1000 Years of Destruction

by alphamonkey on June 17, 2008 · 11 comments

in Short Film

I rather obsess over the current trend of anti-intellectualism (and the fiery return of mysticism as answer to natural questions), and while I don’t think we’re quite to that point I think it’s important to remember just how badly our civilization has been knocked back due to an irrational distrust of science and innovation.

To that end, here’s Carl Sagan speaking to the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria from the final installment of his wonderful series, Cosmos:

Watch ‘The Library of Alexandria

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  • mike

    Segan makes it seem as though the church destroyed the library. I agree that the church, especially the ancient church, has done some evil things; no one disputes that. However, in this case, Segan got it wrong, and it bother me that he places the blame purely on the church. Atually, no one really knows when the libary was destroyed and by whom. Check out the wikipedia site.

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    There is a good deal of debate as to who was responsible for the library’s destruction, but I’ll forgive Sagan for making the broader point that tearing down knowledge for the sake of superstition can only harm us is one that has ample opportunity to prove itself again and again.

  • Gorlam

    Actually I think the library was burned down on at least 4 separate occasions. Blame gets to be thrown all around.

  • Recycled Miffery

    Sagan had his own religious agenda. Not that I have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is that he didn’t think he did. However, the fact that Sagan falsely implicated the church for a crime sort of tells me that he and others like him are exactly why “science” has lost some of its “trust.”

    If you watch Cosmos (or read the book) you have to be asleep to miss the obvious religious implications of us “having fallen from a great height” and being made of “star stuff.”

    Sagan blurred a lot of things, so to claim that he was a pure scientific rationalist is a bit absurd. He was more Deepak Chopra than Albert Einstein.

    Empirical science needs no “trust.” It appeals to reason, not faith. Rational yet theoretical or extrapolative science, however, is, by definition, biased by the proponent.

    The moment those of the “scientific consensus” start squawking about how we great unwashed masses no long “trust science” is the moment I squawk back: “Galileo.”

    People think he was bucking the Catholic Church. The truth is, he didn’t “trust” the contemporary “scientific consensus.”

    I think you’ve confused science with scientification: the transformation of a new religion based loosely on scientific concepts.

  • Neil

    “tearing down knowledge for the sake of superstition”

    Depends on what the “knowledge” is. Sagan’s musing is discredited by his own system of belief. Lot of guessing/fantasy/speculation going into his narative.
    Sometimes, being TOO smart(or brave) is not worth being wise by half.

    I hardly think Alexandria of then would be concidered “cosmopolitan” as you step over dung to get your next scrape of a meal prior to sundown. In their defense, “cosmopolitain” by today’s standard will have people of the future laughing and wondering what the hell we were thinking…. as well as they unwittingly go about making their mistakes.

    That said I found the scene blocking hilarious. IE “I’m ponficating on a point *pause, hand jestures* here is the crux. *walks away while you are to contimplate such sage wisdom.* :p

  • http://apps.facebook.com/realmofempires/ mike

    Alphamonkey, your right, we should give him credit for making the broader point; tearing down knowledge for the sake of superstition harms us all.

    Also, I guess we shouldn?t forget his other broader point; building up knowledge for the exclusive benefit of the privileged few can also be harmful to us all.

    Recycled Miffery, I completely agree with your comments!

    But I would also like to add that we should always differentiate between science and the scientific method. No good scientist ever ?trusts? science. In fact, the goal of all scientists is to debunk a current scientific theory, and come up with their own. Just like Recycled Miffery noted, Galilleo would never be remembered and praised if he ?trusted? the consensus of the scientific community of his time. Hence, every good scientist, and modern person, should ?trust? the scientific method. Because, even tough the scientific method might not always lead to the correct science, we should trust that the scientific method (i.e. logic and reason) is the most powerful and, more importantly, the most reliable method at our disposal.

  • http://apps.facebook.com/realmofempires/ mike

    sorry about the ??, they should be quotes, “” 😛

  • Just Plain Bob

    “tearing down knowledge for the sake of superstition can only harm us” – Alpha

    science should very well seek to understand and explain the workings of the universe. where these explanations conflict with religious teachings, adherents to those faiths will have to deal with the repercussions. however, it’s not the job of science, or the modern man, or anyone, to tell me my God doesn’t exist, or that I’m an idiot for believing in one.

    I submit the counterpoint that science is tearing down religion as a whole for the sake of nothing in particular.

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    I disagree, JPB. Science tears down nothing but our previously held ignorance. Can it be used as a weapon against religious teachings? Of course it can, just as dogma can be used as a weapon against science.

    Good science is scary. It constantly reminds us of just how little we know, and it’s capable of putting a not inconsequential number of long held beliefs into question. Personally, I think that’s a good thing, as nothing in this life is static and unchanging, and that should extend to our beliefs as well.

    This is a living, breathing, and constantly changing universe, and I personally would rather admit my ignorance and be given the chance to see the world anew with each discovery rather than shout down the knowledge because it doesn’t jibe with what I’ve already been told. But I will stress this: That doesn’t mean I begrudge anyone their faith. I get it. I really do.

    What I don’t get is a persecution complex from a segment of the population that is the majority in this country, or the notion that scientists are working around the clock to disprove religion. Both notions are equally ridiculous, and I can’t believe anyone can argue with a straight face that religion is somehow more threatened by science than vice versa, especially after these last 8 years.

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    And Mike, well said.

  • Andrew DeGolyer

    Mistakes have been made by many different groups of people for many different reasons. The destruction of the libraries of Alexandria may have been the work of Christians (or may not have), but the Romans, Greeks, and Mongolians (among many others) destroyed a lot of knowledge and civilization to their own means, for non-religious reasons. Its a shame that they were destroyed, but who is to say what the real reasons were, i.e. the motivation behind the commanders. People have used religion, and many other things to motivate their people to selfish means.

    Besides, maybe the “masses” were tired of being bossed around by the rich, and took action themselves. It says in the video itself that all the inventions and scientific discoveries meant nothing to the layperson. Maybe if the scientists focused on things that could do more than entertain they would have gained more love and respect for the scientists. But how could that happen. The scientists and philosophers only knew science and philosophy. They came from privilege, and so never had to work in the field. If they had, maybe things would have been different. Science for the sake of science may be appreciated by us now, but for the farmer in their world, science is an easy way to get water to the fields, or a quick way to harvest the fields without the use of mass labor.

    I belive in God whole heartedly. And like Mike said, I believe in the scientific method, and taht we have no way of knowing right now what they will know about our universe in 1000 years. But “good science” has been disproved many times. But science that makes things easier, or just better, than they were before for the average person, now thats science to believe in! Just think, 20 years ago, being able to send messages through the phone lines was amazing. Now look what the internets can do.

    And on a random change in direction, do you think that because of the increasing self-sufficient, cube lifestyle of the western world we are starting to distrust each other more? Are video games and Sim worlds making us believe that “proven science” is a myth, and we can do whatever we want? Or since we are our Sim world’s creator and leader, does it make us feel like that is more possible in our world?

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