.  Not only does that cause accelerating abolition of absolute moral standards—those changed throughout history—but it causes as well the creation of an infinite variety of new relative moral standards that are applied to varying extents depending on which particular sex, ethnic, racial or cultural group they relate to.
        The outcome of that is exactly the kind of social and cultural chaos that we have today and whose emergence Heinlein describes in detail in the subsequent pages.

  2. It's interesting that Heinlein castigates the promoters of the "new truths" as linear thinkers, yet that is exactly what the feminists, whose various factions are the prime instigators of the "new truths," accuse all of their opponents to be.  It almost seems that those scientists who try their best to "prove" that God can't possibly exist and the feminist factions who insist that gods exists but that none of them are related in any way with Christianity (which they of course can't logically insist on because the basis of the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions is that there is only one God) have at least one thing in common.  They accuse anyone not in agreement with their philosophies of being linear thinkers, even if though the opponents whom they so accuse have no compunction in accusing them in turn of the identical failing: "linear thinking."

  3. However, under certain circumstances, nakedness is not practical behaviour.  The human body devoid of clothing and fur becomes rather vulnerable to the forces of nature.  E. g., there are temperature differences that can become quite uncomfortable, but there is also the danger of skin cancer.  In more extreme climates, it is outright unadvisable to go around naked.  Where I live we have extended periods of the year when it is deadly, on account of nakedness causing a person to freeze to death in very short order.  That's not all.  During the summertime it is more practical to apply DEET to clothing than to bare skin to ward off mosquitoes and horseflies, besides clothes have practical pockets.
        Nevertheless, there is another aspect of nakedness in our "crazy culture" that needs to be considered.  The escalation in cultural trends to exploit nakedness, as well as the simultaneous escalation in demands for prudishness directed against men, primarily heterosexual men, are incongruous and contribute to increasingly excessive aberrations of our judicial systems.  So it is that we insist that even children are enticed to display their sexuality, but that fathers can be accused of sexual molestation if they give their young children a bath.  We call for the right of women journalists to enter the locker rooms of male sports teams but don't dream of giving the same right to men journalists with respect to entering women's locker rooms.
        We insist that women have the right to enter traditionally male institutions such as military schools, men's business clubs, even boys sports teams and the Boy Scouts, yet we prohibit boys from entering girls' teams, girl's facilities and all-girls-schools.  Not a single male military school is left in the US, yet all-girls-schools are coming into existence in ever increasing numbers.
        We insist that women can display their sexuality in ever more provocative ways, ostensibly under the premise that the human body is a gift by God and that its display therefore can't possibly be sinful, yet we accuse men of rape (now called sexual assault) if they so much as look at it.  We go even farther.  We accuse men of sexual assault, and sentence them for that crime, if a woman merely alleges that a man did look at their bodies or that he whistled in appreciation of "the gift that God gave her," whether there are corroborating witnesses and evidence or not.  Yet, in Canada it has been argued successfully in at least two cases that it is a woman's constitutional right to walk around in public with her breasts bared in a society that has perverted the purpose of the human mammaries to become a status symbol of women's sexuality.  It was just in the winter of 1972 that in the office in which I worked women were advised that to wear slacks—without question sensible clothing in a city in which women were commonly treated for frostbite on their nylon-stockinged legs—was a violation of the company dress-code.
        However, in the 1998 Christmas season, the same company, now called Telus and the major telecommunication provider in Alberta and British Columbia, saw fit to advertise on TV using a commercial in which the three wise men presented modern gifts to the Baby Jesus, one of which was a cellular phone.  Even though Telus doesn't seem to care about impropriety in religious matters anymore, in the spirit of keeping up sales they still care about public sentiments.  They took the commercial off the air after about a hundred people called them and complained about it.
        It most certainly is a "crazy culture" in which we live.

See also:

Feminism For Male College Students A Short Guide to the Truth, by Angry Harry (Off-Site)

2001 02 02 (format changes)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)