Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 06-28-2000, 11:42 AM
PepperMan PepperMan is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 8
Which single event, in your opinion, had the GREATEST effect on how history has unfolded. I mean this in terms of:

If it didn't happen, the world as we know it would be DRASTICALLY different.
Old 06-28-2000, 11:51 AM
Perderabo Perderabo is offline
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Ashburn, Va, USA
Posts: 375
The creation of life on Earth.
Old 06-28-2000, 11:55 AM
jayron 32 jayron 32 is offline
Join Date: Jun 1999
Posts: 881
For anyone seriously interested in the OP's topic, I HIGHLY recommend the BBC series "The Day The Universe Changed," hosted by historian James Burke, that deals with this exact topic; what inventions/ideas literally changed the very nature of the world. You can probably find it at your local library, if it is large enough, or perhaps order it on line. I'm a HUGE James Burke fan, and this series is almost as good as the very first "Connections" series.

Now that that hijack is over, I would have to say that it is most definately the printing press. This is not to say that it wouldn't have been invented anyways by someone else, but Guttenburg's little converted winepress has had a greater impact on the "collective knowledge" of mankind than any other single invention or event.

Though, I should hold to the caveat that the world is not the product of single events. As I noted, if Guttenburg hadn't, somebody else most certainly would have. The progress of humanity is the product of multiple, often unrelated, events coming togethr in unique ways to effect change. Anyone we can point to as an "inventor" or "inovator" is usually just Johnny On-The-Spot. He was lucky enough to be born in the right place at the right time (and have had someone notice in the right way). The book certainly changed the way the world worked, but the very invention of the book was as much a product of the Zeitgeist as the mind of any single human.
Old 06-28-2000, 11:57 AM
DVous Means DVous Means is offline
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Pt Lincoln South Australia
Posts: 897
How about the birth of Jesus Christ? If he had never been born, the rest of his life, deeds and consequences would never have been.

While I am firmly agnostic (and leaning towards atheist), the fact that the entire Western way of life is based around the events attributed to this one man, surely has to validate his existence. Our calendar, our laws, our religion, our moral values, our history all are tied the the central core of Christ's life and teachings. It's hard to think of anyone else who has made such an profound impact on the world.
Old 06-28-2000, 11:58 AM
ATTGuy ATTGuy is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Bothell, Wa, USA
Posts: 163
You mean the evolution of life on earth, don't you?

(ducking the barrage)

Seriously, I'd say that whole extinction thing. Or perhaps WWII, or maybe the renaissance, or was it when humans learned to use fire (or was it tools?) or could it have been the invention of the automobile, or the day I won $15 at the dollar slots at Circus Circus....

never mind, it's too hard to decide.
Old 06-28-2000, 11:58 AM
kiffa kiffa is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Near the St Johns River
Posts: 913
Ah, Jayron32, you are so right - printing press it is.
Old 06-28-2000, 12:00 PM
missbunny missbunny is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Grits Country
Posts: 3,842
I'll agree with jayron about the printing press.
Old 06-28-2000, 12:04 PM
G.B.H. Hornswoggler G.B.H. Hornswoggler is offline
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Suburbia, NJ
Posts: 932
This is a no-brainer

The invention of agriculture, of course. Human life as we know it -- certainly anything that we would call civilization -- was impossible until mankind developed a sedentary lifestyle, which agriculture made possible.
Not just a wiseacre, a highly-paid professional wiseacre.
Old 06-28-2000, 12:17 PM
manhattan manhattan is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 9,132

Which single event, in your opinion...
::Sigh:: Solicitations of opinion belong, oddly enough, in In My Humble Opinion.

Moving the thread.
Old 06-28-2000, 12:21 PM
Sofa King Sofa King is offline
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Playground of the Damned
Posts: 6,027
Let's not forget the domestication of the silkworm, which led to expanded trade throughout Asia all the way to the Mediterranean. Those trade routes in turn facilitated the wide distribution of inventions from paper to the stirrup to the compass to gunpowder. Not to mention the wide distribution of deadly contagious diseases, which allowed disease-resistant Europeans to depopulate three continents for their further expansion.
Old 06-28-2000, 12:33 PM
PepperMan PepperMan is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 8
Sorry Mr. Perfect

You're joking aren't you?

For cryiung out loud Manny It's a general question.
Old 06-28-2000, 01:19 PM
Edwardina Edwardina is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Behind the keyboard
Posts: 743
I have to throw my hat into the ring with: Elec-tricity, E-lec-tricity! *hums ala Schoolhouse Rock*
Old 06-28-2000, 02:48 PM
Montfort Montfort is offline
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Posts: 3,656
The invention of gunpowder. Changed the way people kill each other for better, or for worse.
Old 06-28-2000, 03:28 PM
capacitor capacitor is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 4,095
The transistor, the basis of miniturization. Otherwise your desktop would fill your house, and you have to carry your PDA in an 18-wheeler.
Old 06-28-2000, 03:36 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 22,634
Nothing against Jesus, Caesar, Alexander the Great or even the cultivation of grain, but I have to go with the printing press.
I'm not just a hack writer -- I'm a hack author
Old 06-28-2000, 04:08 PM
Lissa Lissa is offline
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 10,581
I would have to say the divorce of King Henry VIII. It gave a huge boost to the Protestant reformation.
Quid quid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.
Old 06-28-2000, 04:26 PM
Edward The Head Edward The Head is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Somewhere in time
Posts: 6,421
The person who first learned to MAKE tools not just use the rocks around them but actually make the tool. That would have to be the biggest single event, at least for humans.
Old 06-28-2000, 04:34 PM
Munch Munch is offline
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 22,019
I seem to remember a small article in a scholarly magazine (the name of which escapes me), which declares use of the number 0 as the single most important event in human history. Printing press - very good. But would have been figured out by some handy man somewhere. But they (and I'm SO sorry I can't remember the citation!) held that zero was quite unique and a stretch of the ole noggin'.

Any help from someone who is actually smart?

Old 06-28-2000, 05:07 PM
Dragwyr Dragwyr is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Right behind you!!!
Posts: 3,936
Back in December '99, The Discovery Channel did a documentary series on the most influential people of the last millenium, and guess who was at #1: Gutenburg.. for the reasons stated earlier.

Others who I think helped shaped the course of history from that list were Newton, Edison, Einstein, Pasteur... the list goes on. I don't think I could name one event or person though that is responsible for the greatest change. There are just too many turning points in history to consider.
"Believe me, brother. Until you've been booed by a small mob of middle aged New York swingers wearing see-through Tarzan outfits and packing squeeze bottles of fruit flavored lubricant, you don't know the meaning of fear." - Rev. Billy C. Wirtz
Old 06-28-2000, 06:48 PM
jamshid jamshid is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 142
I wish I knew him...

The death of WallyM7.

I've never met the man, and I've only read his online posts, but... he seemed capable of anything, and most SDMBers would be the worse for never having had his input.
There is a certain ineffable quality to the spoken word.
Old 06-29-2000, 08:55 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 45,680
The invention of the personal computer and the
Internet. While it's too early to judge, I
think it's already changed the world.
Old 06-29-2000, 12:40 PM
xizor xizor is online now
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Nashville, TN
Posts: 4,934
The creation of the Straight Dope - the first step in eliminating ignorance.
Old 06-29-2000, 03:05 PM
gobear gobear is offline
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 10,539
My birth. Of course, this 666 birthmark is pretty conspicuous.
"One good rule of thumb is that those who treat a collection of myths like a science book and a science book like a collection of myths are almost singularly ignorant of everything worth knowing in this world. "--Kirkland1244
Old 06-29-2000, 03:26 PM
JavaMaven1 JavaMaven1 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Los Angeles County
Posts: 2,617
Even though I do have to give a nod to the printing press, as it is very important, I have another thing that helped change the world...

Navigation/Map Making. Without it, the New World would never have been discovered. The Crusades would have never happened. The Romans would have stayed in Rome, just hanging out having orgies and banquets.

Come to think of it, I wouldn't mind going back to Roman times...
Old 06-29-2000, 03:39 PM
Lil' Kiffy Lil' Kiffy is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 43
Without a doubt, the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, otherwise we would all be speaking French.
Because the people that love me, and people that hate me, but it's the evil that made me this back-stabbing, deceitful, and shady.
Old 06-29-2000, 08:54 PM
vandal vandal is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Huntington Beach, CA
Posts: 1,705
The fact that Lincoln was president during the American Civil War. I really believe that if he wasn't, we would've fell. The guy was a damn genius.
Old 06-30-2000, 09:42 AM
Dinsdale Dinsdale is offline
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 16,763
I've posted it before elsewhere, and I'll post it again: The most influential event is when someone had the brilliant idea to hide Jesus' body.
What is Gutenburg best know for having printed?
Old 06-30-2000, 10:46 AM
Sledman Sledman is offline
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Stevens Point, WI
Posts: 603

A Bible or specifically the Gutenburg Bible.

While I have to disagree with the whole single event/cause idea, I would cast my vote in favor of either the harnessing of fire or the invention of the wheel.

Without fire you could not make your printing press. It is the catalyst to most of the changes we have seen throughout history. Bronze Age, Iron Age etc..

The usefulness of the wheel is self explanatory.
Old 07-01-2000, 07:13 PM
Koffing Koffing is offline
Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 355
That black monolith landing on Earth.

Okay, seriously, I'll have to go with the harnessing of fire. Modern technology pretty much hinges upon that.
"A pretty effective hell would be not knowing you're dead, and just going on with life sucking."
--Geoff Spear
Old 07-01-2000, 10:10 PM
Micro Furry Micro Furry is offline
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Underfoot
Posts: 74
I feel the need to point out that the printing press existed in China for centuries before Gutenberg, ahem, "invented" it. At least that's what we were taught in Eastern Rel.
Old 07-01-2000, 10:23 PM
London_Calling London_Calling is offline
Join Date: May 2000
Location: What ?
Posts: 5,972
No one's mentioned it so let me be wildly controversial: whoever came up with the crazy idea of The Wheel
Old 07-01-2000, 10:25 PM
London_Calling London_Calling is offline
Join Date: May 2000
Location: What ?
Posts: 5,972
oops, sorry Sledman - 3.30 am and the bottle's empty.
Old 07-01-2000, 10:31 PM
Asmodeus Asmodeus is offline
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: USA
Posts: 326
Not sure this is really an "event" as such. But the developement of language allowed people to understand each other. Instead of just grunting at each other.
Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Old 07-01-2000, 11:49 PM
Doug Bowe Doug Bowe is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: El Paso, TX, USA
Posts: 2,810
Jayron, Jayron, Jayron.
(kinda like Dr. Zorba saying "Ben Casey, Ben Casey, Ben Casey")
Ya really like Burke?
Then the invention of the printing press was the second most important thing that changed civilization.
Right after the plow.
Old 07-02-2000, 12:50 AM
Nilvedman Nilvedman is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 50
In Western history, at least, I would have to go with the schism between Catholicism and Protestantism. In addition to propagating the idea of individualism which dominates modern Western culture, it also got the Catholic Church to get its collective act together, making sure that it did not fall from importance as a political entity (see the big deal when the Pope goes to Cuba for example)
I make perfect sense! You're just not paying attention!
Old 07-02-2000, 07:38 PM
iampunha iampunha is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Texas
Posts: 15,010
How about a fellow who tried out for the Washington Senators way back about 40 years ago but didn't make the cut?

We know this man as Fidel Castro.

Also, what if Washington hadn't caught the Hessian mercenaries by surprise? This country might still be New England or whatever if not for that monumental rebel victory.
Old 07-02-2000, 08:28 PM
Show_Biz Show_Biz is offline
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 383
The Louisana Purchase

We were lucky that Napoleon had wars to pay for, and was sure he couldn't hold conquered Spanish American territory.

Had he been less certain, or less needy, or less greedy, so much would have changed. Or if Jefferson had waited for longer formal congressonal debates.

That was one time the scales could easily have tipped on the basis of a single diplomatic gaffe.
[sup]Had a part where I'd been there. Portrayed that I'd done that.
Old 07-03-2000, 07:49 PM
Spoke Spoke is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Pit of the Peach State
Posts: 17,906
The victory of Alexander the Great over the Persians. This is the single event which ensured the ultimate ascendancy of Western culture. If the Persians had won, Greece would have been conquered and absorbed, there would have been no subsequent Roman Empire (with all of its myriad influences on Western civilization) and we might all be a part of some sort of Greater Iran today.
Old 07-03-2000, 08:03 PM
AHunter3 AHunter3 is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: NY (Manhattan) NY USA
Posts: 19,462
15,000,000,000 B.C. (approx. date) -- The Big Bang misfires, the vaccuum fluctuation eats itself instead of expanding.
Disable Similes in this Post

Omar Little suggests lunatics like me include a disclaimer
Old 07-03-2000, 08:16 PM
Ambumax Ambumax is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 54
Let me see...


There are so many positive events to choose from that it is very difficult to make a choice. However, I believe that I can make a choice on what the single event that has hindered the advancement of civilization...

The Birth of Aristotle

You heard me. Seriously, Aristotle was a great philosopher, and he deserved most of the respect that he got. Problem is he was too influential. Just think, if Aristotle hadn't come up with the notion of the perfect spheres of the cosmos, then Ptolemy and Brahe and a host of other astronomers wouldn't have spent so much time trying to prove him right.

As it stands, Aristotle was revered by many of the great minds that followed him. They thought that a man who was right about so many things could not be wrong about his system of celestial mechanics. Until Galileo and to a lesser extent Copernicus came along, all scientists worked with a improper cosmic model.

Aristotle's cosmology held back the advance of science by a thousand years.


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:45 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017