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Arno Peters

Space and Time

Their Equal Representation as an Essential Basis for a Scientific View of the World

Lecture on "GEO-CULTURAL VISIONS OF THE WORLD" given at a symposium at UN Univerity Cambridge, England, 29th March 1982

Translated into Englich by Ward L. Kaiser and Prof. Dr. H. Wohlers

Friendship Press, New York

From the earliest days people have had an idea of what die world is like - or, to be more precise, a view of their own environment, of that part of the world in which they lived.

People began very early to invent means of guidance for daily life. Long before they could write they made sketches of landscape, trails and watering spots that helped them to return to places they had left and to find their way around. These early pictures of the world widened as they were passed on from generation to generation. The small world of early humans grew constantly larger, until people met with formidable barriers: rivers, mountains, swamps, oceans. But even such obstacles were overcome, and thus people's view of the world became more and more inclusive, until finally five hundred years ago it encompassed America, two hundred fifty years ago Australia, and in our own century Antarctica as the sixth continent.

There can be no doubt that today die whole globe belongs to our "world". In the dosing years of the twentieth century the globe is our picture of the world.

But is our geographical view of the world really based on a true picture of the world?

Let us first look at the map of the world. Mercator's map, produced by Gerhard Kremer more than four hundred years ago, is still predominant. It represents the earth by means of a rectangular grid and in a graphic way. But it distorts the true relations regarding size: Scandinavia is depicted larger than South America, which is in fact nearly twice as large, and the Soviet Union is shown more than three times as large as Africa, which is in reality considerably larger.

Two-thirds of Mercator's map is devoted to the northern hemisphere; the southern hemisphere covers one-third of the map. As a result of this distortion of location and size Europe appears much too large, typically in the optical center of the global map - and consequently dominates our thinking as the center of our geographical view of the world.

This view, originating in the age of the Europeanization of the globe, should rightly have been abandoned as that period ended. But the Europe-centered view of the world, classically revealed in Mercator's map, still survives. In the same way that colonial exploitation of colored peoples goes on in modern economic systems, even after the abandonment of European political domination, the Europe-centered cartographic representation of the globe survives in a slightly abated form. In the past decades other global map projections took their places alongside Mercator's map - Mollweide, Aitoff, van der Grinten, Robinson, Winkel - but none of them represents the countries and continents of the earth in their true dimensions. Still worse: all these new maps mitigated the terrible distortions of size-relation, but in doing so they abandoned essential qualities that Mercator's map possessed. Thus on these new maps North is no longer directly above South, orientation is made difficult because of rounded grids and deviation from Mercator's right-angled grid, and the east-west direction is not correct, so that places of equal climate are no longer on a straight line running parallel to the equator.

All these more recent map projections are, by the way, at least fifty years old, which means that they still date from the period of European world domination. The Europe-centered geographical view of the world was still in perfect harmony with the world system. And in the struggle for a new view of the world these global maps turned out, in two ways, to be elements of retardation.

By increasingly turning away from Mercator's map towards these more recent global maps, thus diminishing the worst distortions of area on Mercator's map, European mapmakers showed that they were open to moving beyond the Europe-dominated view of die world. Nevertheless, they retained Mercator's map, since the more recent global maps could not be used for climatic charts and time-oriented maps.

Instead of producing a new map of die globe, corresponding to die view of the world in die post-colonial period, a map on which every country is represented according to its actual size, die efforts of cartographers were devoted exclusively to weighing die disadvantages of Mercator and post-Mercator maps. Because these discussions took the place of actually producing a postcolonial global map, die Europe-centered geographic view of die world, based on Mercator's map and retained in a modified form by more recent maps, has continued until today.

Here one thing should be kept in mind: Mercator's projection as well as the more recent projections by Mollweide, Aitoff, van der Grinten, Robinson and Winkel, which continued Mercator's view of die world, were unassailable from a scientific point of view. They were precisely calculated, and because their principles of construction were made known, anyone could evaluate their distortions and mentally correct them.

The same is true of die more recent global maps which abandoned important qualities of Mercator's map, thus mitigating distortion of area. All these maps that have contributed to a survival of our Europe-dominated view of the world were not untenable because of a failure of exactitude; rather, they lacked just one quality: equal representation of space.

The discovery that this lack disqualifies a global map as a basis for a scientific view of die world was the starting point of my reflections more than a decade ago. At that time the question concerned me how, since we have moved into the post-colonial period, we could overcome the Europe-centered character of our world view. My findings were as follows: in spite of everything that may separate opinions, our age is commonly called die age of science. The usefulness of science for prosperity, health and comfort has led to the fact that today no one doubts die necessity of a scientific view of the world. But since the old maps that have perpetuated die wrong view of die world were also precisely calculated, there must be another element of science which they lacked. So I hit upon objectivity, along with systematics and exactitude an indispensable touchstone of science.

An examination of earlier global maps showed that they all fail to justify their claim to be scientifically objective. They are in fact subjective.

The oldest preserved map is nearly three thousand years old. it was made in Babylon, and that city-stare is also at its center. Strictly speaking, this map is only a map of Mesopotainia with a part of nearby Asia Minor, but global maps began with representation of comparatively small areas. The small piece of the earth's surface represented on this map was the world for Babylon at that time. The global map produced a little later by the Greek Hecataeus shows Europe from Spain to Asia Minor and from Asia Minor to India and North Africa. The center of Hecataeus' global map is his native town, Miletus, in Asia Minor. Ptolemy of Alexandria in Egypt placed Egypt at the center of his global map, and Arabia's Al Idrisi, a thousand years later, Muhammad's native town, Mecca.

Compared to these maps the Christian global maps of the Middle Ages were in most cases more constricted.

They placed Jerusalem and Palestine at the center of the map. Even on Marini's map of 1512, which shows the coasts of North and South America, the Holy Land (Palestine) is still the center of the world. But fifty-seven years later, with Mercator's map, a greatly enlarged Europe moved to the center of the earth. this Europecentered view of the world spread along with the expansion of European power over the whole globe and determined humanity's view of the world for centuries. If one disregards the correction of the worst distortion of Mercator's map on more recent global maps, the popular geographical view of the world is still determined by it.

Since people's own Lebensraum was regularly placed at the center of maps even from ancient times, and since those maps expressed their view of the world geographically, one cannot regard this as a specifically European arrogance. To impute ideological intentions to Mercator would do him injustice. People, in quite unconscious subjectivity, simply grouped the rest of the world around their own native places. This corresponded to the original process of discovery, which always began with exploring the surroundings in all four quarters within about equal distance and integrating them into one's own space. If we consider that until five hundred years ago global maps with the widest view of the world represented at the most eight to ten percent of the earth's surface, we can understand this past overemphasizing of one's own area or country as a natural expression of a subjective picture of the world. Even China, in naive self-absorption, understood itself at that time as "The Middle Kingdom".

In the Age of Discoveries human knowledge of the earth's surface increased fivefold; people's view of the world now comprised half the globe and widened from year to year. But the whole surface of the globe became known only in our century. Thus a comprehensive view of the world became possible in our own age. Since we now know the globe to its full extent it is imperative that it should also be represented on a map of the earth that determines our view of the world. When one considers that Mercator's map, because of the way it is constructed, cannot represent the whole globe all the way to the poles and therefore cannot properly show the fourth largest continent, Antartica (since discovered), it is incomprehensible that it should have maintained its dominance into our own time, shaping our world view even today.

Yet Mercator's map is superior to more recent maps not only because of its vertical representation of the North-South direction (fidelity of axis) and its! realistic representation of climatic position (fidelity of position). It is superior also for esthetic reasons: because of its proportions that approach the dimensions of the Golden Section, and because of its beautiful and dear cartographic representation.

As you know, nearly ten years ago I completed a global map that preserves all these qualities of Mercator's map and at the same time makes a representation of the whole earth's surface possible. Above all, it represents countries, continents and oceans in their true relative proportions. Through this equality of representation the new global map became an objective picture of the globe and therefore die basis for a scientific view of the world.

But it is not only the global map that determines our geographic view of the world. Maps of parts of the earth's surface complete and deepen this picture. These representations of parts of the earth's surface in our atlases and on our wall maps are no less subjective than global maps oriented according to Mercator's Europe-centered view of the world. France appears on our partial maps about as large as Egypt, which is in reality twice as large; England as large as Madagascar, which is more than twice as large. Here, too, on these maps of parts of the globe, the lack of proper proportion is always at the expense of non-European areas, of the countries of the "Third World," as the colonial areas, now liberated from European rule, are called today.

By generalizing my principles of projection I have made possible an equality of representation for all maps of parts of the globe. These new maps of parts of the globe, like the new global map, keep in mind fidelity of area, of axis and of position and they minimize, like the new global map, changes of form that are inevitable when die area of a sphere is transferred to the fiat surface of a map.

Equal projection is the essential basis for a scientific view of the world. Yet it is possible to create a one-sided, subjective, unscientific view of the world even with objective maps of the globe and parts of the globe. For there is something else that is of decisive importance for our geographic view of the world: equality of representation of our Lebensraum in atlases.

For the Europe-centered distortion of the world is, owing to the structure of our atlases, predetermined to such an extent that even equality of projection can only mitigate but not abolish their subjective character. Thus a country such as Switzerland, which has the advantage of a location in Europe, gets a double page, whereas countries ten times as large (such as Cameroon) must be looked for on a general map of Africa (or the northern half of Africa) among about twenty other countries. Even a country two hundred times as large, Brazil, is not usually given a double page of its own, but is represented in two halves on two maps of South America, which it has to share with a full dozen other countries.

Thus, in contrast to European countries, which are independent subjects of a discriminating look at the world, countries inhabited by colored peoples become mere objects of a generalizing geography. This flaw contributes to the subjective character of our geographic view of the world, and can be corrected only by equality of representation. Without it our concept of space cannot attain that objectivity that can make it the basis of a scientific view of the world.

To realize that equal representation of the whole earth is indispensable does not mean rejecting local atlases. It applies only to those books labeled "global atlas," which claim to give a picture of the world in which we live. A global atlas must represent the surface of the earth on an equitable basis. It is a matter of course that we should have city maps and maps of countries. That there should be atlases of Switzerland or France, or European or North American atlases which represent nothing but their country or their continent, is just as legitimate as the educational maxim of letting young people start from their own village, their city, and gradually move out in acquiring knowledge of space. The ultimate purpose must be a picture of the whole globe, and there should be equivalence in representing all countries and continents.

The fact that there is as yet no global atlas that fulfils this demand is not simply a result of fraudulent labeling. It is worse. Since all atlases published as "global atlases" today are nothing more than local atlases embellished with a few maps of foreign continents and a global map

- that is, are pseudo-global atlases - we must come to the conclusion that our geographical view of the world is still quite subjective and has not yet progressed to the point of being an objective approach. For only through equal representation of space can an objective view of the world develop.

But our view of the world is not determined by our concept of space alone. No less important is our concept of time. To speak of space means to consider time, for as components of experience the one cannot be thought of without the other. There is nothing that is essential to our view of the world which must not at the same time be assigned to both space and time. Space and time are the dimensions in which human consciousness reaches self-assurance, in which a definition of the human position takes place, in which a view of the world comes into being and develops. Though physiologically the concept of space is located in the paleoencephalon (or old brain) and the concept of time in the neoencephalon (or new brain), both concepts work in harmony as coordinates. Our awareness of 'becoming" is inseparably merged with the phylogenetically older awareness of "being," in such a way that the one can no longer function without the other. Everything that "is" is conceived by civilized people of our age as something that "has become". Everything that happens simultaneously or in succession happens in spatial extension.

Is the demand for equal representation of time as immediate as that for equal representation of space? Is it, too, an indispensable premise for a scientific view of the world? Since the distortion of time and its effect on our view of die world is less obvious, there is needed an examination of the way in which time is represented. In the same manner as the representation of Lebensraum (die first concern in the establishment of our worldview) belongs to the discipline of geography, so history is the appropriate science for a representation of human development (that is, of development in time).

In considering our world history books, we assert that in them historical time is represented in a way no less distorted than geographical space in our global atlases.

Let us take the "Propylaen World History", reputedly a climax of German world historiography. If we follow tradition and set the beginning of history to coincide with die beginning of a written tradition, which is about 3000 B.C., the Propylaen World History fills the first two of ten volumes with die time until the end of die Western Roman Empire, which means with about thirty-five hundred years of world history. The next two volumes present the following one thousand years, whereas the remaining six volumes are devoted to die representation of the last five hundred years. So ten percent of historical time is represented in six volumes, ninety percent in the remaining four volumes of this work. And the Propylaen World History is not unique in this respect; all other world histories are similarly structured. If we look at the world history published by the USSR Academy of Sciences, which in its preface claims to be the first Marxist world history, we find that die only difference in the distribution is that in the last six volumes (also of ren) only the last four hundred fifty years are represented. The distortion of time is apparently independent of the author's philosophy of history. It is almost predetermined and as a self-evident truth scarcely thought about. And thus all our world histories are unmasked as subjective, just as our world atlases are. For the distortion of space and time, typical of our worldview, bears the same specific character in its historical and geographical dimensions. It is always our own Lebensraum that is overrated.

The nature, extent and importance of the distortion of time in our world history books can be figured out from the degree to which they overestimate the last five hundred years, how far they stretch the period of European world domination. To the extent that one is more interested in the immediate past than in events that took place long ago, works on the recent past do not militate against a scientific view of the world, any more than historical works on one's own city, one's country, one's continent might. But in our age, in which the whole globe has become a Lebensraum interconnected in a thousand ways, such works stand in need of being integrated into a universal historical view, for which proportionate representation of time is indispensable.

For other historical entities of the earth, about twenty-five of them, these last five hundred years were not an age of flowering. Their historical peaks are distributed over forty-five hundred years before that time: it was in the valleys of the Nile, of the Euphrates and the Tigris, of the Indus and the Hoangho that the first advanced civilizations developed. They were followed by those of the Phoenicians, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Hittites long before the first Mediterranean civilization expanded what had come into being in North Africa and Southern Asia. But those six hundred years of Gracco-Roman flowering are stretched in our world histories to make it seem as though human civilization began with them. After their decline history books move rapidly again. As is well known, the so-called Middle Ages are the "Dark Ages" in Europe, and therefore in our history books. But for the rest of the world these thousand years were an age of flowering, from China and India to the Arabic world, to the civilizations of the Incas, Mayas and Aztecs in America and to the powerful bursting of the Mongol empire, up to today the largest empire in history. Their periods are compressed in our world histories, whereas the years of domination of all other continents by the European nations are represented in slow motion. To be exact: in the two world histories mentioned above, which are representative of all others, the forty-five hundred years before Europe's ascent to power are given on the average half a page per year, the five hundred years of European rule more than seven pages per year.

The historical view of the world that is based on such glaring distortion of time is subjective. it is prescientific. But after the end of European world domination our historical view of the world should also be objectivized, so as to be able to stand up alongside a correct geographic view of the world - corrected through equality of representation - in the Age of Science.

The correction of the historical worldview is more difficult to achieve than the correction of the geographical, because the representation of space suggests a claim to equality of representation. Such a claim even becomes imperative to the extent to which people become conscious of the subjectivity of modern geography.

To be able to recognize and to correct our historical view of the world requires, therefore, at the outset, the same transparency that is given our geographical view of the world through its basic cartographic representation. In seeking such a transparent way to represent history, in my student years hit upon the theory of relativity that welds space and time into a continuum. Essentially I was able to carry out this assigning of time to concepts of space, but as soon as time was assigned as a second category, the three dimensions of space were merged for me into one single category. The fourth dimension, time, conclusive in natural! science, became the second dimension for the theory of knowledge; whereas space, mathematically defined as three-dimensional, was merged into the first dimension.

The idea of charting time in the same manner as space is charted on our maps, followed by itself. When applied to geography, this representation had to be to scale. Only thus could one hope to awaken a sense of time, analogous to the sense of space, which is the basis on which all geography rests. For no one would hit upon the idea, let us say, of making the relative positions of two cities clear in his mind by memorizing their meridians and latitudes and then coordinating these figures in his head. Yet that is exactly the way in which historical material is acquired. History was at a stage of development like that of geography before the invention of maps.

Therefore 1 took a sheet of blank paper and first entered time as such to scale. Each year got a vertical strip, one centimeter in breadth (later divided in two for typographical reasons), which was marked at the bottom with the appropriate year. Years further back in time were placed to the left, years nearer the present to the right. Thus time proceeded from left to right, corresponding to a sense of time in a right-handed civilization whose writing runs from left to right. The historical events were then assigned to the years in which they bad happened; historical persons were entered over their life spans. The map of time was born.

With this spatial representation of time a new system of information was found that was soon accepted because of its educational advantages: history could be understood by simple perception without the terrible litany of memorizing dates, which had made the most interesting discipline the most boring subject at school. But above all, the objections of some historians and educators - that encompassing all the world's civilizations was asking too much of memory - were seen to be groundless, since history was now no longer learned but viewed. And the history of all times and countries could with equal care and thoroughness be entered on this chart of time, which was published as Synchronoptische Weltgeschichte ("Synchronoptic World History") and soon became a best seller.

This strict equality of representation of historical events, which at first sight seems mechanical, demonstrates in an ideal way the dynamics of history. Because of a true-to-scale representation of historical time the fullness of individual periods and civilizations is demonstrated in a graphic way.

Moreover, if we fill the chart of time, which through equal representation depicts time objectively, only with the facts and persons of traditional historiography, the superabundance of material in the two ages of European world power (400 B.C. to A.D. 200 and from A.D. 1500 to the present) is set beside a gaping emptiness in the other periods. But if one explores these blank spaces on die "time-map", as geographers have done for centuries, in conjunction with the blank spaces on the global map, one discovers epochs and civilizations of historical importance and fullness that were undreamt of. After 1 took on this task, following the discovery of the "timemap", 1 devoted more than thirty years to it, and this intellectual work has led to the following results:

1.There is no empty space in historical time.

2.The Live thousand years of recorded history are filled with periods of the flowering of historical entities whose change cannot be stopped.

3.The age of European flowering during the last Live hundred years, like every flowering of an historical entity, surpasses others only partially. This means it is neither the creator nor the general climax of human civilization.

4.The other historical entities, numbering at least twenty, are neglected in traditional history books, for no good reason.

We see that in the domain of the historian there is repeated what we saw in the field of geography: the distortion of time is specific, it is Europe-centered. therefore our historical view of the world is subjective. Accordingly, it meets the requirements of a scientific view of the world no better than does our geographical worldview.

Yet not all earlier work done by historians has been unnecessary or unscientific. On the contrary: only through their centuries-old, patient and detailed work has sufficient information about events and persons from many historical entities been passed on to fill the blank spaces in our former world histories. Spatial representation of time, on the basis of which alone the call for equal appreciation of all civilizations (basically recognized long ago) could be realized, is indispensable for our historical view of the world only in its totality. Historical monographs or treatments of very specific historical questions are not excluded - indeed they are presupposed.

Basically it is with history as with geography. Maps of countries and continents are as legitimate as city maps or surveyors' maps. But in addition to these there must be a global map on which all countries and continents are represented in their actual size, and with equality of generalization, for our view of the world is shaped through our global maps. And it is shaped also by means of our global atlases, for which equality of representation is similarly indispensable.

In the field of history, specific inquiries and papers setting forth their results will always be the basis of all work. But the historical view of the world is not shaped by them but by the comprehensive representation of world history. Only for this latter is the demand for equal representation of time valid, an equality that alone makes the realization of an objective grasp of historical events possible and also, in a way, guarantees it. This is the basis for a scientific view of the world.

We have seen that equal representation of space and time is required in our age, that it is possible to realize it, and that a view of the world without this premise is clearly subjective and therefore unscientific. But equality of representation of space and time is only one basis for a scientific view of the world. We must not label a worldview objective or scientific simply because it meets these requirements. A picture of the world is unscientffic also if it describes only one side of life - if it equates history, let us say, with the history of wars or politics and neglects all other aspects of life. Or if only the fate of the rich and the powerful is represented but not that of the poor and the exploited.

Equal representation of space and time does not completely protect our view of die world from one-sidedness and misrepresentation. it is, however, not just an alternative premise for this view of the world, so necessary and new for our age. Since time and space are the dimensions of our existence, they have, as a basis for our self-assurance, the power to determine and constitute our whole view of the world. Equality and objectivity in representation are therefore the key to the scientific character of our view of the world.

Thus a realization of this premise necessarily overcomes the one-sidedness, the arrogance and the narrowness of our present view of the world. Equal representation of space and time opens our eyes also to those aspects of the world and of life that are still absent from it or do not play a role in keeping with their importance. By incorporating, on an equal footing, non-European lands and nations with their history into our own view of the world, a really revolutionary reorientation takes place. Other nations and civilizations have other ways of life, a different order of values. Their full integration into our worldview opens our eyes to the standards and values of those peoples - a majority of the world - who are non-Western. it takes away the foundation of our arrogance and the good conscience of our selfishness.

Thus our view of the world gets a decisive correction at a moment when we are so much in need of it, in order to develop a new mentality and new patterns of behavior.

ISBN 0-377-00149-X

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