Friday, May 30, 2008

Darwinism: People before Adam and Eve?

In my last post I revealed how little scientific evidence supports Darwinist claims about gradual descent, natural selection, or survival of the fittest. Even worse, Darwinists are Dishonest. Worst of all, the Darwinist agenda is to destroy our faith in God, and thereby our morality.

At the same time, there is overwhelming evidence that the earth is about four and a half billion years old, and that a succession of life forms has come and gone on the earth for hundreds of millions of years.

I believe in God. I believe all true religion and all true science must inevitably agree. So when they appear to differ, I like to take a wait-and-see attitude. I'm pretty dogmatitic about some things, and not dogmatic at all about other things. Here is an article about Evolution from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. It clarifies which is which.

The position of the Church on the origin of man was published by the First Presidency in 1909 and stated again by a different First Presidency in 1925:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, declares man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity…. Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes.

The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33). In 1931, when there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution, the First Presidency of the Church, then consisting of Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, addressed all of the General Authorities of the Church on the matter, and concluded,

Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church….

Upon one thing we should all be able to agree, namely, that Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund were right when they said: "Adam is the primal parent of our race" [First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931].

I don't see any real, long-term conflict between science and religion. Or between creation and evolution. It is foolish to think the earth is only 6,000 years old. It is foolish to claim that the Bible is the "inerrant word of God", which could be the subject of a future post. These two beliefs are stridently proclaimed by the Creationist camp. It is equally ridiculous to believe that life arose and developed spontaneously - which is the Darwinist hue and cry.

Hominin cultures prior to about 12,000 years before the present (BP). There are some interesting science versus religion subjects. One of them is the well documented existence of fully human cultures many thousands of years before Adam and Eve came out of the Garden of Eden in roughly 4000 BC. Here is a brief timeline down to 12,000 BP just to show how rich an assemblage of information has been gathered over the past couple of hundred years. I've put in lots of links to external articles so you can learn more if you are interested. Were these fully modern humans? Some were, some weren't.

This timeline leaves out the other 6,000 years from 12,000 BP down to the time Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden.

Oldowan Handaxe

2,500,000 BP to 1,500,000 BPOldowan is an anthropological designation for an industry of stone tools used by prehistoric hominines of the Lower Paleolithic. The Oldowan is the very first stone tool assemblage in prehistory.

Acheulean Handaxe

1,400,000 BP to 125,000 BPAcheulean is the name given to an industry of stone tool manufacture associated with prehistoric hominins during the Lower Paleolithic era across Africa and much of Asia and Europe dating from around 1.4 million to 125,000 BP.

Homo erectus

300,000 BP to 200,000 BP or 500,000 to 125,000 BPClactonian is the name given by archaeologists to an industry of European flint tool manufacture that dates to the early part of the interglacial period known as the Hoxnian, the Mindel-Riss or the Holstein interglacial. Clactonian tools were made by Homo erectus rather than modern humans. The term is sometimes applied to early, crude flint tools from other regions that were made using similar methods.

Homo neanderthalensis

Mousterian Handaxe

300,000 BP to 30,000 BPMousterian is a name given by archaeologists to a style of predominantly flint tools (or industry) associated primarily with Homo neanderthalensis and dating to the Middle Paleolithic, the middle part of the Old Stone Age. It was named after the type site of Le Moustier, a rock shelter in the Dordogne region of France. Similar flint work has been found all over unglaciated Europe and also the Near East and North Africa. Hand axes, racloirs and points constitute the industry; sometimes a Levalloisian technique or another prepared-core technique was employed in making the flint flakes. In Northern Africa and the Near East these tools were also produced by anatomically modern humans.

300,000 BP to 30,000 BPJabroudian is a cultural phase of the Middle Paleolithic of the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine). It broadly belongs to the Mousterian culture, and shows connections with the European facies La Quina.

300,000 BP to 30,000 BPAterian is a name given by archaeologists to a type of stone tool manufacturing dating to the Middle Stone Age (or Middle Paleolithic) in the region around the Atlas Mountains and the northern Sahara. The industry was probably created by modern humans (Homo sapiens), albeit of an early type, as shown by the few skeletal remains known so far from sites on the Moroccan Atlantic coast.

300,000 BP to 30,000 BPStillbay is the name given by archaeologists to a Middle Paleolithic stone tool manufacturing style which may have developed from the earlier Acheulean types. In addition to the Acheulean stone tools, use was also made of bone and antler picks. It is broadly analogous to the Mousterian culture in Europe and the Fauresmith culture in South Africa. It is named after the site of Stillbay in South Africa where it was first described.

300,000 BP to 10,000 BPEmirian refers to a culture that marks the transition between the Middle Paleolithic and the Upper Paleolithic in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine). The Emirian culture apparently developed from the local Mousterian without rupture, keeping numerous elements of the Levalloisian-Mousterian, together with the locally typical but not common Emireh point. There are also numerous stone blade tools, including some curved knives similar to those found in the Châtelperronian culture of Western Europe. The Emirian eventually evolved into the Antelian culture, still of Levalloisian tradition but with some Aurignacian influences.

130,000 BP to 10,000 BPSangoan is the name given by archaeologists to a Paleolithic tool manufacturing style which may have developed from the earlier Acheulean types. In addition to the Acheulean stone tools, use was also made of bone and antler picks. It is broadly analogous to the Mousterian culture in Europe. It is named after the site of Sango Bay in Uganda. The Lupemban culture was derived from and replaced the Sangoan.

52,000 BPMousterian Pluvial starts in North Africa>. This was an extended wet and rainy period in the climate history of North Africa and lasted for about 10,000 years.

40,000 BP to 10000 BP – The Ordos culture the period from the Upper Paleolithic to the late Bronze age in the Ordos Desert, in the south of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, about 300 kilometers from modern Beijing. The Ordos were predominantly Mongoloid from their skeletal remains and artifacts, but numerous interactions between Europoid and Mongoloid might had also taken place there over the course of several centuries, until its occupation by the Qin and Han dynasties.

37,000 BP – Occupation of Zar, Yataghyeri, Damjili and Taghlar caves in Azerbaijan

35,000 BP to 27,000 BPChâtelperronian was the earliest industry of the Upper Paleolithic in central and south western France, extending also into Northern Spain. It derives its name from the site of la Grotte des Fées, in Châtelperron, Allier, France.

Chauvet Cave

35,000 BP to 23,000 BPAurignacian, also referred to as the Reindeer Age because of engravings and carvings associated with it, was located in Europe and south west Asia (the dates differ depending on the source). It may have been contemporary with the Périgordian (a contested grouping of the earlier Châtelperronian and later Gravettian cultures). The Chauvet Cave paintings date from this period.

32,000 BP to 14,000 BPLupemban is a central African culture which, though once thought to date between about 30,000 and 12,000 BC, is now generally recognized to be far older (dates of about 300,000 have been obtained from Twin Rivers, Zambia and Muguruk, Kenya, respectively). I’m leaving it here until I get more information about the Twin Rivers and Muguruk discoveries.

32,000 BP – The Gobustan culture begins in Azerbaijan.

32,000 BP – The Mousterian Pluvial ends in North Africa.

27,000 BP to 22,000 BPGravettian refers to a culture located in France, though evidence of Gravettian products have been found across central Europe and Russia.

25,000 BP to 16,000 BP - Solutrean is a culture located in eastern France, Spain, and England.

24,000 BP – Neanderthals become extinct in Europe. There is considerable variability in this date. There is also an ongoing debate about the intermingling of Neanderthal and modern human bloodlines. Some of the articles refer to this as intermarriage, but I don’t know if I’d go that far. In the 16 November 2006 issue of Science, scientists describe the extraction and analysis of ancient DNA from 38,000 year-old Neanderthal bones. Comparison of the DNA with human and chimpanzee DNA indicates that Neanderthal and human DNA diverged around 500,000 years ago. This means they were separate species. Any interbreeding would have produced mules. In other articles I’ve learned that human and chimpanzee DNA studies indicate we diverged about 5 million years ago.

24,000 BPLast Glacial Maximum Venus of Bassempouy, Grotte du Pape, Brassempouy, Landes, France, was made. The ice ages began and ended at different times in different parts of the world. This one lasted until about 17,000 BP.

Venus of Willendorf

24,000 BP to 23,000 BPVenus of Willendorf is crafted in Austria.

20,000 BP to 12,000 BPKebaran is the name of the first anatomically modern human culture to live in the eastern Mediterranean area. The Kebaran were highly mobile nomadic hunters and gatherers in the Levant and Sinai areas.

Cosquer Cave

18,500 BP – Paintings in Cosquer cave, Cap Margiou, France.

18,000 BP – Spotted Horses painted in Pech Merle cave, Dordogne, France.

18,000 BC to 12,000 BPMammoth-bone village in Mezhirich, Ukraine is inhabited.

18,000 BP to 11,000 BP – Ibex-headed spear thrower is made in Le Mas d'Azil, Ariege, France.

18,000 BP to 10,000 BPMagdalenian is a culture that left evidence from Portugal to Poland during this period. Different sources give different approximate dates for many of these cultures. They expanded and contracted over time so that remains are dated at different times in different locations. Typologically the Magdalenian is divided into 6 phases which are generally agreed to have chronological significance.

17,000 BP – Spotted human hands are painted in Pech Merle cave, Dordogne, France.

Lascaux Caves

17,000 BP to 15,000 BP – The Hall of Bulls is painted in the Lascaux caves.

17,000 BP to 15,000 BP – A Bird-Headed man is painted with bison and Rhinoceros in the Lascaux caves.

17,000 BP to 15,000 BP – Lamp with ibex design, from La Mouthe cave, Dordogne, France, is made.

17,000 BP to 12,000 BPIbero-Maurusian (or Oranian, after a site near Oran) is the earliest blade industry in North Africa. The industry appears to have spread throughout the coastal regions of North Africa between 15,000 and 10,000 B.C.

17,000 BP to 8,000 BPHoabinhian is a term first used by French archaeologists working in northern Vietnam to describe Holocene period archaeological assemblages excavated from rock shelters. It has become a common term to describe stone artifact assemblages in Southeast Asia that contain flaked cobble artifacts.

16,000 BP to 10,000 BP – Pregnant woman and deer, from Laugerie-Basse, France was made.

15,000 BP – Bison, Le Tuc d'Audoubert, Ariege, France.

14,500 BP to 11,500 BPNatufian is a culture that existed in the Mediterranean region of the Levant. It was a Mesolithic culture, unusual in that there were permanent settlements before the introduction of agriculture. The Natufians were probably the ancestors of the Neolithic people of the region, possibly the first people to make that transition. The Natufians seem to have begun deliberate cultivation of cereals, and made use of wild grasses, living in a central location so the wild cereals could be harvested in all three zones. As the climate became drier the Natufians became limited to areas with permanent water. Evidence for grain storage can be seen at some sites. The Natufians also hunted gazelles. The culture is a successor of Kebaran culture.

14,000 BPPaleo-Indians searched for big game in what is now the Hovenweep National Monument.

14,000 BP – Bison is painted on the ceiling of a cave at Altamira, Spain.

14,000 BPDomestication of Reindeer and Dogs.

13,500 BP to 12,000 BP – Wooden buildings in Chile, South America. First pottery vessels (Japan). First use of bow and arrow.

13,000 BP – Beginning of the Holocene extinction event. The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods. A sizeable fraction of these extinctions occurred (as is happening today) in rainforests. This extinction event is sometimes referred to as the sixth extinction following the previous five extinction events.

13,000 BP – First evidence of human settlement in Argentina.

13,000 BPArlington Springs Man dies on the island of Santa Rosa, off the coast of California.

13,000 BP – Human remains deposited in caves which are now located off the coast of Yucatan.

12,900 BP – The Younger Dryas Stadial, named for the alpine or tundra wildflower Dryas octopetala, and also referred to as the Big Freeze, was a brief (approximately 1300 ± 70 year long) period of colder climate following the Bölling/Allerød interstadial at the end of the Pleistocene. It preceded the Preboreal of the early Holocene. In Ireland, the period has been known as the Nahanagan Stadial, while in the UK it has been called the Loch Lomond Stadial and most recently Greenland Stadial 1 (GS1). The prevailing theory holds that the Younger Dryas was caused by a significant reduction or shutdown of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation in response to a sudden influx of fresh water from Lake Agassiz and deglaciation in North America. There is a strong connection between this event and the current Global Warming controversy that would make a good subject for a post to this blog.

The Younger Dryas is often linked to the adoption of agriculture in the Levant. It is argued that the cold and dry Younger Dryas lowered the carrying capacity of the area and forced the sedentary Early Natufian population into a more mobile subsistence pattern. Further climatic deterioration is thought to have brought about cereal cultivation. While there exists relative consensus regarding the role of the Younger Dryas in the changing subsistence patterns during the Natufian, its connection to the beginning of agriculture at the end of the period is still being debated.

These people lived and loved and fought and cried down through all those thousands of years. They struggled with many of the same things we face today. They needed clothing, shelter, and food. They formed families. They banded together in larger groups and societies. They were sometimes superstitious and sometimes religious. They marvelled at the forces of nature and were awed by the sun, moon, and stars. And they did these things for many thousands of years before Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden.

Does the existence of human (or hominin) cultures before Adam and Eve detract from my faith? Absolutely not.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Darwinism: There Are No Limits and I Can Do Anything I Want

One of the hallmarks of modern society is our belief in the scientific method. Central to the success of science is the idea of repeatability. If two people do the same things they should get the same results.

An example of this is the way to make whole wheat bread. If we take the same amounts of water, yeast, honey, whole wheat flour, butter, and salt, combine them in the same way, and then go through the same process of letting the resulting dough rise, forming it into loaves, and baking it, we will always get the same delicious result. It doesn't matter who does this, or when they do it, or where they do it (variation in air pressure with altitude notwithstanding), or why they do it. All that matters is what and how they do it.

At the end of the Book of Mormon is a promise that sounds very similar to a scientific experiment. Moroni 10:4 says, "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."

Notice that this recipe is more than just a list of ingredients and a process. This recipe also requires sincerity, real intent, and faith. A totally insincere person can make a great loaf of bread. He could hope to get pancakes, but he'd still get loaves of bread. He could believe that the recipe wouldn't work, but as long as he followed it exactly, he'd still get bread. On the other hand, not everyone who reads the Book of Mormon and then prays about it will receive a testimony.

Why are spiritual recipes different from scientific recipes? Joseph Smith asked God about the plural wives of some of the ancient prophets. The answer is found in D&C 132 . Verses 2 & 3 say "Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter. Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same." This explanation was given as a preface to the revelation about plural marriage, but it probably applies to revelation in general. God doesn't cast his pearls before swine.

It seems like more than just an interesting coincidence that the Restoration of the Gospel took place at the same time as the development of Darwin's ideas about Evolution. Charles Darwin was born in 1809. Joseph Smith was born in 1805. Darwin's first voyage aboard the Beagle began in December 1831. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in April 1830.

Adam and Eve were monotheists. Many of their descendants would not hearken unto the voice of God – the still small voice – and were deceived and blinded by Satan, who led them captive at his will (Moses 4:4). They began worshipping the sun and the moon, the trees and the rocks, the wind and the rain, even their domestic animals: anything but God. As Daniel said to Belshazzar, "thou ... hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast ... praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified" (Daniel 5:22-23). A stern indictment.

The problem back then was that people believed in, and served, many gods. The problem today is that people claim to believe in, and serve, no god. Let me elaborate...

In 1831, when Darwin began his ministry as the prophet of Evolution, the number of members of the Restored Church was probably only a few hundred, or less. The world in which Charles Darwin and Joseph Smith lived was the world of apostate Christianity. Joseph Smith sums up the situation in his description of "an unusual excitement on the subject of religion" which took place when he was fourteen.

"... notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions" (JS-H 1:6).

It is easy to understand how the ugliness of apostate Christianity would have perplexed and disgusted any sincere seeker after truth, for, as D&C 93:24-25 puts it, "... truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning." It must have been readily apparent, even to casual thinkers, that there was not much truth in the religious creeds of that day.

God himself told Isaiah "... this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men" (Isaiah 29:13). When Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son in the spring of 1820, they told him the apostate churches were all wrong; that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof" (JS-H 1:19).

We are amazed to read that Joseph Smith translated the unsealed portion of the gold plates and published the first edition of the Book of Mormon in only a few months. Darwin worked and reworked his ideas for more than twenty years before finally publishing On the Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin might have delayed publication for many more years, but in 1858 he received a paper from Alfred Russel Wallace, a naturalist working in the Malay Archipelago, that perfectly summarized what he had been working on for so many years. The Theory of Evolution might be known today as Wallacism. Then as now, the hallmark of academia was Publish or Perish. Thirty years later, Wallace published Darwinism. You can download a PDF file from Google Books.

It is easy to understand how the ideas in On The Origin of Species were welcomed by so many people. Charles Darwin freed mankind from personal responsibility for its actions. There was no longer any God to obey, there was only blind chance! This is from God versus Darwin, an article written by Chuck Colson.

Christians need to understand that the two central elements of Darwin's theory--random changes and the blind sifting of natural selection--were both proposed expressly to get rid of design and purpose in biology. In the words of historian Jacques Barzun, "The sum total of accidents of life acting upon the sum total of the accidents of variation provided a completely mechanistic and material system" to account for adaptations in living things.

What this means is that Darwinism is not merely a biological theory. Instead, it smuggles in a philosophy of naturalism that is implacably opposed to any idea of purpose or design.

In The Soul of Science, Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton show that science is always driven by philosophical and religious motivations. Throughout history many biologists, from Ray to Linnaeus to Cuvier, were Christians. They studied the finely engineered structures in living things--eyes and ears, fins and feathers--in order to reveal the wisdom of the Creator.

But Darwin's motivations were equally religious: He wanted to get rid of the Creator. He took direct aim at the idea of design and purpose, hoping to replace it with a completely naturalistic mechanism.

At the same time that Darwin wanted to take away our accountability, Joseph Smith's revelations made us even more accountable for our actions. Acts 17:30 says, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent." That is just as true in the Dispensation of the Fulness of times as it was in the Dispensation of the Meridian of Times. Or at any other time there has been a Dispensation of the Gospel, for that matter. Moroni, quoted previously, talks about faith, hope, and charity later in the same chapter of his book. "And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope. And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity" (Moroni 10:21-22). Wow! No wonder there was so much opposition to Mormonism!

If you aren't convinced, listen to these words of Phillip E. Johnson quoted in Chuck Colson's article Science and Sex.

I have found that any discussion with modernists or liberals about the weaknesses of the theory of evolution quickly turns into a discussion of politics, particularly sexual politics. (Liberals) typically fear that any discrediting of naturalistic evolution will end in women being sent to the kitchen, gays to the closet, and abortionists to jail.

In other words, in the debate over creation and evolution, people intuitively sense that much more is at stake than a scientific theory. What you accept as scientific truth shapes your view on a host of moral issues.

This insidious agenda becomes even more frightening when you consider the campaign to indoctrinate our children. This is from Beware of Brainwashing Bears by Chuck Colson.

One would expect nature books to teach about the natural sciences, which involve the observation and classification of the physical world. That's fine. But instead, many of these books teach naturalism: the denial that the universe contains a supernatural dimension.

An example of this is the popular nature book for young children entitled The Berenstein Bears' Nature Guide. This introductory science book teaches about scientific classification by picturing the journey of a bear family through the rich variety of the natural world.

The Nature Guide is a good introduction to natural science--that is, until you get beyond the introduction. On the third page Pa Bear makes an astounding statement. He informs his small audience that "Nature is all that is, or was, or ever will be."

Thus at the very outset the Nature Guide has Pa Bear spouting the classic definition of naturalism--a definition that leaves no room for the existence of God.

In Chuck Colson's A "Liberal" Education, we read that

... the liberal approach to moral education is closely linked to increasing crime and disorder. As Phillip Johnson explains in his new book Reason in the Balance, liberal education is based on the philosophy of naturalism: that there is no God. The implication is that morality is based not on God's commandments but on individual choices. Every person's goals in life are intrinsically as good as every other person's, and no one has a right to "impose" morality on anyone else—not even on his or her own children.

What does this philosophy mean for education? It means schools should not train children in particular character traits, like courage or honesty. Instead, schools should maximize a child's ability to choose for himself, after critical consideration of competing alternatives.

This explains modern sex education, for example, where students are not taught to restrain their sexual impulses until marriage. Instead they're taught a wide range of sexual practices, with the message that "Only you can judge what's right for you."

Yet, ironically, if you walk down the hall to the science classroom, you'll find educators employing exactly the opposite method. There they have no qualms about teaching that there is one and only one right way to think— namely, to embrace Darwinism. Evolution is not open to question, nor are students invited to judge for themselves whether it is true or not.

Why such a sharp discrepancy in teaching styles?

The answer is that science is taught in absolute terms because it is regarded as giving the truth about what "really exists." And what "really exists" is nature alone; there is no God. Naturalism in science then becomes the basis for liberalism in morality: If there is no God, then kids should be taught to make up their own minds about moral questions.

Is it any real surprise that some of them make up their minds to cheat and fight? No wonder schools are becoming battlegrounds. You and I need to help people see the underlying philosophies at war in public education. The Darwinism taught in science courses is regarded as the factual basis for the philosophy of naturalism. And naturalism in turn means that morality is taught as nothing more than individual choice.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned the scientific method. We've seen that Darwinists are more philosophers than scientists. Let's take this up a notch. What is truly amazing about Darwinism is that the fossil record simply does not support Darwinism at all. As a lawyer would put it, there is no "evidentiary support" that evolution has occurred. No gradual development of species is seen. No intermediate forms or "missing links" have been discovered. Stephen J. Gould called this the "trade secret of Paleontology". Here are two quotes from Gould's The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

The common knowledge of a profession often goes unrecorded in technical literature for two reasons: one need not preach commonplaces to the initiated; and one should not attempt to inform the uninitiated in publications they do not read. The long-term stasis, following a geologically abrupt origin, of most fossil species, has always been recognized by professional paleontologists ... (pp.749-750)

But another reason, beyond tacitly shared knowledge, soon arose to drive stasis more actively into textual silence. Darwinian evolution became the great intellectual novelty of the later 19th century, and paleontology held the archives of life's history. Darwin proclaimed insensibly gradual transition as the canonical expectation for evolution's expression in the fossil record. He knew, of course, that the detailed histories of species rarely show such a pattern, so he explained the literal appearance of stasis and abrupt replacement as an artifact of a woefully imperfect fossil record. Thus, paleontologists could be good Darwinians and still acknowledge the primary fact of their profession - but only at the price of sheepishness or embarrassment. No one can take great comfort when the primary observation of their discipline becomes an artifact of limited evidence rather than an expression of nature's ways. Thus, once gradualism emerged as the expected pattern for documenting evolution - with an evident implication that the fossil record's dominant signal of stasis and abrupt replacement can only be a sign of evidentiary poverty - paleontologists became cowed or puzzled, and even less likely to showcase their primary datum. (p.750)

Instead of gradualism, species appear full-blown in the fossil record, remain in "stasis" for a few million years or longer, essentially unchanged, and then simply disappear. Evolutionists call this punctuated equilibrium, because if you can't explain something, giving it a fancy name makes some of the mystery go away. Darwin wrote, "several of the main divisions of the animal kingdom suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks." He was referring to what today is called the Cambrian Explosion. He called this a "serious" problem which "at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained" (On The Origin of Species, Sixth Edition, 1890, Chapter X). Darwin may have been one of the last proponents of the Theory of Evolution to express any honest doubts about it.

It is said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But could there be an evidence of absence? Charles Darwin's greatest detractors were not professors of religion, they were paleontologists! Darwin said the lack of evidence to support his ideas was because of imperfections in the fossil record: there were either pages missing from the book, or else we just hadn't read all the pages yet. In the 150 years since Darwin published the first edition of his book, a huge amount of evidence has been gathered, and it supports Darwinism even less now than it did in 1859. Yes, there is evidence of absence, Virginia. And it is overwhelming.

Another feature of the agenda of Evolution "science" is obfuscation, and sometimes, downright dishonesty. Darwinists tend to be as slippery as tongues. Eels are slippery, but think about what tongues do when they slip. In Bait and Switch Science Chuck Colson talks about this Darwinian Dishonesty.

If finch beak variation or birds stealing caps from bottles is what biologists mean by evolution, then call me an evolutionist. But of course, that's not the only meaning. There's another meaning for the term, one that's much more controversial. Macroevolution is a process that supposedly creates innovations, such as new complex organs or new body parts. Darwinists typically "claim that macroevolution is just microevolution continued over a very long time through a mechanism called natural selection," Johnson says. The claim is highly controversial, because the "mechanism of macroevolution has to be able to design and build very complex structures like wings and eyes and brains"—and "it has to have done this reliably again and again."

The trouble is, plenty of experiments have been done that show small changes do not accumulate to make large changes. So what Darwinists need is a new mechanism—yet there is no new mechanism on the horizon.

This, Johnson says, is why Darwinists are reluctant to make a clear distinction between microevolution and macroevolution. They have evidence for a mechanism for minor variation, as with finches' beaks, but he adds, they have no distinct mechanism for the really creative kind of evolution—the kind that builds new body plans and new complex organisms.

As a result, macroevolution is nothing more than a mysterious process with no known mechanism. "A process like that isn't all that different from a God-guided process," Johnson notes, "and it certainly would not support those expansive philosophical statements about evolution being purposeless and undirected."

In conclusion, mixing together gradual descent, natural selection and survival of the fittest and baking them for an hour at 350° won't ever result in anything you'd want to put in your mouth. Darwinism is not at all scientific and never has been. Darwinian evolution is NOT a fact. People find Darwinism appealing because it frees them from responsibility for their actions. Darwinism means there are no limits and I can do anything I want.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Musings on Memorial Day

Nobody cares about Columbus and the Flat Earth.

A lot of people are passionate about Art. But nobody is going to want to have me killed for saying I don’t particularly like most Modern Art.

Today is Memorial Day, which commemorates U.S. men and women who perished while in military service to their country. The holiday was first enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War. It was expanded after World War I to include casualties of any war or military action involving U.S. troops. At present it is largely observed with barbecues. But I digress.

People who disagree with what I’ll write today might want to see me dead. But of course, nobody is reading this blog, so I’m safe.

Salman Rushdie is also alive and well. In 2007, he began a five-year term as Distinguished Writer in Residence at Emory University. You may remember the brouhaha surrounding Rushdie’s fourth novel, published in 1988. It enraged Muslims around the world. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa against Rushdie because of The Satanic Verses. This was the first time in the modern era that a government publicly called for the killing of a private individual in a foreign country.

Westerners are so used to "freedom of the press" that we can scarcely imagine the uproar surrounding Rushdie’s novel. What was that all about, anyway?

The title of Rushdie’s novel refers to an alleged incident in the ministry of the Prophet Muhammad where verses for the Qur'an were spoken and then withdrawn on the grounds that the devil had deceived Muhammad into thinking they came from God. Muslim writers refer to the delivery and retraction of the two verses as the Gharaniq (bird) incident. The verses form a subplot of Rushdie’s novel, which is about two Indians and their immigration to Britain and subsequent return to India.

These verses would have been in Sura An-Najm, the 53rd Sura, considered a revelation from the angel Gabriel. They would have gone after verses 19 and 20.

Have you thought of Allat and al-'Uzza and Manat the third, the other?: These are the exalted Gharaniq, whose intercession is hoped for.

Muhammad longed to convert his kinsmen and neighbors of Mecca to Islam. The disputed verses allowed for prayers of intercession to be made to three Pagan Meccan goddesses: Allat, Uzza, and Manat - a flagrant violation of the Islamic principle of monotheism. The Meccans were overjoyed to hear this and joined Muhammad in ritual prostration at the end of the Sura.

Islamic tradition holds that Gabriel chastised Muhammad for adulterating the revelation, revealing Qur'an 22:52 to comfort him.

Never did We send a messenger or a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and Allah will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom.

Muhammad took back his words and the persecution by the Meccans resumed. Qur’an 53:21 was revealed, belittling the goddesses. In the Al-Hilali and Khan English translation, the passage including verses 19-26 now reads:

Have you then considered Al-Lât, and Al-'Uzza
And Manât, the other third?
Is it for you the males and for Him the females?
That indeed is a division most unfair!
They are but names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which Allâh has sent down no authority. They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire, whereas there has surely come to them the Guidance from their Lord!
Or shall man have what he wishes?
But to Allâh belongs the last (Hereafter) and the first (the world).
And there are many angels in the heavens, whose intercession will avail nothing except after Allâh has given leave for whom He wills and pleases.

You’ll probably say that the English translation is not very comprehensible. The Qur’an is a book like the Bible in that respect. Only by devoting many hours to the study of either great book can anyone begin to understand the messages and the meaning of the words.

Muslim commentators do not refer to these two verses as "Satanic", but as the "Bird" (Gharaniq) verses. When the title of Rushdie’s novel was translated into Arabic, "verses" was translated as "ayat," a term applied only to the verses of the Qur’an. Hence Muslims who read that translation assumed Rushdie was claiming the Qur'an was Satanic.

Public opinion is often not very well informed. Al Capp coined the term SWINE: Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything. This could certainly apply to Students of the Qur’an. We westerners read the above paragraphs and roll our eyes and mutter, "What’s the big deal?" We are so constantly inundated and bombarded by messages that are in direct opposition to our fundamental, core Christian beliefs – what we refer to as "entertainment" – that we have become pretty insensitive to the nuances of scripture. How many Americans have even read the Bible all the way through anyway? Most Christians fit the description in Isaiah 29:13, which has been given before in this blog.

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.

Our entertainment is certainly not conducive to our spirituality. The things we actively pursue to titillate and excite ourselves are to a large extent diametrically opposed to our Christian faith. We find humor and take delight in wickedness. See Isaiah 5:20 or 2 Nephi 15:20 Perhaps I’ll devote a future post to a discussion of What’s On TV Tonight?

I’m sure there are Muslim backsliders, and even a Muslim or two somewhere who have not read the Qur’an all the way through. But those people don’t go very far in Muslim society. Muslims take their religion VERY seriously. For example, consider this requirement at the International Islamic University Malasia.

In order to identify and classify the students, all students are required to sit for Fardu ‘Ain oral and Qur’anic reading test, conducted during Ta’aruf week. Students who fail this test are required to register for Fardu ‘Ain classes and the attendance is compulsory. The classes are conducted by Assistant Religious Officers under the supervision of Leadership and Training Department. The students have to attend classes once a week for 10 weeks per semester. The classes are from Monday to Friday between 8.00 am to 4.00 pm. At the end of the semester, a centralized examination will be conducted for the students.

Of course my Alma Mater required students to take and pass religion classes as undergraduates, and the same might be true of other Christian universities here in the United States. I don’t know about that. Somehow, I doubt it.

In one of my posts I said that when I start writing I’m not always sure where I’m going. This is one of those posts. My original intent was to talk about the Iraq war, but then I got sidetracked on the misconceptions surrounding Salman Rushdie’s novel – which, I’m sure, were very remunerative for him. That devolved into a consideration of some differences between Christian and Muslim lifestyles. I guess I should get back on track.

As of today, Memorial Day, says 4,080 American men and women have died in Iraq. More than 29,000 of our troops have been injured. The United States remains engulfed by the underlying military conflict, the battle for political control, and grinding civil strife. Since January 2005 there have been nearly 7,000 deaths in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and over 42,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. Were conditions really any worse under Saddam?

I’ve questioned U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq since the very beginning. There seemed to be a lot of misinformation about WMDs, Saddam’s threat to our National Security, and the connection between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. A lot of articles I read claimed that Al-Qaeda doesn’t even exist, but that the Bush Administration invented it so the gullible public would have something to focus on. According to the Center for Public Integrity, President Bush's administration made a total of 935 false statements between 2001 and 2003 about Iraq's alleged threat to the United States. Both proponents and opponents of the invasion have criticized the U.S. and its allies for not devoting enough troops to the mission, not adequately planning for post-invasion Iraq, and for permitting and perpetrating widespread human rights abuses. As the war has progressed, critics have also railed against the high human and financial costs. And I’ve been one of those critics.

The situation in the Middle East is so incredibly complex, and I’m so incredibly simple, that I admit I don’t know squat about what’s going on "over there". All I know is what I read, and I’m convinced much/most/all of it is misinformation. What about Paul Wolfowitz and the Project for the New American Century (PNAC)? What about the New World Order conspiracy theory? What about the purported shadow government represented by the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group? Frankly, I don’t think our politicians are smart enough to keep a secret of this magnitude.

Another thing that bothers me is that in recent years we only seem to get involved in conflicts where large amounts of oil are involved. I could probably come up with a list of worthy causes that we’ve simply ignored, but I won’t. This is already long enough.

Then there is the subject of "terrorism" itself. For several years there we heard about Al-Qaeda every time we turned on the TV, opened the newspaper, or looked out the window. But what about all the other terrorist organizations out there? (Also see the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism list and the State Department’s list.) Why have we focused almost exclusively on just the Taliban and Al-Qaeda?

Wow. I don’t have any answers. On most of this stuff I have no information and no opinions. Well, I always have an opinion. Sorry.

I’ll end this meandering post by relating to you a conversation I had with a young friend who was home on leave from Iraq. I won’t tell you his name because he probably wouldn’t want it included in an article questioning U.S. involvement in Iraq. He is a Marine, and this was his second tour of duty in the country. He believed 100% in our involvement in Iraq. He was well informed. He expressed a very positive outlook about what he was doing.

Patriotism by John Slobodnik

I can read and read and then read some more and I’ll never be as close to or as intimate with the situation in Iraq as this young man. And he was convinced that what he was doing was good and proper and necessary. How can I argue with that? I can’t. Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Emperor's New Clothes

I was so excited when the San Francisco Museum of Modern art finally opened in January 1995!! Somehow I didn't get around to taking my family to see what was inside until June 2001. I needn't have hurried so much...

As we wandered through that 100 million dollar building, we were amazed to find there wasn't any real art in the whole place. Nearby is an art school, so there were hordes of students, notepads in hand, inspecting the stuff on the walls, writing furiously, muttering to themselves. In one room I saw a very large canvas that was painted monochromatic ketchup red. The painting, by Kasemir Malevich, was called "Red Square: Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions".

The painting can be viewed on the internet at the Paris WebMuseum. This art form is referred to as "Suprematist".

I remember looking over one young lady's shoulder as she wrote, "the woman looks like she is uncomfortable in that heavy dress," or some such drivel. A young man wrote, "The woman doesn't appear to be very happy." I don’t really remember exactly what they were writing, but it was garbage like that.

Can you say, "The Emperor’s New Clothes"? Arghhhh....

I think that was the moment when I became interested, really interested, in finding out what art is all about and why there is so much garbage in the world masquerading as art. Since then I've collected nearly 56,000 images of the works of about 6,000 artists on my computer.

The fact that people can take something like "Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions" seriously is a sad commentary on our society.

Let me give you a basis for comparison. Here is a painting of a peasant woman, "Vendangeuse" (The Grape Picker), by William Bouguereau. Note the red scarf...

Which would you prefer, that lovely red scarf, or that plain red square? Or am I missing something?! When I sent the above to my sister, she wrote back.

I much prefer looking at the girl in the scarf, but I admit I could probably produce the red square better!! Art for the masses may mean art that any of the mass can produce and that can be mass-produced!

Wow! My sister is pretty brilliant, isn't she?! Many "modern" artists seem to have little artistic talent. But not all. Some of the famous modern artists CAN paint like Bouguereau if they want to. But it isn't avant garde and it doesn't make money.

Avant garde: I believe "modern art" arose as a spoof. The weird thing is that people liked The Emperor's New Clothes, and bought into Modernism hook-line-and-sinker.

Making money: It was also obvious that such "art" could be churned out at the rate of one canvas an hour, whereas it probably took Bouguereau several months to complete The Grape Picker.

The Internet can supply many wonderful articles about what I've summarized in these two short paragraphs. Of course you will find overwhelmingly more out there supporting the opposing view.

You've heard the idea that the bigger the lie the more people will believe it. Here is the origin of that idea from Mr. Schicklegruber's Mein Kampf.

But it remained for the Jews, with their unqualified capacity for falsehood, and their fighting comrades, the Marxists, to impute responsibility for the downfall [of Germany in WWI] precisely to the man who alone had shown a superhuman will and energy in his effort to prevent the catastrophe which he had foreseen and to save the nation from that hour of complete overthrow and shame. By placing responsibility for the loss of the world war on the shoulders of Ludendorff they took away the weapon of moral right from the only adversary dangerous enough to be likely to succeed in bringing the betrayers of the Fatherland to Justice. All this was inspired by the principle -- which is quite true in itself -- that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper stata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily, and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.

From time immemorial, however, the Jews have known better than any others how falsehood and calumny can be exploited. Is not their very existence founded on one great lie, namely, that they are a religious community, whereas in reality they are a race? And what a race! One of the greatest thinkers that mankind has produced has branded the Jews for all time with a statement which is profoundly and exactly true. He (Schopenhauer) called the Jew "The Great Master of Lies." Those who do not realize the truth of that statement, or do not wish to believe it, will never be able to lend a hand in helping Truth to prevail.

Or in other words:

The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.

I guess I'm still stuck on extolling truth and exposing falsehood.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Columbus and the Flat Earth - II

In my last post I documented the absurdity of the lie about Columbus and the Flat Earth that is taught to school children all over the world today. In this article I’ll try to explain where this lie came from and what I think it means.

I spent a quarter of a century in libraries all across the United States trying to track down the origin of the Flat Earth lie. The Internet, and especially Google, have changed the way we do research.

In 1997, Jeffrey Burton Russell delivered a paper titled, "The Myth of the Flat Earth". Here are his opening paragraphs.

First, as a historian, I have to admit that it tells us something about the precariousness of history. History is precarious for three reasons: the good reason that it is extraordinarily difficult to determine "what really happened" in any series of events; the bad reason that historical scholarship is often sloppy; and the appalling reason that far too much historical scholarship consists of contorting the evidence to fit ideological models. The worst examples of such contortions are the Nazi and Communist histories of the early- and mid-twentieth century.

Contortions that are common today, if not widely recognized, are produced by the incessant attacks on Christianity and religion in general by secular writers during the past century and a half, attacks that are largely responsible for the academic and journalistic sneers at Christianity today.

A curious example of this mistreatment of the past for the purpose of slandering Christians is a widespread historical error, an error that the Historical Society of Britain some years back listed as number one in its short compendium of the ten most common historical illusions. It is the notion that people used to believe that the earth was flat--especially medieval Christians.

It must first be reiterated that with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat.

That just about says it all. D&C 93:24-25 is pretty plain too.

And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.

I guess a lot of people would disagree. But a lot of people are going to hell, too. Bless their hearts. Professor Russell goes on to explain the origin of the Flat Earth lie.

The idea was established, almost contemporaneously, by a Frenchman and an American, between whom I have not been able to establish a connection, though they were both in Paris at the same time. One was Antoine-Jean Letronne (1787-1848), an academic of strong antireligious prejudices who had studied both geography and patristics and who cleverly drew upon both to misrepresent the church fathers and their medieval successors as believing in a flat earth, in his On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers (1834). The American was no other than our beloved storyteller Washington Irving (1783-1859), who loved to write historical fiction under the guise of history. His misrepresentations of the history of early New York City and of the life of Washington were topped by his history of Christopher Columbus (1828). It was he who invented the indelible picture of the young Columbus, a "simple mariner," appearing before a dark crowd of benighted inquisitors and hooded theologians at a council of Salamanca, all of whom believed, according to Irving, that the earth was flat like a plate. Well, yes, there was a meeting at Salamanca in 1491, but Irving's version of it, to quote a distinguished modern historian of Columbus, was "pure moonshine. Washington Irving, scenting his opportunity for a picturesque and moving scene," created a fictitious account of this "nonexistent university council" and "let his imagination go completely...the whole story is misleading and mischievous nonsense."

I always like to see something with my own eyes. Project Gutenberg has a copy of Vol. 2 of Irving’s book, "The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus", but I could not find his description of the council of Salamanca. That must be in Vol. 1.

Here is Professor Russell’s conclusion to the matter.

But now, why did the false accounts of Letronne and Irving become melded and then, as early as the 1860s, begin to be served up in schools and in schoolbooks as the solemn truth?

The answer is that the falsehood about the spherical earth became a colorful and unforgettable part of a larger falsehood: the falsehood of the eternal war between science (good) and religion (bad) throughout Western history. This vast web of falsehood was invented and propagated by the influential historian John Draper (1811-1882) and many prestigious followers, such as Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the president of Cornell University, who made sure that the false account was perpetrated in texts, encyclopedias, and even allegedly serious scholarship, down to the present day. A lively current version of the lie can be found in Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers, found in any bookshop or library.

The reason for promoting both the specific lie about the sphericity of the earth and the general lie that religion and science are in natural and eternal conflict in Western society, is to defend Darwinism. The answer is really only slightly more complicated than that bald statement. The flat-earth lie was ammunition against the creationists. The argument was simple and powerful, if not elegant: "Look how stupid these Christians are. They are always getting in the way of science and progress. These people who deny evolution today are exactly the same sort of people as those idiots who for at least a thousand years denied that the earth was round. How stupid can you get?"

But that is not the truth.

I seem to be spending a lot of time defending the truth (as I see it) and trying to shed some light on falsehoods (as I see them). Will this trend continue? Wait and see. (P.S. We will get around to Darwin eventually.)

Below is "For God and Glory", by Igor Babailov.

As long as I'm still on Columbus, did you know he was Jewish? Do our history texts teach this about him? The following paragraphs are from an article that no longer seems to be available on the Internet. Don't worry, you can find similar information in lots of other articles.

Colón is a common Sephardic name. Cristobal was the son of Marranos, Jews forcibly converted to Christianity.

Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492, following the edict that expelled all Jews from Spain. The first entry in his diary:

"In the same month in which his Majesties issued the edict that all Jews would be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men, my expedition of discovery to the Indies."

Colón also noted in his diary that he first sighted land during the festival of Succot. It is unlikely that he would have noted these two things in his journal had he not been a Jew.

In his will he left money "to a Jew who used to live at the gate of the Judería (the Jewish Ghetto) in Lisbon."

At least five of the men in his crew were Jewish. Luis de Torres was his second in command, and knew Hebrew and Aramaic. He was a "new Christian" who expected to find the lost tribes in India. The ship's doctor, Bernal, and surgeon, Marco, were also of Jewish descent. You'll notice that neither Bernal nor Marco are in the list above. Adding them brings the total number of men to 88, the number reported in the history books.

No Catholic priests were listed among those who sailed on that first voyage. So I guess the painting above recalls one of the other voyages...

Columbus' son Fernando admitted in a biography that his father deliberately veiled his birthplace and his origin. In a letter to a Marrano nurse he wrote,

"I am not the first admiral of my family. Let them give me what name they please, for when it is all done, David, that most prudent King, was first shepherd and afterwards chosen King of Jerusalem, and I am servant to the same Master who raised him to such dignity."

Columbus' mother's name was Susanne (Shoshana) Fonterossa. The Fonterossa family was Jewish and one of the Colon's was burned in the Inquisition.

When he wrote his son, Columbus included the letters B and H in Hebrew. This is an abbreviation for "Be-ezrat HaShem", which means "With the Help of the almighty." Another interpretation is "Baruch HaShem", which means "Praise the Almighty."

Columbus was fond of quoting Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezra, and of applying them to himself.

The shroud of mystery attached to Colon's history was common for Jews and Marranos in this perilous part of Spanish history.

Many of Columbus' business associates and companions were Jewish or Marranos. The Vatican has refused to divulge any more information on this subject, declaring Columbus' history "has blemishes." Some blemish!

Columbus always wrote in Spanish. Never in Italian. His first two letters were written to Gabriel Sanchez and Luis de Santangel, who helped finance the first expedition. Both men were under surveillance by the Inquisition and had family members murdered for being Marranos. His third letter was addressed to the King and Queen.

The maps for the voyage were prepared by cartographer and astronomer Abraham Zacuto, whose works were written in Hebrew. In his diaries, Columbus names Zacuto as a personal friend. An eclipse of the moon on February 29, 1504, predicted by Zacuto, saved the lives of Columbus and his crew when the superstitious Indians gave the Europeans food so they would make the sun come back to life.

Is this evidence enough?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Columbus and the Flat Earth - I

When I was a child, every history book taught that in Columbus' day people believed the earth was flat, and that if you sailed too close to the edge, you would fall off. Are our children still being taught this lie as "history"?

Ever since I was old enough to think independently I have marveled that anyone could have believed such a thing. For about thirty-five years I have gone to libraries in my travels searching for a history book that might explain where this lie originated. So far I have only been able to determine that it does not appear in any history book I have looked at written before (about) the start of the twentieth century.

In 1908, W. W. Rouse Ball wrote "A Short Account of the History of Mathematics." Although this book does not mention Columbus, it does shed a lot of light on the level of knowledge men had about Astronomy in Columbus' day. Here are some of the details

Anaxagoras was born in 500 B.C. and died in 428 B.C. He asserted that the Sun was larger than Greece. This opinion together with some of his other theories about physics caused him to be prosecuted and convicted for impiety because most people believed the Gods were directly responsible for what he called "natural" events.

Aristarchus of Samos, born in 310 B.C., asserted as a working hypothesis, that the sun was the center of the universe, and that the Earth revolved round the sun. While his measurements were not very close, his propositions on the size of the sun and moon were accurate in principle.

Eratosthenes was born at Cyrene in 275 B.C. He determined the radius of the Earth to be 3925 miles, which is very near the truth. How did he do this? He noticed that on a given day of the year, shadows were measurably longer at one town than at another town further south. By carefully measuring the north-south distance between the two towns and the lengths of the shadows at noon he was able to calculate the length of a degree (about 68.5 miles) of latitude on the surface of the earth, and from that the circumference.

Hipparchus was born about 160 B.C. at Nicaea in Bithynia. You need a fairly good understanding of basic astronomy to grasp the significance of his accomplishments. You should also keep in mind the fact that he had no telescopes or accurate clocks. Hipparchus determined the duration of the year to within six minutes of its true value. He calculated the inclination of the ecliptic and equator as 23 degrees 51 minutes. It was actually 23 degrees 46 minutes at that time. He estimated the annual precession of the equinoxes as 59 seconds; it is 50.2 seconds. He stated the lunar parallax as 57 minutes, which is nearly correct. He worked out the eccentricity of the earth's orbit as 1/24; it is very approximately 1/30. He determined the perigee and mean motion of the sun and of the moon, and he calculated the extent of the shifting of the plane of the moon's motion. Finally, he obtained the synodic motion of the five planets then known (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn).

Lacking Newton's theory of universal gravitation, these ancient mathematicians made extensive use of circles within circles, known as epicycles, to explain these motions. Hipparchus supposed that the moon moved with uniform velocity in a circle, the Earth occupying a position near (but not at) the center of this circle. They described this by saying that the moon's orbit is an epicycle of the first order. The longitude of the moon obtained by this hypothesis is fairly correct for a few revolutions, and can be made correct for any length of time by further supposing that the apse line moves forward about three degrees a month, thus giving a correction for eviction.

The sun's motion was explained in a similar manner. This theory accounted for all the facts which could be determined with the instruments then in use, and in particular enabled Newton to calculate the details of eclipses with considerable accuracy.

It is not intended that you understand all the terminology in these paragraphs - just that you realize how much was understood long before the time of Christ, and to establish as strongly as possible that while the nature of the motions of the heavenly bodies was incorrectly understood, the Earth was known to be a sphere.

Ptolemy, whose work is founded on the writings of Hipparchus, and who observed the sky at Alexandria from 125 to 150 A.D., did not advance the theory of astronomy, but presented the views of the older writer with a completeness and elegance that made it the standard. In fact, no further advances in astronomy were made until the time of Copernicus. Ptolemy's second book is devoted chiefly to the phenomena depending on the Earth being a sphere. In this book Ptolemy remarks that the explanations for the observed motions would be much simplified if the Earth were supposed to rotate on its axis once a day, but he states that this hypothesis is inconsistent with known facts (namely the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe).

Gerbert of Aquitaine was born about 950 A.D. He is especially famous for his construction of terrestrial and celestial globes. He became Pope in 999 A.D. with the name Sylvester II.

The oldest globe still in existence was made in 1492 by Martin Behaim. The November 1986 National Geographic magazine had a photo, but since I couldn’t find that one, here is a photo from Greaves & Thomas.

Behaim used Ptolemy's circumference for the Earth, which was a quarter too small (because of an error in the translation of the writings of Eratosthenes), leaving no room for the yet "undiscovered" Western Hemisphere. Columbus likely met Behaim in Portugal. This explains why Columbus thought he had reached Cipangu (Japan) after 68 days at sea, and why he called the people he found there Indians.

Nicolas Copernicus, born in 1473, conjectured that the Earth and planets all revolved around the sun. He did not attempt to prove this but advocated it only on the ground that it gave a simple explanation of natural phenomena. Galileo on 1632 was the first to try to supply a proof of this hypothesis.

Nobody thought the earth was flat. Nobody. Not ever. Even the most ignorant seaman knew from experience that as ships traveled toward the horizon they could be observed to disappear little by little over the curved edge.

Columbus carried with him a Nautical Almanac. At one point the local Indians became reluctant to continue supplying the Spanish sailors with food and other supplies. To encourage their assistance, Columbus predicted a Solar eclipse. The Indians WERE favorably impressed. Certainly Columbus had never heard of a "flat" earth theory.

Columbus "discovered" the "new world" in 1492. In reality, this is another lie. The American Indians were already here. It is virtually certain that many other European, Asian, and even African explorers visited the Americas before Columbus "discovered" them.

The Assyrian king Naram-Sin may have been involved in active trade with the Americas more than 2000 years before the time of Christ.

Hui Shen and a group of other Buddhist monks may have visited Central America and Mexico in 458 A.D.

There is the semi-legendary tale of Saint Brendan who may have visited the Americas some time around 512-530 AD.

Norse, or Viking, journeys to North America around 1000 AD are supported by both historical and archaeological evidence, and there are numerous cognates between Old Norse and the languages of some American Indian tribes of New England. See the 15,000 comparisons of Old Norse and Algonquin in Reider T. Sherman’s "The Viking and the Red Man, the Old Norse Origin of the Algonquin Language" (1940),

The Jaredites, Mulekites, Lamanites, and Nephites of the Book of Mormon may be cited as further examples. And there are, apparently, many others.

Not only did people from other parts of the world undoubtedly visit the Americas before Columbus, but there is considerable evidence that people from the Americas visited Europe anciently too. Jack Forbes, director of Native American studies at UC-Davis, has found several references to dark skinned people referred to as "Indos" (because the Europeans knew they came from across the ocean and thought India was "over there") visiting various European countries. (See the August 3, 1989 Oakland Tribune)

We can conclusively dispense with the notion that people in Columbus' day thought the Earth was flat. And yet the lie persists. Most people today still believe it. Every Columbus day I am reminded how little most Americans know about history. When I try to discuss these things they often say, "who cares?"

I remember a college professor I had who taught an unlikely story about the English author Thomas Moore (1779-1852). According to this account, Moore's beautiful young wife contracted Smallpox while he was traveling on the European continent, and was horribly disfigured by it. When he returned from his long journey she refused to see him. To reassure her of his Unconditional Love he penned the lines:

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly today,
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be ador'd, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.
It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofan'd by a tear,
That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear;
No, the heart that has truly lov'd never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sun-flower turns on her God when he sets,
The same look which she turn'd when he rose.

Questioning the validity of this story, I obtained a biography of Moore and found that he was not married when he penned those lines - to accompany a tune as part of his work to compile a series of Irish melodies. His eventual wife never had Smallpox. But it was a nice story. A real tear-jerker.

This particular professor liked it so much that he continued to use it in his classes even after receiving my well documented correct account of the particulars.

And so it is and will probably remain with Columbus.

My next post will present information I’ve obtained about Columbus and the Flat Earth since the Internet, and most especially Google, have come along.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Ages of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph

Late last year I set myself a goal of reading all the "standard works" (The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, New Testament, Old Testament, and Pearl of Great Price) during 2008. I put together a 5-chapter-a-day schedule. So far I’ve been following it. I finished the Book of Mormon on February 19, the Doctrine and Covenants on March 19, and the New Testament on May 10.

This morning I finished Genesis. In today’s material I read the story of Joseph in Egypt, and the reunion he has with his brothers during the seven year famine. This is one of my favorite stories in all the Scriptures. Here is Genesis 45:4-8, where Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers.

And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Just imagine, in spite of Joseph’s kind and prophetic words, how terrified his brothers must have felt! Years later, after the death of their father Israel, the brothers were still afraid of Joseph. This is Genesis 50:15-21.

And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

Joseph’s compassion for his difficult brothers and his prophetic understanding that his suffering had been for their sake – to "save" them – is a "type" of Christ. Types of Christ would be a good subject for a future post to this blog. The repetitive or parallel nature of these scriptures might become another post.

The next verse is interesting in a different way. This is Genesis 50:22.

And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father’s house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.

There is an interesting mathematical "coincidence" associated with the lengths of the lives of the four Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

1996 BC Birth of Abraham (Gen 11:26)
1921 BC Abraham goes into Canaan (Gen 12:1-5)
1896 BC Birth of Isaac (Gen 21:1-5)
1836 BC Birth of Jacob (Gen 25:21-26)
1821 BC Death of Abraham (Aged 175) (Gen 25:7-10)
1745 BC Birth of Joseph (See below*)
1716 BC Death of Isaac (Aged 180) (Gen 35:28-29)
1706 BC Jacob goes down into Egypt (Gen 46:1-7)
1689 BC Death of Jacob (Aged 147) (Gen 47:28)
1635 BC Death of Joseph (Aged 110) (Gen 50:26)
1491 BC The Exodus (Exo 12:29-42)
1451 BC The Death of Moses (Deu 32:49-50; 34:1-7)
1429 BC The Death of Joshua (Jos 14:7; 24:29)

Now take a look at the arithmetic associated with those four ages.

As much as I like to give credit for the work of other people, I don’t know where I got this gem. The chronology, on the other hand, is something I put together myself, based on a careful comparison of a lot of other chronologies, plus some of my own calculations.

What do you think about those numbers? Do you think they are a coincidence? I don’t think so. Either the Israelite scribes modified the actual ages to fit this pattern, or God made the ages of these men conform to this pattern for his own purposes. One last thing. There are 567 years from the birth of Abraham to the death of Joshua (1996-1429). Coincidence or design? What do YOU make of it?

The years of the birth and death of Joseph were obtained in the following manner.

1 - Jacob was born in 1836 BC (according to the timeline given above).
2 - Joseph was sold into slavery when he was 17 (Genesis 37:2).
3 - Joseph was 30 when he stood before Pharaoh (Genesis 41:46).
4 - 7 years of plenty and 2 years of famine before Jacob came down into Egypt (Genesis 45:6).
5 - Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years and was 147 when he died (Genesis 47:28).
6 - Joseph was 110 when he died (Genesis 50:26).

So the arithmetic goes like this.

Assuming 1836 BC is the correct year for Jacob’s birth (1), then he must have died (5) in 1689 BC (1836 - 147).
Jacob went down into Egypt (4) seventeen years earlier, in 1706 BC (1689 + 17).
Joseph was 30 (3) plus 9 (4) years old when Jacob came to Egypt. So Joseph was born in 1745 BC (1706 + 39).
Finally, Joseph died when he was 110, in 1635 BC (1745 - 110)

You’ll notice that according to this timeline, Israel was in Egypt 215 years, not the 430 implied by Exodus 12:40-41. The earliest surviving manuscript of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, renders verse 40 with a few additional words: "And the sojourning of the children of Israel, that is which they sojourned in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years." How convenient that both periods were of equal length.

In Galatians 3:17, Paul also seems to suggest the same thing. Paul is always a little hard to interpret, so this may not be what he was trying to say at all. Josephus wrote in his Antiquities of the Jews: "They (the Israelites) left Egypt in the month of Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt" (Chapter XV:2).

The genealogy of Joshua from 1 Chronicles 7:22-27 lists either nine or ten generations from Ephraim to Joshua. (Ten if you assume Resheph was the son of Rephah and nine if you assume they were brothers - as I have done below.)

And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him. And when he went in to his wife, she conceived, and bare a son, and he called his name Beriah, because it went evil with his house. (And his daughter [was] Sherah, who built Bethhoron the nether, and the upper, and Uzzensherah.) And Rephah [was] his son, also Resheph, and Telah his son, and Tahan his son, Laadan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, Non his son, Jehoshua his son.

Ephraim may have been something like 5 years old when Jacob’s extended family moved to Goshen. Then assuming an average generation length of 25 years, these nine generations would cover 225 years. However, a 48 year generation length would give 430 years for the nine generations, and either is possible. A study of my ancestors yielded an average generation length of 29.53 years for several hundred men for whom I have genealogical information.

There is also the statement in Numbers chapters 20-21 that Edom and Moab would not allow Israel to pass through their lands. Edom and Moab didn’t exist in the fifteenth century BC. There is also evidence that a number of Canaanite cities were violently destroyed in the thirteenth century. This could have been the work of the invading Israelites.

One strong argument in favor of the fifteenth century, however, is the statement in 1 Kings 6:1 that it was 480 years from the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon’s reign. You’ll notice that this is a multiple of 40, but there isn’t room here to discuss what that means.

AND it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which [is] the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.

Another argument in favor of a long bondage is Abraham’s dream in Genesis 15:13.

And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land [that is] not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

The conclusion seems to be that the date of the Exodus is not certain.

Another interesting problem is the number of people who left Egypt in the Exodus. If you read page 201 in the Old Testament Student Manual (Warning: this is an 11 Mb PDF file) you’ll discover that a careful study of the translation of numbers reveals that the probable number of Israelites who left Egypt was 72,000, including women and children, not 2,000,000. The article points out that 2,000,000 people in Palestine would imply a population density higher than the most populated European nation today. According to this article, in many cases the numbers in the Old Testament are mistranslated by a factor of 1,000! The imperfections of the Bible would make an interesting post.

As a parting shot let me warn you that I’ve been going over these numbers for so long that they are all starting to look alike, so there are probably mistakes and typos. But the basic ideas are OK. If you find an error, please let me know.