The Religious, Scientific, Cultural, and Economic Foundations of America

Y. Datta


Historian Lynn White wanted to understand why the Western civilization had exploited nature so much that its own quality of life--even its survival--was now at stake. White concluded that the answer is: the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The environmental movement began in the early 1960s, with far-reaching changes in American values and attitudes, that were powering a growing interest in wilderness and its preservation.

By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. Severed from the human community and its ethical protection, nature was fully exposed to human greed.

Aristotle’s scientific philosophy of nature—animate and alive—dominated Western thought for two thousand years after his death. But thanks to the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, the notion of an organic and spiritual universe was replaced by that of the world as a machine, and the word machine became a dominant metaphor of the modern era.

It was around 1850, that Western Europe and North America arranged a marriage between science and technology that signified the Baconian creed of power over nature. Its acceptance as a normal pattern of action may mark the greatest event in human history since the invention of agriculture.

Perhaps the most profound legacy of the Scientific Revolution is the principle of reductionism that encourages an atomistic and disintegrated view of nature. As a result, we have the Faustian bargain of Hydrogen bombs that pose an existential threat to the universe.

Individualism is first on the list of American cultural heritage. Next is the “Bootstrap philosophy.” This phrase has become part of American mythology, and the nation’s attitude toward helping those in society that have been left behind; and we lecture them to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. Next are the negative attitudes toward government that are unjustified. Then there is the free-market crusade that has led to American economic decline. And next, this is their promised Utopia for what ails America:

  • “Privatization, deregulation, downsizing, shrinking entitlements, and lower taxes.”

Smith’s explanation of the paradox of the interplay between supply and demand, is an important scientific contribution to society. But, why then did he cross that line, and enter the domain of metaphysics with his proclamation that “consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production”?

Yet, he put no limits on consumption and left the door of overconsumption wide open.

Smith says that in an unfettered market--propelled by competition among self-interested sellers and buyers--the invisible hand will then allocate goods efficiently.

However, one of the best-kept secrets in economics is that there is no case for the “invisible hand.”

Finally, Adam Smith ignored the Industrial Revolution? This is because his static theory could not handle innovation.

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