FOM: (no subject) JoeShipman at
Mon Feb 18 10:20:19 EST 2002

>>As an example of the role of social pressure in accepting a "belief", I can mention an anecdote that happened at the end of 1999, when the world was preparing to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium 1 year too early. Speaking with one of my colleagues it was clear that he knew and understood perfectly the argument (based on the nonexistence of a "year zero") showing that the second millennium would not arrive until 2001, but he did not care, he behaved in all respects as if the millennium was going to arrive in 2000, saying that those who insist in not accepting it will become socially isolated.<<

I disagree that this was the only reason to celebrate on 1/1/2000 rather than 1/1/2001.  The assertion "there was no year zero" is simply a statement about the mathematical sophistication of people several centuries later, the people who lived at the time used an entirely different calendar.  I am allowed to regard the year "1 B.C." as having the alternate name "0", the year "2 B.C." as having the alternate name "-1", and so on, since neither notation has the sanction of having been used contemporaneously .  (Indeed, this is probably how historical computer databases represent dates.)

It is the case that some people, deemed "authorities" by some other people, defined "the 20th Century" to comprise the years 1901-2000, but there is no reason I can't say that the "1st century" consisted of the years 0-99 rather than 1-100 and "the 3rd millennium" began in 2000.  Nobody living in that era had ever defined "the first century" since the modern reckoning wasn't even used for those dates for several hundred years afterwards.  The pedantic self-appointed authorities would enshrine a primitive method of reckoning because some ancient monks didn't have the concept of the number zero, but "century" and "millennium" do not have an official definition in our calendar so they may be ignored.

The only person who REALLY has the authority to make such declarations is the successor of the person who invented and officially proclaimed our current "Gregorian"  method of reckoning years and dates, but Pope John Paul II finessed the issue by, in his apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio adveniente" on November 10, 1994, declaring the entire year 2000 to be a jubilee year and scheduling celebrations throughout the whole year, carefully avoiding saying whether 2000 represented the first year of the third millennium or the last year of the second millennium.

-- Joe Shipman

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