Kirkus Reviews QR Code
A GOD WITHIN by Rene Dubos



Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Scribners

In this sweeping, rambling essay, Dubos (So Human an Animal, 1968), gently refutes the cult of the pristinely natural and anti-industrial; then, almost in passing, he endorses the idea that ""technology"" as such is out of control, without examining its socioeconomic context, and says further economic growth is dangerous, without offering any arguments. The emphasis, however, remains on a positive conception of man's relation to nature and ""man's ability to transform his life"" through enthusiasm, creativity, purpose, and ""human values which transcend the biological."" ""The problem is not whether man will or will not alter natural systems, but only how he will do it. . . . Practically all aspects of life are artificial in the sense that they depend on profound modifications of the natural order of things. The life of the peasant is as artificial as that of the city dweller. . . . The reason we are now desecrating nature is not because we use it to our ends, but because we commonly manipulate it without respect for the spirit of place."" Dubos calls for ""a new definition of progress, based on better knowledge of nature and on a willingness to change our ways of life accordingly,"" but this is pursued only vaguely with praise for countercultures, and the book avoids discussion of living standards, resource usage, agricultural possibilities, or who should bear the social costs of pollusion remedies. In discussing past civilizations, Dubos deals with problems of mismanagement, agricultural techniques, etc. in a stimulating way. Suggestive rather than polemical, belletristic rather than rigorously pressed, this philosophical venture should gain wide attention.