Monday, December 18, 2006

Mark Twain and the Eiffel Tower


A couple of weeks ago, we were watching the final episode of "The Amazing Race" and one of the sites they visited was the Eiffel Tower. It's in Paris, and it made my wife think of going to Paris in the Springtime. That's a great idea but, being somewhat less romantic, I have to admit that my first thought on seeing the Eiffel Tower was "Mark Twain."

Huh? Is there a connection between Mark Twain and the Eiffel Tower. Of course there is. There's a connecton between Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and everything, if you look hard enough. I thought of him because of this quotation from "Was the World Made for Man?"
Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.
Turns out, Mark Twain said many things that are relevant to the debate between rationality and superstution.

Here's a selection from Twainquotes.
Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.
I am the only man living who understands human nature; God has put me in charge of this branch office; when I retire there will be no-one to take my place. I shall keep on doing my duty, for when I get over on the other side, I shall use my influence to have the human race drowned again, and this time drowned good, no omissions, no Ark.
Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven....The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.
God's noblest work? Man. Who found it out? Man.
In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
In the laboratory there are no fustian ranks, no brummagem aristocracies; the domain of Science is a republic, and all its citizens are brothers and equals, its princes of Monaco and its stonemasons of Cromarty meeting, barren of man-made gauds and meretricious decoractions, upon the one majestic level!
Scientists have odious manners, except when you prop up their theory; then you can borrow money off them.
The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it..
The motto stated a lie. If this nation has ever trusted in God, that time has gone by; for nearly half a century almost its entire trust has been in the Republican party and the dollar--mainly the dollar. I recognize that I am only making an assertion and furnishing no proof; I am sorry, but this is a habit of mine; sorry also that I am not alone in it; everybody seems to have this disease.
What God lacks is convictions- stability of character. He ought to be a Presbyterian or a Catholic or something- not try to be everything.

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