Just in time for Columbus Day, Bill Moyers’s website has an excerpt from scholar Joyce Appleby’s book, Shores of Knowledge: New World Discoveries and the Scientific Imagination. She writes,
No one had any idea of what would happen if ships sailed west across the Atlantic. Columbus’s sponsors certainly did not expect the most significant unintended consequences of all: the breaking open of the closed world of Christianity. A civilization marked by a reverence for sacred texts so deep that it disallowed questions about natural phenomena became the trailblazer in inquiries about nature. The Church Fathers had been correct. Curiosity was dangerous. Passing from amateur passions to sober investigations of biology, geology and astronomy, it upended the grand Christian narrative of the origins of life and the place of our planet in the universe. Over the course of four hundred years the research spawned by Columbus’s discovery of the New World set Europe apart from any other society on the globe, and, even more, from its own past.