Sketches on Atheism

A time to change Time

time263 years ago, members of the Royal Society made a tremendous error. At the stroke of midnight on Wednesday the 2nd of September, 1752, the Governing Council of the academy (the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence) adopted the Gregorian Calendar for the British Empire, and through that the world at large. Certainly, it was and remains a measure of time decidedly superior to the Julian Calendar, but it came with two catastrophically obnoxious flaws: 1B.C/1A.D are entirely meaningless dates to 5 out of 7 people on the planet, and 1A.D does not, in any way, represent the dawn of what is now called, the Current Era. Nothing took place in or around this period to mark even some minor shift in the human condition, let alone a paradigmatic event worthy of partitioning epochs. 1B.C (Before Christ) and 1A.D (Anno Domini: In the year of the Lord) are hollow markers, and although efforts to replace these empty Christian waypoints with B.C.E (Before Current Era), and C.E (Current Era) are moves in the right direction, they do nothing to address the root of the problem: the Current Era did not begin 2,015 years ago.

We need a new calendar.

Even the concept of Current Era should be thrown out, or else any newly recalibrated calendar would begin with John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton, which wouldn’t be such a bad idea, but if we put our minds to it we can do much, much better. What is needed is a date upon which we, as a species, laid claim to the title: The Paragon of Animals. That is to say, to better honour our species and express the more palatable elements of who we are and what we’re capable of, to better represent our innate curiosity and drive to improve the societies we build, science, not Christian imagination, should mark the commencement of the Human Era.

Granted, many would argue (and argue correctly) that the art of the upper Palaeolithic, not science, should signal the start of the Human Era. Many others would argue (and argue correctly) that the first Palaeolithic burials 100,000 years ago should be the moment humans became truly “human,” and while I could argue vigorously for both, I personally feel it should be science, for science represents that astonishing moment when our ancestors made the first coordinated attempt to wrestle some sense of permanent order from the chaos swirling around… and the event which best embodies that moment is, I believe, when we started measuring time itself.

thac3afs-bone_1SchematicThis is that moment.

The Thaïs bone is credited by UNESCO as being “the most complex and elaborate time-factored sequence currently known within the corpus of Palaeolithic mobile art.” This inscribed rib bone (measuring 87mm × 27mm) is dated from around 12,000 years ago and the meticulously etched sequences on its faces are a 3½ year record of the day-to-day lunar and solar observations taken by a nameless but astonishingly dedicated, magnificent ancestor of yours and mine. The Thaïs bone is evidence someone wasn’t just looking up, but looking up and recording what they were seeing. The Thaïs bone is the first evidence we have of pure science.

Now, possibly even older finds like the Wurdi Youang site in Australia might push this date back even further, but for my purposes here I believe the Thaïs bone should mark the moment the human calendar begins, meaning today is not the 29th of August, 2015, but the 29th of August, 12015. Think about that for a second. Savour the date. Let it sink in. Notice how your perception of human history is instantly reformed? As Marshall McLuhan so aptly put it, “the medium is the message,” meaning the medium (the calendar itself) influences how the message (human history) is perceived. In no small way, this entirely painless recalibration would fundamentally shift the very way we look at our history, and if you change that then you alter the very way we look at ourselves regardless of borders, culture, or belief systems… and that, my friend, is priceless.

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111 thoughts on “A time to change Time

      • You always return to that hopeless wish don’t you John? Even if we did it, which we won’t, it would simply mean we could start doing to the rest of the universe what we’ve done to the very place that brought us into existence (as far as we know).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, of course not silly boy! Even if the only difference between US and them is a slightly darker tint to their skin, they’re still the OTHER! I shudder and wretch at the very thought!

        Now to address the actual topic of this post, which is what I had originally intended to do until your off-topic comment led me astray.

        You’re displaying a decided tendency towards a belief in human exceptionalism or maybe you’re even, heaven forefend, a bona fide anthropocentrist (i think i just coined that). As it turns out, old Ned Ludd wasn’t wrong. But, if it must be “science” that is honored by the calendar, why not go all the way back the the earliest date that science claims to provide?

        Estimates as to how long ago the big bang occurred range from 13.7 to around 15 billion years. So, for the sake of convenience, let’s take something in the middle. Around 14.25B should be OK. So that’s what? 14B250M? So, let’s officially apply this new calendar retroactively to January 1 of this year. That means that on January first of next year the star-date will be 14B250M01. Close enough on the cosmic scale.

        Now, given that my misanthropical tendencies are rapidly overwhelming what little anthropocentrism I ever entertained, I say who gives a rat’s ass what year it is? By the time another century is breached, or not long thereafter at most, there won’t be anyone left who knows what year it is anyway, if in fact there are any of us “Paragons” remaining at all.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, but the whole BIG BANG thing is just so scientifically grand and all-encompassing. Leaves nothing out and there’s no “before” and “after” nonsense to deal with. There’s only ABB, no BBB.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The atheist “thinks” (and I use the term loosely) he can hallucinate an alternate universe and reality will somehow go away all by itself.

    Western Civilization, Christianity and its measure of time (Anno Domini, Year of Our Lord) is simple reality.

    Why not also hallucinate away the Chinese or Jewish calendars because the atheist hates the Chinese and Jewish cultures?

    In the end, all atheists “arguments” (and I use the term loosely) strand mankind in time and demand that everyone believe everything, including the present, just happened all by itself.

    Liked by 1 person

      • John,

        If the greatest, most just, most prosperous, most powerful, most technically advanced civilization in human history doesn’t get to define the calendar, then by what authority does the atheist get to?

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      • So you’ll be fine when the Chinese redefine the calendar later this century?

        But seriously, this is way, way, way beyond simple atheism. Atheism makes one statement: a rejection of theism. What we’re dealing with here is secular humanism, and a theist can be both a humanist, and a secularist. In fact, i’d imagine the vast majority of theists are, in fact, secularists. Dare I say it, you are. You don’t want to live ina theocracy, do you, SOM? Being a Catholic you’d be sure to be lynched by your evangelical neighbours.

        So, if you don’t like 12015, what would you suggest?

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      • John,

        No I will not.

        And that is because every Chinese regime in history was brutal, oppressive and unjust to the point where human life has no more value that a bucket of Planned Parenthood leftover butchered baby parts.

        Our modern understanding of human rights only appeared in the Christian West.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post. However, I’m in favor of changing the way we mark history and time to reflect Ken Ham’s take on reality. No one’s take on reality is more solid than ole Hambo’s. Under the Ken Ham calendar, today’s date would be, August 29th, AKH, or After Ken Ham. All dates before Ken Ham’s arrival to America and his subsequent development of The Creation Museum would be known as BKH or Before Ken Ham. This would be accepted readily by any True Christian, because, as you know, all REAL Christians follow the teachings of the great Ken Ham. All other Christianities are hallucinated, drug induced lies that merely ensure eternal damnation in Hell for all those who profess them. This is especially true of the vilest, most blasphemous perversion of Christianity out there: Catholicism. $Allahu Akbar$ and $Amen$

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point. Tally sticks (like the Ishango bone which has numerical records etched on it) have been found as old as 20,000, but the jury is still out on whether or not they’re astronomical in purpose. For now, at least, the Thais bone holds the record. It’s just a suggestion, and like I said, the Wurdi Youang site in Australia would push the date way, way back. It’d be a fun debate if we were to decide on a new waypoint.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “If a man were to look over the fence on one side of his garden and observe that the neighbor on his left had laid his garden path round a central lawn; and were to look over the fence on the other side of his garden and observe that the neighbor on his right had laid his path down the middle of the lawn, and were then to lay his own garden path diagonally from one corner to the other, that man’s soul would be lost. Originality is only to be praised when not prefaced by the look to right and left.”

        ― Quentin Crisp, The Naked Civil Servant

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Personally I’d like a timeline that links with Neanderthals as Gibraltar is prominent in early archaeological finds in this field (me? biased?!). Had the early Belgian ones not been found, we would still have been first, and if the idiot had registered it when the found the skulls in 1848 we would be talking about Gibraltarian man not Neanderthal ones 🙂 (found in 1856 – dates are from memory, so I may be wrong).

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    • What about the Denisovans? No one ever wants to talk about them.

      I’m afraid to say, though, Gibraltarian man went extinct very early on because lazing about on white lawn chairs with ankles immersed in water is not a viable adaptation 🙂

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      • If any bits of them are found in Gib, then I’ll show some interest. I think there was some alleged link with Spain, so that’s pretty close. But all this is irrelevant because didn’t the earth begin 6000 years ago? So we are just dealing with myths. There is no proof of any of these archaeological remains 🙂

        Given that Neanderthal man in Gib lived in sea caves, I think more than ankles would have been immersed. No traces of white lawn chairs yet found in Gorhams Cave though.

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  4. I still use BC/AD when writing dates because I think BCE/CE just covers up the meaningless distinction. It’s still there, and you’re right that the distinction needs to change. The idea of using an artifact to begin the dating process is a good one.

    However, I think that the date to mark time should be somewhat arbitrary. That way, it reflects the need to adapt to new information as it comes in rather than trying to errantly conform our calendar to a miscalculation (like the birth of a religious figure).

    One other way to do it somewhat accurately is to start a new age after an important milestone in human achievement is met. Things like marking an end to poverty, or maybe the end of armed conflict would be noble ways to remind ourselves that we as a species finally overcame our arbitrary wantonness for destruction and conflict.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Things like marking an end to poverty, or maybe the end of armed conflict would be noble ways to remind ourselves that we as a species finally overcame our arbitrary wantonness for destruction and conflict.

      I love that idea! Perhaps then we should have a number of ages: the first paleolithic burials = the Human Era; upper paleolithic art = Abstraction; Thais bone/Tally sticks = Science; the first cities = Civilisation etc. If we make these era distinct then we can actually set achievable goals, goals that can direct present-day efforts.

      Great idea, SB!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Perhaps we could ditch the mythical BC thing and go back to the equally as mythical (but more respectable?) BB.

        BB would be a hard one for anyone to argue, given the state of modern science—but man oh man, this really would be a universal~! Boom boom! (I hate myself sometimes) (wag wag wag).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. once again, a very thought provoking post. I’m really learning so much from all of you this last two or three months. thank you.
    -mike

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    • What a wonderful thing to say! Thank you, Mike. This idea was first floated a few years ago and I even started an online petition to send to Sir Paul Nurse (head of the Royal Society) urging him to open a global debate, calling upon experts from such diverse fields as palaeontology, anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, linguistics, art, mathematics, and even philosophy to canvass human history in a way never before attempted and locate that point in time which would stand as the new date for the commencement of the Current Era.

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  6. But how do you know that today would be August 29, 12015, and not August 29, 12115? Or just 12016? If I had to pick a start date, I would limit the options to the date that’s at least known to the exact year in the current system – maybe the date when a paper or book establishing that Earth is a planet has been first published by Galileo, or Bruno, or Copernicus, or whoever (assuming it hasn’t been done in times unknown by some Greek or Chinese astronomer. Or maybe start from 1961, when a first man went to space.

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      • I don’t have a problem with multiple epochs, as long as we don’t start them every few years. But for convenience, id rather have a single one – what if you have to calculate how many years passed from year 71 of third epoch to year 98 of epoch 11? Also, I’d rather not start them from last (something), since we can’t know if this was really the last occurrence, or if we end up restarting the epoch a few years later.

        Like

      • Here’s an idea… Let’s work retroactively, pick some random date in the future and work backwards, towards it. Now, while I’m sure there’s a multitude of problems exploding in this idea, it could however be fun.

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      • Just call that date “the date new calendar is established” and count from that date. It’s a foolproof self-supporting concept.
        Although, if we do that, why not just set this random date on January 1, 1AD? 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dammit, I like the AE myself … anyway, some clown could always argue that Gagarin wasn’t the first to go into space and orbit (the first to come back alive, though?).
        But the first Atomic Explosion would be hard to argue with. I vote atoms …

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  7. Go to a calendar with a 5 day week and twelve 5 week months. This would leave one odd month at the end of the year having an extra week, with also an extra ‘leap day’ every 4 years.

    What is the advantage of such a calendar? Every Monday would always be either the 1st, 6th, 11th, 16th, or 21st, except for the odd year ending month. So also the other days of the week would always fall on the same numbers. No confusion either about how many days are in any given month. A 3 day work week and 2 day weekend would be nice. Perhaps a 10 hour work day as the price of having more weekends off.

    Why can’t such a reasonable calendar come to be? The power of the old superstitions with their sacred 7th day of the week.

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  8. Excellent post. This has always been something I found odd or strange and, as you say, does not reflect the true expanse of human history. But, I fear that if the Americans will not even join the rest of the world and adopt the metric system, what hope is there they would ever adopt a superior calender?

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  9. Pingback: A time to change Time | Christians Anonymous

  10. Haven’t read comments yet—but someone will have mentioned the moment of the first man-made atomic explosion, and the (AE) Atomic Era? Work backwards and for’d from that …

    And didn’t some genius define the Present as 1950 (old style) and henceforth dates such as 100,000 years BP?

    Must rush, will read comments later … (I love ’em!)

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      • I stand with ‘AE’, Sir …

        I’d say the squib that popped at Alamogordo could pretty well make a datum; and regardless of religion/culture/location/wishful thinking/whatever it is a universal.

        So the mythical miracle could be redated to 2015 BAE? (Or even -2015 AE?)

        And if ‘they’ don’t have the precise moment of detonation (how accurate were clocks in those days?) for re-dating purposes they could pretty well set one. (Bugger, that’s reminded me of something but I may have posted on it already. Heck, I’ll do it again, regardless) …

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      • Reaction, smaction … lacks the resonance and OOMPH of the first explosion.
        Simply not sexy enough—but banging, now that’s sexy … …

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      • Oops … dum’ dog. Bark in haste, repent when reading numbers later. But if no-one else notices, I shan’t …

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  11. Regardless of the artefact chosen, the first science is a brilliant idea. The medium is the massage – he said that too. I grew up in Toronto and went to U of T, that’s where you’d find McLuhan and Northrop Frye. I actually took The Bible and English Literature with Frye the last year he taught it (it was video taped), but I missed Marshall, too late.

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  12. ““the medium is the message,” meaning the medium (the calendar itself) influences how the message (human history) is perceived. In no small way, this entirely painless recalibration would fundamentally shift the very way we look at our history, and if you change that then you alter the very way we look at ourselves regardless of borders, culture, or belief systems… and that, my friend, is priceless.”

    John, this post is quite insightful. Great suggestion. I also think exrelayman had an great suggestion regarding the days in the week, highlighting, as well,“The power of the old superstitions with their sacred 7th day of the week.”

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      • Ah well, I didn’t want to how to hog the limelight and impose my own musical scale on the time scale.

        Anyway, maybe we should be moving toward a time where religion isn’t the overriding principle it is based upon, yet a timely reminder of its demise might still be in order?
        ergo:
        Before Fragmentary Uppity Christian Kingdom & After Fragmentary Uppity Christian Kingdom.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I teach a course for our honors program on the history of time where we look at the scientific history of time keeping devices, as well as a history of our understanding of the vastness of time. As a project I have the students come up with a new clock or a new calendar. We also talk about different cultural perspectives of time as well. One of the things I try to impress upon them is that our system for measuring time is completely arbitrary, just as it is for measuring distance whether it is the metric system or the old imperial system. But I think we’d have an easier time getting people to change to a new system of measuring space than we would time. For 5/7ths of the people they probably don’t even care too much about time at all. Clock consciousness is well correlated with strong economies (also being futher away from the equator) and so for the time being, the people who really care about what year it is and what time of day it is are the western nations where Christianity was most prevalent. Ultimately I think the more important thing is to educate people about time. Many more people think that the way we measure time is the only way we measure time, but very few people think that for measuring space. The history of time is actually a fascinating story and if this was taught with the same vigor as the history of spatial exploration of Earth I think this would go a long way to helping people put human history in context. The discovery of the vastness of time, in my opinion is such a large jump in time compared to how long we thought we were around for that I think many people find it incomprehensible so education about time earlier in a child’s development would be beneficial.

    That being said I like any sort of out of the box thinking when it comes to the measurement of time. It’s rare.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m envious of your students. That sounds like a course I’d salivate in. It’s a dream of mine to collect time pieces, together with ancient navigation devises. I want to own the Super Compilation!

      In the very off chance that you have not seen this video, enjoy. I couldn’t help but think of it reading your most excellent comment

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have not seen that video…thank you for sharing. I have shown some other similar type stuff, but I like this one better. Time is definitely a fascination of mine. It all began when I was in grad school and I was having a discussion with one of the engineers, and he was saying how we measure time so linearly and yet we are capable of very non-linear thinking and that maybe the way we measure time was bad for our way of thinking. I remember at that point sort of scoffing thinking “well that’s all well and good but what other choice do we have?”. Several years later I started subscribing to this journal called Daedalus put out by the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and started reading some articles on the history of time and our understanding of it and began to realize how arbitrary it all was. Even if some of it is astronomically based, even the rotation rate of the earth is inconstant. And I started to think that maybe it’s time we came up with another way to measure time. I am not sure that will every happen, but it’s nice to think about. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  14. You people have missed the obvious. Everyone knows that civilization began with the brewing of beer. Radio Carbon Date the oldest beer remains or do what all good drunks do. BS it! BB Before Beer and AB: After Beer! Or make it easier. AB. Anno Beerum!

    Like

  15. Somehow missed this interesting post until now.

    I’ve sometimes wondered if people in the far future might not measure time from the first human crewed spaceflight, which would be Yuri Gagarin in 1961. In Vernor Vinge’s sci-fi novel ‘A Deepness in the Sky’, people in the far future measure time from Jan 1, 1970 because that’s the date that Unix time measures from, although it’s close enough to the date of the first moon landing that many assume they’re marking time from that event.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What surprises me most about the Thaïs bone is that I can’t find any information on using the 3 1/2 years of data matching new moons to solstices to find exact dates in that time period for when the bone was marked. I know that there would be hundreds of possible periods from such a calculation, but with future additional refinements of dating for the bone, we could get lucky and determine a precise date for the bone.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Leap Day 2016 | Amusing Nonsense

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