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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 | ISSN 1556-5696

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Roundtable Discussion
Reflecting Upon The Amazing Meeting 8

This week on Skepticality, Derek & Swoopy join forces with other members of “Team Skeptic” for an informal roundtable discussion about The Amazing Meeting 8, the record-setting skeptic’s conference that recently took place in Las Vegas (co-sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Skeptics Society).

Joining the discussion are Daniel Loxton (Editor of Junior Skeptic), Blake Smith (creator of the podcast MonsterTalk) and Tim Farley (creator of WhatsTheHarm.Net and producer of “This Week in Skeptic History”).

The panel discusses the highlights of this conference, including the best of the presentations and workshops, and reflects on the evolution of TAM over the past several years. Especially in the spotlight: challenging TAM8 presentations about responsibility for those at all levels of the skeptical movement.


Follow Daniel Loxton on Twitter, Facebook, and Skepticblog.
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Phil Plait argues passionately at TAM8. Photo by Marc-Julien Objois

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The Reasonableness
of Weird Things

We’ve all believed in something weird at one time or another. In this week’s Skepticblog, Daniel Loxton reminds skeptics that critical thinking is a learned skill; we are not born with it.

READ the post

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In this week’s eSkeptic, S. James Killings reviews the film AGORA, distributed by Focus Features, produced by Fernando Bovaira and Álvaro Augustin, directed by Alejandro Amenábar, written by Amenábar and Mateo Gil, starring Rachel Weisz.

Dr. S. James Killings has a doctorate in Medieval History from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Mediaeval Studies. He has taught Classics at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota and North Central College in Illinois. His current work is on the 11th-century monastic poet Reginald of Canterbury for which he recently published an article in Revue Benedictine

Agora film stills and movie poster are copyright © 2010 Newmarket Films. All Rights Reserved.


Film still from Agora. Copyright © 2010 Newmarket Films. All Rights Reserved.

Was Hypatia of Alexandria a Scientist?

a film review by S. James Killings

THE FILM AGORA, RELEASED IN THEATRES IN LATE 2009 in Spain and this summer in the United States, portrays an unlikely heroine for the popular American audience — the ancient mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria, played by Rachel Weisz. Although renowned as a Neo-Platonic philosopher during her lifetime, she is remembered more often for her death than for her life. In 415 AD the pagan Hypatia was caught up in the political and religious violence that routinely swept Alexandria and murdered by a group of fanatical Christian monks who were intent on making an example of her. One of her colleagues, the Syrian Damascius, placed the blame squarely on the Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria and his Christian followers.

In the 18th century, the Enlightenment thinkers John Toland and particularly Voltaire seized on Damascius’ story of Hypatia’s death as symbolic of the antagonistic nature the Christian religion had toward the freedom of inquiry. They imagined her as a martyred symbol of free thought who was destroyed by the irrational dogmas of the growing ecclesiastical patriarchy. Her death, according to her blossoming legend, set back free inquiry a thousand years and ended the scientific hopes of the Hellenistic Age. This image of Hypatia as an Enlightenment symbol was to have far-reaching influence well into the 20th century, as Maria Dzielska explains in her book, Hypatia of Alexandria, so much so that it has become difficult now to untangle the historical Hypatia from her literary legend. Amenábar’s Hypatia, also apparently influenced by Carl Sagan’s portrayal of her in his documentary film Cosmos, appears to be another cultural product of this Enlightenment legend.

The intersections of religion and science and rising concerns over religious fundamentalism have gripped the news in recent years, so it is no wonder Amenábar has resurrected Voltaire’s Enlightenment emblem again. But Hypatia’s portrayal as scientific heroine in the movie deserves some scrutiny not the least to separate her legend from history for those who have not studied ancient philosophy, but also to give credit where credit is due for the advancement of scientific reasoning.

The historical life of Hypatia is shrouded in the mists of the past. She was the daughter of the mathematician Theon, who was known to have been associated with the Museion of Alexandria in the 4th century. What we know of her mathematical work (and much of her life) comes from a Byzantine history, the Suda, compiled five centuries after her death. She is thought to have written commentaries on the conics of Apollonius and the Arithmetica of Diophantus, along with an introduction to astronomical treatises, none of which have survived. It has been argued that she contributed a not insignificant part to her father’s editions of Euclid and Ptolemy, and perhaps all of her commentaries were collaborations with her father. She taught at the Neo-Platonic School in Alexandria, an institution separate from the Museion. As a teacher of Plato and Aristotle, according to the Suda, she became famous throughout Alexandria. She has often been associated with the invention of the hydrometer, a tool used to measure the density of liquids, but the wording of the evidence — Synesius of Cyrene’s letter to her — casts doubt on that score.

Although we cannot be completely certain of the nature of Hypatia’s mathematical work, the commentaries and work attributed to her in the Suda do suggest that she was interested in astronomy. Apollonius described the eccentric movements of the planets, their epicycles and deferents and described the mathematical properties of the ellipse, hyperbola and parabola. Ptolemy builds on Apollonius’ work to construct his geocentric model of the planets. Diophantus’ Arithmetica provides examples of quadratic equations that are necessary to determine the properties of curves. Because of her association with the Neo-Platonic school in the 4th century Near-East, her work may have had something to do with the Plotine criticism of astrology. Plotinus, the founder of the Neo-Platonic school, was highly skeptical of astrological divination, and so we would expect was Hypatia.

Film still from Agora. Copyright © 2010 copyright Newmarket Films. All Rights Reserved.

Confused by the irrational properties given by astrologers to this or that planet as it moved through the Zodiac, Plotinus asked: “What is the comprehensive principle of coordination [of the movements of the planets]? Establish this and we have a reasonable basis for divination.…” Plotinus believed the planets were living beings that paradoxically had no will but were bound to follow a set course through the heavens. In her studies of conics and curves, Hypatia may have thought to determine the “comprehensive principle of coordination” of these heavenly beings in order to make divination more rational. We may never know. But of the Neo-Platonists of her era — Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, Damascius — Hypatia appears to have been unique in her focus on astronomy and this may have contributed to her popularity (and animosity toward her) in the superstitious culture of Egyptian Alexandria.

The scientific subplot of the movie has Hypatia questioning the geocentric theory of the planets as espoused by Aristotle and then Ptolemy. Amenábar’s Hypatia engages in physics and mathematics in her pursuit. Her empirical experiment with the falling grain sack aboard the ship proves that gravity has the same effect on falling objects whether moving forward or standing still. She excitedly concludes that the Earth could be moving forward in the heavens and we could be unaware of it (the logic of her conclusion is not explained in the film). This notion of a moving, non-stationary Earth, is in contravention to the Aristotelian idea of gravity which held that earth, as one of the four elements, was drawn to its natural place at the centre of the spherical universe, which also comprised the other three elements, water, air and lastly fire. Nonetheless, her experiment aboard the ship opens her up to questioning Ptolemy’s geocentric planetary model of celestial spheres and epicycles. Using her knowledge of Apollonian conics, mathematics, and a clinometer, she at length correctly deduces the elliptical orbits of the planets (Kepler’s first law of planetary motion) in a helio-centric (Copernican) system, a pair of discoveries that would have been 1200 years before their time.

The kind of reasoning that Amenábar’s Hypatia engages in, with the falling grain sack and the theoretical knowledge drawn from observation and experiment, is known as empiricism. It is a logical method so fundamental to our modern approach to science, especially astronomy, that it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to comprehend any useful scientific enterprise without it. But empiricism is the product of a long history of philosophers beginning principally with Avicenna in the 11th century and practiced by the likes of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler in the cause of astronomy in the 16th century. It was developed into a philosophical practice through the Enlightenment principally by John Locke and David Hume. This mode of thought would have been completely alien to the real Hypatia of Alexandria, not because her mind was not equipped for such paths, but because she, her colleagues, her father, and their predecessors had no experience in nor knowledge of such logical methods. Moreover, as a 4th century Platonist, Hypatia likely mistrusted physical observation altogether and believed, like her mentor Plotinus, that she could uncover the mysteries of the universe by ratiocination alone.

The story of her menstrual rags in the Suda was meant to illustrate this point: as a female philosopher, Hypatia was not interested in the physical, only the metaphysical. To employ empiricism to call into question Aristotle she would have had to first call into question her entire metaphysical philosophical tradition and invent almost ex nihilo a whole new and mature method of reasoning. In other words, the real Hypatia would have been more likely to attribute the physical properties of the falling grain sack to the god Seraphis, than to the possibility that it meant the Earth was moving in the heavens in contradiction to Aristotle. She simply had no body of evidence nor rational means to conclude otherwise. It would take another millennia and considerable advances in other scientific areas — especially in logic, argumentation, mathematics, instrumentation and observation — before thinkers could begin to accurately describe the motions of the planets and the workings of the heavens.

Film poster for Agora. Copyright © 2010 copyright Newmarket Films. All Rights Reserved.

Without these logical methods and evidence, and as a Neo-Platonist, Hypatia’s astronomical study of conics and curves would have been a purely philosophical and mathematical pursuit, exercised in the cloistered confines of the Alexandrian Library, divorced from empirical observation. Nowadays, it is strange to contemplate astronomy without empiricism, but the Platonic philosopher Hypatia would have reveled in it. If we must give her a modern scientific title by which she can be recognized, it would be more accurate to describe her as a mathematician in the purest sense.

We ought not to diminish nor elevate Hypatia’s contribution to science. Making too much of her legend does great disservice to the multitude of men and women throughout history who have made modern science possible. If any great credit is due to the advancement of scientific reasoning and the birth of the Modern Age it is not to a rediscovered Hypatia, but to the many thinkers and philosophers of the Renaissance and Enlightenment who, after more than two millennia, first put into words and practice a revolution in our understanding of the universe. Amenábar has seemingly made Hypatia into a symbol of the modern scientific method. Voltaire would have approved.


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13 Comments »

13 Comments

  1. Arturo Ruiz says:

    Of course science, in the way we know it now, did not exists in that period. However, Hypatia was the best approach of it due those tmes.

  2. M Henri Day says:

    Dr Killings writes as if the great mathematician, physicist, and empiricist, Archimedes, who was noted not merely for his purely mathematical discoveries, but also and in antiquity mainly for such inventions as the screw pump and siege engines – and who, by the way, was educated in Alexandria – had never lived. By no means all the ancient Greeks were idealists and deists, even if works by those who weren’t had an unfortunate habit of disappearing, both before and after the Christians came to power – indeed, the fact that so little of her work has survived, while possibly due to chance, would seem to indicate that the views found in them were anathema to the new regime. As Dr Killings points out, «[t]he historical life of Hypatia is shrouded in the mists of the past» ; this being the case, it would be wise to avoid attributing certain views to her, whether those of Plotinus or those of, say, Aristarchos, a near contemporary of Archimedes, who advocated a heliocentric view of the world some 17 centuries years before Copernicus – we simply don’t know. OK, she probably was less photogenic than the actress who portrayed her in Professor Sagan’s famous series – but then again, we really don’t know that either, do we ?…

    Henri

  3. Luis Rey says:

    This is the kind of nitpicking “skepticism” that everybody loves to hate. Skepticisim doesn’t mean being narrow minded. OF COURSE Hypatia was not a scientist in the sense a modern scientist can be… how could she be? But from that inferring that she couldn’t use empiricism (well in use from the golden age of Greek philosophers several hundred years before) or that a well intended and very good movie about a legendary figure can go in detriment of the achievements of “modern science” is plain stupid.
    On the contrary, I see a movie that shows the rising of Christianity in a very different (and indeed accurate) light…Christians were then what Islamic fundamentalists are now. A very good comment on the ravages of religion in general.
    A very important movie.

  4. Tracy Ramsey says:

    I think the true wonder of this film isn’t in its attempt to depict a historical figure of whom so much is mere speculation, than the very way in which it holds us up to the mirror of our own prides and prejudices. We cannot know more than we do of who this woman was. We can however, discover how we ourselves interpret gender and the role of rationalism in our lives as they exist in our own times.
    Hypatia is alive and well, in every little girl being denied an education in Afghanistan, or left to settle for anything less than her highest aspirations in any of a dozen repressive regimes, all over the world.
    Thus endeth the sermon.

  5. Milt Timmons says:

    The film made much of the heliocentric theory of Aristarchos, who had lived long before Hypatia. Does Dr. Killings deny that Aristarchos devised a heliocentric hypothesis, or that Hypatia could have known about it?

  6. Richard says:

    I believe that Dr. Killings is right to point out the differences between the real Hypatia, as far as we know, and the exaggerated heroine depicted in the movie Agora. If the movie does depict Hypatia deducing the heliocentric theory of the earth as well as Kepler’s first law simply from a falling grain sack aboard a ship, then skeptics have every right to point out that this is very unlikely for an ancient Greek, let alone a neo-Platonist who stressed formal reasoning over empirical observation as the path to knowledge. In no way does this deny that Hypatia was an admirable woman who was killed by Christian fanatics. Also, I would be curious to know more about the interplay between rationalism and empiricism (to use modern terms) in ancient Greek thought.

  7. Epicurus says:

    Does Dr. Killings know about the Antikythera Mechanism? Does he know about the 800 years of Epicurean philosophy that preceded Hypatia? Does he know that most of the educated Romans were Epicureans, as attested to by the library of scrolls discovered in the Villa of the Papyri? This “skeptical” review deserves a large dose of skepticism! Why does Dr. Killings skew the point of the movie to the details of the account of a single person, when what is clearly depicted is a civilizational shift from rationality to barbarism?

    How does Dr. Killings account for the strange fact that the Hellenistic-Roman world view, that, at that time spanned from Scotland to China, was, in short order, dismantled by forces of ignorance and intolerance not unlike those in operation today? What does Dr. Killings have to say about the difference between ancient “syncretism” by which peoples of widely different beliefs could live in harmony, and the absurd totalitarian absolutism that followed?

    How does Dr. Killings account for the title of the movie, which could easily have been “Hypatia” or “Alexandria” but is, instead “Agora” — which in our time means “marketplace” but in Hellenistic antiquity was a place of intellectual as well as mercantile exchange.

    This article is flawed in too many ways to enumerate here. I can only hint at them. Most significantly, it misses the point of making such a movie at this point in our own troubled times, dismisses the real issues at hand, and damns Hypatia and her world by faint praise. Anyone who takes the time to really read the history of this time, going back to the sources themselves if there is any doubt, will see that an enormous crime was perpetrated and then silenced for centuries. Any honest reviewer of this history will come to realize that we are not yet out of this darkness. For all our scientific advancement, we are still socially at each other’s throats!

    What progress was made in the Middle Ages was a return to light, not a discovery of it. The Renaissance was a specific reference to ancient values. The Enlightenment may not have happened had not Gassendi revived Epicurus in his rebuttal of Descartes absurd dualism — and the list of self-avowed Epicureans reads like a Who’s Who of our present world. Even Jefferson called himself an Epicurean.

    I would imagine that a skeptic would use the tools of skepticism to spread light, and not to obscure what needs to be known as widely as possible. The movie is a movie, no doubt, a simple fiction, a dramatization, and any intelligent adult can discern the differences between what a film-maker can know about a long-dead character, and what must have been invented. Even if many, or most, of the details about this or that mathematical statement or experiment are flawed or invented, the outline of the film and its depiction of the times and clashes that occur, are largely correct. If anything, a skeptic would note that Amenabar is actually timid in depicting the cruelty of the times (Hypatia was stripped nakes, skinned alive with either shells or tiles “ostraka”, dragged through the streets, dismembered, and had her parts thrown to the fires and to the dogs), and the stupidity that came to overwhelm reason. If you would like to shiver with terror in the face of the truth, read Procopius’s Secret History (the Anekdota), available in full online to anyone who can use Google, and see how, in the course of a single chapter, he describes how Justinian’s actions led 12-13 million people to perish in Libya, Mauretania, and the span between the Ionian see and Constantinople, including all of the Balkans, with ordinances that everything taken could be given to the Church, and a view that it was fine to kill pagans, since they were non-believers and did not count. This only accounts for a small part of what happened between about 290AD and 529AD (even longer in many places).

    I cannot do justice to this enormous subject in a blog comment. I can only say that the history of the end of “antiquity” may be the most important history for everyone to learn about — this battle is far from over, and we are all still suffering its consequences. We all owe to ourselves, to each other, and to our childrens’ children to discern what happened and arrive at our own informed views. For centuries, only historians and philologists could find their way to the necessary information. Now, via Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, Project Perseus, Google Scholar, and a million other repositories of information, the knowledge is accessible to anyone who wants to learn for themselves what schools and textbooks have not told.

    Look into this. See for yourselves.

  8. greek says:

    To quote Dr. Killings: “If any great credit is due to the advancement of scientific reasoning and the birth of the Modern Age it is not to a rediscovered Hypatia, but to the many thinkers and philosophers of the Renaissance and Enlightenment who, after more than two millennia, first put into words and practice a revolution in our understanding of the universe.”

    Does Dr. Killings know the history of science? Scientific reasoning and even the scientific method were practiced in the 3rd century B.C. notably by Archimedes, Aristarchus and Eratosthenes.

    Archimedes formulated the law of buoyancy, also known as Archimedes’ principle, and the principle of the lever. To my knowledge, these two are the earliest laws of physics. Archimedes’ scientific laws are still taught today in engineering schools. I know because I graduated from M.I.T.

    Aristarchus was the first to formulate the heliocentric hypothesis. Eratosthenes was the first to accurately measure the size of the earth. If any great credit may be given for the birth of the scientific method, it is not to the Renaissance philosophers as Dr. Killings would like us to believe, but to these three Greeks who lived in the 3rd century B.C.

  9. John F. Felix says:

    I would not contend that the advanced scientific empiricism that is purported to Hypatia in Agora is fictional, and no doubt extreme to the point of near-absurdity (“she at length correctly deduces the elliptical orbits of the planets [Kepler’s first law of planetary motion] in a helio-centric [Copernican] system”), and that she was murdered for being a pagan, more than anything else. However, I do contend that Carl Sagan, in his book Cosmos, calls not only Hypatia a “scientist,” but also her illustrious predecessor, Eratosthenes, by this same nomenclature (Cosmos, p. 14, 1980). When dealing with his rational deductions based on shadows at divergent geographic locations, he employed empirical data of several types to determine nearly correctly the circumpherence of the earth. Sagan draws attention to this use of empiricism ultimately to decry the destruction of such advancements in knowledge that helped place the seal of the Dark Ages following on the destruction of ancient centers of learning, such as Alexandria.

    Therefore, the points he seems to be making are 1) there were precedents for the scientific methodology of empiricism you describe as not having any precedents, 2) what many of these ancient scholars thought, did, wrote and produced were so utterly destroyed, like Hypatia, that little can be known now about just how advanced they may have become (“The historical life of Hypatia is shrouded in the mists of the past”), and 3) although it is not unreasonable to assume that philosophers were more metaphysical than scientific in their general outlook, the current alternative to their systems at the time was basically religious-inspired superstition, so even if such scholars were not true scientists, the least we could say is that they carried a torch which was mercilessly extinguished before science could pass from being a curiosity to a practical, world-transforming endeavor.

    “But empiricism is the product of a long history of philosophers,” however I must point out that this huge gap is an artificially induced span (“… a pair of discoveries that would have been 1200 years before their time”) , during which knowledge, science, philosophy, experimentation, etc. were deliberately suppressed. Had not religious superstition clamped down a hard seal upon free thought, I doubt that it would have taken quite that long, especially if the loss of such ancient learning had not necessitated their re-discovery. You mention “…she, her colleagues, her father, and their predecessors had no experience in nor knowledge of such logical methods.” Perhaps you should have said empirical methods, but here also I think you should be aware of the amount of time Sagan spends on Eratosthenes. He also mentions Hipparchus, Euclid, Dionysius of Thrace, Herophilus, Heron of Alexandria, Apollonius of Perga, Archimedes, Ptolemy — quite a precedential lot, indeed. Finally, since nothing is known about what she truly thought, taught and regarded of her predecessors, perhaps she was not so rigid in her adherence to neo-Platonism as you would have us conclude. She might just have easily made a leap beyond her mentors and tutors, so for the purposes of cinematic fiction, I’m willing to suspend disbelief.

  10. Richard Carrier, Ph.D. says:

    I am a historian of ancient science, and much of what Killings claims is indeed wrong, some of it wildly wrong (though some is still correct). I’ve published a corrective on my own blog (richardcarrier.blogspot.com), URL: http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2010/08/killings-hypatia.html where you’ll find things aren’t quite as Killings imagined.

    • greek says:

      Aristotle was more scientific than his teacher Plato but he did not practice the scientific method. Aristotle got it wrong in physics. He had observed but he did not experiment. Archimedes in the 3rd century BC got it right, not once but twice. He discovered two laws of physics – buoyancy and the lever principle. Archimedes experimented and computed – the hallmark of the scientific method.

      Interestingly, the Pythagoreans in the 6th century BC discovered that musical notes can be expressed in mathematical equations. Though the Pythagoreans are generally considered as mathematicians and mystics than scientists in the modern sense, apparently their discovery was the result of experimentation and computation. In that sense, they also practiced the scientific method 200 years before Archimedes.

      Science and the scientific method are much older than the 4th century Hypatia and much more than the Renaissance philosophers.

  11. Gordon Schoettler says:

    Why is it that some people cannot appreciate a piece of fiction? Mr. Killings might be right on certain points, wrong on others. But Agora is not a documentary, it’s a movie, a piece of entertainment. The best pieces of fiction always reflect contemporary issues and that’s what the film does brilliantly. Dogmatic faith versus reason and science. Just look at Islamic fundamentalism or the intelligent design vesus Darwinism debate. By the way, I have read Maria Dzielska’s Hypatia of Alexandria which I found pretty boring. The movie doesn’t depict the real historical Hypatia who we know very little about, the fictional Hypatia is a beacon of reason in a sea of political corruption and religious fundamentalism. I can only applaud the movie for that point of view.

  12. Tres Jordan says:

    Sadly we must invoke Socrates as to an empirical understanding of Hypatia. What I know for sure is I don’t know. How much she was a Martyr/legend figure by the pagan/gnostic pr machine it’s hard to say since none of her works survived the intellectual pogrom that was the literalist Christian Church ie;;catholic. But to be a woman scholar at that time pagan or not meant to be damn good at your field.
    To Dr. Killings I would say that empirical science wasn’t invented by Bacon ( who you left out ) and that the ancients had workshops devoted to physics, astronomy, math, etc and were tireless observers, as a matter of fact, Philosophy is and was a product of observation and experiment, perhaps not with the checks and balances of the 21 rst century but a methodical one none the less. The movie at time dragged because so much air time was given to shots of Hypatia just thinking in her laboratory, the sand pit. A risky move by the director to be applauded, for after all isn’t that what all practitioners of sciences do for 90% of the time… Think
    As far as her being a Neo Platonist and perhaps ( we don’t know) believer in Serapis exempting her from being a legitimate scientist, would you say the same of the Catholic biologist who believes that Jesus Christ was/is God of the universe ?
    The remarkable thing about the movie that seems to escape Killings and most of the posts I read but that the writer and director knew and portrayed were the underlying currents at the time. This was class war more than religious war! The so called pagans were for the most part Gnostic Christians. Alexandria could easily be mistaken for Athens it was so Hellenized. The friction was between the Christians themselves. The Gnostics being more learned,wealthy and open minded when it came to religious views while the Literalists Christians were dogmatic, illiterate,and obedient. However the literalists were the ones feeding the poor, giving health care and providing solace in a brutal world. The gnostics were wealthy kept slaves ( as evidenced by the collars that they wore in the movie) and put their money and energies into knowledge, books, arts and the Epicurean outlook. They were more metaphysical and tended to believe things were as they were intended. The myth was that the Romans persecuted Christians but for the most part they were left alone since they a.) took care of the poor b.) payed taxes c.) were involved in the spiritual not political. Early Christians were the original Communists in the true sense of the word. No personal possessions, no money,devotion to the group over self.
    At the time of the movie that era has passed and the Nicecean creed is in full force and the coffers are getting full due to State sponsorship but the resentment they feel towards those arrogant heretics has never been higher and now they have the power to do something about it… And they did. What was glossed over was her death. This we do know. It was described as “ostreka” a process of being skinned alive and then dismembered and of course burning the corpse as the coup de grace. It would’nt be a stretch to say she was probably gang raped first.
    The sad thing was that there were 25 people in the theater to see a movie as important as this one and right next door the Sex and the City movie was packed. A quartet of selfish,narcissistic,goldiggers are more important role models than a independent ,intellectual, chaste woman who had her life taken for defending free thought. SAD. The good news is that according to a movie biz friend of mine Agora is the number 1 movie of all time in Spain. Broken all box office records Titanic be damned. The original Christian barbarians ( read BartolomeDe La Casas”s “A short account of the destruction of the Indes”, he was a Dominican priest) seem to have the stomach to face their grisly past while here in America a right wing fundamentalist organism is trying with all it’s might to stir up the same flames of ignorance that led us to the dark ages that followed almost precisely after the death of Hypatia. SEE THIS MOVIE

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