Suggested project for someone curious:
There are EA profiles of interesting influential (or influentially uninfluential) social movements—the Fabians, the neoliberals, the General Semanticists. But no one has written about the biggest: the scientific revolution in Britain as intentional intervention, a neoliberal style coterie.
A small number of the most powerful people in Britain—the Lord Chancellor, the king’s physicians, the chaplain of the Elector Palatine / bishop of Chester, London’s greatest architect, and so on—apparently pushed a massive philosophical change, founded some of the key institutions for the next 4 centuries, and thereby contributed to most of our subsequent achievements.
Elizabethan technology and institutions before Bacon. Scholasticism and mathematical magic
The protagonists: “The Invisible College”
The impact of Gresham College and the Royal Society (sceptical empiricism revived! Peer review! Data sharing! efficient causation! elevating random uncredentialed commoners like Hooke)
Pre-emptive conflict management (Bacon’s and Boyle’s manifestos and Utopias are all deeply Christian)
The long gestation: it took 100 years for it to bear any fruit (e.g. Boyle’s law, the shocking triumph of Newton); it took 200 years before it really transformed society. This is not that surprising measured in person-years of work, but otherwise why did it take so long?
Counterfactual: was Bacon overdetermined by economic or intellectual trends? If it was inevitable, how much did they speed it up?
Somewhat tongue in cheek cost:benefit estimate.
This was a nice introduction to the age.