Monday, February 1, 2016

What Everyone “Knew” Back Then and What We “Know” Now

Ever considered the possibility that we’re not nearly so brilliant as we think we are?

Sure, we have our smartphones and our medical breakthroughs and our artistic philosophies that we pat ourselves on the back for like we’re God’s gift to the planet.

But have we really learned anything? Have we actually progressed as a human race?

I don’t think so. I never have. I think we’re just as stupid as we’ve ever been.

Right now, I’m reading a book called In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette. It’s the true story of the 19th century quest to find the North Pole, and while I’m only around 50 pages into it, I’ve already learned a whole heck of a lot.

For instance, did you know that people in the 1800s were hyper-focused on finding the North Pole? That they believed it was practically utopic up there? That, if some brave adventurer could just find his way through the ice up there – which made a ring around the actual North Pole, didn’t you know – it would be beautiful and warm and sunny, perhaps sporting unknown civilizations and amazing discoveries?

This wasn’t some silly fairy tale only the mere masses believed. Governments and wildly successful businessmen invested money into the notion that the North Pole wasn’t really cold. So did otherwise brilliant scientists.

Of course, they were dead wrong. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. While I haven’t finished In the Kingdom of the Ice, I’ve read the description and talked to someone who has read it. So I know how it doesn’t have a happy ending for everyone.

It certainly doesn’t have a happy ending for all those government funds and business investments and scientific certainties that the North Pole was a happy, shiny place.

Look throughout history, and you’ll find similar stories across civilizations and eras. Each time, the people involved thought themselves so advanced. And each time, consequent generations recognized them for the fools they were.

So what makes us so different? Seriously. How are we so arrogant that we think we’ve got everything figured out?

Go ahead. Start spouting off about smartphones and medical breakthroughs and artistic philosophies.

That’s what everyone who believed in a flat Earth and using sugar to brush your teeth and a warm North Pole did to.

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