What if you had commanded the South at Gettysburg?

January 31, 2008

Can you snatch victory from the jaws of historic defeat?

Military.com features this quick-play, script simulation of the Battle of Gettysburg. I played it, and the South won.

Can you figure out how to use this game to stimulate interest in history, in your classroom? Please tell about it.

Getting the story straight: Galileo and the church

January 31, 2008

Galileo observes the stars

One of the great joys of history, to me, is the diving into a story and finding that the details of the true story do not correspond well with the popular myths. For example, most sailors of the late 15th century were aware the Earth is a globe, when Columbus sailed — his crew did not fear falling off the edge of the Earth. This fact raises questions about why the great European powers were not more enthusiastic about exploring to the west, and that question is probably more difficult to answer. That means more work for the historian.

Here’s an essay from Peter Klein at the economics blog Organizations and Markets, on details of the story of Galileo, setting the record straight, but raising a lot more issues about what actually happened in this story from the history of science.

The problem is that the leaders of Galileo’s day didn’t think the sun revolves around the earth. My former colleague Thomas Lessl is an expert on Galileo, and from him I learned that virtually every aspect of the Galileo legend is false.

Consider these facts:

1. Neither Galileo, nor any other scientist, was put to death by the medieval Church. Giordano Bruno, a 17th-century Dominican, was indeed condemned by the Inquisition, not for his scientific views, but for preaching a quirky, New Age-ish view called hermeticism, which was only incidentally connected to heliocentrism.

2. The Catholic authorities of Galileo’s day had little trouble with heliocentrism per se. Many of the leading Catholic scientists were actually Copernicans. Copernicus’s treatise on heliocentrism had been in print for seventy years prior to Galileo’s conflict with the Church.

3. Galileo remained a devout and loyal Catholic until the end of his life. He held no animosity toward the Church over his conflict with Church authorities.

4. Most important, the conflict between Galileo and the Church took place in the context of the Protestant Reformation, a context that is almost always omitted from popular accounts of Galileo’s trial. The key issue in this conflict was not heliocentrism per se, but the authority of the individual Believer to interpret Scripture. Galileo’s argument that scientists should interpret the Bible to conform to their scientific views was close to Luther’s view that the Believer should be his own interpreter of Scripture. It was Lutheranism, not heliocentrism, that alarmed the Church leaders.

Galileo, in other words, was caught up in a larger, theological and ecclesiastical controversy. He was not simply a truth-seeking scientists going up against a bigoted Establishment.

Klein urges that we should be distrustful of scientists who invoke the old myths about the Galileo story. He fails to assert the more powerful point, to me: Christianity traditionally supported good science, and therefore creationism is the odd duck — the Bible, and Christianity, are not opposed to good science.

Preachers should be preaching for the truth, not for creationism. Of course, one should ponder when, if ever, preachers have paid attention to economists.

Maybe it’s a virus: Imagined racism of Darwin

January 30, 2008

Bad enough Tony Campolo feels compelled to accuse Darwin of being racist without reading the story of Darwin’s life (Darwin was anti-racist, and he and his family supported abolition of slavery and racism, with their political work and money), or without reading what Darwin actually wrote. (See responses here, and here.)

I stumbled into a series of posts at Echidne of the Snakes with the same ill-informed theme, based on the same misguided essay from 1998 — but from an author who staunchly insists on quoting what he thought to be offending passages from Darwin without quoting the rest of what Darwin said — a creationist quote miner, in other words.

He claimed in a thread here to have posted his “final answer” to my frequent urgings that he get the stuff accurate. We can hope it’s his last post on the topic since he won’t fix the errors. We’ll ignore the eerie homage to “final solution” that one could find in his phrasing.

Historian (and lawyer) traps thief of history on eBay

January 29, 2008

Another story of another amateur historian going out of his way to save history in the form of a letter stolen from the New York State Library.Is Joseph Romito a Boy Scout? Can we give him a medal?

12 year-old blogger educates . . .

January 29, 2008

How young is too young to blog about education?

Our reader, Dr. Pamela Bumsted wrote about a 12 year-old kid in Southern California who blogs to reach underprivileged kids, at The Edublogs Magazine.

Michael Guggenheim is twelve years old, a full-time 6th grade student in southern California. He’s recently won the Volunteer Service Award from Secretary Spelling of the U.S. Department of Education and another award from the Inland Empire Branch of the International Dyslexia/Dysgraphia Association. He’s been interviewed by Good Morning America, the LA Times, and CNN. And he’s a blogger.

Michael Guggenheim uses his blog for education – as a teacher to document his nonprofit organization and his extracurricular activities teaching even younger students how to use a computer.

S.P.L.A.T. Inc. (Showing People Learning And Technology) was set up by Guggenheim to help him tutor youngsters at homeless shelters, low income housing projects, and community centers. Whatever funds he raises goes to the distribution of used computers, monitors, printers, and donated software. He himself teaches basic computer skills and also shows the younger children how to use computer learning games.

Got a classroom blog yet? This kid is ahead of a lot of teachers in blogging.

40th anniversary, capture of the U.S.S. Pueblo

January 28, 2008

On January 28, 1968, Commander Lloyd Bucher and the crew of the U.S.S. Pueblo were confronted by several armed swift boats from North Korea, and after an exchange of gunfire that resulted in the death of one of the Pueblo crew, the North Koreans took the boat and crew captive.

1968 was a dramatic and mostly bad year for the U.S. The 11-month saga of the crew in captivity often gets lost from accounts of the year.

Among other reasons I track these events, the crewman pulled a series of hoaxes on their North Korean captors that, I believe, helped lead to their release.

New film, “Malaria Parasites,” rips your heart out

January 28, 2008

One more problem that DDT cannot solve, and that the thoughtless campaigns for DDT only make worse. The film comes from Journeyman Productions.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.ipextv.tv posted with vodpod

Tip of the old scrub brush to the blog of IPEX-TV.

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