How-to Books Paved the Way for Science and Secularism -- An Essay by William Eamon at Aeon

This essay could go into science or atheism threads, but it seems of general interest too. Its author says that when the first ‘how-to’ books began to explain the way the world worked, they paved the way for science and secularism. Find it at:

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Good article. While he dismisses the Reformation as a major contributor to secularism, I would argue that Wycliffe (and later people like Luther) turned European religion upside down, translating the Bible into common tongue (often illegally) radically undermined the priestly control of all things, both religious and secular. If the common man could 'talk to God', the priesthood became unnecessary.

It's certainly reasonable that some of the change was top-down and some of it was bottom-up.

How-to-do books opened up the curtain of magic, superstition, mystery, and the enchanted world of religion. In a disenchanted world "everything becomes understandable and tameable:'

The German sociologist Max Weber, in his influential The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), wrote of the ‘disenchantment of the world’ that took place in the early modern period, a cultural seachange that he regarded as a hallmark of modernity. Weber said the change entailed the conviction that ‘there are no mysterious incalculable forces’ in nature; the natural world is – at least in principle – knowable, predictable, and manipulable. In a disenchanted world, everything becomes understandable and tameable, even if it is not yet understood and tamed. Instead of the ‘great enchanted garden’ of the late medieval world – an Edenic state guided by divine inspiration – Weber saw the early modern world as human-centred, and the universe as dead and impersonal.




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