Mokslas ir kapitalizmas - šių laikų religijos

Yuval Noah Harari 
(Hebrewיובל נח הררי‎‎; born 24 February 1976) is an Israeli historian, tenured professor at the Department of History of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem[1] and the author of the international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.


The Marriage of Science and Religion

We are living in a technical age. Many are convinced that science and technology hold the answers to all our problems. We should just let the scientists and technicians go on with their work, and they will create heaven here on earth. But science is not an enterprise that takes place on some superior moral or spiritual plane above the rest of human activity. Like all other parts of our culture, it is shaped by economic, political, and religious interests.

Science is a very expensive affair. A biologist seeking to understand the human immune system requires laboratories, test tubes, chemicals, and electron microscopes, not to mention lab assistants, electricians, plumbers, and cleaners. An economist seeking to model credit markets must buy computers, set up giant databanks, and develop complicated data processing programs. An archaeologist who wishes to understand the behavior of archaic hunter-gatherers must travel to distant lands, excavate ancient ruins, and date fossilized bones and artifacts. All of this costs money.

During the past 500 years modern science has achieved wonders thanks largely to the willingness of governments, businesses, foundations, and private donors to channel billions of dollars into scientific research. These billions have done much more to chart the universe, map the planet, and catalogue the animal kingdom than did Galileo Galilei, Christopher Columbus, and Charles Darwin. If these particular geniuses had never been born, their insights would probably have occurred to others. But if the proper funding were unavailable, no intellectual brilliance could have compensated for that. If Darwin had never been born, for example, we’d today attribute the theory of evolution to Alfred Russel Wallace, who came up with the idea of evolution via natural selection independently of Darwin and just a few years later. But if the European powers had not financed geographical, zoological, and botanical research around the world, neither Darwin nor Wallace would have had the necessary empirical data to develop the theory of evolution. It is likely that they would not even have tried.

Why did the billions start flowing from government and business coffers into labs and universities? In academic circles, many are naïve enough to believe in pure science. They believe that government and business altruistically give them money to pursue whatever research projects strike their fancy. But this hardly describes the realities of science funding.

Most scientific studies are funded because somebody believes they can help attain some political, economic, or religious goal. For example, in the sixteenth century, kings and bankers channeled enormous resources to finance geographical expeditions around the world but not a penny for studying child psychology. This is because kings and bankers surmised that the discovery of new geographical knowledge would enable them to conquer new lands and set up trade empires, whereas they couldn’t see any profit in understanding child psychology.

In the 1940s the governments of America and the Soviet Union channeled enormous resources to the study of nuclear physics rather than underwater archeology. They surmised that studying nuclear physics would enable them to develop nuclear weapons, whereas underwater archeology was unlikely to help win wars. Scientists themselves are not always aware of the political, economic, and religious interests that control the flow of money; many scientists do, in fact, act out of pure intellectual curiosity. However, only rarely do scientists dictate the scientific agenda.

Even if we wanted to finance pure science unaffected by political, economic, or religious interests, it would probably be impossible. Our resources are limited, after all. Ask a congressman to allocate an additional million dollars to the National Science Foundation for basic research, and he’ll justifiably ask whether that money wouldn’t be better used to fund teacher training or to give a needed tax break to a troubled factory in his district. To channel limited resources we must answer questions such as “What is more important?” and “What is good?” And these are not scientific questions. Science can explain what exists in the world, how things work, and what might be in the future. By definition, it has no pretensions to knowing what should be in the future. Only religions and ideologies seek to answer such questions.

Consider the following quandary: Two biologists from the same department, possessing the same professional skills, have both applied for a million-dollar grant to finance their current research projects. Professor Slughorn wants to study a disease that infects the udders of cows, causing a ten percent decrease in their milk production. Professor Sprout wants to study whether cows suffer mentally when they are separated from their calves. Assuming that the amount of money is limited, and that it is impossible to finance both research projects, which one should be funded?

There is no scientific answer to this question. There are only political, economic, and religious answers. In today’s world, it is obvious that Slughorn has a better chance of getting the money. Not because udder diseases are scientifically more interesting than bovine mentality, but because the dairy industry, which stands to benefit from the research, has more political and economic clout than the animal rights lobby.

Perhaps in a strict Hindu society, where cows are sacred, or in a society committed to animal rights, Professor Sprout would have a better shot. But as long as she lives in a society that values the commercial potential of milk and the health of its human citizens over the feelings of cows, she’d best write up her research proposal so as to appeal to those assumptions. For example, she might write that “Depression leads to a decrease in milk production. If we understand the mental world of dairy cows, we could develop psychiatric medication that will improve their mood, thus raising milk production by up to ten percent. I estimate that there is a global annual market of 250 million dollars for bovine psychiatric medications.”

Science is unable to set its own priorities. It is also incapable of determining what to do with its discoveries. For example, from a purely scientific viewpoint it is unclear what we should do with our increasing understanding of genetics. Should we use this knowledge to cure cancer, to create a race of genetically engineered supermen, or to engineer dairy cows with super-sized udders? It is obvious that a liberal government, a Communist government, a Nazi government, and a capitalist business corporation would use the very same scientific discovery for completely different purposes, and there is no scientific reason to prefer one usage over others.

In short, scientific research can flourish only in alliance with some religion or ideology. The ideology justifies the costs of the research. In exchange, the ideology influences the scientific agenda and determines what to do with the discoveries. Hence in order to comprehend how humankind has reached Alamogordo and the Moon—rather than any number of alternative destinations—it is not enough to survey the achievements of physicists, biologists, and sociologists. We have to take into account the ideological, political and economic forces that shaped physics, biology, and sociology, pushing them in certain directions while neglecting others.

Excerpt from chapter 14, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Money is an astounding thing because it can represent myriad different objects and convert anything into almost anything else. However, before the modern era this ability was limited. In most cases, 
money could represent and convert only things that actually existed in the present. This imposed a severe limitation on economic growth, since it made it very hard to finance new enterprises.

If you had a dream to open a bakery, and had no ready cash, you could not realize your dream. Without a bakery, you could not bake cakes. Without cakes, you could not make money. Without money, you could not build a bakery. Humankind was trapped in this predicament for thousands of years. As a result, economies remained frozen. The way out of the trap was discovered only in the modern era, with the appearance of a new system based on trust in the future. In it, people agreed to represent imaginary goods—goods that do not exist in the present—with a special kind of money they called “credit.” Credit enables us to build the present at the expense of the future. It’s founded on the assumption that our future resources are sure to be far more abundant than our present resources. A host of new and wonderful opportunities open up if we can build things in the present using future income.
If credit is such a wonderful thing, why did nobody think of it earlier? Of course they did. Credit arrangements of one kind or another have existed in all known human cultures, going back at least to ancient Sumer. The problem in previous eras was not that no one had the idea or knew how to use it. It was that people seldom wanted to extend much credit because they didn’t trust that the future would be better than the present. They generally believed that times past had been better than their own times and that the future would be worse, or at best much the same. To put that in economic terms, they believed that the total amount of wealth was limited, if not dwindling. People therefore considered it a bad bet to assume that they personally, or their kingdom, or the entire world, would be producing more wealth ten years down the line. Business looked like a zero-sum game. Of course, the profits of one particular bakery might rise, but only at the expense of the bakery next door. Venice might flourish, but only by impoverishing Genoa. The king of England might enrich himself, but only by robbing the king of France. You could cut the pie in many different ways, but it never got any bigger.
That’s why many cultures concluded that making bundles of money was sinful. As Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). If the pie is static, and I have a big part of it, then I must have taken somebody else’ slice. The rich were obliged to do penance for their evil deeds by giving some of their surplus wealth to charity.

If the global pie stayed the same size, there was no margin for credit. Credit is the difference between today’s pie and tomorrow’s pie. If the pie stays the same, why extend credit? It would be an unacceptable risk unless you believed that the baker or king asking for your money might be able to steal a slice from a competitor. So it was hard to get a loan in the pre-modern world, and when you got one it was usually small, short-term, and subject to high interest rates. Upstart entrepreneurs thus found it difficult to open new bakeries and great kings who wanted to build palaces or wage wars had no choice but to raise the necessary funds through high taxes and tariffs. That was fine for kings (as long as their subjects remained docile), but a scullery maid who had a great idea for a bakery and wanted to move up in the world generally could only dream of wealth while scrubbing down the royal kitchen’s floors.

It was lose-lose. Because credit was limited, people had trouble financing new businesses. Because there were few new businesses, the economy did not grow. Because it did not grow, people assumed it never would, and those who had capital were leery of extending credit. The expectation of stagnation fulfilled itself.
Then came the Scientific Revolution and the idea of progress. The idea of progress is built on the notion that if we admit our ignorance and invest resources in research, things can improve. This idea was soon translated into economic terms. Whoever believes in progress believes that geographical discoveries, technological inventions, and organizational developments can increase the sum total of human production, trade, and wealth. New trade routes in the Atlantic could flourish without ruining old routes in the Indian Ocean. New goods could be produced without reducing the production of old ones. For instance, one could open a new bakery specializing in chocolate cakes and croissants without causing bakeries specializing in bread to go bust. Everybody would simply develop new tastes and eat more. I can be wealthy without your becoming poor; I can be obese without your dying of hunger. The entire global pie can grow.

Over the last 500 years the idea of progress convinced people to put more and more trust in the future. This trust created credit; credit brought real economic growth; and growth strengthened the trust in the future and opened the way for even more credit. It didn’t happen overnight—the economy behaved more like a roller coaster than a balloon. But over the long run, with the bumps evened out, the general direction was unmistakable. Today, there is so much credit in the world that governments, business corporations, and private individuals easily obtain large, long-term and low-interest loans that far exceed current income.

The belief in the growing global pie eventually turned revolutionary. In 1776 the Scottish economist Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, probably the most important economics manifesto of all time. In the eighth chapter of its first volume, Smith made the following novel argument: When a landlord, a weaver, or a shoemaker has greater profits than he needs to maintain his own family, he uses the surplus to employ more assistants, in order to further increase his profits. The more profits he has, the more assistants he can employ. It follows that an increase in the profits of private entrepreneurs is the basis for the increase in collective wealth and prosperity.

This may not strike you as very original, because we all live in a capitalist world that takes Smith’s argument for granted. We hear variations on this theme every day in the news. Yet Smith’s claim that the selfish human urge to increase private profits is the basis for collective wealth is one of the most revolutionary ideas in human history—revolutionary not just from an economic perspective, but even more so from a moral and political perspective. What Smith says is, in fact, that greed is good, and that by becoming richer I benefit everybody, not just myself.Egoism is altruism.

Smith taught people to think about the economy as a “win-win situation,” in which my profits are also your profits. Not only can we both enjoy a bigger slice of pie at the same time, but the increase in your slice depends upon the increase in my slice. If I am poor, you too will be poor since I cannot buy your products or services. If I am rich, you too will be enriched since you can now sell me something. Smith denied the traditional contradiction between wealth and morality, and threw open the Gates of Heaven for the rich. Being rich meant being moral. In Smith’s story, people become rich not by despoiling their neighbors, but by increasing the overall size of the pie. And when the pie grows, everyone benefits. The rich are accordingly the most useful and benevolent people in society, because they turn the wheels of growth for everyone’s advantage.

Excerpt from chapter 16, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
P.S. Pinigus mokslas tiria-studijuoja, aha:
Šiuolaikiniai pinigai – tai neasmeninis 
skolos raštelio pakaitalas, kurį galima perduoti kitam žmogui ar juridiniam asmeniui

mainais už paslaugą ar daiktą, t. y. skolos ženklas, kad kažkas yra prasiskolinęs bankui ir yra įsipareigojęs atidirbti tą visuotinai priimtą vertę, kuri nurodyta pinigo kupiūroje. Visos kitos pinigu prasmės yra iliuzinės, t. y. pinigai tiesiogiai nebedengiami jokiomis materialinėmis vertybėmis. Bankų pagrindinė funkcija yra kontroliuoti, kad skolininkai savo įsipareigojimus uždirbti nustatytą vertę realiai vykdytų, nes tik tada pinigai, kaip vertės ekvivalentas, turi prasmę. Todėl bendrąja prasme nebesvarbu, kokį pavidalą priima pinigai (popieriniai, elektroniniai ir t. t.), o svarbu tik tai, kad jų vertę atitinkanti skola būtų reali, grąžintina ir jos apskaita griežtai kontroliuojama. Idealiu atveju, skolą gražinus bankui, atitinkama pinigų vertė kreditą išdavusio banko turi būti išimama iš apyvartos.

Šiais laikais taip pat svarbi pinigų savybė yra tai, kad jie konkrečioje šalyje yra įstatymiškai privalomi priimti kaip atsiskaitymo priemonė, todėl pinigais nelaikomi kiti mainams naudojami daiktai.


Šitie, savaime suprantama.

Palūkanų era

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