Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Flat Earth

It's an enduring myth that before the Enlightenment people used to think the earth was flat. One would think that progressives would question historians who would record themselves as part of Enlightenment and the ages before them as the Dark Ages, yet they don't. Progressives are typically too busy progressing on to their next mistake to become aware of those they have already made.
According to Jeffrey Russell’s timely investigation, th[e] flat-earth legend arose in 1828 with Washington Irving’s semifictionalized biography of Columbus and was enhanced by similar efforts by the French historian Antoine-Jean Letronne. The brilliantly described encounter between Columbus and the flat-earth zealots of the Spanish Inquisition, made up out of whole cloth by the American novelist, played into the hands of John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White, who were looking for evidence of dogmatic and clerical opposition to the forces of rationality.

In our own century, students of medieval science have demonstrated the flimsiness of the flat-earth mythology, so that Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison could dismiss the argument by stating simply, “No flat earth theory, certainly; for of all the vulgar errors connected with Columbus, the most persistent and the most absurd is that he had to convince people ‘the world was round.’ Every educated man in his day believed the world to be a sphere, every European university so taught geography, and seamen ... knew perfectly well that the surface of the globe was curved.”

Nevertheless, Daniel Boorstin in The Discoverers entitles a chapter “A Flat Earth Returns,” though his presentation seems not quite as egregious as Russell would have us believe. Clearly, the myth is still rampant, as Inventing the Flat Earth demonstrates in a series of contemporary citations. Russell’s short account is a pleasant antidote to such historical nonsense.
(Reviewed: Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and
Modern Historians by Jeffrey Burton Russell
Speculum Vol. 68, No. 3 (Jul., 1993), :885)

In Galileo's day public opinion largely adhered to the "flat-earth" view taught by the Church and few were willing to risk death by openly challenging biblical writings with scientific analysis. We now know the public's view was all wrong, but public opinion is understandably susceptible to error. In the past 400 years some things haven't changed. A few members of the Dover School Board have recently called for the teaching of biblical creationism as part of the high school's biology curriculum. Despite U.S. Supreme Court rulings that creationism is not science and thus, teaching it violates the constitutional separation of Church and State, the creationism proponents want it taught along side the Darwinian theory of evolution anyway.

(The York Dispatch (York, PA)
June 18, 2004 Friday Section: Letters
Headline: Creationism has problems
By Steven G. Zorbaugh)

The bad thing about progressives is that they are ignorant people who think that they know something. There are three or four myths in that letter, which is typical, and murmuring about science, science...cannot change historical facts. The interesting thing is that people seem to be learning progressive or Leftist myths from American professors who are supposed to engage in critical thinking enough to know better.

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