Ecology of Bad Ideas
Gregory Bateson, Pathologies of Epistemology, 1971
The ecology of bad ideas is the product of the propagation of epistemological error. Akin to the meme, as defined by Dawkins, the ecology of bad ideas is manifest in the transmission and integration of idea into environment and, subsequently, the rearrangement of ecological conditions in its aftermath. Contrasting the hubris of the Anthropocene—and its lingering tones of “Man’s” rational progress and dominance over “Nature” writ on a planetary scale—the ecology of bad ideas unfolds in the mess of the cumulative mental, social, and environmental assemblage of inherited ideas: oblivious, opportunist, oversimplified, corrupt, fraudulent, stubbornly inflexible, and pathologically upheld out of narrow and shortsighted self-interest.
This issue of Drain presents artists, researchers, theorists, cultural producers, commentators, and multimodal makers, thinkers, and doers that examine and engage the dispersion, proliferation, mutation, and normalization of bad ideas and bad ecologies. These contributors analyze and participate in complex ecological entanglements within, beyond, and against ecologies of bad ideas. Essays included in this issue examine—within Art (SPURSE), Humanism (Kauffman), and Race/ Nationalism (Feshami)—the persistence, as well as ramifications, of Western epistemology’s impulse to carve the world into dualities: human and non-human, culture and nature, subjective and objective, self and other, us and them, pure and impure. Thought Experiments, Interviews, and Art Projects in this issue address a broad range of anthropogenic and ideational modifications to Earthly matter through multiform engagements with systems—and nodes within systems—of biology, ecology, economy, agronomy, extraction, human settlements, technology, waste, governance, and more.
Underpinning many, if not all, contributions to this issue of Drain lies a utopian impulse to question the inherited ideas and forms with which we shape and are, in turn, shaped by and ask: What forms of salvage or alterity might be employed within the kludge of bad ideas that constitute our present bio-socio-ecological conditions and to what effect?