Monday, February 8, 2010

Erewhon by Samuel Butler ****

Interested in machine evolution, the ethics of disease and diet, and chaos theory? You might enjoy this 18th century classic: Erewhon. Some of the theses put forward by Samuel Butler include: machines are evolving faster that people will be eventually overtake them; no one who refuses meat on ethical grounds, should consume vegetables; and "the smallest difference may change the whole conditions of the problem."

Erewhon, written shortly after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, is much concerned with evolution. Samuel Butler also asks whether people should be jailed for illness and treated for crimes, instead of vice versa. Of interest is the suggestion that drunks should be treated instead of jailed - an idea a century ahead of its time. He also skewers the 18th century PETA precursors by arguing that vegetables are as sentient as animals and if one deserves special treatment, so does the other.

As a book way ahead of its time, Erewhon is a classic that everyone should read.

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