The Unbound West: Today, Thunderous Matters of Cosmic Import: Why Has the West Dominated Scientific and Technological Advance Practically Forever?

By Reed, Fred | The American Conservative, September 10, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Unbound West: Today, Thunderous Matters of Cosmic Import: Why Has the West Dominated Scientific and Technological Advance Practically Forever?


Reed, Fred, The American Conservative


This has certainly been the truth for many years. From--take your pick: 1500 on?--the West has produced both the scientific giants and the fields in which they flourished. Many of the towering figures are unknown today, but they towered. The modern world is almost totally a Western invention. This is not a politically correct view, but it is undeniable. Name any field of note--genetics, electronics, computers, anything. The West invented it.

Now, we--I am assuming a mostly white European readership--could think that, well, we pale folk are just smarter than those mere wogs--though of course we are too kind to say so. The problem is that, on the evidence, the wogs often seem to be smarter than we are. On a great thicket of IQ tests, East Asians come in with IQs ahead of those of whites. At Harvard, roughly a quarter of the students are Asian.

Then why has the West regularly out-invented them? It isn't an inability to handle technology. Spend an afternoon in downtown Bangkok, and you will see a city that seems as modern as any. The Skytrain (the elevated subway) is efficient, clean, and in no way inferior to Washington's Metro. Phones work, broadband is taken for granted.

But it was all invented by Euro-civilization. Other places just borrow it well or, often, not very well.

Ponder the Chinese. Hong Kong is New York City with slanted eyes--as smart, hard-nosed, and go-for-the-throat as Manhattan. The Chinese can play in that league. Taiwan is a major high-tech power for its almost nonexistent size. Ask a round-eye kid at Berkeley what it is like to compete with the Asian students. But the engineering, math, and so on were developed in the West.

The Japanese are geniuses at engineering. I don't drive a Toyota or shoot with a Canon SLR because they don't work. The Japanese can take a Western invention, improve on it, and manufacture it cheaper than Westerners can. No, it isn't a matter of lower wages. My Corolla was built in California. The Japanese are just plain good.

But cars and cameras, the Internet, integrated circuitry, radar, the double-helix, and so on for five times the length of this magazine were invented or discovered in the West. Read the history of mathematics. It is littered with massively gifted men of a type who seldom appeared elsewhere: Galois, Gauss, Newton, Lagrange, Euclid, Archimedes, and so on for pages. …

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