søndag 20. desember 2009

tirsdag 3. november 2009

The Hole Left by the Freethinking Age

As this blog alternates between prog and prejudice, it's time for another go at the Medieval myths.

Or science fiction writer Mike Flynn's go at "the Hole Left by the Christian Dark Ages".

Here's a taste.
In general, he projects. His essay appeals to ignorance of the history of science and the scholarship of the past couple of decades, indeed, of any scholarship at all.

He confuses correlation with causation. That a Christian did something does not necessarily mean that he did it because of his Christianity. He recognized this when the deed is a good one, but swallows it whole when the deed was a bad one.

He also claims that Christians are guilty of "non sequiturs" when they write that various famous scientists were believers, commenting correctly that "it doesn't follow that just because a few scientists believed in God that science resulted from it." Then among his "further sources" he includes two links to surveys citing all the scientists who do not believe in God.

But if it is a non sequitur in one direction then, under the gandersauce principle, it is a non sequitur in the other. In either case, it is an invalid appeal to authority.(*) Why should a scientist's beliefs about God matter any more than his beliefs about barbecue sauce or the coining of free silver?

Training in the sciences tends to be narrowly focused and does not usually confer expertise in theology, history, philosophy, or indeed much of anything outside his specialty. (*) It is perfectly valid to appeal to an authority in a field; i.e., to cite an historian on a point of history; a cosmologist on a point of cosmology. This is simply shorthand for research the reader has not the time, inclination, equipment, or expertise to carry out himself.

Inexplicably, Mr. Walker cites (as the bandwagon fallacy) an appeal to "the popular notion that Christianity began modern science." But this is hardly a popular notion. Most people undoubtedly buy into the cultural 'tude that Christianity was hostile to science. However, he does invite by his rhetoric that we all get on the bandwagon of advanced thinking in this regard.

Here is the primary thesis of this counter-essay. Whether or not you believe in someone's God has nothing to do with whether they accomplished anything you consider worthwhile. They may have been perfectly mistaken about God and still kicked off science. But there is a certain kind of "free" thinker who seems bound to the notion that if you disbelieve in a religion then nothing that religion ever did could possibly be any good.

History is never quite this cardboard stereotype of White Hats and Black Hats.
There's a LOT more.

ELP Reunion?!

Too incredible to be true, still it is written in white on blue at the ELP site and white on black at Greg Lake's.
Mean Fiddler and Classic Rock Magazine are proud to announce that Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP) will be reforming to bring the inaugural High Voltage festival to a close.

Forty years after ELP opened the legendary Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970, what better act to celebrate Britain's biggest and best Adult Rock Festival.

Fans can expect 'Cannons, Pyrotechnics and a supreme production alongside the stunning musicianship and songs that made ELP the legends they truly are'.

2 November 2009
Stay tuned.

torsdag 8. oktober 2009


The Agora movie is sure to lead to Hypatia hype, however it's presentation of Church History will also lead both to Agora- and Christianophobia.

So it is not puzzling that there are symptoms of protests in some areas.
Just days before the release of the new movie “Agora” by Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar, civil rights organizations are denouncing the film for promoting hatred of Christians and reinforcing false clichés about the Catholic Church.
As if there is a need for such after Angels and Demons.
Marcos reminded Amenabar of the comments made by people who have already seen a private screening of the film and which Amenabar himself echoed during a television interview.

During the interview he said, “At the end of the film, people sitting near me said Christians are bunch of SOBs.”
On the other hand, such responses may lead to an... interesting public discourse.
In response to Amenabar’s statements that the film “is not against Christians but rather against those who set off bombs and kill in the name of God, that is, against religious fanatics,” Marcos wondered why the director has not recreated situations like those that take place in the Middle East.
Of course, arguing against muslim extremists vicariously, through alleged Church History, is a great and traditional Western sport.

Which requires far less courage.

søndag 6. september 2009

Take a Latin Pebble

It is always good to see ELP numbers becoming jazz, rock or classical standards.

Or latin.

Even if this is a rather typical "starting from the source for never returning". The latter half is still good in it's own Al Di Meola way.

mandag 31. august 2009

The McWizard of Keyboards

Minor luminaries such as Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Chick Corea, Glenn Gould, Keith Emerson, Bill Evans, Joe Zawinul, Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock come and go, but one keyboard artist stands head and shoulders above the rest. The genius of Scots home organ guru Eric McWhirter is renowned throughout the keyboard-playing universe, but for years, his very existence was a closely guarded secret.
Click your keys and read all about it here.

onsdag 19. august 2009

Buridan rides again

As not everyone subscribes to the magazine or has bought web versions of this issue of ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact, it is good news that Michael F. Flynn's short story of alternative medieval history is available here.

It is about nothing less than Quaestiones Super Caelo Et Mundo. Areas that contain far more than most.

lørdag 15. august 2009

End of 'academic embargo' on G.K. Chesterton?

Chesterton is so much a genius and contrarian that academia for long has hesitated even to touch him.

Even if the people of England has not spoken yet, others are raising their voice.
Despite having a profound influence on the 20th century, English author G.K. Chesterton has remained virtually unknown to modern readers. This discrepancy may be due to an unwillingness for universities and colleges to include him in literary and history curriculum.
And other others.

In short, you should ask "Who is this guy and why haven’t I heard of him?"

torsdag 13. august 2009

Seeing Elvis

We'll start a little series on "What Did Keith Do, Rather Recently?".

And we'll do it rather now.

Apparantly he attended an Elvis show and played some Tarkus a few days ago.
I checked out Elvis Schoenberg and the Orchestre Surreal last night. They were doing a set of mostly big-bandish/Zappaish arrangements of Hendrix tunes. It is a big, loud group with a string quartet, eight brass players, guitar/bass/drums/keys, percussion, several singers, dancers, . . . Anyhow, they don't play too often, but are a treat. The highlight was a version of little with with electric sitar, string quartet, and vocals.

An additional treat was that Keith Emerson was in the crowd and played a bit of "Tarkus" for us. Alas, no Moogs in sight.
Stay tuned.

lørdag 1. august 2009

God’s Philosophers released!

One of the best books on the alleged warfare between Christendom and Science in Medieval Europe is about to be relased.

Here we have it from the horse's mouth (and I have counted all the teeth):
I am writing to you because you very kindly registered an interest in my book God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science at jameshannam.com. I am delighted to report that the book is being published in the UK by Icon on 6th August. I am not sure about availability in your country but Amazon.co.uk are already sending out copies so if you would like yours as quickly as possible, you can use the link below:

Order God’s Philosophers from Amazon.co.uk

God’s Philosophers celebrates the forgotten achievements of the medieval world. Focusing on the rise of science, it shows how natural philosophers of the Middle Ages laid the foundations of the ‘Scientific Revolution’.

Without the work of medieval scholars, there would have been no Copernicus, no Galileo and no Newton. By emphasising the important positive role of Christianity on medieval science, God’s Philosophers also contributes to the current debate about the relationship between science and religion.

Thank you for your support in registering your interest in God’s Philosophers. I very much hope that you enjoy the book.

Best wishes

James Hannam
Please, use your handy mouse.

Hidden Wisdom

This - in it's singular way - gem of a comic indicates how much The Da Vinci Code and similar historical nonsense have influenced the public consciousness.

Even if it is no record that not a single sentence gets it right in a comic, it is amazing how to the point and obvious true it all seems. In a medium no one bothers to read with Britannica (or Wikipedia) in the other eye.

In short a masterwork of sneaking in below the radar.

Rest assured The Catholic Church will get around to a good countercomic in a century or two.

fredag 3. juli 2009

torsdag 2. juli 2009

Keep tappin'

24 seconds in pristine quality.

onsdag 1. juli 2009

Ham'n knife

One video document of Spinal Tap at Wembley yesterday, playing Heavy Duty.

Please note their guest keyboard player on Hammond and Knife, especially from about 4 minutes.

Unfortunately a bit blurred picture. And the keyboard player is hidden behind an official camera man.

Other that that, a great sight.

The general idea was to have Keith getting stuck beneath the Hammond and then to be carried out on a stretcher. Though it seems he didn't stick to getting stuck after all.

Rather nutty still, as one reviewer commented.

BTW, here is Spinal Tap discussing the tune as such:

Take care. Whether there is a Hammond close by or not.

søndag 28. juni 2009

Samurai Rondo

This one I really enjoyed, especially from about 2:50. Wild and virtuosic.

Hopefully Keith enjoyed it too.

We'll be back with more about him on Wednesday.

tirsdag 16. juni 2009

The Bible as science

One often hears that if only the Bible had contained scientific truth, then I would believe.

Russell Blackford is one of those guys.
if a god or angel or similar being has inspired the religion's poets and prophets, or dictated actual text for inclusion in its holy books, the god or angel (or whatever) could easily reveal such facts as the true age of the Earth, the fact that it revolves around the Sun, the fact that it is spherical and rotates on its axis, and the evolutionary origin of human beings.
What then would really happen?

The questioned awakened Unklees' imagination at The Quodlibeta Forum.
Moses: Hey Aaron, how do you spell "quark" in Hebrew?
Aaron: No idea. What do you want to know that for?
Moses: It's Yahweh again. Keeps telling all this strange stuff about strangeness and charm and spin, and quarks and gravitons and dark matter. I don't mind not understanding, but I need to know how to write this stuff down.
Aaron: Tell him we're just stone-age goat-herders living a subsistence existence, and you're the only one who can read and write. Ask Him for something simpler, like why does the sun rise every morning?

Moses goes away up Mt Sinai, and returns 3 days later.

Moses: He says the sun doesn't rise in the morning, its the earth moving.
Aaron: I've felt the earth move once or twice (snigger), but not usually in the morning!
Moses: Nothing like that bro', we live on a giant ball, and it goes round and round on its axis, and that makes the sun look like it's moving.
Aaron: What's a ball?
Moses: Dunno, bro', I asked him that and he started to talk about radii and something called a pie, and the number 3.1412, but then he said "forget it!" and muttered under his breath about next time I'll just say 3.
Aaron: Did he tell you anything else?
Moses: Two more things. One was that when he said we came from the dust of the ground he meant we had gradually evolved for billions of years.
Aaron: What's billions?
Moses: Dunno mate, but I think it's a number greater than two.
Aaron: What does evolved mean?
Moses: He says it actually took him more than 6 days to make all this. I told him I didn't really care how long he took, I wasn't in any hurry.
Aaron: What was the other thing you learnt?
Moses: He said that one day people would find it easier to believe all this came about by chance than believe in him. I said, no, I was willing to believe all the other crazy stuff about quarks and pie if He said so, but I couldn't come at that!
Aaron: What did he say then?
Moses: He said, let's start again. Just write this down: "In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth" And I said, that's more like it, now you're talking my language! He just smiled and said, thanks.
I guess that's why the Bible doesn't even tell us that the universe had a beginning.

søndag 14. juni 2009

Science and religion: a history of conflict?

James Hannam is my man, this time in The Guardian.
As the battle between creationism and evolution heats up, some atheists, like Jerry Coyne, have been insisting that it is really a battle between religion and science. Coyne resists any accommodation between religious and non-religious scientists to defend Darwinism. He doesn't want to see them joining forces against the creationist common enemy in case that legitimises religion. In order for his position to make sense, he needs to show that there is some sort of existential conflict between religion and science. So it is unfortunate for him that the historical record clearly shows that accommodation and even cooperation have been the default positions in the relationship.
I anyone was in doubt about how strong this myth is, the comment section is mandatory.

mandag 8. juni 2009

12 most bombastic synth solos of all time

Or at least 12 synth solos from different players.

søndag 24. mai 2009

On the side of the angels

Massimo Introvigne of the Center for Studies on New Religions has been interviewed on Angels and Demons.

As a rather conservative catholic it is no surprise he is somewhat critical. Not to mention scathing.

And it all goes to show the truth in the Second Law of Davidsen: If Dan Brown has said something it is probably wrong.

The interview has a lot of good stuff on Illuminati and secret societies. Introvigne knows his facts when it comes to "La Purga" as well.

And about the alleged castration of Rome's pagan statues. As so often with Dan Brown, the story is rather the other way around.
Did the “great castration” of the “pagan” statues by the Blessed Pius IX (1792-1878) really happen?

Introvigne: No, it didn’t. The legend dates back to English-language anti-clerical pamphlets of the late 19th century. What is true is that certain statues had their prominent genitalia covered by fig leaves. This happened at various stages during the 17th, 18th, and 19th century (not only in Rome) and was certainly not a new idea of Pius IX. The claim in the movie that pagan statues in the center of Rome were destroyed by Pius IX “at the end of the 19th century” is preposterous. At “the end of the 19th century” Pius IX was dead, and the center of Rome was administered by the (quite anti-clerical) Kingdom of Italy. If anything, Pius IX had a keen interest in archeology and in restoring the ancient historical and artistic monuments of Rome. He was even criticized for this by Catholics who believed that supporting Roman archeology was not part of the Church’s mission, or a waste of its resources.

He even tackles the one dollar question.

But wasn’t the back part of the Great Seal of the United States, the one we still see on the dollar bill, a symbol of the Illuminati?

Introvigne: No, no matter how many books (and movies) claim it. The pyramid and eye symbol is never found among the Illuminati. Actually it is not even a Masonic symbol, although there are similar symbols in Freemasonry, where a fascination with Egypt was widespread in the 18th and 19th century. The particular pyramid used in the Great Seal was derived from Pyramidographia, a book published in 1646 in London by John Greaves (1602-1652), based on his trip to Egypt. The eye was introduced by Congress Secretary Charles Thomson (1729-1824) – who was not a Freemason – in his 1792 speech prior to the seal’s Congressional acceptance as a very Christian “eye of the Providence” presiding over the destiny of the United States. As such, it is featured in a number of Christian churches and symbols, quite apart from, and well before, its use within the frame of Masonic rituals.
One interview you will not regret reading.

lørdag 23. mai 2009

Science and faith - The Movie

Is is possible to improve this?

Not at all. Not for a nanosecond. Or a millenium.

Long live Bertrand Russell! And James of Hannam.

Death to The Church!

torsdag 21. mai 2009

Hollywood hypes Hypatia

The neoplatonic philosopher Hypatia is a fascinating figure from late antiquity.

Not the least as she has been used so often and intensely to symbolise and propagate the myth about the Church's "Warfare with Science", another of those Icons of Modernity painted in the 18th and 19th Century.

Fortunately a new film may provide ample opportuinity to set the story more straight. At least it is a good sign that it so quickly has been denounced for the nonsense it is.
As an atheist, I'm clearly no fan of fundamentalism - even the 1500 year old variety (though modern manifestations tend to be the ones to watch out for). And as an amateur historian of science I'm more than happy with the idea of a film that gets across the idea that, yes, there was a tradition of scientific thinking before Newton and Galileo. But Amenabar has taken the (actually, fascinating) story of what was going on in Alexandria in Hypatia's time and turned it into a cartoon, distorting history in the process.
However, as Christianity is the in-thing to slam these days (and has been for a century or two), all is allowed in the name of love and science.
From the press release timed to co-incide with the film's screening at Cannes this week:

Played by Oscar-winning British actress Weisz, Hypatia is persecuted in the film for her science that challenges the Christians' faith, as much as for her status as an influential woman.

From bloody clashes to public stonings and massacres, the city descends into inter-religious strife, and the victorious Christians turn their back on the rich scientific legacy of antiquity, defended by Hypatia.

So we are being served up the idea that Hypatia was persecuted and, I'll assume, killed because "her science ... challenges the Christians' faith". And why have a movie with one historical myth in it when you can have two:

"Agora" opens with the destruction of the second library of Alexandria by the Christians and Jews -- after the first, famous library which was destroyed by Julius Caesar.

At least he's done his homework enough to realise that the decline of the Great Library was a long, slow deterioration and not a single catastrophic event. But he still clings to Gibbon's myth that a Christian mob was somehow responsible. And rather niftily invents a "second library of Alexandria" so he can do so.
With an imagination like that, who need sources?

Make sure you read more of the excellent review here. And heed the moral:
Unfortunately for those who cling to the "conflict thesis", the history of science actually has very few genuine martyrs at the hands of religious bigots. The fact that a mystic and kook like Giordano Bruno gets dressed up as a free-thinking scientist shows how thin on the ground such martyrs are, though usually those who like to invoke these martyrs can fall back on citing "scientists burned by the Medieval Inquistion", despite the fact this never actually happened. Most people know nothing about the Middle Ages, so this kind of vague hand-waving is usually pretty safe.

Unlike Giordano Bruno, Hypatia was a genuine scientist and, as a woman, was certainly remarkable for her time. But she was no martyr for science and science had zero to do with her murder. Exactly how much of the genuine, purely political background to her death Amenabar puts in his movie remains to be seen. It's hoped that, unlike Sagan and many others, the whole political background to the murder won't simply be ignored and her killing won't be painted as an act of ignorant rage against her science and scholarship. But what is clear from his interviews and the film's pre-publicity is that he has chosen to frame the story in Gibbonian terms straight from the "conflict thesis" textbook - the destruction of the "Great Library", Hypatia victimised for her learning and her death as a grim harbinger of the beginning of the "Dark Ages".

And, as usual, bigots and anti-theistic zealots will ignore the evidence, the sources and rational analysis and believe Hollywood's appeal to their prejudices. It makes you wonder who the real enemies of reason actually are.
If nothing else it also proves how dangerous it can get when blind faith gets in the way of facts. Which rarely is seen clearer than in the blind faith in the Warfare between Religion and Science.

fredag 8. mai 2009

Gospels studies - The Next big thing in New Testament studies

At least according to the two archangels, Micael Barber at Singinginthereign and Michael Bird.

Micael Barber reports, of course neutral as always, on the situation.
By form-criticism let me explain what I mean. The form-critical model to which I am referring to holds that the following should be taken as irrefutable historical fact and as foundational for research:

1. Before the sayings of Jesus were incorporated into the Gospels they circulated for a long time through oral tradition which was essentially transmitted anonymously, without authoritative tradents.

2. These sayings were passed along independently of each other.

3. The Jesus tradition was passed along only in small units.

4. Over time elements which were not traceable to the historical Jesus crept into the tradition. For example, the utterances of Christian prophets who spoke “in the name of the Risen Jesus” who accepted as coming truly from the Lord. In fact, the early church was not careful to distinguish what went back to the historical Jesus and so the Jesus tradition was expanded to include large portions of non-historical elements.

5. Many of these non-historical sayings were introduced to help address the needs of the church. For example, sayings were accepted into the tradition which helped answered critical questions facing the church. In essence, when the church wondered, “What would Jesus have said about x?”, a saying was kindly obliged by someone such as a Christian prophet who could speak for the Lord.

6. The elements of the Jesus tradition―which of course now included features that were not authentic―came to be crystallized in various forms: e.g., parables, pronouncement stories, individual sayings, miracle stories, etc.

7. By carefully analyzing the Gospels one can “get behind the text” and happily answer all of the following questions:

―What were the original forms in which the sayings of Jesus were circulated?

―How were these sayings used in the early church at this oral stage?

―Which elements came from Jesus and which came from the early Church?

Keep in mind, for form-criticism to really be carried out the above presuppositions cannot simply be loosely held. This is either what happened or not. To question the basic assertions of the form-critical model is to be unable to use it.

Now, it took about a hundred years but most scholars are now recognizing how ridiculous the schema is.
Not a second too early.

torsdag 30. april 2009

On and off

This English blog is unfortunately rather on and off, compared to my native musings.

The reason is not that I write too little, it is more that I do it too much. After a heavy round of articles and book chapters, the energy and time to type fast and furiously in a foreign language (and checking for typos) is not all that present.

Still, there is hope for some updates the next days. And not only if Dawkins keep it coming.

lørdag 11. april 2009

Easter interrupted

Just to interrupt the rather long Easter holliday.

Anyone hoping Bart Ehrman has interrupted his Bible bashing by doing some research recently, will be disappointed by a look at this and this and The Colbert Report and possibly moore by Mr. Witherington.

Now, back to sun worshipping.

onsdag 11. mars 2009

Ivories strike gold

A rather to the point review of the American release.
If the name Keith Emerson doesn’t ring any musical bells, you may be too young to recall the heady days of progressive art rock when instrumental proficiency carried more weight than flashbulb image or red-carpet appearances. After churning out a succession of mediocre solo albums and critically acclaimed soundtracks, the keyboard’s greatest and perhaps most flamboyant player returns with “The Keith Emerson Band featuring Mark Bonilla,” a self-titled CD that stands proudly among his best work with Emerson Lake & Palmer.
Best of all, this version also contains an update of Barbarian, the piece that gave the first ELP album it's headstart. Or headblast.

onsdag 25. februar 2009

New Scientist denies the fossil record

It is a rare treat these days to see a scientific journal that openly denies the fossil record. It takes a lot of courage and conviction.

So praise then to Jo Marchant in New Scientist for showing that freedom of speech is so cherished that deniers still are allowed to publish in serious magazines even in the Darwin Bicentennial year.

The fossils that comes into play here are of course the strata of sources and eye witnesses from the times in question. One cannot make serious historical claims while ignoring written material and real historians. It is worse than bad science, it is bad manners.

Two examples will suffice.
WHEN Roman civilisation fell in the early centuries AD, the light of scholarship was extinguished. It was close to a thousand years before civilisation recovered, thanks to European scholars who rediscovered classical Greek learning and ushered in the new dawn of the Renaissance.

At least, this is how history is taught. Now two books argue that this view ignores the crucial role of Islamic scholars.
That a long range of books by professional historians like Edward Grant and David Lindberg for decades have shown that the whole outline of history on this "fall" and "recovery" is a myth, is beyond New Scientist.

After this start it is not surprising than New Scientist even denies the dinosaur in the room. The Flat Earth Myth is present in all it's gore.
While the Islamic world was enjoying astronomy, philosophy and medicine, those in Europe could not tell the hours of the day, thought the Earth was flat, and saw disease as punishment from God, says Jonathan Lyons in "The House of Wisdom".
So much the worse for Jonathan Lyons. That a modern scientific magazine perpetuates the myth that European scholars in the middle ages believed to earth to be flat is nothing short than a miracle.

The only hope is to prescribe the normal antidotes, by Russell and Garwood.

Even if it always has been hard to argue against fossil deniers, it may provide some enlightenment.

Though one has some doubts after reading revealing passages like the following.
By the late 12th century, though, the Islamic world was increasingly under threat from Christian armies, and Muslim leaders responded with a return to fundamental religious values. The battle between scientists and theologians was ultimately settled in favour of God. But in Europe, the genie was out of the bottle. The rationalist approach bequeathed by the Arabs "changed forever the landscape of Western thought", says Lyons, and led directly to the scientific revolution.
The reviewer doesn't even begin to get suspicious about the much maligned European society. Why not ask a simple control question on why science in Europe, though allegedly in the clutches of The Church and the Clergy for still many a century, was able to set roots, and have the reasons and resources to grow into modern science?

Not the least as the Arab and Ottoman world had a lot more money and manpower, at least til the 17th century. And the Europeans definitely lost the crusades in precisely the late 12th.

Well, fossils deniers always have had their own peculiar logic.

fredag 20. februar 2009

god vs. god

What shall one say?

Except, of course, there really is no contest.
"The Art of the Duel", an original piano piece inspired by and dedicated to the two giants of piano prog rock: Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. Written and performed by Matej Hrovat, pianist and com...
"The Art of the Duel", an original piano piece inspired by and dedicated to the two giants of piano prog rock: Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. Written and performed by Matej Hrovat, pianist and composer from Slovenia who also composes and publishes electronic music under the alias "Aziraphal". Recorded at a live piano performance in 2006; directed by Boštjan Miha Jambrek.
More information and music at http://www.aziraphal.com and http://www.soundclick.com/aziraphal

tirsdag 27. januar 2009

"Darwin vs. God" - and BBC History

The latest issue of BBC History has an illuminating article on Darwin vs. God, "exploding the myth of the clash between church and science".

This is really an occasion to congratulate, celebrate and dance in the streets. Before shouting from the rooftops.

In short, keep 'em coming!

Not the least as the Historian of Science John van Wyhe shows how easy it is to be trapped by myths which seem impossible to counter by mere facts.
"We often hear that when the Origin of Species was published there was a great outcry and an historic clash of science and religion.

This is probably more fantasy than fact. Such stories can now be told and repeated only because we have forgotten just what was, and what was not, shocking in 1859".
Still, once again the left hand doesn't know what the right does, something that as far as known has no evolutionary benefit. If there is anyone keeping by the myths, it is BBC itself. In an overview of historic figures we read that
Darwin was vehemently attacked, particularly by the Church.
The matter is not directly improved by van Wyhes article so far not being published on the net. Just to ensure that the myths will stay as safe as ever.

In a Darwin Jubilee Year, not to mention a neoatheistic age, it would anyhow take a miracle to move them.

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.

lørdag 3. januar 2009

Matt it is

And then it is clear. You'd have to travel in time to have expected that one.

Say hello to Matt Smith. And mix it with a farewell here.

fredag 2. januar 2009

Exile from Babylon

One of my Fav Historians, Philip Jenkins of Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way fame, has just written an article (and a book) on the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Across much of the Middle East, the ancient Christian story seems to be coming to a bloody end almost before our eyes. The most dramatic catastrophe in recent years has been that of Iraq's Christians, who represented 5-6 percent of Iraq's population in 1970. That number is now below 1 percent, and shrinking fast in the face of persecution and ethnic/religious cleansing.

Western Christians watch this story in horror, but few claim detailed knowledge of the situation, or can easily recognize the Iraqi churches we read of in the news. Are they perhaps the survivors of some Victorian missionary enterprise? we wonder.

Actually, understanding the history of Iraq's churches should make us still more keenly aware of the tragedy we see unfolding. Not only are these churches — Chaldean, Assyrian, Orthodox — truly ancient, they are survivals from the earliest history of the church. For centuries indeed, the land long known as Mesopotamia had a solid claim to rank as the center of the church and an astonishing record of missions and evangelism. What we see today in Iraq is not just the death of a church, but also the end of one of the most awe-inspiring phases of Christian history.
Be sure to catch Jenkins' book The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — and How It Died.