It’s not that the chart crosses disciplines. It’s that the chart crosses disciplines and makes serious errors in all of them.
Serious errors in all of them? The advancement of technology doesn’t broadly track with this graph? Can you show me evidence to the contrary? Because that’s news to me.
It’s like math, but with no data. It’s like history, but it clings to a discredited narrative invented by a bunch of guys who wanted to see themselves as heirs to the Roman empire.
Lump me in with that bunch of guys then. The entire modern age is the inheritor of Roman technology. It’s just that, historically and geographically, some groups inherited it before others (read: Western). It’s not like the Japanese took the gunpowder thing and ran with it.
It’s like a sociology—but it advances the absurd narrative that a strain of progress can be traced from Egypt, through Rome, to the Enlightenment in Western Europe.
Absurd? The Greeks didn’t invent the sundial. The Romans didn’t invent the bell-tower. Americans didn’t invent the pocketwatch. And yet? Progress! iPhones! An upward trend of technological advancement! The notion that those groups made their technologies from scratch strikes me as absurd. The notion that they didn’t inherit their technologies from each other strikes me as revisionist. Advances happened elsewhere, but that’s outside the scope of this graph.
This chart could be done right. First, it would need a meaningful metric. Somebody’s vague impression of scientific advancement doesn’t cut it.
Yeah, I get that it doesn’t have a quantifiable metric on the y axis. But that depends on what you’re trying to cut. If I made exhaustive graphs of the advances in medicine, warfare, architecture, and maybe three or four other fields, and then averaged them together, it would look a whole helluva of lot like this picture.
Secondly, it needs a bit of rigor in how it chooses its periods.
Balderdash. We know what happened between the 5th and 15th centuries. At this scale we need all the rigor of a 7th grade textbook.
Does it take the scientific advancement of the world as a whole?
No. We answered that question earlier. This is a simple graph of Western Civ.
In that case, it needs to consider China. Is it restricting itself to Europe? Then get rid of Egypt.
Now who’s being ethnocentric? And ahistorical. Saying I should include China or exclude Egypt is like saying the Greeks invented theater. (Don’t get me started.)
Should you focus on a single country?
Say, Germany? How was Germany doing during the Roman Empire? Did the arrival of Christianity make it better or worse?
So you just dismiss any wide angle lens out of hand? If I want to illustrate a point about Western culture over the course of four millenniums, I need to concentrate on Germany? There’s no connective tissue between the technologies of these eras? You’re killin me, Smalls.
If the point of the chart is to make bald assertions and not back them up—that’s fine. But it’s presented as if it conveys useful information. It doesn’t.
It simplifies a conclusion like graphs do all the time. Look, this is crazy. That’s the arc of technological advancement in the Western world. It just is. There’s the Industrial Revolution right at the little mark where the 19th century starts. There’s the the fall of Rome, in the 4th. You can quibble about the Greco-Roman overlap, but that’s when those things happened. It needn’t to go any further than that when we’re rounding off centuries.
Besides, what are we actually arguing about here? If we erase the “Christian” part, would you have raised any objection? If a chart had “anthropogenic pollution” on the Y axis and these eras on the X axis, with a terrifying Al Gore slope, would you call it a bald assertion? Would you dismiss it as a junk infographic? Maybe. But it’s not junk sociology or fuzzy math to say there was a monolithic institution that frowned on scientific advancement when it flew in the face of revealed truth. That period of superstition is outlined in black.