Categories
Historical Expertise

Myth vs. History

In a recent NY Times opinion piece Hallie Lieberman laments the persistence, prevalence, and perniciousness of a particular historical myth, i.e., the story of the invention of the vibrator as told in The Technology of Orgasm. The standard story is, according to Lieberman: A mutton-chopped, bow-tie-clad doctor stands in an operating theater, where the silhouette […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Flat Earth Belief ≠ Neo-Medievalism

Paula Simons has no patience for people who believe that the earth is flat, and she is particularly upset, it seems, that Edmonton is hosting the first Flat Earth International Conference: “No Getting Around the Absurdity of Edmonton’s Flat Earth Conference.” She dismisses “flat earthers” as delusional conspiracy theorists, reasonably benign if you don’t think […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Who was Englishman John Digges?

No, really, who was John Digges? Apparently he witnessed the supernova in 1572 and helped “shred” the “hidebound view of the universe” and championed the “skepticism about Bible-infused group-think in the Middle Ages” that was the Ptolemaic system. John Digges also viewed the supernova as proof that the fixed stars weren’t fixed on some “kind […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Chauncey Who?

Chauncey E. Sanders is anything but a common household name. However for many Evangelicals Sanders is rather well known for having established three tests that demonstrate the “historical reliability” of the Bible.[1] Sermons, religious websites, and other publications celebrate his three tests, often plagiarizing each other in a sort of intellectual incest.[2] More surprisingly, perhaps, […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Newton Relics

In an editorial taking Kyrie Irving to task for his comments about the shape of the earth, “Between Kyrie Irving’s flat Earth and Isaac Newton’s apple tree, science remains a process of understanding,” Glenn Starkman and Patricia Princehouse remark: We have an apple tree on the Case Western Reserve University campus grown from a twig […]

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Historical Expertise

Astronomers do not Date Sappho’s ‘Midnight’ Poem

Once again the internet is all excited by some scientists’ findings that solve a historical mystery. In this case, “UTA scientists use Planetarium’s advanced astronomical software to accurately date 2500 year-old lyric poem” (as the University of Texas at Arlington press announcement puts it). Unsurprisingly, UTA’s “press release” (by which I mean “propaganda”) misrepresents the […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

“Nothing New” is “Really Bad”

In their impressive compilation of Assyrian and Babylonian medical fragments JoAnn Scurlock and Burton R. Andersen remark about the āšipu: “like intellectuals everywhere, it was not possible for him to approach a medical problem without bringing to it a bit of preconceived theory.”[1] Their observation holds true for modern intellectuals (in this case, a psychologist […]

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Historical Expertise

At least get the facts right…

Dr. David L. Katz has no patience for “New-Age nutrition” and its apparent assault on the calorie. See, for example, last October’s The Race to Redefine Calories: Iconoclasts, Start Your Engines! and his more recent Newtonian Nutrition. Unfortunately, while taking people to task for getting the science and facts wrong, Katz gets a rather basic […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

A Call for Historical Accuracy

If we inveigh against people who distort science and ignore facts to prove their point and we label them dogmatic knuckleheads, we should at least guard against committing the same missteps in our criticisms of them. Phil Plait recently drew attention to and rightly criticized a pseudo-documentary promoting geocentrism.[1] The same day, Lawrence Krauss—a theoretical […]

Categories
Historical Expertise

Enlisting Copernicus in Your Own Monetary Revolution

In “Nicolas Copernicus Was Far More Than A Scientific Icon” Jonathan Decker enlists Copernicus in support of his own economic/political cause: a return to a gold standard. Decker’s Op-Ed at Forbes.com is a gushing review of a recent edition and translation of Copernicus’s Essay on Money.[1] Between 1517 and 1526 Copernicus wrote three different versions […]