dc las Casas, actually proposed a formal renunciation and apology, and an acknowledgment that the whole enterprise had been a mistake. Well-intentioned as he may have been, he based his bad conscience on the idea that the "Indians" had been living in an undisturbed Eden, and that Spain and Portugal had missed their chance of rediscovering the innocence that had pre-dated the fall of Adam and Eve. This was wishful piffle and also extreme condescension: the Olmec and other tribes had gods of their own—mainly propitiated by human sacrifice—and had also developed elaborate systems of writing, astronomy, agriculture, and trade. They wrote down their history and had discovered a 365-day calendar that was more accurate than its European counterparts. One particular society—the Mayan—had also managed to come up with that beautiful concept of zero to which I alluded earlier, and without which mathematical computation is very difficult. It may be significant that the papacy of the Middle Ages always resisted the idea of "zero" as alien and heretical, perhaps because of its supposedly Arab (in fact Sanskrit) origin but perhaps also because it contained a frightening possibility. Something is known of the civilizations of the American isthmus, but until very recently we were unaware of the vast cities and networks that once stretched across the Amazon basin and some regions of the Andes. Serious work has only just begun on the study of these impressive societies, which grew and flourished when Moses and Abraham and Jesus and Muhammad and Buddha were being revered, but which took no part at all in those arguments and were not included in the calculations of the monotheistic faithful. It is a certainty that these people, too, had their creation myths and their revelations of the divine will, for all the good it did them. But they suffered and triumphed and expired without ever being in "our" prayers. And they died out in the bitter awareness that there would be nobody to remember them as they had been, or even as if they had been. All their "promised lands" and prophecies and cherished legends and ceremonies might as well have occurred on another planet. This is how arbitrary human history actually is. There seems to be little or no doubt that these peoples were annihilated not just by human conquerors but by microorganisms of which neither they nor their invaders had any knowledge. These germs may have been indigenous or they may have been imported, but the effect was the same. Here again one sees the gigantic manmade fallacy that informs our "Genesis" story. How can it be proven in one paragraph that this book was written by ignorant men and not by any god? Because man is given "dominion" over all beasts, fowl and fish. But no dinosaurs or plesiosaurs or pterodactyls are specified, because the authors did not know of their existence, let alone of their supposedly special and immediate creation. Nor are any marsupials mentioned, because Australia—the next candidate after Mesoamerica for a new "Eden"—was not on any known map. Most important, in Genesis man is not
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- Spring '17
- Allen Vinta