Wed. Jul 6th, 2022

Introduction: What is the Course of Human events?

The course of human events is a lecture given on the Jeffersonian philosophy by Daniel Mead in 2003. Mead gives his lectures at Kenyon College and is available online here: http://www.kenyon.edu/RepublicTheology/Faculty/Mead-Daniel-JEFFERSONIAN-LECTURE-in-the.html.
Biography [from above source]:
Daniel Mead is a former student of the late great Kenneth Ellis. He worked with him and his other students within the Center for Advanced Christian Studies in the progressive end of Christian apologetics. Mead received a Masters degree in Theology in 2004 from Messiah College and has since given lectures on Jeffersonian philosophy throughout several Christian Colleges. Mead has published articles in The Journal of Religion, Westminster Theological Journal and The Journal of Faith and Reason, as well as taken part in public debates with J.P. Moreland, Greg Bahnsen, David Wood and many others.

the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities
the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities

History is Never Done

Dr. Mead tells us that history is always being written, that we are constantly learning from our past and applying those lessons to the present and future. He explains that the past happened in a certain way at a certain time but that does not mean it is the only way for it to happen. In other words, the past is worth studying so that we can apply the lessons we learn from it to the future. He advocates for the study of history for its own sake and not as a means to teach us things about the future, such as how to behave. (page 7)”
In the January 8, 2004 issue of The Economist, there is an article written by Nicholas D. Kristof (Summary below) called “Why Hear No Evil?” In it he says: “Most people feel that learning from the past does them no good. In fact, at this point in history it is dangerous not to learn from the past.”

the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities
the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities

How History Works

He explains that we learn from human experience, or history. We also learn from science and art and religion. All of these things help us to understand the course of human events by giving us perspective on them. He draws an analogy between practicing religion, practicing science, and writing a memoir: the more you practice, the better you become at it. Therefore, the more we study of history and the human experience, the better and more complete our understanding of the course of human events.
He explains that the course of events is not pre-determined; rather, it follows the laws of history. He gives an analogy between the laws of physics and those of history. That is, even the most improbable event can occur and be accounted for by some law or other.
He explains that a historian has to work with what is available on a given topic; he cannot just arbitrarily invent facts or laws out of thin air. If he does, he will inevitably be criticized by other historians whose original research contradicts his findings. This external criticism can be very helpful to the historian , who will not just be accused of “wrongly” rejecting facts and laws, but will instead have a high degree of confidence in the correctness of his interpretation of history.
He explains that the “Big Picture” is important to history, as it gives us a way to interpret events. Therefore, he points out that there must have been some grand event or events that started all of this off. There is no way to account for the Great Depression, or the US Civil War, or the French Revolution, etc. by saying “they just happened that way.” It had to be caused by something.

the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities
the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities

Lessons from History for Gamers

He also tells a story of how his own college experience as well as history as a whole helped him to develop a deeper appreciation for human history. Mead writes, “I grew up in the shadow of WWII and the Holocaust… I watched my father write about these events for many years… one felt terrible about it all, but did not quite understand what was happening or why it was happening.” (1) He goes on to relate how he was re-introduced to history at college because of his interest in science. He was asked “What role does history play in science?” And he replied, “History informs science and helps scientists to develop their ideas… History may be defined as a record of the general tendencies of events… which however, are, so far as people are concerned, unchangeable.” (2) He was told that his explanation of history was too simplistic and an oversimplification. Mead goes on to explain that nothing is ever finished and that our past is always changing and we need to keep learning in order.
This story helps to explain why Mead sees the importance of history. He says, “History is important as a backdrop to current events… History helps us understand why we are where we are… The past is essential if we want to understand the present… We need history in order to avoid making mistakes.” (3) I agree with him in that the Star Wars MMORPG does contain lessons about history. The game is set thousands of years before the movies (4) and players can join with either the Republic or Sith Empire factions. Players can choose to be a Jedi, a Sith, or a Smuggler. There are also multiple ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic . I am currently a level 57 Jedi Knight and I have played both sides of the game.

the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities
the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities

Conclusion: “Does Our Future Lie With Technology?”

Mead concludes that the course of human events is an ever-changing thing. He says that if people would only recognize this, they would become more humble, humble enough to at least consider the possibility of the possible. He even questions the futurists, asking “Does our future lie with technology?” (3) He explains that “if you ask what role will technology play in human affairs in the future, I think it is another good question and one we should ask ourselves. All I can say is that history suggests that it will be a very important one. For example, in past ages, the future was usually told by astrologists… now we listen to futurists.” (4) He asks “How likely is our future to be determined by science, by technology? And that’s an interesting question… if we think it doesn’t matter, if we are sure that what matters is technology… well then I guess there’s no reason for us to study history… of course, we won’t be able to control it; history will control us.” (4) I think that Mead’s point here is that if we don’t pay attention to history, then we won’t be able to learn from our mistakes.

the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities
the course of human events: the 2003 jefferson lecture in the humanities