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Monday, September 13, 2010

Open Information

As the Protestant Reformation began, questions began to circulate as to how much information the people should receive, and how much information should be withheld.
Martin Luther was one that was an advocate for giving information to the people. The people in his day received all of their information from the Catholic Church. They took what the Catholic church gave to them, and did their best to live it. Because of literacy and the problem with obtaining copies of the Bible, many did not know anything other than what was given to them by the Church. Martin Luther studied at Erfurt University, and began to realize the corruption that had developed in the Roman Catholic Church. After being transferred to Wittenberg,  Luther's action of nailing 95 theses onto the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg started a revolution of thought as to what information should be given to all people. The Printing Press then spread the news like wildfire, and the Protestant Reformation began.
See Protestant Reformation

People other than Luther also advocated a freedom of speech. One of the most noteworthy was John Milton, and his polemical tract, Areopagitica, in which he states,
"[T]hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"
Milton argues that with free speech, truth and falsehood will be mingled together, but truth will always overpower falsehood. Whereas, if we begin to censor everything, truth may be what is censored, and falsehoods will run rampant.

In our day, open information is much more available. The internet, free software, and "Open access" websites have made it possible to spread information in a matter of seconds, rather than weeks. With this comes a wonderful opportunity to find truth, and wonderful new ideas. However, we also need to be ever more cautious, because there is plenty of falsehood out there.

"Young people have lost that deference to their elders on which the social order depends; they reject all correction. Sexual offenses, rapes, adulteries, incests and seductions are more common than ever before. How monstrous that the world should have been overthrown by such dense clouds for the last three or four centuries, so that it could not see clearly how to obey Christ's commandment to love our enemies. Everything is in shameful confusion; everywhere I see only cruelty, plots, frauds, violence, injustice, shamelessness while the poor groan under the oppression and the innocent are arrogantly and outrageously harassed. God must be asleep." (John Calvin)

What an interesting view on life in Calvin's time; and how interesting that it reflects our day and age. Be careful out there in the digital world.

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