[ExI] Carl Sagan once conjectured that, if things had gone right, we'd be flying to the stars today

John Grigg possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com
Tue Aug 3 10:04:01 UTC 2010

Who is really to blame for what appeared to Carl Sagan, to be at least
500 years of lost time and opportunity in the development of human
science and technology?

>From Wikiquotes, quoting COSMOS:
Imagine how different our world would be if those discoveries had been
explained and used for the benefit of everyone, if the humane
perspective of Eratosthenes had been widely adopted and applied. But
this was not to be. Alexandria was the greatest city the Western world
had ever seen. People from all nations came here to live to trade to
learn, on a given day these harbours were thronged with merchants and
scholars and tourists, it's probably here that the word Cosmopolitan
realised its true meaning of a citizen not just of a nation but of the
Cosmos, to be a citizen of the Cosmos.

Here were clearly the seeds of our modern world, but why didn't they
take root and flourish why instead did the Western world slumber
through a 1000 years of darkness until Columbus and Copernicus and
their contemporaries rediscovered the work done here? I cannot give
you a simple answer but I do know this, there is no record in the
entire history of the library that any of the illustrious scholars and
scientists who worked here ever seriously challenged a single
political or economic or religious assumption of the society in which
they lived. The permanence of the stars was questioned, the justice of
slavery was not.

 I remember Sagan stating how a small steam engine developed by a
Greek was seen as a mere entertaining toy by his countrymen, and the
great potential of it totally eluded them.  And this was probably in
large part due to their slave based economy.  And Sagan painfully (at
least for me) lamented that if not for lost opportunities due to the
Greeks (I would also add the Romans), and the following darkness of
the Middle Ages, we would have starships returning to Earth from
expeditions to Alpha Centauri right now!  And so in other words, we
would be at least *500 years* more technologically advanced than we
are now!!!

My question is, to what extent should we really portion out blame to
the Greeks, Romans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Medieval Europe for
what happened?  And where could things have gone very right?  And why
did they not?

Correspondingly, what caused The Enlightment to germinate and bring
forth an on-going transformation that eluded the lofty Greeks and
Medieval Europe?

A part of me thinks that an immature and violent 15th century Europe
(or a Greek world that never fell) with nukes would be a recipe for
the permanent end of civilization! lol  Perhaps things actually did
work out for the best, because as it is, we as a race were just barely
capable of handling the awful responsibilities that come with weapons
of mass destruction.

What do you think?

John  : )

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