Error and Blindness

“To believe that the persecution of witches was rife in the early Middle Ages ‘before the rise of scientific ideas’; that France was not prosperous but impoverished in 1789; that ancient Greece was a peace-loving democracy, peopled entirely by artists and patrons of art; that murder has for centuries been punished by death, and property similarly protected because valued as highly as life; that Magna Carta is the original charter of democratic rights, that scientific discovery precedes technological advance; that the first universities were established to teach liberal arts and did teach them; that Roman law is the antithesis of the English Common Law and contributed nothing to it; that Machiavelli was a ruthless, immoral cynic, Macaulay an apologist for the Whig interest, and Plato a liberal rationalist, that until Darwin nobody knew about evolution and that only after him did religious faith begin to totter; that Hegel was the theorist of Prussian state tyranny and Nietzsche an advocate of world conquest by Nordics; that as the year 1000 approached all Europe feared the end of the world — to believe these and a hundred other pieces of ‘common knowledge’ causes error and blindness in current decisions about science, religion, art, education, criminology, revolution, and social action generally.” (Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors)