12.9 Summary and Further Discussion

Each phase of civilization fragments before the next one can be built. This process has been most noticeable on this particular transition because of its rapidity and because the specialization of the machine age has tended to encourage intellectual, professional, and religious fragmentation and specialization as it developed more fully.

The task of building the fourth civilization is that of forging a new integration of the fragments. This takes place both on an academic level, and on a broad cultural one. It requires a redefining of such institutions as government, corporations, education, science, and religion and a wholistic approach to personal and institutional relationships. The heart-commitments of those in the new era are not yet evident, but there is much experimentation with various forms of religion, some of them quite novel. A muted scientism may be an important factor and the new age philosophies may play some role; however, any resurgence of Christianity, for instance, would require it to come to terms with its world view, intellectual and spiritual foundations, and work out a transformational relevance in the new society. North America is a possible venue for such a revival, but the Far East may be more likely. There is a tension between the use of integration to self-evolve a consilience of purely empirical knowledge and its use, on the other hand to demonstrate a preexisting concinnity, or design.

The last section presents several interesting technical and critical social problems whose solution could have an important impact upon the further technological and social development of the fourth civilization or even on its very existence.

Research and Discussion Questions

1. The author argues that fragmentation is caused by machine age specialization paradigms exacerbated by normal transitional problems and that integration must characterize the fourth civilization. Argue instead that the chief paradigm of the new will instead be fragmentation, and that a cohesive culture can be built upon such a foundation.

2. What is the future of the family? Do not assume anything that the author has said in your answer, but argue from such other sources as you have available, filtered through your world view. State your definitions and assumptions and develop your reasoning clearly.

3. Argue that a participatory democracy is just another form of totalitarianism and propose a better alternative.

4. A woman who is eight months pregnant applies for a position for which she turns out to be the best qualified person. Should she be hired without regard to her pregnancy? Are there any exceptions to your conclusion? Does it matter if this is a sedentary desk job or one requiring considerable physical exertion--say, as a deck hand on a tuna fishing boat? Does it matter if this is a key management position whose occupant will be a critical company player over the next four months?

5. Now repeat your analysis in the last question for the case where the father-to-be is the applicant. Is there any difference? Why or why not?

6. Now, do the same analysis of the last two questions for the case where the task is a combat posting for the army. Is there any difference? Why or why not?

7. The author has expressed some doubt as to whether the sexual revolution involved a change of behaviour or a change in public perceptions of behaviour. Research the issue and try to settle it one way or another.

8. Argue that a technical solution to the AIDS and other venereal diseases will have (a) no effect or (b) a permanent effect on sexual behaviour.

9. The author makes much of the "principle of interdependence". Argue that it is the individual and not the total society that is of paramount importance, and that this principle is of much less importance than suggested here. You may wish to defend the position that individual rights are far more important than obligations to society.

10. Take one of the categories of questions and tasks proposed in the last section and examine two or three items in detail. Research what is now known, explain the magnitude of the task remaining and summarize the probable effect on society and on knowledge in general that a solution would have.

11. The author asserts that in the information age the late machine age post modernist religious fragmentation will be replaced by an integrative view of religion. Argue the opposite--that either religious fragmentation must continue, or argue that religion will die out altogether. Base your argument on what you believe will be the prevailing paradigms of the fourth civilization.

12. Do a detailed review of Wilson's Consilience, summarizing his arguments and defending them.

13. Argue contra Wilson, but in more detail than in this chapter, that all the physical universe is a concinnity, that is, an integral design.

14. Argue contra both Wilson and this author, that there is no need for a comprehensive integration of knowledge.

15. Expand upon and detail the means by which a "new Reformation" of Christianity might take place. It might be appropriate to critique a particular church, preferably your own, if applicable with respect to the proposal of radical integration and cultural criticism.

16. Apply the same integrative model to another religious system other than Christianity, and detail how it would have to change to become the major dynamic religious force in the new civilization.

17. Explain in detail the beliefs, practices and cultural impact of the New Age movement. Is it a religion? Why or why not?

18. Make your own list of ten interesting and important unsolved problems in any field. Justify the inclusion of each item.

19. What of the role of the family in society? Some claim that the traditional family is obsolete. Either defend the traditional family as the only reasonable building-block for a society, or propose an alternative view of the way society can cohere.

20. Write a detailed explanation of the way in which you personally will be attempting to integrate your being, knowing, experiencing, and relating as you look forward to living and working in the fourth civilization.

21. Write a detailed explanation of why you do not need to do any of these things, but be sure to state what your presuppositions are for the main features of the fourth civilization and how you will relate to them if it does not have to be in an integrative way.


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The Fourth Civilization Table of Contents
Copyright © 1988-2002 by Rick Sutcliffe
Published by Arjay Books division of Arjay Enterprises