Anti-Rifkin Again

Fri, 2 Feb 1996 10:52:56 CST

J. Lozier asks whether I read Georgescu's "Afterword" to Rifkin's
*Entropy*. No. He asks me to elaborate a bit on my assessment of
Rifkin. It has been quite a few years, but here is what I remember. I
excitedly requested a copy of this supposedly bold new book, for
possible adoption in a general-education course I then taught called
"Culture and Habitat." When I began reading, I was stunned that the
author seemed to be serious in suggesting that human behavior could
significantly retard the rate at which the Universe is "running down."
That someone presenting himself as a serious writer on this subject
could so grossly misunderstand the scale of the Universe, and humanity's
place within it, I found incredible. I still find it so. L.M.
Hendrickson's remark that this misunderstanding represents "pretty
wishful thinking" strikes me as a gross understatement; what it
represents is anthropocentric ignorance unworthy of an elementary-school
student who has been exposed to powers of ten, and the fact that we live
on a little planet around one star out of billions. Our lives, habits,
and survival as a species matter only to us; to the Universe, they are
nothing. I do remember finding ludicrous something Rifkin said about
the Middle Ages; I thought he was ignorant--but blissfully unaware of
his ignorance--about that subject too. I really didn't read much
farther. This is not to deny J. McCreery's suggestion that why Rifkin
"has a global audience"could be considered a worthwhile anthropological
question. If G. Goodman wants to study how human work has changed
during cultural evolution, though, I would be surprised indeed if Rifkin
were a worthwhile source. Actually, I would be astonished were he ever
to prove capable of reliable scholarship about anything. --Bob Graber