Saturday, December 18, 2004

What Do You Care...

The ad hominem attack in the comments to the previous post led me to think about the three religions most directly involved in the Mideast. They all recognize Abraham; so much so that Judaism, Christianity & Islam are considered to be Abrahamic religions. So why is there such strife? Part of it is certainly due to the internecine nature of the conflicts. The number of Christians is comparatively small, so they remain mainly on the sidelines. The bulk of the contentions are Jew vs. Muslim. Yet both are Semitic races.

I’d like to share excerpts from the book, What Do You Care What Other People Think? By Richard Feynman. You might remember him as the commissioner on the Challenger panel who demonstrated the lack of resilience in the O-ring seals when they are cold by dipping one into ice water and testing it with a C-clamp. Science education at its best! He went to visit another ancient civilization, Greece, and had these observations (pages 94-96):

“Yesterday morning I went to the archeological museum…it was slightly boring because we have seen so much of that stuff before. Except for one thing: among all those art objects there was one thing so entirely different that it is nearly impossible. It was recovered from the sea in 1900 and is some kind of machine with gear trains, very much like the inside of a modern wind-up alarm clock. The teeth are very regular and many wheels are fitted close together. There are graduated circles and Greek inscriptions. I wonder if it is some kind of fake. There was an article on it in the Scientific American in 1959.”

“It appears the Greeks take their past very seriously. They study ancient Greek archeology in their elementary schools for 6 years, having to take 10 hours of that subject every week. It is a kind of ancestor worship, for they emphasize always how wonderful the ancient Greeks were - and wonderful indeed they were. When you encourage them by saying, “Yes, and look how modern man has advanced beyond the ancient Greeks” - Thinking of the experimental science, the development of mathematics, the art of the Renaissance, the great depth and understanding of the relative shallowness of Greek philosophy, etc. etc. - they reply, “What do you mean? What was wrong with the ancient Greeks?” They continually put their age down and the old age up, until to point out the wonders of the present seems to them to be an unjustified lack of appreciation for the past.”
"They were very upset when I said that the development of greatest importance to mathematics in Europe was the discovery by Tartaglia that you can solve a cubic equation: although it is very little use in itself, the discovery must have been psychologically wonderful because it showed that a modern man could do something no ancient Greek could do. It therefore helped in the Renaissance, which was the freeing of man from the intimidation of the ancients. What Greeks are learning in school is to be intimidated into thinking they have fallen so far below their super ancestors."

So where does this take me? A rumination. Was it a mistake to offer a Solomonic choice to the Jews and Palestinians over Jerusalem? Split the baby. The problem is, the baby could still muddle through after it was split. We did not focus their attention enough. So here is a modified choice, What do you want?
a) Share the running of the city among you all evenly.
b) Have the power given to those who have shown more ability to get along with their neighbors, the UN Security Council.
I suspect that after half a century of UN intervention that neither side shares the delusions of the American Left about the blue helmets! Puts a whole different perspective on the issue, doesn’t it? And it is truer to the original choice offered by King Solomon.


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