Engines of Our Ingenuity

No. 420:
THE PEACEABLE KINGDOM

by John H. Lienhard

Click here for audio of Episode 420.

Today, something good is going down. The University of Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.

It's in the air. It's on the drum. I can feel it. Now and then, human affairs undergo a great, sudden change. Revolutions swept America and Europe at the end of the 18th century. They changed the world beyond all recognition. A new change, every bit as big, is touching the world today, and just in time.

We've had too much of border wars, nuclear threat, plagues, and famines. And they all trace to one ill: putting up with domination. We've grown sick to death of dictators and bosses, of rich dominating the poor, men dominating women, and races dominating each other. We want to be done with domination, but up to now, it's seemed that we've had no alternative.

Now the 1990's have brought in a great wave of near bloodless political revolutions. The storm warning in every one has been the inequality of wealth -- domination by the rich. And, at the same time, we've made the most astonishing discovery.

We've looked more closely at the age from 25,000 BC to 4000 BC. And there we find nothing at all to match our myths about dominance. We find far better technologies than we once thought were there. We find no organized war. We find far greater economic balance than we enjoy. We find no dominance by male or female. We find widespread monotheism and a female God. But chiefly, when we look deeply into the Neolithic Era, we find a role model for a harmonious society. We find that that dream might be possible after all. Maybe it's already begun.

We recently took stock of our leadership in Houston, Texas. We discovered that we had a female mayor, a female police chief, a female Chamber of Commerce president, a female school board president, and many more. Then we hired a woman as the new president of our university. Her first words in that role were a pledge that the university would be a humane place. She vowed that there would be respect among students, faculty, and staff. She was applauded, for that's what we all ache to have in a world that's been deformed by dominance.

I feel a new hope today. Suddenly, we're making the strongest revolution of all. It's a revolution in which we tell the dominators that they are an illusion. The mere recognition that life can have harmony and equity is enough to make it happen.

We engineers know that we can build what we can conceive. Whether it's a machine or a way of life, we invariably do build in the world what we've first built in our hearts. We're starting to see that harmony might be within our reach after all. And that's why I've never been more optimistic.

I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work.

(Theme music)


Eisler, R., The Chalice & the Blade: Our History, Our Future. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.


The Engines of Our Ingenuity is Copyright © 1988-1997 by John H. Lienhard.

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