22 mei 2012

Dawkins: hebben de Romeinen wel bestaan?

Richard Dawkins begint het eerste hoofdstuk van The Greatest Show on Earth (2009), waarin hij het hoe en het waarom van de evolutie uiteenzet, met een parabel:
Imagine that you are a teacher of Roman history and the Latin language, anxious to impart your enthusiasm for the ancient world – for the elegiacs of Ovid and the odes of Horace, the sinewy economy of Latin grammar as exhibited in the oratory of Cicero, the strategic niceties of the Punic Wars, the generalship of Julius Caesar and the voluptuous excesses of the later emperors. That’s a big undertaking and it takes time, concentration, dedication. Yet you find your precious time continually preyed upon, and your class’s attention distracted, by a baying pack of ignoramuses (as a Latin scholar you would know better than to say ‘ignorami’) who, with strong political and especially financial support, scurry about tirelessly attempting to persuade your unfortunate pupils that the Romans never existed. There never was a Roman Empire. The entire world came into existence only just beyond living memory. Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan, Romansh: all these languages and their constituent dialects sprang spontaneously and separately into being, and owe nothing to any predecessor such as Latin. Instead of devoting your full attention to the noble vocation of classical scholar and teacher, you are forced to divert your time and energy to a rearguard defence of the proposition that the Romans existed at all: a defence against an exhibition of ignorant prejudice that would make you weep if you weren’t too busy fighting it.
Waarna Dawkins via de twintigste-eeuwse Holocaust-ontkenners uitkomt bij de beklagenswaardige biologieleraren die, vooral in de Verenigde Staten, moeten opboksen tegen een krachtige lobby van evolutie-ontkenners.
(R. Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth (2009), p. 3.)

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