Laura Spinney asks:
End of days: Is Western civilisation on the brink of collapse?: History tells us all cultures have their sell-by date. Do political strife, crippling inequality and climate change mean the West’s time is now up
Scientists, historians and politicians alike have begun to warn that Western culture is reaching a critical juncture. Cycles of inequality and resource use are heading for a tipping point that in many past civilisations precipitated political unrest, war and finally collapse. (paywall) More.
Aw, Laura, lose the sandwich board! The collapse of Western civilization has been prophesied throughout the twentieth century.
In fairness, now that arts faculties mainly teach victimhood and grievance instead of arts and letters, many educated people may not know that.*
They also wouldn’t know that in many civilizations inequality has always been considered the way things ought to be and violence has been a mere fact of everyday life.
The West was different because it envisioned a better way, though it doesn’t always work.
Resources? Resources are not a fixed thing. For millennia, most power was human and animal muscle. The advantage was, we didn’t need to know much in order to use them.
Steam, coal, oil, and nuclear power were all discovered as resources in recent centuries by people who applied scientific reasoning to nature. There is no reason to think, in principle, that inventions will stop now.
The disadvantages of a given resource tend to be most noticed when replacements are becoming available. For example, there is nothing like a market-viable hybrid electric car that can be charged overnight in the garage at low time-of-use rates to cause people to do more than gripe about the cost of gas.
Yes, there are serious problems as naturalism – not Western civilization – reaches an end stage. But what use would New Scientist be in sorting that out?
Here, we’d give Western civilization better odds than New Scientist, which got sold by Elsevier a while back to an “investment vehicle,” and is struggling like the rest of the pop science media with the tough demands of getting serious today.
* Then of course there is the toxic campus snowflake who thinks that Orwell’s Newspeak Dictionary is replacing Oxford. He’d better also know how to make good coffee… those are the grounds he’ll be depending on if the rest of us have any luck.
See also: New Scientist author supports Popular Science shutting down comments.
Can science survive long in a post-modern world? It’s not clear.