The late Joseph Campbell maintained that civilizations are not based on science, but on myth. “Aspiration,” Campbell explained, “is the motivator, builder and transformer of civilization.” Our technological society has been built on Francis Bacon’s myth of the New Atlantis.
Competing with Bacon’s vision of a scientific society based on intelligence, knowledge and innovation, is an older, more persistent fable: the Noble Savage. The Noble Savage is not a person, but an idea. It is cultural primitivism, the belief of people living in complex and evolved societies that the simple and primitive life is better. The Noble Savage is the myth that man can live in harmony with nature, that technology is destructive and that we would all be happier in a more primitive state.