Category Archives: I argue

Some things are unprovable. Some things appear clearly evident to me. Still other things are provable, seem clear to me, but are not something I wish to spend my time attempting to prove.

So I just argue them. Feel free to disagree.

I argue

Socrates was a Luddite

Einstein once said that you should never bother memorizing what you can easily look up. The reason, I’d hazard to guess, is that humans only have so much capacity for memorization. Given the vast quantities of information that are now known by humankind, I believe it as important as ever to make careful selections with what we choose to fill our brains.

Socrates was against writing anything down. We know this both because Plato tells us and because Socrates never wrote anything down. He said that if you wrote things down to read or refer to later that you would then lose the capacity for remembering things. In the short term, this assertion may have some kernel of truth. I have heard more than one expert claim that the wandering poets of ancient Greece could recite the entirety of the Iliad and the Odyssey from memory. One way to explain this phenomenal ability is that both poems contain markers to spur memories of specific lines within them and both poems have recurring lines to reset the meter and rhythm: think, ‘rosy-fingered dawn’.  The second reason poets could remember entire epic poems was in fact that memories were much more highly evolved before people could write. Everything a person learned, they had to remember or forget forever.

Regardless of how much you personally might be able to remember if you never wrote anything down and committed all things to memory, however, you would still fall behind the rest of society. Some of the greatest advances of humankind can be directly attributed to the creation of information storage and dissemination capacities. Sir Isaac Newton famously said that if he had seen a little further it was because he was standing on the shoulders of giants; a phrase he borrowed from Pascal. The giants whose shoulders we all stand on are giants who bothered to write down what they have learned so we can learn what they discovered centuries ago and can now push the envelope of knowing just that little bit more for those who will come after us.

Socrates was against a Luddite.

I argue

The World Has Always Been Round

As anyone who has ever spent time at the ocean or on a boat can attest, it is quite obvious to the unaided eye that the surface of the world is round. In fact, hundreds of years before any scientist discovered this a man in a sea town in, I believe it was, Portugal figured out the circumference of the earth within under 1,000 miles just by noting the arc of the curvature of the Earth between two points at the mouth of a bay. Extrapolating that arc, this man figured the circumference of the planet. He did it by sitting beside the ocean and staring at it and noting that the horizon is not a straight line.

This being true, it seems more reasonable that sailors, who spend entire lives on boats, would notice the same thing as well. I find it far more likely and reasonable that some sailor, as a joke, began telling tales to naive landlubbers and neophytes about monsters and sailing off the end of the earth.

So the lesson today  is that one should learn not to joke around with ignorant or foolish people. You may have a good laugh at their expense and marvel at their stupidity but if you do not let them in on the joke, and they repeat it as fact, you could end up with another Inquisition. Tens of thousands of people tortured and killed because the Earth is FLAT and Rome is the center of the universe and the Sun revolves around the Earth.

The entire philosophy of Catholicism grew into a notion that the closer one is to G-d, the closer they are to perfection. G-d is the unmoving Mover and the Pope is closest thing to perfection on Earth. The Earth does not move and Rome is the center of the Earth. Like the idea of ‘Chinese-ness”, by which the closer you are to the Forbidden City the more ‘Chinese’ you are, so too it was that the closer you were to Rome, the closer you were to the center of the Universe, to G-d. Science dispelled this notion by dethroning the Earth from its place of privilege.

At first blush, this may seem innocuous enough and not a reason to imprison Galileo Galilee under house arrest for the remainder of his life, but Rome, the Pope, was enough of a student of politics to understand (or at least his adviser’s were) that one cannot unseat the Earth without by inference unseating Rome…and the Pope…of their power and mystique. Science was after truth and, like all entrenched powers, Rome could only think of crushing opposing thought instead of taking the new thought by this new thinker; this new thinker who educated the Pope in his youth; and re-working their power within this new Truth. No, the Pope found himself and the Church under attack and instead chose to issue a Papal Bull to torture all those whose heresies (heretica meaning ‘to choose’) threatened to break the ties that bound all men to the power of Rome.

All because some sailor thought it would be funny to tell some ignorant soul in a pub that the Earth was flat and he almost sailed off the edge last week.