Update on The Secularists Playbook: Part 1, Time
Sir Paul Nurse, The Royal Society
6-9 Carlton House Terrace
London SW1Y 5AG
7th of January, 2013
Re: Recalibrating the Gregorian calendar
Dear Sir Paul, members of the Royal Society,
261 years ago members of your esteemed academy made a frightful error which I’m hoping you might now assist in setting right. At the stroke of midnight on Wednesday the 2nd of September, 1752, the Governing Council of the academy adopted the Gregorian calendar for the British Empire, and through that, the world at large. It was and remains a measure of time unquestionably superior to the Julian calendar, albeit with one catastrophic flaw. By using the Christian waypoints A.D and B.C the Gregorian calendar is not only immeasurably offensive to five out of seven people on the planet, but it also retards the very manner in which we, as a species, view ourselves.
Granted, efforts to replace these Christian references with B.C.E (Before Current Era), and C.E (Current Era) are moves in the right direction I see them as little more than simple window dressing; an inadequate band aid that does nothing to rectify the root of the problem. The Current Era did not begin 2,013 years ago. Any student of history knows nothing in fact took place in or around this period to mark even some minor shift in human civilisation, let alone a paradigmatic event worthy of partitioning epochs. 1 B.C/1 A.D are meaningless dates to the vast majority of humans and should be discarded without debate. Even the concept of Current Era should be thrown out or a newly recalibrated calendar would technically begin with John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton. Now I could live with that, the Enlightenment deserves no less, but I believe we can do much better, and in light of your academy’s established history in this matter it duly falls to you, Sir Paul, to lead the charge to reset our principle measure of human time. That is to say, to better represent human history we must recalibrate our calendar to begin at the very onset of science, not Christian imagination.
Toward these ends might I be as bold to perhaps suggest the age of the Thaïs bone as this new starting date. As I’m sure you’re well aware this inscribed early Azilian period rib bone is credited by UNESCO as “the most complex and elaborate time-factored sequence currently known within the corpus of Palaeolithic mobile art.” The Thaïs bone is evidence someone fifteen millennia ago was looking up and with some level of proto-scientific detail recording exactly what they were seeing. Someone, an ancestor of yours and mine, was over a 3½ year period systematically wrestling some order from the celestial chaos passing overhead, and by doing so they were practicing the first science in history. It is a date I think we should rightly honour, and although just a suggestion it would mean today is in fact the 7th of January, 15013.
It would be a wonderful thing, a marvellous legacy, and should you lead this effort to re-set the international calendar I believe an outstanding promotional platform for the academy. With minimal effort or indeed expense it would open a debate unlike any since Darwin or Eddington called Carlton House their second home. Finding that moment, that date from which our new calendar would – indeed should – begin would call upon experts from such diverse fields as palaeontology, archaeology, astronomy, sociology, mathematics, and even philosophy. The media attention would be impressive, the meditations lively, the arguments for and against categorically healthy, and through participatory competitions a simply brilliant way to engage schools and capture children’s imaginations across the planet. It’s not every day, after all, you get a chance to recast time and the way we view human history itself.
Please accept this letter as the first in what I hope will be many as we move forward.