Posts Tagged “1966”

ClockTonight, most Americans will change the the time on their clocks, moving them ahead one hour, as of 2 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday March 14, 2010). Daylight saving time is, perhaps, one of the cleverest scams ever foisted on the modern world.

Yes, that’s what I called DST: a scam. A lie. A fraud. In all of the senses of those words.

The myths about DST are legion; I will cover just a few of them here.

First, it’s often said that DST was first imposed in order to “help” farmers. This is not true. Rather, it was first imposed systematically in Europe — and later in the US — during World War I, in order to aid industry by — hopefully — reducing coal consumption, and discourage nighttime air raids. DST was repealed after the war was over. It was reimposed, as a year-round measure, in the US during World War II (and was referred to as “War Time” for that reason), and for reasons similar to why it was imposed in WWI. After World War II, DST was rolled back, then applied haphazardly, and was not standardized until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966. (Even then, it was not truly “standardized,” since some jurisdictions were allowed not to observe it, most famously a lot of counties in Indiana, as well as the entire states of Arizona and Hawai’i.) At no time during any of this was DST requested by farmers, nor does it help them in any way; it has nothing whatever to do with agriculture. Rather, it was first imposed as a wartime-industrial measure.

Second, it’s frequently claimed that DST saves energy. Most recently this was the widely-trumpeted rationale for shifting the dates of DST (beginning in 2007) when Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The truth of the matter, however, is that DST does not in any way help save energy; in fact, it may cause more energy to be consumed than without it, as UCSB researchers determined (WebCite cached article) by looking at changes in energy consumption in Indiana after that state moved, in 2005, to observe DST statewide. Thus, the savings of fuel, which had primarily inspired enacting DST during the two world wars, probably had never been achieved! In addition to possibly encouraging added energy consumption, DST also causes expenditure of other resources, especially labor (for instance, when people — in both homes and businesses — must run around either changing all their clocks, computers, and other devices … or checking on them to be sure they correctly changed themselves).

Third, people often attribute the imposition of DST to Benjamin Franklin, who famously wrote on the subject. His piece, however, was not intended to be read literally. He was, instead, poking fun at what he considered to be Parisians’ sluggish and slovenly ways, as can be read in this suggestion:

Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient?, let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.

DST was, instead, first truly proposed by an entomologist from New Zealand named J.V. Hudson, who got the idea from his observations of insects.

Fourth, DST starting this weekend means that school children who, last week, were able to go to school in the morning with at least some sunlight, will now be heading to school in the dark once again, as they had in the depths of winter. There is no way that this can be said to benefit them.

Clearly the time has come for everyone to admit the simple truth about daylight saving time, which is that it is a vast inconvenience which does nothing helpful for anyone, does not do what most people claim it does (i.e. to save energy), and only causes trouble. Let’s end the charade. OK?

Photo credit: bowbrick.

P.S. Mark over at the Skeptics & Heretics Forum points out that DST is also associated with an increased incidence of heart attacks (WebCite cached article). Yet another very good reason to scratch it.

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Time magazine cover / April 8, 1966 / 'Is God Dead?' by John T. Elson

Time magazine cover / April 8, 1966 / 'Is God Dead?' by John T. Elson

A historical milestone:

John T. Elson, the former religion editor at Time magazine — the man responsible for one of the most incendiary headlines ever to grace the cover a major US publication — has died. Elson was not a household name, to be sure, and the controversy surrounding the story in question has died down over the decades, but it did cause a tempest in its time, as the New York Times reports in its obituary of Elson (WebCite cached article):

For more than a year, Mr. Elson had labored over an article examining radical new approaches to thinking about God that were gaining currency in seminaries and universities and spilling over to the public at large.

When finally completed, it became the cover story for the issue of April 8, as Easter and Passover approached. The cover itself was eye-catching, the first one in Time’s 43-year history to appear without a photograph or an illustration. Giant blood-red letters against a black background spelled out the question “Is God Dead?”

The issue caused an uproar, equaled only by John Lennon’s offhand remark, published in a magazine for teenagers a few months later, that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. The “Is God Dead?” issue gave Time its biggest newsstand sales in more than 20 years and elicited 3,500 letters to the editor, the most in its history to that point.

But as the Times explains, the article itself was a thorough investigation of “new approaches” toward thinking about God … it included many viewpoints and was not an “atheist” article. Elson himself was a believer:

“He was catholic with a capital C and a small c in his interests, deeply and widely read,” Jim Kelly, former managing editor of Time, said in an interview last week. “His ability to absorb an enormous amount of information and turn it into a readable story was remarkable.”

The Times goes on to say that people today often misrecall the headline, as a statement that “God Is Dead,” rather than correctly as a question, “Is God Dead?” Another well-known misremembrance — that the Times didn’t mention — can be found in the song “Levon” (written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin and performed by the former), which has the lyrics:

He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times said God is dead

There are three errors here: First, the wrong headline (as mentioned); second, it was Time magazine, not the New York Times; and third, it was published around Easter of 1966, not around Christmas. The story itself was a substantial and even scholarly one, and people do it a disservice by misremembering it as they do.

Photo credit: Time.

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