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Paradise, the Apocalypse and science : the myth of an imminent technological Eden

McGill University
Publication Date
  • Prophecies In Literature.
  • Utopias In Literature.
  • Technological Forecasting.
  • Religious Science


Scientistic authors in the latter half of the 19 th century and the early 20th century, such as Ernest Renan and H. G. Wells, discounted revealed religion. Yet they believed in the secular myth of an imminent technological Eden and they elevated science itself to the dignity of a religion. In so doing, they shaped bold visions of the future, drawing heavily on a millenary store of Western myth and metaphor. In historical terms, the myth of an imminent technological Eden represents a survival and a fusion of the ancient Greek myth of the Golden Age along with three Judeo-Christian myths: Biblical time, Earthly Paradise and the Apocalypse. Since the Enlightenment, the process of secularization has drained the religious content of such myths, although it does not deprive them of any of their deeply emotional force. This explains why the 19th century myth of an imminent technological Eden has considerable staying-power, in spite of the many events since 1945 which seem to discredit it.

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