Physicist and Philosopher David Deutsch writes in the Beginning of Infinity that the essence of progress, and in some ways of our humanity, is our search for good explanations for things we don’t understand. In other words, our search for explanations for problems.
“Parrots copy distinctive sounds; apes copy purposeful movements of a certain limited class. But humans do not especially copy any behaviour. They use conjecture, criticism and experiment to create good explanations of the meaning of things – other people’s behaviour, their own, and that of the world in general.” - David Deutsch
When these ideas have been tried and tested, subjected to criticism, and collectively we have settled on a ‘good explanation,’ we move on to find better problems to explain. Better problems are more specific, more nuanced, closer to ‘truth.’
Having settled on the idea that matter exists - things that take up space and can be weighed, and that all matter is made up of particles we call atoms, and those atoms have a nucleus, well, we moved on to problems like nuclear fission.
The irony is that this capacity to create complex, adaptive, ever-evolving explanations for phenomena is both the driver of progress and the source of much misery and modern stress.
Hegel, the German enlightenment philosopher, believed the origin of Original Sin (Adam and Eve) was the fact of human thinking itself:
"...An awareness of the lost status as a one that was good. So sin is not only an experience but also gives us a kind of nostalgia for an ideal earlier state. That’s Original Sin..."