Modernity developed only in the West - in Europe and North America. Nowhere else did science and democracy arise; nowhere else was slavery outlawed. Only Westerners invented chimneys, musical scores, telescopes, eyeglasses, pianos, electric lights, aspirin, and soap. The question is, why? Unfortunately, that question has become so politically incorrect that most scholars avoid it. But acclaimed author Rodney Stark provides the answers in this sweeping new look at Western civilization.
How the West Won demonstrates the primacy of uniquely Western ideas - among them the belief in free will, the commitment to the pursuit of knowledge, the notion that the universe functions according to rational rules that can be discovered, and the emphasis on human freedom and secure property rights. How the West Won displays Stark's gifts for lively narrative history and making the latest scholarship accessible to all. This bold, insightful book will force you to rethink your understanding of the West and the birth of modernity - and to recognize that Western civilization really has set itself apart from other cultures.
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Another point of view.
How the West Won is the story of Christendom. Stark takes us through the period of Greek thought and its meeting with Christianity in what he calls: The Roman Interlude. He points out that Rome acted more like a protection racket than an actual ruling entity. Moving from uncovering the continuation of scientific thought in the Middle Ages and Renaissance to influence of Christianity in the ages of Discovery and the Enlightenment, Stark shows that Christendom's unique understanding of God and creation compelled its thinkers to keep discovering. Most importantly he shows that it was because of Christendom, rather than inspite of it, that the West was able to accomplish so much more. Key to all of this is a notion of freedom that was not extant elsewhere in the world.
I appreciated Stark looking at the data and asking questions of the accepted thinking. Many this day and age do a good job questioning thinking without looking at all the data.
He does a fine job and conveys the text very well.
I appreciated the inclusion of Robert Woodberry's study about missions. I couldn't believe it myself when I heard it; but Stark isn't exaggerating when he declares it to be one of the most questioned and re-examined studies. It holds up. It says a lot about Christianity that it has led to such amazing advances far from the Western roots.
At times Stark can push his point farther than all the history might suggest. Yet, in an Aristotelian way he is trying to counteract the poor scholarship and biases shown by people who hold to a secular metanarrative. On the whole Mr. Stark's bias is only really perceived because he doesn't tow the academic line. Ultimately one should read this book (or listen in this case) in addition to other viewpoints as well.
We all have a bias
- Adam Shields