– ‘All this had to be fought for. Otherwise we’d have had the same sort of set-up that you objected to. Let me talk a bit of philosophy and sociology. Has it ever occurred to you, Geoff, that in spite of the changes wrought by science – by our control over inanimate energy, that is to say – we still preserve the same social order of precedence? Politicians at the top, then the military, and the real brains at the bottom. There’s no difference between this set-up and that of ancient Rome, or of the first civilisations in Mesopotamia for that matter. We’re living in a society that contains a monstrous contradiction, modern in its technology but archaic in its social organisation. For years the politicians have been squawking about the need for more trained scientists, more engineers, and so forth. What they don’t seem to realise is that there are only a limited number of fools.’
‘Yes, people like you and me, Geoff. We’re the fools. We do the thinking for an archaic crowd of nit-wits and allow ourselves to get pushed around by ’em into the bargain.’
‘Scientists of the world unite! Is that the idea?’
‘Not exactly. It isn’t just a case of scientists versus the rest. The matter goes deeper. It’s a clash between two totally different modes of thinking. Society today is based in its technology on thinking in terms of numbers. In its social organisation, on the other hand, it is based on thinking in terms of words. It’s here that the real clash lies, between the literary mind and the mathematical mind. You ought to meet the Home Secretary. You’d see straight away what I mean.’
Chris Kingsley, Professor of Astronomy and mathematical modeller, University of Cambridge, talking to Dr Geoff Marlowe, senior administrator of Mount Palomar Observatory; The Black Cloud, Fred Hoyle, 1957.