An ant marooned on a leaf as it circles down a millstream may be observed twitching his antenna as he contemplates the water in the best attempt, he can to ascertain the physical parameters of his surroundings. He may well be constrained to confine his observations to the consideration that they are wet and distinctly liable to engulf him. On this foundation he may, if he wishes, build his philosophy; or suspend decision. He may wonder about the source and destination of the stream, but he has little hope of formulating questions about the mountains or the oceans, or the world beyond the banks of the stream. He may know about yesterday and tomorrow, but the thoughts of a winter freeze-up would be idle speculation as he struggles to retain his foothold.
Man’s view from Spaceship Earth has for some time been a good deal wider than that of an ant, and directly or indirectly we have at our command a formidable battery of antennae. Is our view though, different in kind, or are we subject to similar constraints to those of our fellow-travelling ant? Our reply has to try to avoid both subjectivity and overreaction against the fear of subjectivity.
What in fact is the scene we are currently able to observe as our vehicle jostles its way down the stream? Over the years the view has kept changing as our antennae have developed. As a group we now deploy a waving forest of antennae, some little more sophisticated and perhaps even less so, than those of our cousin ant; but some of great and growing sensitivity. Our assessment as provided through this whiskery bundle is, though, still a matter of relatives, since none of the antennae have penetrated to the edge of our environment or even indicated that there is an edge.
This account is an attempt to summarise the view from our perilous vehicle as the stream of time rushes through man’s Golden Age, the climactic years of earth’s first thinkers and the dramatic opening of the Era of Intelligence.
Golden Ages are legendary times. They have the freshness of beginnings and the glow of achievements, and seen from later years they stand as the beacons on the summits; some bright, some fading into the mists. One’s recognition of them may be subjective, but they are real all the same, unimpressed as the average man may be by the Golden Age of the Pterodactyls, or the Buddhist by the Golden Age of Greeks.