新概念英语Lesson 57 Of Men and Galaxies人和星系

In man's early days, competition with other creatures must
have been critical. But this phase of our development is now
finished. Indeed, we lack practice and experience nowadays in
dealing with primitive conditions. I am sure that, without modern weapons, I would make a very
poor show of disputing the ownership of a cave with a bear, and in this I do not think that I stand
alone. The last creature to compete with man was the mosquito. But even the mosquito has been
subdued by attention to drainage and by chemical sprays.
Competition between ourselves, person against person, community against community, still
persists, however; and it is as fierce as it ever was.
But the competition of man against man is not the simple process envisioned in biology. It is not a
simple competition for a fixed amount of food determined by the physical environment, because
the environment that determines our evolution is no longer essentially physical. Our environment
is chiefly conditioned by the things we believe. Morocco and California are bits of the Earth in
very similar latitudes, both on the west coasts of continents with similar climates, and probably
with rather similar natural resources. Yet their present development is wholly different, not so
much because of different people even, but because of the different thoughts that exist in the minds
of their inhabitants. This is the point I wish to emphasize. The most important factor in our
environment is the state of our own minds.
It is well known that where the white man has invaded a primitive culture the most destructive
effects have come not from physical weapons but from ideas. Ideas are dangerous. The Holy office
knew this full well when it caused heretics to be burned in days gone by. Indeed, the concept of
free speech only exists in our modem society because when you are inside a community you are
conditioned by the conventions of the community to such a degree that it is very difficult to
conceive of anything really destructive. It is only someone looking on from outside that can inject
the dangerous thoughts. I do not doubt that it would be possible to inject ideas into the modern
world that would utterly destroy us. I would like to give you an example, but fortunately I cannot
do so. Perhaps it will suffice to mention the nuclear bomb. Imagine the effect on a reasonably
advanced technological society, one that still does not possess the bomb, of making it aware of the
possibility, of supplying sufficient details to enable the thing to be constructed. Twenty or thirty
pages of information handed to any of the major world powers around the year 1925 would have
been sufficient to change the course of world history. It is a strange thought, but I believe a correct
one, that twenty or thirty pages of ideas and information would be capable of turning the
present-day world upside down, or even destroying it. I have often tried to conceive of what those
pages might contain, but of course I cannot do so because I am a prisoner of the present-day world,
just as all of you are. We cannot think outside the particular patterns that our brains are conditioned

to, or, to be more accurate, we can think only a very little way outside, and then only if we are very
original.