Via YouTube’s new recommended for you feature and also via Twitter, I found this really excellent re-imagining of the Star Wars title sequence as if created by the great designer and filmmaker Saul Bass:
Via the ‘related videos’ feature, I came across Bass’s wonderful short film Why Man Creates, which won an Academy Award in 1968. Only the first 5 minutes is available online–long enough to deliver the grand narrative of creativity and innovation in Western civilization in animated form.
Watch it for the amazing drawings and the (gently barbed) jokes if nothing else.
Since for some of us it’s Easter today and many of my readers will be muttering ‘there is no God’ through chocolate-covered gritted teeth and grumbling about the failure of the Englightenment project, I highly recommended reading The Atheist Delusion afterward. As I prepare to encounter the pointy end of science as a fly on the wall next week, I found this to be the kicker:
In pre-Christian Europe, human life was understood as a series of cycles; history was seen as tragic or comic rather than redemptive. With the arrival of Christianity, it came to be believed that history had a predetermined goal, which was human salvation. Though they suppress their religious content, secular humanists continue to cling to similar beliefs. One does not want to deny anyone the consolations of a faith, but it is obvious that the idea of progress in history is a myth created by the need for meaning.
The problem with the secular narrative is not that it assumes progress is inevitable (in many versions, it does not). It is the belief that the sort of advance that has been achieved in science can be reproduced in ethics and politics. In fact, while scientific knowledge increases cumulatively, nothing of the kind happens in society. Slavery was abolished in much of the world during the 19th century, but it returned on a vast scale in nazism and communism, and still exists today. Torture was prohibited in international conventions after the second world war, only to be adopted as an instrument of policy by the world’s pre-eminent liberal regime at the beginning of the 21st century. Wealth has increased, but it has been repeatedly destroyed in wars and revolutions. People live longer and kill one another in larger numbers. Knowledge grows, but human beings remain much the same.
Belief in progress is a relic of the Christian view of history as a universal narrative, and an intellectually rigorous atheism would start by questioning it.