Re: the arrogance of postmodern mumbo jumbo

Philip Deitiker (
Mon, 30 Sep 1996 20:22:59 GMT (CHESSONP) wrote:

>In article <51usih$>, (Philip
>Deitiker) writes:

>>columbus and magellan proved to them the world was round not flat, so
>>the center of the word was several thousand miles below a center if
>>the world was flat (thus jeruselum or rome was as far from the center
>>as any other place).

>Nobody with any education ever thought that the world was flat. Certainly
>none of the scholars who evaluated Columbus's proposed voyage for the
>Catholic Kings of Spain thought the world was flat. The problem with
>Columbus's proposal was that it assumed too small a value for the radius
>of the earth. He got lucky that there was some land between Europe and

That, of course is true and is why I added magellan into the argument,
but remember columbus's voyage greatly expanded the surface of the
known world (by western eurasion standards). It also did something
else, since what the voyages did was to convert the idea of the 'edge
of the earth' was some where out in the ocean ----> to the edge of the
earth if it exists at all is somewhere way past a giant landmass which
has only be partially discovered. Thus the idea that there was an
abyss waiting on the edge of the atlantic was proved false and allowed
subsequent travelers a theoretical framework for further travels (i.e.
magellan). Remember these guys (intellectual or not) had to be able
to convince crews of seaman that such a voyage was possible, and these
sailors might hold information from alterantive sources with more
value than those of the educated class.
You could also make the argument that columbus is about 12000
years late in his discovery, even for europeans he could be 9500 years
late, and as such was no big deal; however, the stategy was extremely
bold (and as you pointed out full of risks, considering the
underestimation of circumferance); however, in difference to previous
journeys, the columbian jorney was not one of relays (island hopping)
but one of almost direct point a to point ? travel, along a certain
latitude (visuallizing the round earth, traveling along a latitude
where one expected land one would eventually hit the land one
expected). This conceptually differed from the way previous colonizers
had traveled (with the possible exception of the polynesians). Of
course the target and the actual contact points were off by 12000
miles, but from a conceptual point of view the theory was valid, and
is still used today. Consider the an international flight from Los
Angeles to Tokyo, a plane takes off from LA and vectors along a great
arc northwestward. About 200 miles north the pilot loses any visual
contact with land, but a pilot knows that by turning along a certain
vector, holding that great arc vector and airspeed and compensating
for high altitude winds, that at a given point in time he should begin
a descent which will place him in visual range of narita airport. Thus
by knowing the position of a and b, an arc vector can be designed
which can get one to ones destination in the shortest distance. This
is what columbus thought he was doing. Of course he was wrong, Even if
he had properly guessed the earths diameter, he still suffered from
the delimna that even though as far as you can see is water, water may
not be all that which is out there, so the outcome would have been
identical despite the is missence about circumferance. This is why
they call them explorers.
Consider the aero-transnavigator, suppose that, although japan had
been discovered and cooridantely identified as with LA, the great
open region of the north pacific had not, and somewhere south of
alaska a mountain range protruded from the ocean to 42,000 ft. Even
though the path would be essentially correct the outcome would be
disasterous. If the pilot knows that the range exists, he can modify
the arc and the associated parameters, but what happens if the range
fortuitiously extends from the southern actic circle to the northern
artic circle (as is the case with the columbian voyage), then actual
knowledge of precise circuferance and relative position and/or the
potential for interrupting land masses doesn't really matter, since
the knowledge cannot prevent the absolute interrupting of the vogage.
Magellan solved this problem by essentially island hopping from europe
to around the south of america and then assuming a arc from those
points onto asia....and for the purpose of his trip he was essentially
lucky enough to have not run into another long trans-equitorial
The fact that columbus was geographically incorrect is probably
more forutitious than not, for how do you think he could have
convinced his crews to take a 15 week voyage into the unknown?

So you contend that his contemporaries believed the world was round
but two big to circumnavigate? OK, but what lead them to belive that
there were no other land masses. A good staistician would predict that
there probablty were. either case they were wrong, who was
more right (from a scientific point of view columbus was because he
put his theory to test, whereas as his contemporaries played the
conservative game (defending an untested null hypothseis)). Its
difficult to be 100% accurate without information, thus without
information one is lead to deviant speculations. OTOH, with data to
support theories a certain amount of speculation gets erased, I think
this is the original point.