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The Middle Ages. Key Developments. Return of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily Eastern Technological Innovations Independent Inventions in Europe Theology and the Unique Nature of Western Monotheism. Return of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily.

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key developments
Key Developments
  • Return of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily
  • Eastern Technological Innovations
  • Independent Inventions in Europe
  • Theology and the Unique Nature of Western Monotheism
return of ancient knowledge via spain and sicily
Return of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily.
  • Almagest of Ptolemy, 1100 via Spain.
  • Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187). Seventy translations including Avicenna's medical encyclopedia.
  • Arabic (actually Hindu) numerals.
  • Astrolabe appeared in Moslem world ca. 800, Europe 1200.
  • Six translations of Euclid by 1200.
eastern technological innovations
Eastern Technological Innovations
  • Paper from China to Europe by 1200.
  • Trebuchet (counterweight catapult) from China ca. 1100.
  • Compass appears in Europe ca. 1200.
  • Windmills from near East ca. 1100.
  • Gunpowder via Mongols ca. 1240.
  • Possibly the concept of clock escapement mechanisms.
independent inventions in europe
Independent Inventions in Europe
  • Mechanical clocks, 1300’s.
  • Linen
  • Windmills
  • Full exploitation of water power
why did clocks appear in europe
Why Did Clocks Appear in Europe?
  • In a world that never changes, time doesn’t matter
  • If time doesn’t belong to you, there is no point in tracking it
  • Autonomous people have agendas - places to go, people to see, things to do
  • Clocks intimately connected to Western concepts of individuality
what role did religion play in
What Role Did Religion Play In:
  • The U.S. Civil Rights movement?
  • The Collapse of Communism?
  • Ethnic Cleansing in the Balkans?
the major misconception about religion
The Major Misconception About Religion
  • No Major Religion considers its doctrines beliefs
  • Every Major Religion considers its doctrines to be objective facts
    • To a Christian fundamentalist, the Deluge is a documented historical fact
    • No Muslim considers it a matter of opinion whether Mohammed received messages from God
what religion can and cannot do
What Religion Can and Cannot Do
  • Individuals vary in commitment and priorities
  • Religion can motivate people to high ideals
  • Religion can serve to rationalize other motives
  • Religion can provide a template for organizing thought
  • Religion can serve as a symbol of group identity
  • Religion has little power to erase deeply-ingrained cultural traits
  • Religion has no power over biology
    • Can make people feel guilty about sex
    • Cannot stop people from having sex
the unique nature of western monotheism
The Unique Nature of Western Monotheism
  • Judaeo-Christian god is the creator of the Universe, but still active in it
  • Judaeo-Christian god is transcendent: unlimited in scope or powers.
active creator
Active Creator
  • Greco-Roman mythology: Zeus (Jupiter) is the chief of the gods
  • Zeus’ father is Cronos (Saturn)
  • Cronos’ father was Uranus (Heaven), his mother Gaia (Earth)
  • The Classical creator gods are not active
  • The Judaeo-Christian god is creator, but also still active
  • Classical gods are limited
    • Can be deceived, tricked or caught unaware
    • Can be bargained with
    • Morally flawed (in no position to make moral demands)
  • Judaeo-Christian god is unlimited
    • Cannot be deceived, tricked or surprised
    • Does not bargain
    • Is morally perfect
consequences of western monotheism
Consequences of Western Monotheism
  • Nature is not micromanaged by supernatural forces.
  • There exist laws that are absolute and invariable
  • There is one correct theology (philosophy, ideology, way to do things, etc.) Western culture tends to see things in black and white
opposition to magic
Opposition to Magic

From the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, we know that human beings have a fundamentally egocentric conception of the world. Growing up in modern society means learning to accept the existence of an external world separate from oneself. It is hard. Most of humankind, for most of its history, never learned to distinguish the internal world of thoughts and feelings with the external world of objects and events. ... Cutting this connection, which is necessary before science can develop, goes against the grain of human nature.

  • Alan Cromer in Uncommon sense: the heretical nature of science (1993)
bad programming
Bad Programming
  • I Cry, Mom Feeds Me
  • What really happens: Cry triggers Mom’s nurturing instinct
  • What gets programmed: I want something and the universe supplies what I want
  • We have a word for this: Magic
the magical mind
The Magical Mind
  • Religion asks: How can I conform to God?
  • Science asks: How can I conform to the way the world works?
  • Magic asks: How can I get God and the world to conform to me?
why magic
Why Magic?
  • Offers Hope; Never Need to Take No for an Answer
  • It’s Easy
  • Feeds Fantasies of Omnipotence
  • Feeds Fantasies of Being in the Know
21 st century magic
21st Century Magic
  • Conspiracies
  • The Magic Money Pot
  • Free Stuff
    • Because I deserve it
  • Magical Religion
    • Propitiation
    • Consolation
    • Permission
  • Evidence Manipulation
the fall
The Fall

The Fall: Adam and Eve expelled from Eden for disobedience

  • Good and evil are not equal forces. Evil is an aberration
  • Evil can be combated and overcome
  • Dark side of the force: Evil has no legitimate place in the universe, therefore has no rights
time and the fall
Time and the Fall
  • In many cultures there is no real concept of the future
  • In some societies, time is cyclic

In Judaeo-Christianity, the Fall is to be remedied by a Messiah

  • Time has directionality and a very strong future orientation
  • Probably at the root of many of our beliefs about progress
rediscovery of roman law
Rediscovery of Roman Law
  • Justinian (c. 540) codifies Roman Law
  • Gratian 1140 organizes canon law
  • Bracton 1250 organizes English law

God as Ruler (Basis of laws)

+ De-Animization of nature

+ Discovery of law as a form of logic

= “Natural Law” (Francis Bacon, 1260)

pierre abelard sic et non 1130
Pierre Abelard, Sic et Non, 1130
  • Use systematic doubt and question everything
  • Learn the difference between statements of rational proof and those merely of persuasion
  • Be precise in use of words, and expect precision of others
  • Watch for error, even in Holy Scripture
a substantive argument
A Substantive Argument





(Facts or Logical Propositions)

abelard for today
Abelard For Today
  • No package deals
  • Adjectives, Labels and Emotional Responses are not Substantive Arguments
  • Labels may not be accurate or relevant
  • Wishing doesn’t make it so
  • Conflicting with an ideology doesn’t make it false
when new collides with old
When New Collides With Old
  • You can reject the new ideas. This is the choice the Islamic world eventually made.
  • You can embrace the new and abandon the old. In extreme cases, culture shock can result.
  • You can meld the two without regard for logical consistency: syncretism or compartmentalization
  • You can seek a consistent synthesis.
syntheses in western history
Syntheses in Western History
  • Hellenistic Greek and indigenous cultures
  • Greek ideas and Roman culture
  • Judaism and Greek culture in early Christianity
  • Augustine’s fusion of Platonism and Christianity
  • Irish melding of Celtic culture, Christianity and European learning
  • Fusion of languages to create English