The New Trinity

In Part Four of his book, Harari addresses the Scientific Revolution, specifically the relationship between imperialism, capitalism, and science, and their role in the advancement of European societies. Harari explains that most scientific discovery has been funded because of the benefactor’s belief that the discovery will help to increase his or her profits or power over subjects. One example of this process was the journey to Australia led by James Cook in 1768. The expedition’s purpose was to collect data on the Venus transit, as well as to record botanical, zoological, and anthropological data (among other sciences). Although the Royal Society financed a large majority of the mission, the ship, men, and equipment were provided by the Royal Navy (Harari 277). This was not because the Royal Navy had a militant interest in the movement of planets, but rather because much of the data collected had political and military value. The mission resulted in the discovery of the cure of scurvy, and the claim of Australia by Britain. The expedition served as the foundation for British conquest of Australia and other locations, and it helped to expand the British empire. In a similar manner, capitalism has led many businessmen and businesswomen to fund scientific research in hopes of a new, profitable discovery. The principles of trusting in the future, and reinvesting into the system serve as two fundamental building blocks for capitalism and for the monetary backing of scientific discovery. For example, a business owner may invest in research into making their corporation run more efficiently. The investment may not present any immediate profits for the company, but the owner believes that in the long-term, a discovery will be made that will return the investment. Simultaneously, this money move may result in the naming of a new economic law or principle, or a discovery that changes how we view automation. Just like imperialists, an interest in the externalities of discovery causes capitalists to fund scientific advancements.

Harari’s argument for the idea of “progress” revolves around the idea of accepting that we do not know everything. As Sapiens began to look for explanations to the unknown outside of scripture and ancient myths, the fire of scientific, economic, and empirical advancement was lit. In example, those who admitted that maps could be “empty” were hungry for discovery of the unknown. Hoping to find resources and new land, explorers fueled the fire and were responsible for some of the most significant scientific advancements (Theory of Evolution) to date.

2 thoughts on “The New Trinity”

  1. I agree that Harari viewed progress as means to accept the unknown that surrounds us, but it also allowed us to challenge what is truly unknown rather than accept all as a mystery. For example, until the 1900s, scientists had no idea what the inside of the atom looked like, and many people thought it was only something we could speculate upon. As technology and theories evolved with time and research, we were able to divulge into the seemingly impossible. Take someone from the 1800s, if you were to drop them in today’s society they would be astonished by the scientific achievements that we take for granted everyday. While progress does offer us a means to accept that we still have more to discovery, it also fuels us to pursue those discoveries rather than remain blissful unaware of the world around us.

  2. Bryce Dawkins
    Hi Connor,, I enjoyed your paper very much I did notice we had many of the same outlooks on the topic so that was refreshing. What did stick out to me was your point about money, this playing a huge factor on why the Royal Society funded the expedition. Along with money and possibly fame being a reason to do certain things regarding expeditions I thought your outlook on the military advantage was great as well. Do you believe there was any other reason besides money, fame and military advantage that was the backing to go on this expedition? It’s hard to believe that there was no want or need to know the transit of the Venus Transit. Was greed and power the only reason our past philosophers and military did certain things, was it about conquering the world or was it about understanding the world? I’m not disagreeing with you I’m just looking from a different outlook on why in the past we have done certain things. Touching on Hararis outlook on progress I agree with your claims but on top of not knowing everything, progress helps us to uncover new questions and new possible questions. Progress is helping us in the process of understanding and growth in the world but along with progress we find more difficult questions and different perspectives to observe from.

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