History is extremely long

March 18, 2010

The notion of “prehistory” points to why the majority of humanity fails to understand itself.
How old is history? How far back do we need to go to understand ourselves?
100 years? Back to the revival of classical culture in Europe in the 12th & 13th centuries? Back to the institutionalization of christianity in the 4th century? Back to the Axis Age?
Well, I’d say that history is best understood as starting 13.75 billion years ago. (In fact, better to write “13.75 ±0.17 billion years” because the uncertainty inherent in scientific enquiry is a crucial part of that understanding.) Properly understood, prehistory would refer to questions of the origin of our universe.
Only by understanding history to be almost 14 billion years in duration can humanity hope to arrive at a proper conception of itself.

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