Post Author: Bill Pratt
Many people in our western civilization are optimistic that things are always getting better. If we continue to invest in education, if we produce more advanced technology, and if we push scientific understanding as far as it can go, then we will eventually reach a paradise on earth. This paradise is inevitable, they believe.
This optimism can be traced back to the eighteenth century, to the period known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment thinkers sincerely believed that man’s reasoning powers were unlimited and that science and technology would eventually prevail. According to Professor William F. Lawhead, one of the central beliefs of the Enlightenment was that “all problems, theoretical or social, can be solved through science and concerted, rational effort.” Sound familiar?
Those who continue to hold to the ideals of the Enlightenment, however, have at least one major counter-example to answer to, that of the Holocaust. I was reminded of this counter-example by Professor J. T. Bridges, whose research yielded the following chilling quotation from author Michael Berenbaum:
The Holocaust, by its scope, nature, and magnitude transforms our understanding of human culture and human existence. An unspoken premise of the advocates of culture and education is that the refinements of culture and learning somehow make us into better people and intensify our moral worth. Yet the Holocaust was perpetrated not by the least cultured and least sophisticated of nations but by the most cultured and most advanced of societies. Furthermore, the elements within that society that proved capable of perpetrating the evils were not the least cultured, but came from all spectrums of society including philosophers and scientists, musicians and engineers, lawyers and ministers, artists and intellectuals. No segment of German society proved immune. . . . We see that people could love good music and kill young children.
A people with some of the most advanced science and technology, sophisticated culture, turned into Nazi Germany. You will excuse me if I harbor some doubts about the utopian hopes of our modern day Enlightened. Clearly science and technology, education and culture did nothing but make the Nazis into more scientifically advanced, more educated, and more culturally sophisticated killers.