Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Moses vs. Hammurabi

The outlook of Moses is one which leads, ultimately, after centuries, to the advances of modern physics, because it leads to a view that the universe is systematic, and uniform regarding time and space and gravity; Moses ultimately points the way to the conclusion that the universe is susceptible to rational analysis, because it is organized according to the rational laws of mathematics. The philosophical view that the world is ultimately based on reason and algebra and geometry is the foundation for modern science.

The culture which descends from the civilization of Hammurabi is one that, after several generations, will ultimately de-emphasize the natural sciences, and chemistry and physics in particular, because it sees the universe as random and meaningless.

If we look at the last several centuries of scientific, mathematical, and engineering innovation, it does not come from the philosophical children of Hammurabi, but rather such technological advancement springs from the philosophical offspring of Moses. A statistical analysis of the number of patents filed in these areas suffices to show this; one can also look at where high-tech firms do business, and who they hire. Westerners are often brought in to do high-tech work in parts of the world; if locals living there are interested in pursuing technological research, they generally leave the country.

The ethic of Moses will lead ultimately to the view that certain legal punishments are “cruel and unusual” – the ethic that crimes may not be punished with fury, wrath, and vengeance, but rather that every human – even a criminal or a slave – still deserves a modicum of decency in treatment, because every human is still worthy of respect and dignity.

The ethic of Hammurabi will ultimately lead to routine applications of punishments such as the amputation of hands, drowning, strangling, public floggings, burnings, skinning, etc.: those very same punishments which the society of Moses ultimately has rejected. In these parts of the world today, no punishment or torture is considered "too cruel". The understanding of human rights, on the one hand, and civil rights, on the other hand, is lacking in these places. This is the legacy of Hammurabi.