"Colour" Transcript

By Mark Sundaram

Welcome to the Endless Knot! In an earlier video we looked at the word Sabbath, and learned a little about the Jewish and Babylonian calendars. Well today we’re continuing the theme by exploring one particular calendar-related term, Millennial, and seeing if there’s a link between avocado toast and the apocalypse!

In recent years there has been a spate of articles and public comments complaining about Millennials, that generation of avocado toast eaters who are supposedly what’s wrong with the world, at least according to ageing Baby Boomers, who often don’t seem to have a grasp of who the so-called Millennials actually are: in fact they’re usually defined as the generation after Generation X, beginning with the cohort that came of age around the year 2000, so in other words people born between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s. So really they’re not “kids these days”, they’re all adults, many of them well into their thirties as of this video. But where do these generational terms come from? Well first, the word generation comes through Old French from Latin generatio “generating” from the Proto-Indo-European root *gene- “give birth, beget”. Probably the earliest generation specifically identified as such (and of course we’re talking about in so-called Western society for lack of a better term) was the Lost Generation, born between 1883 and 1900, and included those who fought during the First World War. The term was coined by Gertrude Stein and made famous by Ernest Hemingway who quoted her as an epigram on the title page of his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. Following the Lost Generation was the Greatest Generation, broadly speaking the generation including those who were shaped by the Great Depression and fought in WWII, being born between the early 1900s and the late 1920s, the term coming from the title of the 1998 book by news anchor Tom Brokaw celebrating this generation. Following this was the Silent Generation, born between the mid 20s and mid 40s, and though we don’t know precisely where the term comes from, it seems to reflect the perceived conformism and restraint of this generation, who focused on career over activism. Then of course there are the Baby Boomers, reflecting the demographic surge in birth rates following WWII up to about 1964. The X in Generation X, or simply GenX, came about because of the use of the letter X to represent an unknown variable, such as in mathematical equations, expressing the uncertain future of a generation, and in fact had already been used to refer to earlier generations, but in the end became permanently attached to the cohort born between the early to mid 60s to the early 80s, in other words reaching adulthood in the 80s and 90s, because Canadian author Douglas Copeland used it first in a 1987 magazine article and then again as the title of his famous 1991 novel, having been inspired in particular by the use of X in a similar way by cultural historian Paul Fussell in his 1983 book Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, as well as the name of Billy Idol’s band Generation X. It expresses the perceived disaffectedness and reluctance to participate in society associated with this generation. As a result, the following generations have been referred to as Generation Y and Generation Z, but now Generation Y is more commonly referred to as Millennials. This name for the generation comes, of course, from their proximity to the year 2000. But linguistically and historically speaking this is rather an odd thing.

See, the original sense of the word millennium is a “period of a thousand years”, not the thousandth year itself, and it was first used in reference to the period of 1000 years in which Christ was prophesied to rule on earth after the Second Coming, based on the New Testament Book of Revelation 20:1-5, appearing in English in the 17th century from the post-classical Latin word millennium, made up of mille “thousand” and annus “year”. The Greek-based equivalent is chiliasm, from Greek khilioi “thousand” which also gives us the prefix kilo- in kilogram and kilometre, and interestingly both these Latin and Greek roots seem to come from the same Proto-Indo-European root *gheslo-, “thousand”. Today, however, the most familiar sense of the word millennium is specifically the year 2000, that is the transition between the second calendrical millennium to the third, so not a *period* of 1000 years, just a transition point, and that’s the sense that lies behind referring to that generation as Millennials. (We’ll come back to the question of whether or not the year 2000 is actually the transition point in a minute). But it’s important to remember that in early Christian usage that thousand year period in which Christ would reign on earth had no connection to the calendrical millennium at all, it could begin at any time. In fact, the first generation of Christians believed it would begin within their lifetimes. The practise of dating the years from the birth of Christ didn’t exist until the 6th century and wasn’t commonly used for another 200 years, having been first devised by Dionysius Exiguus, whose name means literally Dennis the Short (though that might be metaphorically “short” meaning “humble”) in the year 525, so the concept of a calendrical year 1000 wasn’t even around yet for those early Christians. By the way, although we know the name Dennis comes from Dionysius, which comes from the name of the Greek god of wine Dionysus, also known as Bacchus, it’s not certain where the name Dionysus itself comes from, though the Greeks themselves had a number of theories. The first part Dio is likely related to Zeus, the chief Greek god, and the second element of his name might be from Mount Nysa where the god was said to have been born, or it might be nusa an archaic word for tree. Dionysus is an unusual god in a number of ways. Firstly Dionysus was said by the Greeks to have been a foreign god but modern research shows that in fact he was one of the earliest gods worshipped in Greece. And he has a number of different, and sometimes conflicting, birth stories associated with him, and was thought of as a god who was reborn a number of times (an aspect that led him to be connected with Jesus in early Christian iconography). In one of his birth stories, he was the offspring of the union of the God Zeus and the mortal woman Semele. Hera, Zeus’s divine wife was naturally jealous and tricked Semele into asking Zeus to appear before her in his natural guise, which was a lightning bolt, and Semele was burnt to ashes. Thinking quickly, Zeus rescued the unborn child from the fire and had him sewn into his own thigh, from which he was eventually born, and that’s the source of another proposed etymology for his name, meaning literally “Zeus-limp”, from the Syracusan word nysos “limping” because Zeus limped with the extra weight of the unborn baby in his thigh. In any case, it seems appropriate that someone who spent his time trying to figure out the precise details of Jesus’s birth should be named after this reborn god with a complicated birth story.

Now you may have noticed that we generally use BCE and CE in our videos instead of BC and AD. Both systems are fine, but there are a couple of reasons we prefer this usage. You see BC stands for English Before Christ and AD for Latin Anno Domini “in the year of the Lord”, both reckoned from the supposed date of the birth of Christ, so technically to preserve the syntactical order the year should be given first with BC, so for instance 46 BC, but second with AD, so AD 525. So not only does using BCE and CE, standing for Before the Common Era and Common Era respectively, make the dating system a little less explicitly Christian and therefore more appropriate in non-Christian contexts, it’s also more consistent and tidier looking when written down.

But getting back to the apocalyptic sense of the word millennium, and apocalypse by the way means literally the same thing as Revelation, “uncovering”, and was the Greek title of the Book of Revelation, historically there wasn’t really any dread associated with the coming of the millennium, because it would be a time of Christ reigning on earth for 1000 years of peace, so obviously a good thing. It’s our modern millennium that had more of the sense of apocalypticism as something to be worried about, though realistically the only potential threat was the Y2K bug, in which the two-number years used in many computer systems at the time were about to roll over from 1999 to 1900 causing mayhem — it never really happened anyway, due in large part to the hard work of a bunch of programmers — but most of us were too busy partying like it was 1999 for it to cause any real widespread millennial anxiety. But even this fairly mild panic was a lot more fuss than people made at the first turning of the millennium in the year 1000, contrary to modern myths depicting a wide-scale panic of those poor benighted medieval folk. In fact there was barely any mention of the significance of the year 1000 at the time, since as we’ve seen the apocalyptic millennium for them meant a thousand year period that could start at any time. And as it turns out, though they didn’t know this then, Dionysius Exiguus’s calculation of the year of Christ’s birth was off by about four years, since King Herod of Judea, who features prominently in the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus, actually died in the year 4 BCE (so using BC/AD isn’t even technically correct anyway). And that’s not the only mistake the diminutive Dennis made, since he didn’t label Jesus’s birth year as zero, but as AD1, meaning that the actual end of the first calendrical millennium was the year 1001. Of course Europeans didn’t really have the number zero at the time — the numeral was invented in India and only transmitted to Europe in the 11th century — though ironically, in another of Dionysius’s works, about the date of Easter, he was the first Latin author to use a precursor of “zero”, the Latin word ‘nulla’, in mathematical calculations. And people have been complaining about this no year zero problem ever since, whenever a new century starts, such as in 1901, and more recently pedants insisting “well actually, the new millennium began in 2001”. But since clearly this whole mess is just based on arbitrary numbers all the way along, any pedantry arguing against the nice round number of 2000 is even more pointless than usual.

I should say that any sense of Christian millennialism, or more precisely millenarianism, a word meaning “containing a thousand” though not including that Latin word annus “year” hence there being only one <n> in millenarianism, and now often used to refer to a more extreme destructive apocalyptic version of the millennialist notion of a golden age of peace, has been downplayed by the Roman church for a very long time. In the early days of Christianity, the idea that the millennium would begin any day now was comforting, since those early Christians were often persecuted, but once the church became established, with Christianity becoming the state religion and the church holding considerable secular power as well, they downplayed any literal interpretation of the millennium since it would upset the status quo and the stability of the church’s worldly position. That is until protestantism, which was itself a challenge to the status quo, and so many protestant churches revived the notion of a literal millennium happening any day now, and some of the more extreme forms of Protestantism even engaged in militarily hopeless political revolts, so convinced were they that they were living in the end times. So for instance Thomas Müntzer, who opposed not only the Catholic Church but also his contemporary reformer Martin Luther, helped to lead the German Peasants’ War in 1525, resulting in his torture and execution. And not to be confused with Thomas Müntzer is the similar Anabaptist-led Münster rebellion of 1534. Now not all millenarian groups were involved in rebellions, and many of them exist to this day, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who believe that the end times began in 1914. And it’s not just Christians who revived strong millenarian beliefs. The Sabbatians, so called because they were followers of Sabbatai Zevi, were Jews who believed that Sabbatai was the Messiah. Sabbatai, whose name is indeed connected with the word Sabbath, referring to the planet Saturn which was associated with the advent of the Messiah, was probably influenced by English millenarianism and the belief that 1666 was the apocalyptic year, being proclaimed the Messiah in that year, and though Sabbatai later converted to Islam, his followers continued even into the 20th century.

So all of this to say that there are two different senses of the word millennium, the apocalyptic and the calendrical. But beyond the etymological, what is the historical connection between these two? To understand this we have to know a little more about the calendar itself, and its historical place in the world’s belief systems. And this all has to do with finding order in chaos, trying to match observable natural cycles with meaningful numerical patterns. For instance, there is the biological accident of us having ten fingers which biases us towards base 10 counting systems (though not always), and the fact that our numerical abilities may have been side consequences of evolution without any adaptive benefit. Sure, it’s perhaps useful to have enough numerical ability to think about herds of animals or estimate food requirements when gathering edible plants, but the complex calculations involved in tracking the motion of heavenly bodies and constructing complex calendar systems goes beyond this. This is what paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould termed a spandrel, a biological trait that is a byproduct of the evolution of some other trait, rather than a direct product of adaptive selection: it serves no adaptive advantage but also has no disadvantage so it remains. He got the term from an architectural feature often found in Medieval and Renaissance buildings in which there are spaces between the top of an arch and a rectangular frame, which are then often decorated although they didn’t originally exist for that purpose. The word spandrel is of uncertain ultimate etymology, but it might be a diminutive of Anglo-Norman spaundre from Old French espandre “to expand, extend, spread”, from Latin expandere “to spread out, unfold, expand", made up of the prefix ex- “out of” and pandere “to spread, stretch”, from the Proto-Indo-European root *petə- “to spread”. So our cleverness with calendars and calculations, according to this view, is a spandrel, and it’s this ability that leads to the connection between the apocalyptic and calendrical senses of millennium. Because as early Christians started to grow weary of waiting for the supposedly imminent millennium, the Apostle Peter, trying to quell these disappointed grumblings, wrote in chapter 3 of his Second Epistle that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years one day”, and this led theologians, most significantly the 3rd to 4th century writer Lactantius, to use the day-year principle of interpreting biblical prophecy. Since the world was created by God in six days, Lactantius reasoned that world history would be laid out in six ages of a thousand years, which could then be calculated, as 17th century Irish Archbishop James Ussher tried to do through careful examination not only of biblical history but of other historical records as well, coming up with a creation date of 4004 BCE (remember the date of the birth of Jesus was off by four years, as he realized). And leaving aside that annoying 4 year problem, this would give us our millennial year of 2000 as the end of those six ages. As an aside, Dionysius’s slightly flawed attempt to pin down Jesus’s birth date arose from an effort to counteract a minor millenarian panic in the 500s CE that was based on this six ages concept and an older dating system that placed his birth in the 5500th year after Creation, which would make our Dennis’s time the end times; but his calculations showed that it was already more than 500 years after Jesus’s birth, so that particular theory had to be wrong.

But if the conspicuous lack of the end of the world in 2000 points out the arbitrary nature of some of our calendrical patterns, it’s true that there are also some non-arbitrary cycles that they can track. There’s the solar year, which is important to track for agricultural and hunting purposes, because it governs the seasons. There’s lunation, that is the lunar cycle, which is useful to track because it roughly matches the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle and because it’s connected to the tides, which can affect travel, trade and fishing. And of course there is the daily cycle. And in fact that’s the real problem in our modern calendar — none of the cycles line up properly. The year can’t be divided up into an even number of lunations (there’s about 29.53 days in a lunation, and about 12.38 lunations in a solar year), so luni-solar calendars that track both cycles have to cheat by adding in extra days or months here and there to keep things in sync, what are known as intercalary days or months. And in fact the year can’t even be broken down into an even number of days (it’s actually 365.24 days), hence the need for leap years. And anything longer than a year is entirely arbitrary, yet we still track decades, centuries, and millennia because of our love for all those “even” years ending in zeros, thanks to our ten fingers. Plus, if you’re going to count years, you need to have a reference point. Some calendars count from a date which the calendar’s creators believed marked the creation of the world. Our modern calendar tracks the years from the date that Dionysius Exiguus mistakenly thought Christ was born on. The Romans had a different solution to the problem. One method was tracking the years from the date of the foundation of the city of Rome, which they referred to as AUC ‘anno urbis conditae’ or ‘ab urbe condita’, “from the founding of the city”, though it’s anyone’s guess if that date is in any way accurate. But more often, like many cultures around the world, they also used an eponymic or regnal dating system; in their case, they used consular years, in which a year would be known by the names of the two people who were elected consuls in that given year, consul being the highest elected office in the Roman republic. This actually works pretty well, as long as you keep good records, which they did.

We can see this tension between natural, meaningful cycles and the arbitrary numbering systems of calendars in the history of the 7-day week, which we discussed in detail in our video “Sabbath”. To briefly recap, the week seems to have started off in the Babylonian calendar, which always began the month at the new moon, as special named days of the month reflecting the phases of the moon. During their captivity in Babylon, the Judeans seem to have adapted these named days as the Sabbath, but instead of having them tied to lunar phases, they were simply repeated in an arbitrary seven day cycle with no connection to any cyclical pattern in nature, which came to represent instead the six days of creation in the creation story in Genesis, followed by the day of rest, the Sabbath. However, early Christians wanted to distinguish themselves from the Jews and moved their day of worship from the Sabbath, in other words the seventh day or Saturday, to the first day of the week, Sunday.

But what does all this business about the creation of the world have to do with the end of the world? Well, later on a number of churches decided to restore the day of worship to the seventh day of the week instead of the first day of the week, and this went along with a doubling down on the millenarian tendency of the Protestant Reformation.

The largest and most famous church to do this was the Seventh Day Adventists, a member of the Adventist Movement, a term referring to the second advent or Second Coming of Christ. This movement was started by the originally Baptist preacher William Miller in the 1830s, and is also known as Millerism. Miller believed that the Second Coming would happen very soon, and though he didn’t specify a precise date, at the urging of his followers he gave an initial range of between 1843 and 1844, after producing a detailed historical calculation much like that of James Ussher. The movement also encouraged a careful reexamination of the Bible, which is what led some Adventist groups to move the Sabbath “back” to Saturday, hence the name Seventh Day Adventists. When Miller’s range of dates had passed, an event which became known as the Great Disappointment, a new date was set, but when that passed too the movement began to splinter into different churches, all of which maintained the general belief that the Second Coming was still imminent, but differed on various other points of belief. But getting back to the Seventh Day Adventists, they celebrate the Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, following Jewish tradition, and church worship takes place on Saturday. Another major emphasis of the church is wholeness and health, and many Adventists are vegetarian or vegan, and avoid smoking and alcohol, and sometimes even caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and cola. They also follow the kosher dietary laws. And in one particularly surprising turn, the Seventh Day Adventists are largely responsible for the existence of breakfast cereal.

In 1894, Seventh Day Adventist and medical doctor John Harvey Kellogg (yes that Kellogg) invented, somewhat by accident, cold breakfast cereal. He ran the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a kind of 19th century health spa, and believed that a bland vegetarian diet would suppress the urge to masturbate, which he thought was just about the worst thing you could do and would lead to a myriad of health problems, not least of which was blindness. Kellogg was experimenting with a breakfast gruel made from a variety of grains, but accidentally allowed some to go hard. In an attempt to rescue the situation, he passed the muck through rollers and then toasted the resulting flakes, and voila, the cornflake was born, leading eventually to the multi-million dollar breakfast cereal industry.

Kellogg had a number of famous patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, including two presidents, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding, aviator Amelia Earhart, playwright George Bernard Shaw, car manufacturer Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, and actress Sarah Bernhardt. Another of his patients was the notorious traveller, adventurer, and author Richard Halliburton, who spent time there because of a rapid heartbeat. Halliburton is known for such endeavours as swimming the length of the Panama Canal, retracing Odysseus’s journey from the Odyssey, circumnavigating the globe in an open-air cockpit plane known as the Flying Carpet, and attempting to sail a Chinese junk named the Sea Dragon across the Pacific Ocean, during which attempt he went missing and was never found, though as with Amelia Earhart there were many rumours and theories about his fate. In his world travels, Halliburton maintained a stance of cultural relativism, that is that there are no objective standards by which to evaluate a culture and that a culture can only be understood in terms of its own values and customs, now a basic proposition in the field of anthropology. As anthropologist Franz Boas first put it in 1887, “civilization is not something absolute, but ... is relative, and ... our ideas and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes”. So Halliburton would adopt the clothing and customs of the people he visited, and apparently purchased a slave child in Africa, or so he claimed.

As for Franz Boas, his concept of cultural relativism stands in contrast to the concept of ethnocentrism, which is the judging of another culture’s beliefs and practises on the basis of one’s own culture, a concept first described by sociologist William G. Sumner as part of his critique of imperialism. Boas also challenged the notions of scientific racism, arguing against the idea that race is a biological concept and that human behaviour is a function of biological differences, instead believing it to be the product of culture and social learning, and also rejected the idea of cultural evolution passing through stages with European civilization at the summit. His students carried forward his ideas about culture and relativism, developing them in a number of interesting ways. Ruth Benedict, for instance, in her book Patterns of Culture wrote that “A culture, like an individual, is a more or less consistent pattern of thought and action” and argued that a culture was built upon a few basic characteristics and traits from which their values and aesthetics emanate. So for instance she contrasted the cultures of the Pueblo peoples of the American south west and the Native American peoples of the Great Plains as being respectively based on restraint and abandon. She borrowed the Nietzschean opposites of the Apollonian and Dionysian. According to this, the worshippers of Apollo emphasized order and restraint in their celebrations, whereas the worshippers of the wine god Dionysus, whom we saw before as the namesake of BC/AD originator Dionysius Exiguus, emphasized wildness and abandon.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead was also a student of both Boas and Benedict, and had a significant relationship, sometimes romantic, with Benedict. She herself is probably most known for her work in Samoa and her book Coming of Age in Samoa, in which she studied the the lives of adolescent girls, arguing that culture is the primary influence of psychosexual development, an important work in the nurture vs nature debate. She reported on the comparatively relaxed attitude to sexual norms in Samoa compared to Western culture. This work later generated some controversy when New Zealand anthropologist Derek Freeman vigorously challenged her work, suggesting that one of her sources may have hoaxed her, and though most anthropologists seem to have upheld the importance and validity of her work, some scientists outside the field of anthropology have taken Freeman’s side in this debate, including psychologist Steven Pinker and biologist Richard Dawkins who we’ll hear more about in a minute, with the suggestion that sexual mores are universal and biologically driven. As it turns out, Freeman seems to have had his own psychosexual issues. While visiting the Australian National University, Freeman brought his critiques to Mead in a private meeting one evening. The next day, in a public meeting the two vigorously debated the importance of virginity in Samoan culture and at one point Mead asked Freeman why he hadn’t brought his undergraduate thesis on social structure in Samoan culture to their meeting the night before, to which Freeman responded “because I was afraid you might ask me to stay the night”. At this point, Mead was in her 60s, walked with a cane, and was 15 years his senior, and so his peculiar remark resulted in the room breaking out in laughter. Freeman later said he didn’t know why he said it, and was mortified by it, but he also admitted to being intimidated by Mead and described her as a “castrator of men”. So perhaps his attacks on Mead weren’t entirely motivated by academic differences. Mead also did work on the race and intelligence debate at the time, arguing against the validity of trying to connect measures of intelligence with race, and pointing out the problems with IQ tests, a subject that Stephen Jay Gould, who came up with the idea of spandrels, focused on in his book The Mismeasure of Man, and we’ll be hearing more about him in a minute too. Mead also influenced the work of Dr. Spock — no not that Spock, the famous pediatrician Benjamin Spock, who happened to be her child’s pediatrician, including his ideas on breastfeeding on demand rather than on a schedule. Spock received his own right-wing backlash from those who thought his childrearing theories were overly permissive and were leading to moral decay and a shift to left-wing politics among the young Americans raised according to his theories — that is, the Baby Boomer generation.

Before leaving for her fieldwork in Samoa, Mead had a brief affair with another of Franz Boas’s students, Edward Sapir, who was also a close friend of Ruth Benedict. The relationship apparently didn’t work out because of Sapir’s somewhat oldfashioned ideas about a woman’s role in marriage. Sapir had previously worked in Ottawa as the director of the Anthropological Division of the Geological Survey of Canada, in which he documented the Indigenous languages and cultures of Canada, insisting on studying Indigenous languages with the same rigour as European languages, rejecting the notion that those languages were too ‘primitive’ for this. He became an advocate for Indigenous rights, arguing publicly for improved medical care for Indigenous communities, assisting the Six Nation Iroquois in trying to recover eleven wampum belts that had been stolen from them and put on display in the museum of the University of Pennsylvania (they were only eventually returned in 1988), and arguing against the law banning the Potlatch ceremony of the Indigenous peoples of the west coast.

Now Sapir applied the approaches of Boas in the linguistic realm, becoming hugely influential in the development of the field of linguistics. Sapir focused on the anthropological elements of linguistics, studying how language and culture influenced one another, and the relation between linguistic differences and cultural differences, ideas that were further developed by one of his own students, Whorf — no, not that Worf, Benjamin Lee Whorf— in what is now known as linguistic relativity or the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. The chief critic of the idea of linguistic relativity was and is celebrated linguist Noam Chomsky, who instead advanced the idea that language was based on a universal grammar that is essentially hard-wired into all humans, though the exact definition of what this universal grammar is has changed over time, with Chomsky himself now being far less of a Chomskyist than many Chomskyists. But in any case his theories would therefore deny any meaningful connection between language and culture, which Sapir had argued in favour of. Another of the most famous proponents of this universal grammar idea is Steven Pinker, especially in his book The Language Instinct. One of the differences though between Pinker’s and Chomsky’s positions is that Chomsky suggested that universal grammar might have developed as a spandrel, borrowing from Stephen Jay Gould’s evolutionary theories, but Pinker argues in his book that language can be explained in purely evolutionary terms. Pinker was influenced in his evolutionary thinking by the work of Gould’s chief adversary, none other than Richard Dawkins. Essentially, and this is probably somewhat over-simplified, the debate between Dawkins and Gould rests on how the mechanism of evolution works, with Dawkins arguing for the individual gene as the unit of selection, a notion made famous in his book The Selfish Gene which also launched the idea of “memes” now so prevalent in online culture, whereas Gould argued that evolutionary selection could operate on different levels, including those of the whole species or clade. In addition to arguments about species-level evolution and the idea of spandrels, Gould is also known for the theory of punctuated equilibrium, that evolution involves long periods of stability which are sometimes punctuated by rapid periods of change, and the concept of non-overlapping magisteria or NOMA for short. Essentially he argued that science and religion are and should be thought of as two domains of authority which do not overlap, and therefore do not have to be in opposition to one another. If religion can’t claim higher authority in terms of physical truth, so too can science not claim higher authority in terms of moral truth. However, hardline atheists, most importantly Dawkins in his book The God Delusion, reject this notion. And as a final note on Stephen Jay Gould, bringing us full circle, not only has he done work on genetics and natural selection, both of which words derive from the same root as generation, he is also the author of the book Questioning the Millennium: A Rationalist’s Guide to a Precisely Arbitrary Countdown, one of the key sources for this video.

Thanks for watching! And if you haven’t yet, why not have a look at our previous video all about the word Sabbath! If you’ve enjoyed these etymological explorations and cultural connections, please subscribe, & click the little bell to be notified of every new episode. And check out our Patreon, where you can make a contribution to help me make more videos. I’m @Alliterative on Twitter, and you can visit our website alliterative.net for more language and connections in our podcast, blog, and more!