Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ignoring Ignorance

Harari's insights into the origins of the scientific revolution are probably not summarizable, but he makes one important point that I will mention here. The major religions, having settled into their roles as guarantors of the social order, started maintaining that all the really important information was contained in their holy books. Now I'm not in a position to defend this for all religions, but it's true for the ones I know the best. Thus, the important subject matter of education was the contents of those books. The revolutionary discovery of 500 years or so ago, he claims, was ignorance, the fact that we were in fact ignorant of the ways planets moved, and how many of the systems of the world behaved; and that much of that knowledge was not to be found in the Torah, the New Testament, the Vedas, or the Koran.

The signal achievement of the new point of view was Newton's laws of motion. Not coincidentally, those laws involved replacing old narratives with three spare equations.