To look forward, or to retreat into the past?

Quote for the day: PZ discussing Bronowski’s wonderful TV series “The Ascent of Man”:

A dead civilization is one that has stopped progressing, that ends that dynamism in the stasis of preservation and numbing reverence for the past — when a 2000 year old myth becomes the greatest knowledge worth knowing, we have abandoned the process and begun the contraction into the shells we built while still vital.

This is one of my deepest objections to the religious stance. When one encounters a source of wisdom – an idea, a book, a teacher – the responsible attitude is not to worship it, but to ask, “How can we learn from this and do even better, so that others may learn from us?” This is the human experience, going back over tens of thousands of years. It is also our future: it’s what human beings do. The religious impulse to ascribe supernatural perfection to people and ideas of the past is defeatist. It is, ultimately, inhuman.