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The Three Humiliations

No doubt about it, life was grim in the 16th century. Even if you were royalty. Henry VII died at the age of 55 years old with obesity, type II diabetes, gout and a festering leg wound that never properly healed.

However, there was some compensation for these miseries and privations. We could at least pride ourselves on our cosmic importance.

As science progressed life has materially improved beyond recognition, but our sense of universal importance has been diminished. This is neatly encapsulated in what are known as the three humiliations.

Copernican Humiliation: Nicolaus Copernicus’ theory demoted Earth from the centre of the universe to just another planet orbiting the sun, rather than the other way around.

Darwinian Humiliation: Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection showed that humans weren’t the product of divine creation but evolved over millions of years. We have the same brain chemicals and bones as a chimpanzee.

Freudian Humiliation: Sigmund Freud showed us that we are not even in control of our minds, but are driven by unconscious desires and impulses.

In short order, on evolutionary timescales anyway, we have discovered that we’re not at the centre of the universe, we’re cut from the same cloth as the animals, and that we do not even have sovereignty over our own minds.

This is depressing stuff for Team Human. Fortunately, David Deutsch comes to the rescue. As I shall explain in a later post…