Heritage: August 2002 Archives

August 9, 2002

How religion keeps us stupid

The latest issue of Asimov's Science Fiction includes Burning Science at the Stake, an essay by Robert Silverberg examining the history of religious interference in scientific research from the early 14th century ban on dissection to the restrictions on stem cell research in the United States.

From then until the repeal of Boniface's decree in 1556, those who dared conduct studies in human anatomy had to work surreptitiously--the most famous example being that of the anatomist Andreas Vesalius, who would visit places of execution where criminals had been left hanging overnight and carry out secret dissections by torchlight. His famous book of 1543, On the Structure of the Human Body, provided the first reliable information on human anatomy ever compiled. Much persecuted for impiety, Vesalius wandered from country to country and eventually, to escape the Inquisition, undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he died.

The same issue also includes Router, the latest in Charles Stross' Accelerando series.

The queen is young, with disheveled blonde hair and high cheekbones: she wears a tattered black dress over iridescent purple leggings, and sprawls lazily across the arms of her informal throne--an ostentatious lump of nonsense manufactured from a single carbon crystal doped with semiconductors. She got to be queen by almost-accident, parlaying a jurisdictional mix-up and her presence on the first commercial mining probe to make it out to Jupiter into the ownership of a rather small moon, and she hasn't got the royalty thing down pat yet; the scene is very much the morning after the evening before, like a goth night club gone to seed. The decor is all stale smoke and crumpled velvet, wooden church pews, burned-out candles, and gloomy Polish avant-garde paintings.

Nothing to do with religious silliness, intolerance, penises or any of the usual Prattle topics, just me being biased.

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This page is an archive of entries in the Heritage category from August 2002.

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