thrown down by Duck in this post. I've decided to blog my response here rather than in his comments, because I've been meaning to blog about this for a while. I've already written about the theory of Inevitable Progress and how invidious it is. Nevertheless, we can see a clear trend of technology and material wealth increasing over time. So much of the human experience has changed and improved that we are tempted to assume that humanity itself has changed fundamentally. As in all things, some of us always succumb to temptation.
And yet it is perfectly clear that we are no smarter now than humans have been throughout recorded history. Certainly we know more. We've had more time to make discoveries. We have more human experience to draw on. But given the same information, the same technology and the same upbringing, there's no basis to say that contemporary humans would do any better than humans from a hundred years ago or a thousand years ago.
This is a point that Ms Grabar hints at and which I think it is fair to say that atheists are more likely to ignore than the religious, who live more closely with the past. It is also a point that is fundamental to conservatism: that human nature has no history. When it comes to a subject that is entirely cerebral, theology for example, the present has nothing new to say to the past. All these arguments trotted out to put faith in its place may be tricked out with computerized bells and telescopic whistles, but when reduced to their essence, these questions have been around for millenia.
Hot rods and cute blonds, for example, may be new (or maybe not so new) but the ancients had a lot to say about middle-aged ennui