So there I was, getting my very first cavity cleaned and filled, ‘chatting’ with the dentist. ‘How are you?’ “gerblopflllob…” ‘Oh good, glad to hear that.’ ‘What do you study?’ (Shut up you idiot and fix my tooth!) “Hchemfloptry” ‘Oh, chemistry. (How the hell did he know what I said?) ‘Science is so strange. You think you know something and then more evidence arrives and it was all wrong.’ ‘sthop trup’ (so true) ‘One minute people are being burned at the stake for thinking the world is round and the next people sail around it.’
With educated ignorance like this, who needs stupid people? At least my tooth filling looks good, so good in fact you can’t even tell it’s there. They clean it out and fill it in, sculpting it in and then the set it with UV light… very cool. But the level of ignorance was absurd. So when did the belief that Christian Europe was backward, unscientific, stupid, and killed people for observing the universe start? Well, it is amusing to read the Wikipedia entry about the flat earth concept. Apparently, Europeans have generally believed the earth is round since Pythagoras. In fact the entry becomes more and more amusing as you discover that the idea of a spherical earth came to India in the early AD centuries from exposure to… Greek astronomy, and to the Islamic scientists from the translation of Greek cosmology from Constantinople into Arabic… China was way behind, finding out about the (apparently European) idea of a spherical earth in the 17th century from the Jesuits. So why, for any reason, do so many people believe that the medieval Christians think the earth was flat? And why are so many people willing to ascribe to them the act of killing the people who held the standard belief about the earth.
The mis-characterization of the medieval times and the time following is what I consider to be the most successful, most damaging, most pervasive campaign of lies, slanders, and libels in history. Here it is in a picture:
That’s right, blame the dark ages on Christianity… because they totally happened and they were totally the fault of believing in the Christian God. Despite the fact that the picture graph was obviously made by an ignorant hack without even a tenuous grasp of history of any kind, let alone scientific advancement. The sad state of the matter is that many, maybe even most, people walk around in their lives with this view of history, with this view of Christianity, and this view of the west. Now, I am sure there was some time while Rome was falling, slowly backing out of what is now Western Europe it felt pretty dark, like this:
For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.
When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.
Also, the science of the region fell dramatically: but you try to keep civilization going when being overrun by Vandals, Visigoths, et al. However, the purposefully forgotten piece of history is that the more populous of the Christian world at the time was the Eastern Roman Empire which survived with its science intact. Also, happily expunged are the brave and great people who cobbled civilization back together after Rome receded. Men like Alcuin who were part of this first ‘renaissance’ that only came to an end upon the onset of the little ice age. Alcuin is forgotten, conveniently perhaps, because one of his most important contributions was rebuking Charlemagne for his campaign of forced conversions saying this:
“Faith is a free act of the will, not a forced act. We must appeal to the conscience, not compel it by violence. You can force people to be baptized, but you cannot force them to believe.”
Wikipedia (the lazy blogger’s source… this is a red car (or is it a white rabbit) that I am chasing, no time for anything better than Wiki) goes on to say that in response Charlemagne abolished the death penalty for paganism in … 797 AD.
So where does the firmly held belief that Christian Europe was backward, and autocratic? I don’t know, but I suspect an evil cabal 🙂 of enlightenment thinkers and their ideological descendants. If the medieval ages were not dark, than their argument against God starts crumbling…