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Tag Archives: History

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Pilgrims – The first preppers of the New World (image from Wikipedia)

Survivalism is actually a time honored Armerican tradition that predates even Thanksgiving. Here are some examples of which I am aware…

The Pilgrims brought Calvinism, with theological doctrine of predestination with total depravity and codified morality while stealing “borrowing” corn from their reluctant Indian neighbors.

Shakers were convinced that sex was evil, which left an awful lot of energy for building ladder-back chairs. But they also are credited with the circular sawBabbitt bearings, and perhaps the clothespin.

The Amish have successfully avoided paying Social Security tax and are thus exempt from Obamacare.

The Oneida Community had some interesting ideas relating to GILF‘s…

Mormons have encouraged the equating of religious faith to ‘talking into one’s hat‘.

My uncle had a fallout shelter in his basement, and he solemnly invited my father, mother and us kids over to view it. We were supposed to keep it a family secret, so we wouldn’t be overrun by desperadoes when that terrible day came. I saw it as a more sophisticated, but equivalently futile, version of “duck and cover,” but I never told my parents.

Along with the Cold War Survivalists, the hippies were the only other secular group of opt-outers  I could think of. The cooks at my college fraternity lived in a yurt and fried their brains on acid (or so it seemed to me – they let their baby boy, Loma, crawl around on the floor and squat in the kitchen without any diapers). They all eventually surpassed thirty and were forced to lose trust in themselves.

The Branch Davidian debacle, still controversial, was a likely stimulus for Oklahoma City.

Finally, there is Ayn Rand’s fictional bug-out found in the pages of Atlas Shrugged.

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The Myth of Matter, p. 3

Hylomorphism [1]

William of Ockham, from stained glass window a...

Atoms violated "Occam's Razor." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The winners of the argument thought matter was continuously variable. They argued convincingly that pure matter came in simple shapes, such as lines, planes, circles, spheres, pyramids and so on, and that matter became objects in a way similar to how we use primitive shapes to create a computer drawing. Let’s call them ‘morphists’ for short.

Morphists had iron-clad mathematical reasons to support their point of view. The reasoning went like something like this:

  1. Let us pick two numbers, say 1 and 11/3.
  2. Isn’t it true that there is number between those two numbers, like 11/6?
  3. Isn’t it true that there is a number between 11/6 and 11/3?
  4. Can’t we go on finding in-between numbers forever? (And isn’t it also true that they don’t have to be made with fractions?)
  5. Then why shouldn’t we consider the rest of reality to operate the same way?
Table I: Fourteenth Century Atomists and their Critics[2]

Atomists

‘Morphists’

Henry of Harclay William of Alnwick
Walter Chatton Adam Wodeham
William Crathorn Thomas Bradwardine
John Wycliffe William of Ockham
Gerard of Odo Roger Rosetus
Nicholas Bonetus Walter Burley
John Gedo John the Canon
Marcus Trevisano
Nicholas Autrecourt

The Middle Ages’ strongest mathematical reasoning was augmented with really powerful theological ideas that everyone –even the atomists– believed by faith. The combination of (inadequate) mathematical reasoning and (inflexible) religious orthodoxy is illustrated in the story of John Wycliffe.


[1] ‘Hylo’: matter, ‘morph’: form; Greek

[2] Christophe Grellard and Aurélien Robert, eds., Atomism in Late Medieval Philosophy and Theology, Brill,Leiden, 2009.

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