The great debates of the middle decades of the nineteenth century had to do with the soul and the machine . One debate merged religion and politics. What were the political consequences of the idea of the equality of souls? Could the soul of America be redeemed from the nation’s original sin, the Constitution’s sanctioning of slavery? Another debate merged politics and technology. Could the nation’s new democratic traditions survive in the age of the factory, the railroad, and the telegraph? If all events in time can be explained by earlier events in time, if history is a line, and not a circle, then the course of events–change over time–is governed by a set of laws, like the laws of physics, and driven by a force like gravity. What is that force? Is changed driven by God, by people or by machines? Is progress the progress of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s 1678 allegory–the journey of a Christian from sin to salvation? Is progress the extension of suffrage, the spread of democracy? Or is progress invention, the invention of new machines?
Jill Lepore, These Truths, 191-192.