Goodbye to the Old World

Europe – Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment – 1600 > 1800


            Looking through our hindsight glasses, it would appear that by 1600, Europe had everything it needed to rise to the top of the sociological food chain, finally competing with the superior civilizations of the East.  After the waning days of the Romans, the Europeans slipped into a deep sleep of ineptitude, seemingly oblivious to the intellectual evolutions of the Muslim, Indian and Chinese empires.  But by 1600, wasn’t Europe ready to eclipse the rest of the world, and for the first time since the Greeks, establish that they were the center of all learning and innovation?

            Not yet.

            Had they started to learn how to farm efficiently?  Check.  Had people started moving to cities where the process of change could occur more quickly?  Check.  Had universities begun springing up throughout these budding towns so learning could be freely dispensed?  Check.  Had the legitimacy of the Church been challenged by the Crusade failures, its impotency to stop the Black Plague and the Protestant Reformation?  Check.  Had the printing press been invented so knowledge could be shared efficiently across the continent?  Check.  Had the Europeans explored beyond their borders, bringing back not only the wisdom of other peoples, but the wisdom of their own ancestors?  Check.  And had the artists and great thinkers of the time started looking more to themselves and humanity for inspiration?  Check.

            But still, Europeans were a bunch of knuckleheads.  It’s not that these pale-faced humans weren’t smart (intelligence doesn’t just get lost for a thousand years), but they were illogical.  And they were scared.  Brilliant men did exist, but in a sea of absurdity and persecution, who would have the courage to actually stand up to reveal that the emperor’s new clothes weren’t exactly attractive? All around Europe, it appeared the intellectual gains of the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration and the Reformation were only mere blips in the development of the European noggin, because the irrationality of society kept returning.  In 1600, people still hunted down and tortured witches, blaming them for unexplainable acts of nature.  Women were still treated as inferior members of the species, to be protected and confined to the domestic sphere.  Children were to be seen and not heard, to be beaten not praised.  The ill were still vulnerable to the wacked out theories of pseudo-doctors, where even the most important individual in society might die from being bled to relieve a headache.

              The world was still a scary, unexplainable place where humans’ only chance at survival was appealing to God to help protect them from the danger and the devil that lurked around every corner.  The masses passively accepted their authority figures, merely wandering through the darkness, unable to get out of the cave of misunderstanding to...