mandag 19. januar 2009

Cats and credulity

Among a myriad of myths on the Medieval Church is the order to kill cats, millions of them. Which helped contribute to the Black Death, as it was spread by fleas on rats. While other cultures kept their cats and were far less severely hit.

One never gets used to the lack of elementary logic and research behind such stories. It shouldn't take long to see that the Black Death was not much less virulent in China and the Middle East. And that one strand of the plague was air born. Breathing the germs hacked up by someone having it, made you easily get it.

In short, looking at sources provides a different picture.
Cats suffered horribly during witch hunts, which fostered or encouraged all kinds of superstition and brutality. Yet manuscripts show them about the house, playing with the spinster's twirling bobbin, and earning their living on farms. (Excerpts from: Lost Country Life by Dorothy Hartley. New York: Pantheon Books, 1979).
It is hard to avoid the feeling that while the sources tell us that cats were loved and abundant, one has to stick with the myth, as everyone just know it is true.

And it all seems alligned to modern day satanist crazes (and more here).

Still, the standard story is everywhere, even serious places.
"Though cats had always behaved in this manner, to the superstitious minds of the Middle Ages, cats were practicing supernatural powers and witchcraft. Most accused witches were older peasant women who lived alone, often keeping cats as pets for companionship. This guilt by association meant that roughly a million cats were burned at the stake, along with their owners, on suspicion of being witches".
To state the obvious, as no witches were burnt in the Middle Ages, this means that no cats were burnt either. Point proven.

Or perhaps the story is quite another?
"It took the authorities some time to figure out the cause of the problem. At one point they tested the theory that the disease was being spread by dogs and cats; thus the mayor of London ordered the execution of all such pets. Despite the extermination of millions of companion animals, however, the plague did not abate but actually accelerated, for, of course, the elimination of all cats was soon followed by an explosion of the rat population.

Eventually it became evident that people who had kept cats, in violation of the law, fared better; for the cats, according to their nature, killed the rats that carried the fleas that really carried the plague. People slowly began to deduce the rat-flea-disease connection. When the truth finally came to light, cats were quickly elevated to hero status, and soon became protected by law.”
So in reality it was all due to science. The authorities made a testable hypothesis, which then was falsfied.

From this we learn again how dangerous science is. It poisons everything. So be sure to visit you nearest hospital if you ever get hit by a scientist.