Monday, October 26, 2009

Essay: "The Creation Myths of Cooperstown." Stephen Jay Gould. 1989.

One-minute review: The author believes that people prefer "creation myths" to the reality that most phenomena evolve. Baseball is an example. It was not started by Abner Doubleday, a man who didn't "know a baseball from a kumquat." It evolved from primitive stick-and-ball games played by working people even before America became a British colony.


“…you can, honest Abe not withstanding, fool most of the people most of the time. How else to explain the long and continuing compendium of hoaxes—from the medieval shroud of Turin to Edwardian Piltdown Man to an ultramodern array of flying saucers and astral powers—eagerly embraced for their consonance with our hopes or their resonance with our fears?”

“Abner Doubleday, as we shall soon see, most emphatically did not invent baseball at Cooperstown in 1839 as the official tale proclaims; in fact, no one invented baseball at any moment or in any spot.”

“This is an essay on the origins of baseball, with some musings on why beginnings [origins] of all sorts hold such fascination for us.”

Comment: This debunking is right up there with Washington’s cherry tree. RayS.

Best American Essays of the Century. Editors: Oates and Atwan. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000.

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