I saw something a few minutes ago on nationwide television that nobody should ever have to see.
It was an advertisement, promoting the University of Victoria in Wellington New Zealand. There’s nothing exceptional about that, of course, but what the advert said broke the irony meter. This is a University – an institute of higher learning. A place where knowledge and scholarly integrity flourish. Right?
The ad began, and this is nearly verbatim: “In the 14th century most people were sure that the earth was flat.” This was accompanied by a witty animation of a ship falling off the edge of the earth. Ha Ha, what a bunch of idiots they were in those days, huh? Then came the sales pitch: “What are you sure of?” Then a list of subjects appeared on-screen: philosophy, science, history etc. You can come to Victoria University and let them educate you in those subjects!
Science? History? Philosophy? You’re kidding right? You want to encourage people to come and study these things while you peddle this absolutely absurd caricature that compeltely ignores the scientific and philosophical acumen of the middle ages and displays a mythical view of history that no respectable scholar of history would take seriously?
Do just a tiny bit of reading before embarrassing yourself by releasing promotional material like this. If it’s too much effort to actually open the cover of a book, pick up the phone and call someone at your University who teaches on these subjects for goodness’ sake! Heck, even Google could have saved your hide here.
When Prentice-Hall published a book that fell prey to such silly myths about the ignorance of dark age dummies, they were torn to shreds. For example, Lawrence S. Lerner, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at California State University, Long Beach, tore strips off them in an article entitled “nonsense in schoolbooks.” It includes such gems as the label “ignorant fakery” for what Prentice-Hall did by presenting the book at all.
This attrocious misrepresentation of history is debunked at Wikipedia as well.
Jeffrey Burton Russell of the American Scientific Affiliation is on the money, in my ever so humble opinion, when he says that “Contortions that are common today, if not widely recognized, are produced by the incessant attacks on Christianity and religion in general by secular writers during the past century and a half, attacks that are largely responsible for the academic and journalistic sneers at Christianity today.” But “contortions” they clearly are, and that Victoria University propagate them is beyond explanation. As Burton goes on to substantiate, the contortion is itself a recent one, only arising after the trend to attack Christianity as unscientific. “No one before the 1830s believed that medieval people thought that the earth was flat.”
My two cents: Write to the University. Complain. No responsible educational institute should need to let their standards drop in this way. Secondly, study at the University of Otago instead. At least they won’t peddle fairy tales as history. Well, not this one, at least.