Introduction: The Spectre of Doubt
There is a way of looking at history that sees the rise and fall of civilizations as a function of the way they respond, or fail to respond, to the challenges that face them. From the mists of time to the present day, one civilization after another has collapsed, some spectacularly, others with a more gradual, if apparently inevitable, decline. Birth, death, growth, illness, hope and despair can all be detected in the descriptions of how actual civilizations have fared. Clearly, societies outlive the individuals who comprise them at any one time and, in so doing, have the potential to shape and limit the options of generations yet unborn. The history of civilizations could be seen as humanity’s laboratory, experimenting with different combinations of the same basic elements to derive structures that are ever more adaptable to the circumstances we find ourselves in evolution on a grand scale.