Monday, April 21, 2008

Self-Centred Beings

We take it for granted that the Earth is round, and that it orbits the sun, but believe it or not there are still some people who think otherwise:

Sometimes, I wonder if we really can be blamed for thinking such silly things, like that the Earth is the centre of the universe. After all, it doesn't feel like the Earth moves: if I drop an object it falls straight down, so anyone ignorant of Newtonian physics would think the Earth is stationary. We weren't able to observe stellar parallax either, so it seemed as if it was the the heavens which spun around us, rather that us spinning through the heavens. And until Galileo came along, we didn't know about the phases of Venus or the moons of Jupiter (which many denied for years after the discoveries), which spelled doom for the geocentricism of old.

...but then I think of Wittgenstein's words which went something like this: "Tell me, why do people always say that it was natural for man to assume that the Sun went round the Earth rather than the Earth was rotating?"

"Obviously because it just looks as if the Sun is going round the Earth," replied his friend.

"Well, what would it have looked like if it looked as though the Earth was rotating?" replied Wittgenstein.

Stellar parallax, Venusian phases, and Newton's physics aside, I think there is something magical about Wittgenstein's words.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

That's enough, China

With all the buzz that has been going around regarding the Olympic games going to Beijing despite a long list of gripes the West has with its human rights abuses in and by China, I wasn't surprised when I came across this article on my history professor's blog:

Chinese troops are on the streets of Zimbabwean city, witnesses say

For those who aren't in the know (and that's probably not a lot of you since this has been making big news recently), Zimbabwe has been plagued by controversy over its recent election. Current president Robert Mugabe lost by many accounts, but refuses to step down. He is also inciting violence between the black majority and the white minority, and apparently, has now called in the Chinese for a little 'help'.

I feel like I no longer understand our giddy anxiousness to go find terrorists, when we could be doing something to stop abuses of human rights in Africa and other parts of the world. Simply sending the Olympic Games to China isn't going to do the job, but education and an increased standard of living might.

So, what's the hold up?