Cosmos - With Neil deGrasse Tyson

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by Ancient Mariner, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    Alexandria was also hard hit many times in between 48 BC and 364 AD, but it's doubtful many scrolls survived the initial fire (if the fire actually involved the Great Library) as the scrolls were stacked and highly combustible. The library complex was rebuilt (if actually destroyed), which probably wasn't too hard because it reportedly had one reading room, several meeting rooms, and one hall with scrolls stacked along the wall.

    The entire area it was in, the Bruchion district, was said to have been turned into a desert by a brutal war in 270 AD, so perhaps there's little need to proceed.

    Anyway, in episode 13 NGT says:

    "Estimates vary on the total number of scrolls. They range from 500,000 to nearly a million."

    Wow. He knows how many scrolls it had to within a factor of two, while scholars can't quite decide if it still existed after 48 BC, or if the fire in 48 BC actually burned the library at all, or whether there were really two libraries from the start. We do know there was a daughter library that at one time contained 42,800 scrolls, according to the librarian, and Seneca says only 40,000 scrolls were destroyed in Caesar's fire. Yet Mark Anthony claimed to have added 200,000 scrolls from a different, non-Egyptian library as a present to Cleopatra, but that was probably mostly his pr0n collection.

    NGT: "So in the 4th Century AD when the mob came to destroy the Library and the genius of classical civilization, there weren't enough people to defend it."

    We can be certain that such an event never took place because a period source states that the temple complex that was destroyed in 391 did not still contain a library, and none of the people involved on either side mention any scrolls or books being destroyed, and the first claim of such destruction dates back only to the 1780's, which is apparently were Sagan picked it up (Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.")

    Here's one pretty good page on it, but there are many others. What we know is sketchy, at best, which isn't surprising considering how far back in antiquity we're going. One thing to always keep in mind for studying that era (and up until the industrial age) is that the people were, by our standards, innumerate or sloppy when it came to large numbers, using them in the way that small children do (look at all the people in the mall, mommy, there must be a million of them!). There are some battles where their claims of the number slain in a day were over a billion, cut down by intrepid thousands. Historians have to sift through that kind of thing.
     
  2. Ancient Mariner

    Ancient Mariner Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Another disingenuous post. If NDT says, "estimates vary" and then reports on those estimates, how can any post definitively state, "He knows"?

    Oh right, the post can't - not without misrepresenting what was actually said in the show (that there is no known total).
     
  3. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    Um, because he said estimates vary from from 500,000 to a million, and those numbers differ by a factor of two, so he's stating that the estimates vary by a factor of two. They actually vary far more than that, and many scholars think even 500,000 is ridiculously high due to storage space issues. Basically, there are no real estimates, only guesses of varying wildness.

    And he moments earlier said these scrolls contained the sum of human knowledge, or some such term, and implied that only at Alexandria were there such vast libraries dedicated to collecting knowledge (at least until evil, narrow-minded Christians burned it). Actually, the library complex in Alexandria was based on a similar complex in Athens (is that surprising for a Ptolemy?), and vast libraries were all over the place, which is why Mark Anthony could offer up a random one as a present. And to gather the store of human learning was the goal of the founder, not an accomplished fact (obviously they were missing some Mayan codices, etc).

    He also doesn't point out that a scroll is not a book as we use the term, it's a "book" as in the Bible, which contains 66 books, each of which would take up a scroll, which is how the Bible got divided up into its "books". And they'd have many multiple copies of each book, because they weren't exactly picky if they're copying any text that shows up, and period sources mention the library as holding many copies of each scroll. Assuming an average of four copies per book, even NGT's 500,000 figure (which is disputed even as a high-end estimate), you'd only have about 2,000 books like the Bible. If you go from the period estimates of 42,800 scrolls in the second library, and assume the branch only kept one copy of each scroll (all unique), you'd have 648 Bibles, and the vast center of learning is sounding more like the cr*p in my attic.

    Given what you now know, and what scholars know about the library of Alexandria, was there really any point in continuing with a worthless myth about it's majesty and destruction just to make you hate the nasty Christians who didn't burn it? Politically, perhaps there is, and as an added benefit the show's misguided viewers will get to run around as a myth-fueled angry mob thinking they're impassioned warriors for science and knowledge.
     
  4. Ancient Mariner

    Ancient Mariner Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That's a lovely theory - or would be but for the fact that NDT didn't mention Christians at all. That means the identity of the mob was irrelevant to the narrative he was telling. If he really wanted to "make you hate the nasty Christians" why would he explicitly avoid mentioning them onscreen? That's a rhetorical question, because it's obvious that such an assertion was nowhere near close to the intent behind the segment.

    *****


    In other news, my daughter and I watched the final episode together this morning (on Blu-Ray). She was transfixed by the Pale Blue Dot sequence, saying "the Earth looks so small! We should take care of it." Which made me very proud. She also made a connection between the evolution of life and Dr. Doofenshmirtz's De-evolution-ator in an episode of Phineas and Ferb. So there's that, too. :lol:
     
  5. Coloratura

    Coloratura Snuggle Princess Premium Member

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    ^ Damn, you almost made me cry! :lol:
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    See, it's that "rather than" that I find dishonest. It's not an either-or proposition. They were Christians, but they were fanatical Christians who misunderstood the tenets of the Christianity they purported to follow. I object to sweeping the question of their religion under the rug, because it is important to make clear that many people who claim to be devout adherents of Christianity are actually misunderstanding and corrupting its principles -- like many in the religious right today. Like people who deny the overwhelming truth of evolution because they mistakenly believe that religion is about taking an Old Testament myth literally, or who condemn homosexuality because of a sentence or two in Leviticus rather than honoring Christ's teachings about loving others and not judging them. We mustn't pretend to remove religion from the equation, because we need to showcase and confront the hypocrisy of people who identify as Christian while abusing the meaning of that word. So avoiding a mention of religion altogether is wrong. I see what you're trying to do here, but I think the way you're going about it works against your goals.
     
  7. Ancient Mariner

    Ancient Mariner Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If you really think each of my posts that have acknowledged both religion and Christianity are "sweeping them under the rug", then no, you really don't understand what I am trying to do at all. It surprises me because as an author I am sure you understand that word choices matter. What I am doing is pointing out the fact that Cosmos made very deliberate narrative decisions to not identify the mob as a "Christian" mob, but rather as a "fanatical" mob, or just "the mob" in the new version. It did so because labeling it as a "Christian" mob would have irresponsibly painted all Christians with the same brush. Because yes, the mob was made up of Christians, but the salient point isn't that they were Christian, but rather anti-intellectual fanatics.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, it would not! That is my entire point. Gturner is claiming that it would, but that's dishonest, an attempt on his part to twist the message of the series into something it wasn't. By accepting his premise and going along with it, you're letting him define the terms of the debate, and he's defining them dishonestly.

    Calling them a Christian mob does not paint all Christians with the same brush. It merely acknowledges a historical fact. Gturner is trying to twist that simple acknowledgment into an attack as a way of pressuring us to be afraid to assert simple facts, and you're letting him.

    I'm reminded of Phil Plait's recent column about the "Not all men" phenomenon in response to the mass murder committed by a misogynist on May 23. He wrote:
    Much the same applies to what's happening here. You don't need to get defensive and point out that "not all Christians" are like that, because every reasonable observer already knows that. And the people who are trying to make it about all Christians are doing that in order to sidetrack the conversation and undermine the point we're trying to make. And you're letting them.
     
  9. Ancient Mariner

    Ancient Mariner Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yes, it does, Christopher. In the context of a narrative, the one has the explicit decision to label the mob as either "Christian" or something closer to the actual fact. YOU might make the distinction, but you are not the entire audience. Therefore, narratively, it is the responsibility of the authors to provide a description of the mob that best suits the purpose of the narrative - and this is about anti-intellectual fanatics, not Christians. And no matter how long you argue with me about it, the fact remains: Cosmos deliberately avoided calling the mob a "Christian mob" and instead opted for "fanatical mob" instead. And that is precisely the point I am making. Talk about getting sidetracked...
     
  10. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    And what makes you think they were anti-intellectual fanatics?

    What Cosmos didn't mention is that the original mob was organized and Jewish, and they lured hundreds of Christians into a trap by knocking on their doors to tell them their church was on fire. That allowed them to herd all the Christians (armed probably with water buckets) into the same place in an open street where they could be attacked and cut down from all sides, which they were.

    They took such an action because Cyril, who was ambitious and powerful and involved in an ongoing power struggle with the Roman governor, Orestes, had issued a decree threatening all the Jews because of an earlier act by Orestes, in which he had one of Cyril's agents publicly tortured for stirring up a protest against Orestes' edict about the popular mime shows (mimes are agents of darkness, much like evil clowns). The torture was a very prominent message that Orestes runs things, not Cyril.

    Outraged at the massacre of Christians, Cyril had his followers cast all the Jews out of the city (and who can comfortably live in a city with folks who do things like luring fellow citizens into a planned massacre?) Orestes took a stand against such an action, not wanting his city to be emptied of Jews. Monks from outside the city showed up and ambushed Orestes and his bodyguards, hitting Orestes in the head with a large rock. Orestes bodyguards fled but citizens surrounded the monks and captured the rock thrower. That's open rebellion against a Roman governor, and the Romans aren't known for looking the other way when that kind of thing happened. So reprisals followed, and Orestes had the stone thrower tortured to death. Cyril tried to laud the stone thrower as a martyr, and even the Christians weren't buying it because the monk was killed for being a hot-headed instigator, not a defender of the gospels. I'd say the city was pretty darn tense at that point.

    Hypatia, who was close to Orestes (as he often sought her advice and attended her lectures), was advising him against reconciliation with Cyril, and in at least one version of the story the people who came and kidnapped her weren't a mob, they were Cyril's bodyguards, who took her to a place where they killed her, skinned her, and then took her body somewhere else and burned it.

    Cyril sought more and more power within the church (and used it), but he was also a prolific and important author, hardly an anti-intellectual. Nor did Alexandria fall into intellectual darkness. It remained a center of Helenistic and Christian philosophical and scientific thought, and many of Hypatia's students, both Christian and otherwise, became very prominent.

    So what Cosmos presented was a very strained reading of events, a mythical version stripped of any facts or nuance that might make a viewer think twice about the need to oppose those mindless, anti-intellectual, murdering Christians. In that it's no better than the bizarre tirades about Hypatia a thousand years after the original dispute was settled.

    Of course NGT didn't have to directly point out that it was a Christian mob, because by episode 13 anyone following the series would already know the theme, starting with the execution of Bruno in episode 1.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But it is about Christians -- those who abuse the teachings of their faith and give othe Christians a bad name. The point is that you don't need to draw that distinction because most people in the audience don't need it explained. Should the media have avoided mentioning that Elliot Rodger was male for fear of tarring all males with the same brush? Of course not. His violent misogyny was a corruption of masculinity, but his view of his masculinity was an important factor in what motivated him, and those who try to sidetrack the debate with the "Not All Men" meme are trying to put us on the defensive and keep us from saying things that need to be said. It would be wrong to paint it as generic violence, because it was specifically about gender, even if it ws a corrupt view of gender. So trying to hide from the fact that Rodger was male and that that was a key factor in his actions is dishonest. And the same goes here. The mob did not represent all Christians, which is something that any honest and reasonable observer already knows; but their actions were directly motivated by their Christianity, by the way the Christianity of their time and culture perceived itself and other faiths, by the historical context of Christianity's displacement of paganism. It is an important part of the story, and it's wrong to try to pretend they were just generic, religiously neutral fanatics. You're letting the opposition define the terms and thereby trap you into a dishonest argument, and you're unable to see it. I'm trying to help you recognize how you're hurting your own position -- and my position -- by letting the other side manipulate you.

    Christians have to accept and understand that fellow Christians did such a heinous and violent act, because they need to be able to take a look at themselves and what they believe and recognize how it can be corrupted. Just like men have a responsibility to look at ourselves in the wake of what Elliot Rodger did and face those parts of our cultural beliefs and self-images that can be taken to such dangerous extremes if we aren't careful. These acts of violence are not neutral, and it's dangerous to pretend they are, because that just gives us an excuse to avoid questioning ourselves. And that's exactly what is desired by the people who are sidetracking the debate with these "Not All Men/Not All Christians" sort of responses. They're trying to avoid the need for self-criticism and taking responsibility for the misdeeds committed by members of our own groups.
     
  12. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    But how is the mob's Christianity or Hypatia's paganism even relevant, assuming the mob wasn't actually made up of Cyril's bodyguards and acting on his direct orders, and that Hypatia wasn't a Christian convert, and that anyone in Alexandria had any real beef with the pagans - as the conflict was between one group of Christians led by Orestes, another group of Christians led by Cyril, and lots of Jews who were being expelled after their attack on Cyril's group of Christians, which upset Orestes and his group of Christians, along with Jews and pagans.

    It was a Christian/Christian power struggle between two very important leaders over Cyril's attempt to encroach on Orestes' power, an early example of the attempt to extend ecclesiastical Christian authority over secular Christian authority (ie., the kings must answer to the Pope). That is purely power politics, and people were being massacred, tortured, and executed on both sides. Hypatia was using her enormous influence to back Orestes Christian authority, so Cyril or his supporters took her out.

    As a continuation of the serious conflict, Orestes side of Christianity used Hypatia's murder as a bloody rag, and continued to do so for over a thousand years, getting worse as time went on - with the theme that Catholic authorities are evil, power mad, and murderous. She died because she was an important player in a life-and-death political struggle between very powerful men representing very powerful forces in a very violent city. Cosmos picked a side in the larger dispute, again using Hypatia's murder for political ends.

    So, the way Cosmos presented the overall story is that Alexandria was the sole beacon of knowledge and human learning, the only city reaching out to science and understanding, kind of like the city of the Ancients in Star Gate Atlantis. That's ridiculous, because it ignores the earlier existence of all the Greek City States, Persia, the Arabian Peninsula, Judea, Spain, Constantinople, countless other major cities and centers of learning, and the entire rest of the region and world.

    And then Cosmos claims a mindless mob burned the Great Library, which is totally false, using the repeated myth to motivate its viewers into readying themselves to form another mindless mob that's ready to act based on stupid myths they learned from watching Cosmos.

    And after the mythical burning of the great library, we're drug right back to the murder of Hypatia, this time blamed on anti-science fanatics instead of a particular faction of the Catholic Church.

    In the fourth remake of Cosmos we'll undoubtedly be told that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by an anti-science fanatic who was trying to stop mankind's exploration of the moon and beyond.
     
  13. Ancient Mariner

    Ancient Mariner Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yes, that theme would be anti-intellectualism, via the suppression of free thought and speech:

    "This was a time when there was no freedom of thought ... "(17:52)

    "Bruno lived at a time when there was no such thing as the separation of church and state, when the notion of freedom of speech is the sacred right of every individual. Expressing an idea that didn't conform to traditional belief could land you in deep trouble ... The Roman Catholic Church maintained a system of courts known as the Inquisition whose sole purpose was to investigate and torment anyone who dared voice views that differed from theirs. It wasn't long before Bruno fell into the clutches of the thought police." (23:05)

    So while the episode explicitly acknowledges the role the church played in Bruno's death (in stark contrast to how it portrayed Hypatia's death, by the way), the episode further contextualizes the events as part of "the thought police" acting out of fear for those who were "expressing ideas that didn't conform to traditional belief."

    So, yet again, the series is focusing on the fanatical, anti-intellectualism, rather than on religion in general, or Christianity, specifically. After all, NDT pointed out that Copernicus was a priest and that Bruno was a monk, and that Bruno, in particular, was acting from a place of deeply religious faith.

    Wrong. I'm pointing out what the show explicitly stated ... and why it did so. The fact remains, Christopher, regardless of whether or not you think it was appropriate, the show (in either incarnation) did not say "Christian mob." It deliberately avoided using that label for the murderous mob (and in the case of the newer version, avoided mention of religion altogether). That someone would attempt to claim that the show, in fact, said so, is the point of contention. And I'm merely pointing out that such an assertion was wrong, while also relaying the reason why. There's no equivocation in anything I have stated, so I'm not sure why you keep ignoring this distinction, and if you really are trying to "help" why you're attempting to shoot the messenger.

    I'm afraid that the only attempt at manipulation here is from your posts - which are attempting to force your specific interpretation of "Christianity" onto everyone else. Fact is, without the explicit contextualization, not everyone watching the episode would make the implicit distinction you are making and more than a fair few of them would jump to the wrong (generalized) conclusion. When the word "Christian" is used to describe something, there are as many connotations for that descriptor as there are viewers in the audience. Therefore, the show, responsibly, makes the distinction for the audience because the whole point is that these people were fanatics, not that they were Christian.

    Again, what's being discussed is what the show actually stated (and avoided stating): It never used the phrase "Christian mob" - for reasons that really ought to be self-evident.

    By the way, I'm not entirely sure why you think I'm defensive of Christianity, specifically. I've been agnostic since grade school and have no inherent need to defend any specific religion - except that, in this case, while the mob was Christian, that description is far less relevant than the fact that they were fanatic. It'd be like, years later, referring to Elliot Rodger as a Male Murderer. Why, yes, he was male ... and it informed his particular brand of mania, but it would be more accurate to say he was a Misogynist Murderer, since "male" doesn't tell you anything about him beyond the most general of descriptions.
     
  14. gturner

    gturner Admiral

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    But again, what makes you think Hypatia's killers were fanatic, as opposed to being like mafia enforcers sending a message to Orestes? Hypatia's mistake was being the only major player who wasn't traveling around with a large team of bodyguards, making her an easy target.

    Second, did her killers remotely care what religion she was or what school of thought she belonged to? Probably not, or they'd have killed her decades earlier (she was somewhere between her mid-40's and mid-60's when she was killed), as she freely associated with Christians, Jews, and pagans. She was, however, in a position to get Cyril and a bunch of his followers killed by Roman forces, and both Cyril and Orestes were sending letters of protest on up the chain trying to resolve their issues. At some point Cyril or his followers concluded that she was poisoning those efforts.

    If her murder had been because of her teachings, then her colleagues and students wouldn't have kept teaching the same subjects in the same city, which they did.

    So it doesn't matter if her killers are described as Christians or anti-intellectual fanatics, because that narrative is relevant only for modern political ends and has almost nothing to do with what happened to Hypatia.

    You might as well argue, after Cosmos remake IV, that it is significant that the show didn't refer to Lee Harvey Oswald as a Texan, since it called him an "anti manned-space-exploration fanatic." It's so far out in the weeds that it's a debate that shouldn't even occur.
     
  15. Davros

    Davros Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I have read the thread and you have not shown any lies in the series yet. And since you cannot here when asked we can only assume you cannot. Deniers of climate change have nothing.
     
  16. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Let us not forget what happened when Caliph Umar took Egypt away from the Byzantine Empire as remembered by al-Qifti:

    “As for the books you mention, if there is in it what complies with the Book of God [i.e. the Qur'an], then it is already there and is not needed...and if what is in these books contradict the Book of God there is no need for it. And you can then proceed in destroying them.”
    http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/...the-destruction-of-the-library-of-alexandria/

    This was worse than what the Christians did--in that books that affirmed the Qur'an were considered useless, and also slated for burning.

    That is absolutely crazy. I first read of this in a book about Fermat and Wiles...