David Suzuki's 2002 book "Good News For a Change" has quite an interesting screed in which he suggest that ancient Greek and Roman mythology were wise to the supposed ecological perils of mining. While this blog post has an excellent riposte but we have further comment. Essentially Dr. Suzuki claims:
"Ever since we discovered the strength of metals like copper and iron in arrowheads and spears, we’ve been interested in the substances that we find below the ground. But all of them, from gold, zinc, copper, nickel and silver, to oil, gas, uranium and coal, are either directly or indirectly poisonous to us and to other life forms. It is an interesting fact that in nearly all known human mythologies, the underworld is a place of death and danger, not just to the body, but to the soul. Pluto, Odin and the dwarves of the underworld, or Mars and Vulcan, gods associated with the metals we bring up from below, all rule over dark realms that mortals enter at their peril."
This is simply a fatuous and purposely misleading reading of mythology from the eminent fruit fly researcher. It doesn't take much digging, even for those without a classical education, to see that overwhelmingly positive connotations are given to metals and even the underworld. With respect to Pluto professor of Classical Studies and Folklore, author of Classical Mythology: A Guide to the Mythical World of the Greeks and Romans (Oxford University Press, 2005), claims that in ancient Greek and Roman religion and myth, Pluto represents a more positive concept of the god who presides over the afterlife. Ploutōn was frequently conflated with Ploutos, a god of wealth, because mineral wealth was found underground, and because Pluto ruled the deep earth that contained the seeds necessary for a bountiful harvest.
But positive connotations of metals resound throughout the world. Go no further than Buddhism in which gold symbolizes the sun, or fire. The most valuable of metals, it is accorded a sacred status through its association with Surya, the sun god of the Hindu pantheon. The alloying of gold with other alloying elements is therefore thought of as an act of sacrilege, since it dilutes the natural brilliance of the golden radiance. Tibetans have a love for gold that stretches back to ancient times. This love is reflected in their workmanship in gold, which was praised as long ago as the T'ang period in Chinese chronicles and which, therefore, may have been as intrinsic to them as it was to the Scythians in Central Asia.
But we will go further on the subject of gold! For the Inca people (before the arrival of the Spanish) gold was a sacred substance, used only for things that would please the deeply aesthetic Incan eye for beauty and, through that, reflect the glory of the Heart of Fire - the Sun God - who entrusted them with the safekeeping of this radiant stuff. The official imperial religion was the cult of the Sun God. Under law, all gold was kept in the stewardship of the divine emperor who used it only in ceremonial items, decorations for the temples and tombs, and to reward loyalty.
There are many other references to gold representing the sun, its gift of warmth and its revered essential role to ancient farmers like the Mayans. Gold items of luxury have been found in Mayan Cenotes where they were sacrificed to the Gods. Indeed it would appear that the Mayans were also miners of gold and there is now mounting evidence that they mined gold as far north as modern day Georgia.
Before we part we must address Dr. Suzuki's reference to "...zinc, copper, nickel and silver, to oil, gas, uranium and coal, are either directly or indirectly poisonous to us...". Consultation of the ingredients of any daily vitamin supplement ought to be a sufficient rebuke but we will give you a taste of how erroneous this statement really is. Take silver for example, a metal with antibacterial and healing properties. Silver solution drops are used to prevent infection in infants eyes and recorded use of silver to prevent infection dates to ancient Greece and Rome. From wikipedia:
Hippocrates in his writings discussed the use of silver in wound care. At the beginning of the twentieth century surgeons routinely used silver sutures to reduce the risk of infection. In the early 20th century, physicians used silver-containing eyedrops to treat ophthalmic problems, for various infections, and sometimes internally for diseases such as tropical sprue, epilepsy, gonorrhea, and the common cold. During World War I, soldiers used silver leaf to treat infected wounds.
Prior to the introduction of modern antibiotics, colloidal silver was used as a germicide and disinfectant. With the development of modern antibiotics in the 1940s, the use of silver as an antimicrobial agent diminished. Silver sulfadiazine (SSD) is a compound containing silver and the antibiotic sodium sulfadiazine, which was developed in 1968.
Today the New Age craze of using colloidal silver as a cure-all is highly controversial especially to orthodox medicine but so is most of the ingredients found in your average natural health care products.
So too with gold. Gold is resistant to bacteria and inert. This makes it very useful for internal medicine as it does not react with the body nor anything it encounters.
'Gold is very resistant to bacteria and so is often the material of choice for implants that are at risk of infection, such as in the inner ear,' says Dr Richard Holliday, of the World Gold Council.
Since gold is inert it has been used in dentistry from at least 4500 BC when the Egyptians used it for this purpose. Gold has been used in the past for certain neurological conditions and there are calls for research to see if it can help modern medicine in this regard. Gold is used in nano parts for all sorts of diagnostics test as described in the video below.
We cant help ending with:
Nice try David!