Myths of the Great Library

In History, the details are always hard to catch, yet always worth knowing. This long post at History for Atheists, worth absorbing in full, makes a number of discordant points about the Myth that the Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by a Christian mob in 390 AD, thus setting science and technology back a thousand years. I will state them below in brief, and you may read the post in full.

  1. The Great Library of Alexandria was not the only Great Library of the Ancient World. It did not “contain all the wisdom of the ancient world”.
  2. The Great Library of Alexandria was a research institution, a Mouseion, devoted to the Nine Muses, which is to say, they were a product of Pagan religious inspiration, the worship of the gods.
  3. Consequently, most of the scholarship done at the Mouseion was focused on textual criticism and poetry, and not very much on what we moderns would call science.
  4. The Ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t really do science as we understand it today. Which is to say, their natural philosophy was largely inductive, not empirical, and they did not apply this philosophy to improving the technology of their culture.
  5. The Mouseion had almost certainly ceased to exist by 390 AD. A series of sackings of the city by Romans, beginning with Julius Caesar, greatly diminished the value of the place.
  6. What was destroyed in 390 AD was a daughter library, the Serapaeum. As with the Mouseion, the Serapaeum was first and foremost a pagan temple, devoted to the worship of the hybrid Greek-Egyptian God Serapis. It’s destruction in 390 was the result of a long series of hostilites between the pagan and Christian populations of the city. Which is to say, it was the result of a war between rival religious traditions, and not a war between religion and science. And according to primary sources, there may not even have been a library in the Serapaeum at the time.

Again, Read the Whole Thing (Hat Tip: Vox Populi)

Donuts are Awesome. Meth is Not.

SciBabe makes five arguments why Donuts won’t kill you, but meth totally will.

Best part, she knocks down the whole “sugar is addictive” tripe.

Sugar is sweet. It tastes good. You can crave it, sure. I’m craving some fruit right now, in no doubt partially because it’s sweet. But it does not trigger your brain the same way that drugs do. It does not cause the same withdrawal symptoms that drugs do. And it certainly does not cause the same physical conditions that drugs do. And if I don’t get my hands on an apple in the next few hours, I’m not going to start sweating, shaking, and hunting for a dealer somewhere on the corner.

Yes, someone can consume too much sugar. That’s absolutely true. But that can be said of the other two macronutrients as well. At this point in history, we’re demonizing sugar because the market has been flooded with bullshit books telling us this is the macronutrient du jour to cut out of our diets to make us skinny.

And now I want a donut. Heyyyy….

donut

 

Does Every British Rock Star Have to Be a Knight?

I like the fact that they’re thinking of naming one of the new heavy metallic elements after Lemmy Kilmister. Science should be pop-cultural whenever possible.

I don’t like this sentiment, expressed in the article:

Speaking of why he started the petition, Wright said: “In terms of record sales impact, Lemmy should have been offered an honour but he didn’t play that game. I don’t think there was ever much chance of Sir Lemmy Kilmister so this feels like a tribute that has a permanence to it that acknowledges and represents his impact.”

Grah. This is all Jagger’s fault. A knighthood isn’t something you get handed to you after X number of units shipped. A knighthood means your life and actions have been of service to the realm and valued by the monarch. As much we all might dig laying the foundation for thrash metal, I don’t think this is a chip that needs to be on anyone’s shoulder.

Bad Catholic Makes Me Laugh.

And then informs me:

It hurts to even mutter the heresy, but Science didn’t spring forth from Richard Dawkins’ ass. Science as a discipline was developed in the High Middle Ages, in the Universities established by the Very Mean Roman Catholic Church. Robert Grosseteste — the bishop of Lincoln — is the first man credited with formalizing the Scientific Method, under the concept of “composition and resolution” using Christian, Islamic and Aristotelean texts. His ideas were translated into the Scientific Method we know (and hopefully love) today by Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar who used terms like “observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and independent verification”for the first time.

Sound like anti-intellectual dogma yet? Oh don’t cry about it guys. Keep pretending Galileo wasn’t a devout Catholic, it’ll make the facts go away. Oh, and don’t look at the founders of Modern Science. Especially not St. Albertus Magnus, Petrus Peregrinus, Witelo of Silesia, Johannes de Scartobosco, or William of Ockham.

There is nothing more boring than online debates between atheists and theists. The most vitriolic troll-fest between conservatives and progressives, on any web-site, ever, is more fact-based and rational than religious debates. Religious debates are nothing more than assertion and demonization, augmented by the kind of ignorance of history and theology that characterizes twelve-year-olds and the mentally handicapped. If you want proof of this ass ertion, just scroll down to the comments.

Facts, on the other hand, are always welcome.

 

Humanity is Good for Another 100,000 Years

So says the New Scientist, as faithfully reported by Rob Long at Ricochet.

Apparently the usual suspects: viruses, super-volcanoes, global warming, etc. will not suffice to kill all of us. The only planet-wide threats come from outer-space, and these are mostly rare. An asteroid big enough could do us in, but the more likely asteroid strike would only be enough to wipe out a medium-sized country.

In the comments, James Lileks sums up the consequences justly:

In related news: scientists believe “COPS” and “The Simpsons” will run for 101,00 years.