Monday, June 20, 2016

Modernity : an Era that no longer believed in Miracles or Magic, believed in Microbes instead ....

Germ Theory replaces God Theology ?

In the early 19th century, intellectuals of the Western World prided themselves on no longer believing in warlocks and witches, goblins and ghouls, magic ---- all those discredited remnants of pantheist thought.

By the end of the same century, most (semi-secretly) now prided themselves on longer believing in God and the Devil, miracles --- all of those discredited remnants of pre-Darwinian monotheist thought.

Charles Lyell and other scientists had already convinced the educated world that Mother Nature's catastrophes, such as massive flooding caused by an asteroid crashing the Earth, were impossible. 

But who or what then to blame when mighty civilizations were still brought low by invisible but all-powerful plagues and discontents ?

Enter Germ Theory into "The Blame Gap", a theory known for many centuries but never accepted, which suddenly became intellectually respectable in a very few, very uncontested,  years.

Germ Theory replaces all powerful but invisible spirits with invisible but all-powerful tiny living beings, microbes.

While the pop version of the theory is well off the mark in crediting germs with agency (they are not capable of teleologically evil behavior), at its core, it is a well proven partial explanation for the origin and course of infectious diseases.

But human Germ Theory the goes onto describe a wide variety of powerless (but also seemingly powerful) groups of people as figurative and sometimes almost literally, as tiny, weak, all powerfully evil, nearly invisible, germs.

With it came all sorts of quasi-germ (invisible) agents to act as explanations for all the things we used to blame on the gods or on devils or on Ms Nature.

A few among them : subversives, spies, guerrillas, snipers, assassinations, terrorism, saboteurs, insurgents, revolutionaries, double agents, fifth columns, ambushes, infiltrators, traitors.

Above all, secret worldwide violent criminal conspiracies headed by blameless-appearing prominent citizens while their actual operatives use tiny spy radios and tiny spy cameras hidden inside innocent household items.

Pre-Darwin asymmetrical warfare, but of a new more physical sort - no longer were enormous civilizations to be laid low by invisible, weightless spells, curses and Divine Providence.

Now their enemies were nearly weightless : real germs, wartime's poison gas, peacetime's assassination bomb, secret bribes and above all, ideology.

Ideology, and all sorts of other less systemic new ideas.

Brought past border checks via the telegraph, by magazine halftone photos, by cheap mass produced books and newspapers, by fictional movies, by immigrants, coming in over the radio waves.

Germ Theory (Human Germ Theory), not Eugenics, was the central moral panic motif of the era of Panic Modernity....

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