The rise of the west and the changing sociopolitical landscape

Aeon this weekend highlighted a 2017 article by Joel Mokyr looking at how Europe became the richest part of the world (or at least one of the richest).  Historically, there have been many theories, ranging from racist rationals, cultural ones, to it merely being Europe and the overall west's turn to be on top. That … Continue reading The rise of the west and the changing sociopolitical landscape

Breakthroughs in imagination

When thinking about human history, it's tempting to see some developments as inevitable.  Some certainly were, but the sheer amount of time before some of them took place seem to make them remarkable. The human species, narrowly defined as Homo sapiens, is about 200,000 years old.  Some argue that it's older, around 300,000 years, others … Continue reading Breakthroughs in imagination

America’s long path to universal voting rights

My memory of what I learned in early grade school about the history of American voting rights went something like this.  Prior to 1776, we were ruled by the king of Great Britain.  He was a tyrant who oppressed us with taxation without representation, so we rebelled and set up a democracy.  (UK readers, I see … Continue reading America’s long path to universal voting rights

Why the US two party system is so entrenched

The other day, I came across this Big Think explanation by historian Sean Wilentz on why the US always seems to gravitate to a two party system. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wnju7zOH_Zs Unfortunately, while I think Wilentz touches on the main points, his explanation doesn't seem as clear as it could be. To start off, he refers to the … Continue reading Why the US two party system is so entrenched

Is there a moral arc to history?

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. As someone who isn't able to find an objective basis for morality, I've often wondered what that means for the above statement from Martin Luther King.  It certainly feels like we're making moral progress, that the status of previously oppressed or marginalized people … Continue reading Is there a moral arc to history?

When did the Roman Empire actually fall?

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, for which apparently there is now a Muslim debate about whether it fulfilled Muhammad's charge for Muslims to conquer that city.  I can't say I have any opinion in that particular matter.  But something I do find interesting is that, in describing the event, … Continue reading When did the Roman Empire actually fall?