The Learning Curve


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Bread Upon The Waters Ministry,

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The one passage of Scripture that is widely recognized as Second Coming Prophecy, and that is related to the "BABEL RISING!" concept is in Daniel 12:4...

"Many shall run to and fro,
and knowledge shall increase."

Many, many people have been running to and fro within the past half century. There are probably more passenger miles, to use the statistical term, traveled every week now than were traveled in a year a mere century ago. Especially across the oceans. Furthermore, much of that running to and fro has been related to increasing knowledge. Knowledge has been increasing, dramatically. It has been said that the sum of human knowledge has been doubling every ten years. The significance of that is illustrated in the chart below.

This chart depicts the Learning Curve as from the year 1950 (1) to the year 2050 (11). We are at about 6. As you can see, the relative amount of knowledge that existed in 1950, compared to what will be in 2050 if the Lord tarries, can be best expressed as zero. Where the "new tower" is now is still next to nothing compared to what it will be then.

As has been recognized by a number of students of Prophecy, Daniel 12:4 is being fulfilled before our eyes. What we must understand is how this related to the new Tower of Babel that is rising. To understand what is happening now, we have to look at the history of science.

Ancient Knowledge

As is well known, the ancients of Jesus day did have what might be called science. It was, however, mainly the play toy of the rich and powerful. Very little of what real scientific knowledge that existed then was applied in practical ways. Common people, like those to whom Jesus ministered, seldom knew the knowledge existed. The only really advanced technologies that were widely used were architectural engineering, and to a lesser extent, metal working and shipbuilding.

Moreover, there was a major flaw in the thinking of many ancient scholars. They were, by modern definition, more truly philosophers,  as they are in fact generally known, than scientists. Especially the Greeks, like Aristotle. They tended to work on the premise that all knowledge of all things could be obtained simply by the exercise of logic and reason. The ancient Chinese seem to have had a similar idea. We now know that this just isn't true. It only really works, in fact, in the area of pure mathematics. In that area, the ancients did make some lasting contributions to real knowledge, like Euclid's geometry and the Pythagorean Theorem. But many of their other ideas were nonsense, little more than fantasies. Especially their ideas relevant to astronomy, physics and biology. The long term effect of their thinking was to actually delay real progress in many areas of the knowledge that produces technology.

Beyond the areas of technology mentioned above, they achieved little that meant anything. Furthermore, what little more advanced knowledge that was applied usually was limited to isolated cultures.  There was, of course, real knowledge of agriculture and how to make and do all kinds of practical things, but mainly at the cultural level. There was relatively little progress in these areas of knowledge in the entire period of known history, compared with the past few centuries. Knowledge was generally not systematically recorded, organized and distributed. 

The result was that when the Roman Empire collapsed, much of the real scientific knowledge that existed at that time was lost. What survived was in the hands of small, isolated groups of scholars, frequently monks, who did little with it beyond preserving documents, for hundreds of years.

The Renaissance

Then came the Renaissance. It began with a man known as Roger Bacon, a Thirteenth Century scholar; in fact, the most learned man of his time. For all that he changed the course of history, ironically, many people today have never heard of him. Bacon is best known today as the man who gave us gunpowder. That, a significant contribution, was only a small part of his total scientific legacy. He began the first formal organization of all knowledge with his Opus Magus, the forerunner of all modern encyclopedias. He also called for a major reform in the sciences. The scientific reformation came.

With it came Leonardo Da Vinci. Beyond his great works of art, and his many inventions (most of which were more interesting than useful) his more meaningful contribution to science was his championing the idea of learning by observation. His scientific theories, like his artistic innovations, were based on careful observation and precise documentation. He knew better than anyone of his time, the importance of careful scientific observation.

Then came Copernicus and Galileo. In addition to re-discovering the truth that the earth orbits the Sun (This had been known before the time of Christ. The Church had suppressed this knowledge and adopted the erroneous Ptolemaic Theory.) Galileo and Copernicus contributed the idea of basing scientific conclusions on precise measurements* and calculations, a step beyond Da Vinci. They of course used data from careful observation and diligently kept records, in the line of Da Vinci. This was a radical departure from the ancient Greek approach to science that had persisted in the Church. Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz took this further with the discovery of the Calculus, making possible the correct mathematical analysis of the scientific data that were being gathered. Newton explained the discoveries of Galileo, Copernicus, and others with his laws of gravity and motion. These things laid the foundation for a further revolution in knowledge, and the further revolution came, and another, and another. 

Galileo made another significant contribution with his telescopes; namely the use of precision instruments for research, thus giving us the ability to make discoveries and acquire data far beyond the limits of the natural human senses. The idea was soon being used in other areas of research, and a major part of the Learning Curve has been the development of instruments for research.

Understand that the men named above were only a few of the better known people who took part in this. There were many others.

The translation in the 15th and 16th centuries of the surviving writings of Hippocrates and Galen, the greatest of the ancient physicians, laid the foundation for modern medicine.

*Of course, the importance of careful measurements was recognized in ancient times in relation to architecture. This fact is borne witness by the references to measuring lines and rods, and to plumb lines in the Bible. Somehow, though, it never occurred to most (there were a few notable exceptions) of the ancient philosophers to apply this to the pursuit of knowledge in other areas.

The Results

In the process of these things happening, the procedure known now as The Scientific Method was codified and became widely accepted. This is the principle of theories being based on careful observations and measurements, and then proven by rigorous, carefully controlled experimentation and/or additional observations, with the results being subject to peer review. This has proven to be a reliable approach to objectively gaining new knowledge in all areas of science. The result was that something else that was new in the way of knowledge came into existence; the concept we know as the Laws of Science. This is the idea that everything in the universe works by discernable rules. As this was happening, it became known that many of these rules, aka laws, could be expressed as mathematical formulas. The most famous of these today is Albert Einstein's E=mc2, the equation of atomic energy. The Laws of Science began to be formulated, recorded, communicated, and of course applied to technology. They provided a powerful new platform for the further advancement of knowledge and its application in new inventions.

The historical significance of this change in mankind's thinking cannot be overestimated. It was the greatest such change in known history. It was truly earth-shaking, metaphorically speaking. If it had not happened, we might still be living in a medieval society, at least as far as science, medicine, and technology are concerned.

The application of this new knowledge to technology quickly followed. In fact, it really began with Roger Bacon's perfecting of gunpowder. (No one knows who really invented it.) That was also the beginning of the application of organized research and development to warfare. A second big step was the invention of the steam engine. A third was the discovery of magnetism and electricity. Yet another was the invention of the microscope, and with it, the discovery of microscopic life. This led, among other things, to the germ theory of medicine. Yet another big one was the discovery of the laws of chemistry. One more big one was the discovery of the laws of heredity, leading to modern genetics, and now, genetic engineering. All this had happened by the year 1900.

The basic result was that by the beginning of the 19th Century, (1800's), the Learning Curve was already rising. The growth in the quantity and quality of real, organized and useful knowledge was  accelerating exponentially. It still is.

The Industrial Revolution

As science and technology began to be applied to industry, a major change occurred in the way manufacturing was done. In fact, it was the biggest such change in history. We call it the Industrial Revolution. At the beginning of the 19th Century, the manufacturing of almost everything was done by what we call "cottage industries". That is, by businesses run by just one family, or perhaps a few related families, and often in their own places of residence. "Companies" and "corporations", as we call them, existed almost only for the purpose of large scale, usually international, trade and banking. 

By the end of the 19th Century, except in backward countries, almost  all manufacturing was being done in large factories. "Cottage industries" had almost disappeared. At the beginning of the 19th Century, there was a spinning wheel and loom in almost every home in the United States. At the end of the 19th Century, there were hardly any homes that had them. The fabric and garment industries had become so heavily industrialized that domestic spinning and weaving had essentially become lost arts.

This change had occurred in a wide range of businesses. Again, at the beginning of the 19th Century, the local blacksmith shop was part of almost every American town. (For those not familiar with the term, a blacksmith is a man who is skilled in, and whose trade is, hands-on iron work, such as making horse shoes, farm implements, and weapons.) At the end of the century, the blacksmith shops had almost completely disappeared, except in isolated rural towns. Almost everything; manufacturing, mining, and transportation; was being done by "companies and corporations".

At the beginning of the 19th Century, all ships were driven by sails and/or oars. There was no other source of power at the time. By the end of the 19th Century, most, though not all, large ships were driven by steam. Sailing ships, for commercial purposes, were on their way to oblivion. At the beginning of the 19th Century, steam engines did exist, but they were only being used to pump water out of mines. By the end of the century, steam was powering naval and rail transportation all over the world. Steam was powering factories and mills. It was even starting to be used to generate electricity. Electricity was starting to come into general use. Internal combustion engines had been invented and were also coming into general use. The automobile had been born.

At the beginning of the 19th Century, the fastest communication was with signal flags or smoke signals. By the end of the century, telephones and the telegraph were in widespread use. Radio was coming.

All that change was just a prelude, a foundation for what was to come.

The Technical Revolution

The Twentieth Century, especially the latter part, brought another major wave of change, which we call the Technical Revolution. It began with electricity and automobiles coming into general use. Aviation followed quickly. Just before the Second World War, an American scientist by the name of Robert H. Goddard gave us the liquid-fueled rocket engine, the backbone of space flight. This, in the second half of the century, led to aviation being expanded into the beginnings of space travel. 

Again, telephones and the telegraph already existed at the turn of the Century, but the telephones were crude. Great advances have been made, leading to the present wave of wireless communication. Radio, and then, in turn, television, followed and expanded our ability to communicate even further. Around the time of World War II, we saw the advent of computers. Then, the foundation having been laid with crude vacuum tube computers, the advent of solid-state electronics in the 1950's unleashed the computer revolution. This, in the last decade, produced the Internet as we now know it.

In medicine, the Twentieth Century saw the advent of antibiotics, the widespread development and use of vaccines, and sophisticated surgical techniques such as organ transplants. Finally, it produced bio-engineering. 

The influence of Albert Einstein and his colleagues in the 1920's and 30's led to the advent of nuclear physics and, most notably, nuclear weapons. His Theory of Relativity, and Max Planck's Quantum Mechanics vastly deepened our understanding of the universe.

 Of course, all these things have contributed to the Learning Curve.

A younger person today might not realize how much the world has changed in the past century. When this writer's father was born (1902), no one had yet flown in a powered airplane. When he died (1974), men had walked on the moon. Again, when his father was born, no one had ever communicated by radio. When he died, color television was commonplace.

When this writer was a child, a magazine devoted to science and technology "went out on a limb" - for the time - and predicted that computers - then in the experimental stage - would "eventually weigh less than five tons". Today, as the reader surely knows, there are "Palmtop" computers that you can literally put in your pocket. They are far more powerful than any computer that existed then.

Smaller yet more powerful computers are coming.

Again, it has been said that the sum of human knowledge is doubling every ten years. If that is so, then we know 16 times as much now as we did in 1950. Or to look at it another way, our knowledge now is only 1/16 of what it will be in 2050 AD if the Lord tarries.

These things are just a few of the better known examples of a "megatrend" that is happening in human society worldwide: the exponential increase of knowledge. It began nearly 800 years ago in Europe, but today the growth is global, and in the last 50 years it has been accelerating tremendously.

Contributing Factors

There are a number of factors that have been contributing to this. For one thing, science and technology are being driven by the desire for technical superiority in war, a desire that is driven by fear. Every new development in this area produces a demand for more. That means that large amounts of tax money go to funding scientific research and development. Military research frequently produces "spin-offs" that are useful to the civilian population.

Meanwhile, the civilian population funds research in a variety of fields with one basic motive: profit! This has been particularly visible in the fields of computers and communication, which, as will be shown in the next chapter, are a major part of the "BABEL RISING!" situation. This is also true in the field of medicine. The major drug companies give a significant portion of their revenue to developing new drugs, with a specific view to making money. Making sick people well is not their real motive. Making money is.

Never before in the history has education been such a big business. The result of this is that, regardless of the literacy rate of any particular population, there has never been such a high proportion of really educated people in the world at any time in history, let alone such an actual number. Never have so many people been working to increase knowledge. The educational establishment; the universities, the museums, as well as numerous private foundations, support scientific research for its own sake. Prestige in the university system, especially in scientific circles, is largely based on results from research. Therefore, pride also motivates the pursuit of knowledge.

The energy with which the quest for knowledge is being pursued in our time has never been equaled in history. The results that this quest is producing have already, especially in the last two decades, revolutionized communication and office work, even the way business is done, among other things. Revolutions in other fields are coming. This is expected to be particularly true in relation to bio-technology and the war against aging. It may also be true in space travel.

If something does not happen to seriously disrupt human progress worldwide in the next fifty years or so, it appears likely that we will at least significantly extend the human lifespan, and we will start spreading human civilization to other worlds. Whatever stops us can't be just a local event. The whole human race is involved in this. The only thing prophesied that will do what need's to be done, from God's standpoint, is the Second Coming of Christ, or from the standpoint of the world, the Great Tribulation.

As stated in "The Tower" page, the Learning Curve is precipitating the violation of three major Scriptural prohibitions that God has placed on the human race. These are things He will not allow us to do - at least not for long - before the Second Coming of Christ. We will discuss the Biblical basis of these prohibitions, how we are violating them, and how this may interfere with God's plan of salvation, in the following pages. Then we will look at a deeper spiritual problem that underlies the whole "BABEL RISING!" situation. We will begin with the following page,

Unity and Unlimited Communication
The First Prohibition

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Contact Author; William D. Brehm