The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘history’

DARWIN AND PROGRESSIVE THOUGHT

If you are “young”, by that I mean forty years old or less, you have probably not read Charles Darwin’s signature work, “On The Origin Of Species”.  It was published in 1859 and was a record of his observations on how mankind and other species then living on planet earth had evolved from lower, less successful forms of life.

The work flew in the face of people of religious belief who held the view that mankind was Divinely created and was put upon this Earth, as is.  We had not descended from monkeys or anything else as Darwin claimed.

Darwin’s book was extremely controversial and Hollywood made a movie about it, “Inherit The Wind”. This was the story of the Scopes trial, in which a Tennessee school teacher taught Darwin’s theory to his High School students in violation of the laws of the state.

The movie was extremely well done and the cast included such Hollywood greats as Frederic March and Spencer Tracey playing the prosecuting and defense attorneys, respectively and Dick York, best remembered as Samantha’s husband on “Bewitched” playing the role of Bertram T. Cates, the movie’s version of John Thomas Scopes, the teacher who had been brought before the bar of justice.

Central to Darwin’s observations was the fact that weaker, less successful species either died off or evolved in order to withstand the brutalities of nature.  Some species were victims and others were their predators. The mere act of survival was paramount to everything else. There would be some logic in that on which we all might agree. After all, you cannot write a “Declaration of Independence” or “The Minute Waltz” or accomplish anything else if you have been killed by a stronger opponent.

The initial verdict in the Scopes trial was that the defendnant was guilty.  (That conviction was ultimately overturned on a technicality).    When the matter was finally resolved legally, it was loudly applauded as a victory for science. Those of a religious mindset were stunned that God’s Word had been legally nullified.  The case was tried in 1925.

In the nearly 90 years since the Scopes trial was heard and adjudicated,  those who are “progressives” (some of whom may actually have heard of this case or read Darwin’s underlying work) have labored hard to replace religion with science. Their efforts have not gone unrewarded. But there is a subtext to Darwin’s thesis that, ”successful species evolve to maintain their continuation.” It is the manner in which they accomplish that primary goal of survival. 

If you have ever watched Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, or read an issue of “National Geographic Magazine” you know that in any herd of animals, those who are weak or old, frail or young, are often sacrificed by the collective so that the strong may breed and pass on their superior genes to future generations. The weak and less efficient in the heard truly play a role in the collective’s well-being – as victims.

Is there a corollary between the survival techniques of other animals and mankind?  Are not those whose lives are dependent on government “entitlement” programs our weak and frail, our old and young? Would not many of these perish were it not for the beneficence of the collective?

But what if in our “brave new world” the majority were to view them as too plentiful in number and decided to cull the herd? This would certainly be rational Darwinian practice. They would be fed to the herd’s predators with no thought for the individual’s interests – keeping in mind only the objective of the collective.

When the last of the weak had been devoured, the collective might notice something that we have seen repeat itself throughout history. Their old enemies, and perhaps some new ones, will still be circling the fringes of the heard, waiting for their opportunity to fulfill their own mission of survival and looking for the weakest members among those who remain. The question that the herd must then address is, whom shall we select next as our sacrificial victims?

ON KNOWLEDGE

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

(Attributed {attribution disputed}) to Charles Holland Duell, Commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office 1898-1901.

Whether Commissioner Duell made that comment or not, it is reflective of a mindset to which we humans sometimes turn.  That mindset is correctly called closed-mindedness.  We limit our thinking and box ourselves into our comfort zones and there spend our lives, unwilling to challenge our perceptions, content with the little universe we have created for ourselves.

But we know the universe is a big place – a very big place – an unfathomably big place.  And we know that our place in it is very small and very new.  Some people find that threatening.  I, on the other hand, think that is very exciting.  Just thinking about how little we know and how much we have to learn gets the hairs on my neck standing at full attention – and reverence.

Our most recent scientific estimate is that the universe is 13.5 billion years old and that the Earth formed about 4.7 billion years ago.  We also know that the Earth has gone through many transformations before it became the water world that it is today, providing the opportunity for life as we know it.

We shouldn’t be startled at this transformation as today we can actually see the creation of new stars being born in our Milky Way and we can observe the death of old ones.  Naturally, new and existing stars bring with them the possibility of new and existing planets orbiting them.  And if there are planets it is only reasonable to believe that there is the possibility of life.

The possibility of life on other planets is hardly a new theory.  Most of the founding fathers believed that was likely.  Certainly, as Galileo looked through his newly improved telescope, it is likely that these thoughts ran through his head as well.  But while we may propose this theory, we in our time await confirmation through personal encounters with these beings from another world.  But do we have to scan our skies looking for them or is there ample proof left on Earth that visitors from other worlds met our ancestors in remote times past?

The “Ancient Astronaut” theory sets out to prove that such visitations occurred thousands of years ago.  There is so much evidence scattered through different parts of the world that can be explained through no other theory as to be convincing to even the most skeptical observer should he choose to consider it.

If you are not familiar with the extensive writings of Eric von Däniken, who is an investigative proponent of this idea. then you may at least be familiar with the series of the same title which the History Channel has aired over several seasons.  The series explores examples of remnants of ancient artifacts whose construction can in no way be explained other than that mankind had “help” in constructing them by someone who was technologically far more advanced than they – or for that matter than we are today.

In the historical records of ancient human civilizations there is constant reference made to “the gods” coming to Earth.  Remarkably, though separated by thousands of miles and with no possibility of interaction between those recording these events, the similarity between the authors’ descriptions is amazing.

Is this a matter of group hypnosis between different groups who did not even know of each other’s existence and were separated by thousands of miles – or is the more plausible explanation that these various cultures were indeed visited by extraterrestrials whom they had no better word to describe than “the gods”?

There simply is no theory that has been so far advanced that can better explain how the Pyramids of Egypt could have been constructed – or those of the Mayans in Central America.

How could the “primitive’ Mayans have produced temples that were clearly based on mathematical and astronomic principles that were so exact as to produce a calendar that is more accurate than our own?  How could they have fitted these massive blocks of stone together with such precision that we would, with all the technological advancements we have made today, be unable to duplicate them?  How could they have mined the stone itself with the simple tools available to them to the degree of precision that they achieved without help from a more technologically advanced civilization?  And to what purpose were these monuments built?

For years Homer’s “Iliad” was considered a work of fiction.  The book was passed down through oral tradition, not unlike the tradition of aboriginal peoples in America and New Zealand and Australia and South America.  However, when the book was finally committed to paper several hundred years after Homer’s death, its description of the location of Troy was sufficiently accurate to allow Heinrich Schliemann to uncover that city’s ancient ruins.

We prefer to think of descriptions of “gods descending in winged chariots from the heavens” as mere allegory.  But what other terms would a people who had never seen anything other than birds fly use to describe the descent of an alien spacecraft?  And when the same term is used in disparate parts of the world, when similar pictographs and drawing are carved depicting people who bear no resemblance to those who were the artists for these works, are we to dismiss them as the mere meanderings of the creative mind?  Have we returned to the theory of “mass hypnosis” – but if that theory is valid, who is the hypnotist?

It is hard for me as a rational and open-minded person (or so I like to think of myself) to believe that we have attained the summit of all knowledge.  It is hard for me to believe that the Creator whom I revere as omnipresent and omnipotent has chosen just one little spot at the edge of an ordinary galaxy to convey intelligent life to the exclusion of the rest of His entire universe.  It seems to me that doing so is to limit God whom we describe as limitless.  And if mankind was made “a little lower than the angels,” perhaps in time we will advance to that point that we have taken our place by their side.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

(NOT YET) FAMOUS QUOTES – XIV

In this series I have tried to post original quotations.  But sometimes something that has been said by another is so important that it should be remembered – even if it has been overlooked by us.  And that is the case with today’s quotation – given to us by an ancient Roman statesman and philosopher.

“Live among men as if God beheld you; speak to God as if men were listening.”

– Seneca

WHO REALLY CAUSED 9/11?

I was speaking the other day with several people who were Obama supporters.  As I always enjoy hearing people’s well-informed opinions, I asked them what it was that the President had accomplished that most impressed them.

As I waited for a response, I noticed a lot of hemming and hawing as people tried to put their finger on something specific which they liked about the President’s policies.  The answer I got from most was, “Well, he’s a lot better than Bush – and all the problems we’re having are because of Bush.  They’re not Obama’s fault.”

I have an historical perspective of the world so the fact that the President of the United States might “inherit” problems from his predecessor is a thesis which I am willing to consider.  Combine my historical view with my interest in science fiction (how a change in the “time line” might have a profound effect on the future) and I am right in my element.  Allow me to offer a few examples.

An ordinary man, a husband, a businessman and the father of two is returning from a long day at the office.  Suddenly he runs over a massive pot hole in the street, loses control of his car and is killed.  The world will be a different one for his survivors, his neighbors and his business associates because of this tragedy.  However, his death will probably not have a profound impact on the world – because, as I said, he was an “ordinary” person.

A second case involves WW II.  Can you imagine how different our world would be if Adolph Hitler had succeeded in defeating the Allies?  If I were even alive to write this, no doubt I would be doing so in German, not English.  That change in what happened historically would have profound implications for our world and how we would have been living our lives for the last seventy years.

Certainly as  President of the United States the decisions and policies that that person makes are going to have a profound effect on the future of this country, its citizens and the world.  For that reason I wanted to consider the explanation that “it’s all President Bush’s fault.”  And in the interest of trying to find another instance where history determines the future I considered the tragedy that befell us on 9/11/01.  Who truly was to blame for this disaster?

I was born in Manhattan and as I watched the first plane crash into the Twin Towers I cannot describe my horror or my feeling of emptiness and disbelief.  This was an assault not only on my country but on my hometown.  I took this personally.  As the tragedy unfolded and the towers collapsed, I realized that I had three business associates whose offices were in those buildings.  Days later I learned that they had died.  I took their deaths personally – very personally.

In the days and weeks following, as I emerged from the emotional numbness that I’m sure most of us felt, I began listening to the reports about what had happened.  For the first time I heard the name Osama bin Laden.  I didn’t know the man – but I didn’t like him.  I didn’t like the sense of fear that most of us experienced, constantly looking overhead to see if another plane was going to drop out of the sky.  I didn’t like the heightened sense of security and having to worry that there were cadres of other terrorists – some perhaps planted in this country years ago – who might any moment receive their assignment to perpetrate another horrific act.  I don’t think that any American, or for that matter any civilized person throughout the world, liked any of this.

But after my conversation about how all of our present problems stem from President Bush I decided to question the reports about who was really responsible for over three thousand deaths on 9/11.  Was it truly this bin Laden character – or was he merely the person who had set the wheels in motion for a plot that had been conceived many years prior and by someone else?

In 1626, Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from the Lenape Indian tribe for a reported twenty-four dollars.  The Dutch settled in the lower end of the island and began building a home for themselves in this New World.  There was a great deal of land on Manhattan Island and relatively few settlers – so naturally the buildings were generally one story tall, two at the most.  But over the years, these settlers had children, new arrivals came to America and so the settlement grew outwardly and horizontally.  There was no lack of land to accommodate them.

Over several centuries New York became a much more densely populated place.  The land had pretty much been used up and there was a lot of overcrowding.  But then came Elisha Otis.  The year was 1854 and the place was the New York World’s Fair where Mr. Otis unveiled his greatest invention – the elevator.  This invention forever changed the landscape and the skyline of Manhattan and the world.

No longer were we restricted to building one and two story houses – we could build skyscrapers – and the Flat Iron, Chrysler and Empire State buildings could be born.  Of course, so could the Twin Towers.  Had it not been for the elevator and its inventor, there could have been no tragedy on 9/11 because there would have been no buildings to implode.  But if Mr. Otis had a hand in that day’s disaster, he was not alone in this nefarious plot.

Enter the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur.  We all have heard about their first flight in an airplane in Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903.  As culpable as Mr. Otis may have been in the 9/11 plot, his work was insufficient to carry it out.  He needed the help of others to complete this plan.  Had it not been for the Wright Brothers, mankind might have abandoned our dream of flying through the air in a machine.  And ultimately, it was the successors to their invention, today’s modern aircraft which enabled the co-conspirators to close the circle and engage in the devastation which occurred that fateful day.

Yes, the real perpetrators of 9/11 were the inventor of the elevator and those who gave us the gift of flight.  I believe my logic is consistent with my friends who support the precept that “everything is President Bush’s fault.”

But once set loose on a path and investigation I am as relentless as a pig looking for truffles.  Have I gone far enough – or is there more to be uncovered?

As I thought about it, if it had not been for George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers, there would have been no America that the terrorists of 9/11 would grow to hate.  I must consider the possibility that our early American “patriots” might also have been involved in this plot.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

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