Thursday, January 08, 2009

Scientific exegesis of Nostradamus is not *actually* science. Sorry, History Channel.

I'm watching this show on the History channel right now - mostly because Pete teasingly suggested it and I had to call his bluff - and it is, well, silly. That is really the best word for it. It is chock-a-block with "scholars" talking about scientific interpretations of Nostradamus' quatrains. Seriously. Men who have trained in real sciences (yes - only men) are using their understanding of nuclear and cosmic radiation to explain... Nostradamus. Their justification is that Isaac Newton believed in alchemy and prophesy. Yes - and he also believed that leeches were a valid treatment for disease. Time and place, Scientists! Time and place!

The problem with this kind of "science" is that it's all predicated upon a completely ridiculous supposition: that Nostradamus could predict the future. He predicted Sadaam, you know. Here is their evidence. Quatrain 8:70.

He will enter, wicked, unpleasant, infamous,
tyrannizing over Mesopotamia.
All friends made by the adulterous lady,
the land dreadful and black of aspect.

Okay, that is not even English. That does not make any kind of grammatical sense. Here is the French.

Il entrera vilain, mechant, infame
Tyrannisant la Mesopotamie,
Tous amis fait d'adulterine d'ame,
Terre horrible, noir de phisonomie.

Admittedly, my French is a wee rusty, but I believe that "dame" is "lady" and "d'ame" is "of soul." I read this more as "He/It will enter ugly, mean, infamous / Tyrannizing Mesopotamia / All friends made by the bastard of soul / horrible earth, black physiognomy." It is interesting to note this definition of "physiognomy" from the wiktionary: "The art of telling fortunes by inspection of the features." I this this is really about a soul singer turned fortune teller who is good at neither avocation. But I digress.

Has there ever been a time when human beings didn't think the apocalypse was right around the corner? No. There has never been such a time. This program is looking for concordance between the Mayan End of Days Calendar, Hopi folk tales and a the poetry of a 16th century French pharmacist. Oh, and the Bible Code. The answer is: The world will end in 2012. Well, the Hopi say that the Fifth Age will begin in 2012. I say, "Fair enough, Hopi." To the rest of them, though, I can say only this: you are not doing science! Please stop pretending that's what you're up to!

I know what you are thinking: why keep watching if it is so ridiculous? Well, it's on the HD History Channel and it has all these gorgeous images of space (you know - predictions and cosmic rays all come from constellations). And now that it's muted, it's way less irritating.

Pete's take: "It's a stretch for being history, too." Maybe they should call it "pre-history" or "peri-history." Or, you know, "bull shit."

Okay, it just ended with shots of Portland and a guy saying something about "when new Rome fell." Um, hello? We're Little Beirut? Geez - it's like he's totally out of touch with the world or something.


Dale said...


Yvonne said...

ok, so my comment was lost in electron land.

The magical calendar date of 2012 does it take into consideration human creation of time? Leap years, leap seconds, these were all factored into this date those many years ago? Also the end of days occurs on the winter Solstice but which time zone? Oh wait time zones were created by humans. Well I guess we'll know which of us is on God's time when the wrath comes. The end of the world has been coming for 1500 years why are we so lucky to see it come now?

SonicLlama said...

Something that I think is a little ironic, is that for most of Nostradamus' life, he really was a man of science. He trained as a doctor and apothecary, treated plague victims and searched for a cure, and put far more time into medicine than he ever did into prophecy.

Then he went sort of nutty and thought he saw the future. Too bad, really.

The History Bluff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sydney said...

On second thought, I guess a purveyor of modern soul music would be considered pretty awful in the Middle East right now. Oh my God! He COULD tell the future! That correlation is totally proof!

Yvonne - excellent points! Of course, the Mayans used the stars for their calendars. And you know, if you can look at the stars, you can calculate time to minute degrees with great accuracy. That's why I'm so good at telling time in the country: clear sky, lots of stars.

Llama - I do think that's ironic. What do you think? Ergot poisoning? Oldtimers disease? Lead poisoning? Whatever it was that Anne Hutchinson was smoking?

So I was going to remove the comment from "The History Buff," but then I thought I would leave it for now because I didn't find it totally objectionable. It is maybe some kind of history website sponsored by National Geographic? But then I changed my mind because I pretty much I HATE spam ads on blogs. I don't care if you're an educational website. It's not cool.