The Cycle of Scientific Conquest

Before the scientific revolution much of knowledge that was not known was considered unimportant if it was not recorded in the Bible. World leaders had little incentive to fund or encourage scientific research. For much of history the best minds were used for training troops and giving meaning to death rather than developing new weapons or to make advancements in medicine (Harari p. 267).  It wasn’t until the 16th century that humans began to fund scientific studies to accomplish political, economic, and religious goals.  It was then that building an empire became a scientific project and setting up a scientific discipline became an imperial project (Harari p. 297).  Scientific projects received funding by appealing to political, economic, and religious goals of world leaders who continued to invest more after each successful project.  As a result, capitalism and scientific research became strongly connected with most scientific research supporting some economic goal in hopes of finding a sponsor while capitalism relies on new developments in scientific research to grow the economy and prevent the economic crisis (Harari p. 315).

Harari argues for the importance of progress in the linkage of science, empire, and capitalism.  Without progress trust will not form and without trust there is little incentive for sponsors to fund scientific research (Harari p. 311).  The importance of building trust is evident in the European conquest.  When Christopher Columbus first brought the proposal to finance a fleet to sail westward and establish a new trade route he was rejected multiple times before the rulers of Spain finally agreed to his proposal.  Most sponsors saw little guarantee that the investment would yield a return (Harari p. 316).  However, hundreds of years later princes and bankers were willing to extend far more credit to successive voyages after Columbus brought back gold, silver, sugar, and tobacco that enriched the Spanish rulers (Harari p. 317).  Thus, begun a cycle that created larger trust in future growth, larger investments, and fast growth in both European conquest and scientific research.