Arquivo mensal: março 2018

How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’ (New York Times)

Credit: Angie Wang

In 1942, the anthropologist Ashley Montagu published “Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race,” an influential book that argued that race is a social concept with no genetic basis. A classic example often cited is the inconsistent definition of “black.” In the United States, historically, a person is “black” if he has any sub-Saharan African ancestry; in Brazil, a person is not “black” if he is known to have any European ancestry. If “black” refers to different people in different contexts, how can there be any genetic basis to it?

Beginning in 1972, genetic findings began to be incorporated into this argument. That year, the geneticist Richard Lewontin published an important study of variation in protein types in blood. He grouped the human populations he analyzed into seven “races” — West Eurasians, Africans, East Asians, South Asians, Native Americans, Oceanians and Australians — and found that around 85 percent of variation in the protein types could be accounted for by variation within populations and “races,” and only 15 percent by variation across them. To the extent that there was variation among humans, he concluded, most of it was because of “differences between individuals.”

In this way, a consensus was established that among human populations there are no differences large enough to support the concept of “biological race.” Instead, it was argued, race is a “social construct,” a way of categorizing people that changes over time and across countries.

It is true that race is a social construct. It is also true, as Dr. Lewontin wrote, that human populations “are remarkably similar to each other” from a genetic point of view. 

But over the years this consensus has morphed, seemingly without questioning, into an orthodoxy. The orthodoxy maintains that the average genetic differences among people grouped according to today’s racial terms are so trivial when it comes to any meaningful biological traits that those differences can be ignored.

The orthodoxy goes further, holding that we should be anxious about any research into genetic differences among populations. The concern is that such research, no matter how well-intentioned, is located on a slippery slope that leads to the kinds of pseudoscientific arguments about biological difference that were used in the past to try to justify the slave trade, the eugenics movement and the Nazis’ murder of six million Jews.

I have deep sympathy for the concern that genetic discoveries could be misused to justify racism. But as a geneticist I also know that it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among “races.”

Groundbreaking advances in DNA sequencing technology have been made over the last two decades. These advances enable us to measure with exquisite accuracy what fraction of an individual’s genetic ancestry traces back to, say, West Africa 500 years ago — before the mixing in the Americas of the West African and European gene pools that were almost completely isolated for the last 70,000 years. With the help of these tools, we are learning that while race may be a social construct, differences in genetic ancestry that happen to correlate to many of today’s racial constructs are real.

Recent genetic studies have demonstrated differences across populations not just in the genetic determinants of simple traits such as skin color, but also in more complex traits like bodily dimensions and susceptibility to diseases. For example, we now know that genetic factors help explain why northern Europeans are taller on average than southern Europeans, why multiple sclerosis is more common in European-Americans than in African-Americans, and why the reverse is true for end-stage kidney disease.

I am worried that well-meaning people who deny the possibility of substantial biological differences among human populations are digging themselves into an indefensible position, one that will not survive the onslaught of science. I am also worried that whatever discoveries are made — and we truly have no idea yet what they will be — will be cited as “scientific proof” that racist prejudices and agendas have been correct all along, and that those well-meaning people will not understand the science well enough to push back against these claims.

This is why it is important, even urgent, that we develop a candid and scientifically up-to-date way of discussing any such differences, instead of sticking our heads in the sand and being caught unprepared when they are found.

To get a sense of what modern genetic research into average biological differences across populations looks like, consider an example from my own work. Beginning around 2003, I began exploring whether the population mixture that has occurred in the last few hundred years in the Americas could be leveraged to find risk factors for prostate cancer, a disease that occurs 1.7 times more often in self-identified African-Americans than in self-identified European-Americans. This disparity had not been possible to explain based on dietary and environmental differences, suggesting that genetic factors might play a role.

Self-identified African-Americans turn out to derive, on average, about 80 percent of their genetic ancestry from enslaved Africans brought to America between the 16th and 19th centuries. My colleagues and I searched, in 1,597 African-American men with prostate cancer, for locations in the genome where the fraction of genes contributed by West African ancestors was larger than it was elsewhere in the genome. In 2006, we found exactly what we were looking for: a location in the genome with about 2.8 percent more African ancestry than the average.

When we looked in more detail, we found that this region contained at least seven independent risk factors for prostate cancer, all more common in West Africans. Our findings could fully account for the higher rate of prostate cancer in African-Americans than in European-Americans. We could conclude this because African-Americans who happen to have entirely European ancestry in this small section of their genomes had about the same risk for prostate cancer as random Europeans.

Did this research rely on terms like “African-American” and “European-American” that are socially constructed, and did it label segments of the genome as being probably “West African” or “European” in origin? Yes. Did this research identify real risk factors for disease that differ in frequency across those populations, leading to discoveries with the potential to improve health and save lives? Yes.

While most people will agree that finding a genetic explanation for an elevated rate of disease is important, they often draw the line there. Finding genetic influences on a propensity for disease is one thing, they argue, but looking for such influences on behavior and cognition is another.

But whether we like it or not, that line has already been crossed. A recent study led by the economist Daniel Benjamin compiled information on the number of years of education from more than 400,000 people, almost all of whom were of European ancestry. After controlling for differences in socioeconomic background, he and his colleagues identified 74 genetic variations that are over-represented in genes known to be important in neurological development, each of which is incontrovertibly more common in Europeans with more years of education than in Europeans with fewer years of education.

It is not yet clear how these genetic variations operate. A follow-up study of Icelanders led by the geneticist Augustine Kong showed that these genetic variations also nudge people who carry them to delay having children. So these variations may be explaining longer times at school by affecting a behavior that has nothing to do with intelligence.

This study has been joined by others finding genetic predictors of behavior. One of these, led by the geneticist Danielle Posthuma, studied more than 70,000 people and found genetic variations in more than 20 genes that were predictive of performance on intelligence tests.

Is performance on an intelligence test or the number of years of school a person attends shaped by the way a person is brought up? Of course. But does it measure something having to do with some aspect of behavior or cognition? Almost certainly. And since all traits influenced by genetics are expected to differ across populations (because the frequencies of genetic variations are rarely exactly the same across populations), the genetic influences on behavior and cognition will differ across populations, too.

You will sometimes hear that any biological differences among populations are likely to be small, because humans have diverged too recently from common ancestors for substantial differences to have arisen under the pressure of natural selection. This is not true. The ancestors of East Asians, Europeans, West Africans and Australians were, until recently, almost completely isolated from one another for 40,000 years or longer, which is more than sufficient time for the forces of evolution to work. Indeed, the study led by Dr. Kong showed that in Iceland, there has been measurable genetic selection against the genetic variations that predict more years of education in that population just within the last century.

To understand why it is so dangerous for geneticists and anthropologists to simply repeat the old consensus about human population differences, consider what kinds of voices are filling the void that our silence is creating. Nicholas Wade, a longtime science journalist for The New York Times, rightly notes in his 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History,” that modern research is challenging our thinking about the nature of human population differences. But he goes on to make the unfounded and irresponsible claim that this research is suggesting that genetic factors explain traditional stereotypes.

One of Mr. Wade’s key sources, for example, is the anthropologist Henry Harpending, who has asserted that people of sub-Saharan African ancestry have no propensity to work when they don’t have to because, he claims, they did not go through the type of natural selection for hard work in the last thousands of years that some Eurasians did. There is simply no scientific evidence to support this statement. Indeed, as 139 geneticists (including myself) pointed out in a letter to The New York Times about Mr. Wade’s book, there is no genetic evidence to back up any of the racist stereotypes he promotes.

Another high-profile example is James Watson, the scientist who in 1953 co-discovered the structure of DNA, and who was forced to retire as head of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in 2007 after he stated in an interview — without any scientific evidence — that research has suggested that genetic factors contribute to lower intelligence in Africans than in Europeans.

At a meeting a few years later, Dr. Watson said to me and my fellow geneticist Beth Shapiro something to the effect of “When are you guys going to figure out why it is that you Jews are so much smarter than everyone else?” He asserted that Jews were high achievers because of genetic advantages conferred by thousands of years of natural selection to be scholars, and that East Asian students tended to be conformist because of selection for conformity in ancient Chinese society. (Contacted recently, Dr. Watson denied having made these statements, maintaining that they do not represent his views; Dr. Shapiro said that her recollection matched mine.)

What makes Dr. Watson’s and Mr. Wade’s statements so insidious is that they start with the accurate observation that many academics are implausibly denying the possibility of average genetic differences among human populations, and then end with a claim — backed by no evidence — that they know what those differences are and that they correspond to racist stereotypes. They use the reluctance of the academic community to openly discuss these fraught issues to provide rhetorical cover for hateful ideas and old racist canards.

This is why knowledgeable scientists must speak out. If we abstain from laying out a rational framework for discussing differences among populations, we risk losing the trust of the public and we actively contribute to the distrust of expertise that is now so prevalent. We leave a vacuum that gets filled by pseudoscience, an outcome that is far worse than anything we could achieve by talking openly.

If scientists can be confident of anything, it is that whatever we currently believe about the genetic nature of differences among populations is most likely wrong. For example, my laboratory discovered in 2016, based on our sequencing of ancient human genomes, that “whites” are not derived from a population that existed from time immemorial, as some people believe. Instead, “whites” represent a mixture of four ancient populations that lived 10,000 years ago and were each as different from one another as Europeans and East Asians are today.

So how should we prepare for the likelihood that in the coming years, genetic studies will show that many traits are influenced by genetic variations, and that these traits will differ on average across human populations? It will be impossible — indeed, anti-scientific, foolish and absurd — to deny those differences.

For me, a natural response to the challenge is to learn from the example of the biological differences that exist between males and females. The differences between the sexes are far more profound than those that exist among human populations, reflecting more than 100 million years of evolution and adaptation. Males and females differ by huge tracts of genetic material — a Y chromosome that males have and that females don’t, and a second X chromosome that females have and males don’t.

Most everyone accepts that the biological differences between males and females are profound. In addition to anatomical differences, men and women exhibit average differences in size and physical strength. (There are also average differences in temperament and behavior, though there are important unresolved questions about the extent to which these differences are influenced by social expectations and upbringing.)

How do we accommodate the biological differences between men and women? I think the answer is obvious: We should both recognize that genetic differences between males and females exist and we should accord each sex the same freedoms and opportunities regardless of those differences.

It is clear from the inequities that persist between women and men in our society that fulfilling these aspirations in practice is a challenge. Yet conceptually it is straightforward. And if this is the case with men and women, then it is surely the case with whatever differences we may find among human populations, the great majority of which will be far less profound.

An abiding challenge for our civilization is to treat each human being as an individual and to empower all people, regardless of what hand they are dealt from the deck of life. Compared with the enormous differences that exist among individuals, differences among populations are on average many times smaller, so it should be only a modest challenge to accommodate a reality in which the average genetic contributions to human traits differ.

It is important to face whatever science will reveal without prejudging the outcome and with the confidence that we can be mature enough to handle any findings. Arguing that no substantial differences among human populations are possible will only invite the racist misuse of genetics that we wish to avoid.

David Reich is a professor of genetics at Harvard and the author of the forthcoming book “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past,” from which this article is adapted.


For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It (National Geographic)

We asked a preeminent historian to investigate our coverage of people of color in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s what he found.

In a full-issue article on Australia that ran in 1916, Aboriginal Australians were called “savages” who “rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.” PHOTOGRAPHS BY C.P. SCOTT (MAN); H.E. GREGORY (WOMAN); NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE (BOTH)

This story helps launch a series about racial, ethnic, and religious groups and their changing roles in 21st-century life. The series runs through 2018 and will include coverage of Muslims, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.


 “Cards and clay pipes amuse guests in Fairfax House’s 18th-century parlor,” reads the caption in a 1956 article on Virginia history. Although slave labor built homes featured in the article, the writer contended that they “stand for a chapter of this country’s history every American is proud to remember.” PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT F. SISSON AND DONALD MCBAIN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE (RIGHT)

I’m the tenth editor of National Geographic since its founding in 1888. I’m the first woman and the first Jewish person—a member of two groups that also once faced discrimination here. It hurts to share the appalling stories from the magazine’s past. But when we decided to devote our April magazine to the topic of race, we thought we should examine our own history before turning our reportorial gaze to others.

Race is not a biological construct, as writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains in this issue, but a social one that can have devastating effects. “So many of the horrors of the past few centuries can be traced to the idea that one race is inferior to another,” she writes. “Racial distinctions continue to shape our politics, our neighborhoods, and our sense of self.”

How we present race matters. I hear from readers that National Geographic provided their first look at the world. Our explorers, scientists, photographers, and writers have taken people to places they’d never even imagined; it’s a tradition that still drives our coverage and of which we’re rightly proud. And it means we have a duty, in every story, to present accurate and authentic depictions—a duty heightened when we cover fraught issues such as race.

Photographer Frank Schreider shows men from Timor island his camera in a 1962 issue. The magazine often ran photos of “uncivilized” native people seemingly fascinated by “civilized” Westerners’ technology. PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANK AND HELEN SCHREIDER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

We asked John Edwin Mason to help with this examination. Mason is well positioned for the task: He’s a University of Virginia professor specializing in the history of photography and the history of Africa, a frequent crossroads of our storytelling. He dived into our archives.

What Mason found in short was that until the 1970s National Geographicall but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured “natives” elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.

Unlike magazines such as Life, Mason said, National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture.

editors-page-pacific-islanders.adapt.280.1National Geographic of the mid-20th century was known for its glamorous depictions of Pacific islanders. Tarita Teriipaia, from Bora-Bora, was pictured in July 1962—the same year she appeared opposite Marlon Brando in the movie Mutiny on the Bounty. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUIS MARDEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE (RIGHT)

“Americans got ideas about the world from Tarzan movies and crude racist caricatures,” he said. “Segregation was the way it was. National Geographic wasn’t teaching as much as reinforcing messages they already received and doing so in a magazine that had tremendous authority. National Geographic comes into existence at the height of colonialism, and the world was divided into the colonizers and the colonized. That was a color line, and National Geographic was reflecting that view of the world.”

Some of what you find in our archives leaves you speechless, like a 1916 story about Australia. Underneath photos of two Aboriginal people, the caption reads: “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”

Questions arise not just from what’s in the magazine, but what isn’t. Mason compared two stories we did about South Africa, one in 1962, the other in 1977. The 1962 story was printed two and a half years after the massacre of 69 black South Africans by police in Sharpeville, many shot in the back as they fled. The brutality of the killings shocked the world.

An article reporting on apartheid South Africa in 1977 shows Winnie Mandela, a founder of the Black Parents’ Association and wife of Nelson. She was one of some 150 people the government prohibited from leaving their towns, speaking to the press, and talking to more than two people at a time. PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMES P. BLAIR, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

National Geographic’s story barely mentions any problems,” Mason said. “There are no voices of black South Africans. That absence is as important as what is in there. The only black people are doing exotic dances … servants or workers. It’s bizarre, actually, to consider what the editors, writers, and photographers had to consciously not see.”

Contrast that with the piece in 1977, in the wake of the U.S. civil rights era: “It’s not a perfect article, but it acknowledges the oppression,” Mason said. “Black people are pictured. Opposition leaders are pictured. It’s a very different article.”

Fast-forward to a 2015 story about Haiti, when we gave cameras to young Haitians and asked them to document the reality of their world. “The images by Haitians are really, really important,” Mason said, and would have been “unthinkable” in our past. So would our coverage now of ethnic and religious conflicts, evolving gender norms, the realities of today’s Africa, and much more.

“I buy bread from her every day,” Haitian photographer Smith Neuvieme said of fellow islander Manuela Clermont. He made her the center of this image, published in 2015PHOTOGRAPH BY SMITH NEUVIEME, FOTOKONBIT

Mason also uncovered a string of oddities—photos of “the native person fascinated by Western technology. It really creates this us-and-them dichotomy between the civilized and the uncivilized.” And then there’s the excess of pictures of beautiful Pacific-island women.

“If I were talking to my students about the period until after the 1960s, I would say, ‘Be cautious about what you think you are learning here,’ ” he said. “At the same time, you acknowledge the strengths National Geographic had even in this period, to take people out into the world to see things we’ve never seen before. It’s possible to say that a magazine can open people’s eyes at the same time it closes them.”

April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a worthy moment to step back, to take stock of where we are on race. It’s also a conversation that is changing in real time: In two years, for the first time in U.S. history, less than half the children in the nation will be white. So let’s talk about what’s working when it comes to race, and what isn’t. Let’s examine why we continue to segregate along racial lines and how we can build inclusive communities. Let’s confront today’s shameful use of racism as a political strategy and prove we are better than this.

For us this issue also provided an important opportunity to look at our own efforts to illuminate the human journey, a core part of our mission for 130 years. I want a future editor of National Geographic to look back at our coverage with pride—not only about the stories we decided to tell and how we told them but about the diverse group of writers, editors, and photographers behind the work.

We hope you will join us in this exploration of race, beginning this month and continuing throughout the year. Sometimes these stories, like parts of our own history, are not easy to read. But as Michele Norris writes in this issue, “It’s hard for an individual—or a country—to evolve past discomfort if the source of the anxiety is only discussed in hushed tones.”

Os africanos que propuseram ideias iluministas antes de Locke e Kant (Ilustríssima, FSP)

Ilustração de Fabio Zimbres


RESUMO Os ideais mais elevados de Locke, Hume e Kant foram propostos mais de um século antes deles por Zera Yacob, um etíope que viveu numa caverna. O ganês Anton Amo usou noção da filosofia alemã antes de ela ser registrada oficialmente. Autor defende que ambos tenham lugar de destaque em meio aos pensadores iluministas.


Os ideais do Iluminismo são a base de nossas democracias e universidades no século 21: a crença na razão, na ciência, no ceticismo, no secularismo e na igualdade. De fato, nenhuma outro período se compara à era do Iluminismo.

A Antiguidade é inspiradora, mas está a um mundo de distância das sociedades modernas. A Idade Média é mais razoável do que sua reputação sugere, mas ainda assim é medieval. A Renascença foi gloriosa, mas em grande medida graças ao seu resultado: o Iluminismo. O romantismo veio como reação à era da razão, mas os ideais dos Estados modernos não se expressam em termos de romantismo e emoção.

Segundo a história mais contada, o Iluminismo tem origem no “Discurso do Método” (1637), de René Descartes, continuou por cerca de um século e meio com John Locke, Isaac Newton, David Hume, Voltaire e Kant e terminou com a Revolução Francesa, em 1789 —talvez com o período do terror, em 1793.

Mas e se a história estiver errada? E se o Iluminismo puder ser associado a lugares e pensadores que costumamos ignorar? Tais perguntas me assombram desde que topei com o trabalho de um filósofo etíope do século 17: Zera Yacob (1599-1692), também grafado Zära Yaqob.

Yacob nasceu numa família pobre numa propriedade agrícola perto de Axum, a lendária antiga capital do norte da Etiópia. Como estudante, ele impressionou seus professores e foi enviado a uma nova escola para estudar retórica (“siwasiw” em ge’ez, a língua local), poesia e pensamento crítico (“qiné”) por quatro anos.

Em seguida, estudou a Bíblia por dez anos em outra escola, recebendo ensinamentos dos católicos e dos coptas, bem como da tradição cristã ortodoxa, majoritária no país.

Na década de 1620, um jesuíta português convenceu o rei Susenyos a converter-se ao catolicismo, que não tardou a virar religião oficial da Etiópia. Seguiu-se uma perseguição aos livres-pensadores, mais intensa a partir de 1630. Yacob, que nessa época lecionava na região de Axum, havia declarado que nenhuma religião tem mais razão que outra —e seus inimigos o denunciaram para o rei.

Yacob fugiu, levando apenas um pouco de ouro e os Salmos de Davi. Viajou para o sul, para a região de Shewa, onde se deparou com o rio Tekezé.

Ali encontrou uma área desabitada com uma “bela caverna” no início de um vale. Construiu um muro de pedra e viveu nesse local isolado para “encarar apenas os fatos essenciais da vida”, como Henry David Thoreau descreveria uma vida também solitária, dois séculos mais tarde, em “Walden” (1854).

Por dois anos, até a morte do rei, em setembro de 1632, Yacob permaneceu na caverna como ermitão, saindo apenas para buscar alimentos no mercado mais próximo. Na caverna, ele alinhavou sua nova filosofia racionalista.

Ele acreditava na primazia da razão e afirmava que todos os seres humanos, homens e mulheres, são criados iguais. Yacob argumentou contra a escravidão, criticou todas as religiões e doutrinas reconhecidas e combinou essas opiniões com sua crença pessoal em um criador divino, asseverando que a existência de uma ordem no mundo faz dessa a opção mais racional.

Em suma: muitos dos ideais mais elevados do Iluminismo foram concebidos e resumidos por um homem que trabalhou sozinho em uma caverna etíope de 1630 a 1632.


A filosofia de Yacob, baseada na razão, é apresentada em sua obra principal, “Hatäta” (investigação). O livro foi escrito em 1667 por insistência de seu discípulo, Walda Heywat, que escreveu ele próprio uma “Hatäta” de orientação mais prática.

Hoje, 350 anos mais tarde, é difícil encontrar um exemplar do trabalho de Yacob. A única tradução ao inglês foi feita em 1976 pelo professor universitário e padre canadense Claude Sumner. Ele a publicou como parte de uma obra em cinco volumes sobre a filosofia etíope, que foi lançada pela nada comercial editora Commercial Printing Press, de Adis Abeba.

O livro foi traduzido ao alemão e, no ano passado, ao norueguês, mas ainda é basicamente impossível ter acesso a uma versão em inglês.

A filosofia não era novidade na Etiópia antes de Yacob. Por volta de 1510, “The Book of the Wise Philosophers” (o livro dos filósofos sábios) foi traduzido e adaptado ao etíope pelo egípcio Abba Mikael. Trata-se de uma coletânea de ditados de filósofos gregos pré-socráticos, Platão e Aristóteles por meio dos diálogos neoplatônicos, e também foi influenciado pela filosofia arábica e as discussões etíopes.

Em sua “Hatäta”, Yacob critica seus contemporâneos por não pensarem de modo independente e aceitarem as palavras de astrólogos e videntes só porque seus predecessores o faziam. Em contraste, ele recomenda uma investigação baseada na razão e na racionalidade científica, considerando que todo ser humano nasce dotado de inteligência e possui igual valor.

Longe dele, mas enfrentando questões semelhantes, estava o francês Descartes (1596-1650). Uma diferença filosófica importante entre eles é que o católico Descartes criticou explicitamente os infiéis e ateus em sua obra “Meditações Metafísicas” (1641).

Essa perspectiva encontra eco na “Carta sobre a Tolerância” (1689), de Locke, para quem os ateus não devem ser tolerados.

As “Meditações” de Descartes foram dedicadas “ao reitor e aos doutores da sagrada Faculdade de Teologia em Paris”, e sua premissa era “aceitar por meio da fé o fato de que a alma humana não morre com o corpo e de que Deus existe”.

Yacob, pelo contrário, propõe um método muito mais agnóstico, secular e inquisitivo —o que também reflete uma abertura ao pensamento ateu. O quarto capítulo da “Hatäta” começa com uma pergunta radical: “Tudo que está escrito nas Sagradas Escrituras é verdade?” Ele prossegue pontuando que todas as diferentes religiões alegam que sua fé é a verdadeira:

“De fato, cada uma delas diz: ‘Minha fé é a certa, e aqueles que creem em outra fé creem na falsidade e são inimigos de Deus’. (…) Assim como minha fé me parece verdadeira, outro considera verdadeira sua própria fé; mas a verdade é uma só”.

Assim, ele deslancha um discurso iluminista sobre a subjetividade da religião, mas continua a crer em algum tipo de criador universal. Sua discussão sobre a existência de Deus é mais aberta que a de Descartes e talvez mais acessível aos leitores de hoje, como quando incorpora perspectivas existencialistas:

“Quem foi que me deu um ouvido com o qual ouvir, quem me criou como ser reacional e como cheguei a este mundo? De onde venho? Tivesse eu vivido antes do criador do mundo, teria conhecido o início de minha vida e da consciência de mim mesmo. Quem me criou?”.


No capítulo cinco, Yacob aplica a investigação racional a leis religiosas diferentes. Critica igualmente o cristianismo, o islã, o judaísmo e as religiões indianas.

Ele aponta, por exemplo, que o criador, em sua sabedoria, fez o sangue fluir mensalmente do útero das mulheres, para que elas possam gestar filhos. Assim, conclui que a lei de Moisés, segundo a qual as mulheres são impuras quando menstruam, contraria a natureza e o criador, já que “constitui um obstáculo ao casamento e a toda a vida da mulher, prejudica a lei da ajuda mútua, interdita a criação dos filhos e destrói o amor”.

Desse modo, inclui em seu argumento filosófico a perspectiva da solidariedade, da mulher e do afeto. E ele próprio viveu segundo esses ideais.

Ilustração de capa da Ilustríssima, por Fabio Zimbres

Depois de sair da caverna, pediu em casamento uma moça pobre chamada Hirut, criada de uma família rica. O patrão dela dizia que uma empregada não estava em pé de igualdade com um homem erudito, mas a visão de Yacob prevaleceu. Consumada a união, ele declarou que ela não deveria mais ser serva, mas seu par, porque “marido e mulher estão em pé de igualdade no casamento”.

Contrastando com essas posições, Kant (1724-1804) escreveu um século mais tarde em “Observações sobre o Sentimento do Belo e do Sublime” (1764): “Uma mulher pouco se constrange com o fato de não possuir determinados entendimentos”.

E, nos ensaios de ética do alemão, lemos que “o desejo de um homem por uma mulher não se dirige a ela como ser humano, pelo contrário, a humanidade da mulher não lhe interessa; o único objeto de seu desejo é o sexo dela”.

Yacob enxergava a mulher sob ótica completamente diferente: como par intelectual do filósofo.

Ele também foi mais iluminista que seus pares do Iluminismo no tocante à escravidão. No capítulo cinco, Yacob combate a ideia de que “possamos sair e comprar um homem como se fosse um animal”. Assim, ele propõe um argumento universal contra a discriminação:

“Todos os homens são iguais na presença de Deus; e todos são inteligentes, pois são suas criaturas; ele não destinou um povo à vida, outro à morte, um à misericórdia e outro ao julgamento. Nossa razão nos ensina que esse tipo de discriminação não pode existir”.

As palavras “todos os homens são iguais” foram escritas décadas antes de Locke (1632-1704), o pai do liberalismo, ter empunhado sua pena.

E a teoria do contrato social de Locke não se aplicava a todos na prática: ele foi secretário durante a redação das “Constituições Fundamentais da Carolina” (1669), que concederam aos homens brancos poder absoluto sobre seus escravos africanos. O próprio inglês investiu no comércio negreiro transatlântico.

Comparada à de seus pares filosóficos, portanto, a filosofia de Yacob frequentemente parece o epítome dos ideais que em geral atribuímos ao Iluminismo.


Alguns meses depois de ler a obra de Yacob, enfim tive acesso a outro livro raro: uma tradução dos escritos reunidos do filósofo Anton Amo (c. 1703-55), que nasceu e morreu em Gana.

Amo estudou e lecionou por duas décadas nas maiores universidades da Alemanha (como Halle e Jena), escrevendo em latim. Hoje, segundo o World Library Catalogue, só um punhado de exemplares de seu “Antonius Guilielmus Amo Afer of Axim in Ghana” está disponível em bibliotecas mundo afora.

O ganês nasceu um século após Yacob. Consta que ele foi sequestrado do povo akan e da cidade litorânea de Axim quando era pequeno, possivelmente para ser vendido como escravo, sendo levado a Amsterdã, para a corte do duque Anton Ulrich de Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel —visitada com frequência pelo polímata G. W. Leibniz (1646-1716).

Batizado em 1707, Amo recebeu educação de alto nível, aprendendo hebraico, grego, latim, francês e alemão —e provavelmente sabia algo de sua língua materna, o nzema.

Tornou-se figura respeitada nos círculos acadêmicos. No livro de Carl Günther Ludovici sobre o iluminista Christian Wolff (1679-1754) —seguidor de Leibniz e fundador de várias disciplinas acadêmicas na Alemanha—, Amo é descrito como um dos wolffianos mais proeminentes.

No prefácio a “Sobre a Impassividade da Mente Humana” (1734), de Amo, o reitor da Universidade de Wittenberg, Johannes Gottfried Kraus, saúda o vasto conhecimento do autor, situa sua contribuição ao iluminismo alemão em um contexto histórico e sublinha o legado africano da Renascença europeia:

“Quando os mouros vindos da África atravessaram a Espanha, trouxeram com eles o conhecimento dos pensadores da Antiguidade e deram muita assistência ao desenvolvimento das letras que pouco a pouco emergiam das trevas”.

O fato de essas palavras terem saído do coração da Alemanha na primavera de 1733 ajuda a lembrar que Amo não foi o único africano a alcançar o sucesso na Europa do século 18.

Na mesma época, Abram Petrovich Gannibal (1696-1781), também sequestrado e levado da África subsaariana, tornava-se general do czar Pedro, o Grande, da Rússia. O bisneto de Gannibal se tornaria o poeta nacional da Rússia, Alexander Pushkin. E o escritor francês Alexandre Dumas (1802-70) foi neto de uma africana escravizada e filho de um general aristocrata negro nascido no Haiti.

Amo tampouco foi o único a levar diversidade e cosmopolitismo a Halle nas décadas de 1720 e 1730. Vários alunos judeus de grande talento estudaram na universidade. O professor árabe Salomon Negri, de Damasco, e o indiano Soltan Gün Achmet, de Ahmedabad, também passaram por lá.


Em sua tese, Amo escreveu explicitamente que havia outras teologias além da cristã, incluindo entre elas a dos turcos e a dos “pagãos”.

Ele discutiu essas questões na dissertação “Os Direitos dos Mouros na Europa”, em 1729. O trabalho não pode ser encontrado hoje, mas, no jornal semanal de Halle de novembro de 1729, há um artigo curto sobre o debate público de Amo. Segundo esse texto, o ganês apresentou argumentos contra a escravidão, aludindo ao direito romano, à tradição e à razão.

Será que Amo promoveu a primeira disputa legal da Europa contra a escravidão? Podemos pelo menos enxergar um argumento iluminista em favor do sufrágio universal, como o que Yacob propusera cem anos antes. Mas essas visões não discriminatórias parecem ter passado despercebidas dos pensadores principais do iluminismo no século 18.

David Hume (1711-76), por exemplo, escreveu: “Tendo a suspeitar que os negros, e todas as outras espécies de homem em geral (pois existem quatro ou cinco tipos diferentes), sejam naturalmente inferiores aos brancos”. E acrescentou: “Nunca houve nação civilizada de qualquer outra compleição senão a branca, nem indivíduo eminente em ação ou especulação”.

Kant levou adiante o argumento de Hume e enfatizou que a diferença fundamental entre negros e brancos “parece ser tão grande em capacidade mental quanto na cor”, antes de concluir, no texto do curso de geografia física: “A humanidade alcançou sua maior perfeição na raça dos brancos”.

Na França, o mais célebre pensador iluminista, Voltaire (1694-1778), não só descreveu os judeus em termos antissemitas, como quando escreveu que “todos eles nascem com fanatismo desvairado em seus corações”; em seu ensaio sobre a história universal (1756), ele afirmou que, se a inteligência dos africanos “não é de outra espécie que a nossa, é muito inferior”.

Como Locke, Voltaire investiu dinheiro no comércio de escravos.


A filosofia de Amo é mais teórica que a de Yacob, mas as duas compartilham uma visão iluminista da razão, tratando todos os humanos como iguais.

Seu trabalho é profundamente engajado com as questões da época, como se vê em seu livro mais conhecido, “Sobre a Impassividade da Mente Humana”, construído com um método de dedução lógica utilizando argumentos rígidos, aparentemente seguindo a linha de sua dissertação jurídica anterior. Aqui ele trata do dualismo cartesiano, a ideia de que existe uma diferença absoluta de substância entre a mente e o corpo.

Em alguns momentos Amo parece se opor a Descartes, como observa o filósofo contemporâneo Kwasi Wiredu. Ele argumenta que Amo se opôs ao dualismo cartesiano entre mente e corpo, favorecendo, em vez disso, a metafísica dos akan e o idioma nzema de sua primeira infância, segundo os quais sentimos a dor com nossa carne (“honem”), e não com a mente (“adwene”).

Ao mesmo tempo, Amo diz que vai tanto defender quanto atacar a visão de Descartes de que a alma (a mente) é capaz de agir e sofrer junto com o corpo. Ele escreve: “Em resposta a essas palavras, pedimos cautela e discordamos: admitimos que a mente atua junto com o corpo graças à mediação de uma união natural. Mas negamos que ela sofra junto com o corpo”.

Amo argumenta que as afirmações de Descartes sobre essas questões contrariam a visão do próprio filósofo francês. Ele conclui sua tese dizendo que devemos evitar confundir as coisas que fazem parte do corpo e da mente. Pois aquilo que opera na mente deve ser atribuído apenas à mente.

Talvez a verdade seja o que o filósofo Justin E. H. Smith, da Universidade de Paris, aponta em “Nature, Human Nature and Human Difference” (natureza, natureza humana e diferença humana, 2015): “Longe de rejeitar o dualismo cartesiano, pelo contrário, Amo propõe uma versão radicalizada dele”.

Mas será possível que tanto Wiredu quanto Smith tenham razão? Por exemplo, será que a filosofia akan tradicional e a língua nzema continham uma distinção cartesiana entre corpo e mente mais precisa que a de Descartes, um modo de pensar que Amo então levou para a filosofia europeia?

Talvez seja cedo demais para sabermos, já que uma edição crítica das obras de Amo ainda aguarda ser publicada, possivelmente pela Oxford University Press.


No trabalho mais profundo de Amo, “Treatise on the Art of Philosophising Soberly and Accurately” (tratado sobre a arte de filosofar com sobriedade e precisão, 1738), ele parece antecipar Kant. O livro trata das intenções de nossa mente e das ações humanas como sendo naturais, racionais ou de acordo com uma norma.

No primeiro capítulo, escrevendo em latim, Amo argumenta que “tudo é passível de ser conhecido como objeto em si mesmo, ou como uma sensação, ou como uma operação da mente”.

Ele desenvolve em seguida, dizendo que “a cognição ocorre com a coisa em si” e afirmando: “O aprendizado real é a cognição das coisas em si. E assim tem sua base na certeza da coisa conhecida”.

Seu texto original diz “omne cognoscibile aut res ipsa”, usando a noção latina “res ipsa” como “coisa em si”.

Hoje Kant é conhecido por seu conceito da “coisa em si” (“das Ding an sich”) em “Crítica da Razão Pura” (1787) —e seu argumento de que não podemos conhecer a coisa além de nossa representação mental dela.

Mas é fato sabido que essa não foi a primeira utilização do termo na filosofia iluminista. Como diz o dicionário Merriam-Webster no verbete “coisa em si”: “Primeira utilização conhecida: 1739”. Mesmo assim, isso foi dois anos depois de Amo ter entregue seu trabalho principal em Wittenberg, em 1737.

À luz dos exemplos desses dois filósofos iluministas, Zera Yacob e Anton Amo, talvez seja preciso repensarmos a Idade da Razão nas disciplinas da filosofia e da história das ideias.

Na disciplina da história, novos estudos comprovaram que a revolução mais bem-sucedida a ter nascido das ideias de liberdade, igualdade e fraternidade se deu no Haiti, não na França. A Revolução Haitiana (1791-1804) e as ideias de Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743″”1803) abriram o caminho para a independência do país, sua nova Constituição e a abolição da escravidão.

Em “Les Vengeurs du Nouveau Monde” (os vingadores do novo mundo, 2004), Laurent Dubois conclui que os acontecimentos no Haiti foram “a expressão mais concreta da ideia de que os direitos proclamados na Declaração dos Direitos do Homem e do Cidadão, de 1789, eram de fato universais”.

Nessa linha, podemos indagar se Yacob e Amo algum dia serão elevados à posição que merecem entre os filósofos da Era das Luzes.


Este texto foi publicado originalmente no site Aeon.

DAG HERBJORNSRUD, 46, é historiador de ideias e fundador do SGOKI (Centro de História Global e Comparativa de Ideias), em Oslo.

CLARA ALLAIN é tradutora.

FABIO ZIMBRES, 57, é quadrinista, designer e artista visual.

LSE Impact Blog – “Six academic writing habits that will boost productivity” (plus other links) — Progressive Geographies

LSE Impact Blog – “Six academic writing habits that will boost productivity” I’m not sure by the notion of ‘productivity’, but there is some good advice here. Here are the headlines: They “time-block” their writing in advance They set themselves artificial deadlines They deliberately seek “flow” (but don’t push themselves if they can’t find it) […]

via LSE Impact Blog – “Six academic writing habits that will boost productivity” (plus other links) — Progressive Geographies

Climate Change – Catastrophic or Linear Slow Progression? (Armstrong Economics)

woolyrhinoIndeed, science was turned on its head after a discovery in 1772 near Vilui, Siberia, of an intact frozen woolly rhinoceros, which was followed by the more famous discovery of a frozen mammoth in 1787. You may be shocked, but these discoveries of frozen animals with grass still in their stomachs set in motion these two schools of thought since the evidence implied you could be eating lunch and suddenly find yourself frozen, only to be discovered by posterity.


The discovery of the woolly rhinoceros in 1772, and then frozen mammoths, sparked the imagination that things were not linear after all. These major discoveries truly contributed to the “Age of Enlightenment” where there was a burst of knowledge erupting in every field of inquisition. Such finds of frozen mammoths in Siberia continue to this day. This has challenged theories on both sides of this debate to explain such catastrophic events. These frozen animals in Siberia suggest strange events are possible even in climates that are not that dissimilar from the casts of dead victims who were buried alive after the volcanic eruption of 79 AD at Pompeii in ancient Roman Italy. Animals can be grazing and then suddenly freeze abruptly. That climate change was long before man invented the combustion engine.

Even the field of geology began to create great debates that perhaps the earth simply burst into a catastrophic convulsion and indeed the planet was cyclical — not linear. This view of sequential destructive upheavals at irregular intervals or cycles emerged during the 1700s. This school of thought was perhaps best expressed by a forgotten contributor to the knowledge of mankind, George Hoggart Toulmin in his rare 1785 book, “The Eternity of the World“:

” ••• convulsions and revolutions violent beyond our experience or conception, yet unequal to the destruction of the globe, or the whole of the human species, have both existed and will again exist ••• [terminating] ••• an astonishing succession of ages.”

Id./p3, 110


In 1832, Professor A. Bernhardi argued that the North Polar ice cap had extended into the plains of Germany. To support this theory, he pointed to the existence of huge boulders that have become known as “erratics,” which he suggested were pushed by the advancing ice. This was a shocking theory for it was certainly a nonlinear view of natural history. Bernhardi was thinking out of the box. However, in natural science people listen and review theories unlike in social science where theories are ignored if they challenge what people want to believe. In 1834, Johann von Charpentier (1786-1855) argued that there were deep grooves cut into the Alpine rock concluding, as did Karl Schimper, that they were caused by an advancing Ice Age.

This body of knowledge has been completely ignored by the global warming/climate change religious cult. They know nothing about nature or cycles and they are completely ignorant of history or even that it was the discovery of these ancient creatures who froze with food in their mouths. They cannot explain these events nor the vast amount of knowledge written by people who actually did research instead of trying to cloak an agenda in pretend science.

Glaciologists have their own word, jökulhlaup(from Icelandic), to describe the spectacular outbursts when water builds up behind a glacier and then breaks loose. An example was the 1922 jökulhlaup in Iceland. Some seven cubic kilometers of water, melted by a volcano under a glacier, had rushed out in a few days. Still grander, almost unimaginably events, were floods that had swept across Washington state toward the end of the last ice age when a vast lake dammed behind a glacier broke loose. Catastrophic geologic events are not generally part of the uniformitarian geologist’s thinking. Rather, the normal view tends to be linear including events that are local or regional in size

One example of a regional event would be the 15,000 square miles of the Channeled Scablands in eastern WashingtonInitially, this spectacular erosion was thought to be the product of slow gradual processes. In 1923, JHarlen Bretz presented a paper to the Geological Society of America suggesting the Scablands were eroded catastrophically. During the 1940s, after decades of arguing, geologists admitted that high ridges in the Scablands were the equivalent of the little ripples one sees in mud on a streambed, magnified ten thousand times. Finally, by the 1950s, glaciologists were accustomed to thinking about catastrophic regional floods. The Scablands are now accepted to have been catastrophically eroded by the “Spokane Flood.” This Spokane flood was the result of the breaching of an ice dam which had created glacial Lake Missoula. Now the United States Geological Survey estimates the flood released 500 cubic miles of water, which drained in as little as 48 hours. That rush of water gouged out millions of tons of solid rock.

When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, this too produced a catastrophic process whereby two hundred million cubic yards of material was deposited by volcanic flows at the base of the mountain in just a matter of hours. Then, less than two years later, there was another minor eruption, but this resulted in creating a mudflow, which carved channels through the recently deposited material. These channels, which are 1/40th the size of the Grand Canyon, exposed flat segments between the catastrophically deposited layers. This is what we see between the layers exposed in the walls of the Grand Canyon. What is clear, is that these events were relatively minor compared to a global flood. For example, the eruption of Mount St. Helens contained only 0.27 cubic miles of material compared to other eruptions, which have been as much as 950 cubic miles. That is over 2,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens!

With respect to the Grand Canyon, the specific geologic processes and timing of the formation of the Grand Canyon have always sparked lively debates by geologists. The general scientific consensus, updated at a 2010 conference, maintains that the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon beginning 5 million to 6 million years ago. This general thinking is still linear and by no means catastrophic. The Grand Canyon is believed to have been gradually eroded. However, there is an example cyclical behavior in nature which demonstrates that water can very rapidly erode even solid rock. An example of this took place in the Grand Canyon region back on June 28th, 1983. There emerged an overflow of Lake Powell which required the use of the Glen Canyon Dam’s 40-foot diameter spillway tunnels for the first time. As the volume of water increased, the entire dam started to vibrate and large boulders spewed from one of the spillways. The spillway was immediately shut down and an inspection revealed catastrophic erosion had cut through the three-foot-thick reinforced concrete walls and eroded a hole 40 feet wide, 32 feet deep, and 150 feet long in the sandstone beneath the dam. Nobody thought such catastrophic erosion that quick was even possible.

Some have speculated that the end of the Ice Age resulted in a flood of water which had been contained by an ice dam. Like that of the Scablands, it is possible that a sudden catastrophic release of water originally carved the Grand Canyon. It is clear that both the formation of the Scablands and the evidence of how Mount St Helens unfolded, may be support for the catastrophic formation of events rather than nice, slow, and linear formations.

Then there is the Biblical Account of the Great Flood and Noah. Noah is also considered to be a Prophet of Islam. Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah was based on the biblical story of Genesis. Some Christians were angry because the film strayed from biblical Scripture. The Muslim-majority countries banned the film Noah from screening in theaters because Noah was a prophet of God in the Koran. They considered it to be blasphemous to make a film about a prophet. Many countries banned the film entirely.

The story of Noah predates the Bible. There exists the legend of the Great Flood rooted in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh dates back nearly 5,000 years which is believed to be perhaps the oldest written tale on Earth. Here too, we find an account of the great sage Utnapishtim, who is warned of an imminent flood to be unleashed by wrathful gods. He builds a vast circular-shaped boat, reinforced with tar and pitch, and carries his relatives, grains along with animals. After enduring days of storms, Utnapishtim, like Noah in Genesis, releases a bird in search of dry land. Since there is evidence that there were survivors in different parts of the world, it is merely logical that there should be more than just one.

Archaeologists generally agree that there was a historical deluge between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago which hit lands ranging from the Black Sea to what many call the cradle of civilization, which was the floodplain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The translation of ancient cuneiform tablets in the 19th century confirmed the Mesopotamian Great Flood myth as an antecedent of the Noah story in the Bible.

The problem that existed was the question of just how “great” was the Great Flood? Was it regional or worldwide? The stories of the Great Flood in Western Culture clearly date back before the Bible. The region implicated has long been considered to be the Black Sea. It has been suggested that the water broke through the land by Istanbul and flooded a fertile valley on the other side much as we just looked at in the Scablands. Robert Ballard, one of the world’s best-known underwater archaeologists, who found the Titanic, set out to test that theory to search for an underwater civilization. He discovered that some four hundred feet below the surface, there was an ancient shoreline, proving that there was a catastrophic event did happen in the Black Sea. By carbon dating shells found along the underwater shoreline, Ballard dated this catastrophic event to around 5,000 BC. This may match around the time when Noah’s flood could have occurred.

Given the fact that for the entire Earth to be submerged for 40 days and 40 nights is impossible for that much water to simply vanish, we are probably looking at a Great Flood that at the very least was regional. However, there are tales of the Great Floodwhich spring from many other sources. Various ancient cultures have their own legends of a Great Flood and salvation. According to Vedic lore, a fish tells the mythic Indian king Manu of a Great Flood that will wipe out humanity. In turn, Manu also builds a ship to withstand the epic rains and is later led to a mountaintop by the same fish.

We also find an Aztec story that tells of a devout couple hiding in the hollow of a vast tree with two ears of corn as divine storms drown the wicked of the land. Creation myths from Egypt to Scandinavia also involve tidal floods of all sorts of substances purging and remaking the earth. The fact that we have Great Flood stories from India is not really a surprise since there was contact between the Middle East and India throughout recorded history. However, the Aztec story lacks the ship, but it still contains punishing the wicked and here there was certainly no direct contact, although there is evidence of cocaine use in Egypt implying there was some trade route probably through island hopping in the Pacific to the shores of India and off to Egypt. Obviously, we cannot rule out that this story of the Great Flood even made it to South America. 

Then again, there is the story of Atlantis – the island that sunk beath the sea. The Atlantic Ocean covers approximately one-fifth of Earth’s surface and second in size only to the Pacific Ocean. The ocean’s name, derived from Greek mythology, means the “Sea of Atlas.” The origin of names is often very interesting clues as well. For example. New Jersey is the English Translation of Latin Nova Caesarea which appeared even on the colonial coins of the 18th century. Hence, the state of New Jersey is named after the Island of Jersey which in turn was named in the honor of Julius Caesar. So we actually have an American state named after the man who changed the world on par with Alexander the Great, for whom Alexandria of Virginia is named after with the location of the famous cemetery for veterans, where John F. Kennedy is buried.

So here the Atlantic Ocean is named after Atlas and the story of Atlantis. The original story of Atlantis comes to us from two Socratic dialogues called Timaeus and Critias, both written about 360 BC by the Greek philosopher Plato. According to the dialogues, Socrates asked three men to meet him: Timaeus of Locri, Hermocrates of Syracuse, and Critias of Athens. Socrates asked the men to tell him stories about how ancient Athens interacted with other states. Critias was the first to tell the story. Critias explained how his grandfather had met with the Athenian lawgiver Solon, who had been to Egypt where priests told the Egyptian story about Atlantis. According to the Egyptians, Solon was told that there was a mighty power based on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. This empire was called Atlantis and it ruled over several other islands and parts of the continents of Africa and Europe.

Atlantis was arranged in concentric rings of alternating water and land. The soil was rich and the engineers were technically advanced. The architecture was said to be extravagant with baths, harbor installations, and barracks. The central plain outside the city was constructed with canals and an elaborate irrigation system. Atlantis was ruled by kings but also had a civil administration. Its military was well organized. Their religious rituals were similar to that of Athens with bull-baiting, sacrifice, and prayer.

Plato told us about the metals found in Atlantis, namely gold, silver, copper, tin and the mysterious Orichalcum. Plato said that the city walls were plated with Orichalcum (Brass). This was a rare alloy metal back then which was found both in Crete as well as in the Andes, in South America. An ancient shipwreck was discovered off the coast of Sicily in 2015 which contained 39 ingots of Orichalcum. Many claimed this proved the story of AtlantisOrichalcum was believed to have been a gold/copper alloy that was cheaper than gold, but twice the value of copper. Of course, Orichalcum was really a copper-tin or copper-zinc brass. We find in Virgil’s Aeneid, the breastplate of Turnus is described as “stiff with gold and white orichalc”.

The monetary reform of Augustus in 23BC reintroduced bronze coinage which had vanished after 84BC. Here we see the introduction of Orichalcum for the Roman sesterius and the dupondius. The Roman As was struck in near pure copper. Therefore, about 300 years after Plato, we do see Orichalcum being introduced as part of the monetary system of Rome. It is clear that Orichalcum was rare at the time Plato wrote this. Consequently, this is similar to the stories of America that there was so much gold, they paved the streets with it.

As the story is told, Atlantis was located in the Atlantic Ocean. There have been bronze-age anchors discovered at the Gates of Hercules (Straights of Gibralter) and many people proclaimed this proved Atlantis was real. However, what these proponents fail to take into account is the Minoans. The Minoans were perhaps the first International Economy. They traded far and wide even with Britain seeking tin to make bronze – henceBronze Age. Their civilization was of the Bronze Age rising civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC – nearly 12,000 years. Their trading range and colonization extended to Spain, Egypt, Israel (Canaan), Syria (Levantine), Greece, Rhodes, and of course to Turkey (Anatolia). Many other cultures referred to them as the people from the islands in the middle of the sea. However, the Minoans had no mineral deposits. They lacked gold as well as silver or even the ability to produce large mining of copper. They appear to have copper mines in Anatolia (Turkey) in colonized cities. What has survived are examples of copper ingots that served as MONEY in trade. Keep in mind that gold at this point was rare, too rare to truly serve as MONEY. It is found largely as jewelry in tombs of royal dignitaries.

The Bronze Age emerged at different times globally appearing in Greece and China around 3,000BC but it came late to Britain reaching there about 1900BC. It is known that copper emerged as a valuable tool in Anatolia (Turkey) as early as 6,500BC, where it began to replace stone in the creation of tools. It was the development of casting copper that also appears to aid the urbanization of man in Mesopotamia. By 3,000BC, copper is in wide use throughout the Middle East and starts to move up into Europe. Copper in its pure stage appears first, and tin is eventually added creating actual bronze where a bronze sword would break a copper sword. It was this addition of tin that really propelled the transition of copper to bronze and the tin was coming from England where vast deposits existed at Cornwall. We know that the Minoans traveled into the Atlantic for trade. Anchors are not conclusive evidence of Atlantis.

As the legend unfolds, Atlantis waged an unprovoked imperialistic war on the remainder of Asia and Europe. When Atlantis attacked, Athens showed its excellence as the leader of the Greeks, the much smaller city-state the only power to stand against Atlantis. Alone, Athens triumphed over the invading Atlantean forces, defeating the enemy, preventing the free from being enslaved, and freeing those who had been enslaved. This part may certainly be embellished and remains doubtful at best. However, following this battle, there were violent earthquakes and floods, and Atlantis sank into the sea, and all the Athenian warriors were swallowed up by the earth. This appears to be almost certainly a fiction based on some ancient political realities. Still, the explosive disappearance of an island some have argued is a reference to the eruption of MinoanSantorini. The story of Atlantis does closely correlate with Plato’s notions of The Republic examining the deteriorating cycle of life in a state.


There have been theories that Atlantiswas the Azores, and still, others argue it was actually South America. That would explain to some extent the cocaine mummies in Egypt. Yet despite all these theories, usually, when there is an ancient story, despite embellishment, there is often a grain of truth hidden deep within. In this case, Atlantis may not have completely submerged, but it could have partially submerged from an earthquake at least where some people survived. Survivors could have made to either the Americas or to Africa/Europe. What is clear, is that a sudden event could have sent a  tsunami into the Mediterranean which then broke the land mass at Istanbul and flooded the valley below transforming this region into the Black Sea becoming the story of Noah.

We also have evidence which has surfaced that the Earth was struck by a comet around 12,800 years ago. Scientific American has published that sediments from six sites across North America—Murray Springs, Ariz.; Bull Creek, Okla.; Gainey, Mich.; Topper, S.C.; Lake Hind, Manitoba; and Chobot, Alberta, have yielded tiny diamonds, which only occur in sediment exposed to extreme temperatures and pressures. The evidence surfacing implies that the Earth moved into an Ice Age killing off large mammals and setting the course for Global Cooling for the next 1300 years. This may indeed explain that catastrophic freezing of Wooly Mammoths in Siberia. Such an event could have also been responsible for the legend of Atlantis where the survivors migrated taking their stories with them.

There is also evidence surfacing from stone carvings at one of the oldest sites recorded located in Anatolia (Turkey). Using a computer programme to show where the constellations would have appeared above Turkey thousands of years ago, researchers were able to pinpoint the comet strike to 10,950BC, the exact time the Younger Dryas,which was was a return to glacial conditions and Global Cooling which temporarily reversed the gradual climatic warming after the Last Glacial Maximum that began to recede around 20,000 BC, utilizing ice core data from Greenland.

Now, there is a very big asteroid which passed by the Earth on September 16th, 2013. What is most disturbing is the fact that its cycle is 19 years so it will return in 2032. Astronomers have not been able to swear it will not hit the Earth on the next pass in 2032. It was discovered by Ukrainian astronomers with just 10 days to go back in 2013.  The 2013 pass was only a distance of 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers). If anything alters its orbit, then it will get closer and closer. It just so happens to line up on a cyclical basis that suggests we should begin to look at how to deflect asteroids and soon.

It definitely appears that catastrophic cooling may also be linked to the Earth being struck by a meteor, asteroids, or a comet. We are clearly headed into a period of Global Cooling and this will get worse as we head into 2032. The question becomes: Is our model also reflecting that it is once again time for an Earth change caused by an asteroid encounter? Such events are not DOOMSDAY and the end of the world. They do seem to be regional. However, a comet striking in North America would have altered the comet freezing animals in Siberia.

If there is a tiny element of truth in the story of Atlantis, the one thing it certainly proves is clear – there are ALWAYS survivors. Based upon a review of the history of civilization as well as climate, what resonates profoundly is that events follow the cyclical model of catastrophic occurrences rather than the linear steady slow progression of evolution.

Steven Pinker talks Donald Trump, the media, and how the world is better off today than ever before (ABC Australia)


“By many measures of human flourishing the state of humanity has been improving,” renowned cognitive scientist Steven Pinker says, a view often in contrast to the highlights of the 24-hour news cycle and the recent “counter-enlightenment” movement of Donald Trump.

“Fewer of us are dying of disease, fewer of us are dying of hunger, more of us are living in democracies, were more affluent, better educated … these are trends that you can’t easily appreciate from the news because they never happen all at once,” he says.

Canadian-American thinker Steven Pinker is the author of Bill Gates’s new favourite book — Enlightenment Now — in which he maintains that historically speaking the world is significantly better than ever before.

But he says the media’s narrow focus on negative anomalies can result in “systematically distorted” views of the world.

Speaking to the ABC’s The World program, Mr Pinker gave his views on Donald Trump, distorted perceptions and the simple arithmetic that proves the world is better than ever before.

Donald Trump’s ‘counter-enlightenment’

“Trumpism is of course part of a larger phenomenon of authoritarian populism. This is a backlash against the values responsible for the progress that we’ve enjoyed. It’s a kind of counter-enlightenment ideology that Trumpism promotes. Namely, instead of universal human wellbeing, it focusses on the glory of the nation, it assumes that nations are in zero-sum competition against each other as opposed to cooperating globally. It ignores the institutions of democracy which were specifically implemented to avoid a charismatic authoritarian leader from wielding power, but subjects him or her to the restraints of a governed system with checks and balances, which Donald Trump seems to think is rather a nuisance to his own ability to voice the greatness of the people directly. So in many ways all of the enlightenment forces we have enjoyed, are being pushed back by Trump. But this is a tension that has been in play for a couple of hundred years. No sooner did the enlightenment happen that a counter-enlightenment grew up to oppose it, and every once in a while it does make reappearances.”

News media can ‘systematically distort’ perceptions

“If your impression of the world is driven by journalism, then as long as various evils haven’t gone to zero there’ll always be enough of them to fill the news. And if journalism isn’t accompanied by a bit of historical context, that is not just what’s bad now but how bad it was in the past, and statistical context, namely how many wars? How many terrorist attacks? What is the rate of homicide? Then our intuitions, since they’re driven by images and narratives and anecdotes, can be systematically distorted by the news unless it’s presented in historical and statistical context.

‘Simple arithmetic’: The world is getting better

“It’s just a simple matter of arithmetic. You can’t look at how much there is right now and say that it is increasing or decreasing until you compare it with how much took place in the past. When you look at how much took place in the past you realise how much worse things were in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. We don’t appreciate it now when we concentrate on the remaining horrors, but there were horrific wars such as the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviets in Afghanistan, the war in Vietnam, the partition of India, the Bangladesh war of independence, the Korean War, which killed far more people than even the brutal wars of today. And if we only focus on the present, we ought to be aware of the suffering that continues to exist, but we can’t take that as evidence that things have gotten worse unless we remember what happened in the past.”

Don’t equate inequality with poverty

“Globally, inequality is decreasing. That is, if you don’t look within a wealthy country like Britain or the United States, but look across the globe either comparing countries or comparing people worldwide. As best as we can tell, inequality is decreasing because so many poor countries are getting richer faster than rich countries are getting richer. Now within the wealthy countries of the anglosphere, inequality is increasing. And although inequality brings with it a number of serious problems such as disproportionate political power to the wealthy. But inequality itself is not a problem. What we have to focus on is the wellbeing of those at the bottom end of the scale, the poor and the lower middle class. And those have not actually been decreasing once you take into account government transfers and benefits. Now this is a reason we shouldn’t take for granted, the important role of government transfers and benefits. It’s one of the reasons why the non-English speaking wealthy democracies tend to have greater equality than the English speaking ones. But we shouldn’t confuse inequality with poverty.”