History

Do the Impossible

Thus something impossible will probably be accomplished through something else which has always been equally impossible, but which remains no longer. – Robert H. Goddard

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When Education Fails

Each generation of American children has learned less real history than the generation before it. Each generation of American children has instead been subject to greater levels of indoctrination in place of genuine education. – Joy Pullman

And because of this “prejudiced ignorance” created from the failure to teach history, several monuments defaced by rioters in the United States are actually monuments of abolitionists and those who represent everyone.

History matters, yet it gets a backseat in education, if it gets a seat at all.

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Tiananmen: 30 Years Later

…tanks eventually burst through burning debris and headed down the avenue towards Tiananmen. Afterward, I went into the street to comfort some of the locals. Their faces were filled with horror and voices with anguished cries. Various sources suggest that death casualties among the locals ranged several hundred to several thousand – but no one knows for sure because of the communist government’s tight control of information. In a span of just a few short hours, I witnessed the spark of freedom, and saw it extinguished. – Fred Gedrich

If you are too young to remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre, then please read this. The situation in China hasn’t improved in the succeeding decades. Remember that when you hear people defending the Chinese government.

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Weight of Memory: Vietnam

Ken Burns’ series, The Vietnam War is possibly one of the best, and most important, documentaries I have seen.

Knowing our history — and I repeat myself — is critical in one’s understanding of the world they live in. The Weight of Memory left to us by our collective past teaches, guides, and warns us.

Nearly fifty years have passed since the end of the Vietnam War. Sadly, those who have been born since really don’t know as much about that era as they think, and this is a danger.

Continue reading

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Will Rome Have to Fall Again?

The Medieval era has always been a fascinating time to study. This is where the modern era was born. Our industry and commerce, our government and arts, our science and technology, all took root in those days. The myth of it being a “dark age” didn’t come until later, from revisionists trying to make their era look better.

With the corruption and malaise of Rome — that only served to maintain the elite — swept away, progress had begun again. Then, and now, calamity befalls the people when they don’t keep its rulers in check, when they cease paying attention to what conspiring their leaders are engaged in. Too busy accepting handouts like the Roman citizens, only to be surprised at the barbarians at their gates. Turns out the barbarians weren’t so barbaric. They built a resilient new civilization better than the last. The fall of Rome was a long time coming, just as our leaders didn’t begin their downward spiral yesterday. Continue reading

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Myths Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson Told Me

Scientists enjoy telling stories. They tell stories about, among other things, the quest to understand the universe — stories that sometimes have implications for belief or disbelief in God…

Too, often, these stories are false.

This is how science historian Michael Newton Keas beings his engaging and enlightening book, Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion.

Unfortunately, he his right.

What he is referring to is when celebrity scientists stop talking about science and interject their personal beliefs under the guise of science. If those beliefs aren’t friendly to religion, they have a habit of promoting the false religion-is-at-war-with-science narrative with a variety of myths. The war between science and religion  is a modern fable, not surprisingly promoted by those who don’t think highly of religion.

This is a shame, really, because we need popularizes of science, but when some scientists become celebrities, they can fall off their intellectual foundation rather quickly. When Neil DeGrasse Tyson turns Giordano Bruno into a martyr for science in his show Cosmos, much of the story is fiction. When Carl Sagan made claims to the effect that the cosmos is all that there is or always will be, he wasn’t making a scientific statement, but a personal, philosophical one. When Sam Harris claims the church had been “torturing scholars” for “speculating about the nature of the stars,” it simply isn’t true.

It’s not hard to review history, as Dr. Keas shows, and see there is no widespread hatred of science from religion. In fact, he details some of the ways “theistic religion nurtured the development of modern science from its start.” He also reveals the irony of these celebrity thinkers replacing religion with their own naturalistic philosophy and materialistic magic.

I’ve studied a lot of history and science over many years, so I have seen elsewhere the history Keas lays out.  Such as there is far more to the Galileo story — he isn’t the poster child of a war between the church and science. The Dark Ages weren’t so dark — the Renaissance didn’t appear out of nowhere. Nor were most of our ancestors really confused about the shape of our planet — most thought it was a sphere and didn’t need Columbus to prove it (he didn’t think it was flat either).

Do the celebrities purposefully spread their myths? I hope not, but the history isn’t hard to find and they keep repeating their myths anyway.

The takeaway from Keas book is we should learn to recognize when our experts, celebrity or otherwise, switch from teaching to evangelizing. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, unless you are passing it off for something it isn’t. And don’t for a moment think you aren’t capable of testing and questioning those who portend to speak for all of science and history.

They don’t own all the keys to our past and our universe. We all do.

unb

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How do Civilizations Collapse?

How do civilizations collapse?  Congressman Ken Buck explains in Drain the Swamp what lessons history has left for us:

  • They spend too much.  Budget crises have always been early warning signs of the collapse of an empire or regime, and the bigger the government, the harder it falls.
  • Their people stop producing. Civilizations grow when their people are hard-working, self-sacrificing, and entrepreneurial — and they collapse when the become lazy and self-centered and dependent on the state.
  • They become corrupt. As the power of the state grows, so does official corruption, which people are expected to overlook.
  • They lose their why. Eventually, civilizations lose sight of why they came to exist in the first place — their identity, their purpose. When a nation loses its sense of shared identity, the end is near, because no one is all that interested in fighting or sacrificing for a cause or an identity long forgotten.

Sound familiar? Will we listen to our ancestors? Or will make the same mistakes?

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Lost to the West

History is not dry or boring. No, it rivals the best novels. Take Lars Brownworth’s Lost to the West, the rest of the story of the Roman Empire.

The empire didn’t end with the collapse of Rome, but endured for centuries in the East, centered in Constantinople. That’s no idle fact for impressing your friends. Without the Byzantine Empire, the West would have become a very different place, and no doubt unrecognizable to this day.

In spite of all the setbacks brought by war, plague, and tyranny, the West emerged while much of the world receded. Perhaps we should pay closer attention to their stories. Where would we be if there hadn’t been constant restarts of civilization? Yet, in darkness, people still triumphed. There are lessons in both for us to learn.

lwest

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Finding the Hidden Nazi

At the end of World War II, the Allies picked and chose which Nazis would prosecuted, and which would have their pasts scrubbed so their knowledge could be used in the coming Cold War.

And one of the most notorious Nazis vanished; his name virtually erased from history.

Hans Kammler was the personification of evil, having overseen the Final Solution. He also held the keys to every advanced technology program the Nazis had. The conflicting stories of his death never sounded credible. Even Martin Borman had been tried in absentia, but Kammler was forgotten.

After decades of investigation, Dean Reuter and his co-researchers have uncovered evidence that will have to be answered to. Yet, if I were to guess, The Hidden Nazi has only scratched the surface of what all has been hidden from us. thz

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The Enigma of Columbus

“Columbus has been alternately venerated and vilified…he became a lightning rod for controversy…[some] saw him as the visionary that led the way [to the Americas]. Others, preferring to believe that Columbus’s discoveries begat genocide against the New Worlds peaceful indigenous people, uniformly vilify him — as if he had orchestrated the atrocities himself or as if the indigenous tribes hadn’t already been waging war on one another…Still others invest themselves in the pointless argument that Columbus was not the New World’s discoverer…Columbus’s claim to fame isn’t that he got there first, it’s that he stayed.

“…History does not know what to make of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea without passions of one kind or another intruding. The explorer will always remain something of an enigma…He was a man of great charisma whose passion sometimes turned others against him…His advocates marveled at his daring and tenaciousness…His detractors thought him brutal and weak. The only certainty about Columbus is that, for better or worse, he chose to live a bold life rather than settle for mediocrity.” – Martin Dugard writing in The Last Voyage of Columbus.

Every Columbus Day people come out of the woodwork to correct what we were taught about Columbus. Then people correct them, and others correct them. It’s clear few of them have bothered to study the history of they day in any depth. So the quote above is meant to impart that actual history is far too complex to be learned from drive-by memes, or history lessons given by people with agendas.

If you want to speak about a person from our past, you should actually step into his world and follow him around. That’s why the study of history is like time travel. Step on in and give it a try.

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