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ANAHITA  December 1999

ANAHITA December 1999

Subject:

Re: historical events

From:

Janeen Grohsmeyer <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 21 Dec 1999 23:37:27 -0500

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Veronica wrote:


>I actually find the comment below:

[from Phoebe]
  It occurred to me a while ago that living in a post-Einstein world, we
could now look at history differently.  Just as physicists now know that
every physical observation affects the event observed, so we can be aware
that a "historical event" as such does not exist.  There are only the
obervations and interpretations that we create.  The actual "truth" of the
"historic event" may be unknowable, if there even is such a thing.
>>

>quite offensive and dangerous in its
>implications.  We may not be able to ascertain beyond a shadow of a doubt
>what exactly happened long ago, but that does not mean that historical
>events "do not exist."

I think perhaps we should define the terms  "events" and "history."  Events
happen and affect our lives.  This is undeniable, and Veronica gives
excellent and telling examples.

But the history of the events, the way we remember the events, the way we
tell stories about the events--this is subject to many interpretations, and
as Phoebe points out (along with at least one other famous person I can
think of) the question "What is truth?" is not easily answered.

Even 2 + 2 has different answers, depending on the coordinate system and
number base one uses.


Veronica continues:
>We may not be able to be exact in our knowledge of events which took place
>thousands of years ago,

Or ten years ago. Or two days ago.  The different reports about the protests
at the World Trade Organization meetings made that clear.

 but it seems to me that to therefore infer that
>historical events do not exist is rather self-centered.
>
When I read what Phoebe wrote, I interpreted it to mean that the *truth*
about the event might not exist, not that the event never happened.
Personally, I would say that many truths exist, all simultaneously and some
seemingly contradictory.

Using modern physics again, is light a wave-energy form or is light made of
particles?  The answer is yes, depending on the circumstances of the
experiment and the observer.

Einstein's famous equation E = M c ^2 means that energy IS mass, and mass IS
energy.  Mass is just energy that is "cooled down" enough to have settled
into a "solid" kind of form.  One way to think of it is to look at boiling
water.  Some of the water molecules get hot enough to leave the liquid and
become steam.  The liquid is like the mass-part, the steam is like the
energy-part, but both are still water.

So things are  both mass and energy, both wave and particle.  When we touch
something with our hands, it feels solid, yet it's also whirling webs of
electro-magnetism (energy) from the atoms.  Our perceptions of things is
both true and untrue, all at the same time.

Query: If no one remembers a historical event (say, a tribe dying out of a
disease on a remote island), does it impact our history?  How does "Those
who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it" fit in?

>Actually, the ideas that there is no truth, and that events do not have
>reality undermine the basis of feminism.

Can we come up with a definition of feminism?  I'm afraid I don't use the
word anymore, because nobody seems to agree on its meaning.

>
>Heisenberg's uncertainty principle states, I believe, that it is
>impossible to know exactly where a given atom is.

True.  Heisenberg's uncertainty principle specifically is:

h >= 4* pi * (uncertainty of position) * (uncertainty of momentum)

where h is Planck's constant and is equal to 6.626E-34 Joules*seconds.

So, we can *never* know everything there is to know about something.  You
can never know exactly how fast somehting is going or what its mass is or
where it is.

This was a major blow to the Newtonian physicists, who had thought they
could just keep breaking the universe down into little parts and finally map
out everything.  Instead, the universe is fuzzy, and ultimately we  can NOT
know everything.  Complete knowledge (like complete truth) is denied.
Chaos theory has added to this randomness and unknowableness.

Some physicists see this as evidence of free will.

For the historian, it implies that while historical events may be described,
it is impossible to ever fully and accurately describe all possible
ramifications and interpretations of any event.  (I suspect we knew that
already. <g>)

But we should remember, any time and every time we read one account of an
event, that somebody else could write a different account, and the accounts
can contain contradictory facts, yet still both can be true.  And both can
be false.

And both can be worth reading.

Janeen Grohsmeyer

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