This series based on a simple premise, the universe is essentially only how you yourself perceive it. If you change what you know about the universe, then to you, you have essentially changed the universe itself. In this series, James Burke explores nine key moments in the history of the Western world when the introduction of new knowledge and/or technology has led to profound changes in how the West thinks. These include things like the introduction of Guttenberg's printing press, Copernicus's sun centered universe model and Darwin's publishing of his theory of evolution. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I must at the outset confess to a certain bias writing about James Burke. We were both late depression babies born in Northern Ireland, in and near Derry, he a year earlier than myself. We both share a network vision of history as the cause/effect of the interplay of individuals responding to existing conditions and circumstances, sometime with absolutely ironic results. To me, it was always significantly ironic that Karl Marx's inspirator for his social evolutionary model of the Social Man was based on the writings of Lewis Henry Morgan who was the great financier and archcapitalist, J. Pierrepont Morgan's uncle. In his work, Connections, Burke has gone on to explore literally dozens of these baffling circumstances to demonstrate the rather capricious nature of history. And, he has always done it in a witty, entertaining but educating fashion. The series reviewed here, The Day the Universe Changed, was based in large part on work from his earlier Connections but always had a solid political economic basis to it, e.g., his discussion of the role of English Peasant markets and fairs and the rise of early capitalism in pre-reconnaissance England. His presentations were fun to see and wonderful in their solid basis of social and ecological facts. Alas, while we are presently confronted with people spending their time and energy gaw-gawing over who will be the next American Idol, it's nice to look back and refresh our memories that there was a time when we were give substance and wit as entertainment instead of some mindless worship of some feckless celebrity cavorting in a way that will be ultimately boring to the next generation of viewers.
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