The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World

Charles C. Mann. Knopf, $28.95 (640p) ISBN 978-0-307-96169-3
Journalist Mann (1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created) clearly illustrates two opposing outlooks for dealing with major problems facing humankind, using two 20th-century scientists as exemplars. Mann straightforwardly states that this book does not provide “a blueprint for tomorrow.” Rather, it’s an account of difficulties facing humans and ways to approach them. William Vogt (1902–1968), who serves as Mann’s “prophet,” regarded human overconsumption as a potential source of humanity’s downfall and saw restraint as the only possible recourse. Mann’s “wizard” is Norman Borlaug (1914–2009), a leading figure in the “green revolution” of agricultural technology. For followers of Borlaug, science and technology hold the solutions to the problems that beset humankind. Mann juxtaposes these two lives and ideologies while briefly introducing a third viewpoint—that of biologist Lynn Margulis, who posited that humankind is doomed to extinction like any other “successful species.” In tracing the lives of Vogt and Borlaug, Mann describes how proponents of the two contrasting viewpoints that they epitomize suggest that humans should confront the challenges of providing food, clean water, and energy to an ever-growing population on a planet undergoing climate change. Neither ideology, he points out, is assured to bring humankind success. Without taking sides, Mann delivers a fine examination of two possible paths to a livable future. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/27/2017
Release date: 01/23/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-449-01558-2
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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