- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

Scientific vision
"Much has been made, by Francis Fukuyama and others, about the recent efforts of scientists to complete the Baconian project the great vision of Francis Bacon that science will finally ameliorate the human condition, so that we will all be happy, diseaseless and nigh on immortal. …
"Now, Francis Bacon's scientific vision of modernity is not the only one. There is also a literary vision of modernity. And from Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' to Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World,' the literary imagination … has not been much taken with scientists who manipulate the deep things of life just because they can. …
"But they wear nice white lab coats, and their pleasant-looking chief executive appears on television to assure us that they are really acting for the best of medical motives and, besides, there is a great deal of money to be made in biotech and pharmaceutical stocks.
"Sometimes the disingenuousness is unbearable. Evading the regulations in France, the French company Clonaid recently opened a laboratory in Ivory Coast, and its spokeswoman announced that they had done so in response to the great demand for cloning in sub-Saharan Africa. Ah, yes, my wife suggested: Those poor, starving Africans, desperate for food, drinking water and the latest fads in biotechnology."
J. Bottum, writing on "The Horror," in the winter issue of the Public Interest
'Human-size desires'
"On the surface, there's nothing terribly scandalous or cynical about 'Married by America,' Fox's latest foray into the lucrative science of civilization erosion. This time around, we're not talking chateaux in France, million-dollar jackpots, backroom catfights, obligatory hot-tub scenes, or humiliating shots at pop stardom. This time, by promising to marry off young couples according to the votes of the audience at home, Fox is dealing in human-size desires. … 'Joe Millionaire' it ain't. …
"It all seems harmless. Cheesy, but harmless. …
"Before the 25 candidates can be subjected to the will of the people, they must face the parents, friends, roommates and co-workers of the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes. The hopefuls are paraded out in groups of five before these judges, who grill them on such character-revealing questions as 'How would you define your sexual appetite?' and 'What's the most selfish thing you've ever done?' and 'Do you like cats?'
"Never mind that most of the contestants are aspiring actors and models, or people who, for one reason or another, want to live under floodlights for a little while."
Sheerly Avni, writing on "Who wants to be married by America?" Tuesday in Salon at www.salon.com
Teddy bear grief
"For about a decade now, and especially since September 11, Americans have been grotesquely, luridly self-pitying, ready at the drop of a hat to celebrate … their collective grief over any kind of loss, real or imaginary. …
"Within minutes of the Columbia explosion, residents of Texas and Louisiana were racing out of their homes and vomiting yellow ribbons and teddy bears in the direction of anything that had the misfortune to fall out of the sky. Cameras captured the amazing spectacle of swarms of couples standing with their arms around each other and weeping, literally weeping in the direction of small pieces of sizzling metal. …
"In my hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., the local daily Buffalo News wondered aloud how the region's parents would decide to tell their kids … about the shuttle crash. …
"It may be … that mawkish public displays of canned grief are the only socially acceptable avenues people have left for acting out so that when the opportunity arises for people to weep on camera or erect garish public shrines of rainbow balloons and plush animals, they jump on it. …
"A real victim in all of this has been the teddy bear, which has been forced into the role of the national symbol of this madness."
Matt Taibbi, writing on "Unbearable," in the March 5 issue of the New York Press

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