[ExI] Hawaii telescope protests

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Wed Jul 24 15:34:53 UTC 2019

On Jul 24, 2019, at 6:28 AM, John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 5:00 AM BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > The Hawaii protest is not just about a few religious fundamentalists.
>> It is the flashpoint for a political protest about righting the wrongs
>> perceived to have been done to the Hawaiian people.
>> Quote:
>> Much of the opposition has tapped into deep-seated grievances tied to
>> the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893,
> Well perhaps you're right, maybe the root cause of the protest is indeed some real or perceived injustice committed in 1893. I don't know if that's true and I don't give a damn if it is. Even if you're 100% correct all you've done is explain why their behavior is barbaric, you have not made that behavior one bit less barbaric. The people who burned down the Library of Alexandria had reasons to do so and no doubt they thought they were doing the right thing, but that doesn't change the fact that their actions dealt a serious blow to Civilization.
> Let's go into a little more detail about the actions of those Hawaiian protestors. They have already delayed by 4 years what would have been the largest optical telescope in the world, and now after they lost in court and astronomers tried to resume construction they acted illegally and not only stopped all new construction they shut down 13 of the most important telescopes in the world that were telling us fascinating things about the universe.
> I'm not a fool, I know I'm on the losing side and despite the favorable court ruling the magnificent Thirty Meter Telescope is doomed and perhaps those 13 existing telescopes on the mountain are too; but even though its hopeless I like to think if I was alive back when the library was burning I'd have a bucket of water in my hand and not a torch. So how about you? Do you stand with the enlightenment or do you stand with the barbarians? 

The analogy is a little stretched here since the protestors are not, say, seeking to wipe out knowledge or scholarship.

But there’s another problem: The Library of Alexander was burned because of warfare and it’s likely that this was unintentional, especially the fire that took place in 48 BCE when Julius Caesar took the city. It’s notable that by this time the library had been in decline as an institution — partly due to Alexandria’s decline and partly because by this point there were rivals like the Library of Pergamum. (One shouldn’t fall prey to the notion that scholarship was completely localized to one place in the ancient world.)

The bigger problem for libraries and scholarship in ancient times was that eventually patronage diminished or ended completely, invasions happened (and the invaders weren’t necessarily focused on destroying libraries), and also the dominance of Christianity shifted the cultural focus. The primary cause for the loss of almost all classical works was not that there was a particular fire or incident but that they simply weren’t copied. To be sure, yes, some works we’re actively suppressed — usually, though, these were religious texts of heretical sects. But, for the most part, not being copied was the chief destroyer of ancient texts. A scroll or even a codex was unlikely to last more than a few decades. Almost all ancient survivals survived because someone bothered to copy them and that laborious process continued over centuries. (Note that a decline in literacy or overall economic decline could severely attenuate this process. It could lead to there being less demand for copies or far fewer people dedicated to copying.) The rare exceptions are stuff like the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Herculaneum papyri.


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