Sunday, March 11, 2012

World history from a Conservative perspective--respect and hope

The following is from the first page of Conservapedia's article on World History. It's virtually inseparable from the World Civilization introduction I took at Manchester College, because then no one denied it was important to use the Bible as a source for history, and everyone used BC and AD in describing a time line. My instructor was Gladys Muir. She was in love with history and established the Peace Studies program at MC in 1948. There are now hundreds of peace studies programs in colleges, but I doubt there has ever been a less peaceful time, and the 20th century was the most violent in all of world history, especially for governments killing their own citizens.

"World history" is the true story of thought, ideas, culture, language, wars, governments, and economic systems throughout all of mankind's history. This includes billions of people over thousands of years. Every source is available to us, including the Bible. Everything mankind has ever written, invented, observed, conquered and destroyed is part of "World history." For example, we will study how Carthage was built into a power, and how it was then forever destroyed by its enemies from Rome.

Our course will place a special emphasis on aspects of World history that continue to be influential today, such as world religions and cultural conflicts; we will link what happened in ancient times to what is happening today. We are the product of our past. You can think about whether that is a good thing, or a bad thing. Perhaps the answer depends on what we make of it. We will make use of the Bible, which is the greatest history book ever written.

American history covers only about 400 years; World history concerns over 5000 years, going back to the first evidence of recorded events. Our class covers much of the material in a course on Western Civilization or European history, but we cover more too. We will learn about Islam and Hinduism and all the forces that continue to shape our world to this day. One cannot fully understand 9/11, violence in the Middle East, or hostility between India and Pakistan without learning World history.

We will consider how mankind progressed in understanding the unseen, such as truth and gravity and God. In mathematics, mankind progressed from the discovery of geometry (Greeks) to the concept of "zero" (Indians) to calculus (English). In economics, mankind progressed from wage and price controls (Romans) to the "invisible hand" of the free market (Scottish), which then unleashed tremendous prosperity. Government progressed from rulers who claimed to be gods (Egyptians), to monarchs (Middle Ages), to constitutional republics (United States). World history spans from pre-Christian to Christian. What are we progressing towards now? We will learn to use history to predict the future.

Do not be misled by thinking that ancient peoples were dumb or boring because they lacked the technology of modern society. The Egyptians, for example, cleverly built the massive pyramids using techniques that no one to this day can figure out or duplicate. In 2600 B.C., they constructed the pyramid of Khufu containing 6 million tons of stone extending to a height of 481 feet. The workmanship was superior to anything we do today: the rock base was virtually flat, not varying in elevation by more than a half-inch; its orientation is precisely aligned with the points of a compass; its stones were perfect fits. Inside was a chapel, a causeway, and a temple. It amazes architects to this day. We would not be able to duplicate it, and no one knows how the Egyptians were able to build these intricate structures 4600 years ago. Many other cultures, from Mesopotamia to Greece to Rome to India to China, invented things and discovered knowledge that no one today is smart enough to duplicate. Can you build a useful wheel, or make paper?

A word about terminology: "B.C" means "Before (the birth of) Christ" and "A.D." means Anno Domini (Latin for "in the year of our Lord") or simply "After (the birth of) Christ." The "1st century B.C." means the 1st century before Christ, counting backwards, which are the years 100-1 B.C. The "6th century B.C." is thus 600-501 B.C. The 20th century (A.D.) included the years A.D. 1901-2000. Because A.D. means "in the year of our Lord," the truly proper form is to put the date after the A.D., as in A.D. 2006. Dates are based on the birth of Christ, and it is wrong to erase Christ from the annotation, as school textbooks do with "BCE" for "Before the Common Era" and "CE" for "Common Era." To convert from a public school textbook, remember that BCE = B.C. and CE = A.D.

World history divides into four sections: Ancient History (Creation-A.D. 500), the Middle Ages (A.D. 500-1500), the Pre-Modern Era (A.D. 1500-1900), and the Modern Era (A.D. 1900-Current). The Renaissance (A.D. 1300-1600), including the Reformation, overlaps with the Middle Ages and Pre-Modern Era. Note that dates are not precise in this course: the further back in time we go, the less we know about the actual dates of key events. For events before about 1000 B.C., most estimated dates are actually plus or minus a few hundred years.

Let us begin."

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