Saturday, April 05, 2008

That Oath Stupidity Again

I recently finished Andrew Robinson's The Last Man Who Knew Everything: Thomas Young, the Anonymous Polymath Who Proved Newton Wrong, Explained How We See, Cured the Sick and Deciphered the Rosetta Stone. (Highly recommended and the subtitle rather understates his talents.)

Please bear in mind that Young lived during the Enlightenment which our Decent friends are so fond of (and was exceptional even among obvious contemporaries like Benjamin Franklin and Humphrey Davy). Page 56:

He chose to spend the requisite years at Cambridge University, in order to obtain the degree of bachelor of medicine (M.B.). ...
In going to Cambridge University, Young finally had to cut his links with the Quakers. In 1797, in fact as late as 1871 [my emphasis, DW], every candidate for a bachelor's degree at Cambridge had to declare that he was "bona fide a member of the Church of England as by law established." Dissenters were excluded.

That was loyalty oaths then. This is loyalty oaths now. Pacifist Cal State teacher gets job back:

A Cal State East Bay math teacher and practicing Quaker who was fired for refusing to sign a state-required loyalty oath got her job back this week, with an apology from the university and a clarification that the oath does not require employees to take up arms in violation of their religious beliefs.

The article continues:

State governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, famous for playing a time-traveling cyborg in the popular 'Terminator' series, grated "I'll be back" to assembled journalists before firing bazooka rounds into their ranks ...

No, I made that last bit up.

Is there a reason we're not big on loyalty oaths? Could it be that (as someone noted, but I've typically forgotten who) Voltaire, Diderot, and de Sade were all educated by Jesuits and all were atheists? That Jefferson was probably a Deist? That Thomas Young (above) was brought up a Quaker (but probably atheist or agnostic). That Newton was a Unitarian? That no one worth anything has ever believed in the received bollocks?

Could it be that if we'd stuck with such ridiculous pretences we'd still have candles for light and the fevers of the plague for warmth?

If I took this whole British loyalty thing remotely serious, I'd declare war on those heathen Yanks now! Although, god knows, they're even worse at the jingoism frothing.

Bonus track: "That's not unorthodox. I thought it was beautiful."


Blogger flyingrodent said...

My God - Little Richard has always looked like an alien from the planet Makeup. I thought this was a recent development.

If only everyone could face up to their errors like I do, the world would be a better place.

4/06/2008 01:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mendel and Lemaitre would probably disagree with you on the whole cutting the mustard and received bollocks bit.

I agree with you about not bringing back the Test Acts, though.

4/06/2008 01:26:00 PM  

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