Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Different Histories

How many alternative courses of history are imaginable? An indefinite number. What would have been the consequences of any specific alteration to historical events? For example, would it have been good or bad for civilization if Alexander the Great had lived longer? Poul Anderson and SM Stirling present opposite answers in "Eutopia" and Conquistador, respectively.

Was monotheism necessary for the development of science and, if so, did it have to be Semitic monotheism? In "Delenda Est," Manse Everard says:

"'As Whitehead pointed out, the medieval idea of one almighty God was important to the growth of science, by inculcating the notion of lawfulness in nature.'"
-Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006), p. 196.

However, in Is There Life On Other Worlds?, Poul Anderson argues that science is the joining of logic and theory with data and technique. This possibly happened because Germanic barbarians, not regarding themselves as above work or trade, were confronted with the problems and labor shortage of the falling Empire. Sharp logical reasoning was provided by Christian theologians but this was because their ideology required unanimity, not necessarily because it was monotheist.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I don't think the answers to the question of what kind of world resulting from an Alexander the Great who lived to old age given by Anderson and Stirling in "Eutopia" and CONQUISTADOR were all that "opposite." They are both, in different ways, very unsatisfactory. The Greek timeline in "Eutopia" seems to have become stagnant (as well as having gross evils like institutionalized child abuse) and the alternate line given by Stirling never developed a true science or technology higher than about AD 1300 in our world.