Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Less You Know

I want going to type this up as a comment on the previous post, but after reading it aloud to MrsDarwin she says it deserves its own post. Mr. Loewen again in Lies My Teacher Told Me runs out a series of wrong and poorly source tropes which show how ignorance, political correctness and good old fashioned WASP-ish anti-Catholic thinking of the sort one would find in a public school textbook from around 1960 can come together. From page 16:
Columbus's voyages caused almost as much change in Europe as in the Americas. Crops, animals, ideas and diseases began to cross the oceans regularly. Perhaps the most far-reaching impact of Columbus's findings was on European Christianity. In 1492 all of Europe was in the grip of the Catholic Church. As the Encyclopedia Larousse puts it, before America, "Europe was virtually incapable of self-criticism." After America, Europe's religious uniformity was ruptured. For how were these new peoples to be explained? They were not mentioned in the Bible. American Indians simply did not fit within orthodox Christianity's explanation of the moral universe. Moreover, unlike the Muslims, who might be written off as "damned infidels," American Indians had not rejected Christianity, they had just never encountered it. Were they doomed to hell? Even the animals of America posed a religious challenge. According to the Bible, at the dawn of creation all animals lived in the Garden of Eden. Later, two of each species entered Noah's ark and ended up on Mt. Ararat. Since Eden and Mt. Ararat were both in the Middle East, where could these new American species have come from? Such questions shook orthodox Catholicism and contributed to the Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517.

Does someone who can produce that paragraph have any freaking business writing a book on the errors and stereotypes in other books?


Donald R. McClarey said...

Worse than the obvious ideological bias of Mr. Loewen is the fact that he gives ample evidence, as in the quoted paragraph, of simply being bone ignorant of most of history. Here is another example:

"First, he says that Columbus did not invent the taking of land, wealth, and labor, leading to the near extermination of indigenous peoples; the Romans did it first. I thought Romans typically made the peoples at the edge of their empire pay tribute. When they fully conquered them, they then ruled them through their existing local leadership, sometimes allowing those leaders to become citizens of the empire. But perhaps Horowitz is right and the Romans nearly exterminated the peoples they subjugated, replacing them with Italians. My point was not about Rome, but about Columbus, and about Columbus, Horowitz agrees with me. Second, Horowitz says there already was an intercontinental slave trade — which of course there was — although he agrees that Columbus began the trans-Atlantic trade, which indeed created a racial underclass. These two "criticisms" prompt him to conclude that my account is "certainly not an accurate view of the historical record.""

He is wrong about Horowitz agreeing with him about Colombus, but I am citing this passage because it is obvious that he knows little about Rome and the expansion of its Empire, which ranged from treating some of the conquered people as near equals, most of the peoples of Italy by the time of Christ, to campaigns of extermination, Carthage, or near extermination, the Jews in Judaea after the Bar Kochba revolt of 132-136. He gives every indication of having a depth of historical knowledge tissue deep.

RL said...

It can't get any worse than that. Yeesh.

Bob the Ape said...

I'm afraid Mr. Loewen is a purveyor of poppycock.

Christian Europe nonplussed by new peoples? They certainly knew of Indians and Chinese and Mongols, none of whom were mentioned in the Bible, and they had heard of strange races from travelers' tales; plus. they could scarcely have been unaware that they themselves were largely descended from various barbarian tribes also not mentioned in the Bible.

As for the Indians "not fit[ting] within orthodox Christianity's explanation of the moral universe": see Canto XIX of Dante's Paradise (written more than 150 years before Columbus), where he explicitly raises the question:

For 'Here's a man', thou saidst, 'born of some breed
On Indus' bank, where there is none to tell
Of Christ, and none to write, and none to read;

He lives, so far as we can see, quite well,
Rightly disposed, in conduct not amiss,
Blameless in word and deed; yet infidel

And unbaptised he dies; come, tell me this,
Where is the justice that condemns the man
For unbelief? What fault is it of his?'

The question is not, in fact, explicitly answered in the Comedy; but, at the worst, it it is clear from the Inferno that Dante (who was as orthodox as a Christian could be) thought that such a man would be in Limbo, not Hell proper; even a Moslem - Saladin - could be there (so much for "damned infidels"). Furthermore, according to the notes on this canto (this is from the Dorothy Sayers / Barbara Reynolds translation), St. Thomas Aquinas (writing even earlier) had also considered the question of the virtuous heathen, and concluded, "It is certain that God will impart to him the necessary truths of faith, either through interior illumination, or through a preacher of the faith."

As for the animals: nowhere in the Bible does it say that all animals lived in Eden. It is stated (Gen. 2, 19-20) that God brought all the animals to Adam to be named, but not that they were in Eden already, nor that they stayed there.

Finally, a Europe that "was in the grip of the Catholic Church" was also "virtually incapable of self-criticism"? A Europe in the grip of a faith that constantly preaches of sin, repentance, and forgiveness, of the faith that mandates periodic confession of sins, is incapable of self-criticism? Need I appeal once again to Dante, whose Comedy is in part one long criticism of Europe, from the Pope on down?