In the "Dune Genesis" essay originally published in the July 1980 issue of Omni Magazine* Frank Herbert wrote:

"I now believe that evolution, or deevolution[sic], never ends short of death, that no society has ever achieved an absolute pinnacle, that all humans are not created equal. In fact, I believe attempts to create some abstract equalization create a morass of injustices that rebound on the equalizers. Equal justice and equal opportunity are ideals we should seek, but we should recognize that humans administer the ideals and that humans do not have equal ability."

  • Did he try to say that humans have not the ability to administer succefully these ideals?
  • Was he trying to say that humans doing it have not equal ideals?
  • Simply saying that some humans have not the ability to administer the ideals while others have it?
  • Or, the worst meaning to me, "some humans don't deserve equality because their lack of ability"?

Although this essay is not inside one of his books, I think people need to know Herbert's science fiction work to know his way of thinking.

I managed to found a 1981 interview at Mother Earth News, an ecology-oriented magazine, that think could be relevant to navigate his political thinking outside his books, about disrupt of government and welfare state and the flaws of humans leaders, and I recognize some compromise between freedom and equality he could be concerned. But I wish to hear insights of the Science Fiction experts how knows his material.

(*) Herbert, Frank (July 1980). "Dune Genesis". Omni 2 (2): p. 72. ISSN 0149-8711.

  • 1
    Certainly not that last point. Really, only your first point comes close.
    – JRE
    Jan 12, 2019 at 8:57
  • 4
    Consider concepts like separate but equal (mostly discredited in US political discourse), equality of chances, and equality of outcome. Systems which aim for equality of outcome despite different ability tend to hold people back to the lowest common denominator, systems which aim for equality of chances for people with unequal ability accept unequal outcomes.
    – o.m.
    Jan 12, 2019 at 9:15
  • 2
    Cross-posted on Politics.SE (and currently on HNQ!)
    – Jenayah
    Jan 13, 2019 at 21:42
  • 3
    Thanks again @Jenayah for your insights, I created a SFF Meta question to solve this gray area problem. Jan 14, 2019 at 2:45
  • 5
    After meta agreement that this question is on-topic for SFF, and after a discussion between SFF and Politics mods wherein we agreed that the two versions of the question are sufficiently different to coexist on the network, I'm reopening this on our site too.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 17, 2019 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


"Equal justice and equal opportunity are ideals we should seek"

Somewhat self-explanatory - we strive to make sure that everyone has access to the same opportunities, and are seen as equal under the law.

"but we should recognize that humans administer the ideals"

Humans do not see, understand, or interpret things the same uniformly. So different judges may have different opinions on the proper punishment for a crime, for any number of parameters, and personal feelings (or prejudices) may cloud decisions on who should get first crack at an opportunity for a job.

"and that humans do not have equal ability."

Some people are simply better at certain things than others. While everyone has the opportunity to, to pick an example, participate in the Olympics, now everyone has equal ability to do so. Competition is still a thing, and some people will win at things and some will lose. While we can strive to eliminate unfair advantages and cheating, we cannot (reasonably) eliminate people's talents or adeptness in particular areas. That would lead us to the mad world of Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron.

The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but that's the way to bet.

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