Old Ideas to the Rescue: Ross Douthat

Old Ideas to the Rescue: Ross Douthat March 15, 2015

Ross Douthat:


But the assumption, deeply ingrained in our intelligentsia, that everything depends on finding the most modern and “scientific” alternative to older verities has been tested repeatedly — with mostly dire results. The 19th-century theories that cast themselves as entirely new and modern were the ones that devastated the 20th century, loosing fascism and Marxism on the world.

Which makes Harari’s concluding provocation feel like an unintended warning: “In terms of ideas, in terms of religions,” he argues, “the most interesting place today in the world is Silicon Valley, not the Middle East.” It’s in Silicon Valley that people are “creating new religions” — techno-utopian, trans-humanist — and it’s those religions “that will take over the world.”

He could be right. But if those new ideas are anything like the ones that troubled the 20th century, we may find ourselves looking to older ones for rescue soon enough.

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