Michael Marotta links to a thread from 2008 as his kick-off for critizing Objectivists as having choosen to ignore centuries of learning. (His words, not mine). Robert Malcom and I are accused reiterating Ayn Rand's alleged ignorance of history. (Hey, I feel I'm in good company).
Marotta points out that he, on the other hand, has seen the light. And his lesson is that while we wring our hands because young people today do not respect the past, we must also recognize our own role in devaluing history.
So, nothing new here. Marotta continues his penchant for critizing me, Objectivists, and Ayn Rand while holding himself up as a source of enlightment, ready to help us correct our errors.
I went back and read some of that thread he links to, and there was some good discussion. ( http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Dissent/0195.shtml)
I find that I still agree with most of what I wrote then, and what Robert Malcom and Ted Keer wrote (and what Ayn Rand has written). But I'd approach it a bit differently now than I did back then.
What I'd say now, and without respect to what this or that historian, or Objectivist, might say, is that any period where there was a dominate political and cultural influence that effectively suppressed passing on (as well as exploring) a wide range of intellectual issues from one generation to the next, and where that the period extended for a number of generations, should be called a "Dark Age."
I have a reason for making that the description of a dark age. We humans, as individuals need to grasp aspects of reality to act in ways that let us survive (and flourish). Our society acquires a stability (and can progress) if each generation uses mechanisms, structures, and processes for passing on the knowledge they have to the next generation.
When the political/cultural conditions make that impossible, knowledge is lost. Gone. What the next generation is not taught falls into a dark hole and requires rediscovery. Man's forward progress is brought to a stop.
Any culture that falls under the intellectual repression of a religious regime that is successful in prohibiting the teaching of a wide scope of knowledge will, if it is the dominate power for generations, cause a Dark Age.
It doesn't have to be Christianity holding political power and enforcing dogma. Islam can also hold sway in the same fashion. But it isn't religion as such. It is the enforcing of ignorance. Islam in the Iberian peninsula was once an intellectual garden, contrasted with modern fundamentalists who would leave a Dark Age in their wake should they become the dominate power on earth.
Quoting Jane Jacobs in "Dark Age Ahead", "A Dark Age is a cultural dead end. We ... customarily think of a Dark Age as happening once, long ago, following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. But in North America we live in a graveyard of lost aboriginal cultures, many of which were decisively finished off by mass amnesia in which even the memory of what was lost was also lost. Throughout the world Dark Ages have scrawled finis to successions of cultures receeding far into the past." (By the way, I'd recommend this book - we haven't had enough thinkers of the caliber of Jane Jacobs)
Side Note: Her description of a Dark Age becomes too broad to suit me. She includes isolated pockets of people who are stranded, culturally speaking, by not being part of a broad technological or economic shift. Like pockets of people in Appalachia in the thirties who found the skills they brought over from Europe a generation or earlier were no longer relevant. To me, that isn't a Dark Age, but rather the uneven adoption of a new technology and economic principles.