That the modern outlook has all the hallmarks of a religion never occurs to a thoroughly modern person (whom I’ll refer to merely as a “modern”). A modern believes that the modern outlook is above and outside all superstition and groundless belief. In effect, the modern outlook is a myth that does not believe it is a myth.
In using the word “myth,” I do not mean to label the modern outlook false. In this context myth is simply a narrative that outlines a worldview. It turns out that a myth of any vintage, ancient or modern, can be a powerful tool in motivating behavior, in explaining and manipulating the world, and in assigning meaning to human existence. And any myth of any vintage can turn out simply to be mistaken in some or all of its details.
The modern myth has some unique characteristics that make it particularly powerful and particularly dangerous at the same time. The modern myth tells us the following about the world and our place in it:
- Humans are in one category and nature is in another.
- Scale doesn’t matter.
- History can be safely ignored since modern society has seen through the delusions of the past.
- Science is a unified, coherent field that explains the rational principles by which we can manage the physical world.
Let me take these claims one at a time.
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