Brave New World: The Advancement of Science
Christy Campbell Mrs. Doig Eng OAC 2 16 May, 1996
When thinking of progress, most people think of advances in the
scientific fields, believing that most discoveries and technologies are
beneficial to society. Are these advances as beneficial as most people think?
In the novel Brave New World, the author Aldous Huxley, warns readers that
scientific advances can be a threat to society. This is particularly evident in
the fields of biology, technology and psychology. According to Huxley, "The
theme of Brave New World is not the advancement of science as such; it is the
advancement of science as it affects human individuals"(Huxley CLC 79 290).
One scientific advance of which Huxley warns readers of is that in
biology. In the setting of Brave New World, henceforth referred to as the
reservation, the mass production of humans is accomplished with the Bokanovsky
process. In this process, human beings are genetically engineered in
laboratories. "... a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide.
From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed
embryo, and every embryo into a full sized adult"(Huxley Brave New World 4).
One of the threats of this genetic breeding is that no family structures exist
on the reservation. Instead, humans are raised in conditioning centres. R.T.
Oerton points out that "Present knowledge indicates, for instance, that a child
cannot be deprived of parents or parent figures, as were the children in Brave
New World, without suffering lasting pathological damage to his
personality."(Oerton CLC 7 308). Another threat that the Bokanovsky process
poses to society is that life is not highly valued. "Murder kills only the
individual and, after all what is an individual? With a sweeping gesture he [Mr.
Foster, director of hatcheries and conditioning] indicated the rows of
microscopes, the test-tubes, the incubators. We can make a new one with the
greatest ease-as many as we like"(Huxley Brave New World 133). Human life holds
no value because it can be easily replaced through the Bokanovsky process.
Furthermore, Bokanovsky's method of mass production prevents individuality, as
on the reservation, all people are cloned. Starting from the time of decanting,
each embryo is genetically cloned to fall into one of the various social classes.
Within each social class, all members are cloned to be intellectually and
physically equivalent. Biological technology helps to achieve this equality by
genetically shaping the minds of society. In Brave New World , one's
intelligence depends on the amount of alcohol injected into their embryo. For
example, one of the lower classes in society, Epsilons, have quite a high amount
of alcohol injected in the decanting process. Mental faculty, therefore, is
predestined from the moment of cloning. By creating a world where humans are
mass produced, Brave New World demonstrates that advances in biology can be
dangerous if used without regard for the well being of the human race.
According to Huxley, advances in technology can also be a threat to society.
In Brave New World, everything is completely mechanized, eliminating the need
for creativity and imagination. Huxley warns us against mechanization, arguing
"the machine dehumanizes men by demanding mechanical efficiency of
them"(Hillegas 114). Man's creativity is replaced with mundane tasks, because
machines are able to do much of the work . The occupations available for people
on the reservation, consist of repetitive mechanical operations. In Brave New
World, leisure activities are dominated by technology. The primary source of
entertainment is the "feelies," a type of movie theatre in which all the senses
are artificially created. Instead of feeling the emotions portrayed on screen,
the audience absorbs stimulated sensations. These stimulations prevent them
from free thought, which threatens society by denying people from experiencing
their own creativity and imagination. Furthermore, technology affects
entertainment by being incorporated into all games of play. Games consist of
advanced technological apparatus, and low organization, creating very
superficial entertainment. According to Huxley, this frustrates one of
humanity's vital needs to be creative. "Men no longer amuse themselves
creatively but sit passively amused by mechanical devices"(Hillegas 115). Among
technological advances, one danger Huxley warns of is the advance in
pharmacology. In Brave New World, an artificial form of happiness is present in
a drug called soma. Soma propels the user into a hallucinatory dream world,
providing relief from negativity, allowing constant happiness People are
rewarded for work by receiving rations of soma. The soma ration varies
according to the social classes, with the lowest classes receiving the least,
and the highest classes receiving the greatest. Society is conditioned to
believe that "One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments"(Huxley Brave New
World 53). This reasoning deceives the user into believing that soma is a cure-
all remedy. Since soma has no side effects, it can be a threat to society
because people may be drugged into a hallucinatory dream world twenty-four hours
a day. It could be used as a drug not to escape the pressures of life, but to
escape life itself. Similar to biology, technology can be a danger to society
if used without regard for the welfare of mankind.
Finally, the most dangerous of all scientific advancements Huxley warns of,
is the progress in psychology. In Brave New World, every person is conditioned.
The first conditioning technique used is subliminal training. This type of
psychology is utilized to program ideas into individual's minds by a method
called hypnopaedia. Hypnopaedia consists of repetitious messages that play over
a loudspeaker during sleep. These repetitions are composed of socially accepted
morals and values. "All conditioning aims at making people like their
unescapable social destiny."(Huxley Brave New World 13). This limits
individuals from exploring life and developing their idea of happiness when
"happiness" is already predetermined in their minds. According to Huxley, his
"...chief strategy was to show that the conditioned happiness of Brave New World
cuts men off from deep experience, keeps them from being human."(Hillegas 118).
Direct stimulation is used as another conditioning technique. On the
reservation, society is conditioned against love, nature, literature, and other
forms of expression that are naturally desired by man. To condition babies
against nature and literature, they are mildly shocked while encountering books
and flowers placed before them. Therefore, this direct stimulation causes them
to have an instinctive hatred of flowers and books. According to reservation
controllers, "A love of nature keeps no factories busy"(Huxley Brave New World
19). Morals and values, which normally through the growing up process can be
discovered on their own, are brainwashed into society's minds. This direct
stimulation is harmful to society as it prevents people from deciding upon
their own morals and values. Another form of conditioning in Brave New World
deals with death. From the early age of eighteen months, children are exposed
to death while playing with toys and eating candy. Thus resulting in an eternal
association between happiness and death. Death conditioning can be dangerous to
society as children become unable to distinguish between good and evil. In
addition, sexual conditioning is present in Brave New World. From a very young
age, sexual play is normal and encouraged in everyone. Together, hundreds of
children play sexual games in the nude. Also, more than one sexual partner is
encouraged, resulting in the absence of committed relationships. This absence
of committed relationship creates a world without deep feelings of human
affection. Society is conditioned to believe "Everyone belongs to everyone
else"(Huxley Brave New World 35). Unfortunately, these psychological
advancements cause the reservation to be a world without individual thought.
Each person is conditioned into a life, which is believed to be most
advantageous for them. Thomas D. Clareson points out that "The Brave New World
is mindless... it's citizens are 'nice tame animals'..."(Huxley, DISC). The
conditioning methods in Brave New World take away all freedom of choice and
decision in society.
The society depicted in Brave New World is to many, a frightening one.
Though, it may be more of a reality than is presently thought. Society must
ensure that science is changing to suit human needs, rather than changing the
human race to suit science. With the increasing progress in biology, technology
and psychology, this may be an impossible feat to overcome. The world may one
day be without individuality, emotions or free thought. In Brave New World, the
scientific advances show to be a threat to society, where "One could of course,
exist. . ." though, "... One could not-in the fullest sense of the word-live in