Par David Deming:
The late Joseph Campbell maintained that civilizations are not based on science, but on myth. "Aspiration," Campbell explained, "is the motivator, builder, and transformer of civilization." Our technological society has been built on Francis Bacon's myth of the New Atlantis. Bacon was the first person to unambiguously and explicitly advocate the practical application of scientific knowledge to human needs. "The true and lawful goal of the sciences," he explained, "is that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers." Writing in the early seventeenth century, Francis Bacon predicted lasers, genetic engineering, airplanes, and submarines.
Competing with Bacon's vision of a society based on science is the older and more persistent fable of the Noble Savage. The Noble Savage is not a person, but an idea. It is cultural primitivism, the belief of people living in complex and evolved societies that the simple and primitive life is better. The Noble Savage is the myth that man can live in harmony with nature, that technology is destructive, and that we would all be happier in a more primitive state.
Before Jesus Christ lived, the Noble Savage was known to the Hebrews as the Garden of Eden. The Greek poet Hesiod (c. 700 BC) called it the Golden Age. In the lost Golden Age, people lived in harmony with nature. There was no disease, pain, work, or conflict. Everyone lived in perfect peace. Insects didn't bite you. There were no extremes of temperature, and you could wander naked through the fields. If you happened to be hungry, all you had to do to satisfy your craving was reach up and pick a sumptuous ripe fruit off a nearby tree.
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