The Enlightenment Made Us

Nick Cater examines the Enlightenment ideals that helped shape our uniquely Australian culture. He argues that with a focus on progress and practicality, ‘the great southern continent’s primitive landscape would be a laboratory for the Enlightenment’s bold experiment of applied science’. Unlike America, with its pilgrim devotion to giving thanks to God first and foremost, the pragmatic early colonists of Australia got on with the job of getting on. ‘The colony’s first scientific institution, an observatory, was established within weeks but it was five and a half years before the first wattle-and-daub church was completed.’ Cater asks whether that valuable sense of pragmatism still exists in Australia or are we in danger of losing it to political correctness.

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