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What Drives a Civilization to Pursuit Science?

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posted on Jan, 15 2005 @ 09:04 PM
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Has anyone else noticed that major advances in science and technology have only come in the past 2-4 centuries? What caused our societies to pursuit knowledge? The Chinese and Hindu did it for a while, the Europeans almost always did it, but others, such as the African tribes, never really got any farther than fire, maybe possibly the wheel. Ideas?

Also, during and before the Middle Ages, people didn't really care that they were oppressed by kings, and that they weren't focusing on science. People in ancient Rome were almost equally as advanced as the nations of the Middle Ages.

[edit on 15-1-2005 by invader_chris]




posted on Jan, 15 2005 @ 09:12 PM
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Jared Diamond addresses this at length in his Pulitzer Prize winning book "Guns, Germs, And Steel"

Many factors are involved but inherent intellectual superiority is not one of them.



posted on Jan, 15 2005 @ 10:10 PM
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Probably first living in a time/place where you are not constantly bombarded with or subject to major calamities and can quietly and calmly study small or common things in great detail. If life is constant, famine, drought, war, flood, malaria, etc it is difficult to pay attention to some little details about how crops grow best, etc..

Secondly the cultural and/or personal acceptance that careful study of both standard and unusual phenomenon of the Universe gives insight into how it works. This creates a kind of compounding effect. People anticipating some sort of results [reward] more easily invest time and energy in it.

The incentive to do science probably has more to do with curiosity, discovering the unknown and sometimes even romantic/mystic notions about how things work. It is interesting that many early scientists had some pretty wild ideas about things. Of course that should be countered with the fact that many scientific ideas we now take for granted were once considered radical, delusional, psychotic and/or heretical.

What I find more interesting is the ability of the creative mind/imagination to create completely new things that have never existed before. This is how new inventions and technologies are produced, Math, Science, Engineering, and imagination all working together.
.



posted on Jan, 16 2005 @ 01:05 AM
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I'vre read G,G,&S twice and like it a lot. I don't like Diamond that much. though; he strikes me as being a bit too "politically correct", especially where he goes out of his way to reiterate that his hypotheses has absolutely nothing to do with correlationsb between race and various activity because such a view -- even thinking about it -- is "racist".

And yet, on several occasions, both at the front and near the end of the bok, he presupposes that Papua/New Guinea natives are inherently smarter than Europeans.

To my mind, this is hypocrisy if I ever saw it.

Of course neither I nor anyone else hasn't a clue as to any sort of racial correlative; it's now politically incorrect to the point of academic suicide to even discuss a study of such.

And it is this fear of even contemplating such a correlation that lessens both G,G,&S and Jared Diamond himself in my eyes.

Nonetheless, that didn't stop me from getting his new book (which I got in hardbound because I didn't want to wait): "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed".

Finally, if you like (or even dislike) Diamond, you must read a brilliant counterpoint: "Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power", by Victor Davis Hanson.

Dr. Hanson is one of the world authorities on classical warfare. He took his PhD in the classics at Stanford and was visiting professor of Military History at the US Naval Academy. He is certainly no wild-eyed weenie, and proposes that it is in fact Western culture and values–the tradition of dissent, the value placed on inventiveness and adaptation, the concept of citizenship–which have consistently produced superior arms and soldiers.

Love them or loathe them, no library is complete without at least one book by both Hanson and Diamond.



posted on Jan, 16 2005 @ 01:41 AM
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Originally posted by Off_The_Street
Nonetheless, that didn't stop me from getting his new book (which I got in hardbound because I didn't want to wait): "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed".


Heard it was a good book, in spite of being immersed in mind takingly detailed facts. I am still waiting to get my hands on one of those. Perhaps you can give me a short review of his book.

Getting back to topic on hand, the answer your question, at least what I think it is, is that it is the same thing that drives people to attain bigger and better things in life.

There have always been two types of people in the world, one which simply accepts what the religion/culture says, other that questions them. More the latter people, faster the technological advances occur.

Like slank pointed out, it would have been incredibly tough for Albert Einstein to invent this theory of relativity and gravitation, if he was too busy standing in unemployment lines waiting for his daily ration of oat meal. The more prosperous the nation is, the better chances for the people to pursue arts and sciences. All the cultures the author pointed out have been very wealthy while the major technological growth spurt occured. Perhaps in the future, when Africa comes out of its AIDS and poverty problems, it may catch up with the tech leaders of today.

Surf



posted on Jan, 16 2005 @ 11:04 AM
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i say its a combination of alternating periods of war, peace, and revolution.
if a nation or civilization has a period of prosperity that lasts too long, then the culture and advancements might stagnate. During times of peace, "less imediately applicable" ideas surface through careful research. During war, faster advances occur in an attempt to win the war, though most are geared towards killing or preventing the killing.



posted on Jan, 16 2005 @ 02:30 PM
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I think it largely is dependent upon the conditions that a society arises in. In other words, its all about location. A poor climate or poor natural resources really hurt a society's ability to advance as they're more worried about just surviving than they are about any technological advancement. Europe and the US both were in excellent positions in this regard and the results tend to bear that out.

Location also plays another major role, and that's in trade. Look at the Europeans. Even though they started behind Northern Africa and the Eastern Mediteranean, their superior climate and resources allowed them to quickly catch up in the times of the Greeks and Romans. However, it was their positioning that really placed them over the top. That positioning, right smack in the middle of the Mediterranean allowed them to trade not only goods and services with the other civilizations of the region, but also put them in the best position to acquire the best developments from each and incorporate them into their own societies. This has become less of a factor in the last 100 years or so (especially the last 50) as we've become more of a global society due to technological advancements, but its still a problem in remote regions.

So, they basically cheated by making the developments of others their own, but it worked. That, I believe, is why societies like sub Saharan Africa never developed over the centuries; they were technologically isolated from the rest of the world.



posted on Jan, 16 2005 @ 03:17 PM
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Originally posted by invader_chris
Has anyone else noticed that major advances in science and technology have only come in the past 2-4 centuries? What caused our societies to pursuit knowledge? The Chinese and Hindu did it for a while, the Europeans almost always did it, but others, such as the African tribes, never really got any farther than fire, maybe possibly the wheel. Ideas?


I totally disagree with your assesment of timeframes. No offense, but your thinking is very flawed. The foundations of modern scientific advanaces were developed thousands of years ago and routed in math, etc.

Now, Europe is a very populous place, so one would expect major advances, as the odds of a genius are directly proportional to the population. And once you get the ball rolling, it keeps rolling.

Plus the lands in Europe and Asia to a lesser extent are much easier on people than most areas of Africa. So you need to spend less time worrying about the important things, like 'WTF am I going to eat' and can spend more time on relatively trivial things like 'Does zero exist', etc., etc., etc.

As I said, tech leads to more tech, which leads to more tech, which leads to more tech, each time getting faster and faster. It's like a nuclear reaction going critical really.



Also, during and before the Middle Ages, people didn't really care that they were oppressed by kings, and that they weren't focusing on science. People in ancient Rome were almost equally as advanced as the nations of the Middle Ages.

[edit on 15-1-2005 by invader_chris]


Who's to say they didn't care LOL... I wasn't there
. Like I said it's a case of having more important things to worry about, like food and survival. Scientific exploration is a luxury. If you can afford it, you are living in a relatively comfortable world, as far as base needs go. Just look at the relationship of current research to economic/standard of living data. The correlation still holds true today.

Regards,

Osiris



posted on Jan, 16 2005 @ 08:11 PM
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Interesting topic. Those who have the time to ask those question are the ones that ask. If you not spending most of your time trying to stay alive you have the time to ask those questions. I'd agree that location plays a major role.



posted on Jan, 16 2005 @ 08:53 PM
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Originally posted by outsider
Interesting topic. Those who have the time to ask those question are the ones that ask. If you not spending most of your time trying to stay alive you have the time to ask those questions. I'd agree that location plays a major role.


Thank you for saying it much more concisely than I managed to ROFL..

Osiris



posted on Jan, 17 2005 @ 12:40 AM
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Several of you have presented war as an incentive for science.

[Drats! My hide-bound peacenik side is exposed]

I think there is a strong impetus for technological advancements in a competive environment such as war. [I actually think a terrified peace works even better, like the cold war]. Also competitive economics can advance technology as well.
These push technology, but pull science along with it.

Ancient China and Egypt both attained high civilizations, but did both stall out IMO because of zero real competition.

I think it also has to do with pride/ego/stature as well. The attempt to prove you, your philosophy, ideology and even in some cases religion are better than someone else's pushes the envelope of known and accomplished things.

I think competition produces the most results when opponents are well matched. The harder they have to work for smaller advantages keeps them working tooth and nail to get ahead of one another. This causes technology and science to advance as fast as possible.

Once one of the parties overwhelms the others it [and everyone else] tends to sit on its laurels and cogitate, instead of working to get ahead.
Stagnation is a word that comes to mind.
.



posted on Jan, 17 2005 @ 07:06 PM
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Well, one invention leads to another, and given that we are 1000x as many people as X years ago, we should see about 1000x as many inventions. On top of that, former inventions has lead to better communications, manufacturing methods, better materials, etc. etc., which again leads to maybe 10x as many inventions.

So this means that they probably invented just as much as we do, based on their population and technology levels.
And its quite wrong to say that they all major inventions came in the last ~300 years! The wheel, iron/bronze working, clay-houses and so on and so on... Just because a crossbow didnt have bluetooth and a built-in dish-washer, didnt mean it was an invention anyone could come up with! It was a major breakthrough.



posted on Jan, 18 2005 @ 09:02 AM
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I personally think this is much simpler than some of you are making out, it all derives from SEX! And aquiring a mate, the more powerful an influential an individual is the more attractive they are.

The development of science is just an evolution of instinct.



posted on Jan, 18 2005 @ 05:42 PM
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Originally posted by AnnoDomini2
I personally think this is much simpler than some of you are making out, it all derives from SEX! And aquiring a mate, the more powerful an influential an individual is the more attractive they are.

The development of science is just an evolution of instinct.


Well for what it's worth I think that's a vast over simplification, although you may be right with respect to the true root cause of our advancement. I do think some of it is born out of natural curiousity though.

I know myself, I've always mucked around with science, not to get chicks, but because I'm a nosey SOB


Osiris



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