Written on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 by Nathaniel Davidson
Costing taxpayers half a billion dollars in a solar panel boondoggle has not dampened President Solyndra’s enthusiasm for wacky energy ideas or his demagoguery. At a recent speech on energy in Maryland, our Drillblocker-in-Chief lectured us on how we need to get rid of tried and tested petroleum power, and instead run things on algae and wind (well, we could set up wind turbines instead of teleprompters on his podium and run a small city). He might look more credible if he went on one of his many vacations on an airplane powered by solar panels or fueled by algae. But I suspect that he will not give up his oil-powered luxuries any time soon—that’s just for the masses.
Instead of addressing real arguments, Obama mocked skeptics of his pie-in-sky ideas as despising the future and living in the past. He listed a number of other great advances that were supposedly mocked at the time. Of course, if he’s so confident, he could fund them out of his own pocket rather than ours. Mark Steyn, in his usual inimitable style, has classily skewered the historical lunacy of Obama’s claims in his column Who’s Obama sneering at? Mark Levin has also devastated Obama’s falsehoods about energy in general. But I will concentrate on this one:
“Let me tell you something. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail – [Laughter] – they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society [Laughter]. They would not have believed that the world was round [Applause]. We’ve heard these folks in the past.”
In fact, there was no such dispute: Obama is parroting a myth from the fairy tales of Washington Irving, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828). Irving admitted that he was “apt to indulge in the imagination”. Well, fairy tales go well with Obama’s fairy tales about energy, I suppose. The myth that the early and medieval church believed in a flat earth has also been part of anti-Christian propaganda since the 19th century. Here again, it’s hardly surprising that America’s Most Biblically-Hostile U. S. President, at war with the Church, would parrot some of the nastiest lies in the anti-Christian arsenal, even if they are among the easiest to defeat. (In both cases, I apologize in advance to parrots, which seem to show rudimentary comprehension of what they imitate.).
The truth was thoroughly documented 20 years ago by Jeffrey Burton Russell in his book Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians, 1991 (or see summary). The book is so thorough that it’s thoroughly demolished this myth in scholarly circles. The late Stephen Jay Gould, no friend of Christianity, approvingly summarizes Russell’s case:
“There never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness’ among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.”
Professor Russell showed that flat-earth belief was extremely rare in the Church, mainly held by two obscure figures named Lactantius and Cosmas Indicopleustes (meaning “voyager to India”). Conversely, the leading figures in that era who commented on the earth’s shape unhesitatingly affirmed that the earth was round. Russell documents accounts of medieval church scholars such as Friar Roger Bacon (1220–1292), inventor of spectacles; the great philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas, (1225–1274); leading medieval scientists such as John Buridan (1301–1358) and Nicholas Oresme (1320–1382), and more.
From even earlier in history, Russell discussed the theologian and historian, the Venerable Bede (673–735). One of Bede’s projects was calculating the date of Easter each year, which involves quite advanced astronomical knowledge. And this was based on the old Greek conception of a spherical earth at the center of the universe, or in Bede’s words, “orbis in medio totius mundi positu” or “orb in the middle of the whole world”. Bede even categorically stated that he meant a sphere, not a plane.
Finally, medieval European kings carried a royal orb as a symbol of their power: this was a golden sphere—representing the spherical earth—topped by a cross to symbolize Christ’s lordship over all. The king’s holding the earth under the cross symbolized his divine right to rule—as most Western people thought until July 4, 1776. For example, here is a picture of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor (1017–1056), being presented with the orb of kingship.
As conclusively shown, Columbus never had to prove that the earth was round—because there was nothing to prove to any educated medieval person! Rather, Columbus was criticised because he couldn’t have reached the Indies the long way, because the earth’s circumference was bigger than he thought. And the critics were right! It was highly fortunate that a huge forgotten continent was in the way. But the legacy of Columbus’ errors still persists in the common term for the Native Americans—“Indians”.
Despite all this scholarly knowledge in the early church and the medieval period that hardly anyone believed in a flat earth, “Incredibly, some people still do,” writes Natalie Wolchover in Live Science last year:
“The Flat Earth Society is an active organization currently led by a Virginian man named Daniel Shenton. Though Shenton believes in evolution and global warming, he and his hundreds, if not thousands, of followers worldwide also believe that the Earth is a disc that you can fall off of.”
Given Obama’s avid faith in the global warm-mongering scam, it seems that he has far more in common with flat-earthers than he would care to admit!
According to many on the Obama-worshipping Left, he is “the smartest guy ever to become president.” Well, this is hard to prove, since Obama won’t release his university transcripts. It’s also doubtful that he is within 30 IQ points of Teddy Roosevelt, a noted naval historian and author of many books on a wide range of topics (Obama’s two books are about only his favorite topic: himself). But the Left love to play up their candidates. Remember how GWB was supposed to be so dull, compared to the brilliant intellectuals Al Gore and John Kerry? Yet Bush’s university grades were higher than either!
But the problem for Obama’s backers is: if he is so brilliant, then why was he so loose with the facts? If he wasn’t so bright, this could be excused as the sloppiness of a man who couldn’t do any better. So the only explanation left is that he didn’t care about the truth, only what was good to demagogue Republicans who want to drill for our own oil.
While the Leftmedia let him get away with this mendacity, a genuine scholarly historian like Professor Gingrich would clean his clock in a debate. If he doesn’t win, I hope the eventual nominee will not soft pedal on Obama’s serious dishonesty, as McCain did last time.