Archive | December 31, 2007

The Pear Tree Code

The following letter appeared in the December 29th Opelika-Auburn News:

To the Editor:

I’m sorry to see Mary Belk’s column repeating the long-refuted myth that the song “Twelve Days of Christmas” originated as a coded way of imparting Catholic doctrine in Protestant England when Catholics were persecuted.

Mona Lisa XII A quick internet search will bring up multiple websites debunking this spurious legend; just Google “Twelve Days of Christmas” together with “Catholic.”

In any case, the story doesn’t make sense even on its own terms, because the supposed secret meanings of the verses don’t contain any specifically Catholic content!

They’re generically Christian. Don’t both Catholics and Protestants accept the six days of creation, the ten commandments, etc.?

So why would Catholics need to hide in coded verse a set of meanings that were as acceptable to Protestants as to Catholics?

Roderick T. Long
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Auburn University

See also here and here.

Alexandria – Birthplace of the Wheel!

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Just got back from Baltimore: great Molinari Society session, great visit to the National Aquarium, great seafood (don’t worry, not at the Aquarium).

The Rise and Fall of AlexandriaOn my return I find in my email inbox an ad for this book on the history of Alexandria.

Now while I haven’t read the book, I confess to being rather put off by the following blurb:

It was here mankind first discovered that the earth was not flat, originated atomic theory, invented geometry, systematized grammar, translated the Old Testament into Greek, built the steam engine, and passed their discoveries on to future generations via the written word.

Say what? Before Alexandria was even founded, Aristotle was teaching a round-earth cosmology, and Leucippus and Democritus were teaching an atomist physics. And Plato’s Academy, with its inscription over the door “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here,” must have been awfully empty as students and teachers milled about on its front steps, waiting for Alexander of Macedon to be born so he could found Alexandria so there could be a place where somebody could “invent geometry.” (So much for Thales and the Pythagoreans.)

And this is considering only the Greeks. Chinese geometry, Indian atomism, and Indian round-earth cosmology also predate Alexandria – as does Indian “systematized grammar.”

As for the quotation’s final conjunct, I’m not sure whether the author of this blurb literally meant that the Alexandrians were the first to pass any discoveries on to future generations via the written word, or just these particular discoveries, but if it’s the former (which is what the grammar implies), that’s even sillier than the rest of it.

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