DAWN OF A MILLENNIUM: Beyond Evolution and Culture by Erich Harth

DAWN OF A MILLENNIUM: Beyond Evolution and Culture

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Physicist Harth (Syracuse Univ.; Windows on the Mind, 1982) muses on the millennium in this short, graceful volume. He admits to a sense of pessimism two years ago when he began the effort but now sees some lifting of the veil in light of the extraordinary changes taking place in Russia and Eastern Europe. In a larger sense, there also appears to be a growing sensibility to the dangers of global climate change and environmental pollution. Nevertheless, ""This has been a wrenching century, with the memorials to our madness more numerous and more poignant than the record of our many magnificent achievements."" The problem has been the lag between our biology and our cultural/technological capacity. To put that in context, Harth reviews human origins and evolution, noting that history has usually viewed millennial years with alarm. The tenth century, for example, found Europe a vast and desolate place with people in towns threatened by marauding bands. Yet a medical school was established at Salerno, St. Mark's in Venice was nearing completion, long-distance trade was carried on, and out of cultural minglings and exchange, the seeds were sown that would lead to the Renaissance. But not without intense religious strife first; and, as Harth points out, not only has present humanity not put away religious strife, it also faces a scientific fatalism in the form of a nuclear standoff. Our best hope, Harth reflects, lies in the human mind and its capacity for self-reference and self-reflection. These considerations are his springboard for discussions of brain and cognition, science and art, intelligence and language, and the various ""grand schemes"" postulated by sociobiologists and cosmologists. It is much to his credit that Harth is able to touch on so many timely themes non-trivially, integrating them into a guarded optimism for the millennium to come.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1989
Publisher: Little, Brown