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Saturday, 14 November 2009

Stonehenge Disloyalty

I've been getting a fair bit of stick on one of the other discussion sites on the grounds that I have shown a "lack of respect" to Stonehenge by calling it a tumbledown old ruin, an unfinished jerry-built disaster and various other things. Apparently I am supposed to show it due reverence, and to accept that it is a masterpiece of ancient engineering with wondrous spiritual qualities.........

I'm constantly intrigued that for some, Stonehenge is not just an icon but also something akin to an altar or a cathedral. OK, people can invest Stonehenge with whatever degree of sanctity they choose, but I part company with them when they say that it is somehow disrespectful -- and maybe sacriligious -- to ask serious questions about how it was built, how the stones were transported, and whether it was ever actually finished. And to talk about glaciers and erratics is somehow to question at a fundamental level man's capacity for original thinking, his aspirations and his technical abilities -- and even his spirituality. The epic story of the Neolithic tribesmen targetting and fetching all those bluestones from Wales has taken on a sort of religious significance, and is invested with the same sort of assumed truth that fundamentalist Christians apply to the books of Genesis and Exodus. People WANT to believe it. And when I come along and question the fundamentals of their belief system, they become FURIOUS!!! Strange old world...... a world in which rational assessments of evidence become all but impossible.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it disgraceful to call Stonehenge an unfinished Jerry-built municiple building. It is a beacon shining to the stars displaying man's ingenuity.

Brian said...

OK Anonymous. Sorry if you are upset. I never called it a jerry-built municipal building -- I might have referred to it being a jerry-built disaster, but that's another thing. And in self-defence I have to plead that two other scientists have referred to it as a piece of jerry-building long before I did -- I thought it was a nice expression that neatly encapsulated what I was trying to say, so I used it too........