The problem is much deeper in the West

This is an excellent summary of the key issues facing modern civilization at the end of the Age of Enlightenment. There is so much to note here but I will limit this to a suggested elaboration on the basic theme of humanity as above and outside of nature. That is our greatest error at this point but that was not obvious in any but philosophical terms until the turn of the 21st century. The completely unanticipated results of the development of the most successful economic system for exploitation of our planetary resources may be our end. At this point we have only very minor change to show for twenty years of absolute scientific knowledge of these changes and an infantile reaction to the lessons being taught by the universe of which we are a part. But I think it is simplistic to lay all the blame at the altar of the Enlightenment.

The development of what is still commonly called the Scientific Revolution was very much a result of the European Renaissance that restored the rational mind in balance with the spiritual/divine, and natural/tangible. These intellectual efforts began a long and difficult process of isolating and reducing superstition, i.e. religion, from human existence. The process is very long as we still have sections of the planet caught in the hellscape of neolithic mythology. In fact we have retrograde and reactionary political forces that still hype the value of these ancient mythologies to deny the realities that they find threatening to their wealth and power. All of this is part of the evolution of the Enlightenment as a social and political (philosophical) implementation of rational order of the physical universe on human society. This gave rise to the social sciences which returned humans to the realm of the natural for rational study. While in very broad terms what you say is correct it misses the range of goals and successes of the Enlightenment while failing to recognize the size of the problem they faced.

The problem is religion and western civilization had a very bad case of it. The causes and implications of that are a whole other issue so let me just say that the problem that you claim as the fault of the Enlightenment was the fault of the Roman development of Christianity as an official religion. This empowered the Roman Empire for nearly 1,400 years as it did not end until the fall of Constantinople in 1415. The entire development of Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition placed humanity above all nature with ability to understand nature other than as a resource made available for human use by god. You note the problem arising in the origin myths but with some notable exceptions the entire movement of science to Enlightenment was a struggle to move the concept of a completely tyrannical divinity out of the way of human knowledge. They did a pretty good job even if the mopping up is still in process.

The crucial failure to replace humanity in the universe as a component was not recognized until the 20th century as he critical failure that is has become. But my contention that this is a much deeper failure of western cultural tradition will, I think, play out much more significantly now. The other great civilization is in the process of restoring its dominance at the planetary level. The Chinese civilizations recognized very early the necessity of controlling the popular penchant and desire for spiritual based mythology and magic. In contrast Rome adopted the lead Mystery Cult of Eastern Mediterranean without much thought beyond maintaining the political loyalty of its conquered populations. This turned the religious structure of Rome into a permanent competing party in the Empire.

China early redesigned the various popular aspects of mystical tradition into rational moral philosophy and popular folk tales with official blessing. While religious traditions are primarily political organizations they are always potential competitors for power. That works on a practical level of providing human services if there is no alternative. It is critically important that elements of the population that are prone to mystical sources of knowledge are provided scientifically valid sources with only the mode of metaphor being different. In other words same message, different medium. China has worked on the basis of that for over two thousand years. Not always successfully but much more than anything in the western civilization.

Most importantly the approved mystical systems of knowledge were kept focused on the physical world around us as both force and moral indicator. Natural disasters are the result of human failure specifically in government. This gives a profound edge to China in the fight for planetary sustainability that we all recognize as the ultimate necessity of the 21st century. Not surprisingly once China signed the Paris accord massive action is being taken with the very nearly full commitment of all populations. While America, still burdened with ancient superstition as a political club, has fallen into impending chaos. Western Europe as with much fuller Enlightenment roots is making the necessary changes. The Middle East still in the depths of religion is totally at the mercy of individual autocratic rulers. And India struggles to make science rule. Another story.

Educator, CIO, retired entrepreneur, grandfather with occasional fits of humor in the midst of disaster. . .

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