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Posts Tagged ‘Henry the Navigator

“Life could be horrible in the wrong trouser of time”*…

 

The challenge that the multiverse poses for the idea of an all-good, all-powerful God is often focused on fine-tuning. If there are infinite universes, then we don’t need a fine tuner to explain why the conditions of our universe are perfect for life, so the argument goes. But some kinds of multiverse pose a more direct threat. The many-worlds interpretation of quantum physicist Hugh Everett III and the modal realism of cosmologist Max Tegmark include worlds that no sane, good God would ever tolerate. The theories are very different, but each predicts the existence of worlds filled with horror and misery.

Of course, plenty of thoughtful people argue that the Earth alone contains too much pain and suffering to be the work of a good God. But many others have disagreed, finding fairly nuanced things to say about what might justify God’s creation of a world that includes a planet like ours. For example, there is no forgiveness, courage, or fortitude without at least the perception of wrongs, danger, and difficulty. The most impressive human moral achievements seem to require such obstacles.

Still, many horrifying things happen with nothing seemingly gained from them. And, Everett’s many-worlds and Tegmark’s modal realism both seem to imply that there are huge numbers of horrific universes inhabited solely by such unfortunates. Someone like myself, who remains attracted to the traditional picture of God as loving creator, is bound to find such consequences shocking…

How scientific cosmology puts a new twist on the problem of evil.  A theist wrestles with the implications of the “Many World” hypothesis: “Evil Triumphs in These Multiverses, and God Is Powerless.”

* Terry Pratchett

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As we calculate our blessings, we might send carefully-addressed birthday greetings to Infante Henrique of Portugal, Duke of Viseu, better known as Prince Henry the Navigator; he was born on this date in 1394.  A central figure in 15th-century Portuguese politics and in the earliest days of the Portuguese Empire, Henry encouraged Portugal’s expeditions (and colonial conquests) in Africa– and thus is regarded as the main initiator (as a product both of Portugal’s expeditions and of those that they encouraged by example) of what became known as the Age of Discoveries.

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“Trying to plan for the future without knowing the past is like trying to plant cut flowers”*…

 

It’s happening by hook (violence) and by crook (economic development)…

Palmyra, an ancient oasis city and one-time capital of a short-lived empire, has been razed before. In the third century, Roman emperor Aurelian punished its rebelling citizens by looting its treasures and burning its buildings. The city never recovered; its broken, but well preserved remains have stood in the Syrian desert ever since. Now looms the very real possibility of Islamic State (IS) finishing-off the job Aurelian began by reducing the historic site to rubble. Earlier this year, IS declared the three thousand-year-old palace at Nimrud, Iraq, a symbol of polytheism and demolished it with bulldozers and explosives. In the past days, Islamic State’s advance into Syria has brought Palmyra’s splendid ruins under its control. Its ancient temples, already damaged by fighting, risk suffering Nimrud’s fate.

Conflict has often threatened antiquities, and violent threats to cultural sites often draw the public eye. Today however, development and resource extraction are far more common perils. Among UNESCO’s list of more than a thousand World Heritage Sites (places considered as of special cultural or physical significance), 46—Palmyra included—are categorized as ‘in danger’. Housing, mining, logging, and agriculture are responsible for putting more than half of the sites on the threat list.

Via The Economist, where one will find an interactive version of this chart: mouse over a site to learn the details of both the treasure and the threat to it.

* Daniel Boorstin (quoted by his son, David)

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As we promise to preserve, we might recall that it was on this date in 1415 that Infante Dom Henrique de Avis, Duke of Viseu, better known as Henry the Navigator, embarked on an expedition to Africa.  Having encouraged his father his father, King John I, to conquer a North African port, Henry went to assess the continent’s prospects for himself.  Impressed, he became the champion of Portuguese exploration and expansion, sponsoring the systematic mapping of West Africa, the development of new ships, and the continual search for new trade routes.

Portrait believed to be the true likeness of Henry the Navigator. Detail from the fifth panel of the polyptych of St. Vincent by Nuno Gonçalves, c.1470

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Written by LW

June 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

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