The idea that man had endured a series of blows with modern discoveries is so silly as to need another elaboration. It may be a cliche to mention that Galileo displaced the earth from the center of the universe, that Darwin moved man from a special place in the natural world and that Freud rattled man's confidence in the rational mind. None of these takes on modern history is accurate and the persistence of this myth is so durable as to need an explanation. That explanation is not one I can imagine yet, but a few more thoughts about the general hypothesis sketched out here is fun. Galileo's ideas certainly did nothing to shake man's confidence, that confidence in the rational mind has in fact increased in the preceding centuries and this INCREASE is in part because of the scientific discoveries characteristic of modernity. The medieval period was an era when man experienced himself as a part of a greater whole, and this sense of being a part of something larger is a superior and lost parallel to the confidence of modern man.
Darwin's indeed exciting new idea was that species themselves could change, and that included man. The Darwinists though never think through logically the implications of Darwin's thought. If man the species can change, then the human mind itself is quite possibly a subject for evolution, man's very thinking ability, his rationality, may be in the middle of an evolutionary trek. This at least is the most consistent view of the human mind which is plausible based on Darwin's ideas. Yet the variability of human thought is something that is vigorously denied should this prospect even surface in some scientist's scope. And you can see why this thought is scary----the idea that human thought itself is not the measure and measurer of the world around it leaves the mechanical mind of man quaking (should the mind be forced somehow to consider this idea). Because----the confidence of mechanical thought has to assume the mind is complete. Otherwise any one thought would have to, wonder what a future thought would find inferior about it. Surely I can find a better way to express this. If the mind is incomplete that throws all its conclusions into confusion because the unknown element, being unknown, prevents that boxed edge from resting in thought, that completeness which is part of the nature of binary thought. The evolutionary nature of human thought, if recognised, mediates against the limitations of binary thought, and the idea that words can ever describe reality.
The infinity of detail that characterizes the present does also the past. So any conclusions claiming to be of an historical nature are like the constellation star pictures. Interesting, sometimes lovely, helping us to keep some things in mind, reflecting in our choice of subject our values, but not what they claim to be. "Orion" is just an accidental conjunction, the details of which overwhelm and do not even graze a hunter's reality. This may be what Jan Cox meant when he said "history is dreams." Any readers of this blog need to keep that in mind, for my purposes in playing with historical assertions have a personal use also. With an infinity of detail anything can be proved, or disproved. Next time we'll get to Freud.