Columbus Day is a terrible holiday


So this guy sails over to the New World, kills and enslaves some local populations, brings human beings back to Europe as curiosities, and also unleashes a whole series of nasty plagues that devastate the people of the American continents over the next several centuries…and we celebrate this event?

How about if we don’t?

Here’s a great suggestion: rededicate the day to exploration, and do it in the name of Neil Armstrong, someone who didn’t initiate a wave of genocide and was by all accounts a decent human being. It serves two purposes: it stops enshrining a rather nasty event, and starts celebrating a noble purpose. Easy. It’s such an obvious idea, I don’t know why we haven’t done it already.

Sign the petition.

Oh. It’s got 90 signatures so far. It needs 25,000. That’s why it hasn’t happened yet.

Comments

  1. blf says

    And not celebrate a guy who used an not-accepted in his own time estimate for the Earth’s radius, whose first landing was on a we-still-don’t-know-which island, deliberately kept a fraudulent logbook, and tried to profit from the enslavement of the natives?

    Guy’s obviously a hero!

    And he proved the Earth was round…

  2. mythbri says

    I’d celebrate Armstrong Day. Much better than celebrating someone who, other than the things you said, “discovered” an already peopled continent pretty much by accident.

  3. scrutationaryarchivist says

    But, PZ, how will we instill patriotism without solemnizing a landing in a foreign country three centuries before the U.S. was founded?

    And how will the recent Italian immigrants get any recognition as Americans without highlighting their tenuous connection to U.S. history?

  4. says

    That comic is wrong. What Columbus day is really about, is winning the Italian vote for your political party.

    In any case, I find Columbus day a confusing holiday. That’s because my wife get’s the day off, but I don’t.

  5. says

    Columbus, of course, didn’t discover America: he didn’t intend to discover America, didn’t think he had discovered America and most decidedly wasn’t even the first European to reach America. So naturally we celebrate Columbus Day—presumably to help him get over the awful misery of his triple disappointment.

    It’s not a simple as ‘earlier inhabitants good, explorers-and-settlers-and-what-have-you-for-whom-Columbus-is-a-convenient-symbol bad’.

    The description in the cartoon is naive, those already here when Europe discovered what became America were neither better nor worse than anyone else, and they too came from elsewhere (and killed and appropriated when they considered it necessary, just like the later arrivals). And the Columbusoids were of course behaving just like them, and everyone else too.

    The interesting bit about the discovery of ‘America’ was that it was a significant step in the discovery of Discovery. The fact that printing was taking off in a big way and the most important event of 1492:
          “Fourteen hundred and ninety two
            The Spanish conquered Grenada: Wooo!”

    meant that Columbus’s voyage was published all over Europe in remarkably quick order.
    That’s what’s important about it.
    We may look with nostalgia at what was lost, and regret it, but it always seems silly to me to do these exercises in pretense. Next thing you’ll be insisting that BCE and CE represent quite, quite different eras from BC (or AC) and AD.
    Some things you can’t help.

  6. jjgdenisrobert says

    Liked the comic but “peaceful land” is a lie, and “simple folk” is a paternalistic, even racist bit of nonsense. Sure, the Europeans were a nasty, brutish lot when they came to America, but America was certainly not a paradise when they got here. We shouldn’t be blind to the realities of Native American life because of our collective guilt at destroying it…

  7. says

    Columbus was also a lucky fool. The reason people scoffed at him was not because they believed the earth was flat — sailors knew perfectly well it was spherical. However, people also knew that the earth was approximately 24,000 miles in circumference, which means that if you tried to sail west from Europe to Asia, you would die of starvation long before you arrived. Columbus claimed the earth was only about 16,000 miles around, making his project feasible.

    He was wrong, obviously, and should have died with all his men, but he accidentally ran into a continent he didn’t know about. Some hero.

  8. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    I think I might be a cylon. I just got rejected by captcha at least a dozen times in a row. Oh well, back to my “fuck petitions” stance.

  9. dianne says

    I like the cartoon overall, but can we PLEASE dump the noble savage nonsense? It was never true. People struggled against nature, caused extinction, overfarmed, and fought terrible wars before the Europeans even thought about whether the world might be round or not. Amerind cultures were far more complex and interesting than the new age concept of the “peaceful people living in harmony with nature” would have you believe.

  10. says

    cervantes
    There is some (at least a little) evidence that cod fishermen had been visiting the banks off the north North American coast for quite some time BC (Before Columbus).
    He may have known this.
    (I don’t have my books to hand nor the time to google it now. Damn meeting coming up).

  11. Thomathy, Holy Trinity of Conflation: Atheist-Secularist-Darwinist says

    I believe it’s a certain fact that Cod Fishermen had been coming from practically all over Europe, but certainly at the earliest from Norway and other Northern coastal countries, long before Columbus. They’re preserved in logs. Iceland certainly was conducting fishing off the coast as well, and early on.

    I will never understand the American obsession (not universal, of course) over this non-discoverer.

  12. dianne says

    I have to admit that I love the concept that we have to celebrate Columbus Day or Colubmus’ shade will come “discover” us again. But I’m sure Neil Armstrong’s shade could kick Columbus’s shade’s butt, so I’m not worried about changing the holiday.

  13. Thomathy, Holy Trinity of Conflation: Atheist-Secularist-Darwinist says

    It’s also, I thought, not disputed, that unofficial voyages had been made by practically every seafaring nation in Europe, particularly by the Spanish (having had slightly better boats, adapted to become the English Dogger) well before any official voyages or discoveries.

    IIRC, cod was an immensely important fish to Catholics due to a certain decree by a Pope, and essentially sustained fish markets across Europe, led to several serious conflicts and even the Hanseatic League had their hands in it at one point.
    _____

    I’m not ‘mercan, but I can see A Neil Armstrong Day being a good thing.

  14. pHred says

    Well, my college voted out Columbus Day a few years ago. Since we are a state institution we still had to comply with the federal work calendar, so we instituted Fall Recess instead and, do to the number of federal holidays that fall on Mondays, this year we don’t even have that, so school will be in session for Columbus Day this year and next.

  15. sundiver says

    I celebrate Aldrin-Armstrong day on July 20. Neil himself felt that the real accomplishment was getting Eagle down in one piece and that the “first man on the Moon” stuff was BS. A friend of mine from Ohio refers to Columbus (both the city and the man) as ComeBlowUs, not being too fond of the city or the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea”. And I always thought “Ocean Sea” was was somewhat somewhat redundant redundant.

  16. sundiver says

    And I should really refer to July 20 as Aldrin-Armstrong-Collins Day (gotta keep things in alphabetical order) seeing as the mission was designed for three people and each one’s role was vital to the success of the flight. So Columbus Day means not jackshcitt to me. I recall in the coverage of Apollo 11 that at least one commentator mentioned the fact that Columbus didn’t really know where he was going and didn’t know where he was when he got there.

  17. golkarian says

    I agree for the most part but I take issue with the cartoon’s depiction of the New World as “peaceful”. The Aztecs at the very least weren’t peaceful, probably most other natives weren’t either (just like most Europeans weren’t).

  18. jamessweet says

    I like the cartoon overall, but can we PLEASE dump the noble savage nonsense? It was never true. People struggled against nature, caused extinction, overfarmed, and fought terrible wars before the Europeans even thought about whether the world might be round or not.

    Agreed; I noticed that too. Although it’s true there were no Juggaloes….

  19. barfy says

    Neil Armstrong was somebody who seemed worthy of emulation, but not a holiday.

    I have had this argument with friends of mine about the proper way to place Neil Armstrong in the context of history.

    As the first human on the Moon, I would argue that he had a duty to public relations towards science and engineering for that honor. Because it is an honor to be chosen to represent those best parts of the scientific and political endeavors of thousands of people whose names we will never know, Neil Armstrong had a duty to place himself on the public stage. A duty, that for the most part, he did not recognize.

    I realize that, while it may be appealing to have a heroic figure who does not seek out the vanity or the riches of the limelight, it did not ameliorate the need that a hungry public has to humanize the experience.

    Also, our collective experience with Neil Armstrong speaks to the nature of how we define a hero. In my definition, a hero is made when a person acts in a way that s/he would otherwise not choose to act by taking a significant personal risk against their own selfish interests.

    I would love to go to the Moon. Sign me up.

    Although, I’m sure that I would fall far short of Neil Armstrong in qualifications, I bet my desire is similar.

  20. dianne says

    Although it’s true there were no Juggaloes…

    There were no Juggaloes in Europe either. It was a kinder, saner time…well, apart from the constant war, persecution, and genocide. On both sides of the Atlantic.

  21. says

    Columbus had plenty of chances to not be an asshole too. He was expelled from court and died more or less penniless because he insisted he deserved more slaves and a bigger encomienda.

    Also, can I please get a citation on extinction? It’s not that I can’t imagine native americans doing it, I’d to know how the matter was studied.

  22. says

    Re: Richard del Guru:

    Indeed, Scandinavian sailors were aware of the Labrador coast, and this news probably made it to a few people in southern Europe, but as far as they knew it was just an island. Columbus’s argument to Ferdinand and Isabella was definitely not that there might be a continent out there — he said he was going to sail to Asia, and that he could make it because the earth was smaller than most people thought.

  23. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    And I always thought “Ocean Sea” was was somewhat somewhat redundant redundant.

    These days, perhaps, but to the Ancient Greeks “Ocean” was the name of a specific body of water–the river that they believed encircled the earth. So in that context, “Ocean Sea” is no more redundant than, say, “Red Sea”.

    Oh, and those “Spanish” cod fisherman? They were Basque. Euskadi ez da Espainia! (Somewhat tongue-in-cheek.)

  24. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    It’s also, I thought, not disputed, that unofficial voyages had been made by practically every seafaring nation in Europe – Thomathy

    [I dispute it; citation needed]

  25. Richard Smith says

    While there were no Juggaloes, there was a more legitimate ignorance of how fucking magnets worked…

  26. says

    The description in the cartoon is naive, those already here when Europe discovered what became America were neither better nor worse than anyone else, and they too came from elsewhere (and killed and appropriated when they considered it necessary, just like the later arrivals). And the Columbusoids were of course behaving just like them, and everyone else too.

    Exterminating less than the Imperial powers that came calling may not be a high bar, but it is still a bar that was met.

  27. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    As to Columbus, aside from thinking that the Earth was smaller than it actually is, he also thought that Eurasia stretched further east than it actually does.

    So, Columbus was religiously intolerant, arrogant, racist, and willfully ignorant of the science of his day. He would’ve fit right in with the Republican party.

  28. pipenta says

    Okay, ditch Columbus, but keep it an Italian American pride day.

    Because freeze-dried ice cream and Tang make for crap holiday eats.

  29. jakc says

    As people have pointed out, the Greeks and many others knew the world was spherical 2000 years before Columbus. Plato knew; Aristotle knew and Eratosthenes measured the circumference of the Earth in 250 BCE. Columbus also thought that Asia extended into the western hemisphere. Columbus Day is the equivalent of honoring a climate change denier. The guy was just wrong about geographSouth Dakota changed it to Native American day (more American Indian voters there than Italians]. Name July 20 for the Apollo astronauts and October for the people who found the continent first.

  30. Becca Stareyes says

    I do admit a fondness for Indigenous People’s Day instead of Columbus Day since we can use July 20th to celebrate the Apollo astronauts, and we already celebrate human spaceflight with Yuri’s Night.

    Not that landing two people on another body (and sending three people there and back) isn’t an achievement*, but recognizing the cultures and people who lived and still live where we Americans now live also seems like a good idea.

    * For that matter, Columbus not getting himself killed by his own math errors and lack of knowledge/a clue is pretty impressive, but not worthy of a holiday.

  31. says

    In primary school (late 60’s) we learned all about Lief The Lucky and Vinland (IIRC then identified as prob Cape Cod area — I don’t think the L’Anse Aux Meadows site had been properly studied yet, or they’d have been sure to teach us that, for the Canadian angle). The point about Columbus, as it was explained to us, was that his voyage was the first contact that really “took”, and ushered in the era of colonization.

    ‘Cuz us Euro-trash are the only people who really matter, right?

  32. dianne says

    Wait, wait, I just realized-we’re all wrong! We should be celebrating Columbus Day and consider Columbus’ “discovery” definitely a good thing. You see, if Columbus hadn’t hit the “New World” when he did, Spanish settlers wouldn’t have been able to follow shortly thereafter, and my ancestors would have had no place to run from the Inquisition. Therefore, they wouldn’t have been able to live long enough to have children and (eventually) I would never have been born. And we know from the “pro-life” movement that anything that leads to one’s birth, no matter how horrible it may have seemed at the time, is a good thing, therefore the whole genocide via slavery and germ warfare must have been a fine thing. What, that isn’t the message I’m supposed to draw from the “what if your mother had had an abortion” argument? Never mind. Carry on.

  33. totalretard says

    The Columbus invasion isn’t as simple as often depicted. Two of my favorite books about the subject are 1491 and 1493.

    There is one other Columbus Day event we need to celebrate that is often neglected in our history books. 120 years ago Francis Bellamy (a Socialist — gasp) officially dedicated the Pledge of Allegiance on Columbus Day 1892. (He had actually introduced it a couple months earlier so that school children could practice the choreography that went with the Pledge — ending in the ‘Ballamy Salute’. Many years ago, I could actually do the choreography.)

    Why is this so important (other than pledging our allegiance to a piece of cloth rather than a way of government)? It stemmed the tide of unwashed immigrants who might mistakenly think they owed their allegiance to the pope. (No, I’m not kidding.) There was something else. I’m sure everyone remembers the Bellamy pledge: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The problem is glaring, especially considering that Bellamy was a Baptist minister and that this replaced the oath to the flag by Colonel Balch from 1889 (“We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one Flag”).

    Leave it to the Knights of Columbus, who knew nothing of the history of the pledge, to realize that “under God” was missing. (The other defects were repaired by 3 earlier amendments to the pledge.) In 1954, they were successful, and I had to relearn the pledge. That leaves only one thing that I feel confident the Tea Party and Republicans will give us. That, of course, is that we have neglected putting “one language” in our pledge — something that is in Balch’s oath. That should take care of those immigrants — even the ones we suspect of popish sedition.

    One other point worth mentioning is that Bellamy was strongly considering putting the word “equality” into the pledge. He realized that would never fly in America. Wise man!

    Earlier I mentioned the choreography that was required for a proper pledge and that it began and ended with a ‘Bellamy salute’. I suspect over 99.9% of Americans are unfamiliar with this today. For those who haven’t experienced it, two other countries copied this fine tradition: Italy and Germany. Most people think this is either a Nazi or Fascist salute. Since I suspect no one will believe me, look at the photos in this article: Bellamy salute. As I said earlier, I used to be able to do the complete choreography.

    There is much more to the history of the pledge, but I hope this synopsis will suffice.

  34. scrutationaryarchivist says

    So, let me see if I have this right:

    April 12 — Yuri’s Night
    July 20 — Moon Landing Day
    Oct. 12 — Indigenous People’s Day
    Oct. 12 — Italian-American Appreciation Day
    2nd Monday in Oct. — Thank a Canadian Day

    Did I miss anything?

  35. says

    Yuri Gagarin is important and all, but if there’s a celebration of any sort that is Yuri Day or Yuri Appreciation Day or Yuri’s Day or some such, me and my girlfriend will be devoting it to practicing our girl on girl. Sorry if that’s disrespectful to dead russian scientists or whatnot.

  36. candiron says

    What an idiot you are.
    “unleashes a whole series of nasty plagues”

    As if this was done on purpose.

    I also note the liberal brain damage from which you suffer. You like to idealize the indigenous peoples, as if they had no moral short comings of their own. You do this partly because you have been conditioned to do so by libtards who want to guilt you into ceding your freedoms and liberties to them. Also perhaps to justify your hatred against people against whom you have grudges.

    Why not grow up and accept that Columbus was a brave, clever man, whose discovery it is completely appropriate to celebrate?

    The fact that you need an ideal “sinless” man to idealize should also tell you something about the faith that you reject. Why do you have this need if there is not a proper object of it? Perhaps the one you reject.

  37. Amphiox says

    I also note the liberal brain damage from which you suffer.

    That’s because of the brain damage you yourself have suffered, specifically to your mirror-neurons.

    Don’t worry. Help is available.

    You like to idealize the indigenous peoples, as if they had no moral short comings of their own.

    This is a manifestation of an arcane phenomenon known as “making stuff up that isn’t there”.

    (Oh, and don’t forget, Columbus brought syphilis BACK to the Old World and unleashed a plague THERE.)

  38. sycrus says

    Hello, new guy here.

    Funny, I had never heard of this Columbus Day. So, naturally, I did a quick Wikipedia search and, wouldn’t you know it, this thing seems to be celebrated almost everywhere in the Americas, but not in Brazil, which is my country.

    Probably because we here put so much on an emphasis on Pedro Álvares Cabral (You WON’T find a Brazilian that doesn’t know that Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil. You just won’t. Trust me.) that Columbus is shoved on the back seat of the whole discovery thing. We actually do have a holyday for Cabral’s Discovery Day (April 22) and an unrelated Indigenous People’s Day (April 19).

    Ah, well, as a big time space exploration fanboy (a friend of mine even calls me “bona fide space cadet”, and I’m guilty as charged) I give my full support for Neil Armstrong Day!

  39. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    Me:

    So, Columbus was religiously intolerant, arrogant, racist, and willfully ignorant of the science of his day. He would’ve fit right in with the Republican party.

    Candiron:

    Why not grow up and accept that Columbus was a brave, clever man, whose discovery it is completely appropriate to celebrate?

    Thanks for demonstrating my point.

  40. says

    Why not grow up and accept that Columbus was a brave, clever man

    Look, other people are handling the rest, but on this point, WTF? He was a lucky idiot. He didn’t deduce some truth about the world; the world being round was known. It’s general *circumference* was known. People weren’t funding westward expeditions because it wasn’t possible to pack enough food to make it to Asia; these are facts, and correctly deduced ones. He got lucky to hit a continent that people did not really know about.

  41. Amphiox says

    Columbus succeeded because he grossly miscalculated the actual distance he would actually have needed to travel to reach what he thought was his goal.

    He was damn lucky that the Americas just happened to be there, or else he would have died a slow, miserable death of starvation, and his expedition would have never been heard from again.

  42. What a Maroon, el papa ateo says

    Why not grow up and accept that Columbus was a brave, clever man, whose discovery it is completely appropriate to celebrate?

    I thought your lot was opposed to illegal immigration.

  43. anathema says

    @ candiron (#46):

    What an idiot you are.
    “unleashes a whole series of nasty plagues”

    As if this was done on purpose.

    Has anyone said that Columbus and his crew did this on purpose?

    I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone whose made that claim, ever. Certainly not here.

    I also note the liberal brain damage from which you suffer. You like to idealize the indigenous peoples, as if they had no moral short comings of their own.

    Did you read any of the earlier comments on this thread before you posted? Because I saw several people decrying the noble savage trope already.

    Why not grow up and accept that Columbus was a brave, clever man, whose discovery it is completely appropriate to celebrate?

    Brave? Yeah, probably. But clever? Not so much.

    Columbus had some rather bizarre ideas about the size and shape of the world. He clung to them even when the evidence showed that he was wrong. I just don’t see why you would think that Columbus was clever.

    And I’m not entirely sure why Columbus deserves to be celebrated. Why do you think that it’s a completely appropriate thing to celebrate?

  44. joed says

    What a quintessential white male amerikan thinks of columbus day:
    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2569

    good ol’ paul harvey tells it like it is:

    Harvey concluded:

    We didn’t come this far because we’re made of sugar candy. Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and across this continent by giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. That was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever.

    And we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves. So it goes with most great nation-states, which–feeling guilty about their savage pasts–eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry up-and-coming who are not made of sugar candy.

  45. joed says

    Seems to me columbus was a monster. rape and slavery are morally wrong, always have been and always will be. many folks like to justify slavery, and rape too.
    http://www.commondreams.org/views04/1011-27.htm

    Columbus Day Celebration? Think Again…

    “Columbus and his men also used the Taino as sex slaves: it was a common reward for Columbus’ men for him to present them with local women to rape. As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the sex-slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: “A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand.”

  46. says

    PZ, I have two questions for you:

    1. Back on August 9 when the Alexander Aan petition was failing, you said on Twitter that because of “huge amt of disillusionment with White House” that these White House petitions were “pointless”.

    What has changed since then that you now find them worthy of attention?

    2. The first name and last initial of everyone who signs are visible on all White House petitions. I note that on this petition, nobody with the name “PZ M” and nobody from Morris, MN has signed it. (Incidentally, that was true of the Aan petition as well).

    Why should your readers sign a petition that you didn’t?

  47. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: “A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand.” – joed

    If this quote is accurate, it would seem to be one which, if widely publicized, should and probably would bring a swift end to Columbus Day.

  48. susan says

    @joed
    Heh. Tough-guy Paul Harvey, who couldn’t make it through three months in the military.

  49. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    To add one more comment on candiron’s ignorance and stupidity – fully equal to that of his hero – Columbus, even from the imperialist viewpoint, was such a totally useless administrator that a Spanish royal commissioner, sent out to investigate complaints against him, deposed him as governor of the Hispaniolan settlement, and shipped him back to Spain in irons. He never accepted that he’d found a new continent, insisting until his dying day that he’d reached Asia.

  50. joed says

    @59 Nick Gotts (formerly KG)
    I can verify the accuracy of the quote. I just copy/paste it form the source I cited. I don’t know how true the quote is. I think the author of the article is well know to many. I don’t follow him but many do. Thom Hartmann is the author and I think he is a historian.
    I would like to see the quote widely publicized but I doubt it would change many minds about ol’ Columbus.

  51. candiron says

    Nick, you merely demonstrate your own dishonesty and stupidity in trying to change the subject. Was Columbus Day ever meant to celebrate Columbus’ talent as a bureaucrat? Are you some moronic dullard who works at the DMV who regards bureaucratic efficiency as the ultimate standard of human excellence? Maybe you can scrape around and find some obscure department head that you think deserves the holiday instead. :p

    You fail to address Slee Z Meyer’s dishonesty and hypocrisy, and merely showcase your own. Perhaps you’re too dumb to follow the actual argument? I can spell it out in words of one syllable for you, just let me know. ;>)

  52. consciousness razor says

    I can verify the accuracy of the quote. I just copy/paste it form the source I cited. I don’t know how true the quote is.

    ??? … That means you can’t verify its accuracy.

    I just googled a bit. I don’t know who the letter was supposed to be written for. I can only find that it’s to “a friend,” which isn’t much of a source.

    I see that it’s quoted in Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, which cites Jennings’ Invasion of America. I’ve read neither.

  53. echidna says

    If this quote is accurate, it would seem to be one which, if widely publicized, should and probably would bring a swift end to Columbus Day.

    Columbus talks about this in his journal; I looked it up some years ago after reading “Lies my teacher told me”. Paying his sailors in girls as young as 10 rather than land was cheaper.

  54. echidna says

    I’m not talking about the quote from the letter, but the journal makes his attitude towards native girls very clear. He was bad even for his time.

  55. Amphiox says

    candiron is another good example of cargo culting, using the forms of the words ‘dishonesty’ and ‘hypocrisy’ in slavish imitation of others without the foggiest clue as to their actual meaning.

  56. says

    I’d suggest converting it into an ethnic drinking day (a la St Pats and Cinco de Mayo) to celebrate Italian-American heritage, but I think there’s already a couple of summer feast days that could suffice. That, or perhaps September 20, the day in 1870 of the fall of the Papal States and the annexation of Rome into Italy.

  57. joed says

    @66 consciousness razor
    I don’t know–take it up with Thom Hartmann.

    “I see that it’s quoted in Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, which cites Jennings’ Invasion of America. I’ve read neither.”
    Well, that’s certainly not the type of lies my teachers told me. They told me Columbus had to borrow the money to prove Earth is not flat. Columbus was a great explorer, (and mathematician?)

  58. Brownian says

    I’d suggest converting it into an ethnic drinking day (a la St Pats and Cinco de Mayo) to celebrate Italian-American heritage

    In some Canadian communities, people celebrate Giovanni Caboto Day.

  59. cm's changeable moniker says

    Nick […] Are you some moronic dullard who works at the DMV

    *teehee*

    The weather in Swansea’s looking OK for the weekend though.

  60. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    candiron:

    What an idiot you are.

    What is your basis for calling PZ an idiot? Simply because you don’t agree with him?

    “unleashes a whole series of nasty plagues”

    As if this was done on purpose.

    A horrible action can be excused if it wasn’t done on purpose?

    I also note the liberal brain damage from which you suffer.

    You’re qualified to make statements about the mental health of an individual-online, no less-exactly *how*?

    You like to idealize the indigenous peoples, as if they had no moral short comings of their own.

    Given the comic’s inclusion of the ridiculous ‘noble savages’ nonsense, I can see how you might think PZ feels the same way (I don’t think we can make that determination based on the comic), but at no point does he speak about the morality of the indigenous peoples. So how exactly do you gather that he feels they had no moral shortcomings?
    Since they were human, it’s certain they had moral failings.
    Sure, I’ll grant you that.
    Does that mean they deserved to be decimated?

    You do this partly because you have been conditioned to do so by libtards who want to guilt you into ceding your freedoms and liberties to them.

    Oh, armchair psychoanalysis. Again, your qualifications?
    Also noted: your vile ableist speech. There is nothing wrong with people who suffer from mental disabilities.

    Also perhaps to justify your hatred against people against whom you have grudges.

    Explain how you arrive at this conclusion.
    You think he hates “people”.
    Who are these “people”?
    You think he has a grudge against these “people”.
    How is this grudge evident?

    Why not grow up and accept that Columbus was a brave, clever man, whose discovery it is completely appropriate to celebrate?

    Why don’t you grow up and accept that Columbus did not discover America, nor was he clever (I’ll grant you ‘brave’)?
    Why do you believe the “discovery” of America is to be held sacred, but the death and destruction he brought with him is unimportant?

    The fact that you need an ideal “sinless” man to idealize should also tell you something about the faith that you reject. Why do you have this need if there is not a proper object of it? Perhaps the one you reject.

    I see no mention of looking for a sinless man. In fact, I’m reasonably certain PZ wouldn’t look for a sinless man. That whole “not believing in god” thing means there is no “sin”.
    PZ characterized Neil Armstrong as “a decent human being”, not a sinless man.

    Your homework:

    Learn to read for comprehension.
    Stop projecting your ridiculous hateful views onto other people.
    Go educate yourself.
    Stop whitewashing history.
    Stop insulting people with disabilities.

  61. candiron says

    Amphiox, perhaps your memory is the thing that’s getting a bit foggy. I explained why I used those terms in my first comment. Perhaps you’re suffering from some cognitive disability that doesn’t allow you to scroll up to read the older posts?

    I could repeat my arguments, but if you were too dim to get it the first time and have no real interest in understanding them anyway, why bother?

    Have a nice day.

  62. Brownian says

    Why not grow up and accept that Columbus was a brave, clever man, whose discovery it is completely appropriate to celebrate?

    Why not grow up and accept that Columbus didn’t ‘discover’ anything any more than I discovered Tacoma.

  63. Brownian says

    who want to guilt you into ceding your freedoms and liberties to them.

    What a fucking dipshit. This is why the only way to explain anything to a conservative is with a Louisville Slugger with a spike through it.

    Then you can have their house!

  64. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    but if you were too dim to get it the first tim

    Since they were fuckwittery then, and fuckwittery now, why bother. The fault is with you…

  65. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    candiron:

    Are you some moronic dullard who works at the DMV who regards bureaucratic efficiency as the ultimate standard of human excellence?

    Your idea of human excellence is a man who accidentally stumbled upon a new landmass (and acting like that’s something worth celebrating) and who brought a lot of pain, suffering, misery, and death to a lot of people?
    You have incredibly low standards of human excellence.

    BTW, if you’re going to continue to idealize Columbus, it’s entirely appropriate for someone to mention that he was
    [per Nick]

    a totally useless administrator that a Spanish royal commissioner.

  66. cm's changeable moniker says

    Bit surprised to not see Howard Zinn. Let me fix that.

    To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it’s not that important–it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.

    It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth [… but the] historian’s distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.

    [… It] is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.

    To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves–unwittingly–to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)–that is still with us.

    http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinncol1.html

  67. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    candiron:

    I could repeat my arguments

    Wait, you had arguments?
    Your first post in this thread included no arguments. You slung mud and made unsupported assertions, along with tried and failed at armchair psychological analysis.

    In logic and philosophy, an argument is an attempt to persuade someone of something, by giving reasons or evidence for accepting a particular conclusion
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument

    More homework for you:
    Learn how to construct an argument.

  68. candiron says

    PZ should have made his living selling cold cuts.

    “‘Cause PZ Myers has a way
    With B-O-L-O-G-N-A”

    Shame you all uncritically stuff your faces with it (made from “facts” he pulls out of his nether regions).

    Hopefully someday he’ll discover a clue, and we can all celebrate that.

  69. Amphiox says

    Amphiox, perhaps your memory is the thing that’s getting a bit foggy. I explained why I used those terms in my first comment.

    Just because you “explained” the terms you tried to use doesn’t mean your “explanations” bore any merit, or that they demonstrated any actual understanding on your part as to the actual meaning of the terms you attempted so feebly to use.

    (spoiler: they didn’t)

  70. Brownian says

    Shame you all uncritically stuff your faces with it (made from “facts” he pulls out of his nether regions).

    Yawn.

  71. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    PZ should have made his living selling cold cuts.

    Evidently you do. Your arguments are sliced too thin, so thin your in-laws will never return…

  72. says

    PZ should have made his living selling cold cuts.

    “‘Cause PZ Myers has a way
    With B-O-L-O-G-N-A”

    Wow, impressive how you marshal the evidence to support your point of view. We stand in awe of your superior intellect.
    Actually, I re-read your first post, and I will admit, you don’t waste words. You jump right into a mis-characterization of PZ’s point about Columbus bringing disease to the new world (never said it was deliberate, as if that would matter to the victims or if accidentally causing a plague makes Columbus more worthy of celebration).
    You finish by dismissing the liberal viewpoint as “brain damaged,” which is not only an ablist slur, it’s nothing like what an intelligent person would consider an “argument.”
    This is you: “dih dah dur duh dar dar dar.” That’s what you do.
    Convincing “argument,” isn’t it?
    You ignored all the commenters who pointed out the myth of the “noble savage,” a nice attempt to tag us with a viewpoint that we’ve already expressed disagreement with. Good reading comprehension there.
    But I must admit, substituting “PZ Myers” for “Oscar Meyer” in an old commercial jingle is absolutely the height of reasoned discourse, utterly irrefutable. Truly, your kung fu is the best!

    Shame you all uncritically stuff your faces with it (made from “facts” he pulls out of his nether regions).

    So which “facts” are you disputing? And I mean things he actually presented as facts, not the ones you’ve assigned to him.

    Hopefully someday he’ll discover a clue, and we can all celebrate that.

    Maybe you could like, provide some clues–you know, help us out with the real information we’re so obviously lacking. You have some, right? Or is your debating repertoire limited to minor rewrites of commercial jingles?

  73. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    candiron:

    Shame you all uncritically stuff your faces with it (made from “facts” he pulls out of his nether regions).

    Hopefully someday he’ll discover a clue, and we can all celebrate that.

    You have yet to produce one single argument, nor have you cited anything to support the gibberish you’ve spouted, yet PZ pulls facts out of his ass?

  74. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Noisy trolls are always evidenceless. Why I don’t know. If I have evidence, it is good to lead with it. Why don’t you candiron…

  75. says

    No, seriously, candiron, keep telling us how Columbus was a smart dude who knew his stuff. Next you’ll tell us that he proved the world was round.

    Which, well, appropriate;

    http://fyeahhistorymajorheraldicbeast.tumblr.com/post/3726786937/depressingfacts-tumblr-com

    For reals, it’s really funny to watch you talk about him like he’s awesome, but as an explorer, he was merely lucky. If you want a plucky go getter, you want someone like Zheng He, or if you MUST have a white person, I suppose Magellan (The latter died, granted, and was still a massive asshole)

  76. vaiyt says

    @55:

    The problem with such imperialist thinking is that it assumes the author will be among the ones doing the imperializing, and that everyone else should accept it… for the glory of the nation or something, I dunno.

    So, joed, would you gladly make the example and enslave yourself? Your nation will need all the help it can get to beat the Chinese.

  77. Hammer of dog says

    Petition signed.

    Just because a day off to vote is a good idea. Celebrating our “democracy” would be kind of a joke given the current political financial landscape.

  78. unklesam says

    I just happened to finish “A Voyage Long and Strange” by Tony Horwitz, in which the author tries to learn about the colonization and settlement of the Americas by retracing the travels and trials of various explorers, including Columbus. It’s a pretty interesting attempt to fill in some gaps that the normal American founding myths paper over. It’ll come as no surprise that there’s a good deal of nuance to be found.

  79. neuralobserver says

    Although a a ‘Neil Armstrong Day’ would be honorable, I would agree with some other opinions in the thread that suggest Armstrong, though deserving on character grounds, might be overreaching when looked at more widely.

    As a forever-dedicated science thinker,….Nasa, the space program, the astronauts were all ‘heroic’ to me in my youth. That said, it could be certainly viewed that the astronauts, Armstrong included, were not precisely speaking, explorers (at least in the early days). They were generally fighter and test pilots,… generally military personnel who had the necessary training and experience to pilot the technology, to endure the rigors of space travel, to accept the risk involved in advancing the space program, which was primarily in the 1960’s, mainly arm of a political/military tool needed to counterbalance accelerating Soviet advances in space technology and sciences. Ostensibly, the unspoken aim of both countries was to secure space supremacy for propaganda and military supremacy, with science and exploration perhaps a close second. This was during the ‘bad ole’ days’ of the Cold War, remember.

    As I personally moved through the ’60’s, ’70’s and ’80’s, the information revealed by historians through the past three or four decades has certainly nuanced my view, retrospectively, of those days of exuberant idealism and enthusiasm for science and exploration that drove my youth.

    A ‘Neil Armstrong’ day as a celebration of exploration and discovery? I have no strong disagreement with it. But knowing what we know now about those days, historically speaking, I would temper the the idea that a modest guy who would just consider that he was doing his job, who was in effect part of a larger effort during a highly politicized time in space exploration would be worthy of hero accolades in the form of a day dedicated to him. I would think he would disagree with it,.. all due respect to one of the figures who inspired me.

  80. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    For those that think the suggestion is to name it ‘Neil Armstrong Day':

    A new proposal would put an end to the awkward sanctification of the deeply flawed Columbus while continuing to celebrate his exploratory zeal. The goal: to re-purpose Columbus Day as Exploration Day.
    The plan is the brainchild of Karl Frank, Jr., a self-proclaimed “IT guy” and impassioned science enthusiast from St. Louis. “I’m one of those people who drive my friends nuts with my Facebook posts about cool science articles,” he says. As the news of Neil Armstrong’s death broke, Frank heard a passing comment from a news broadcast comparing the first man on the Moon with Columbus, and it got him thinking. And status updating. “I nonchalantly posted on Facebook that instead of Columbus Day, we ought to have a Neil Armstrong Day,” he recalls, “and it snowballed from there.”
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/09/why-exploration-deserves-a-holiday/

    Note how it [the idea of renaming Columbus Day] snowballed from ‘Neil Armstrong Day’.

    I guess I can see how it seems like PZ is advocating for ‘Neil Armstrong Day’, though I don’t believe that to be the case:

    Here’s a great suggestion: rededicate the day to exploration, and do it in the name of Neil Armstrong

  81. says

    Hmmm…

    While Neil Armstrong and the rest of the crew certainly were incredibly brave, to actually compare them with 15th century sailors (Colombus among them) is a bit silly.

    I’m pretty sure that Neil Armstrong and all the people that worked on the Apollo missions, at least knew a) that the moon does in fact exist and, b) where it is.

    Colombus, because he was an arrogant bastard, although he had access to the most advanced navigation technology of the time, and de most up-to-date maps and astronomic mesurements, was pretty sure that he was smarter than everybody else and that is calculations were correct and everybody else’s wrong.

    The thing is, he actually risked his live to show that he was right and everybody else was wrong. He really sailed a rickety wooden boat towards the unknown. And he was lucky that America does exist, because otherwise he would have died. And, he didn’t have a huge team of experts back home that he could radio in if he got lost, or if he had some problem. If he did got lost or had a problem, he would have died. And no one would ever know. In the end, somewhat ironically, he was in fact wrong. But so was everybody else.

    Sure, lots of things could have gone wrong with Neil’s mission. Yes, no one had landed on the moon before, but remember that the Appollo missions were incremental, they build upon the successes (and the failures) of previous missions. By then everybody (at least at NASA) knew that getting to the moon and back was possible. Every other step, except for the actual landing, had already been done.

    Colombus on the other hand, was trying to do something that no one had tried before, and that the best knowlegde of the time actually said was impossible.

    At least give him some credit for that.

  82. julietdefarge says

    Count me as one of the many Americans who is largely familiar with Columbus Day as a loud and colorful Hispanic holiday. I guess I never lived anywhere where there were enough Italians to put together a parade. It’s also Dia de la Raza, and a day on which various Latino activists have launched protests and other initiatives, so any move against this holiday is going to look racist.

  83. echidna says

    Carlosda, Columbus kept two sets of logs, a fake one and a real one. That was totally illegal, and immoral.

    There has been a lot of myth making about Columbus. He was not a hero.

    I’ve read enough of his journal to know that he was scum. And that is being kind.

  84. vaiyt says

    @100:

    Columbus is a hero because he needlessly risked his life in a mission to do what most people knew was impossible, and stumbled upon a completely unintended result in the process?

  85. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    Was Columbus Day ever meant to celebrate Columbus’ talent as a bureaucrat?

    If you refer to the fact that he couldn’t be arsed to do his calculations properly, that’s not bureaucracy, that’s geometry.

    But I guess that for someone who hasn’t got the neurons to learn it, it’s more comfortable to assume that geometry’s useless.

    But don’t worry, GPS technolgy has made life safer for such people nowadays. You just have to avoid trying to build or design things.

    Or maybe it is the travel logs that you call “bureaucracy”. Well then, you better hope your doctor’s a good bureaucrat.

    Carlosda, Columbus kept two sets of logs, a fake one and a real one. That was totally illegal, and immoral.

    Well, only if you value honesty.

    As scientists, we often forget that many people don’t. At least not in the way we do.

  86. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Nick, you merely demonstrate your own dishonesty and stupidity in trying to change the subject. Was Columbus Day ever meant to celebrate Columbus’ talent as a bureaucrat? Are you some moronic dullard who works at the DMV who regards bureaucratic efficiency as the ultimate standard of human excellence? Maybe you can scrape around and find some obscure department head that you think deserves the holiday instead. :p – candiron

    I’m not a bureaucrat, nor an American – there are other people on this blog, fuckwit. I was merely adding one more piece of information about the stupid scumbag you worship (as I stated in my comment). I can see why you do worship that stupid scumbag, since you so closely resemble him.

  87. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    If he did got lost or had a problem, he would have died. – carlosda fonseca

    Well pre-space age, you couldn’t get much more lost than being wrong about which continent you’re on. Yes, he was brave. So were the 9-11 terrorists. The difference is, Columbus was responsible for a lot more deaths.

  88. Amphiox says

    Was Columbus Day ever meant to celebrate Columbus’ talent as a bureaucrat?

    What Columbus Day was meant to celebrate was the not Columbus’ journey to the New World, but the narrative of his journey to the new world. ie, the “heroic” quest of the white European that “discovered” and thus claimed for the white man, justifying subsequent conquest and occupation, a “new” world.

    One can argue up and down about whether or not Columbus’ actual voyage warrants celebration, but that’s not the point.

    The question is, does this narrative deserve to be celebrated?

  89. katansi says

    Wasn’t it Cortes that brought small pox to the western hemisphere? Don’t get me wrong I don’t think Columbus should have day either but if we’re going to call out exploration catastrophes Cortes needs a shout out.

  90. tomd says

    The idea isn’t to recognize just Neil Armstrong. We want to have a day that recognizes all great explorers and scientists who have contributed to a better understanding of our nation, the world and/or the universe.

    It was the remembrance of how we felt when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon that is the inspiration. Exploration Day would give teachers an opportunity to develop lessons around great people who work or worked in fields of research and exploration. They may be anthropologists, archaeologists, astrophysicists, biologists, chemists, engineers, explorers, paleontologists, inventors, etc.