For the past few years I have at odd moments found myself prey to a peculiar kind of feeling, but I couldn't at first name it or define what it was that was bothering me, nor could I find a common pattern among the episodes that triggered it. I would get this feeling--a mixture of sorrow, anger, and a sense of futility--when my students told me that they were studying to become "environmental managers." The same feeling would occur whenever I heard parents discussing the need to control the behavior of their "hyperkinetic" children with drugs, or when I read of an improved, "computer-assisted" plan by the Corps of Engineers to control flooding along the stream that runs in back of my house. And the feeling recurred when, at a dinner party, an advanced graduate student in economics carefully explained to me how market forces, operating according to the laws of supply and demand, guarantee that we will never destroy more of our rich farmland than we can afford to lose.
When the occasions for this feeling became more and more frequent and I finally grasped the obvious connection among the events that caused it; when I saw how our unquestioning humanistic faith in our own omnipotence provides a common explanation for so many seemingly different things that are happening to us; when I perceived the tremendous implications of the wide and widening discrepancy between the world- pervasive faith in reason and human power and the living reality of the human condition; then I wrote this book.
My readers will find that I do not counsel a total rejection of humanism, which has its nobler parts. But we have been too gentle and uncritical of it in the past, and it has grown ugly and