Is it Getting Hot in Here or is it Just Me?

 

 

When I first began reading summer of the Gods I read it as one would read a historical text. Evaluating the arguments and putting myself into these people’s shoes. As I have progressed through the book I am beginning to understand what drove William Jennings Bryan and his Fundamentalist cohorts to go to such lengths to suppress progressive teachings on our origin as a species. It was not just their staunch belief in Christianity that made them so devoted to the cause, but also the idea that they were engaged in a war of ideology, with the classroom and courtroom as the battleground, and the consequence of their failure being the collapse of religion, or so they thought.

          It is interesting to note that since evolution has gone mainstream, religious fervor has certainly declined within my generation. However as religious attitudes have waned within the greater populace, fundamentalists, those seeking to live life by the Bible, have turned ever more fundamental. Such is the result of a single minded group of people becoming ever more isolated. In many ways the evangelical resurgence America has seen in recent years mirrors what happened in the prelude to the Scopes Monkey Trial. Fundamentalists had generally stayed away from direct confrontation of evolution until William Jennings Bryan and his followers began staunchly opposing it’s teachings in post-World War One America. Bryan feared that the spread of evolutionary and survival of the fittest ideologies would turn people into violent animals, intent on destroying each other as happened in WW1. His fears would culminate in the Nazi’s eugenics driven drive to create an Aryan dominated world. However in the post WW2 world something amazing happened. Nations didn’t isolate themselves and create genetically perfect races, or continually war with each other on a global. Rather, once humanity saw the awesome destructive power we possessed, we opened our doors to international discourse and for the last 70 years we have not had a war of global proportions. What Bryan failed to realize in his fear of Survival of the Fittest Dogma was the human element. We have evolved past the animalistic view of, “I kill you because I can.” Although the last century was ugly and involved some of the most atrocious conflicts in our history, we have emerged as a population capable of attaining new heights that we could never have dreamed of before. Instead of stripping humans of their moral code, evolution opened a whole new doorway of intellectual pursuit, free from the constraints of a 2,000 year old text.

          On a personal level, I can understand the exacerbation that evolutionists must have felt from fundamentalist’s refusal to accept what was essentially scientific fact. Learning about global warming in school, it was always presented to me as “the theory of global warming” or “the possibility of global warming.” Well, with carbon levels at their highest in recorded history and the UN recently releasing a statement saying they’re “95% sure humans are responsible for global warming,” I’d say it’s about time anti-global warming advocates threw in the towel. When I first learned about global warming I accepted it as a fact simply because, it obviously made sense. A quick look at carbon levels and temperature spikes in recent decades shows an obvious correlation with the rapid increase in global industrialization and carbon output. Whether the recent uptick in global natural calamities has any connection between our carbon-footprint is still up for debate but I for one have seen The Day After Tomorrow, and since I don’t have Dennis Quaid to come rescue me, I’d rather avoid that scenario.      

 All kidding aside though, the debate between accepting global warming as fact or theory mirrors the debate on evolution in many ways. Just as the battle over evolution culminated with the Scopes Monkey Trial, I believe that the debate over Global Warming will soon reach a climax with the general acceptance of manmade Global Warming following soon after. However while the acceptance of evolution marked an ideological turning point, Global Warming represents a far more serious threat to our survival and as such necessitates drastic measures to be taken soon if we are to secure the future of our species. Otherwise we may not be around long enough to get to see World War 3. The confines of what feels comfortable is far more dangerous then what we find when we explore.

 

 

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

― Albert Einstein

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McGrath, Matt. “IPCC Climate Report: Humans ‘dominant Cause’ of Warming.” BBC News. BBC, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24292615&gt;.

My PHD is in Forrest Gump studies

forrest gumpWatching Inherit the Wind I was surprised by a few things. First of all I started it at 12:45 at night so I knew i was in for a long night. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie was actually quite good, filled with strong performances and the kind of sharp, dry wit you find in movies from the pre-blockbuster era. However as enthralled as I may have been by the film itself, I had to keep the films historical content at arm’s length. To tell the truth I know very little about the details of the Scopes Monkey Trial and I didn’t want these movies historical inaccuracies to corrupt my knowledge of the real case. This dilemma ties directly into a commonly encountered problem with historical movies. An audience, uneducated in the subject in the film they’re watching will be easily swayed by a persuasive film. In Gladiator for instance I’m sure audiences would be surprised to learn that Russell Crowe’s character never existed and that Commodus reigned for 11 years before being drowned in his bathtub. However if you asked an audience they would say that obviously Commodus died at the hands of Maximus. It’s not that Hollywood is trying to dumb down audiences (although based on today’s movies I’m not so sure about that) It’s just that audiences like to be entertained so when you have a historical piece, liberties must be taken with the material to make it more viewer friendly.  Inherit the Wind added in the preacher and his daughter for emotional effect despite them having no bearing on the case itself. Historical movies are great for getting audiences interested in a subject which they will hopefully research more after the film ends. However taken as historical fact, movies can easily misinform the populace. If you’re looking for a historical film that appears to stay true to the source material I would recommend the soon to be released 12 Years a Slave sporting a stellar cast to go along with its incredible story, the film is already garnering heavy Oscar hype.

Jihad vs. Mcworld

Jihad vs. Mcworld

I read this article in my comparative government class and it left an indelible impression on me. Despite being an academic text, I found the piece to be riveting and kept my attention focused. I highly recommend reading this (it really doesn’t take very long) and then i would welcome any comments or thoughts on this. There is also a sequel that professor Barber wrote a few years ago that I will post in a while. Hope you enjoy the read!

A President and an Admiral

For my book Bad Presidents, I found a wide range of websites related to the various presidents in our history. Many of the websites I perused were either blatantly biased or gave the subject matter such a cursory treatment that I could have read about every president in half an hour. Eventually I narrowed my list to two websites but then, remembering that this is my blog, realized that I could use both! The first one, http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents , was about what I would expect from a White House website, a brief description of the presidents subtly extolling their more positive contributions. I liked this site though because I know that it’s trustworthy (I wish I could say the same of our government in light of the continued news of NSA espionage). The other website, http://millercenter.org/president , is more of what I was looking for in regards to comprehensive biographies of the men who led this nation. Each president is meticulously detailed and well presented in their profiles courtesy of the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. If you’re looking for a brief bio of a president then the White House page is well suited, however if you are seeking a thorough and well-rounded account of a president then the Miller Center is certainly your best option.

This article is called A President and an Admiral for a reason though, and since none of esteemed presidents have been admirals, it stands to reason that there is another book for this article. That book would be Yi Sun-sin, the account of one of history’s most daring and accomplished military geniuses. Rising to fame during Japan’s invasion of Korea in the late 1500’s, Yi Sun-sin’s battles are the stuff of legend, none more so than the Battle of Myeongyang, where Admiral Yi, with a fleet of 13 ships successfully defended Korea against an invasion force of between 333-550 Japanese ships. Unfortunately, it appears that many of Admiral Yi’s best websites are in Korean (understandably so), so I opted to use the site where I first learned about him – and one of my favorite websites period – http://www.badassoftheweek.com . For Admiral Yi’s specific exploits go to http://www.badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?id=767324127223. I recommend the read as you’ll find that he developed iron clad warships centuries before the Civil War.

P.S.: As a bonus I HIGHLY recommend you read the simply unbelievable account of Jack Churchill at http://www.badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?id=601960524369. Here’s a photo of him leading his troops into battle duringWW2. Yes, that is a sword.Image

My day at the PCL

Image                   On Wednesday, We were informed that we needed to explore the PCL and check a book out. After class, my colleague Cole graciously offered to show me around the PCL (Perry-Castaneda Library). While I was initially turned off by the buildings bland concrete exterior, I was quickly reminded of the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” (rather ironic seeing as it is a library). Within The concrete confines I found a veritable treasure trove of information. Each floor packed with an immeasurable amount of knowledge I was at a loss for where to start. Cole eventually directed me to the history section where I spent almost an hour sifting through the various Middle Eastern texts written in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Farsi, French, and even Belgian.

For nearly half an hour I was enthralled with the writings of an early 1900’s explorer relaying the tale of the Great British explorer Henry Stanley and Belgium’s colonization of the Congo. This book coalesced perfectly with the topic of interpreting history we have been debating in class. Written at the turn of the 20th century, the book tells nothing of the forced labor, mass mutilations, and general savagery of the Belgian colonizers in relation to their Congolese subjects. Rather, coming from the perspective of a European imperialist, the text speaks of “willing conversions of the local populace” and “substantially higher quality of life”. Last I checked 5 million people with severed limbs doesn’t equate to a higher standard of living. But this is exactly the reason that history must continually be rectified and why history, much like wine can get better as it ages. In the immediate aftermath of the Congolese takeover, Belgium experienced huge economic growth from exploitation of Congo’s vast resources, so obviously imperialists looked at this colony as a resounding success. However, as news of King Leopold’s brutality filtered out the world was appropriately aghast at Belgium’s actions. To this day The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country with vast resources racked by continued warfare, exploitation, and death. In retrospect it is obvious that the book I read was grossly misinformed and biased. However if someone with no knowledge of the Congo were to read this book they would infer that European imperialism was the best thing that ever happened to Africa.

 I digress though, I eventually settled on two books, A Study of Islamic History and a biography of the great Korean admiral simply called Sun-Yat Sen. After a detour to the libraries map room (AWESOME) I went home. That night looking over the assignment for Thinking Like a Historian I found out that I was supposed to get a book from the American Studies section! So now I find myself sitting in the PCL writing this blog post (my computer is having some serious hardware malfunctions), wondering what path of history this library will take me down when I walk to the American section after this.