Erin Walsh

Professor John Lakey

Introduction to Psychology, Section 121H

17 September 2004

Too Much Science?

            In the 1930s, Europe began to fall under the shadow of socialism with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, the Communist Revolution in Russia, and the Fascist uprising in Italy. Americans tried to ignore this growing crisis in Europe for as long as possible; even some in the United Kingdom were not unduly concerned with this sudden change. Some people, including authors Aldous Huxley, were startled and put their fears down on paper. Huxley’s Brave New World shows an unsettling optimistic front that covers the disturbing reality of a futuristic socialist world. After the war ended, more novels about the socialism appeared, George Orwell’s 1984 and B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two as a few examples, though they are complete opposites on the views of socialism presented.

            In Walden Two, the tone is very positive. The head of the community, a man named T.E. Frazier, explains every aspect of the thriving communal settlement to a group of curious enquirers. The party includes an old colleague of Frazier’s, a psychology professor named Burris, a philosophy professor named Augustine Castle, and two veteran soldiers from World War Two named Steve Jamnik and Rogers, along with their girlfriends Mary Grove and Barbara Macklin, respectively. Frazier walks them through all the workings of the Walden Two community, from the agricultural processes, sheep herding techniques, and work schedules to the moral code, education system, and personal relationships. He says that one of the problems with the United States government is that it does not use the scientific process to find out what the people of the nation need and want. He claims that everything runs so smoothly in Walden Two because the community is set up as an experiment, whether the people who live there realize it or not. A good example of the experimenting process is the education system that was set up in Walden Two.

            Education seems to be completely opposite of the standard in American schools, even today. Frazier explains that the children begin their “ethical training” (Skinner, 98) at the age of three or four. This training teaches the children to have high levels of self-control and high tolerances to annoyances, jealousy, envy, and anger; emotions that are found all too often in our society today. The children are tested in many different ways to develop a keen sense of obedience; one of the tests involves young children who are given lollipops but are not allowed to eat them until they are instructed to do so. Frazier explains, “Then the lollipops are concealed…Then a strong distraction is arranged – say, an interesting game. Later the children are reminded of the candy…. A  day or so later, the children all run with the lollipops to their lockers [and put them out of site]” (Skinner, 98). While most Americans would react as Mr. Castle does, with revulsion to the very idea of doing such a thing to a toddler, Frazier claims that the exercise does not hurt the children in any way, the lesson is well learned, and self-control is taught.

            A slightly more sadistic system of education is used in Brave New World; the children, no more than eight months old, are brought into a room filled with roses and books and then let loose. The children naturally head towards the brightly colored objects and when they reach the area containing the books and flowers, alarms sound and the children receive an electric shock. When offered the books and flowers again the children are loath to go near and start to cry in fear, proving the training against the flowers and books successful (Huxley, 15).

            The reasons for such different training methods are because the worlds the two groups of children are so dramatically different. The children in Walden Two will grow up to be allowed to do whatever they like with their lives as long as the professions stay within the bounds of the Code (the document of moral and ethical laws that constitute the government of Walden Two). The children in Huxley’s future are doomed to stay in the same caste as that to which they were first programmed with no chance of promotion or equality with the other castes. Children are not born but are created and then mutated to fit the caste they have been assigned to. The engineers at each “hatchery” control the amounts of oxygen, blood, and even alcohol each fetus is given. Later, when the children are older, they are made to listen to facts and figures about varying topics; from the length of the Nile to where they fit into the caste system. This is a much more unforgiving behavioral science than the one Frazier has come up with in Walden, where children are allowed to learn about things that interest them and are only encourage to do well; no punishment is given for those who choose to learn how to farm instead of learning algebra. The education systems show the very different ways that socialism could be used to manipulate the behavioral growth of young children.

            Frazier’s classless and exactly equal society is also more welcoming and less judgmental than the one found in Brave New World. The main character of Huxley’s novel, Bernard Marx, holds deep resentment against others in his caste because of his birth defects, making him eager to prove his value to anyone who glances his way. This thirst for fame and acceptance cause trouble later in the novel when Bernard decides to bring back John, a “savage” from a reservation. This kind of hero-worship is not permitted in Walden Two; in fact, the people of the community are not even allowed to thank someone for doing them a favor.  “…I was conscious of the fact that no one thanked her or expressed gratitude in any other way. This…was in accordance with the Walden Two code” (Skinner, 75). Because the people are not made to follow any one person or ruling group, they are more independent, though they seem to act alike because of the code. If someone has a problem with the community, however, they are free to leave at any time.

            Another difference between Walden Two and Brave New World is the culture. The people in Walden Two are encouraged to read from the extensive library, to listen to classical works of theatre and music and to appreciate art, but are deterred from studying history. The people in Brave New World are also encouraged to forget the history, irrelevant to modern times. They, however, are not taught about religion, art, or music…the only kind of real culture they are allowed are three-dimensional cinemas called the “feelies.” The people of this brave new world seem to simply live in the here and now, without thought to either the future or the past, giving them very little ambition and a very relaxed outlook on life and death.

            In the World War Two era, when the fear of socialism was prevalent, the people of the world took one of two views: socialism could work if given time and the appropriate scientific effort or socialism was a foul, evil creature that rots the basic foundations of human individuality and imagination with too much science. B.F. Skinner portrays his socialist state in Walden Two as a benevolent provider for people of all ages and races, with equality of the sexes and gentle behavioral engineering that encourages art and science. Huxley’s Brave New World, on the other hand, shows how drastically wrong genetic and behavioral sciences could go if allowed to do so. Both novels show how communal living solves numerous social problems, though Walden Two has a much more peaceful setting instead of the mock one created by Huxley. The question both books bring up is how far the human race should allow science to go before we become carbon copies of each other or even completely inhuman. But then, how far is too far?

Works Cited

Skinner, B.F. Walden Two. United States of America: Prentice Hall, 1976.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. [c1932];, 1998. 16 September 2004. <>.