The Book!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ozymandias

Visiting Old Goa, once called “The Rome of the East,” is oddly like visiting Rome itself. In this one way: both were once managed by military men, conquerors, famous men of their day, whose business was war, and by merchants who grew spectacularly wealthy. Both cities were once the administrative centres for vast empires.

But now, for both, the empires are gone; the captains and the kings have long departed. And what is left?

The churches. In the case of Rome, though it lost its political and military preeminence a thousand five hundred or so years ago, it remains the centre of a spiritual empire much larger than Rome ever was: the Catholic Church.

In the case of Old Goa, there is almost literally nothing left standing but the churches. Even the governor’s palace is gone—all but one sad doorway. Yet a dozen impressive religious buildings survive, alone in the jungles. Most are still in use. And, while all the other famous men have long been food for worms, even the actual body of St. Francis Xavier is still there, looking not much changed in the past five hundred years.

The moral: earthly glory fades. But religious power, even on earth, partakes of eternity.

Monday, October 29, 2007

All Religions are One

A Protestant friend wondered why I, as a devout Catholic, had statues of Buddhas and paintings of Hindu gods in my home. He was under the impression that Hindus worship idols.

But Hindus do not worship idols. There is a simple test: does one Hindu god compete with another? They did, in the classical Greek conception. They did, among the Canaanites. If so, we are dealing with polytheism, and with multiple gods. But they do not, in Hinduism. Here we are not dealing with multiple gods. There is one supreme God, Brahman, which/who is expressed in many ways. Any Hindu well-educated in his faith will insist in this point. While Hinduism might once have been a polytheistic faith, it has not been so since at least the Puranic/Vedantic period, dating from Sankara and the revival of Hinduism in the early centuries AD.

Strikingly, Hinduism even recognizes the Trinity. Their Trimurti (“Three Forms”), the chief manifestations of Godhead, includes Brahma, the Creator—he is directly equivalent to the Christian God the Father; Vishnu, the Preserver, who notably incarnates in Creation, most famously as Krishna and Rama—very like the Christian Christ; and Siva, the Destroyer, who dances eternally amid flames—an energy principle, at least vaguely similar to the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, there is a similar trinity in Buddhism and in Taoism as well.

It seems to me that here we have a basis for dialogue.

It may be that Hinduism has been directly influenced in all this by Christianity. After all, Christians have been in India since the first or second century AD. And Sankara, the acknowledged founder of Vedantic Hinduism, was born in a heavily Christian area, Kerala, in the 8th century AD. Indeed, he was late enough to be influenced by Islam as well, brought to Kerala by Muslim traders.

Or it might be that God leaves no nation without light—for surely a merciful God would not. And so the outlines of the same message can be found in all major religions, accessible to all mankind. The same images are imbedded in all our imaginations; the same moral certainties are imbedded in all our consciences, the same unspoken cravings are engraved in all our hearts, and the same eternal principles govern all our reasonings. All lead to the same destination; for all are inscribed there by the same God.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Real World of Empire

A correspondent, wanting to cite the world’s largest empires currently, produced the following list:

France: French Guiana and other possessions
Great Britain: Falkland Islands and other possessions
Denmark: Greenland
Netherlands: Netherlands Antilles

But these nations, though they once had their day, are pikers in the Empire Bowl.

What is an empire? “A state uniting many territories and peoples under a single sovereign power.”

China and India must rank as the two largest empires currently—indeed, two of the largest empires in history. Each rules about one fifth of mankind. In China, the Han nationality strongly dominates, but it includes such disparate territories as Tibet and (Caucasian) Sinjiang, and over fifty “national minorities.” India includes a vast number of languages—which means, ethnicities—with the languages of South India completely unrelated to those of the North. When China was ruled by the Qing, nobody doubted it was an empire. When India was ruled by the Mughals, nobody doubted it was an empire. They still are.

After that comes the EU—comprising another ninth of humanity, and the greatest empire ever to emerge on that continent.

After those three, Canada is worth an honourable mention at least. Nunavut, Quebec, Newfoundland, Vancouver—pretty far-flung territories, pretty disparate peoples.

There are more, including most of the countries of Africa: South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, the Congo. Taken together, empires are about as common as nation states.

Are nation states preferable? Not obviously. Empires have been given a lot of bad press over the last fifty years or so, but they have many advantages.

Diversity is not always a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Yes, Aisha, There Is a Future

It is not that the modern left lacks imagination—they can always imagine an impending disaster requiring government intervention. But when it comes to possible good news, or the possibility of an individual making a difference, they sure lack imagination.

Witness a piece from NPR I came across recently, pronouncing the Alberta Tar Sands doomed. Why? The first problem is that treating the bitumen releases—their words—“dangerous gases.” These “dangerous gases” are of course carbon dioxide, produced by the burning of natural gas to fuel the extraction process. Carbon dioxide--harmless to humans, essential to plant life, common as air, but now reclassified as poison. Dangerous if you believe in the conventional theories about global warming and greenhouse gases.

The second problem dooming the Tar Sands and the world’s energy supply, is the worry that the natural gas, needed to refine the oil, will itself run out. Because natural gas is no more renewable than oil.

But the entire story miraculously avoids two simple words: nuclear power. Is it really inconceivable that a nuclear plant could be built in Ft. McMurray, far from major population centres, close to one of the world’s largest uranium deposits, to run the process? Producing, among other things, unlimited fuel and zero CO2 emissions?

Apparently so.

Similarly, I have been told by science teachers since I was in knee-pants—well, jeans--that the world was about to run out of fresh water. Never mind that this is one of the most renewable resources—renewed at every rain. Never mind that access to potable water, according to UN figures, is actually increasing worldwide every year, and has been since I was in those knee-pants. No, within a few decades—by now, in fact--everyone would be killing everyone else fighting over the next water hole.

It’s apparently an appealing image. Because, even though it hasn’t come true yet, exactly the same claim is currently being made loudly and hourly on CNN, that “the next wars will be over water,” to advertise their new (typically neutral, as the title suggests) series called “Earth in Peril.”

Hard to believe they’ve actually missed the fact that the surface of the world is over two-thirds water. It would be very hard for any species living on the remaining one-third of the earths surface to ever use it up.

Yes, that water is salty, and so unsuitable for drinking. No chance it could ever be useful, I suppose—this is the same thing they were saying about the Alberta Tar Sands for decades, in fact. But is desalinization such an unthinkable technology? A technology already supplying all the water for irrigation and drinking in several countries, including the one in which I currently reside?

Yes, it is still fairly expensive—at least compared to how cheap water is elsewhere. But are we really at the limits of what we can do with desalinization technology? And would we really end up killing each other, not due to any real shortage, but just to save a few bucks?

Now comes news that an Ottawa Valley student, Asha Suppiah, now 20, managed, as a science project when in grade school, using everyday materials, to literally double the efficiency of current solar desalination techniques. Just a kid working at her kitchen table. Because she is using common, everyday materials—cotton and wire mesh—her process ought to be accessible to just about anyone in the Third World. Because it is solar powered, the cost is only the purchase cost—it needs no fuel.

That’s some indication of just how primitive our desalination technology still is. We’ve just gotten started. We’re still at the Wright Brothers work-in-your-garage stage.

It’s also a good indication that we need is fewer teachers filling kids like Asha Suppiah with helpless, hopeless doom and gloom, and more encouraging them to innovate.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ann Coulter's Heresy

Now Ann Coulter is in trouble, for saying that Jews would be “perfected” if they become Christian. As soon as she said it, the interviewer himself declared to her face that he was personally offended, that she was “hateful,” “anti-Semitic,” and her statement was “absurd.”

Since then, the pundits have been going crazy.

It is barely credible to me--and evidence of how anti-religious America has become--that there is any controversy attached to Coulter's remarks. I say this even though I am far from being a fan of Ann Coulter.

But what on earth do people think that believing in a religion means? It means you think it is true. If you care at all for your fellow man, surely you want them to know the truth--and the best way to heaven--too.

This is what Coulter was saying. She said it in so many words: “Jews go to heaven, sure, but ours is the fast track—like Federal Express.”

Yet people are objecting to this?

The world is mad.

Suppose she had said that everyone should know how to read and write, or that everyone should know basic physics. Would that be similarly offensive?

If not, we are discriminating against religion.

She has also been absolutely misquoted in many outlets as saying that Jews would have to “discard” Judaism to become Christian. This is especially offensive, because this was what the interviewer, not Coulter, said, and it seems to me Coulter made it quite clear this was not what she meant. She pointed out that Christians all believed in Judaism, in fact. That Christians all accept the Hebrew Scriptures. That Christianity is itself a form of Judaism. One can, as "Jews for Jesus" have always pointed out, be both a Jew and a Christian. As, of course, Jesus was; and St. Peter, and St. Paul, and Mary, and all the apostles. There is no question of “discarding” Judaism here. She said “perfecting” it.

Just as the misadventures of Dr. Watson over the last week show it is dangerous in the current climate of thought to know too much about science, Anne Coulter’s experience here shows it is also now dangerous to know too much theology.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dr. Watson's Heresy

Poor old James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA and Nobel Laureate, apparently has run into some political trouble. It pays these days, even for famous scientists, to keep well apprised of the prevailing political currents. To recap briefly, Dr. Watson apparently observed that the intelligence of Africans was, based on IQ testing, “not really” the same as that of Britishers.

Appearances on his current book tour were immediately cancelled. He was immediately suspended from his job. His employer of 35 years publicly disowned him. He quickly recanted, insisted that there was no scientific evidence to back his original claim, and apologized “unreservedly.” But even that, combined with the Nobel Prize, does not appear to be enough. The commentary has been universally condemnatory, and quite personal. Canada.com hopes his career is over. Wired calls his comments “utterly unacceptable to civilized society.”

Galileo must be grateful, up in heaven, that he did not live in these times.

What Watson said was of course perfectly true, and little more than common sense. Any IQ test yet devised shows definite differences in outcome based on ethnicity. Africans score lower than Europeans. Jews score higher than other Westerners. Chinese score better than Europeans. Japanese score highest of all.

Two politically-correct responses are commonly made: first, that this is due to cultural bias in the tests. But if so, how to explain that Japanese score better than Europeans on European-devised IQ instruments? Second, that there are different types of intelligence, and if Africans do worse on one type, it must be that they do better on some other. Maybe so, though it seems a pretty romantic notion, and one backed by no evidence. But, if so, what Watson said is still perfectly correct: he said that African intelligence was “not the same as” European. If they are better at hand-eye coordination, but worse at abstract reasoning, his point still holds.

But then, just as Watson noted, there is no reason to suppose that different populations, evolving in different places and under different circumstances, would somehow all end up with identical levels of a selected range of mental talents. In fact, the assumption is, on the face of it, ridiculous. First, it goes directly against Darwin. And it goes directly against common experience and common sense. It is logically the same as assuming that all individuals have identical mental talents; or that all families must be equally intelligent. Indeed, let's say they are; if so, mustn’t everyone also have equal levels of singing talent? Making American Idol discriminatory? Leaving alone professional sports… Where's the outrage?

So why is it that no one, not even a Nobel-winning scientist, is permitted to point out this obvious imperial sartorial fact?

Because the chattering tribe has long claimed that the doctrine of human equality is based on science. I recall very well a comic book feature when I was a child called “Science says you’re wrong.…” It featured the standard establishment beliefs of the day—the hyperscientistic Sputnik-spooked early Sixties--as scientific “truths.” One, of course, was “science says you’re wrong if you believe different races have different mental abilities.” Yet then, as now, all the tests ever devised indicated they did.

What could be less scientific than rejecting the evidence of repeated experiment because it did not conform to a preconceived notion?

Why do they do this? Because science, with its accomplishments, has gathered a great deal of prestige—thanks in some small part to Dr. Watson himself. This prestige is very useful to those in power, as an ideology justifying their program and their power. If they want people to believe a thing, they assert that it is “scientific.” They use science rather the way Osama bin Laden uses Islam: they pretend to scientific authority and invoke it in their interests.

(Al Gore, are you listening?)

Ironically, this makes them quite hostile to any real science—as witness Watson. As Jesus was to the Pharisees of his day, to these people James Watson is a great danger—precisely because he seems to speak with scientific authority, but does not toe their line. It all gives some insight into the dangers scientists who publicly dissent on global warming must also face.

Hence the sharpness of the reaction to Watson. They really don’t want to see this happening soon again.

The dirty little secret is, the doctrine of human equality was never based on science. Social Darwinism, Fascism, and Nazism were. And human equality certainly has nothing to do with people having the same IQ. The doctrine of human equality is a religious belief. It comes from monotheism, and most specifically from Christianity.

Note the words of the US Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” Similarly, Locke based his argument for human equality on the fact that we are all descended in an equally direct line from Adam. As the Levellers chanted back when Charles I faced the swordsman: “When Adam delved, and Eve span—who then was the gentleman?”

For it follows: if God created all mankind in the one act, in Adam and Eve, we are all equal at our birth. Equal in our ultimate value, that is, in our intrinsic worth, equal in the eyes of God. Regardless of our intelligence, or height, or race, or physical strength, or sex, all of which are obviously not equal at all.

A simple principle; indeed, elementary, my dear Watson.

One of the interesting consequences of this truth is that atheism is by its very nature corrosive of our human rights and civil liberties. Therefore, assuming we believe in human equality, while atheism perhaps should be tolerated in a civil society—albeit Locke and Rousseau to the contrary—it certainly ought not to be encouraged.

Conversely, there is a legitimate reason for the state to encourage theism and religion.

No, more than this—while evolution too should perhaps be tolerated, there is a legitimate reason for the state to want to ensure that Creationism is also taught in the schools.

With gusto. And in its most literal sense.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Harper Wins Ontario Election

Warren Kinsella says the result of the Ontario election should kill any federal Tory plans for a fall poll.

He has to say that. He’s a party flack. But he is exactly wrong. The Ontario election is good news for Stephen Harper.

There is no national trend towards the Liberals provincially—yesterday’s news was Danny Williams’ historic Conservative majority in Newfoundland.

No—put the two provincial results together, and the real message is that this is a good time for incumbents. The economy is booming. The dollar is going further. Canadians feel good. They are in no mood to rock the boat.

That’s what killed John Tory—his religious schools proposal simply smacked of major change.

And Stephen Harper is the man in power.

Historically, Ontarians have no party loyalty. When they vote Conservative provincially, they generally vote Liberal federally, and vice versa. There is good reason for this—beyond the public’s instincts to maintain a balance of power. When the Liberals are securely in power provincially, the top Tory talent focuses on the federal arena as their best opportunity, and vice versa. Many of the strongest Liberals, meanwhile, are tied up in the provincial parliament or civil service.

Voters respond—all else being equal, the best candidates, the best flacks, and the best organizers, win.

Kinsella himself is a case in point. He used to be strictly federal. Now he is Mr. Ontario.

For Harper, it looks like all systems are go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

God Save Us from Practical Men

Here's why I love Andrew Coyne.

Chinglish

Notes from a visit to Hainan, China, a couple of years ago:

Strange English is everywhere. The hotel restaurant offers a "nourishing dish" of "Whole Hawaiian papaya with stewed snow frog" at 28 RMB per person. The mini bar includes "goat embryo element," but I don’t think I’ll try one. The hotel "Regulations" include an admonishment against radioactive materials in the hotel rooms, and against the spreading of reactionary, obscene, or superstitious books. No Gideon’s Bible here. I am shocked to discover that criminal activities are strictly forbidden. And this helpful note:

"A word of caution: cautious about buying stuff from the illegal peddlers around. We wouldn't be responsible for that."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Good Empire

The view popular on the left is that the nations of Western Europe set out in the eighteenth century to rape and pillage the rest of the world. Indeed, most of us live white males have spent the last fifty years and more living down our history of “colonialism.” Even though, for most of us, neither we nor our ancestors had anything to do with it.

But this is not what happened at all. Few in Europe ever sought an empire.

True, it was on the agenda a few centuries earlier: Back in the days of Vasco de Gama and Columbus, the Spanish plan, at least, had been to make money by exploiting foreign colonies for raw materials. Exploration and colonization were, at least, supposed to pay for themselves. This, however, did not work out—only Spain ever managed to turn a profit on its colonies, and this only for a time. Moreover, the expansion of Spain called into being almost immediately in Spain itself the School of Salamanca, which set strict criteria for just and unjust wars—something previous empires had never bothered with.

By the eighteenth century, nobody was under any delusions that colonies were moneymakers. Free trade, not colonies, was understood as the best route to national prosperity. In financial terms, colonies were seen as losing propositions.

Neither Britain nor France, therefore, though they were the two main colonial powers, had any interest in possessing an empire, nor any plans to do so. Neither did Portugal, or the Netherlands.

So how did they end up with some of the biggest empires known to man?

First, they were drawn into it by the need to preserve order. Order was necessary for trade; and in large parts of the world, basic order was lacking. One had to police the trade routes, and to control the possible pirate bases. One had to ensure the safety of traders. This is explicit in Salamanca’s rules from the start: it was a basic human right to travel freely in order to do commerce. If, then, a local potentate refused traders this right, they had the right in turn to try to force their way.

Beyond that, much was done out of concern for human rights more generally. Governments in most parts of the world were markedly oppressive, in European terms. Locals would often appeal to European forces for aid, and the home front would be galvanized into sympathy. It was all very similar to the reasoning that, more recently, drew the international community into Lebanon, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and so forth. The School of Salamanca, again, initiated this idea: if, for example, a foreign government was slaughtering people innocent of any crime, foreigners had the right to intervene. All had a right to freedom of religion; if a foreign government prevented Christians from preaching or practicing, this too was cause to intervene. One could not, by the same token, intervene to force conversions; local religions too had to be honoured.

Finally, there were the needs of collective security. While the actual European trading posts might have been small, they relied on local allies. These allies, in turn, had enemies nearby. And they naturally appealed to their European colleagues for aid in time of war. Then, as now, this was a form of legitimate self-defense, and recognized by Salamanca.

These three factors together, combined with overwhelming European military superiority, caused empires to form quite apart from any conscious policy. It was no more rapacious or oppressive or racist, in principle and in broad strokes, than we are today. Indeed, it is the same thing that is happening today, although today the intervention is more likely to be by the World Bank or IMF, using economic rather than military means.

There are, it is true, specific examples of Imperial abuse: Ireland, Poland, the Belgian Congo, Armenia, Korea under Japan. These were generally recognized, and condemned, as such at the time.

In France, the left actively opposed an Empire, because it would tend to give more power to the army. The right opposed it because it distracted France from her real defensive needs, which were, they believed, against Germany on the continent. There was no constituency for it.

The French Empire was built on ad hoc situations like the failure, in 1882, of the de facto government of Egypt to pay its debts to French and British banks. Much of the eventual Francophone domain was called forth by the collapse of civil order in the Ottoman Empire. In this context, France, French shipping, and French nationals were subject to piracy and what we would now call terrorist attacks--as were the other unfortunate inhabitants of that part of the world.

Condemn, if you will, this supposed European “aggression.” But you must then also condemn the UN for interfering in Darfur, or Kosovo, or Bosnia, or Cyprus, or ….

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Kerouac in Montreal

The Toronto Star recently commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of On the Road by recounting Jack Kerouac’s 1967 appearance on the CBC, on a French-language programme called Sel de la semaine.

The story is that the audience broke into laughter to hear him speak French.

Not that Kerouac’s spoken French was bad—he always spoke French with his own family, and did not learn English until he went to school. It’s that it was the French of rural Gaspe.

“To the members of his audience, anxious to be part of a modern Quebec, hearing Kerouac's French was like an educated American audience hearing a famous author speak in the hillbilly, southern accent of a guest on The Jerry Springer Show. The way he was speaking, it wasn't so much the words by themselves, it was just the rhythm of the sentences,’ Pierre Anctil, of the University of Ottawa, says. ‘It appeared as rural and unlearned and folkloric.’”


The article suggests this tells us something about Kerouac. I think it tells us instead something about the difference between Quebec and America. It is the Quebec audience’s reaction that seems to me uncultured and provincial. Hillbilly southern accents? Like those, say, of Mark Twain, or William Faulkner, or Thomas Wolfe, or Tennessee Williams? My guess is that an American audience would not blink an eyelash.

And how would such an audience have greeted uneducated, rural William Shakespeare?

Indeed, Kerouac’s Brooklyn English was no more the literary language of America than his Gaspe French was that of Quebec. The whole point of his concept of “Beats” was that all good came from the fellaheen, from the common people: the hero of On the Road was a compulsive car thief who had grown up in reform schools.

If this surprised the audience, they obviously had never read anything he wrote.

America is democratic to its toes. Quebec, and Canada, are not.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Crazy People

Here’s my proposal for ending all mental illness in Canada:

Just issue everyone who is psychotic with a cell phone. Their behavior immediately becomes normal.

And speaking of madness, having read a review by Dawkins of Hitchens; here is the logic of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens’ atheism, in brief:

1. If I cannot disprove a thing, it must not be true.
2. All evil is claimed to be good. Therefore, good is evil.

Speak No Evil

A posting from a few days ago has strangely disappeared from this site. Ironically, it was on free speech.

My guess is that the photos attached simply broke Blogger’s bandwidth restrictions.

So I’m reposting without the images:


There is something Orwellian about the speaker’s podium set up at one corner of Nathan Phillips square. There it stands, unused, behind a barricade, and with a rather frightening warning label:

This Speaker’s Corner is dedicated by the City Council of Toronto to the concept of free speech. The public may mount the dias and speak, or challenge another speaker to debate.

Speakers may not use the dias for any purpose that is contrary to law, and are reminded that the Canadian Criminal Code prohibits slanderous statements or statements promoting genocide or hatred against an identifiable group or race.

When speaking from the dias, the speaker assumes all risks. The City does not assume and shall not be liable for any damages or action resulting therefrom.

It bears mute witness that there is no free speech in Canada; that something like Speaker’s Corner in London's Hyde Park is in fact no longer possible under Canadian law. And any member of the public is taking his personal liberty in his own two hands to dare to mount that platform.

This must change, for Canada to become again truly free.

And without free speech, ultimately, without the free exchange of ideas, there is no democracy either.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A New Extinction Threat

I expect you’re busy—we all are—but this is an emergency. It seems, just when we were feeling a little better about the polar bears and the killer whales, we have a new crisis, in the world of language. The National Geographic News warns that fully hundreds of languages are “teetering on the brink,” a “a global extinction crisis that greatly exceeds the pace of species extinction."

No, seriously. If a language no longer has any speakers, this is a tragedy, right? It is just as if an animal species has become extinct, right? We should all be upset, shouldn’t we, and taking firm government measures to preserve our endangered languages?

Or not. A language is a tool. Tools are more often for throwing out when they no longer happen to be useful. There is some logic in preserving old tools in museums, for interest. There is very little logic in obliging some people to keep using them, demonstrably beyond their usefulness.

And language is a tool, specifically, for communication. It follows that the more people speak a languages, the better language works. A language spoken by very few people is intrinsically less useful. Insisting on preserving languages spoken only by small minorities is like making them chop firewood. With a stone axe.

Conversely, if the world is speaking fewer languages year by year, that is a sign of progress. Just as, with the printing press, the infinity of small dialects in England or France resolved into one recognizable literary language.

Push the logic of preserving small languages to an extreme, and one must also fight to preserve a speech impediment rather than learning to speak as everyone else does.

National Geographic, to the contrary, beats the drums of alarm yet louder. It claims that losing a language means losing important knowledge: “irreplaceable knowledge about the natural world.”

"Most of what we know about species and ecosystems is not written down anywhere, it's only in people's heads," the NG’s expert, David Harrison of Swarthmore, warns.

Right. Let’s see how that works. When did knowledge become language-specific? Has National Geographic never heard of the possibility of translation? Does it think it is only possible for each human to speak and understand one language?

And, if so, if the very last few speakers of some minority language never learn any other language, how do they manage to get by—without being able to speak to anyone?

In the real world, languages most often die out not because everyone who speaks them suddenly dies of the plague, but because those who had spoken them gradually switch to a different language. Absent government action, they switch if and only if they find the new language more useful.

I’m trying hard, but I can’t get excited over the loss that represents. A loss to whom? After all, not even the knowledge of the language itself is lost, so long as a grammar and a dictionary have been written down. Latin has done remarkably well with no native speakers for a couple of thousand years.

Therefore, unless things known in one language are genuinely untranslatable, no knowledge is lost when a language dies. Not even the vocabulary or grammar of that language, if anyone has ever taken the time to write it down.

I gather we are simply running out of things to worry about.