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Questioning the Millennium - Softcover

 
9780099765813: Questioning the Millennium
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In this slender volume, Stephen Jay Gould addresses three questions about the millennium with his typical combination of erudition, warmth, and whimsy: As a calendrical event, what is the concept of a millennium and how has its meaning shifted over time? How did the projection of Christ's 1,000-year reign become a secular measure? And when exactly will the millennium begin--January 1, 2000, or January 2, 2001?

"Our urge to know is so great, but our common errors cut so deep. You just gotta love us," he states disarmingly in the preface. "And you gotta view misguided millennial passion as a primary example of our uniqueness and our absurdity--in other words, of our humanity." Gould's own curiosity about time and calendars was triggered by a 1950 issue of Life magazine, which cut the century in half with its evaluation of what had happened and its prediction of things to come, propelling his third-grade mind to the year 2000. In Questioning the Millennium, Gould promises to make no predictions (other than "an orgy of millennial books"); court no millennial epiphanies; and put forth no theories on the collective angst that typically accompanies a century's end. Instead, he answers the millennial questions which, for him, represent the intersection of undeniable reality (i.e., natural fact) and human interpretation. Gould's questions and learned answers, weaving many historical and scientific facts, are a loving inquiry into the human need for order in a vast and teeming universe.

From the Back Cover:
"Stephen Jay Gould's slim and attractive meditation, Questioning the Millennium, is a trip to the beach. Mr. Gould focuses his wit and style on matters of definition and calculation of the millennium and on their enduring fascination"
-- Robert Eisner, New York Times Book Review

"In Questioning the Millennium, a collection of three witty and erudite essays bearing the catchy journalistic titles "What?" "When?" and "Why?," the noted paleontologist and science popularizer ponders the meaning of the upcoming calendar hoopla. As always, he is irreverent, idiosyncratic and original"
--San Francisco Examiner

"Questioning the Millennium. . . beguiles and entertains, even as it teaches us to reconsider our preconceptions about the natural world. Mr. Gould eloquently charts both those pitfalls to knowledge and our stubborn, foolish and occasionally glorious efforts, though science, religion and philosophy, to continue to try to understand"
-- Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"In Stephen Jay Gould's recent book Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown, the subtitle says it all. The year 2000 is both precise and arbitrary, in the same way that a repeat of 1900 would be."
--Fred Moramarco, Newsweek

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