Conversations: Civilization of Ignorance


Sappho
All complex life on earth has developed from simpler life forms over billions of years. This is a fact that no longer admits of intelligent dispute. If you doubt that human beings evolved from prior species, you may as well doubt that the sun is a star.

Galene
Well, not to be facetious, but the sun doesn’t look like any other star.

Sappho
Granted, the sun doesn’t seem like an ordinary star, but we know that it is a star that just happens to be relatively close to the earth.

Helena
The point is this: imagine your potential for embarrassment if your religious faith rested on the presumption that the sun was not a star at all. Imagine millions of Christians in the United States spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to battle the godless astronomers and astrophysicists on this point. Imagine them working passionately to get their unfounded notions about the sun taught in our nation’s schools. This is exactly the situation Christians are now in with respect to evolution. Continue reading

Unless you are the Mongols


The Mongols are a civilization that are known for being the exception to many historical phenomena.[1] Listed below are some of the most important of those exceptions in a generalised form:

  • Nomads: The downside is that you have to move around a lot because your herd always needs new grass, which makes it hard to build cities, unless you are the Mongols.
  • Civilization: Certain conglomerations of humans are seen as civilizations, where as, say nomadic cultures generally aren’t. Unless you are, say it with me, the Mongols.
  • Early Cities: The city-state period in Mesopotamia ended around 2000 BCE, probably because drought and a shift in the course of rivers led to pastoral nomads coming in and conquering the environmentally weakened cities, and then the nomads settled into cities of their own as nomads almost always will, unless, wait for it, you are the Mongols.
  • Persian Empire: Let’s start with the Persian empire, which became the model for pretty much all land-based empires throughout the world. Except for, wait for it, the Mongols.
  • Silk Road: […] with the growth of the Silk Road, the nomadic people of Central Asia suddenly become much more important to world history. Much of Central Asia isn’t great for agriculture, but it’s difficult to conquer, unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols.

“A tiger wearing a bell will starve.” – Mongolian proverb

  • Early Christianity: Both Herods ultimately took their orders from the Romans, and they both show up on the list of rulers who are oppressive to the Jews, partly because there’s never that much religious freedom in an empire, unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols… or the Persians.
  • Early Islam: It’s common to hear that in these early years Islam quote “spread by the sword”, and that’s partly true, unless you are — wait for it — the Mongols.[2]
  • Dark Ages: [The Abbasids] hailed from the Eastern, and therefore more Persian, provinces of the Islamic Empire. The Abbasids took over in 750 and no one could fully defeat them; until 1258, when they were conquered by, wait for it, the Mongols.
  • Islam in Africa: Until then, most of the people living in the East had been hunter-gatherers or herders, but once introduced, agriculture took hold, as it almost always does. Unless, wait for it, you’re the Mongols.
  • Imperialism: So by the end of the 19th century, most of Africa and much of Asia had been colonized by European powers. […] Notable exceptions include Japan, which was happily pursuing its own imperialism, Thailand, Iran, and of course Afghanistan. Because no one can conquer Afghanistan, unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols.
  • World War II: So, not to sound jingoistic, but the entry of the U.S. into the war really did change everything, although I doubt the Nazis could’ve taken Russia regardless. No one conquers Russia in the wintertime, unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols.

“A donkey that carries me is worth more than a horse that kicks me.” – Mongolian proverb


[1] Green. J. (2012) Crash Course World History

[2] Actually, as usual, the truth is more complicated. Many people, including the Mongols, but also including lots of people in Central and East Asia, embraced Islam without any military campaigns.

Civilization of Ignorance


‘All complex life on earth has developed from simpler life forms over billions of years. This is a fact that no longer admits of intelligent dispute. If you doubt that human beings evolved from prior species, you may as well doubt that the sun is a star. Granted, the sun doesn’t seem like an ordinary star, but we know that it is a star that just happens to be relatively close to the earth. Imagine your potential for embarrassment if your religious faith rested on the presumption that the sun was not a star at all. Imagine millions of Christians in the United States spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to battle the godless astronomers and astrophysicists on this point.

Imagine them working passionately to get their unfounded notions about the sun taught in our nation’s schools. This is exactly the situation you are now in with respect to evolution.

Christians who doubt the truth of evolution are apt to say things like “Evolution is just a theory, not a fact.” Such statements betray a serious misunderstanding of the way the term “theory” is used in scientific discourse. In science, facts must be explained with reference to other facts. These larger explanatory models are “theories.” Theories make predictions and can, in principle, be tested. The phrase “the theory of evolution” does not in the least suggest that evolution is not a fact. One can speak about “the germ theory of disease” or “the theory of gravitation” without casting doubt upon disease or gravity as facts of nature.

It is also worth noting that one can obtain a Ph.D. in any branch of science for no other purpose than to make cynical use of scientific language in an effort to rationalize the glaring inadequacies of the Bible. A handful of Christians appear to have done this; some have even obtained their degrees from reputable universities. No doubt, others will follow in their footsteps. While such people are technically “scientists,” they are not behaving like scientists. They simply are not engaged in an honest inquiry into the nature of the universe. And their proclamations about God and the failures of Darwinism do not in the least signify that there is a legitimate scientific controversy about evolution. In 2005, a survey was conducted in thirty four countries measuring the percentage of adults who accept evolution. The United States ranked thirty third, just above Turkey. Meanwhile, high school students in the United States test below those of every European and Asian nation in their understanding of science and math. These data are unequivocal: we are building a civilization of ignorance.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 22-23

Exonym


Exonyms are names used in a particular language to refer to a foreign nation or country; they can be completely different from the name that country uses (in its particular language) to qualify itself. Quite often, they can be of interest from a historical point of view because they can be surprisingly conservative. The exonym is sometimes preserved for hundreds of years after the political or ethnic entity it originally referred to ceased to be.

One of the best-known cases is Germany. Many nations share their linguistic origin with the German term Deutschland, even though they have sometimes assumed a quite different form i.e. Duitsland, Tedesco or Tyskland – from the Proto-Germanic Þeudiskaz. The Slavic peoples call the Germans Niemcy or similar which means ‘a mute’, someone who does not speak Slavic. The French and Spanish, among others, employ the name of the Alamanni tribe. The English, Italians and Russians, to name a few, use a derivative of the Latin Germania or Greek Γερμανία. And the Finns and Baltic states either refer to the name of the Saxon tribe or employ a word of unknown origin, like the Latvian Vacija or the Lithuanian Vokietija.

Consider these other cases:

  • The Latvians call Russia Krievija, referring to an ancient Slavic tribal union, the Krivichi;
  • The Turks call Greece Yunanistan and the Greeks Yunan, another very old exonym which probably has for origin the word ‘Ionia’, that is the Greek region on the coast of Asia Minor;
  • In a kind of an opposite logic, Russia was called Muscovy by the Poles, and then by other Europeans as a way to deny the claim of the Moscow-based government on the totality of Russian lands;
  • The Japanese used to call China Tang even hundreds of years after the end of that dynasty. In the late 19th- and early 20th century they resorted to an even older and more obscure word Shina, which had the advantage of being similar to the equivalent Western terms.

Also, there is something particularly curious about Roman exonyms; it seems the Romans gave completely random names to any people they encountered. A people that called itself Rasenna received the name Tuscans or Etruscans. The inhabitants of Carthage became Punics, and the Hellenes or Achaeans were Greeks. Celts became Galli or the Gauls.

“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Harem (iii)


‘Lady Shiel, wife of the British minister to Persia in 1849, who lived four years in that country, says that Persian women of the upper class lead a life of idleness and luxury, and enjoy more liberty than the women of Christendom. They consume their time by going to the bath and by a constant round of visits, and frequently acquire a knowledge of reading and writing, and of the choice poetical works in their native language. Cooking, or at least its superintendence, is a favorite pastime. In populous harems the mortality among children is very great, owing to the neglect, laziness, and ignorance of the mothers and nurses.

An American lady, Mrs. Caroline Paine, who travelled in the Turkish empire, says in her “Tent and Harem” (New York, 1859) that she made the acquaintance of Turkish women who were “wonderful instances of native elegance, refinement, and aptness in the courtesies, ordinary civilities, and prattle of society.” She says: “Turkish women are by no means confined to a life of solitude or imprisonment, and they would be scarcely tempted to exchange the perfect freedom and exemption from the austere duties of life, which is their acme of happiness, for all the advantages that might be gained from intellectual pursuits or a different form of society.”’

– Ripley. G., Dana. C.A., Ed. (1879) The American Cyclopædia – A Popular Dictionary Of General Knowledge New York, United States: D. Appleton and Company (Entrance: “Harem” [between “Hare Lip” and “Harfleur”], written by Parke Godwin).

Harem (ii)


‘The Christian travellers most familiar with oriental life have passed very opposite judgements on the nature and effect of the harem system. Lady Mary Montagu, who visited the harems of the great officers of the Turkish empire, has left gorgeous pictures of what she saw. She describes the harems as glittering with splendor and inhabited by lovely girls magnificently attired, leading a gay and happy life.

Harriet Martineau, who visited some harems of the higher class in Cairo and Damascus in 1847, gives a very different picture. In a harem at Cairo she found 20 women, some slaves, nearly all young, some good-looking, but none handsome. Some were black, Nubians or Abyssinians, and the rest Circassians with very light complexions. She saw no trace of intellect in these women, except in a homely old one. Their ignorance she describes as fearful, and their grossness as revolting.

At Damascus she saw the seven wives of three men in one harem, with a crowd of attendants. Of the seven, two had been the wives of the head of the household, who was dead; three were the wives of his eldest son, aged 22; and the remaining two were the wives of his second son, aged 15. Of the five younger, three were sisters, children of different mothers in the same harem. They smoked, drank coffee and sherbet, sang to the accompaniment of a tambourine, danced in an indecent manner, and all the while romping, kissing, and screaming went on among old and young. She pronounces them the most studiously depressed and corrupted women she ever saw.’

– Ripley. G., Dana. C.A., Ed. (1879) The American Cyclopædia – A Popular Dictionary Of General Knowledge New York, United States: D. Appleton and Company (Entrance: “Harem” [between “Hare Lip” and “Harfleur”], written by Parke Godwin).

19/iii mmxiv


Salvador Dali did nine months of military service and was assigned the role of toilet cleaner. He pretended to have nervous fits to avoid night duty.

27,000 trees are felled each day for toilet paper.

There are 443 named islands in Denmark, only 76 of which are inhabited.

The highest mountain in Turkey is Mount Ararat, which is where Noah’s Ark is supposed to have landed. It was first climbed in October 1829, by a professor called Frederick Parrot.

In 380 CE the church issued a law specifically forbidding anyone to read the Bible whilst naked. People had been trying to emulate the innocence of Adam and Eve by taking their clothes off before services.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts