||The Two Horizons A Report on the Race with Catastrophe What character our time will wear in history, like what song the Sirens sang, is a puzzling question but not beyond all conjecture. Some oracle will prophesy a present end to historians, and thus to history. Let us not quibble. Ages hence, we may suppose, a curious antiquarian from Thibet, or wandering archaeologist stopping over on a trip through interplanetary space, will ferret out the Time Capsule from the ruins of New York, decipher the inscription on Stalin's broken tomb, brood over certain twentieth century documents found in the debris of the British Museum, and give to what we perhaps ironically call "modern civilization" a just name. Thinking of the vast creations of our science, unprecedented, and uncontrolled â€" these enormous means confounding our puny ends â€" one might commend to that far spirit "The Age of Frankenstein." Thinking of the two great wars fought for a free society and of the fruits of triumph, one might urge "The Period of Paradox" to describe the era in which one world has come to seem impossible, and two fatal. Perhaps this is only seeming. Certainly, the play we act in cannot be titled without the scene on which the curtain is now rising. When it falls, the span between the horizons visible at the beginning and at the end of the past half-century may be truly measured, and one at least known for reality or mirage. "Every man," said Alfred de Vigny, "has seen the wall that bounds his being" â€" Tout homme a vu le mux qui borna son esprit. Every age has seen a horizon for the human spirit. In 1895, at the close of Darwin's century, Arthur James Balfour could write: We sound the future, and learn that after a period, long compared with the individual life, but short indeed compared with the divisions of time open to our investigation, the energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish . . . Nor will anything that is be better or be worse for all that the labour, genius, devotion, and suffering of men have striven through countless generations to effect.1 Written out of the knowledge and in the spirit of the fin de siecle, Balfour's words are an epitaph on man as an immortal race little lower than the angels; they are at the same time a judgment that man's future, finite indeed, is bounded only by the continued habitability of his physical universe. This prospect was widely credited at the outset of our era; it is still our far horizon. In 1928 J. B. S. Haldane ventured a rough terminal date for human activities, observing that, although the sun will probably have cooled only a little a million million years from now, "somewhere about that time it is quite likely that the earth's surface will be destroyed owing to the disruption of the moon by tidal forces." 2 He went on to 1 Foundations of Belief (New York: Longmans, Green, 1897), pp. 30-31. 2 "Man's Destiny," Possible Worlds and Other Papers (New York and London: Harper, 1928), pp. 300 ff.