This simple idea was one of the foundations of the Modern world. And one of the most important events in the formation of that World was the Reformation – and the Protestantism that resulted from it.
We cannot now imagine the fervor and violence of the civil and religious wars that followed. And how Science was formed by them. You heard me right – religion, politics, and science were formed from the same mold. From the same world-view. From Wikipedia:
A comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society’s knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics. The term is a calque of the German word Weltanschauung[ˈvɛlt.ʔanˌʃaʊ.ʊŋ] ( listen), composed of Welt (‘world’) and Anschauung (‘view’ or ‘outlook’). It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.
In my mind’s eye I can see my Grandfather repeating ”Cause and Effect!” over and over in Prayer Meeting, back in the Fifties, while he rocked himself up on his toes to make himself taller. He knew how important it was – it was the foundation of his world – although he could not have explained it in the least. His was a world of powerful beliefs – and that was enough for him.
As it turned out, this particular belief had reached its peak, and would decline during my lifetime (long after he was dead) – but of course he did not know that. Few people have recognized this decline since then – and most absolutely refuse to recognize it.
In fact, I am having a hard time formulating the nature of what I am trying to say. How we came to believe in a world of separate chains of events. The key word here is separate. The belief that things could happen in one part of the world without effecting the rest of the world. The model is the billiard-table – where the original mover (a man holding a cue-stick) sets in motion a series of independent events on a perfectly level surface.
In remote parts of Latin America, where people can afford very little. You will find the people (men only, please) playing billiards – and playing it passionately.
The basic idea behind all this was a divide-and-conquer strategy – as Caesar clearly enunciated. And which was the downfall of the Roman Empire. It seemed to be the road to unlimited power – but in reality, it was the path to total collapse. A collapse we are also seeing in our own time – as Colonialism is collapsing.
The reason for this is simple enough. The world is not complicated (composed of many independent separate events) that can be broken apart and analyzed separately. It is complex (where everything effects everything else).
I am tempted to go into Complexity Theory (a very important discovery) but that would be too much of a digression. Take it from me – it is a big deal, and represents a break from the past. Just as the Computer represents a break with the past. But in both cases unacknowledged breaks.
It is possible to find things that can be analyzed and exploited separately (in the manner of a laboratory experiment). And this kind of exploitation is what made the Industrial Revolution such a success. The discovery of oil – and seemingly unlimited power – drove people completely crazy.
But, as we are finding out, there is no free lunch. And everything is linked to everything else.
I have relatives (distant relatives, it is true) who are in the oil business in Texas. All of their oil wells were running dry – until fracking was discovered. Now they are ecstatic - they are rich! A mad scramble is on to frack as much and as fast as possible.
No one – and I mean no one – is saying “What do we do when the oil runs out?” The answer seems to be “Who cares? We will solve that problem when we get to it!”
This assumes that the problem can be solved – and solved easily. When every indication is to the contrary. There are plenty of situations where there is no way out – and we seem to be in one of those.