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What makes an age dark?

Roland Kayser argued (Readers' Forum, Oct. 2) that religion caused Europe to enter the Dark Ages. Dark compared to what?

The practice of calling the period from about A.D. 470 to 1000 the Dark Ages comes from Petrarch, who was commenting on the quality of the period's literature, of which very little was extant. Because so little information has survived, very little is known about what was actually happening intellectually in Europe.

We do know that in addition to copying religious texts, monks of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches made copies of classical Greek and Roman texts of literature, philosophy and science, preserving them. This fact is often overlooked in praise of what the Muslim conquerors of the formerly Jewish and Christian lands of the Middle East were doing to preserve Greek and Roman texts.

Mr. Kayser should also consider that if a catastrophic event were to occur in a few years from now — when most of the new knowledge of our civilization will be purely digital — and cause our technology to fail, our age, too, could be considered a "Dark Age" of no intellectual progress.

Rebecca Webster