Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Does the Bible teach a flat Earth?

Here’s an article from Jeffrey Burton Russell.

Excerpt:

It must first be reiterated that with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat.

A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters–Leukippos and Demokritos for example–by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans.

Nor did this situation change with the advent of Christianity. A few–at least two and at most five–early Christian fathers denied the sphericity of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.

Historians of science have been proving this point for at least 70 years (most recently Edward Grant, David Lindberg, Daniel Woodward, and Robert S. Westman), without making notable headway against the error. Schoolchildren in the US, Europe, and Japan are for the most part being taught the same old nonsense. How and why did this nonsense emerge?

In my research, I looked to see how old the idea was that medieval Christians believed the earth was flat. I obviously did not find it among medieval Christians. Nor among anti-Catholic Protestant reformers. Nor in Copernicus or Galileo or their followers, who had to demonstrate the superiority of a heliocentric system, but not of a spherical earth. I was sure I would find it among the eighteenth-century philosophes, among all their vitriolic sneers at Christianity, but not a word. I am still amazed at where it first appears.

No one before the 1830s believed that medieval people thought that the earth was flat.

The idea was established, almost contemporaneously, by a Frenchman and an American, between whom I have not been able to establish a connection, though they were both in Paris at the same time. One was Antoine-Jean Letronne (1787-1848), an academic of strong antireligious prejudices who had studied both geography and patristics and who cleverly drew upon both to misrepresent the church fathers and their medieval successors as believing in a flat earth, in his On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers (1834). The American was no other than our beloved storyteller Washington Irving (1783-1859), who loved to write historical fiction under the guise of history. His misrepresentations of the history of early New York City and of the life of Washington were topped by his history of Christopher Columbus (1828). It was he who invented the indelible picture of the young Columbus, a “simple mariner,” appearing before a dark crowd of benighted inquisitors and hooded theologians at a council of Salamanca, all of whom believed, according to Irving, that the earth was flat like a plate. Well, yes, there was a meeting at Salamanca in 1491, but Irving’s version of it, to quote a distinguished modern historian of Columbus, was “pure moonshine. Washington Irving, scenting his opportunity for a picturesque and moving scene,” created a fictitious account of this “nonexistent university council” and “let his imagination go completely…the whole story is misleading and mischievous nonsense.”

But now, why did the false accounts of Letronne and Irving become melded and then, as early as the 1860s, begin to be served up in schools and in schoolbooks as the solemn truth?

The answer is that the falsehood about the spherical earth became a colorful and unforgettable part of a larger falsehood: the falsehood of the eternal war between science (good) and religion (bad) throughout Western history. This vast web of falsehood was invented and propagated by the influential historian John Draper (1811-1882) and many prestigious followers, such as Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the president of Cornell University, who made sure that the false account was perpetrated in texts, encyclopedias, and even allegedly serious scholarship, down to the present day. A lively current version of the lie can be found in Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers, found in any bookshop or library.

The reason for promoting both the specific lie about the sphericity of the earth and the general lie that religion and science are in natural and eternal conflict in Western society, is to defend Darwinism. The answer is really only slightly more complicated than that bald statement. The flat-earth lie was ammunition against the creationists. The argument was simple and powerful, if not elegant: “Look how stupid these Christians are. They are always getting in the way of science and progress. These people who deny evolution today are exactly the same sort of people as those idiots who for at least a thousand years denied that the earth was round. How stupid can you get?”

But that is not the truth.

What’s scary about this is that I have actually debated with atheists who have cited Bugs Bunny cartoons showing the Columbus flat-Earth scene as an authority for this persistent myth. I think it’s safer to stick with a historian. Dr. Russell has written a book about “The Myth of the Flat Earth” and he has also been published by Oxford University Press and Cornell University Press and Princeton University Press – unlike the Bugs Bunny cartoon artists.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do Christians believe in a flat Earth? Does the Bible teach a flat Earth?

Here’s an article from Jeffrey Burton Russell.

Excerpt:

It must first be reiterated that with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat.

A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters–Leukippos and Demokritos for example–by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans.

Nor did this situation change with the advent of Christianity. A few–at least two and at most five–early Christian fathers denied the sphericity of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.

Historians of science have been proving this point for at least 70 years (most recently Edward Grant, David Lindberg, Daniel Woodward, and Robert S. Westman), without making notable headway against the error. Schoolchildren in the US, Europe, and Japan are for the most part being taught the same old nonsense. How and why did this nonsense emerge?

In my research, I looked to see how old the idea was that medieval Christians believed the earth was flat. I obviously did not find it among medieval Christians. Nor among anti-Catholic Protestant reformers. Nor in Copernicus or Galileo or their followers, who had to demonstrate the superiority of a heliocentric system, but not of a spherical earth. I was sure I would find it among the eighteenth-century philosophes, among all their vitriolic sneers at Christianity, but not a word. I am still amazed at where it first appears.

No one before the 1830s believed that medieval people thought that the earth was flat.

The idea was established, almost contemporaneously, by a Frenchman and an American, between whom I have not been able to establish a connection, though they were both in Paris at the same time. One was Antoine-Jean Letronne (1787-1848), an academic of strong antireligious prejudices who had studied both geography and patristics and who cleverly drew upon both to misrepresent the church fathers and their medieval successors as believing in a flat earth, in his On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers (1834). The American was no other than our beloved storyteller Washington Irving (1783-1859), who loved to write historical fiction under the guise of history. His misrepresentations of the history of early New York City and of the life of Washington were topped by his history of Christopher Columbus (1828). It was he who invented the indelible picture of the young Columbus, a “simple mariner,” appearing before a dark crowd of benighted inquisitors and hooded theologians at a council of Salamanca, all of whom believed, according to Irving, that the earth was flat like a plate. Well, yes, there was a meeting at Salamanca in 1491, but Irving’s version of it, to quote a distinguished modern historian of Columbus, was “pure moonshine. Washington Irving, scenting his opportunity for a picturesque and moving scene,” created a fictitious account of this “nonexistent university council” and “let his imagination go completely…the whole story is misleading and mischievous nonsense.”

But now, why did the false accounts of Letronne and Irving become melded and then, as early as the 1860s, begin to be served up in schools and in schoolbooks as the solemn truth?

The answer is that the falsehood about the spherical earth became a colorful and unforgettable part of a larger falsehood: the falsehood of the eternal war between science (good) and religion (bad) throughout Western history. This vast web of falsehood was invented and propagated by the influential historian John Draper (1811-1882) and many prestigious followers, such as Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the president of Cornell University, who made sure that the false account was perpetrated in texts, encyclopedias, and even allegedly serious scholarship, down to the present day. A lively current version of the lie can be found in Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers, found in any bookshop or library.

The reason for promoting both the specific lie about the sphericity of the earth and the general lie that religion and science are in natural and eternal conflict in Western society, is to defend Darwinism. The answer is really only slightly more complicated than that bald statement. The flat-earth lie was ammunition against the creationists. The argument was simple and powerful, if not elegant: “Look how stupid these Christians are. They are always getting in the way of science and progress. These people who deny evolution today are exactly the same sort of people as those idiots who for at least a thousand years denied that the earth was round. How stupid can you get?”

But that is not the truth.

What’s scary about this is that I have actually debated with atheists who have cited Bugs Bunny cartoons showing the Columbus flat-Earth scene as an authority for this persistent myth. I think it’s safer to stick with a historian. Dr. Russell has written a book about “The Myth of the Flat Earth” and he has also been published by Oxford University Press and Cornell University Press and Princeton University Press – unlike the Bugs Bunny cartoon artists.

I think the big lesson here is that you don’t want to create an entire worldview based on your feelings. If you don’t like some group of people, or if you are mad at your parents for bossing you around, it doesn’t provide a justification to dump history and start believing in Bugs Bunny cartoons as historically reliable. It’s better to just never mind those other people and build your worldview on facts.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Would Ted Strickland or John Kasich be a better governor of Ohio?

Here’s a clip of Ted Strickland giving a speech to his Democrat supporters.

Here’s the transcript of Ted Strickland’s speech from the Weekly Standard.

Excerpt:

“The Republican party has been overtaken by the zealots, by the extremists, by the radicals … and they don’t seem to like Ohio very much… And quite frankly they act like they don’t like America very much. They want to change our Constitution. They want to change Medicare. They want to change labor rights. They want to change this country in fundamental ways.”

Does Ted Strickland encourage businesses to remain in Ohio and hire workers in Ohio?

Let’s see:

Wow. 400,000 jobs lost in Ohio while Strickland was governor? He sounds as competent at encouraging job creation as his fellow Democrat Barack Obama.

Ted Strickland raised taxes on citizens of Ohio by 840 million dollars. He thinks he knows how to spend your money better than you do.

Social Issues

I wonder how Ted Strickland is on social issues?

Life News says:

In June of last year, Strickland upset pro-life Ohio residents by using his line-item veto to axe the section of the $1.3 billion funding bill banning state funds for cloning human beings.

Mike Gonidakis, the director of Ohio Right to Life, told LifeNews.com at the time, “By vetoing a ban on using taxpayer funds for human cloning, Ted Strickland has demonstrated that he supports treating human life as a commodity.”

“Most Ohioans don’t share Governor Strickland’s cavalier disregard for the value of human life and they should not be forced to pay for its creation, exploitation and destruction in cloning research,” Gonidakis said.

In March 2007, Strickland feuded with pro-life advocates over his budget proposal that eliminated the $500,000 the state normally spends annually on encouraging kids to practice abstinence.

The governor said he would not apply for any more federal funds for abstinence education for future budgets.

In February 2007, Strickland would not fight to save an Ohio law that protects women from the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug which has killed seven women in the United States and injured more than a thousand more. With little fanfare, Strickland quietly dropped a legal effort to salvage a law that puts safety limits on the drug.

The Ohio state legislature previously approved a bill to bring the use of the abortion pill in Ohio in line with Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

During his tenure in Congress, Strickland had a strong pro-abortion voting record while Kasich compiled a strongly pro-life record.

Ohio Right to Life says:

Ohio Right to Life today announced its endorsement of a slate of pro-life candidates seeking elected office statewide. The pro-life organization picked Rob Portman as its endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate and named John Kasich as its endorsed candidate for governor.

[...]Marshal Pitchford, the chairman of the Ohio Right to Life Society Board of Trustees said the pro-life movement in Ohio “is fortunate to have experienced and highly qualified pro-life candidates seeking the state’s executive offices.”

“John Kasich had an outstanding pro-life voting record during his career in Congress,” he said. “His running mate, Mary Taylor, is an articulate advocate of the right to life movement. As Governor and Lt. Governor, they will reflect the common sense and common decency of the people of Ohio.”

And he’s also lousy on traditional marriage and the rights of children to be raised by a mother and a father. He was opposed to the Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage, and opposed to banning gay adoption in D.C. He’s a left-wing radical on social issues. Just like Barack Obama.

Right now, the Ohio governor race is a toss-up. I recommend that all my Ohio readers get out and vote for Kasich on election day.

 

n June of last year, Strickland upset pro-life Ohio residents by using his line-item veto to axe the section of the $1.3 billion funding bill banning state funds for cloning human beings.

Mike Gonidakis, the director of Ohio Right to Life, told LifeNews.com at the time, “By vetoing a ban on using taxpayer funds for human cloning, Ted Strickland has demonstrated that he supports treating human life as a commodity.”

“Most Ohioans don’t share Governor Strickland’s cavalier disregard for the value of human life and they should not be forced to pay for its creation, exploitation and destruction in cloning research,” Gonidakis said.

In March 2007, Strickland feuded with pro-life advocates over his budget proposal that eliminated the $500,000 the state normally spends annually on encouraging kids to practice abstinence.

The governor said he would not apply for any more federal funds for abstinence education for future budgets.

In February 2007, Strickland would not fight to save an Ohio law that protects women from the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug which has killed seven women in the United States and injured more than a thousand more. With little fanfare, Strickland quietly dropped a legal effort to salvage a law that puts safety limits on the drug.

The Ohio state legislature previously approved a bill to bring the use of the abortion pill in Ohio in line with Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

During his tenure in Congress, Strickland had a strong pro-abortion voting record while Kasich compiled a strongly pro-life record.

 

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Did Christians believe in a flat earth during the Middle Ages?

Consider this post from Matt Flanagan of MandM. (H/T Thinking Matters New Zealand)

Flanagan cites Jeffrey Burton Russell’s book “Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians”. Dr. Bussell is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. Russell writes:

[W]ith extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat. A round earth appears at least as early as the sixth century BC with Pythagoras, who was followed by Aristotle, Euclid, and Aristarchus, among others in observing that the earth was a sphere. Although there were a few dissenters—Leukippos and Demokritos for example–by the time of Eratosthenes (3 c. BC), followed by Crates(2 c. BC), Strabo (3 c. BC), and Ptolemy (first c. AD), the sphericity of the earth was accepted by all educated Greeks and Romans.

Nor did this situation change with the advent of Christianity. A few—at least two and at most five—early Christian fathers denied the spherically of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.

So where did this myth come from? And why has it persisted so long in school textbooks?

Click through and read the rest of Matt’s post to find the surprising answers.

My view is that stories like global warming and evolution are really just the latest round of flat-earth myths which have no basis in fact but are believed solely because they are useful for powerful people who want to undermine traditional moral values by misleading children in government-run schools. The elites want to act sinfully, but they don’t want anyone to judge them. They think that if they can trick enough people to believe lies about God, that God might cease to exist because we voted him out. Unfortunately for them, building a consensus of people who are mistaken doesn’t change objective reality. And God doesn’t grade on a curve.

Those who reject Christianity need to be careful about letting their feelings determine what they believe.

What should atheists be doing instead of believing myths?

Instead of just calling people names and making jokes, they should investigating the actual scientific evidence:

Then, perhaps a philosophical investigation on some common objections to belief in God:

But for most atheists, the purpose of life isn’t to find the truth.

Related books

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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