It all began on Mount Sinai

Summit of Mt. Sinai, photo by Mohammed Moussa, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Western thought patterns are highly abstract, compared with Eastern. There developed in the West, and only in the West, a group of innovations that constitute the basis of Western thought. These include (in addition to the alphabet) codified law, monotheism, abstract theoretical science, formal logic, and individualism. All these innovations, including the alphabet, arose within the very narrow geographic zone between the Tigris-Euphrates river system and the Aegean Sea, and within the very narrow time frame between 2000 BC and 500 BC. We do not consider this to be an accident. While not suggesting a direct causal connection between the alphabet and the other innovations, we would claim, however, that the phonetic alphabet played a particularly dynamic role within this constellation of events and provided the ground or framework for the mutual development of these innovations.

The effects of the alphabet and the abstract, logical, systematic thought that it encouraged explain why science began in the West and not the East, despite the much greater technological sophistication of the Chinese . . . the inventors of metallurgy, irrigation systems, animal harnesses, paper, ink, printing, moveable type, gunpowder, rockets, porcelain, and silk. Credit must also be given to monotheism and codified law for the role they played in developing the notion of universal law, an essential building block of science. . .

Phonetic writing was essential to the intellectual development in the West. No such development occurred in the East.

Marshall McLuhan and Robert K. Logan, “Alphabet, mother of Invention,” December 1977; quoted in The Alphabet Effect by Robert K. Logan, copyright 1986

Logan, in The Alphabet Effect, attributes the invention of the phonetic alphabet to Moses. If we believe the Bible, we must say not Moses but God. In fact, all the building blocks of Western thought, as outlined above, can be traced back to the encounter between God and Moses on Mount Sinai. Monotheism, codified law and the phonetic alphabet are all front and centre in that event, which took place in the geographic and time frame limits mentioned.

In addition, science was not possible without a belief in an orderly, structured universe, such as is shown in the first chapter of the book of Genesis.

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