Man the unknown

In a recent review of two new Ayn Rand biographies Daniel J. Flynn makes the following observation:

Ayn Rand’s midcentury novels continue to strike a chord because they read as though culled from today’s headlines. Here, Rand’s “looters” raid government coffers to bail out their poorly performing industries; there, Rand’s “moochers” demand that the “producers” pay for their health care.

In the aftermath of the Great Depression the French Nobel laureate Alexis Carrel writes in his book Man the Unknown (1935) :

Moral sense is almost completely ignored by modern society. We have, in fact, suppressed its manifestations. All are imbued with irresponsibility. Those who discern good and evil, who are industrious and provident, remain poor and are looked upon as morons. The woman who has several children, who devotes herself to their education, instead of to her own career, is considered weak-minded. If a man saves a little money for his wife and the education of his children, this money is stolen from him by enterprising financiers. Or taken by the government and distributed to those who have been reduced to want by their own improvidence and the shortsightedness of manufacturers, bankers, and economists…

Man the Unknown is an extensive meditation on the implications of the fact that modern man finds himself in an environment and culture much different from that which shaped his biology for thousands of years.  Although this book contains little that would have surprised contemporary readers, Carrel’s work is often reduced to discussion of  specific passages concerning his views on eugenics and the treatment of dangerous criminals.

Alexis Carrel’s groundbreaking work on cellular senescence, extracorporeal perfusion and his strong interest in life extension and re-making mankind makes him one of the rare individuals that can be characterized as a “conservative transhumanist.”