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Historic misconceptions

  1. Aug 20, 2005 #1

    SGT

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    This should be an answer to the thread proposed by champ2823 entitles Closed thread, but since it has been closed by the moderator I am starting a new one.
    I will not discuss the 9/11 conspiracy. I think Ivan did well in closing it. I will address some historic misconceptions of the author:
    Every educated person in the 15the century knew the Earth was round and they accepted the measurement made by Eratostenes in the 3rd century BICE, that is very close to the 40000km now accepted. Because of that nobody believed that Asia could be reached by navigating to west.
    Columbus used another estimation that gave 25000km to Earth's equatorial circumference. With this estimation Asia would be very close to Europe.
    Fortunately for Columbus, there was the american continent in the way, or else he and his crew would perish from lack of food and water.
    In the same way, people knew that the heavier than air was possible. Birds fly! The problem was of technology, not of science. And the Wright brothers were not alone in their work. Several other inventors were doing the same, including the Brazilian Santos Dement, that flew in Paris after the Wright brother's flight, but without recourse to a catapult for take off.
    Modern historians don't believe Nero burnt Rome. What was burnt were poor quarters of Rome and it was probably an accident favored by the fact that the quarters were composed mainly of wooden shacks. Nero has taken the opportunity to blame the annoying christians and later rebuild the quarters with mansions in marble.
     
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  3. Aug 20, 2005 #2

    selfAdjoint

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    Excellent summary SGT. What you said about educated people knowing the world was round in the 15th century held in the 14th century too. About 1360 Oresme and Buridan wrote duelling treatises on the physics on the surface of a rotating globe, given a conserved motion. Of course because of the Church they couldn't admit the globe they were talking about was the Earth. Spherical was OK, rotating was not, because the psalms plainly said that the Sun moves across the sky.

    Before any further outcome, one way or the other, Oresme was given a Bishopric in far away Normandy (I have always speculated it was a sop to shut him up), and Buridan disappeared, perhaps dying in the plague which struck in 1363, I think. So we had to wait another 250 years for Galileo, and 500 for Coriolis.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2005
  4. Aug 20, 2005 #3
    Gee, thanks, does that somehow disprove the point he was trying to make, that it takes time for truth to be accepted?
     
  5. Aug 20, 2005 #4

    russ_watters

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    If all the examples are wrong, then there is a good bet there is something wrong with the point.

    I have another example: The Sound Barrier. The fact of the matter is that physicists knew that there was no hard and fast barrier (after all, bullets had been traveling faster than that for some time) - again, the problem was an engineering problem.
     
  6. Aug 20, 2005 #5
    Woah...I don't remember saying that Columbus was the ONLY person to say that the world was round or that any of the examples were only theorized by a single person. Before Columbus' voyage, was the mass appeal...i.e majority, stating that the world was round? No. That's the point. No idea's original and there's nothing new under the sun so of course there were others and people before with the same theories. The point is that the majority didn't believe these examples until it was proven to be true and then it became standard truth. As with anything, a few scholars compound information to form something relevant as in an invention, scientific theorems, etc... and once this is proven, the mass of skeptics become silent. But while these scholars are doing there thing, the overwhelming majority scrutinizes every part of it. Just because you can name some other people that had the same viewpoint years before is completely irrelevant. For every person striking at the root of a problem, there are 1,000 people cutting at its branches.
     
  7. Aug 21, 2005 #6

    Evo

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    The difference champ, is that the people that were right had scientific evidence to back them up, the "conspiracy theorists" don't, as a matter of fact, they argue against scientific evidence. Posting paranoid suppositions despite logic and fact just isn't going to fly.
     
  8. Aug 21, 2005 #7

    russ_watters

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    Did you not just disprove your own thesis? The fact that uneducated peasants in 1490 didn't know the earth was round says nothing at all about the status of the science of the time. And the fact that people who are ignorant are ignorant is exactly the problem with things like the 9/11 conspiracy theories! Columbus wasn't a conspiracy theorist precisely because he was not ignorant!! Your argument boils down to 'I don't know what I'm talking about, but since there are others who also don't know what they are talking about, I must be right, and people who do know what they are talking about are wrong!' Uh huh... :uhh:
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2005
  9. Aug 21, 2005 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    I just deleted two posts. This discussion will not be about 911 conspiracy theories or the thread will be closed.
     
  10. Aug 21, 2005 #9

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    The concept of a round Earth was familiar to ancient Greeks and Romans. The idea goes back to Pythagoras (569-500), but in Eratostenes time the average person new it.
    The fact that a ship moving towards the horizon with the progressing disappearance of the hull, the masts and the sails was well known and attributed to the roundness of the planet. Eratostenes evaluated the Earth's circumference, but nobody at his time would think in challenge the sphericity of the Earth.
     
  11. Aug 21, 2005 #10
    Ok, I would like to know Ivan why you deleted my last post. I'm not positive but I do not recall much chatter about 9-11. What I do recall was pointing out Northwoods, PNAC, and the Downing Street Memos. Since all three of these are official public documents with the Downing Street Memos officially authorized by the British govt., PNAC's document still on their organizations website, and Northwoods being declassified, I hardly see how they could be some sort of conspiracy theory....unless you just wanna call them that so you don't have to think about what they mean. Quoting people like Hitler, Goehring, Caesar, and Madison doesn't seam like a conspiracy either.
    SGT-Thanks for the reference to the Greeks and Romans. Obviously others like those you pointed out had understood that concept, my main point was that it was not popular belief.
     
  12. Aug 21, 2005 #11

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    It was popular belief in the antiquity. In Columbus time every sailor knew about the progressive disappearance of distant ships and that it was due to Earth's sphericity.
    If you define popular belief as the beliefs of ignorant people, then any educated person is entitled as opposing to those beliefs.
     
  13. Aug 21, 2005 #12
    You are nitpicking the examples he uses to prove a point to change the meaning of what he is trying to say.
     
  14. Aug 22, 2005 #13
    Who's to define what person or people are ignorant or not. I mean today we know its round but back then it wasn't proven fact. Today we know that those that said it was flat were wrong but back in that time period they didn't have concrete evidence. Maybe 100 years from now its proven that some popular belief of today is completely wrong...does that mean that everyone who believed that belief today is ignorant? And throughout history for every civilization and every person as is today, there is some belief that one has on some aspect that is completely wrong. Does that mean that every person throughout history is ignorant? We can look back on those people today and say that they were completely wrong and others were completely right, but thats hindsight. And as Shopenhauer (sp) says...All truth passes through 3 stages....First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is known as self-evident.

    Esperanto....you are exactly correct. My examples are examples of popular belief for the time periods. Just because a handful or group of people had the same theories years before is irrelevant. It also takes time for the truth to be known and the history books are constantly being rewritten. Take the JFK incident. It was overwhelming concensus that Oswald was the lone assassin. Now, the Zapruder film shows contradictory evidence that there was more than one shooter and James Files has admitted many times that he was one. It may take the fall of the U.S. for all documents to be released and investigated by historians to find out with concise certainty everything that happened on that day and that could be years and years away. The Gulf of Tonkin incident is the same way. It was the reason the Vietnam War started and now historians are finding no evidence that it ever happened and veterans are coming forward saying that they were there but that it never occured and history books are being rewritten. All this stuff just takes time and I wouldn't call anyone ignorant regardless of what their belief on each situation is. They are controversial matters and stemmed in high emotional thought. Hey, wouldn't it be crazy and exciting to read a history book hundreds of years from now about today's day and age. And conversely, things that happen like the unibomber are set in stone as there isn't any credible evidence showing anything contradicting that story.
     
  15. Aug 22, 2005 #14

    russ_watters

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    The definition of "ignorant" is to not know something. If the earth is round and someone doesn't know it, they are ignorant.

    What is right and what is wrong is not based on popular perception, no matter how widely accepted it is.
     
  16. Aug 22, 2005 #15

    arildno

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    I am not at all certain of this.
    The typical inhabitant of Greece at this time was a peasant who lived out his life in his "polis", more often than not just a glorified hamlet.
    Only a minority of the Greek population was wide-travelling merchants; galleys were rown by slaves, and thus, even if the nautically knowledgeable subsegment was aware of the horizon argument, I'm not at all convinced if that knowledge disseminated any further than to the (even smaller) engineering&scientist segment of the Greek population.

    Remember that in classical Athens, you had a specialized court to judge inanimate objects if the population thought the object had perpetrated a crime (like a hammer falling down from a shelf and hitting a man in his head so that he died).

    While the seeds of rationalist Western thinking may be thought of being first sown in Greece, what the Greeks themselves reaped as a cultural harvest was for the most part irrational superstitions.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2005
  17. Aug 22, 2005 #16

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    I only showed that his examples were false. The people he mentioned as revolutionary were not. I am not minimizing Columbus and the Wright brothers prowesses. I am only saying they were the first to achieve things that would anyway be achieved by someone else in their generation.
    Even the greatest scientist of all times, sir Isaac Newton made so much important discoveries because others before him had discovered the fundaments for them. Newton himself said that he got so high because he stepped on the shoulders of giants.
    But the truth is: the fact that long held popular beliefs have been shown false does not mean that all such beliefs are necessarily false. For instance, people have always believed that if they jumped from a cliff they would hurt themselves or even die. This belief is true and Newton attributed it to gravity.
     
  18. Aug 22, 2005 #17

    arildno

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    This isn't belief they held; it was knowledge they had.
     
  19. Aug 22, 2005 #18

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    I agree with you that it would not be a universal knowledge. Even in the 21st century there are still people that believe the Earth is flat.
    But this article says that coins containing the picture of terrestrial globes circulated in ancient Greece and Rome.
     
  20. Aug 22, 2005 #19

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    How do you distinguish between belief and knowledge? Do you think knowledge is true and belief is false? Or that knowledge is evident and belief is not? As you mentioned in your other post, for a peasant living far from the sea it is evident that the Earth is flat. For everybody it is evident that the Sun, the Moon and the stars circle the Earth in one day.
     
  21. Aug 22, 2005 #20

    arildno

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    Monetary economy was only in a very minor way present in the ancient world (particularly ancient Greece).
    For most regions, barter economy was the rule, along with even more ancient clan types of redistribution economy, where the clan members produce goods, the clan chief redistributes it internal to the clan, while retaining goods to trade with outsiders
    (the last economy is known to have been practiced at Mycenean times; there is no particular reason why not vestiges of this remained into the Classical age, especially since the pater familias&familia structure in Rome at a later stage seems to have worked along roughly similar principles)

    Thus, the money argument can at the very best be said to be of relevance with respect to extremely urbanized communities in Greece, say Athens.
    Athens, however, was an anomaly in many ways when compared to other "city-states".
     
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