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Posts Tagged ‘Portugal

“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

What’s in a (sur)name?…

From National Geographic:

for larger, interactive version, click on the image above, or here

A new view of the United States based on the distribution of common last names shows centuries of history and echoes some of America’s great immigration sagas. To compile this data, geographers at University College London used phone directories to find the predominant surnames in each state. Software then identified the probable provenances of the 181 names that emerged.

Many of these names came from Great Britain, reflecting the long head start the British had over many other settlers. The low diversity of names in parts of the British Isles also had an impact. Williams, for example, was a common name among Welsh immigrants—and is still among the top names in many American states.

But that’s not the only factor. Slaves often took their owners’ names, so about one in five Americans now named Smith are African American. In addition, many newcomers’ names were anglicized to ease assimilation. The map’s scale matters too. “If we did a map of New York like this,” says project member James Cheshire, “the diversity would be phenomenal”—a testament to that city’s role as a once-and-present gateway to America.

 

As we ruminate on roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1654 that the Portuguese issued the Capitulation Protocol, giving Jewish and Dutch settlers three months to leave Brazil.  Approximately 150 Jewish families of Portuguese descent fled the Brazilian city of Recife, in the state of Pernambuco.  By September, twenty-three of these refugees had established the first community of Jews in New Amsterdam (now, of course, New York City).

These “Sephardim” (Jews of Spanish-Portuguese extraction) had followed a tortured path. In December 1496, following Ferdinand and Isabella’s Spanish example, King Manuel I of Portugal had expelled all Jews from Portugal, driving many to flee to more tolerant Holland.  From there, some migrated to Pernambuco, a colony of the Dutch West India Company in modern-day Brazil. That community flourished until the Dutch eventually surrendered Pernambuco to the Portuguese– and the Sephardim were again forced to flee.

After being driven ashore in Jamaica by Spanish ships, twenty-three members of the community, along with a group of Dutch Calvinists, made their way to New Netherland (New York)– another colony run by the Dutch West India Company.  Even then, the trials were not past: Peter Stuyvesant governor of New Netherland, feared that the indigent newcomers would burden the colony; but when he motioned to eject the Jewish newcomers, the Company (many of the shareholders of which were Jewish) refused his petition… and the wanderers found a home.

Accuratissima Brasiliæ tabula
[Inset of Pernambuco.]
by Hendrik Hondius, 1630
(source: Library of Congress)

 

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