From: Dave Walsh 
Subject: Nua Blather: About that Millennium...
Date: Friday, April 17, 1998 9:18 AM

Weekly free email of Dogma Destruction,
Forteana and High Weirdness

By Daev Walsh   Email:
April 17th 1998  Published By:  Nua Limited  Vol 1. No. 49

Last week, bizarre as it may seem, I found a copy of the
palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's
'Questioning the Millennium' lying upon my infamous couch . Not
having the faintest idea as to where it had materialised from, I went
and read it. I'm an admitted Gould virgin, not having managed to get
round to perusing his texts, but while he is spoken of fairly highly
with regard to his evolutionary work, I gather that there is some
hestitation towards attributing kudos to his exploits outside his
this field.

In 'Questioning the Millennium', Gould carefully weaves his way
through our numeric foibles, pointing out the absurdity of our
obsession with the forthcoming change of millennium. He's quick to
ram home the understanding that the millennium is not something that
will happen in a couple of years time -- that the millennium is an
arbitrary period of 1000 years, not an event that will take place on
some December 31st. I say some, as Gould takes time to highlight the
'which year' problem - should we be celebrating the turn of
millennium at the change of 1999-2000 or 2000-2001? It's worth
bearing in mind that the media and the 'elite'' classes refrained
from celebrating the new 20th century until January 1st 1901, whilst
the 'vernacular classes' had their hooley on December 31st 1899. This
time round, the big push is for 1999-2000, a choice which is open to
some debate, and perhaps criticism. Gould attributes this to the
homogenisation of popular and 'elite' culture, and I would add the
widespread growth of literacy to this soup.

This controversy, Gould tells us, is due to the work of Dionysius
Exiguus (Dennis the Little), who, in 525, was instructed by Pope St.
John I to prepare the 'Cyclus Paschalis', a history of the Christian
Era. To be very brief, Dionysius placed the Birth of Christ at the
beginning of year 1 AD - rather than 0 AD. This causes a problem --
for instance, it presumably places Jesus's age at 1 year old on the
day of his alleged birth. Gould expands on this, explaining that if
each decade has to have 10 years (in the case of Dionysius, that goes
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10), and every century is to have 100 years, year
100 becomes stuck in that century, and the dawn of a new century is
on January 1st 101. Continue on, in this pattern and we arrive at
2000-2001 as the change to the new millennium.

As Gould points out, 'we should not be overly harsh on poor Dennis',
as western mathematics in the sixth century had not yet developed a
concept of zero. The Egyptians had used one, albeit sporadically, and
the Chinese didn't have one (although it was implied by the abacus).
The Mayans did have a zero, but it was not used in a 'fully
systematic way' in their calculations' -- and it's fair to say that
wee Dennis knew nothing of the Mayans.

There's much more to Gould's research into the millennium - he goes
to great lengths to discuss the history of 'millennium as
apocalypse', and the many failed predictions which concerned the
apocalypse, especially those which imply that the world is only
in the sixth millennium of existence, the post apocalyptic
seventh becoming a questionable metaphor for the final day of
biblical God's burst of creativity, on which he rested. 

In contradiction to the popular opinion concerning the last
millennial change, i.e. that there was *no* hysterical apocalyptic
panic, Gould tells of a lecture that he attended, where Medieval
historian Richard Landes claimed that the 'famous chronologies of
Venerable Bede, that redoubtable eighth century English cleric and
scholar, had been copied extensively and widely distributed to almost
canonical use among ecclesiastical timekeepers throughout Europe.
Bede followed and popularized the B.C-A.D. system. Through his works,
the advent of the year 1000 -- and its millennial implications -- had
probably diffused to all social classes'. The idea that *nothing
happened* is based on the theory that no one really knew when the new
millennium started -- personally I haven't seen enough evidence to
convince me either way.

A pleasant read, but I fear that the only people who will read
'Questioning the Millennium' are already wearing their 'I am a
Millennial Cynic' t-shirts, where as those who would benefit the most
from a brief perusal have been happily whisked along in the
pre-millennial stampede of hope and faith.

'Questioning the Millennium : A Rationalist's Guide to a Precisely
Arbitrary Countdown'
Harmony Books 1997
ISBN: 0609600761

Interestingly, in Blather 1.47
( emailed out
on April 3rd. In a piece regarding God's Salvation Church, Blather

	'From Blather's perspective, God's Salvation Church seem
like just another cult obsessed with their own version of the
Rapture. The media police presence on Tuesday was
apparently due to fears of a mass suicide. Blather would
like to suggest that many of the media representatives
covering the story were *hoping* for a mass suicide, to
achieve a major *scoop*, therefore blackmailing the police
force and emergency services into tagging along. It would
have been a major embarrassment for the local authorities
had something deathly *actually* happened, given the
clouds of media scavengers collecting in the area. '

On April 4th, The Economist ( an
article on page 29 titled 'Waiting for God. Oh'.

'The odd thing was not that Mr Chen persuaded 150 Taiwanese members
of God's Salvation Church to move to Garland in the hope of being
sucked up by God into a flying saucer made of tin cans; it was that
American newspapers and television found the tiny sect worthy of
headlines. Religion, alien abduction and prophetic movements related
to the millennium are now big news. A chance of mass suicide--as with
the Heaven's Gate cult in San Diego last year, or in the inferno of
the Branch Davidians in Waco--tempts the networks to give air-time to
the strangest groups, just in case they do something horrible on a
large scale.'

Due to the realisation that we are now in the same league as the
esteemed aforementioned journal, Blather hopes to soon start carrying
news of weekly stockmarket anomalies. . .

Blather, as subscribers may have noticed, is weekly, and arrives on
Friday/Saturday. If anyone thinks that that some issues *haven't*
arrived in their mailbox, please let me know --

Dave Walsh
April 17th 1998

Feedback and comments to 

Have your say:


A weekly newsletter, Internet Surveys is a free digest of the most
interesting surveys containing data relating to the Internet.
It is available by sending an email to

with the word "subscribe" in the body of the message.

A monthly newsletter, What's New is a free monthly newsletter
highlighting the new additions, happenings and changes at Nua.
It is available by sending an email to

with the word "subscribe" in the body of the message.

New Thinking is a free, weekly, 500-word email column, whose
objective is to contribute to a practical philosophy for The
Digital Age. It is available by sending an email to
 with the word "subscribe" in
the body of the message.


While Blather will always remain free to the subscriber, Nua is
always willing to talk to interested parties with regard to
Contact Daev Walsh: 


Blather archives, please go to:


Nua, a vibrant, innovative, Irish company whose focus is in helping
progressive organisations adapt to the new environment created by the
Internet. We have the management/marketing, design and technical
skills to truly understand your unique situation, and to translate
that understanding into a successful Internet presence for you.

Nua has received an array of awards since its genesis in 1996. Among 
those are the coveted  "Best Overall World Wide Web Business Achievement"
the top prize for website development in Europe.

Send an email to:

with the word
in the body of the message. An automatic acknowledgement
should be returned to you by e-mail within a few minutes.

Send an email to

with the word
in the body of the message.

If you are having any technical problems,
please email the Nua Webmaster at: .


NUA : Internet Consultancy & Developer
Dave Walsh  Tel: +353-1-676-8996  Fax: +353-1-661-3932 
Blather: - Weekly paranormal meanderings