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Uncomfortable History: Archimedes > Jesus

31 July 2013, 09:10

A tragedy words alone are unfit to describe

If one person deserved the fame and reverence society has for Jesus Christ, it is an ancient Greek known as Archimedes. I will spare everyone a boring history lesson and simply say that if you’ve never heard of Archimedes and his conquests, you may just find out why in this article.

In ancient Greece, among other civilizations built on science, reason, and democracy, there was an explosion of knowledge and invention that still underpins our way of life today. Men strived to be geniuses and shared in the wealth of knowledge contributed by others.

Even today, when you exclaim, in frustration, that Pythagoras theorem is difficult to understand, you are paying homage to the Greek Pythagoras who left it for us. If you are memorizing the first 40,000 digits of PI like some Discovery Channel savant, you are paying homage to Archimedes who discovered PI. When you curse in despair at your defeat by Euclidean geometry, you are paying homage to Euclid the Greek who discovered this sect of geometry named in his honour.

When you cast your vote to elect your leaders, you are using Greek democracy (though standards have slipped in the last century, as democracy became populism). The parenthetic insert in the previous sentence is why you never hear historians complain that, when we call it Western Democracy, we are robbing the ancient Greeks of something they originally invented.

There is a lot more that we need to thank the ancient Greeks for, but that is something the reader can explore for themselves.

Sadly, this wondrous way of life the ancient Greeks invented—always striving to better itself and its people—came to an abrupt end after the death of Archimedes, the last luminary Greek genius of this golden age. Archimedes died like a common thief because of incomplete instruction and mistaken identity.

Archimedes was unaware of the invasion of Syracuse (where he lived) by the Romans, and did not attempt to hide himself from harm’s way. Luckily, 50% of the reason for the invasion was capturing Archimedes, because the Romans sought his exquisite intellect, the productions of which had been besting the Roman Empire in combat for decades. Unfortunately, the instruction to take Archimedes alive and treat him with respect did not extend to all the troops deployed to Syracuse.

So, when an ignorant Roman soldier barged into Archimedes’ home, Archimedes simply told the soldier not to disturb his circles (one many mathematical fascinations Archimedes had on display). The Roman soldier took offence at the rebuke and ran Archimedes through with his sword. The loss of this one mind set advanced mathematics back until the mid-1600s when Newton came on the scene and completed Archimedes’ work, the result of which is modern-day Calculus. (If you want to worship anything, worship Calculus, because it has given our technologically advanced society reproducible miracles in all the fields of science and engineering.)

It is said that the Roman general who oversaw the siege of Syracuse wept as he watched his soldiers plunder and burn the great city into ruin. Even a man of war could appreciate what the Greeks had built and what they stood for. Unfortunately, not even a Roman general could intervene in the law that stated that Roman conquest permits its troops to plunder, burn, and loot what they had captured. I still hold back tears when reading this story, because that is the day men of wisdom almost became extinct.

After the fall of this great man, Archimedes, and the civilization that birthed him, the world took centuries to recover. First would come the dark ages during which mathematics was considered witchcraft, and its practitioners were tortured and killed by the religious institutions that reigned supreme and unchallenged.

Science, mathematics, philosophy, and reason were literally bleached from the pages of history: Archimedes’ greatest work, a book called the Palimpsest, suffered this fate to make way for religious scribbles. Luckily, modern science is able to detect the writing of Archimedes under the defilement now covering it, and his genius may yet live on as we rediscover what Archimedes already knew 2200+ years ago.

To be fair (and honest), religion does care a great deal about mathematics, too; the basic arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division better used to calculate profits and the distribution thereof.

Many scientists believe that had Archimedes finished his work, and had Calculus flourished as it did after Newton, then much of what is Sci-Fi would be science fact: vacations on Mars, interplanetary exploration, sustainable energy, and a life spent free from the burden of earning a living through forced labour, all this may have been. But we will never know and this is speculation at best. What we do know, is that for 600 years after Archimedes, mathematics (and society) did not advance, andfaith became the sole method if reasoning.

But there is another tragedy much less spoken of that was set in motion when Archimedes died, the end of the age of the autodidact. Autodidacticism is what I refer to as the self-directed intellect. It is the most difficult form of study any person can undertake, because it requires a tremendous amount of self-verification, a process not practiced in today’s orthodox institutions of education: universities and colleges.

After the dark ages finally lifted and the rays of reason again shone on men, never again has anyone understood so much about the variety of subjects ancient Greek autodidacts mastered and advanced in their individual lifetimes. In fact, probably never again will anyone know so much about any particular subject the ancient Greeks dabbled in without first making a substantial offer of currency to get a ‘formal’ education from a university, something Plato invented. Unfortunately, just like democracy, the modern university stands as an insult compared to what it originally was.

But I digress. We still have to deal with Jesus and why he was inferior to Archimedes.

Jesus, an undeserving celebrity of history

I have to first state that I am unconvinced that Jesus, as described in the bible, actually existed. I think he is a legend of a much simpler, far less interesting man who rubbed some people the right way and others the wrong way and thereby earned himself a place in history. I judge his celebrity to be more a case of infamy than fame, and I don't believe any of the divine or supernatural properties ascribed to the man that the Jesus of Nazareth myth represents.

Compare Archimedes’ life and death to those of the verbose proverbialist, yet somewhat charismatic, Semite known as Jesus of Nasareth, whose main preoccupation involved wandering about the streets of ancient Galilee, flogging heavenly real estate to penniless paupers for the mere price of their lifelong allegiance.

Jesus had a few quote-worthy sayings, no doubt, but he did not advance society in any way. The concepts of morality (and, in some cases, barbarity) that he spoke of were already committed to print before Jesus was even born.

Jesus expedited his own death by his obstinacy and defiance (byproducts of a mind that considers itself special and exalted over all others) and, though his death is well known, it only gave us a long weekend, chocolate rabbits, and candy eggs! It gave religious people something to read, or else they’d probably have chosen illiteracy (seeing as how they never read anything but scripture).

Thus, I ask, what is so great about Jesus apart from the unverifiable divinity ascribed to him by his followers?

Dying for what one believes in is an old stamp of authenticity long practiced before Jesus committed his body to the cross. Wooing crowds and doing conjurer’s tricks is something that should earn him the title as the first professional magician, perhaps, but certainly not the title of the most divine person ever to have walked the earth.

When stripped of glistening eyes and wide smiles of his adoring fans, Jesus looks rather plain, boring, and unenviable. He was an antagonist even when it achieved nothing in the end. He seemed to hate authority—a common trait of those who want to be authority themselves—and mainly spoke to people who were rather uneducated, poor, and impressionable—hardly credible witnesses, not even in their time.

Archimedes, however, duked it out with the best thinkers of his time and was revered by wise men and kings from more than just his own tribe. Jesus never debated everyone, and when challenged only invoked his divine status as a way to win the argument—a tactic still used by his modern followers.

Jesus’ claims of superiority are unverifiable to thinkers of this age or any before it. He left us nothing but parables, indirectly recorded by the confused minds that followed him around hoping for an uplifting story. So, the case for Jesus’ fame is pretty weak, much like the minds who find comfort in his simple teachings.

How then did Jesus become more popular than Archimedes?

Thoughts & conclusion

I can answer my last question that ended the previous section: Jesus is more famous than Archimedes is for the same reason that people know when Paris Hilton’s next CD is being released and not Stephen Hawking’s next book! We are still living in a world that caters to the desires of the masses. Intellectualism is still a condition most don’t want and want those affected to be rid of.

Universities have successfully convinced society that only people who’ve paid a lot of money for a little paper scroll know what they are talking about. This is an elitist mentality and an appeal to authority, something Socrates dispensed with and proclaimed a logical fallacy hundreds of years prior to Jesus breaking bread and passing fish around to retain a crowd who only gathered for the free food, not the speech.

On the topic of free food attracting a crowd, all our problems related to poverty and ignorance indeed come from, as Hitler used to call them, the useless eaters. Today’s elite call them the masses. Educated people call them the fools. Atheists call them the religious. Socrates never called them anything but only explained their behaviour in this quote most people have probably never heard:

Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live.

Only when the masses quote Socrates and study the deductions of Euclid, Plato, Archimedes, and Aristotle (to name but a few of the luminaries of knowledge we have to thank for our modern world) will we make any progress towards a life more than that of a planet-wide parasite.

Only after the principles of science become pop culture and the spirit of invention and advancement the latest obsession, will we see Jesus become an deservingly obscure entity of history and the old world problems of poverty, ignorance, master and slave, fool and wise man finally committed to the pages of the past.

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