restricted access The Intelligent Design of Modern Rationalism
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10 Historically Speaking March/April 2006 in Europe only in the 16th century m direct response to discoveries that shattered the authority ofthe religious and classical knowledge that had dominated Christendom for the previous fifteen centuries. There was nothing particularly Christian or capitalist about it, and one ofthe striking features ofEuropean history is precisely how what had been the earliest Christian and most advanced capitalist society in Europe, namely Italy, was left behind in this process after the 1640s. Throughout the world there had been since antiquity four major sources ofknowledge and authority (which were closely conjoined): tradition , revelation, reason, and observation. In times ofsocial crisis people naturally turned to tradition and revelation for comfort, as these sources of knowledge—sanctioned by long use or divine inspiration—were generally held to be superior to knowledge gained by mere reason (which could deceive) or experience (where the senses could be fooled or play tricks). Rulers, too, preferred to rely on tradition and religion to support their power and authority. Official imposition of orthodoxy was the typical response to disorder. This was what blocked the advance of science outside of Europe. This pattern generally prevailed in Europe as well, where in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance authors often used false names or ancient attributions to gain the authority of antiquity for their own writings, and reason—as Stark mentions—was used mainly as the handmaiden ofreligion to explicate sacred texts and the relationship ofman to God. Even in 17th-century Europe rulers from Louis XIV (whose revocation of the Edict of Nantes expelled hundreds of thousands of industrious Protestants from France) to Counter-Reformation Spain, Italy, and Austria sought stability in the promotion oforthodoxy. It was only the diffusion in the 17th century of a new standard of knowledge:—the idea that public experiments with instrumental apparatus were a superior source of knowledge about the universe, better than reason or revelation, better than tradition or everyday experience—that opened the pathway to rapid discovery and the development of new techniques of engineering and production. Although it took nearly two centuries for the new knowledge and techniques to transform industry, when they did—and only then—did European technology, productivity, and weaponry truly come to dominate the world. Jack Goldstone is the Virginia E. and John T. Hazel Jr. Professor at the George Mason School ofPublic Policy. Among his recent worL· are "More Social Movements or Fewer? Beyond Political Opportunity Structures to Relational Fields, " Theory and Society 33 (2004): 333-365 and "Response: Reasoning about History, Sociologically, " Sociological Methodology 34 (2004): 3561 . 1 Kenneth Pomeranz and Steven Topic, The World that Trade Created {U.E. Sharpe, 1999), 22. 2 Cited in Jack Goody, The East in the West (Cambridge University Press, 1996), 13. 3 The Pasteur Institute, ntiquity.html; see also the article on Jabir at (1/20/05). uence.htm (1/20/05). 5 For illustrations of Sassanid armored cavalry, see 6 Robert Finlay, "The Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History," Journal of World History 9 (1998): 155-56, 168. 7 Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Merchants, Markets, and the State in Early Modern India (Oxford University Press, 1990); Subrahmanyam, The Political Economy ofCommerce: Southern India, 1500-1650 (Cambridge University Press, 1990). 8 K. Yamamura and T. Kamiki, "Silver Mines and Sung Coins—A Monetary History of Medieval and Modern Japan in International Perspective," in J. F. Richards, ed., Precious Metals in the Later Medieval and Early Modern World (Carolina Academic Press, 1983), 329-362. 9 See the essays in Robert C. Allen, Tommy Bengtsson, and Martin Dribe, eds., Living Standards in the Past: New Perspectives on WeilBeing in Asia and Europe (Oxford University Pess, 2005). 10Robert C. Allen, "The Great Divergence: Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History 38 (2001): 41 1-447; Allen, "Real Wages in Europe and Asia" in Allen, Bengtsson, and Dribe.eds., Living Standards in the Past, 111-130. The Intelligent Design of Modern Rationalism James Muldoon ^ odney Stark has written the...