“…..Imagine that the natural sciences were to suffer the effects of a catastrophe. A series of environmental disasters are blamed by the general public on the scientists. Widespread riots occur, laboratories are burnt down, physicists are lynched, books and instruments are destroyed. Finally a Know-Nothing political movement takes power and successfully abolishes science teaching in schools and universities, imprisoning and executing the remaining scientists. Later still there is a reaction against this destructive movement and enlightened people seek to revive science, although they have largely forgotten what it was. But all that they possess are fragments: a knowledge of experiments detached from any knowledge of the theoretical context which gave them significance; parts of theories unrelated either to the other bits and pieces of theory which they possess or to experiment; instruments whose use has been forgotten; half-chapters from books, single pages from articles, not always fully legible because torn and charred. Nonetheless all these fragments are reembodied in a set of practices which go under the revived names of physics, chemistry and biology. Adults argue with each other about the respective merits of relativity theory, evolutionary theory and phlogiston theory, although they possess only a very partial knowledge of each. Children learn by heart the surviving portions of the periodic table and recite as incantations some of the theorems of Euclid. Nobody, or almost nobody, realizes that what they are doing is not natural science in any proper sense at all. For everything that they do and say conforms to certain canons of consistency and coherence and those contexts which would be needed to make sense of what they are doing have been lost, perhaps irretrievably.”

At the end of the book MacIntyre returns to this chaotic vision of the future, dourly concluding that it isn’t of the future at all- it’s a description (of the intellectual and ethical reality) of today. Already, he says, we are living amid an intellectual and ethical apocalypse. Our arguments and rational forms are shallow tropes of an earlier, robust, rooted ethical dialogue. We have fragments and scraps from those times, but mostly we stumble on doing something we mistakenly call ethics, uprooted from telos- that is a sense of where we’re headed and why.”

– Joustra and Wilkinson

How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith and Politics at the End of the World

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