For most of human history, life has been a struggle – a struggle against predators, against disease, against natural disasters, and against our fellow human beings as we find ourselves all thrown together on a single planet, vying for limited resources. In the words of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, life for the many has been “nasty, brutish, and short.”
Foremost among our ongoing challenges, however, and rising above all the others, is the struggle against our own ignorance. Like newborn infants, naked and helpless, humans have been thrust into this world without the benefit of any instruction book to show us the way. It is only through patience and ingenuity (and a fair amount of dumb luck) that we have managed to rise above our brute animal nature to occasionally achieve something resembling peace and civility. Obviously, we still have a long way to go, but if we as a species hope to continue our stumbling progress towards a happier, healthier future, we must acknowledge the various pitfalls and dead ends we’ve encountered along the route, starting with those of the distant past.