Excerpts on Slavery (D’Souza, Williams, and Sowell) UPDATED

First, just to note… this part of American history is rotten to the core. But I still feel the Democratic Party that committed these crimes are just as rotten to the core. Also worthy to keep in mind I am focusing [in these quotes] primarily on the economics of slavery.

For my oldest

(Click the title to jump)

  1. Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals (San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2005), 157-159.
  2. Thomas Sowell, The Thomas Sowell Reader (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011), 245-247.
  3. Dinesh D’Souza, America: Imagine a World Without Her (New Jersey, NJ: Regnery, 2014), 24-26.
  4. Thomas Sowell, Economic Facts and Fallacies (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2008), 160-166.
  5. Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York, NY: Harper Perenial, 1997), 3-9.
  6. Walter E. Williams, Race & Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination? (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2011), 15-27, 29.

[p. 157>] Economics

Those who think of slavery in economic terms often assume that it is a means by which a society, or at least its non-slave popula­tion, becomes richer. Some have even claimed that the industrial revolution in Western civilization was based on the profits extracted from the exploitation of slaves. Rather than rehash a large and controversial literature on this issue, we may instead look at the economic condition of countries or regions that used vast numbers of slaves in the past. Both in Brazil and in the United States—the countries with the two largest slave populations in the Western Hemisphere—the end of slavery found the regions in which slaves had been concentrated poorer than other regions of these same countries. For the United States, a case could be made that this was due to the Civil War, which did so much damage to the South, but no such explanation would apply to Brazil, which fought no civil war over this issue. Moreover, even in the United States, the South lagged behind the North in many ways even before the Civil War.

Although slavery in Europe died out before it was abolished in the Western Hemisphere, as late as 1776 slavery had not yet died out all across the continent when Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that it still existed in some eastern regions. But, even then, Eastern Europe was much poorer than Western Europe. The slavery of North Africa and the Middle East, over the centuries, took more slaves from sub-Saharan Africa than the Western Hemi­sphere did (in addition to large imports of slaves from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe to the Moslem countries of North [p. 158>] Africa and the Middle East). But these remained largely poor coun­tries until the discovery and extraction of their vast oil deposits.

In many parts of the non-Western world, slaves were sources of domestic amenities and means of displaying wealth with an impressive retinue, rather than sources of wealth. Often they were a drain on the wealth already possessed. According to a scholarly study of slavery in China, the slaves there “did not generate any surplus; they consumed it. Another study concluded: “The Mid­dle East and the Arab world rarely used slaves for productive activities. Even though some slaveowners—those whose slaves produced commercial crops or other saleable products—received wealth from the fruits of the unpaid labor of these slaves, that is very different from saying that the society as a whole, or even its non-slave population as a whole, ended up wealthier than it would have been in the absence of slavery.

Not only in societies where slaves were more often con­sumers than producers of wealth, but even in societies where commercial slavery was predominant, this did not automatically translate into enduring wealth. Unlike a frugal capitalist class, such as created the industrial revolution, even commercial slaveowners in the American antebellum South tended to spend lavishly, often ending up in debt or even losing their plantations to foreclosures by creditors. However, even if British slaveowners had saved and invested all of their profits from slavery, it would have amounted to less than two percent of British domestic investment.

In the United States, it is doubtful whether the profits of slav­ery would have covered the enormous costs of the Civil War—a war that was fought over the immediate issue of secession, but the reason for the secession was to safeguard slavery from the grow­ing anti-slavery sentiment outside the South, symbolized by the election of Abraham Lincoln. Brazil, which imported several times as many slaves as the United States, and perhaps consumed more slaves than any other nation in history, was nevertheless still a rel­atively undeveloped country when slavery ended there in 1888, and its subsequent economic development was largely the work of immigrants from Europe and Japan.

In short, even though some individual slaveowners grew rich and some family fortunes were founded on the exploitation of [p. 159>] slaves, that is very different from saying that the whole society, or even its non-slave population as a whole, was more economically advanced than it would have been in the absence of slavery. What this means is that, whether employed as domestic servants or pro­ducing crops or other goods, millions suffered exploitation and dehumanization for no higher purpose than the transient aggran­dizement of slaveowners.

Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals (San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2005), 157-159.

[APA] Sowell, T. (2005). Black Rednecks and White Liberals. San Francisco, CA: Basic Books.

[MLA] Sowell, Thomas. Black Rednecks and White Liberals. San Francisco: Basic Books, 2005. Print.

[Chicago] Sowell, Thomas. Black Rednecks and White Liberals. San Francisco: Basic Books, 2005.


[p.245>] One of the many sad signs of our times is that people are not only playing

the race card, they are playing the slavery card, which is supposedly the biggest trump of all. At the so-called “million man march” in Washington, poet Maya Angelou rang all the changes on slavery, at a rally billed as forward-looking and as being about black independence rather than white guilt. Meanwhile, best-selling author Dinesh D’Souza was being denounced in the media for having said that slavery was not a racist institution.

First of all, anyone familiar with the history of slavery around the world knows that its origins go back thousands of years and that slaves and slaveowners were very often of the same race. Those who are ignorant of all this, or who think of slavery in the United States as if it were the only slavery, go ballistic when anyone tells them that this institution was not based on race.

Blacks were not enslaved because they were black, but because they were available at the time. Whites enslaved other whites in Europe for centuries before the first black slave was brought to the Western Hemisphere.

Only late in history were human beings even capable of crossing an ocean to get millions of other human beings of a different race. In the thousands of years before that, not only did Europeans enslave other Europeans, Asians enslaved other Asians, Africans enslaved other Africans, and the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere enslaved other native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.

D’Souza was right. Slavery was not about race. The fact that his critics are ignorant of history is their problem.

What was peculiar about the American situation was not just that slaves and slaveowners were of different races, but that slavery contradicted the whole philosophy of freedom on which the society was founded. If all men were created equal, as the Declaration of Independence said, then blacks had to be depicted as less than men.

While the antebellum South produced a huge volume of apologetic literature trying to justify slavery on racist grounds, no such justification was [p. 246>] considered necessary in vast reaches of the world and over vast expanses of time. In most parts of the world, people saw nothing wrong with slavery.

Strange as that seems to us today, a hundred years ago only Western civilization saw anything wrong with slavery. And two hundred years ago, only a minority in the West thought it was wrong.

Africans, Arabs, Asians and others not only maintained slavery long after it was abolished throughout the Western Hemisphere, they resisted all attempts of the West to stamp out slavery in their lands during the age of imperialism. Only the fact that the West had greater firepower and more economic and political clout enabled them to impose the abolition of slavery, as they imposed other Western ideas, on the non-Western world.

Those who talk about slavery as if it were just the enslavement of blacks by whites ignore not only how widespread this institution was and how far back in history it went, they also ignore how recently slavery continued to exist outside of Western civilization.

While slavery was destroyed in the West during the nineteenth century, the struggle to end slavery elsewhere continued well into the twentieth century— and pockets of slavery still exist to this moment in Africa. But there is scarcely a peep about it from black “leaders” in America who thunder about slavery in the past.

If slavery were the real issue, then slavery among flesh-and-blood human beings alive today would arouse far more outcry than past slavery among people who are long dead. The difference is that past slavery can be cashed in for political benefits today, while slavery in North Africa only distracts from these political goals. Worse yet, talking about slavery in Africa would undermine the whole picture of unique white guilt requiring unending reparations.

While the Western world was just as guilty as other civilizations when it came to enslaving people for thousands of years, it was unique only in finally deciding that the whole institution was immoral and should be ended. But this conclusion was by no means universal even in the Western world, however obvious it may seem to us today.

Thousands of free blacks owned slaves in the antebellum South. And, years after the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States, whites as [p. 247>] well as blacks were still being bought and sold as slaves in North Africa and the Middle East.

Anyone who wants reparations based on history will have to gerrymander history very carefully. Otherwise, practically everybody would owe reparations to practically everybody else.

Thomas Sowell, The Thomas Sowell Reader (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2011), 245-247.

[APA] Sowell, T. (2011). The Thomas Sowell Reader. New York, NY: Basic Books.

[MLA] Sowell, Thomas. The Thomas Sowell Reader. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.

[Chicago] Sowell, Thomas. The Thomas Sowell Reader. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

[p. 24>] Let’s begin with Tocqueville, who observes at the outset that America is a nation unlike any other. It has produced what Tocqueville terms “a distinct species of mankind.” Tocqueville here identifies what will later be called American exceptionalism. For Tocqueville, Americans are unique because they are equal. This controversial assertion of the Declaration—that all men are created equal—Tocqueville finds to be a simple description of American reality. Americans, he writes, have internalized the democratic principle of equality. They refuse to regard one another as superior and inferior. They don’t bow and scrape in the way that people in other countries—notably in France—are known to do. In America, unlike in Europe, there are no “peasants,” only farmers. In America, there are employees but no “servants.” And today America may be the only country where we call a waiter “sir” as if he were a knight.

Equality for Tocqueville is social, not economic. Competition, he writes, produces unequal outcomes on the basis of merit. “Natural inequality will soon make way for itself and wealth will pass into the hands of the most capable.” But this is justified because wealth is [p. 25>] earned and not stolen. Tocqueville is especially struck by the fact that rich people in America were once poor. He notes, with some disapproval, that Americans have an “inordinate” love of money. Yet he cannot help being impressed in observing among Americans the restless energy of personal striving and economic competition. “Choose any American at random and he should be a man of burn­ing desires, enterprising, adventurous, and above all an innovator.” What makes success possible, he writes, is the striving of the ordi­nary man. The ordinary man may be vulgar and have a limited education, but he has practical intelligence and a burning desire to succeed. “Before him lies a boundless continent and he urges onward as if time pressed and he was afraid of finding no room for his exer­tions.” Tocqueville observes what he terms a “double migration”: restless Europeans coming to the East Coast of America, while rest­less Americans move west from the Atlantic toward the Pacific Ocean. Tocqueville foresees that this ambitious, energetic people will expand the borders of the country and ultimately become a great nation. “It is the most extraordinary sight I have ever seen in my life. These lands which are as yet nothing but one immense wood will become one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world.”

There is one exception to the rule of the enterprising and hard­working American. At one point, Tocqueville stands on the Ohio-Kentucky border. He looks north and south and is startled by the contrast. He contrasts “industrious Ohio” with “idle Kentucky.” While Ohio displays all the signs of work and well-maintained houses and fields, Kentucky is inhabited “by a people without energy, without ardor, without a spirit of enterprise.” Since the climate and conditions on both sides of the border are virtually identical, what accounts for the difference? Tocqueville concludes that it is slavery. Slavery provides no incentive for slaves to work, since they don’t get to keep the product of their labor. But neither does slavery encourage [p. 26>] masters to work, because slaves do the work for them. Remarkably slavery is bad for masters and slaves: it degrades work, so less work is done.

Dinesh D’Souza, America: Imagine a World Without Her (New Jersey, NJ: Regnery, 2014), 24-26.

[APA] D’Souza, D. (2014). America: Imagine a World Without Her. New Jersey, NJ: Regnery.

[MLA] D’Souza, Dinesh. America: Imagine a World Without Her. New Jersey: Regnery, 2014. Print.

[Chicago] D’Souza, Dinesh. America: Imagine a World Without Her. New Jersey: Regnery, 2014.

[p. 160>] Slavery

In addition to its own evils during its own time, slavery has generated fallacies that endure into our time, confusing many issues today. The distinguished historian Daniel J. Boorstin said something that was well known to many scholars, but utterly unknown to many among the general public, when he pointed out that, with the mass transportation of Africans in bondage to the Western Hemisphere, “Now for the first time in Western history, the status of slave coincided with a difference of race.”

For centuries before, Europeans had enslaved other Europeans, Asians had enslaved other Asians and Africans had enslaved other Africans. Only [p. 161>] in the modern era was there both the wealth and the technology to organize the mass transportation of people across an ocean, either as slaves or as free immigrants. Nor were Europeans the only ones to transport masses of enslaved human beings from one continent to another. North Africa’s Barbary Coast pirates alone captured and enslaved at least a million Europeans from 1500 to 1800, carrying more Europeans into bondage in North Africa than there were Africans brought in bondage to the United States and the American colonies from which it was formed. Moreover, Europeans were still being bought and sold in the slave markets of the Islamic world, decades after blacks were freed in the United States.

Slavery was a virtually universal institution in countries around the world and for thousands of years of recorded history. Indeed, archaeological evidence suggests that human beings learned to enslave other human beings before they learned to write. One of the many fallacies about slavery— that it was based on race— is sustained by the simple but pervasive practice of focusing exclusively on the enslavement of Africans by Europeans, as if this were something unique, rather than part of a much larger worldwide human tragedy. Racism grew out of African slavery, especially in the United States, but slavery preceded racism by thousands of years. Europeans enslaved other Europeans for centuries before the first African was brought in bondage to the Western Hemisphere.

The brutal reality is that vulnerable people were usually taken advantage of wherever it was feasible to take advantage of them, regardless of what race or color they were. The rise of nation states put armies and navies around some people but it was not equally possible to establish nation states in all parts of the world, partly because of geography. Where large populations had no army or navy to protect them, they fell prey to enslavers, whether in Africa, Asia or along unguarded stretches of European coastlines where Barbary pirates made raids, usually around the Mediterranean but sometimes as far away as England or Iceland.      The enormous concentration of writings and of the media in general on slavery in the Western Hemisphere, or in the United States in particular, creates a false picture which makes it difficult to understand even the history of slavery in the United States.

[p. 162>] While slavery was readily accepted as a fact of life all around the world for centuries on end, there was never a time when slavery could get that kind of universal acceptance in the United States, founded on a principle of freedom, with which slavery was in such obvious and irreconcilable contradiction. Slavery was under ideological attack from the first draft of the Declaration of Independence and a number of Northern states banned slavery in the years immediately following independence. Even in the South, the ideology of freedom was not wholly without effect, as tens of thousands of slaves were voluntarily set free after Americans gained their own freedom from England.

Most Southern slaveowners, however, were determined to hold on to their slaves and, for that, some defense was necessary against the ideology of freedom and the widespread criticisms of slavery that were its corollary. Racism became that defense. Such a defense was unnecessary in unfree societies, such as that of Brazil, which imported more slaves than the United States but developed no such virulent levels of racism as that of the American South. Outside Western civilization, no defense of slavery was necessary, as non-Western societies saw nothing wrong with it. Nor was there any serious challenge to slavery in Western civilization prior to the eighteenth century.

Racism became a justification of slavery in a society where it could not be justified otherwise— and centuries of racism did not suddenly vanish with the abolition of the slavery that gave rise to it. But the direction of causation was the direct opposite of what is assumed by those who depict the enslavement of Africans as being a result of racism. Nevertheless, racism became one of the enduring legacies of slavery. How much of it continues to endure and in what strength today is something that can be examined and debated. But many other things that are considered to be legacies of slavery can be tested empirically, rather than being accepted as foregone conclusions.

[p. 163>] The Black Family

Some of the most basic beliefs and assumptions about the black family are demonstrably fallacious. For example, it has been widely believed that black family names were the names of the slave masters who owned particular families. Such beliefs led a number of American blacks, during the 1960s especially, to repudiate those names as a legacy of slavery and give themselves new names— most famously boxing champion Cassius Clay renaming himself Muhammad Ali.

Family names were in fact forbidden to blacks enslaved in the United States, as family names were forbidden to other people in lowly positions in various other times and places— slaves in China and parts of the Middle East, for example, and it was 1870 before common people in Japan were authorized to use surnames. In Western civilization, ordinary people began to have surnames in the Middle Ages. In many places and times, family names were considered necessary and appropriate only for the elite, who moved in wider circles— both geographically and socially— and whose families’ prestige was important to take with them. Slaves in the United States secretly gave themselves surnames in order to maintain a sense of family but they did not use those surnames around whites. Years after emancipation, blacks born during the era of slavery remained reluctant to tell white people their full names.

The “slave names” fallacy is false not only because whites did not give slaves surnames but also because the names that blacks gave themselves were not simply the names of whoever owned them. During the era of slavery, it was common to choose other names. Otherwise, if all the families belonging to a given slave owner took his name, that would defeat the purpose of creating separate family identities. Ironically, when some blacks in the twentieth century began repudiating what they called “slave names,” they often took Arabic names, even though Arabs over the centuries had enslaved more Africans than Europeans had.

A fallacy with more substantial implications is that the current fatherless families so prevalent among contemporary blacks are a “legacy of slavery,” where families were not recognized. As with other social problems [p. 164>] attributed to a “legacy of slavery,” this ignores the fact that the problem has become much worse among generations of blacks far removed from slavery than among generations closer to the era of slavery. Most black children were raised in two-parent homes, even under slavery, and for generations thereafter. Freed blacks married, and marriage rates among blacks were slightly higher than among whites in the early twentieth century. Blacks also had slightly higher rates of labor force participation than whites in every census from 1890 to 1950.

While 31 percent of black children were born to unmarried women in the early 1930s, that proportion rose to 77 percent by the early 1990s. If unwed childbirth was “a legacy of slavery,” why was it so much less common among blacks who were two generations closer to the era of slavery? One sign of the breakdown of the nuclear family among blacks was that, by 1993, more than a million black children were being raised by their grandparents, about two-thirds as many as among whites, even though there are several times as many whites as blacks in the population of the United States.

When tragic retrogressions in all these respects became painfully apparent in the second half of the twentieth century, a “legacy of slavery” became a false explanation widely used, thereby avoiding confronting contemporary factors in contemporary problems.

These retrogressions were not only dramatic in themselves, they had major impacts on other important individual and social results. For example, while most black children were still being raised in two-parent families as late as 1970, only one third were by 1995. Moreover, much social pathology is highly correlated with the absence of a father, both among blacks and whites, but the magnitude of the problem is greater among blacks because fathers are missing more often in black families. While, in the late twentieth century, an absolute majority of those black families with no husband present lived in poverty, more than four-fifths of black husband-wife families did not. From 1994 on into the twenty-first century, the poverty rate among black husband-wife families was below 10 percent.

It is obviously not simply the act of getting married which drastically reduces the poverty rate among blacks, or among other groups, but the [p. 165>] values and behavior patterns which lead to marriage and which have a wider impact on many other things.


As already noted, races can differ for reasons that are not racial, because people inherit cultures as well as genes. So long as one generation raises the next, it could hardly be otherwise. Many of the social or cultural differences between American blacks and American whites nationwide today were in antebellum times pointed out as differences between white Southerners and white Northerners. These include ways of talking, rates of crime and violence, children born out of wedlock, educational attainment, and economic initiative or lack thereof.

While only about one-third of the antebellum white population of the United States lived in the South, at least 90 percent of American blacks lived in the South on into the twentieth century. In short, the great majority of blacks lived in a region with a culture that proved to be less productive and less peaceful for its inhabitants in general. Moreover, opportunities to move beyond that culture were more restricted for blacks.

While that culture was regional, both blacks and whites took the Southern culture with them when they moved out of the South. As one small but significant example, when the movement for creating public schools swept across the United States in the 1830s and 1840s, not only was that movement more successful in creating public schools in the North than in the South, those parts of Northern states like Ohio, Indiana and Illinois that were settled by white Southerners were the slowest to establish public schools.

The legacy of the Southern culture is more readily documented in the behavior of later generations than is the legacy of slavery, which some distinguished nineteenth century writers said explained the behavior of antebellum Southern whites, and which later writers said explained the behavior of blacks. In reality, the regional culture of the South existed in particular regions of Britain in centuries past, regions where people destined [p. 166>] to settle in the American South exhibited the same behavior patterns before they immigrated to the South. They were called “crackers” and “rednecks” before they crossed the Atlantic— and before they ever saw a slave. As a well-known Southern historian said, “We do not live in the past, but the past in us.”

Educational and intellectual performance is a readily documented area where the persistence of culture can be tested. As late as the First World War, white soldiers from various Southern states scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from various Northern states. Not only did black soldiers have the advantage of better schools in the North, they also had an opportunity for the Southern culture to begin to erode in their new surroundings. Over the years, much has been made of the fact that blacks score lower than whites nationwide on mental tests. From this, some observers have concluded that this is due to a racial difference and others have concluded that this is due to some deficiency or bias in the tests. But neither explanation would account for white Southerners’ mental test scores in the First World War.

Whatever the sources of the lower educational or intellectual attainments among blacks, there are major economic and social consequences of such differences. For many years, blacks received a lesser quantity and lower quality of education in the Southern schools that most attended. But, even after the quantity gap was eliminated by the late twentieth century, the qualitative gap remained large. The test scores of black seventeen-year-olds in a variety of academic subjects were the same as the scores of whites several years younger. That is obviously not a basis for expecting equal results in an economy increasingly dependent on mental skills.

Thomas Sowell, Economic Facts and Fallacies (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2008), 160-166.

[APA] Sowell, T. (2008). Economic Facts and Fallacies. New York, NY: Basic Books.

[MLA] Sowell, Thomas. Economic Facts and Fallacies. New York: Basic Books, 2008. Print.

[Chicago] Sowell, Thomas. Economic Facts and Fallacies. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

[p. 3>] The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures. No other national story holds such tremendous lessons, for the American people themselves and for the rest of mankind. It now spans four centuries and, as we enter the new millennium, we need to retell it, for if we can learn these lessons and build upon them, the whole of humanity will benefit in the new age which is now opening. American history raises three fundamental questions. First, can a nation rise above the injustices of its origins and, by its moral purpose and performance, atone for them? All nations are born in war, conquest, and crime, usually concealed by the obscurity of a distant past. The United States, from its earliest colonial times, won its title—deeds in the full blaze of recorded history, and the stains on them are there for all to see and censure: the dispossession of an indigenous people, and the securing of self—sufficiency through the sweat and pain of an enslaved race. In the judgmental scales of history, such grievous wrongs must be balanced by the erection of a society dedicated to justice and fairness. Has the United States done this? Has it expiated its organic sins? The second question provides the key to the first. In the process of nation—building, can ideals and altruism—the desire to build the perfect community—be mixed successfully with acquisitiveness and ambition, without which no dynamic society can be built at all? Have the Americans got the mixture right? Have they forged a nation where righteousness has the edge over the needful self—interest? Thirdly, the Americans originally aimed to build another—worldly `City on a Hill,’ but found themselves designing a republic of the people, to be a model for the entire planet. Have they made good their audacious claims? Have they indeed proved exemplars for humanity? And will they continue to be so in the new millennium?

We must never forget that the settlement of what is now the United States was only part of a larger enterprise. And this was the work of the best and the brightest of the entire European continent. They were greedy. As Christopher Columbus said, men crossed the Atlantic primarily in search of gold. But they were also idealists. These adventurous young men thought they could transform the world for the better. Europe was too small for them—for their energies, their ambitions, and [p. 4>] their visions. In the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, they had gone east, seeking to reChristianize the Holy Land and its surroundings, and also to acquire land there. The mixture of religious zeal, personal ambition—not to say cupidity—and lust for adventure which inspired generations of Crusaders was the prototype for the enterprise of the Americas.

In the east, however, Christian expansion was blocked by the stiffening resistance of the Moslem world, and eventually by the expansive militarism of the Ottoman Turks. Frustrated there, Christian youth spent its ambitious energies at home: in France, in the extermination of heresy, and the acquisition of confiscated property; in the Iberian Peninsula, in the reconquest of territory held by Islam since the 8th century, a process finally completed in the 1490s with the destruction of the Moslem kingdom of Granada, and the expulsion, or forcible conversion, of the last Moors in Spain. It is no coincidence that this decade, which marked the homogenization of western Europe as a Christian entity and unity, also saw the first successful efforts to carry Europe, and Christianity, into the western hemisphere. As one task ended, another was undertaken in earnest.

The Portuguese, a predominantly seagoing people, were the first to begin the new enterprise, early in the 15th century. In 1415, the year the English King Henry V destroyed the French army at Agincourt, Portuguese adventurers took Ceuta, on the north African coast, and turned it into a trading depot. Then they pushed southwest into the Atlantic, occupying in turn Madeira, Cape Verde, and the Azores, turning all of them into colonies of the Portuguese crown. The Portuguese adventurers were excited by these discoveries: they felt, already, that they were bringing into existence a new world, though the phrase itself did not pass into common currency until 1494. These early settlers believed they were beginning civilization afresh: the first boy and girl born on Madeira were christened Adam and Eve. But almost immediately came the Fall, which in time was to envelop the entire Atlantic. In Europe itself, the slave—system of antiquity had been virtually extinguished by the rise of Christian society. In the 1440s, exploring the African coast from their newly acquired islands, the Portuguese rediscovered slavery as a working commercial institution. Slavery had always existed in Africa, where it was operated extensively by local rulers, often with the assistance of Arab traders. Slaves were captives, outsiders, people who had lost tribal status; once enslaved, they became exchangeable commodities, indeed an important form of currency.

[p. 5>] The Portuguese entered the slave—trade in the mid—15th century, took it over and, in the process, transformed it into something more impersonal, and horrible, than it had been either in antiquity or medieval Africa. The new Portuguese colony of Madeira became the center of a sugar industry, which soon made itself the largest supplier for western Europe. The first sugar— mill, worked by slaves, was erected in Madeira in 1452. This cash—industry was so successful that the Portuguese soon began laying out fields for sugar—cane on the Biafran Islands, off the African coast. An island off Cap Blanco in Mauretania became a slave—depot. From there, when the trade was in its infancy, several hundred slaves a year were shipped to Lisbon. As the sugar industry expanded, slaves began to be numbered in thousands: by 1550, some 50,000 African slaves had been imported into Sao Tome alone, which likewise became a slave entrepot. These profitable activities were conducted, under the aegis of the Portuguese crown, by a mixed collection of Christians from all over Europe—Spanish, Normans, and Flemish, as well as Portuguese, and Italians from the Aegean and the Levant. Being energetic, single young males, they mated with whatever women they could find, and sometimes married them. Their mixed progeny, mulattos, proved less susceptible than pure—bred Europeans to yellow fever and malaria, and so flourished. Neither Europeans nor mulattos could live on the African coast itself. But they multiplied in the Cape Verde Islands, 300 miles off the West African coast. The mulatto trading—class in Cape Verde were known as Lancados. Speaking both Creole and the native languages, and practicing Christianity spiced with paganism, they ran the European end of the slave—trade, just as Arabs ran the African end.

This new—style slave—trade was quickly characterized by the scale and intensity with which it was conducted, and by the cash nexus which linked African and Arab suppliers, Portuguese and Lancado traders, and the purchasers. The slave—markets were huge. The slaves were overwhelmingly male, employed in large—scale agriculture and mining. There was little attempt to acculturalize them and they were treated as body—units of varying quality, mere commodities. At Sao Tome in particular this modern pattern of slavery took shape. The Portuguese were soon selling African slaves to the Spanish, who, following the example in Madeira, occupied the Canaries and began to grow cane and mill sugar there too. By the time exploration and colonization spread from the islands across the Atlantic, the slave—system was already in place.

In moving out into the Atlantic islands, the Portuguese discovered [p. 6>] the basic meteorological fact about the North Atlantic, which forms an ocean weather—basin of its own. There were strong currents running clockwise, especially in the summer. These are assisted by northeast trade winds in the south, westerlies in the north. So seafarers went out in a southwest direction, and returned to Europe in a northeasterly one. Using this weather system, the Spanish landed on the Canaries and occupied them. The indigenous Guanches were either sold as slaves in mainland Spain, or converted and turned into farm—labourers by their mainly Castilian conquerors. Profiting from the experience of the Canaries in using the North Atlantic weather system, Christopher Columbus made landfall in the western hemisphere in 1492. His venture was characteristic of the internationalism of the American enterprise. He operated from the Spanish city of Seville but he came from Genoa and he was by nationality a citizen of the Republic of Venice, which then ran an island empire in the Eastern Mediterranean. The finance for his transatlantic expedition was provided by himself and other Genoa merchants in Seville, and topped up by the Spanish Queen Isabella, who had seized quantities of cash when her troops occupied Granada earlier in the year.

The Spanish did not find American colonization easy. The first island—town Columbus founded, which he called Isabella, failed completely. He then ran out of money and the crown took over. The first successful settlement took place in 1502, when Nicolas de Ovando landed in Santo Domingo with thirty ships and no fewer than 2,500 men. This was a deliberate colonizing enterprise, using the experience Spain had acquired in its reconquista, and based on a network of towns copied from the model of New Castile in Spain itself. That in turn had been based on the bastides of medieval France, themselves derived from Roman colony—towns, an improved version of Greek models going back to the beginning of the first millennium BC. So the system was very ancient. The first move, once a beachhead or harbour had been secured, was for an official called the adelantana to pace out the streetgrid.6 Apart from forts, the first substantial building was the church. Clerics, especially from the orders of friars, the Dominicans and Franciscans, played a major part in the colonizing process, and as early as 1512 the first bishopric in the New World was founded. Nine years before, the crown had established a Casa de la Contracion in Seville, as headquarters of the entire transatlantic effort, and considerable state funds were poured into the venture. By 1520 at least 10,000 Spanishspeaking Europeans were living on the island of Hispaniola in the [p. 7>] Caribbean, food was being grown regularly and a definite pattern of trade with Europeans had been established.

The year before, Hernando Cortes had broken into the American mainland by assaulting the ancient civilization of Mexico. The expansion was astonishingly rapid, the fastest in the history of mankind, comparable in speed with and far more exacting in thoroughness and permanency than the conquests of Alexander the Great. In a sense, the new empire of Spain superimposed itself on the old one of the Aztecs rather as Rome had absorbed the Greek colonies.8 Within a few years, the Spaniards were 1,000 miles north of Mexico City, the vast new grid—town which Cortes built on the ruins of the old Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.

This incursion from Europe brought huge changes in the demography, the flora and fauna, and the economics of the Americas. Just as the Europeans were vulnerable to yellow fever, so the indigenous Indians were at the mercy of smallpox, which the Europeans brought with them. Europeans had learned to cope with it over many generations but it remained extraordinarily infectious and to the Indians it almost invariably proved fatal. We do not know with any certainty how many people lived in the Americas before the Europeans came. North of what is now the Mexican border, the Indians were sparse and tribal, still at the hunter—gatherer stage in many cases, and engaged in perpetual inter—tribal warfare, though some tribes grew corn in addition to hunting and lived part of the year in villages—perhaps one million of them, all told. Further south there were far more advanced societies, and two great empires, the Aztecs in Mexico and the Incas in Peru. In central and south America, the total population was about 20 million. Within a few decades, conquest and the disease it brought had reduced the Indians to 2 million, or even less. Hence, very early in the conquest, African slaves were in demand to supply labor. In addition to smallpox, the Europeans imported a host of welcome novelties: wheat and barley, and the ploughs to make it possible to grow them; sugarcanes and vineyards; above all, a variety of livestock. The American Indians had failed to domesticate any fauna except dogs, alpacas and llamas. The Europeans brought in cattle, including oxen for ploughing, horses, mules, donkeys, sheep, pigs and poultry. Almost from the start, horses of high quality, as well as first—class mules and donkeys, were successfully bred in the Americas. The Spanish were the only west Europeans with experience of running large herds of cattle on horseback, and this became an outstanding feature of the New World, where [p. 8>] enormous ranches were soon supplying cattle for food and mules for work in great quantities for the mining districts.

The Spaniards, hearts hardened in the long struggle to expel the Moors, were ruthless in handling the Indians. But they were persistent in the way they set about colonizing vast areas. The English, when they followed them into the New World, noted both characteristics. John Hooker, one Elizabethan commentator, regarded the Spanish as morally inferior `because with all cruel inhumanity … they subdued a naked and yielding people, whom they sought for gain and not for any religion or plantation of a commonwealth, did most cruelly tyrannize and against the course of all human nature did scorch and roast them to death, as by their own histories doth appear.’ At the same time the English admired `the industry, the travails of the Spaniard, their exceeding charge in furnishing so many ships … their continual supplies to further their attempts and their active and undaunted spirits in executing matters of that quality and difficulty, and lastly their constant resolution of plantation.”

With the Spanish established in the Americas, it was inevitable that the Portuguese would follow them. Portugal, vulnerable to invasion by Spain, was careful to keep its overseas relations with its larger neighbor on a strictly legal basis. As early as 1479 Spain and Portugal signed an agreement regulating their respective spheres of trade outside European waters. The papacy, consulted, drew an imaginary longitudinal line running a hundred leagues west of the Azores: west of it was Spanish, east of it Portuguese. The award was made permanent between the two powers by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, which drew the lines 370 leagues west of Cape Verde. This gave the Portuguese a gigantic segment of South America, including most of what is now modern Brazil. They knew of this coast at least from 1500 when a Portuguese squadron, on its way to the Indian Ocean, pushed into the Atlantic to avoid headwinds and, to its surprise, struck land which lay east of the treaty line and clearly was not Africa. But their resources were too committed to exploring the African coast and the routes to Asia and the East Indies, where they were already opening posts, to invest in the Americas. Their first colony in Brazil was not planted till 1532, where it was done on the model of their Atlantic island possessions, the crown appointing `captains,’ who invested in land—grants called donatorios. Most of this first wave failed, and it was not until the Portuguese transported the sugar—plantation system, based on slavery, from Cape Verde and the Biafran Islands, to the part of Brazil they called Pernambuco, [p. 9>] that profits were made and settlers dug themselves in. The real development of Brazil on a large scale began only in 1549, when the crown made a large investment, sent over 1,000 colonists and appointed Martin Alfonso de Sousa governor—general with wide powers. Thereafter progress was rapid and irreversible, a massive sugar industry grew up across the Atlantic, and during the last quarter of the 16th century Brazil became the largest slave—importing center in the world, and remained so. Over 300 years, Brazil absorbed more African slaves than anywhere else and became, as it were, an Afro—American territory. Throughout the 16th century the Portuguese had a virtual monopoly of the Atlantic slave trade. By 1600 nearly 300,000 African slaves had been transported by sea to plantations—25,000 to Madeira, 50,000 to Europe, 75,000 to Cape Sao Tome, and the rest to America. By this date, indeed, four out of five slaves were heading for the New World.”

It is important to appreciate that this system of plantation slavery, organized by the Portuguese and patronized by the Spanish for their mines as well as their sugar—fields, had been in place, expanding steadily, long before other European powers got a footing in the New World. But the prodigious fortunes made by the Spanish from mining American silver, and by both Spanish and Portuguese in the sugar trade, attracted adventurers from all over Europe…

Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York, NY: Harper Perenial, 1997), 3-9.

[APA] Johnson, P. (1997). A History of the American People. New York, NY: Harper Perenial.

[MLA] Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People. New York: Harper Perenial. 1997. Print.

[Chicago] Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People. New York: Harper Perenial, 1997.

[p. 15>] Early Black Economic Achievement

The portrayal of blacks as helpless victims of slavery and later gross dis­crimination has become part of the popular wisdom. But the facts of the matter do not square with that portrayal.

Despite the brutal and oppressive nature of slavery, slaves did not qui­etly acquiesce. Many found ways to lessen slavery’s hardships and attain a measure of independence. During colonial days, slaves learned skills and found that they could earn a measure of independence by servicing ships as rope makers, coopers, and shipwrights. Some entered more skilled trades, such as silversmithing, gold beating, and cabinetmaking.

Typically, slaves turned over a portion of their earnings to their owners in exchange for de facto freedom. This practice, called self-hire, generated criticism. “As early as 1733-34, a Charles Town, South Carolina, grand jury criticized slaveholders for allowing their slaves ‘to work out by the Week,’ and ‘bring in a certain Hire’ which was not only Contrary to a Law subsist­ing, but a Great Inlet to Idleness, Drunkenness and other Enormities!’ Later, a group of Virginia planters said, “Many persons have suffered their slaves to go about to hire themselves and pay their masters for their hire,’ and as a result ‘certain’ slaves lived free from their master’s control.” “Two ambitious Charles Town bricklayers, Tony and Primus, who spent their days building a church under the supervision of their master, secretly rented themselves to local builders at night and on weekends.”

[p. 16>] Many slaves exhibited great entrepreneurial spirit despite their handi­caps. Even slave women were often found growing and selling produce in the South Carolina and Georgia Low Country. After putting in a day’s work, some slaves were allowed to raise their own crops and livestock. These efforts allowed them to gain a presence in much of the marketing network on the streets and docks of port cities. Ultimately, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a law requiring that slave-grown crops and livestock be sold only to the master. However, the law was very dif­ficult to enforce, particularly among blacks who had gained knowledge of the marketplace. Market activity by slaves was so great that North Carolina whites mounted a campaign to stop slave “dealing and Trafficking” alto­gether. In 1741, that state passed a law prohibiting slaves from buying, sell­ing, trading, or bartering “any Commodities whatsoever” or to raise hogs, cattle, or horses “on any Pretense whatsoever.”

During the colonial period, some slaves bought their freedom and acquired property. In Virginia’s Northampton County, 44 out of 100 blacks had gained their freedom by 1664, and some had become land­owners. During the late eighteenth century, blacks could boast of own­ing land. James Pendarvis owned 3,250 acres in St. Paul’s Parish in the Charleston District of South Carolina. Pendarvis also possessed 113 slaves. Cabinetmaker John Gough owned several buildings in Charleston and others in the coastal South. During the late eighteenth and early nine­teenth centuries, free blacks in Charleston had established themselves as relatively independent from an economic standpoint. As early as 1819, they comprised thirty types of workers, including ten tailors, eleven car­penters, twenty-two seamstresses, six shoemakers, and one hotel owner. Thirty years later, there were fifty types, including fifty carpenters, forty-three tailors, nine shoemakers, and twenty-one butchers.

New Orleans had the largest population of free blacks in the Deep South. Though they could not vote, they enjoyed more rights than blacks in other parts of the South—such as the right to travel freely and to tes­tify in court against white people. “They owned some $2 million worth of property and dominated skilled crafts like bricklaying, cigar making, carpentry, and shoe making.” New Orleans blacks also created privately supported benevolent societies, schools, and orphanages to assist their impoverished brethren.

[p. 17>] Black entrepreneurs in New Orleans owned small businesses like liquor, grocery, and general stores capitalized with a few hundred dollars. There were also some larger businesses, for example, grocers like Francis Snaer, A. Blandin, and G. N. Ducroix, each of whom was worth over $10,000 ($209,000 in today’s currency). One of the best-known black businesses was owned by Cecee Macarty, who inherited $12,000 and parlayed it into a business worth $155,000 at the time of her death in 1845. Another was Thorny Lafon, who started out with a small dry-goods store and later became a real estate dealer, amassing a fortune valued over $400,000 ($8 million today) by the time he died. Black control of the cigar indus­try enabled men like Lucien Mansion and Georges Alces to own sizable factories, with Alces hiring as many as 200 men. Twenty-two black men listed themselves as factory owners in the New Orleans registry of free Negroes, though it is likely that most of these were one-man shops.

Pierre A. D. Casenave, an immigrant from Santo Domingo, was among New Orleans’ more notable businessmen. Having inherited $10,000, as a result of being a confidential clerk of a white merchant-philanthropist, Casenave was in the “commission” business by 1853. By 1857, he was worth $30,000 to $40,000, and he had built an undertaking business, catering mostly to whites, that was worth $2 million in today’s dollars.

Most free blacks in New Orleans were unskilled laborers. Males were employed on steamboats and as dockworkers and domestic servants, while females found work largely as domestic servants or washwomen. However, the ratio of skilled to unskilled workers among blacks was greater than among Irish and German workers. Indeed, free blacks dominated certain skilled crafts. According to J. D. B. DeBow, director of the 1850 census, in New Orleans that year there were 355 carpenters, 325 masons, 156 cigar makers, ninety-two shoemakers, sixty-one clerks, fifty-two mechanics, forty-three coopers, forty-one barbers, thirty-nine carmen, and twenty-eight painters.

In addition, there were free Negro blacksmiths (fifteen), butchers (eigh­teen), cabinetmakers (nineteen), cooks (twenty-five), overseers (eleven), ship carpenters (six), stewards (nine), and upholsterers (eight).” Robert C. Reinders, a historian, says that DeBow may have exaggerated the data to show that New Orleans had more skilled blacks than elsewhere; however, other evidence points to free-black prominence in skilled trades—for [p. 18>] example, 540 skilled blacks signing a register to stay in the state between 1842 and 1861. Plus, travelers spoke of “Negro artisans being served by Irish waiters and free Negro masons with Irish hod carriers:’ A few black skilled workers were relatively prosperous. Peter Howard, a porter, and C. Cruisin, an engraver, were each worth between $10,000 and $20,000. A. Tescault, a bricklayer, owned personal and real property valued at nearly $40,000.

By the end of the antebellum era, there was considerable property own­ership among slaves in both the Upper and Lower South. Many amassed their resources through the “task” (or “hiring-out”) system. In Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, slaves worked in tobacco factories and earned $150 to $200 a year, plus all expenses. By 1850, slave hiring was com­mon in hemp manufacturing and in the textile and tobacco industries. In Richmond, 62 percent of the male slave force was hired; in Lynchburg, 52 percent, in Norfolk, more than 50 percent, and in Louisville, 24 percent. Across the entire South, at least 100,000 slaves were hired out each year.

Self-hiring was another practice with a long tradition. It benefited both the slave and slave owner. The latter did not have to pay for the slave’s lodg­ing and clothing. Slaves, although obligated to pay their masters a monthly or yearly fee, could keep for themselves what they earned above that amount. Frederick Douglass explained that while employed as a Baltimore ship’s caulker, “I was to be allowed all my time; to make bargains for work; to find my own employment, and collect my own wages; and in return for this liberty, I was to pay him [Douglass’ master] three dollars at the end of each week, and to board and clothe myself, and buy my own calking [sic] tools.” Self-hire, Douglass noted, was “another step in my career toward freedom:’

Not every self-hire slave fared so well. Some were offered the prospect of buying themselves only to see the terms of the contract change. Slaves who earned larger sums than originally expected were required to pay the extra money to the master. Sometimes slaves who made agreements with their masters to pay a certain price for their freedom were sold shortly before the final payment was due.

So intense was the drive to earn money that some slaves were willing to work all day in the fields, then steal away under cover of darkness to work for wages, returning to the fields the next morning. Catahoula Parish (Louisiana) plantation owner John Liddell sought legal action, telling his [p. 19>] lawyer, “I request that you would forthwith proceed to prosecute John S. Sullivan of Troy, Parish of Catahoula, for Hiring four of my Negro men, secretly, and without my knowledge or permission, at midnight on the 12th of August last 1849 (or between midnight and day).”

So common was the practice of self-hire that historians have described the people so employed as “Quasi-Free Negroes” or “Slaves Without Masters:’ In 1802, a French visitor to New Orleans noticed “a great many loose negroes about:’ Officials in Savannah, Mobile, Charleston, and other cities talked about “nominal slaves,” “quasi f.n. [free Negroes],” and “virtually free negroes,” who were seemingly oblivious to any law or regulation. In the Upper South—Baltimore, Washington, Norfolk, Louisville, Richmond, and Lexington, Virginia, for example—large num­bers of quasi-free slaves contracted with white builders as skilled carpen­ters, coopers, and mechanics, while the less skilled worked as servants, hack drivers, and barbers. The quasi-free individuals, more entrepreneur­ial, established market stalls where they traded fish, produce, and other goods with plantation slaves and sold various commodities to whites. Historian Ira Berlin said, in describing the pre-staple crop period in the Low Country of South Carolina, “The autonomy of the isolated cow pen and the freedom of movement of stock raising allowed made a mockery of the total dominance that chattel bondage implied.”

William Rosoe operated a small pleasure boat on the Chesapeake Bay. Ned Hyman, a North Carolina slave, amassed an estate “consisting of Lands chiefly, Live Stock, Negroes and money worth between $5,000 and $6,000 listed in his free Negro wife’s name:’ Whites in his neighbor­hood said “he was a remarkable, uncommon Negro” and was “remarkably industrious, frugal & prudent…. In a word, his character as fair and as good—for honesty, truth, industry, humility, sobriety & fidelity—as any they (your memoralists) have ever seen or hear of:’

Thomas David, a slave, owned a construction business in Bennettsville, South Carolina, where he built houses as well as “several larger buildings.” He hired laborers, many of whom were slaves themselves, and taught them the necessary skills. This practice of slaves entering the market and compet­ing successfully with whites became so prevalent that a group of the latter in New Hanover County, North Carolina, petitioned the state legislature to ban the practice. But despite statutes to the contrary, slaves continued to work as mechanics (as such workers were then called), contracting on [p. 20>] their own “sometimes less than one half the rate that a regular bred white Mechanic could afford to do it.”

In Tennessee, it was illegal for a slave to practice medicine; however, “Doctor Jack” did so with “great & unparalleled success,” even though he was forced to give a sizable portion of his earnings to his owner, William Macon. After Macon died, Doctor Jack set up his practice in Nashville. Patients thought so much of his services that they appealed to the state legislature: “The undersigned citizens of Tennessee respectfully petition the Honourable Legislature of the State to repeal, amend or so modify the Act of 1831, chap. 103, S [ect]. 3, which prohibits Slaves from practicing medicine, as to exempt from its operation a Slave named Jack…”

Women were also found among slave entrepreneurs. They established stalls and small stores selling various products. They managed modest businesses as seamstresses, laundresses, and weavers. A Maryland slave recalled, “After my father was sold, my master gave my mother permission to work for herself, provided she gave him one half [of the profits].” She ran two businesses, a coffee shop at an army garrison, and a secondhand store selling trousers, shoes, caps, and other items. Despite protests by poor whites, she “made quite a respectable living.”

With the increasing number of self-hire and quasi-free blacks came many complaints and attempts at restricting their economic activities. In 1826, Georgia prohibited blacks from trading “any quantity or amount whatever of cotton, tobacco, wheat, rye, oats, corn, rice or poultry or any other articles, except such as are known to be usually manufactured or vended by slaves.” Tennessee applied similar restrictions to livestock. Virginia enacted legislation whereby an individual who bought or received any commodity from a slave would be given thirty-nine lashes “well laid on” or fined four times the value of the commodity.

Similar measures were enacted elsewhere. In addition to statutes against trading with slaves, there were laws governing master-slave rela­tionships. North Carolina decreed in 1831 that a master who allowed a slave to “go at large as a freeman, exercising his or her own discre[t]ion in the employment of his or her time… shall be fined in the discretion of the court” In 1835, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted a measure “for the better regulation of the slave labourers in the town and Port of Wilmington….  That if any slave shall hereafter be permitted to go at large, and make his own contracts to work, and labour in said town, by [p. 21>] consent, and with the knowledge of his or her owner or master, the owner of the said slave shall forfeit and pay one hundred dollars . . . said slave shall receive such punishment as said commissioners or town magistrate shall think proper to direct to be inflicted, not exceeding twenty-five lashes.”

Similar statutes were enacted in most slave states. In the 1830s, a South. Carolina court of appeals ruled as follows: “if the owner without a for­mal act of emancipation permit his slave to go at large and to exercise all the rights and enjoy all the privileges of a free person of color, the slave becomes liable to seizure as a derelict”

A New Orleans newspaper, the Daily Picayune, complained that hired-out slaves had the liberty “to engage in business on their own account, to live according to the suggestions of their own fancy, to be idle or industri­ous, as the inclination for one or the other prevailed, provided only the monthly wages are regularly gained.” In 1855, Memphis’ Daily Appeal demanded the strengthening of an ordinance prohibiting slaves from hir­ing themselves out without a permit. One citizen complained that “to permit the negro to hire his own time sends a slave to ruin as property, debauches a slave, and makes him a strolling agent of discontent, disorder, and immorality among our slave population.”

Much of the restrictive legislation was prompted or justified by the charge that some slaves were trafficking in stolen goods. But there was also concern that the self-hired and quasi-free would undermine the slavery system itself by breeding discontent and rebellion among slaves in gen­eral. Despite all the legal prohibitions, the self-hire and quasi-free practices prospered and expanded. Some slave owners who had sired children felt that, although they might not set those offspring free, they would allow them to be quasi-free and to own property. Other owners considered it simply sound policy to permit slaves a degree of freedom as a reward for good work. Even owners with a strong ideological commitment to the institution of slavery found it profitable to permit self-hire, particularly for their most talented and trusted bondsmen.

By the 1840s and ’50s, many masters were earning good returns on slaves who found employment in Baltimore, Nashville, St. Louis, Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans. In 1856, white builders in Smithfield, North Carolina, complained that they were being underbid by quasi-free blacks in the construction of houses and boats, and criticized white con­tractors who pursued such hiring practices. Whites in the Sumter District [p. 22>] of South Carolina protested that “The law in relation to Slaves hiring their own time is not enforced with sufficient promptness and efficiency as to accomplish the object designed by its enactment.”

The fact that self-hire became such a large part of slavery simply reflects the economics of the matter. Faced with fluctuating demands for the labor of slaves, it sometimes made sense for owners to let a slave hire himself out rather than to sit idle, in return for securing a portion of his outside earn­ings. Slaves favored hiring out because it gave them a measure of freedom; it also provided some income to purchase goods that would be otherwise unattainable.

Free Blacks in the North

Free blacks played a significant economic role in northern cities. In 1838, a pamphlet titled ‘A Register of Trades of Colored People in the City of Philadelphia and Districts” listed fifty-seven different occupations total­ing 656 persons: bakers (eight), blacksmiths (twenty-three), brass found­ers (three), cabinetmakers and carpenters (fifteen), confectioners (five), and tanners (thirty-one). Black females engaged in businesses were also included in the register: dressmakers and tailoresses (eighty-one), dyers and scourers (four), and cloth fullers and glass/papermakers (two each).

Philadelphia was home to several very prosperous black businesses. Stephen Smith and William Whipper had one of the largest wood and coal yards in the city. As an example of the size of their business, they had, in 1849, “several thousand bushels of coal, 250,000 feet of lumber, 22 merchantmen cars running between Philadelphia and Baltimore, and $9,000 worth of stock in the Columbia bridge:’ At his death, Smith left an estate worth $150,000; he had earlier given an equal amount to establish the Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored Persons in Philadelphia and had also donated the ground for the Mount Olive Cemetery for Colored People.

Another prosperous enterprise among early Philadelphia blacks was sail-making. Nineteen black sail-making businesses were recorded in the 1838 Register. James Forten (1766-1841), the most prominent of them, employed forty black and white workers in his factory in 1829. Stephen Smith was another black entrepreneur, a lumber merchant who was [p. 23>] grossing $100,000 annually in sales by the 1850s. By 1854, Smith’s net worth was estimated at $500,000, earning him a credit entry as the “King of the Darkies w. 100m. [with $100,000]”‘

Blacks dominated Philadelphia’s catering business. Peter Augustine and Thomas Dorsey were the most prominent among them. Both men earned worldwide fame for their art, with Augustine often sending his terrapin as far away as Paris. Robert Bogle was a waiter who conceived of the cater­ing idea in Philadelphia by contracting formal dinners for those who enter­tained in their homes. Nicolas Biddle, a leading Philadelphia financier and president of the Bank of United States, honored him by writing an “Ode to Ogle [sic].” Philadelphia blacks “…owned fifteen meeting houses and burial grounds adjacent, and one public hall.” Their real estate holdings were estimated at $600,000 ($12 million today) and their personal prop­erty at more than $677,000.” Henry and Sarah Gordon, two other black caterers, became so prosperous that they were able to contribute $66,000 to the Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored Persons.

Blacks made their business presence felt in other northern cities as well. In 1769, ex-slave Emmanuel established Providence, Rhode Island’s first oyster-and-ale house. In New York, Thomas Downing operated a successful restaurant to serve his Wall Street clientele before facing com­petition from two other blacks, George Bell and George Alexander, who opened similar establishments nearby. In 1865, Boston’s leading catering establishment was owned and operated by a black. Thomas Dalton, also of Boston, was the proprietor of a prosperous clothing store valued at a half-million dollars at the time of his death. John Jones of Chicago, who owned one of the city’s leading tailoring establishments, left behind a fortune of $100,000.

Most blacks of course labored at low-skilled tasks. They nonetheless encountered opposition from whites. When the two races competed, or threatened to do so, violence often resulted. A commission looking into the causes of the 1834 Philadelphia riot, concluded as follows:

An opinion prevails, especially among white laborers, that certain por­tions of our community, prefer to employ colored people, whenever they can be had, to the employing of white people; and in consequence of this preference, many whites, who are able and willing to work, are left [p. 24>] without employment, while colored people are provided with work, and enabled comfortably to maintain their families; thus many white labor­ers, anxious for employment, are kept idle and indigent. Whoever mixed in the crowds and groups, at the late riots, must so often have heard those complaints, as to convince them, that . . . they… stimulated many of the most active among the rioters.

Racism and the fear of similar violence prompted New York City authorities to refuse licenses to black carmen and porters, warning, “it would bring them into collision with white men of the same calling, and they would get their horses and carts ‘dumped’ into the dock and them­selves abused and beaten.”

The growth of the black labor force, augmented by emancipated and fugitive slaves, also contributed to white fears of black competition. In 1834, a group of Connecticut petitioners declared:

The white man cannot labor upon equal terms with the negro. Those who have just emerged from the state of barbarism or slavery have few artificial wants. Regardless of the decencies of life, and improvement of the future, the black can afford to offer his services at lower prices than the white man.

The petitioners warned the legislature that if entry restrictions were not adopted, the (white) sons of Connecticut would be soon driven from the state by black porters, truckmen, sawyers, mechanics, and laborers of every description.

For their part, blacks soon faced increased competition from the nearly five million Irish, German, and Scandinavian immigrants who reached our shores between 1830 and 1860. Poverty-stricken Irish crowded into shantytowns and sought any kind of employment, regardless of pay and work conditions. One black observer wrote:

These impoverished and destitute beings, transported from transatlantic shores are crowding themselves into every place of business and of labor, and driving the poor colored American citizen out. Along the wharves, where the colored man once done the whole business of shipping and [p. 25>] unshipping—in stores where his services were once rendered, and in families where the chief places were filled by him, in all these situations there are substituted foreigners or white Americans.

Irish immigrants did not immediately replace black workers, because employers initially preferred black “humility” to Irish “turbulence?’ “Help Wanted” ads often read like this one in the New York Herald of May 13, 1853: “A Cook, Washer and Ironer: who perfectly understands her busi­ness; any color or country except Irish?’ The New York Daily Sun (May 11, 1853) carried: “Woman Wanted—To do general housework… English, Scotch, Welsh, German, or any country or color will answer except Irish?’ The New York Daily Tribune, on May 14, 1852, advertised: “Coachman Wanted—A Man who understands the care of horses and is willing to make himself generally useful, on a small place six miles from the city. A colored man preferred. No Irish need apply?’

Indicative of racial preferences was the fact that, in 1853, black waiters in New York earned more than their white counterparts: $16 per month compared to $12. To increase their bargaining power and to dupe their white counterparts out of jobs, black waiters tricked them into striking for $18 a day. When the strike ended, only the best white waiters were retained; the rest were replaced by blacks.

The mid-nineteenth century saw the early growth of the labor union movement. As I will discuss in more detail in a later chapter, the new unions directed considerable hostility at blacks and often excluded them from membership. When New York longshoremen struck in 1855 against wage cuts, black workers replaced them and violent clashes ensued. The Frederick Douglass Paper expressed little sympathy for white strikers: “[C]olored men can feel no obligation to hold out in a ‘strike’ with the whites, as the latter have never recognized them.”

Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and many of his followers had similarly little sympathy with white attempts to form labor unions. They felt that employer desire for profit would override racial preferences. Garrison declared, “Place two mechanics by the side of each other, one colored and one white, he who works the cheapest and the best will get the most custom. In making a bargain, the color of the man will never be consulted?’ Demonstrating an economic understanding that’s lost on [p. 26>] many of today’s black advocates, abolitionists urged blacks to underbid white workers rather than to combine with them. New England Magazine remarked:

After all the voice of interest is louder, and speaks more to the purpose, than reason or philanthropy. When a black merchant shall sell his goods cheaper than his white neighbor, he will have the most customers…. When a black mechanic shall work cheaper and better than a white one, he will be more frequently employed.

During this period, black leadership exhibited a vision not often observed today, namely, lowering the price of goods or services is one of the most effective tools to compete. At a black convention in 1848, it was declared, “To be dependent is to be degraded. Men may pity us, but they cannot respect us.” Black conventions repeatedly called upon blacks to learn agricultural and mechanical pursuits, to form joint-stock companies, mutual savings banks, and county associations in order to pool resources to purchase land and capital. In 1853, Frederick Douglass warned, “Learn trades or starve!”

Many blacks absorbed the lessons of competition. Virginia’s Robert Gordon sold slack (fine screenings of coal) from his white father’s coal yard, making what was then a small fortune of $15,000. By 1846, Gordon had purchased his freedom and moved to Cincinnati, where he invested those earnings in a coal yard and built a private dock on the waterfront. White competitors tried to run him out of business through ruthless price-cutting. Gordon cleverly responded by hiring fair-complexioned mulattos to purchase coal from price-cutting competitors, then used that coal to fill his own customers’ orders. Gordon retired in 1865, invested his profits in real estate, and eventually passed his fortune to his daughter.

While still a slave, Frank McWorter set up a saltpeter factory in Kentucky’s Pulaski County at the start of the War of 1812. After the war, he expanded his factory to meet the growing demand for gunpowder by westward-bound settlers. As a result of his enterprise, McWorter purchased his wife’s freedom in 1817 and his own in 1819 for a total cost of $1,600.

Born a slave in Kentucky, Junius G. Graves went to Kansas in 1879. He worked on a farm for forty cents a day and by 1884 had amassed the sum of $2,200. Six years later, he owned 500 acres of land valued at $100,000.

[p. 27>] “Because of his success in producing a-greater-than-average-yield of pota­toes per acre and because of his being the largest individual grower of potatoes, he was called ‘The Negro Potato King:”

Other examples of nineteenth-century black enterprise abound: William W. Browne founded the first black bank in Virginia; H. C. Haynes invented the Haynes Razor Strop in Chicago; A. C. Howard manufactured shoe polish (7,200 boxes per day) in Chicago.


[p. 29>] The relative color blindness of the market accounts for much of the hostility towards it. Markets have a notorious lack of respect for privilege, race, and class structures. White customers patronized black-owned busi­nesses because their prices were lower or their product quality or service better. Whites hired black skilled and unskilled labor because their wages were lower or they made superior employees.

Walter E. Williams, Race & Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination? (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2011), 15-27, 29.

[APA] Williams, W.E. (2011). Race & Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination? Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

[MLA] Williams, Walter E. Race & Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination? Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2011. Print.

[Chicago] Williams, Walter E. Race & Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed On Discrimination? Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2011.


Short quotations

If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and the page number for the reference (preceded by “p.”). Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author’s last name followed by the date of publication in parentheses.

According to Jones (1998), “Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time” (p. 199).

Jones (1998) found “students often had difficulty using APA style” (p. 199); what implications does this have for teachers?

If the author is not named in a signal phrase, place the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation.

She stated, “Students often had difficulty using APA style” (Jones, 1998, p. 199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.

Long quotations

Place direct quotations that are 40 words, or longer, in a free-standing block of typewritten lines, and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.

Jones’s (1998) study found the following:

Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time citing sources. This difficulty could be attributed to the fact that many students failed to purchase a style manual or to ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)


More Than One Work by the Same Author

If you are citing more than one work by the same author, include enough information so that your reader can differentiate between them. For instance, if you have used two studies by the same authors (from different years), you simply need to include their dates of publication:

(Jones, Crick, & Waxson, 1989); (Jones, Crick, & Waxson, 1998)

or, if you are citing both at once:

(Jones, Crick, & Waxson, 1989, 1998)

If you are citing more than one work from the same year, use the suffixes “a,” “b,” “c” etc., so that your reader can differentiate between them (these suffixes will correspond to the order of entries in your references page):

(Jones, Crick, & Waxson, 1999a); (Jones, Crick, & Waxson, 1999b)

Multiple Authors Cited Together

Order the authors in alphabetical order by last name. Semicolons are used to differentiate between the entries:

(Heckels, 1996; Jones, 1998; Stolotsky, 1992)

In-text citations: Author-page style

MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author’s last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author’s name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. For example:

Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (263).

Romantic poetry is characterized by the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (Wordsworth 263).

Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).

Both citations in the examples above, (263) and (Wordsworth 263), tell readers that the information in the sentence can be located on page 263 of a work by an author named Wordsworth. If readers want more information about this source, they can turn to the Works Cited page, where, under the name of Wordsworth, they would find the following information:

Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads. London: Oxford UP, 1967. Print.


Citing two books by the same author:

Murray states that writing is “a process” that “varies with our thinking style” (Write to Learn 6). Additionally, Murray argues that the purpose of writing is to “carry ideas and information from the mind of one person into the mind of another” (A Writer Teaches Writing 3).

Additionally, if the author’s name is not mentioned in the sentence, you would format your citation with the author’s name followed by a comma, followed by a shortened title of the work, followed, when appropriate, by page numbers:

Visual studies, because it is such a new discipline, may be “too easy” (Elkins, “Visual Studies” 63).


In-text Citations

When citing two different books by the same author in the body of the text, include the author’s last name, then a comma and then the first word or several words of the title of the book in quotation marks followed by the page number. For example, if you were citing two books by John Smith, you might do the following: It’s important to recognize your strengths and talents. Knowing what you are good at is what moves you from “mediocre to masterful” (Smith, “Passions” 45). Ultimately, your success is based on how you feel about what you’re doing. Studies show that those who are passionately invested in their work make three times more money than those who dread their work (Smith, “Work Week” 75).

An exerpt from a sentence in the text of a paper written using the author-date would look like this:

While some assert that the essential qualities a politician must possess are, “passion, a feeling of responsibility, and a sense of proportion” (Weber 1946, 33), others think that …

A William F. Buckley Quote Regarding Dante’s Inferno

In a conversation with someone many yearn ago, I was reminded of a quote that connects to some current issues in the gay community.

Ha, Ha!  You just brought to my memory a portion of a book I read from one of my top-twenty authors.  Dinesh D’ Souza wrote of his early years on the campus of Dartmouth, which was the breeding ground for today’s conservatism (The Dartmouth Review). Speaking of the politically incorrect atmosphere and a professor (Hart) he had, and a contest:

“In part because of his political incorrectness, Hart was one of the few people I have met whose jokes made people laugh out loud.  His sense of humor can be illustrated by a contest that National Review privately held among its editors following the publication of the controversial Bill Buckley column on the issue of AIDS.  People were debating whether AIDS victims should be quarantined as syphilis victims had in the past.  Buckley said no: The solution was to have a small tattoo on their rear ends to warn potential partners.  Buckley’s suggestion caused a bit of a public stir, but the folks at national Review were animated by a different question: What should the tattoo say?  A contest was held, and when the entries were reviewed, the winner by unanimous consent was Hart.  He suggested the lines emblazoned on the gates to Dante’s Inferno: ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’.”

Dinesh D’ Souza, Letters to a Young Conservative: Art of Mentoring (New York, NY: Basic Books, 2002), 20.

This is connected more seriously with this post: Another Example of Science Being Politicized by the Left ~ AIDS/HIV

Divine Feet ~ Philosophical Demarcations

Atheists reject evidence as illusory…


Because they “have to.”

I put these two ideas from separate fields of study together. Why I didn’t before is a mystery… but like with any field of study, you can go over the same topic again-and-again — you continue to learn. The first example come from biology and the natural sciences. Here are three examples of the beginning of my thinking:

  • “The illusion of design is so successful that to this day most Americans (including, significantly, many influential and rich Americans) stubbornly refuse to believe it is an illusion. To such people, if a heart (or an eye or a bacterial flagellum) looks designed, that’s proof enough that it is designed.” ~ Richard Dawkins in the Natural History Magazine;
  • “So powerful is the illusion of design, it took humanity until the mid-19th century to realize that it is an illusion.” ~ New Scientist Magazine (h/t, Uncommon Dissent)
  • “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Richard Dawkins enlarges on this thought: “We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose… any engineer can recognize an object that has been designed, even poorly designed, for a purpose, and he can usually work out what that purpose is just by looking at the structure of the object.” ~ Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, 1996, pp. 1, and 21.
  • “We can’t make sense of an organ like the eye without considering it to have a function, or a purpose – not in a mystical, teleological sense, but in the sense of an illusion of engineering. That illusion, we now know, is a consequence of Darwin’s process of natural selection. Everyone agrees that the eye is a remarkable bit of natural “engineering,” and that may now be explained as a product of natural selection rather than as the handiwork of a cosmic eye-designer or as a massive coincidence in tissue formation.” ~ Steven Pinker, via Edge’s “Is Science Killing the Soul.”

The important point here is that the Judeo-Christian [theistic] view would posit that we (and nature) is designed, and would notice it in ourselves and in nature. The atheist MUST reject design as an illusion because their worldview demands that chance cobbled together what we see… so dumb luck needs to be seen as opposed to design.

Steven Pinker summation:

Pinker’s newer book, The Blank Slate, revised his views on free will, in that he no longer thinks it’s a necessary fiction. The chapter on “The Fear of Determinism” takes an explicitly deterministic stance, and usefully demonstrates the absurdity of contra-causal free will and why we shouldn’t worry about being fully caused creatures. However, Pinker remains conservative in not drawing any conclusions about how not having free will might affect our attitudes towards punishment, credit, and blame,; that is, he doesn’t explore the implications of determinism for ethical theory. This, despite the fact that in How the Mind Works he claimed that “ethical theory requires idealizations like free, sentient, rational, equivalent agents whose behavior is uncaused” … We await further progress by Pinker. (Via Naturlism)

Daniel Dennett:

Dennett worries that there is good evidence that promulgating the idea that free will is an illusion undermines just that sense of responsibility many scientists and philosophers are worried about losing. Critics maintain that Dennett’s kind of free will, with its modest idea of “enough” responsibility, autonomy and control, is not really enough after all.


“It’s important because of the longstanding tradition that free will is a prerequisite for moral responsibility,” he says. “Our system of law and order, of punishment, and praise and blame, promise keeping, promise making, the law of contracts, criminal law – all of this depends on one notion or another of free will. And then you have neuroscientists, physicists and philosophers saying that ‘science has shown us that free will is an illusion’ and then not shrinking from the implication that our systems of law are built on foundations of sand.” (Via The Guardian)

Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Kruass, Christopher Hitchens:

Sam Harris:

Stephen Hawkings:

One of the most intriguing aspects mentioned by Ravi Zacharias of a lecture he attended entitled “Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate,” given by Stephen Hawking, who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, Isaac Newton’s chair, was this admission by Dr. Hawking’s, was Hawking’s admission that if “we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free.”[1] In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms? Michael Polyni mentions that this “reduction of the world to its atomic elements acting blindly in terms of equilibrations of forces,” a belief that has prevailed “since the birth of modern science, has made any sort of teleological view of the cosmos seem unscientific…. [to] the contemporary mind.”[2]

[1] Ravi Zacharias, The Real Face of Atheism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004), 118, 119.

[2] Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, Meaning (Chicago, IL: Chicago university Press, 1977), 162.

The bottom line is that free-will, self, freedom to be above and distinguish between actions, is all an illusion.


BECUASE if free-will existed… then this would be an argument f-o-r theism. F-o-r God’s existence. Like the founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institutes, Robert Jastrow’s description in his book of a disturbing reaction among his colleagues to the big-bang theory—irritation and anger.

Why, he asked, would scientists, who are supposed to pursue truth and not have an emotional investment in any evidence, be angered by the big-bang theory?

They had an aversion to the Big-Bang.

Because it argued F-O-R theism. F-O-R God’s existence.

Jastrow noted that many scientists do not want to acknowledge anything that may even suggest the existence of God. The big-bang theory, by positing a beginning of the universe, suggests a creator and therefore annoys many astronomers.

This anti-religious bias is hardly confined to astronomers.

As we see, the above persons in rejecting evidence of design in nature and consciousness, are doing so based on an aversion to “God evidence.” Another well-known philosopher John Searle notes this illusion as well:

All these people are misusing science and remaking it into “scientism.” AND, they are “not allowing a divine foot in the door,” as Dinesh D’Souza notes:

Scientism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you want to call it… it is still a metaphysical position as it assumes or presumes certain things about the entire universe.  D’Souza points this a priori commitment out:

Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather, they are scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith. Here is Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have [an] a priori commitment… a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).

“Minds fit into an theistic world, not an atheistic one”

What are intentional states of consciousness? Are states of consciousness plausible on either a theistic or atheistic worldview? This clip shows the exchange between Dr William Lane Craig and Dr Alex Rosenberg on intentional states of consciousness in the world. On February 1st, 2013 at Purdue University, Dr Craig participated in a debate with Dr Rosenberg on the topic, “Is Faith In God Reasonable?” Over 5,000 people watched the event on the Purdue University campus along with tens of thousands streaming it live online from around the world.

For more on this, see my “quotefest” here: Evolution Cannot Account for: Logic, Reasoning, Love, Truth, or Justice

Dinesh D’Souza vs. the “Christian” Hitler (Nuremberg Day 28)

In Mein Kampf, he presented a social Darwinist view of life, life as a struggle, and presented national socialism as an antidote to both Judaism and communism. His party attempted to develope a new form of religion with elements of de-Judaised Christianity infused with German and Nordic pagan myths, but this was resisted by the Christians. ~ Professor Thies

  • “I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality…. We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence — imperious, relentless and cruel.” ~ Hitler

On a plaque hung on the wall at Auschwitz (Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, p. 23)

  • “The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature.  Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all….  If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.” ~ Hitler

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy (New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942), pp. 161-162.

  • “Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition….  If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity….  From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.” ~ Mussolini

Mussolini, Diuturna (1924) pp. 374-77, quoted in A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (Ignatius Press; 1999), by Peter Kreeft, p. 18.

The Above Video Description:

Nuremberg Day 28 Church Suppression

Colonel Leonard Wheeler, Assistant American Trial Counsel, on Jan. 7, 1946, submitted the case regarding the Oppression of the Christian Churches and other Religious Groups in Germany and the Occupied Countries. He stated that the Nazi conspirators found the Christian churches to be an “obstacle to their complete domination of the German people and contrary to their master race dogma”.

The Indictment charged that “the Nazi conspirators, by promoting beliefs and practices incompatible with Christian teaching, sought to subvert the influence of the churches over the people and in particular the youth of Germany”.

For further information, see www.roberthjackson.org

Dinesh D’Souza’s “Atrocities Compared” Zinger

The above took place at Caltech on December 9th, 2007 ~ between Dinesh D’Souza and Michael Shermer. I am posting this anew for a discussion I am in where I received the following challenge:

  • So you deny inquisitions which really happened?

I respond:

One doesn’t have to deny something in order to k-n-o-w about the truth of something. Firstly, I bet you do not know this but the inquisitions were started to stop “monkey courts” sentencing people to death. Secondly, here are some stats you probably are not aware of. And this isn’t to belittle you… reading history is a hobby of mine. Here they are:

✦ The Inquisition was originally welcomed to bring order to Europe because states saw an attack on the state’s faith as an attack on the state as well.
✦ The Inquisition technically had jurisdiction only over those professing to be Christians.
✦ The courts of the Inquisition were extremely fair compared to their secular counterparts at the time.
✦ The Inquisition was responsible for less than 100 witch-hunt deaths, and was the first judicial body to denounce the trials in Europe.
✦ Though torture was commonly used in all the courts of Europe at the time, the Inquisition used torture very infrequently.
✦ During the 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition, between 3,000-5,000* people were sentenced to death (about 1 per month).
✦ The Church executed no one.

See more at my site: https://religiopoliticaltalk.com/spanish-inquisition/

There was a change of subject immediately following the above posted historical facts/items, to which I asked for the following minimalist admission:

Before I go on… I must ask for some honesty. And it requires a minimum admission from you — at least. The reason being is that I do not mind talking about topics in a dialogue fashion. But often times I find people move from one topic to the next, never slowing down to let new information sink in. And so the learning process is hampered in lieu of trying to “win” a point or position held for many years. [In many cases, wrongly.]

So while I have a decent sized home library and love [to discuss] politics, religion, philosophy, science, history, and theology… I also do not want to waste my time in conversation where people do not add new items of understanding to their thinking. In your case, I think it is the historical bullet points to follow that would offer a modicum of reasonableness allowing me to continue.

At the minimum would you say that you did not know that the Inquisitions…

➤ killed 0.769 people a month [yes, that is a point] over it’s 300-year period;
➤ that it was primarily secular;
➤ and was implemented to stop kangaroo courts.

If you would a-t l-e-a-s-t admit that you thought these were different but now can see that maybe, just maybe, you heard this information through word-of-mouth and just ran with it instead of testing your own position to the panoply of history… then we can continue the conversation. (Pride is an S.O.B.)

What Does It Mean To Be a “Super Mexican”? SooperMexican Tells Us

Not via amnesty Mexicans, or La Raza Mexicans, or Lazy Mexicans. Via SOOPERMEXICAN!

Sooper says: “We’ll be rolling out new videos with Dinesh D’Souza, so if there’s anything you want to be sooper-esplained let me know in the comments, and for your mexy reparations I demand you share and tweet this video!”

Taking Physicist Stephen Barr to Task Over St. Augustine

(Originally posted in February of 2011) In a recent interview by Dinesh D’Souza (President of Kings College at the time, as well as being a favorite author of mine) of physicist Stephen Barr (Professor of Particle Physics at the Bartol Research Institute and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware). What was otherwise a good interview and overview of philosophical naturalism’s metaphysical positions in contradistinction to true science and religion’s metaphysical outlook, took a historical turn for the worse when Augustine was used as defense in the “old-earth/young-earth” debate.

(Thank you for Uncommon Descent’s link to my story!)

In this next portion you will hear the portion of the interview I wish to weigh in on. We pick up the conversation as it happens coming in from the break:

The problem with Dr. Barr’s summation is that he has failed to take into account that people’s views on matters change over time. (This wasn’t intentional… we are finite beings and cannot know all things to bring to bare in conversation.) For instance, R.C. Sproul (evangelical scholar, professor, and President of Ligonier Ministries) mentioned that through most of his teaching career he accepted the old-age position. However, late in his career he changed his position to that of the young earth creationists.

For most of my teaching career, I considered the framework hypothesis to be a possibility. But I have now changed my mind. I now hold to a literal six-day creation, the fourth alternative and the traditional one. Genesis says that God created the universe and everything in it in six twenty-four–hour periods. According to the Reformation hermeneutic, the first option is to follow the plain sense of the text. One must do a great deal of hermeneutical gymnastics to escape the plain meaning of Genesis 1–2. The confession makes it a point of faith that God created the world in the space of six days. [emphasis in original, indicating these words are part of the Confession] (pp. 127–128).[1]

Similarly, Augustine, early in his life, was very allegorical[2] in his attempt to interpret and define Scripture and events in it. Later however, he changed his position in much the same way Dr. Sproul did. Therefore, to quote Sproul or Augustine as old-earth creationists supporting the views of professor Barr would not do the position justice.

As his theology matured, Augustine abandoned his earlier allegorizations of Genesis that old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists have latched onto in an attempt to justify adding deep time to the Bible. Furthermore, he always believed in a young earth (painting by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1480)

An example of Augustine’s allegorical uses comes from the journal Church History by way of Mervin Monroe Deems (Ph.D., past Samuel Harris Lecturer on Literature and Life at Bangor Theological Seminary, Maine) in which he points out Augustine’s use of allegory in interpreting “paradise” in Genesis:

But let us get back to the Paradise of Genesis. As Augustine put it, “. .. some allegorize all that concerns Paradise itself”: the four rivers are the four virtues; the trees, all knowledge, and so on. But to Augustine these things are better connected with Christ and his Church. Thus, Paradise is the Church; the four rivers, the four gospels; the fruit-trees, the saints; the tree of life, Christ; and the tree of knowledge, one’s free choice. And he closes the paragraph thus:

These and similar allegorical interpretations may be suitably put upon Paradise without giving offense to anyone, while yet we believe the strict truth of the history, confirmed by its circumstantial narrative of facts.[3]

To put this closing remark in slightly updated English, it reads as follows:

No one should object to such reflections and others even more appropriate that might be made concerning the allegorical interpretation of the Garden of Eden, so long as we believe in the historical truth manifest in the faithful narrative of these events.[4]

To be clear, Augustine was still holding to the literal meaning in the Genesis narrative even during his use of allegory in rendering extra meaning to the idea of paradise in Genesis. Again, professor Deems:

Augustine’s approach to the scriptures was gradual. At the time that he came across the Hortensius he turned to the Scriptures, only to turn away again, for in his estimation they could not compare with the writings of Cicero. Later at Milan following the advice of Ambrose he started to read Isaiah but found this too difficult and turned to the Psalms. The period of retirement and the months immediately following, which produced the philosophic treatises, were devoted to the classics rather than to the Bible. But increasingly Augustine studied and meditated upon the Scriptures, with the result that his writings are filled with Scriptural quotation and references…. The use of allegory by Augustine was not only a means of making Scripture say something, it was also a technique for bringing Scripture down to date, by forcing ancient words to minister, through prophecy, to the weaving of present patterns of behavior or through the summoning to higher ideals. But it was also dangerous for it came close to making Scripture say what he wanted it to say (through multiplicity of allegories of identical Scripture), and it prepared the way for Catholic or Protestant, later, to find in Scripture what he would.[5]

And this is key, as Professor Benno Zuiddam (Benno Zuiddam is research professor [extraordinary associate] for New Testament Studies, Greek and Church History at the faculty of Divinity at North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa) points out,

As Augustine became older, he gave greater emphasis to the underlying historicity and necessity of a literal interpretation of Scripture. His most important work is De Genesi ad litteram. The title says it: On the Necessity of Taking Genesis Literally. In this later work of his, Augustine says farewell to his earlier allegorical and typological exegesis of parts of Genesis and calls his readers back to the Bible. He even rejected allegory when he deals with the historicity and geographic locality of Paradise on earth.[6]

The professor points out as well that from Augustine’s City of God, we can begin to see this literalism in the evolution of his responses to pagans. Dr. Zuiddam asks:

3) Isn’t it obvious from his City of God (De Civitate Dei) that Augustine believed that God created Man 6000 years ago?

Not quite, but a young earth definitely. Augustine wrote in De Civitate Dei that his view of the chronology of the world and the Bible led him to believe that Creation took place around 5600 BC [Ed. note: he used the somewhat inflated Septuagint chronology—see Biblical chronogenealogies for more information.]. One of the chapters in his City of God bears the title “On the mistaken view of history that ascribes many thousands of years to the age of the earth.” Would you like it clearer? Several pagan philosophers at the time believed that the earth was more or less eternal. Countless ages had preceded us, with many more to come. Augustine said they were wrong. This goes to show that theistic evolutionists who call in Augustine’s support do so totally out of context. All they allow themselves to see is his symbolic use of “day” in Genesis, and a very difficult philosophical doctrine of creation with ideas that develop. “Wonderful!” they think, “Augustine really supports our post-Darwinian theories!” It takes a superficial view of Genesis and Augustine to arrive at such conclusions. His instant creation, his young earth and immediate formation of Adam and Eve rule out Augustine’s application for this purpose.[7]

An example of this can be seen here with Augustine himself saying:

“They are also still being led astray by some false writings according to their claim to the history of the times many thousands of years to take, as we do from the Bible to calculate that since the creation of man, not quite six thousand years have expired ” (XII, 11).[8]

Non-literalist Professor James Barr (Professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University and former Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University in England) in a letter to David C.C. Watson, 23 April 1984 wrote this:

Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; . . . Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.[9]

As one can see from here and following the links to the larger articles, Dr. Stephen Barr may want to revise his position on some of the church fathers and their views in regards to the age of the earth and hence creation. A good resource for reading their thoughts on the matter — the early church fathers that is — can be FOUND HERE.

[1] Tas Walker, “Famous evangelical apologist changes his mind: RC Sproul says he is now a six-day, young-earth creationist,” Creation Ministries International, published May 21st, 2008, found at URL:


[2] Allegory:

Allegory is primarily a method of reading a text by assuming that its literal sense conceals a hidden meaning, to be deciphered by using a particular hermeneutical key. In a secondary sense, the word “allegory” is also used to refer to a type of litera­ture that is expressly intended to be read in this nonliteral way. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a well-known example of allegorical literature, but it is doubtful whether any part of the Bible can be regarded as such. The parables of Jesus come closest, but they are not allegories in the true sense. The apostle Paul actually used the word allegoria, but arguably this was to describe what would nowadays be called “typology” (Gal. 4:24). The difference between typology and allegory is that the former attaches additional meaning to a text that is accepted as having a valid meaning in the “literal” sense, whereas the latter ignores the literal sense and may deny its usefulness al­together. Paul never questioned the historical accuracy of the Genesis accounts of Hagar and Sarah, even though he regarded them as having an additional, spiritual meaning as well. Other interpreters, however, were often embarrassed by anthropomorphic accounts of God in the Bible, and sought to explain away such language by saying that it is purely symbolic, with no literal meaning at all. It is in this latter sense that the word “allegory” is generally used today.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Gen Ed., Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), cf. Allegory, 34-35.

[3] Mervin Monroe Deems, “Augustine’s Use of Scripture,” Church History Vol. 14, No. 3 (Sep., 1945), 196. Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Society of Church History (Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3160307) (emphasis added).

[4] Saint Augustine, City of God (New York, NY: Image Books, 1958), 288; or, Book XIII, 21 (emphasis added).

[5] Mervin Monroe Deems, “Augustine’s Use of Scripture,” Church History Vol. 14, No. 3 (Sep., 1945), 188-189 (emphasis added).

[6] Benno Zuiddam, “Augustine: young earth creationist — [How] theistic evolutionists take Church Father out of context,” Creation Ministries International, published October 8th, 2009, found at URL (emphasis added):


[7] Ibid.

[8] Benno Zuiddam, “Adjust the lighting was dark,” Reformatorisch Dagblad (Reformed Daily), published April 15th, 2009, found at URL:


 (will need Google to translate).

[9] Henry Morris, “The Literal Week of Creation,” ICR, found at URL:



May I remind those who may not understand this critique that it [the critique] has nothing to do with said physicists faith. This is merely a challenge to his understanding of a historical figure and where he [Stephen Barr] separates his understanding of Augustine  and what Augustine believed. We know Augustine, from his later writings specifically, rejected the spiritualistic aspect he once placed on the Genesis account and accepted the plain understanding as paramount. This critique neither places young-earth creationism as a litmus test for faith or some standard one must reach to be “holier” than thee. One may wish to read my footnote #18 to understand my position on this.

A Rebuttal Of The Lefts View of Columbus and the New World

…let’s move to Columbus and the charge of genocide. The historical Columbus was a Christian explorer. Howard Zinn makes it sound like Columbus came looking for nothing but gold, but Columbus was equally driven by a spirit of exploration and adventure. When we read Columbus’s diaries we see that his motives were complex: he wanted to get rich by discovering new trade routes, but he also wanted to find the Garden of Eden, which he believed was an actual undiscovered place. Of course Columbus didn’t come looking for America; he didn’t know that the American continent existed. Since the Muslims controlled the trade routes of the Arabian Sea, he was looking for a new way to the Far East. Specifically he was looking for India, and that’s why he called the native peoples “Indians.” It is easy to laugh at Columbus’s naïveté, except that he wasn’t entirely wrong. Anthropological research has established that the native people of the Americas did originally come from Asia. Most likely they came across the Bering Strait before the continents drifted apart.

We know that, as a consequence of contact with Columbus and the Europeans who came after him, the native population in the Americas plummeted. By some estimates, more than 80 percent of the Indians perished. This is the basis for the charge of genocide. But there was no genocide. Millions of Indians died as a result of diseases they contracted from their exposure to the white man: smallpox, measles, cholera, and typhus. There is one isolated allega­tion of Sir Jeffrey Amherst (whose name graces Amherst College) approving a strategy to vanquish a hostile Indian tribe by giving the Indians smallpox-infected blankets. Even here, however, it’s not clear the scheme was actually carried out. As historian William McNeill documents in Plagues and Peoples, the white man generally transmit­ted his diseases to the Indians without knowing it, and the Indians died in large numbers because they had not developed immunities to those diseases. This is tragedy on a grand scale, but it is not geno­cide, because genocide implies an intention to wipe out a people. McNeill points out that Europeans themselves had contracted lethal diseases, including the pneumonic and the bubonic plagues, from Mongol invaders from the Asian steppes. The Europeans didn’t have immunities, and during the “Black Death” of the fourteenth century one-third of the population of Europe was wiped out. But no one calls these plagues genocide, because they weren’t.

It’s true that Columbus developed strong prejudices about the native peoples he first encountered—he was prejudiced in favor of them. He praised the intelligence, generosity, and lack of guile among the Tainos, contrasting these qualities with Spanish vices. Subsequent explorers such as Pedro Alvares Cabral, Amerigo Ves­pucci (from whom we get the name “America”), and Walter Raleigh registered similar positive impressions. So where did Europeans get the idea that Indians were “savages”? Actually, they got it from their experience with the Indians. While the Indians Columbus met on his first voyage were hospitable and friendly, on subsequent voyages Columbus was horrified to discover that a number of sailors he had left behind had been killed and possibly eaten by the cannibalistic Arawaks.

When Bernal Diaz arrived in Mexico with the swashbuckling army of Hernán Cortes, he and his fellow Spaniards saw things they had never seen before. Indeed they witnessed one of the most gruesome spectacles ever seen, something akin to what American soldiers saw after World War II when they entered the Nazi con­centration camps. As Diaz describes the Aztecs, in an account generally corroborated by modern scholars, “They strike open the wretched Indian’s chest with flint knives and hastily tear out the palpitating heart which, with the blood, they present to the idols in whose name they have performed the sacrifice. Then they cut off the arms, thighs and head, eating the arms and thighs at their ceremonial banquets.” Huge numbers of Indians—typically cap­tives in war—were sacrificed, sometimes hundreds in a single day. Yet in a comic attempt to diminish the cruelty of the Aztecs, How­ard Zinn remarks that their mass murder “did not erase a certain innocence” and he accuses Cortes of nefarious conduct “turning Aztec against Aztec.”

If the Aztecs of Mexico seemed especially bloodthirsty, they were rivaled by the Incas of South America who also erected sacrificial mounds on which they performed elaborate rites of human sacrifice, so that their altars were drenched with blood, bones were strewn everywhere, and priests collapsed from exhaustion from stabbing their victims.

Even while Europeans were startled and appalled at such blood­thirstiness, there was a countercurrent of admiration for what Euro­peans saw as the Indians’ better qualities. Starting with Columbus and continuing through the next few centuries, native Indians were regarded as “noble savages.” They were admired for their dignity stoicism, and bravery. In reality, the native Indians probably had these qualities in the same proportion as human beings elsewhere on the planet. The idealization of them as “noble savages” seems to be a projection of European fantasies about primitive innocence onto the natives. We too—and especially modern progressives-have the same fantasies. Unlike us, however, the Spanish were forced to confront the reality of Aztec and Inca behavior. Today we have an appreciation for the achievements of Aztec and Inca culture, such as its social organization and temple architecture; but we cannot fault the Spanish for being “distracted” by the mass murder they witnessed. Not all the European hostility to the Indians was the result of irrational prejudice.

While the Spanish conquistadores were surprised to see humans sacrificed in droves, they were not shocked to witness slavery, the subjugation of women, or brutal treatment of war captives—these were familiar enough practices from their own culture. Moreover, in conquering the Indians, and establishing alien rule over them, the Spanish were doing to the Indians nothing more than the Indians had done to each other. So from the point of view of the native Indian people, one empire, that of Spain, replaced another, that of the Aztecs. Did life for the native Indian get worse? It’s very hard to say. The ordinary Indian might now have a higher risk of disease, but he certainly had a lower risk of finding himself under the lurid glare of the obsidian knife.

What, then, distinguished the Spanish from the Indians? The Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa offers an arresting answer. The conquistadores who came to the Americas, he concedes, were “semi-literate, implacable and greedy.” They were clearly believers in the conquest ethic—land is yours if you can take it. Yet these semi-literate greedy swordsmen, without knowing it, also brought with them something new to the Americas. They brought with them the ideas of Western civilization, from Athenian rationalism to Judeo-Christian ideas of human brotherhood to more modern conceptions of self-government, human rights, and property rights. Some of these ideas were nascent and newly developing even in the West. Nevertheless, they were there, and without intending to do so, the conquistadors brought them to the Americas.

To appreciate what Vargas Llosa is saying, consider an astonishing series of events that took place in Spain in the early sixteenth century. At the urging of a group of Spanish clergy, the king of Spain called a halt to Spanish expansion in the Americas, pending the resolution of the question of whether American Indians had souls and could be justly enslaved. This seems odd, and even appalling, to us today, but we should not miss its significance. Historian Lewis Hanke writes that never before or since has a powerful emperor “ordered his conquests to cease until it was decided if they were just.” The king’s actions were in response to petitions by a group of Spanish priests, led by Bartolomé de las Casas. Las Casas defended the Indians in a famous debate held at Valladolid in Spain. On the other side was an Aristotelian scholar, Juan Sepulveda, who relied on Aristotle’s concept of the “natural slave” to argue that Indians were inferior and therefore could be subjugated. Las Casas coun­tered that Indians were human beings with the same dignity and spiritual nature as the Spanish. Today Las Casas is portrayed as a heroic eccentric, but his basic position prevailed at Valladolid. It was endorsed by the pope, who declared in his bull Sublimns Deus, “Indians… are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possessions of their property… nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen it shall be null and of no effect.” Papal bulls and even royal edicts were largely ignored thou­sands of miles away—there were no effective mechanisms of enforce­ment. The conquest ethic prevailed. Even so, over time the principles of Valladolid and Sublimus Deus provided the moral foundation for the enfranchisement of Indians. Indians could themselves appeal to Western ideas of equality, dignity, and property rights in order to resist subjugation, enforce treaties, and get some of their land back….


The white men who settled America didn’t come as foreign invad­ers; they came as settlers. Unlike the Spanish, who ruled Mexico from afar, the English families who arrived in America left everything behind and staked their lives on the new world. In other words, they came as immigrants. We can say, of course, that immigration doesn’t confer any privileges, and just because you come here to settle doesn’t mean you have a right to the land that is here, but then that logic would also apply to the Indians.

Dinesh D’Souza, America: Imagine a World Without Her (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2014), 93-97, 98.

“Causes of Wars,” Concepts (ISIS Compared to Christianity)

Before starting this post one must note that this post is connected to other “war” positions taken against Christians by typically — atheists:

Atheists often claim that religion fuels aggressive wars, both because it exacerbates antagonisms between opponents and also because it gives aggressors confidence by making them feel as if they have God on their side. Lots of wars certainly look as if they are motivated by religion. Just think about conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Asian subcontinent, Indonesia, and various parts of Africa. However, none of these wars is exclusively religious. They always involve political, economic, and ethnic disputes as well. That makes it hard to specify how much [of a] role, if any, religion itself had in causing any particular war. Defenders of religion argue that religious language is misused to justify what warmongers wanted to do independently of religion. This hypothesis might seem implausible to some, but it is hard to refute, partly because we do not have enough data points, and there is so much variation among wars.

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Morality Without God? (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 33-34 (Walter is an atheist, BTW)

(As usual, if you wish you can enlarge the above by clicking the article.)

This is gonna be mainly raw text from two sources about the Thirty Years’ War. The first is a run-down of stats of the war from The Encyclopedia of WarEncyclopedia of wars

The authors are nine history professors who specifically conducted research for the text for a decade in order to chronicle 1,763 wars. The survey of wars covers a time span from 8000 BC to 2003 AD. From over 10,000 years… (source)…

…The second will be from the great resource The Myth of Religious Violence, and will answer two charges against the War. (Take note as well that I dealt with an aspect of this in a previous post/article by John, HERE.)

All this will be preceded by a summary of sorts from the following four sources:

  • Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, 3 volumes (New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005);
  • The General History of the Late War (Volume 3); Containing It’s Rise, Progress, and Event, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (No Publisher [see here], date of publication was from about 1765-1766);
  • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Gordon Martel, The Encyclopedia of War, 5 Volumes (New Jersey, NJ: Wiley, 2012).


A recent comprehensive compilation of the history of human warfare, Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod documents 1763 wars, of which 123 have been classified to involve a religious conflict. So, what atheists have considered to be ‘most’ really amounts to less than 7% of all wars. It is interesting to note that 66 of these wars (more than 50%) involved Islam, which did not even exist as a religion for the first 3,000 years of recorded human warfare.

Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. And the Thirty Years’ War cannot be viewed as “religious” in that you should find certain aspects if this were the case. For instance, professor Cavanaugh offers the following short critique after a long list of historical instances [included below] building-up-to and during the Thirty Years’ War.


The other encyclopedia in this excerpt, edited by Gordon Martel, is a bit too expensive for me to add to my home library. I will have to wait for a reasonably priced used copy of this multi-volume set:

Not only were students able to demonstrate the paucity of evidence for this claim, but we helped them discover that the facts of history show the opposite: religion is the cause of a very small minority of wars. Phillips and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars lays out the simple facts. In 5 millennia worth of wars—1,763 total—only 123 (or about 7%) were religious in nature (according to author Vox Day in the book The Irrational Atheist). If you remove the 66 wars waged in the name of Islam, it cuts the number down to a little more than 3%. A second [5-volume] scholarly source, The Encyclopedia of War edited by Gordon Martel, confirms this data, concluding that only 6% of the wars listed in its pages can be labelled religious wars. Thirdly, William Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence, exposes the “wars of religion” claim. And finally, a recent report (2014) from the Institute for Economics and Peace further debunks this myth.

(Stand to Reason)

Dr. Cavanaugh sets up the premise like John Van Huizum did, but then responds. (Again, the longer response follows the summary information):

A. Combatants opposed each other based on religious difference. The killing in the wars that are called religious took place between combatants who held to different religious doctrines and practices. We would expect to find, there­fore, in the wars of religion that Catholics killed Protestants and that Catholics did not kill fellow Catholics. We would likewise expect to find that Protestants killed Catholics, but we would not necessarily expect that Protestants did not kill each other without being more specific in differentiating those who are commonly lumped together as “Protestants.” Certainly, we would expect that Lutherans did not kill other Lutherans, Calvinists did not kill other Calvinists, and so on. But given that Lutherans had significant theological differences with Calvinists, Zwinglians, and Anabaptists—and those groups had great doctrinal differences among themselves—we should expect violence among different types of Protestants as well. We should expect, in Kathleen Sullivan’s phrase, a “war of all sects against all.”


Collaboration between Protestants and Catholics of the lower classes was also widespread in the French wars of religion, mainly in an effort to resist abuse by the nobility and the Crown. In Agen in 1562, the Catholic baron Francois de Fumel forbade his Huguenot peasants from conducting services in the Calvinist manner. They revolted and were joined by hundreds of Catholic peasants. Together, they seized Fumel’s château and beheaded him in front of his wife. Holt comments, “The episode shows above all how difficult it is to divide sixteenth-century French men and women into neat communities of Protestants and Catholics along doctrinal or even cultural lines.”


If the above instances of war making—in which members of the same church fought each other and members of different churches collaborated—undermine the standard narrative of the wars of religion, the absence of war between Lutherans and Calvinists also undermines the standard tale. If theo­logical difference tends toward a war of all sects against all, we should expect to find Lutheran-Calvinist wars, but in fact we find none. Although there were internal tensions in some principalities between Lutheran princes and Calvinist nobility or Calvinist princes and Lutheran nobility, no Lutheran prince ever went to war against a Calvinist prince. The absence of such wars cannot be attributed to the similarity of Lutheranism and Calvinism. There were sufficient theological differences to sustain a permanent divide between the two branches of the Reformation. Such differences were serious enough to produce sporadic attempts by the civil authorities to enforce doctrinal unifor­mity. In the decades following Phillip Melanchthon’s death in 1560, there was an effort to root out “Crypto-Calvinists” from the ranks of Lutheranism. The rector of the University of Wittenberg, Caspar Peucer, was jailed for Crypto-Calvinism from 1574 to 1586; Nikolaus Krell was executed for Crypto-Calvinism in Dresden in 1601. Many Crypto-Calvinists among the Lutherans were forced to relocate to regions friendlier to Calvinism, such as Hesse-Kasse1. However, the fact that Lutheran-Calvinist tensions played no part in the wars of religion indicates at minimum that significant theological differences in the public realm did not necessarily produce war in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. There simply was no war of all sects against all….

B. The primary cause of the wars was religion, as opposed to merely political, economic, or social causes. Protestants and Catholics not only killed each other, but they did so for religious—not political, economic, or social—reasons.


There are two immediate reasons that this would not be an adequate response. First, the above list contains more than just a few isolated instances. In the case of the Thirty Years’ War, for example, the entire latter half of the war was primarily a struggle between the two great Catholic powers of Europe: France, on the one hand, and the two branches of the Habsburgs, on the other. Second, the above list contains more than just exceptions; if the wars in question are indeed wars of religion, then the instances above are inexplicable exceptions, unless other factors are given priority over religion. Why, in a war over religion, would those who share the same religious beliefs kill each other? Why, in a war over religion, would those on opposite sides of the religious divide collaborate? If the answer is that people prioritized other concerns over their religious views, then it does not make sense to call them wars of religion.

  • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 141-142, 146, 150-152.

Another thought. Assuming John’s position that the Thirty Years’ War was religious… it was religion fighting for more freedom. So the analogy John is making falls apart. ISIS is not fighting for freedom… they are fighting to enslave… like their predecessors:

(See more)

Okay, that short answer above now gets much more technical — and is geared toward the history buff or technical/in-depth response using history. I will include Dr. Cavanaugh’s 4-part list of issues in regards to the Thirty Years’ War, BUT ONLY his first two responses. His book is so good I recommend the person who has a stomach for history buy it. Here is the raw facts from The Encyclopedia of War:

Thirty-Years’-War 700

Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: The Holy Roman Emperor, Spain, Bavaria and other Catholic German states, Saxony and other Protestant German states (after 1635), the Papacy and various Italian states vs. numerous Protestant states and groups in the Empire, Saxony and other Protestant German states (until 1635), Transylvania, the Dutch Republic, Denmark (1625-1629), Sweden (from 1630), and France (from 1636)



MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Religious and political freedom for the Protestants of the Empire, and especially of the Hapsburg lands (the emperor and the states of the empire); the atomization of Germany, territorial gains in north Germany, and a war indemnity (Sweden); territorial gains in Alsace-Lorraine and reduction of assistance between the Austrian and Spanish Hapsburgs (France); security for the “Protestant cause” in Germany (Denmark, the Dutch)

OUTCOME: The Empire became fragmented, with the emperor losing most of his political authority within Germany but consolidating his hold over his own territories; religion ceased to be a major precipitant of political conflict; Germany, although devastated by 30 years of conflict, enjoyed internal peace for almost a century; the foreign powers all gained their objectives, although the cost of doing so provoked serious political strains in most of them; Sweden briefly became a great power.

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: The Imperial army commanded by Wallenstein in North Germany in 1628-29 probably approached 200,000 men; Gustavus Adolphus probably directed the operations of 120,000 men in 1631-32; France maintained some 130,000 men, at least on paper, in 1635-36. Total number of men in battle, however, rarely exceeded 20,000 per side and normally numbered 10,000 or less—roughly half of them cavalry.

CASUALTIES: Perhaps 500,000 soldiers took part in the war, of whom perhaps two-thirds died in service; in addition civilian losses amounted to perhaps 4 million-20 percent of the total population of the Empire.

TREATIES: Hague Alliance (December 9, 1625); Peace of Lubeck (July 7, 1629); Truce of Altmark (September 26, 1629); Heilbronn League (April 23, 1633); Peace of Prague (May 30, 1635); Treaty of Hamburg (March 15, 1641); Peace of Westphalia (October 24, 1648).

  • Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, vol III (New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005), cf, Thirty Years’ War, 1140-1141.

Okay, now for the in-depth items to deal with… remember, only “A” and “B” are responded to. Take note as well that the death toll of secular — non-religious — governments in the 20th Century alone are included (the graphic is linked) at the end.

Components of the Myth

In this section, I will lay out the basic components of the narrative of the wars of religion as used by the figures above. Subsequent sections of this chapter will examine the historical record to determine the plausibility of each component of the narrative. For the overall narrative to be true, each of the following components must be true:

  1. Combatants opposed each other based on religious difference. The killing in the wars that are called religious took place between combatants who held to different religious doctrines and practices. We would expect to find, there­fore, in the wars of religion that Catholics killed Protestants and that Catholics did not kill fellow Catholics. We would likewise expect to find that Protestants killed Catholics, but we would not necessarily expect that Protestants did not kill each other without being more specific in differentiating those who are commonly lumped together as “Protestants.” Certainly, we would expect that Lutherans did not kill other Lutherans, Calvinists did not kill other Calvinists, and so on. But given that Lutherans had significant theological differences with Calvinists, Zwinglians, and Anabaptists—and those groups had great doctrinal differences among themselves—we should expect violence among different types of Protestants as well. We should expect, in Kathleen Sullivan’s phrase, a “war of all sects against all.”
  2. The primary cause of the wars was religion, as opposed to merely political, economic, or social causes. Protestants and Catholics not only killed each other, but they did so for religious—not political, economic, or social—reasons.
  3. Religious causes must be at least analytically separable from political, eco­nomic, and social causes at the time of the wars. Although the historical reality is inevitably complex, and people’s motives are often mixed, we must be able, at least in theory, to separate religious causes from political, economic, and social causes.
  4. The rise of the modern state was not a cause of the wars, but rather provided a solution to the wars. The transfer of power from the church to the state was necessary to tame the disruptive influence of religion. As we have seen, there are two versions of this narrative. In one, the liberal state tames religion by separating church and state and removing religion from the public realm. In the other, the absolutist state enforces political unity by absorbing the church. For contemporary liberal political theorists of the latter type, absolutism is a necessary but temporary stage on the way to liberalism.

We will now see how each of these components stands up to recorded his­tory. This is important, given that the tellings of the narrative we examined above tend not to look very closely at history. Toulmin’s, Skinner’s, and Pocock’s books contain scattered references in the notes to contemporary histories of the religious wars. None of the other figures cites, either in the main text or the footnotes, any work by any historian of the European wars of religion.

The Historical Record

(A) Combatants Opposed Each Other Based on Religious Difference

The myth of the wars of religion is an uncomplicated tale of violence between religious groups who held to different theological doctrines. Historical records of these wars, however, show many examples of members of the same church killing each other and members of different churches collaborating:

  • If there truly were a war of all sects against all, one would expect that war would have broken out soon after Europe split into Catholic and Protestant factions. However, between the time that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517 and the outbreak of the first commonly cited religious war—the Schmalkaldic War of 1546-1547—almost thirty years would pass. The Catholic prosecutor of the Schmalkaldic War, Holy Roman emperor Charles V, spent much of the decade following Luther’s excommu­nication in 1520 at war not against Lutherans, but against the pope. As Richard Dunn points out, “Charles V’s soldiers sacked Rome, not Wittenberg, in 1527, and when the papacy belatedly sponsored a reform program, both the Habsburgs and the Valois refused to endorse much of it, rejecting especially those Trentine decrees which encroached on their sovereign authority.”93 The wars of the 1520s were part of the ongoing struggle between the pope and the emperor for control over Italy and over the church in German territories.94
  • The early decades of the Reformation saw Catholic France in frequent wars against the Catholic emperor. The wars began in 1521, 1527, 1536, 1542, and 1552; most lasted two to three years.95 Charles V was at war twenty-three of the forty-one years of his reign, sixteen of them against France.96 Although most of these wars predate what are commonly called the wars of religion, they come in the wake of the Reformation and underscore the fact that the first decades of religious difference in Europe did not produce war between sects. War continued to be based on other factors.
  • In a similar vein, starting in 1525, Catholic France made frequent alli­ances with the Muslim Turks against Catholic emperor Charles V.97 Until the Schmalkaldic War of 1546-1547, the Protestant princes of the Holy Roman Empire generally supported the Catholic emperor in his wars against France. In 1544, Charles granted wide control to the Protestant princes over the churches in their realms in exchange for military support against France.98
  • The first religious war of Charles V against the Schmalkaldic League found a number of important Protestant princes on Charles’s side, including Duke Moritz of Saxony, the Margrave Albrecht-Alcibiades of Brandenburg,99 and the Margrave Hans of Kiistrin.100 The Protestant Philip of Hesse had already signed a treaty to support Charles against the Schmalkaldic League, but he reneged in 1546.101 Wim Blockmans remarks, “The fact that a number of Protestant princes joined Charles’s army shows that the entire operation was based on sheer opportunism.”102
  • Catholic Bavaria refused to fight for the Habsburg emperor in the Schmalkaldic War, though Bavaria did provide some material assis-tance.103Already in 1531, Bavaria had allied with many Lutheran princes in opposing Ferdinand’s election as king of the Romans, and in 1533 Bavaria had joined Philip of Hesse in restoring Wurttemburg to the Protestant duke Ulrich.104
  • The popes were equally unreliable. In January 1547, Pope Paul III abruptly withdrew his forces from Germany, fearing that Charles’s military successes would make him too strong.105 As Blockmans com­ments, “[The pope found a few apostates in northern Germany less awful than a supreme emperor.”106 In 1556-1557, Pope Paul IV went to war against another Habsburg monarch, the devoutly Catholic Philip II of Spain.107
  • In alliance with Lutheran princes, the Catholic king Henry II of France attacked the emperor’s forces in 1552.108 The Catholic princes of the empire stood by, neutral, while Charles went down to defeat. As Richard Dunn observes, “The German princes, Catholic and Lutheran, had in effect ganged up against the Habsburgs.”109 As a result, the emperor had to accept the Peace of Augsburg, which granted the princes the right to determine the ecclesial affiliation of their subjects. Dunn notes that the German peasantry and urban working class “were inclined to follow orders inertly on the religious issue, and switch from Lutheran to Catholic, or vice versa, as their masters required.”110 Most of Charles’s soldiers were mercenaries; these included many Protestants. Some of Charles’s favorite troops were the High German Landsknechte, who commanded a relatively high wage but were good fighters, despite the prevalence of Lutheranism among them.111 The French wars of religion, generally dated 1562-1598, are usually assumed to have pitted the Calvinist Huguenot minority against the Catholic majority. The reality is more complex. In 1573, the gover­nor of Narbonne, Baron Raymond de Fourquevaux, reported to King Charles IX that the common people believed that the wars were rooted in a conspiracy of Protestant and Catholic nobles directed against the commoners.112 The Huguenot and Catholic nobles “openly help each other; the one group holds the lamb while the other cuts its throat.”113 Other contemporary accounts confirm that this view was widespread.114; Though the existence of such a grand conspiracy is doubtful, there were many examples of nobility changing church affiliation at whim115 and many examples of collaboration between Protestant and Catholic nobles. Instances of Protestant-Catholic collaboration among the nobility were generally aimed at asserting the ancient rights of the nobility over against the centralizing efforts of the monarchy. In 1573, the Catholic Henri de Turenne, duke of Bouillon, led the Huguenot forces in upper Guyenne and Perigord.116
  • In 1574, the Catholic royal governor of Languedoc, Henri de Mont­morency, Sieur de Damville, who had previously fought against the Protestants, joined forces with the Huguenot nobility to support a pro­posed antimonarchical constitution.117 He led the anti-Crown military forces in the west and south against the forces of Jacques de Crussol, duke of Uzes, a former Huguenot destroyer of Catholic churches.118 In 1575, the Catholic duke of Alencon, King Henry III’s brother, joined the Huguenots in open rebellion against the monarchy’s oppres­sive taxation.119 In 1578, as duke of Anjou, he sought the hand of the staunchly Protestant Elizabeth I of England in marriage, in an attempt to secure an English-French alliance versus Spain.120
  • A number of Protestants joined the ultra-Catholic duke of Guise’s war of 1579-1580) against the Crown. J. H. M. Salmon comments, “So strong was the disaffection of the nobility, and so little was religion a determining factor in their alignment, that a number of Huguenot seigneurs in the eastern provinces showed a readiness to follow Guise’s banners.”121
  • In 1583, the Protestant Jan Casimir of the Palatinate joined forces with the Catholic duke of Lorraine against Henry III.122
  • Catholic nobles Conti and Soissons served the Protestant Conde in the 1587 campaigns. 123
  • The Crown was not above making alliances with the Huguenots when it served its purposes. In 1571, Charles IX allied with the Huguenots for an anti-Habsburg campaign in the Low Countries.124
  • Henry III joined forces with the Protestant Henry of Navarre in 1589.125 The Catholic kings also made alliances with Protestants beyond France’s borders. In 158o, Anjou offered the French Crown’s support to Dutch Calvinist rebels against Spanish rule. In return, Anjou would become sovereign of the Netherlands, if the revolt should succeed. He took up his position in the Netherlands in 1582, though his reign lasted only a year.126
  • The fluidity of the nobles’ and the Crown’s ecclesial affiliations is cap­tured by Salmon in the following passage:

If the shift from feudal obligation to clientage had intensified the spirit of self-interest among the nobility of the sword, it was never more evident than in the years immediately before the death of Anjou in 1584. Ambition and expediency among the princes, magnates, and their followers made a mockery of reli­gious ideals. Huguenot and Catholic Politiques had co-operated in Anjou’s service in the Netherlands, just as they had at Navarre’s petty court at Nerac. Montpensier, once a zealous persecutor of heretics, had deserted the Guisard camp to advocate toleration. Damville had changed alliances once more and abandoned his close association with the Valois government to effect a rapprochement with Navarre. For political reasons Navarre himself had resisted a mission undertaken by Epernon to reconvert him to Catholicism. Not only his Huguenot counselors, Duplessis-Mornay and d’Aubigne, urged him to stand firm, but even his Catholic chancellor, Du Ferrier, argued that more would be lost than gained by a new apostasy. More surprising was a covert attempt by Philip II to secure Navarre as his ally, coupled with a proposal that the Bourbon should repudiate Marguerite de Valois to marry the Infanta.127

  • Collaboration between Protestants and Catholics of the lower classes was also widespread in the French wars of religion, mainly in an effort to resist abuse by the nobility and the Crown. In Agen in 1562, the Catholic baron Francois de Fumel forbade his Huguenot peasants from conducting services in the Calvinist manner. They revolted and were joined by hundreds of Catholic peasants. Together, they seized Fumel’s château and beheaded him in front of his wife. Holt comments, “The episode shows above all how difficult it is to divide sixteenth-century French men and women into neat communities of Protestants and Catholics along doctrinal or even cultural lines.”128
  • In 1578, the Protestant and Catholic inhabitants of Pont-en-Roians acted together to expel the Protestant captain Bouvier, who had refused to abide by the terms of the Treaty of Bergerac.129
  • In 1578-1580, the widespread Chaperons-sans-cordon uprising united Catholics and Protestants against the Crown’s attempt to impose a third levy of the taille tax in a single year. In 1579, an army of Catholic and Protestant artisans and peasants based in Romans destroyed the fortress of Chateaudouble and went on to capture Roissas. The combined forces moved throughout the region, occupying seigneurial manors. They were finally trapped and slaughtered by royal troops in March 1580.130 In 1579, Catholic and Protestant parishes actively collaborated in the revolt in the Vivarais against the violence and corruption of the ruling classes. In the spring of 1580, the Protestant Francois Barjac led a combined Catholic and Huguenot force from the Vivarais against the troops stationed at the fortress of Crusso.131
  • In 1586, Catholic and Protestant villages collaborated in an attack on Saint Bertrand de Comminges.132 In 1591, the peasant federation of the Campanelle, based in Comminges, joined Catholics and Protestants together to make war on the nobility.133
  • In the Haut-Biterrois in the 1590s, a league of twenty-four villages of both Protestants and Catholics arose to protest taxes and set up a sys­tem of self-defense and self-government.134
  • In 1593-1594, Protestant and Catholic peasants joined in dozens of uprisings in the southwest of France. Some of these consisted of a few hundred peasants, while others gathered up to 40,000.135 The most famous of these revolts was that of the Croquants, whose articles of association required the ignoring of ecclesial differences.136
  • If Protestants and Catholics often collaborated in the French civil wars of 1562-1598, it is also the case that the Catholics were divided into two main parties, the Catholic League and those called politiques, who often found themselves on opposing sides of the violence. The queen mother, Catherine de Medici, promoted Protestants like Navarre, Conde, and Coligny to positions of importance in order to counter the power of the ultra-Catholic Guises. In May 1588, the Guise-led Catholic League took Paris from the royal troops, and Henry III fled the city. In December of that year, Henry III had the duke and cardinal of Guise killed and made a pact with the Protestant Henry of Navarre to make war on the Catholic League. Henry III was assassinated in August 1589 by a Jacobin monk. With Henry of Navarre as successor to the throne, Catholics split into royalists who supported him and Leaguers who led a full-scale military rebellion against him and his supporters.137 The myth of the religious wars presents the Thirty Years’ War as one widespread unified conflict pitting Europe’s Protestants against its Catholics. There was indeed an attempt in 1609 to expand the Protestant Union created by eight German principalities into a pan-European alliance. However, only the counts of Oettingen and the cities of Strasbourg, Ulm, and Nuremburg responded. The elec­tor of Saxony, King Christian of Denmark, and the Reformed cit­ies of Switzerland—in short, the majority of Protestant princes and regions—refused to participate in the Protestant Union.138 When the Protestant estates of Bohemia rebelled against Emperor Ferdinand II in the opening act of the Thirty Years’ War, they offered the crown of Bohemia to Frederick V of the Palatinate, one of the founders of the Protestant Union. The other members of the Protestant Union refused to support him, however, and the union disbanded two years later.139 The Protestant Union attracted some Catholic support. The now-Catholic Henry IV of France sent troops to support the Protestant Union’s intervention in the succession crisis in Cleves-Julich in 1610, but he demanded as a condition of support that the union sever all con­tact with French Huguenots.140 The Catholic prince Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy made an alliance with the Protestant Union in 1619 because the Austrian Habsburgs had failed to solve the succession crisis in Monferrato in a way favorable to his interests. After the Bohemian Protestants were defeated at the Battle of White Mountain, Carlo Emanuele switched his support to the Habsburgs.141
  • The Lutheran elector of Saxony, John George, helped Emperor Ferdinand II to reconquer Bohemia in exchange for the Habsburg province Lusatia.142 In 1626, the elector of Saxony published a lengthy argument in which he tried to persuade his fellow Protestants to sup­port the Catholic emperor. According to John George, the emperor was fighting a just war against rebels, not a crusade against Protestants; what the emperor did in Bohemia and Austria was covered by the prin­ciple of cuius regio, eius religio. Those who opposed the emperor were guilty of treason. The elector of Saxony even cited Luther’s admonition to obey the powers that be.143 John George would later throw in his lot with the Swedes against the emperor.144
  • Catholic France supported Protestant princes from early in the war. France supported the Protestant Grisons in Switzerland against the Habsburgs in 1623.145 In 1624, the minister for foreign affairs, Charles de la Vieuville, made alliances and promises of aid to the Dutch and to multiple German Protestant princes. He also opened negotiations with England to restore Frederick to the throne of Bohemia.146
  • Cardinal Richelieu replaced Vieuville later in 1624 and demanded English and Dutch help in repressing the Huguenots. When such help was not forthcoming, Richelieu abandoned plans for an alliance with England; the Dutch, however, did send a fleet to aid in the defeat of the Huguenot stronghold La Rochelle in 1628.147
  • While the Calvinist Dutch were helping the French Crown to defeat the Calvinists at La Rochelle, Catholic Spain was supporting the Protestant duke of Rohan in his battle against the French Crown in Languedoc.148 The principal adviser of the Calvinist elector of Brandenburg, George William, was a Catholic, Count Adam of Schwarzenberg.149
  • One of the leading commanders of the Imperial Army under Albrecht von Wallenstein, Hans Georg von Arnim, was a Lutheran. Historian R. Po-Chia Hsia remarks, “To build the largest and most powerful army in Europe, Wallenstein employed military talent regardless of confessional allegiance.”150
  • Wallenstein’s foot soldiers included many Protestants, including, ironically, those fleeing because of the imposition of Catholic rule in their home territories. In April 1633, for example, Wallenstein gained a large number of Protestant recruits from Austria who left because of Emperor Ferdinand’s policy of re-Catholicization there.151
  • Private mercenary armies of flexible allegiance helped to perpetuate the Thirty Years’ War. Soldiers of fortune sold the services of their armies to the highest bidder. Ernst von Mansfield worked first for the Catholic Spanish, then for the Lutheran Frederick V, and subsequently switched sides several more times.152 Protestant Scots and English served as officers in Catholic armies, especially in France. Some, like Captain Sidnam Poyntz, switched sides several times.153 Sir James Turner acknowledged that he “had swallowed, without chewing, in Germanie, a very dangerous maxime, which military men there too much follow, which was, that soe we serve our master honestlie, it is no matter what master we serve.”154
  • Sweden’s king Gustavus Adolphus is sometimes presented as the champion of the Protestant cause upon his entry into the war in 1630. However, Gustavus found it difficult to gain Protestant allies. When Swedish troops landed in Germany, their sole ally in the empire was the city of Stralsund. Over the next few months, the Swedes gained only a few more small principalities as allies.155 The most powerful of the Protestant imperial diets saw the Swedish invasion as a threat. They met in the Convention of Leipzig from February to April 1631 in order to form a third party independent of Swedish and imperial control.156 After the initial Swedish victories in 1631, however, many formerly neutral territories were forced to join the Swedes. With Swedish troops approaching in October 1631, Margrave Christian of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, who had heretofore avoided any military engagement, swore his allegiance to Gustavus and agreed to quarter and subsidize his troops. The common people endured many hardships due to the pres­ence of the Swedish troops. When the Lutheran peasants attempted to drive out the Swedes in November 1632, they were massacred.157 France under Cardinal Richelieu signed a treaty with Sweden in January 1631, in which France agreed to subsidize heavily the Swedish war effort.158 Cardinal Richelieu also made a pact with the Protestant principality of Hesse-Kassel.159 The French began sending troops to battle imperial forces in the winter of 1634-1635, and the latter half of the Thirty Years’ War was largely a battle between Catholic France, on the one hand, and the Catholic Habsburgs, on the other.160
  • In March 1635, the troops of fervently Catholic Spain attacked Trier and kidnapped the Catholic archbishop elector. Catholic France subsequently declared war on Catholic Spain.I61
  • In May 1635, the Protestant principalities of Brandenburg and Saxony reconciled with the emperor in the Peace of Prague. Not only did hostilities between the parties cease, but the armies of the Protestant principalities were absorbed into the imperial armies. Within months, most Lutheran states made peace with the emperor on the same terms and proceeded to direct their energies against the Swedes.162 By 1638, the Scottish Presbyterian Robert Baillie could observe, “For the Swedds, I see not what their eirand is now in Germany, bot to shed Protestant blood.”163
  • The pope, on the other hand, refused to support the Holy Roman emperor and gave his approval to the Swedish-French alliance. Pope Urban VIII’s main interest lay in weakening Habsburg control over the papal states in central Italy.164
  • In 1643, Lutheran Sweden attacked Lutheran Denmark. King Christian IV had long harassed Swedish shipping in the Baltic and given asylum to political enemies of Sweden. When word reached Stockholm that Denmark was negotiating an alliance with the emperor, Sweden decided on a preemptive strike. The conflict lasted two years. Despite the Catholic emperor’s aid, Denmark was defeated and forced to sue for peace.165

It would be difficult to come up with a list similar to the one above for the English Civil War, in part because the major contestants—Puritans and Laudians—were factions of the same Anglican Church. However, Scottish Presbyterians entered the fray on the side of the Puritans, while Irish Catholics supported Scottish Presbyterians as a way of weakening the monarchy.166

If the above instances of war making—in which members of the same church fought each other and members of different churches collaborated—undermine the standard narrative of the wars of religion, the absence of war between Lutherans and Calvinists also undermines the standard tale. If theo­logical difference tends toward a war of all sects against all, we should expect to find Lutheran-Calvinist wars, but in fact we find none. Although there were internal tensions in some principalities between Lutheran princes and Calvinist nobility or Calvinist princes and Lutheran nobility,167 no Lutheran prince ever went to war against a Calvinist prince. The absence of such wars cannot be attributed to the similarity of Lutheranism and Calvinism. There were sufficient theological differences to sustain a permanent divide between the two branches of the Reformation. Such differences were serious enough to produce sporadic attempts by the civil authorities to enforce doctrinal unifor­mity. In the decades following Phillip Melanchthon’s death in 1560, there was an effort to root out “Crypto-Calvinists” from the ranks of Lutheranism. The rector of the University of Wittenberg, Caspar Peucer, was jailed for Crypto-Calvinism from 1574 to 1586; Nikolaus Krell was executed for Crypto-Calvinism in Dresden in 1601. Many Crypto-Calvinists among the Lutherans were forced to relocate to regions friendlier to Calvinism, such as Hesse-Kasse1.168 However, the fact that Lutheran-Calvinist tensions played no part in the wars of religion indicates at minimum that significant theological differences in the public realm did not necessarily produce war in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. There simply was no war of all sects against all.

The long list above is almost certainly incomplete. It is gleaned from a reading of some standard histories of the wars of religion. Undoubtedly, a pro­fessional historian of this period could add more instances of war between members of the same church and collaboration in war among members of different churches. Undoubtedly as well, we could compile an even longer list of acts of war between Catholics and Protestants in the sixteenth and seven­teenth centuries. Nevertheless, we must at least observe at this point that the first component of the myth (A) must be significantly qualified by all of the above instances in which it does not hold. As we will see, once we consider the implications of the above list, problems arise with the other components of the myth as well.

(B) The Primary Cause of the Wars Was Religion, as Opposed to Merely Political, Economic, or Social Causes

May we not simply conclude that the above list contains exceptions to the gen­eral rule of war between different religions in this era, but the standard nar­rative of the wars of religion still holds? That is, may we not claim that the majority of violence was Catholic-Protestant, and so, granting the above excep­tions, the standard narrative is valid?

There are two immediate reasons that this would not be an adequate response. First, the above list contains more than just a few isolated instances. In the case of the Thirty Years’ War, for example, the entire latter half of the war was primarily a struggle between the two great Catholic powers of Europe: France, on the one hand, and the two branches of the Habsburgs, on the other. Second, the above list contains more than just exceptions; if the wars in question are indeed wars of religion, then the instances above are inexpli­cable exceptions, unless other factors are given priority over religion. Why, in a war over religion, would those who share the same religious beliefs kill each other? Why, in a war over religion, would those on opposite sides of the reli­gious divide collaborate? If the answer is that people prioritized other concerns over their religious views, then it does not make sense to call them wars of religion.

Imagine I am writing a history of World War I. I am telling the standard story of the war as a struggle between two sets of nations, fueled by com­plex national aspirations, when I uncover a startling fact: the English coun­ties of Somerset, Kent, Durham, Shropshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cumbria, and Cornwall entered World War I on the side of the Kaiser. Leaders in each of these counties declared their allegiance to the German cause, and thousands of troops were sent by ship to Hamburg to join the German forces fighting on the Western Front. I could respond to this discovery by noting these odd exceptions, but pointing out that the majority of English counties fought for the Allied powers, so the basic plotline of the war is unaltered. If I were a good historian, however, I would most likely drop everything and try to find a nar­rative that would take these cases into account. Perhaps nationalism was not the only force driving this war. What motivated the leaders of these counties? Did the troops from these counties go out of conviction or desperation? Were they volunteers, conscripts, or mercenaries? What grievances did these coun­ties have against London that made them unwilling to fight for the king? What other factors besides nationalism were at work in this war?

In the actual case of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars, histo­rians generally deal with the facts from the list above by acknowledging that other factors besides religion were at work in the wars of religion—political, economic, and social factors. The question then becomes one of the relative importance of the various factors. Are political, economic, and social factors important enough that we are no longer justified in calling these wars “of religion”? The above list consists of acts of war in which religion as the most important motivating factor must necessarily be ruled out. But once religion is ruled out as a significant factor from these events, the remainder of the acts of war—those between Protestants and Catholics—become suspect as well. Were other factors besides religion the principal motivators in those cases too? If Catholics killed Catholics for political and economic reasons, did Catholics also kill Protestants for political and economic reasons?

Historians take different positions on this question. Opinions range from those who think that religion was an important factor among other significant factors to those who think that religion was not important, except as a cover for underlying political, economic, and social causes. Since the Enlightenment, these wars have been labeled wars “of religion.” Since the wars occurred, however, there have been those who have doubted whether in fact they were actually religious wars.169 Michel de Montaigne in the sixteenth century remarked that, “if anyone should sift out of the army, even the average loyalist army, those who march in it from the pure zeal of affection for religion …he could not make up one complete company of men-at-arms out of them.”170

This divide is apparent if we look at twentieth-century historiography of the French wars. For much of the century, historians downplayed the role of religion in favor of supposedly more fundamental political, economic, and social causes. J.-H. Mariejol in 1904 stressed the role of the dissident nobility of the sword who joined the Huguenot movement to avenge grievances against the monarchy and the church: “Whether it wanted to or not, [the Huguenot church] served as a rallying point for all kinds of malcontents. It ceased being uniquely a church; it became a party.”171 Lucien Romier—whose two-volume 1913 study Les Origines politiques des guerres de religion set the tone for much further historiography of the period—also focused on the role of dissident nobility and found their theological bona fides wanting: “In short, the nobility were thinking of their own interest and were not particularly concerned with bringing it into accord with any precise doctrine. It cannot be denied that self­ish passion and sometimes unrestrained greed persuaded many of the nobil­ity and captains to join the Protestants.”172 James Westfall Thompson’s 1909 book, The Wars of Religion in France, which was for decades the standard text in English, took a similar approach. Thompson wrote, “Although the purposes of the Huguenots were clandestinely more political than religious, it was expe­dient to cloak them under a mantle of faith.”173 John Neale located the root of the religious wars in the weakness of the French monarchy.174 As for the dis­sidents who opposed the monarchy, he concluded, “Generally speaking, social discontent found an outlet for itself in religious and political unrest.”175 Henri Drouot’s 1937 work on the Catholic League in Burgundy saw religious factors as merely a cover for class tensions: “With the economic and monetary crisis [of the late 1580s], with civil war replacing foreign war and internal peace, social mobility ceased. Classes were more clearly defined, and above all, social tensions arose and festered, social tensions that religion could disguise in its own colors and intensify with fanaticism, but which were really the basis of local tensions at the time of the League.”176 Henri Hauser wrote of the outbreak of violence in 1562, “Elements of social and political discontent were to become much more significant than religious faith in the complex attitudes of the new Protestants, and thenceforth it became possible to speak of ‘political’ as well as of ‘religious’ Huguenots.”177 In the 19 6os, George Livet’s Les Guerres de religion identified the “economic and social crisis” of France in the sixteenth century as the principal cause of the wars.178 Hauser’s distinction between types of Huguenots indicates that religion was not entirely forgotten as a motivating force, and some mid-twentieth-century historians, such as Robert Kingdon and N. M. Sutherland, maintained the importance of religious factors.179 Until the 1970s, however, the dominant opinion tended to push aside religion in its search for the underlying material causes of the wars.

Natalie Zemon Davis’s 1973 article, “The Rites of Violence,” is consid­ered a watershed for bringing religious factors back into the study of the French wars. Davis objects to the standard practice of reducing religious fac­tors to, for example, class conflict, and identifies the cause of popular riots in sixteenth-century France as “ridding the community of dreaded pollution.”180 For Catholics, the rites of violence promised the “restoration of unity to the body social”; for Protestants, the goal was the creation of a new kind of unity in the body social.181 The rites of violence were drawn from a variety of sources: the Bible, the liturgy, the action of political authority, the traditions of folk justice.182 Their underlying function was the dehumanization of victims.183 Such riots were religious because they drew from the fundamental values of the community.184 Other factors, economic, social, and political, were at play in popular riots—pillaging was common, for example, indicating economic motives—but “the prevalence of pillaging in a riot should not prevent us from seeing it as essentially religious.”185

In his 1993 review article, “Putting Religion Back into the Wars of Religion,” Mack Holt identifies a number of other twentieth-century attempts to take religious factors seriously. According to Holt, the older Weberian approach is being supplanted by a more Durkheimian influence; rather than see material causes as more fundamental than religion, Durkheim identified religion with the rituals necessary to bind adherents to the social group. Holt sees this influence in the work of Natalie Davis, Carlo Ginzburg, John Bossy, Keith Thomas, and other historians who retain Durkheim’s emphasis on reli­gion as social, but give a greater role to human agency than did Durkheim. Holt then goes on to review several attempts to put religion back into the French religious wars. Denis Crouzet’s massive two-volume Les guerriers de Dieu: La violence au temps des troubles de religion, which appeared in 1990, finds the source of the wars in the prevalence of popular apocalyptic visions of the end times.186 The collective psychology of “eschatological anguish,” rather than political, economic, or social factors, was the principal engine of the wars. The Huguenot project of desacralization was a threat to the sacral monarchy and the purity of the entire social order. The threat was inter­preted in apocalyptic terms, as an attempt to create a new world. Holt also reviews Natalie Davis’s student Barbara Diefendorf’s 1991 book, Beneath the Cross: Catholics and Huguenots in Sixteenth-Century Paris. According to Holt, Diefendorf “shows how the normal socioeconomic tensions of the period were exacerbated by confessional strife.”187 Holt notes that Diefendorf is particu­larly effective in showing that Catholic eucharistic imagery was used to rein­force the boundaries of the social order and identify threats to that order. Holt writes that Diefendorf’s book underscores Crouzet’s attempt to “restore the centrality of religion” in the French civil wars,188 but Diefendorf herself positions her book as occupying a “middle ground” between Crouzet’s book, which offers “very little room for politics,” and more standard, “overly politi­cal” interpretations of the period.189 Holt also reviews books by Denis Richet and Michael Wolfe, which do not downplay the importance of religious fac­tors, and one that does, Iron and Blood by Henry Heller. Richet argues that “the ‘idea of nation’ was enfolded with religion during the civil wars”;190 Wolfe argues, “Although politics certainly had its place, as did questions of social interest and economic competition, these bitter conflicts were primarily reli­gious wars.”191 Holt applauds Richet and Wolfe, but takes issue with Heller’s view that the French civil wars of the sixteenth century were “from start to finish … a kind of class war from above.”192 In Heller’s avowedly Marxist approach, both the Huguenot movement and the Catholic League were seen as threats to monarchy and the nobility, who put them down with force. Holt objects to the reductionism implied by Heller’s blunt contention that “[r]eli-gion is beside the point.”193

We have, then, one group of historians that dismisses religion as an important factor in the French civil wars of the sixteenth century, and another group that wants to reclaim religion as an important driving force among oth­ers in these conflicts. (We should note that similar conflicts of interpretation are present in the historiography of the other wars of religion beyond France.) We must at least note that historians have given us ample reason to doubt the straightforward tale of theological zealotry run amok that Voltaire, Rawls, Shklar, and others tell. No academic historian, with the possible exception of Crouzet, tells the story that way. With regard to component (B) of the myth of the wars of religion, then, we must conclude that the myth is at best a distorted and one-dimensional narrative; at worst, it eliminates so many of the relevant political, economic, and social factors as to be rendered false.

But is the solution simply to seek balance among the various factors? Barbara Diefendorf’s question is an apt one: “Must we go from an overly polit­ical interpretation of the period to one that seems to offer very little room for politics, at least as traditionally viewed?” Should we, like Diefendorf, seek a middle ground between political and religious interpretations? Or is there a problem with the way politics and religion have been, in Diefendorf’s phrase, “traditionally viewed”?

  • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 141-155.

Switching gears a bit… to how secular society is far worse off than any (save Islamic) religious culture prior. One must keep in mind the mass killings on a grand scals for the Twentieth Century was “prophesied” about by a well-known atheist, Frederick Nietzsche:

Nihilism can take more than one form. There is, for instance, passive nihilism, a pessimistic acquiescence in the absence of values and in the purposelessness of existence. But there is also active nihilism which seeks to destroy that in which it no longer believes. And Nietzsche prophesies the advent of an active nihilism, showing itself in world-shaking ideological wars. “There will be wars such as there have never been on earth before. Only from my time on will there be on earth politics on the grand scale.”

The advent of nihilism is in Nietzsche’s opinion inevitable. And it will mean the final overthrow of the decadent Christian civilization of Europe. At the same time it will clear the way for a new dawn, for the transvaluation of values, for the emergence of a higher type of man. For this reason “this most gruesome of all guests”, who stands at the door, is to be welcomed.

  • Frederick Copleston, S.J., A History of Philosophy, Volume VII (New York, NY: Doubleday, Image Books edition,1994), 405-405

Here is an adaptation of the linked article:

The Bible does not teach the horrible practices that some have committed in its name. It is true that it’s possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the details it produces evil because the individual people [Christians] are actually living in rejection of the tenets of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following. So it [religion] can produce evil, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism (non-religious practices) actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We’re talking about tens of millions of people as a result of the rejection of God. For example: the Inquisitions, Crusades, Salem Witch Trials killed about anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 persons combined (World Book Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia Americana), and the church is liable for the unjustified murder of about (taking the high number here) 300,000-women over about a 300 year period. A blight on Christianity? Certainly. Something wrong? Dismally wrong.

A tragedy? Of course. Millions and millions of people killed? No. The numbers are tragic, but pale in comparison to the statistics of what non-religious criminals have committed); the Chinese regime of Mao Tse Tung, 60 million [+] dead (1945-1965), Stalin and Khrushchev, 66 million dead (USSR 1917-1959), Khmer Rouge (Cambodia 1975-1979) and Pol Pot, one-third of the populations dead, etc, etc. The difference here is that these non-God movements are merely living out their worldview, the struggle for power, survival of the fittest and all that, no evolutionary/naturalistic natural law is being violated in other words (as non-theists reduce everything to natural law — materialism). However, and this is key, when people have misused the Christian religion for personal gain, they are in direct violation to what Christ taught, as well as Natural Law.

(The above two paragraphs are a condensing of Gregory Koukl’s, “The Real Murderers: Atheism or Christianity?”)

“The stronger must dominate and not mate with the weaker, which would signify the sacrifice of its own higher nature.  Only the born weakling can look upon this principle as cruel, and if he does so it is merely because he is of a feebler nature and narrower mind; for if such a law [natural selection] did not direct the process of evolution then the higher development of organic life would not be conceivable at all….  If Nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.”

  • Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, translator/annotator, James Murphy [New York: Hurst and Blackett, 1942], pp. 161-162; found in: Norman L. Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions About the Christian Faith [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2001], 206.


My Discussion with Professor Tom Melendy (Part 2)

…This is continued from Part I

Nick DeM. again adds

i can’t get enough of this conversation!!! pbs needs to give you gentlemen a morning talk show.


May I say I disagree that the data supports evolution, neo-Darwinian at least. The data is INTERPRETED a certain way, for instance, from my first chapter of my book (it is a refutation of sorts to a fellow classmate that produced the DVD, “The God Who Wasn’t There”).

And the main idea here is that one position is metaphysical, the other is more neutral… which will lead into my next comment, and a change of direction to the conversation if you do not mind Doc Melendy

….Let us see if we can ferret out Mr. Flemming’s starting premise with an interview with Dr. Dean Kenyon,[1] Assistant Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University (Emeritus), when he was asked this question: “What are the general presuppositions that scientists make who study the origin of life?” Dr. Kenyon responded:

“Well, I think there are two general kinds of presuppositions that people can make, one is that life, in fact, did arise naturalistically on the primitive earth by some kind of chemical evolutionary process. The second presupposition would be that life may or may not have arisen by a naturalistic, chemical process. Now, if you have the first presupposition, then the goal of your research is to work out plausible pathways of chemical development to go to the bio-polymers, then to the protocells; and what would be likely pathways that you could demonstrate in the laboratory by simulation experiment. If you have the second presupposition, your still going to be doing experiments, but you’re going to be more open to the possibility that the data, as they [or, it] come[s] in from those studies may actually be suggesting a different explanation of origins altogether.”[2]

The logical position, what I would say is the truly scientific way to look at these issues, is to say what Kenyon just did: “life may or may not have arisen by a naturalistic, chemical process.” He, in other words, did not beg the question. This embedded philosophy[3] is what the fervor was over in Kansas a few years back. The Kansas Board of Education caused a firestorm by hearing the drafting board’s proposal to change one word in the working definition of science. The original drafting commission defined science as:

  • “Science is the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”

The Kansas board of education drafting committee defined science as,

  • “Science is the human activity of seeking logical explanations for what we observe in the world around us.”[4]

This simple word change, and the subsequent fervor it caused, illustrates the embedded philosophy in current science.[5] So the first thing that Principle Sipus should have asked of Brian is for him to define what science is and the type of evidence his definition of science produces. After getting his definition he should have asked this:

Since the evidence you are asking for is excluded by your definition of empirical science, aren’t you “begging the question” Brian? Likewise I could ask of you to disprove by the scientific method God’s existence, and, by your definition of science — which excludes anything metaphysical — I would be setting you up for failure, because science (at least as you [Brian] define it) is incapable of proving or disproving God.”

[1] Kenyon received a B.Sc. in physics from the University of Chicago in 1961 and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University in 1965. In 1965-1966 he was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Chemical Biodynamics at the University of California, Berkeley, a Research Associate at Ames Research Center. In 1966, he became Assistant Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University. He has been Emeritus at San Francisco State University since 2000.

[2] Focus on Darwinism: An Interview with Dean H. Kenyon (Focus on Origin Series, Access Research Network, DVD, 2004).

[3] I will give yet another example that makes my point for me: “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.” Kansan State University immunologist, Scott Todd, correspondence to Nature, 410 [6752], 30 September, 1999.

[4] Phillip E. Johnson, The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 68 (emphasis added).

[5] i.e., scientism, materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you want to call it… it is still a metaphysical position as it assumes or presumes certain things about the entire universe. D’Souza points this a priori commitment out:

Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather, they are scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith. Here is Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment — a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Dinesh D’Souza points to this in his recent book, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).


(To buttress the above):

If science really is permanently committed to methodological naturalism – the philosophical position that restricts all explanations in science to naturalistic explanations – it follows that the aim of science is not generating true theories. Instead, the aim of science would be something like: generating the best theories that can be formulated subject to the restriction that the theories are naturalistic. More and more evidence could come in suggesting that a supernatural being exists, but scientific theories wouldn’t be allowed to acknowledge that possibility.

(Atheist) Bradley Monton, author of “Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design”

Tom, let’s leave your specialty for a bit, if you don’t mind, and enter into the above topic. “What is evidence.” Historically, in the Christian faith, there have been two books, one is “Book of Revelation,” and the other is the “Book of Nature.” The early Church Fathers (really apologists) said you can/could glean information from both — one of course being more complete, at least, for the Christian.

I am sure you would agree with most of what is below[?], it comes from a discussion I had a decade ago:

…The question then is: What evidence do you need? Or better yet: What kind of evidence? Can Science help? Lets see… the scientific method merely shows that if miracles did occur in the past, that science (as currently defined) could not prove, or disprove, their occurrence. You cannot find out what Napoleon did at the Battle of Austerlitz by asking him to come and fight it again in a laboratory with the same combatants, the same terrain, the same weather, and in the same age. You have to go to the records. We have not, in fact, proved that science excludes miracles: we have only proved that the question of miracles, like the innumerable other questions [of history], excludes laboratory treatment. And Christianity claims to be a historical belief. The resurrection of Jesus was an historical event, one that cannot be repeated in the laboratory. So how, then, do we deal with the historic claims of Christianity? Like any other historical event, we go to the records.

  • “What are the distinctive sources for our beliefs about the past? Most of the beliefs we have about the past come to us by the testimony of other people. I wasn’t present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I didn’t see my father fight in the [S]econd [W]orld [W]ar. I have been told about these events by sources that I take to be reliable. The testimony of others is generally the main source of our beliefs about the past…. So all our beliefs about the past depend on testimony, or memory, or both.” (Philosophy for Dummies, by Tom Morris, pp. 57-58)
  • “In advanced societies specialization in the gathering and production of knowledge and its wider dissemination through spoken and written testimony is a fundamental socio-epistemic fact, and a very large part of each persons body of knowledge and belief stems from testimony.” (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Robert Audi[2nd ed.], p. 909)
  • “But it is clear that most of what any given individual knows comes from others; palpably with knowledge of history, geography, or science, more subtly with knowledge about every day facts such as when we were born..” (The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, edited by Ted Honderich, p. 869)

So when Shadow Warchief says, “I haven’t seen a single shred of evidence for the existence of God,” is he defining what evidence is and how we get knowledge about past events, and then going to the sources to see if they are credible or not? (http://www.scribd.com/doc/48848626/Apologetics-Evidence-Paper)

From this past conversation the point is made that evidence isn’t always empirical. Remember my mock discussion between the professor and his student? — not “mine,” but from the book I recommended to you).

So, how do you prove God? You can have fingerprints of His work (intelligent design, which predates Christ, and thus, is not “creationism” in disguise), you can combine the “Book of Revelation” with that of “Nature” (creationism), BUT… how do you prove God’s existence?

Only if God dealt with — miraculously — our world. Which the Christian faith says He did. Of course coming in human form as well. Yes, the Creator of the space-time-continuum, the BANG behind the “Big-Bang” came to our world. Whether you are an old earth creationist (OEC), a theistic-Christian, or a young earther (YEC)… the answer to the question of “who Jesus is/was” should be answered by our faith. And thus answer the idea that God’s existence can be proven.


Tom Melendy

Okay Sean, the quality of your posts is decreasing. You’re now citing an Assistant Professor (Emeritus just means retired) of physics/biophysics at San Francisco State University (note this is NOT the same as the University of California San Francisco – SFS is just one step above a community college for Pete’s sake) as a source on a question about biology. That’s an epic Fail. His NSF fellowship – no biggie – particularly when he got it, back in the 60s when grant funding rates were over 50%, and fellowship rates were even higher, it was a breeze to get those things (and yes, I got a more prestigious fellowship during much more competitive times – I was also a US Presidential Fellow if you know what that means).

I’m not here to argue the Big Bang, that’s not my area. Nor am I here to argue the origins of life on Earth. While I have read a few of the papers on that area, it is not my specialty, and I am ill equipped to ague for or against it – so I won’t. I take no position on these topics. What I am fairly well equipped to defend, is that from the early forms of life on this planet, there is a clear fossil, and in many cases genetic (I say “many” because we can’t extract useable genetic material from the earliest fossils) record that is phenomenally consistent with evolution (many would say “creating” but I’ll say) being the method by which current forms of life on this planet were created (again, if anyone wants to propose evolution as the way in which God created the animals and mankind, I have zero problem with that). I agree, Sean, science cannot disprove miracles – nor can science disprove things supernatural. I agree that some things cannot be tested in the laboratory because we cannot ‘be’ there and cannot reproduce it in the laboratory (your example about Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz), for these we have to rely on other evidence – but it is NOT JUST testimony Sean – we an go to old battlefields today and we can find evidence of the battles and how they occurred. People can even collect samples of DNA from items from battles fought hundreds of years ago and find out who was fighting – testimony is important, but so is other methods of evaluation. – back to the point I was making – I agree science cannot disprove miracles. Yet when you have something where there is clear evidence that it can be the result of a natural process – why invoke a supernatural process? The rule of Occams razor comes into effect here (yes, I can invoke a little philosophy too Sean) – the principle of parsimony states that when using logic or question/problem-solving, the simplest argument or the argument invoking the fewest gaps or unsupported steps is favored. Specifically – there is a great deal of evidence that supports evolution being the process by which complex forms of life, and mankind, arose from earlier forms of life. Even given miracles are possible, the rule of Occams razor states that the conclusion that current forms of life arose through evolution is far more favored over a second theory, that all current forms of life arose through a miracle(s). In other words, if a natural process can be used to explain this, one should not assume the miraculous theory. If I carry out an experiment and natural sciences cannot explain my result – I say so; I say the results cannot be explained. That is not the case for evolution, don’t invoke miracles when you don’t need to.

I wish to add here that Tom’s adding DNA to the example of Napoleons Battle of Austerlitz misses the point. The scientist grabbing some bones from the battlefield is still 100% relying on historical records/testimony that this is where the bone is coming from. A picture of Abraham Lincoln is considered authentic because of the historical testimony surround the picture in question and the many other testimonies surrounding other pictures. We come to knowledge that this isn’t a “carny” look alike for photo ops.


Sean Giordano It is telling to me that you dismiss a point (the point is separate from the person) in an ad-hominem manner. Dr. Kenyon, when an evolutionist, had one of the most popular book in the cutting edge of where evolutionary theory was heading at that point (science corrects itself).

There are Nobel prize winning scientists that are I.D.’ers, and I noted before that the guy most credited in getting us to the moon, the co-founder of the MRI, and the most lauded pediatric surgeon are YEC. Not to mention Dr. Edgar Andrews would surely at least like to survey your positions above… as well as Dr. Jonathan Sarfati. Even if they do not get involved in the convo, there are very intelligent men who take positions that are rejected apriori to the dealing with the positions taken based on the evidence. in other words, you define, apriori, what evidence is… sometimes based on whether a person is an evolutionist or not. In fact, you are talking to a three time felon, high school drop out. I just happened to have read over 2,000 books cover-to-cover (I have over 5,000 in my home library) and finally went to seminary to get a non-scientific degree.

Ironic… the quote must have hit close to home for you to mention his position (I am only assuming based on your reaction… if we were playing poler, its called “a tell”).

The idea I clearly espoused via the quote from my book is the same the atheist Dr. Monton pointed out in regards to Newton’s position (arguably the greatest scientist):


Here’s the first of Pennock’s arguments against methodological naturalism that I’ll consider:

allowing appeal to supernatural powers in science would make the scientist’s task too easy, because one would always be able to call upon the gods for quick theoretical assistance…. Indeed, all empirical investigation beyond the purely descriptive could cease, for scientists would have a ready-made answer for everything.

This argument strikes me as unfair. Consider a particular empirical phenomenon, like a chemical reaction, and imagine that scientists are trying to figure out why the reaction happened. Pennock would say that scientists who allow appeal to supernatural powers would have a ready-made answer: God did it. While it may be that that’s the only true explanation that can be given, a good scientist-including a good theistic scientist—would wonder whether there’s more to be said. Even if God were ultimately the cause of the reaction, one would still wonder if the proximate cause is a result of the chemicals that went into the reaction, and a good scientist—even a good theistic scientist—would investigate whether such a naturalistic account could be given.

To drive the point home, an analogy might be helpful. With the advent of quantum mechanics, scientists have become comfortable with indeterministic events. For example, when asked why a particular radioactive atom decayed at the exact time that it did, most physicists would say that there’s no reason it decayed at that particular time; it was just an indeterministic event!’ One could imagine an opponent of indeterminism giving an argument that’s analogous to Pennock’s:

allowing appeal to indeterministic processes in science would make the scientist’s task too easy, because one would always be able to call upon chance for quick theoretical assistance…. Indeed, all empirical investigation beyond the purely descriptive could cease, for scientists would have a ready-made answer for everything.

It is certainly possible that, for every event that happens, scientists could simply say “that’s the result of an indeterministic chancy process; there’s no further explanation for why the event happened that way.” But this would clearly be doing bad science: just because the option of appealing to indeterminism is there, it doesn’t follow that the option should always be used. The same holds for the option of appealing to supernatural powers.

As further evidence against Pennock, it’s worth pointing out that prominent scientists in the past have appealed to supernatural powers, without using them as a ready-made answer for everything. Newton is a good example of this—he is a devout theist, in addition to being a great scientist, and he thinks that God sometimes intervenes in the world. Pennock falsely implies that this is not the case:

God may have underwritten the active principles that govern the world described in [Newton’s] Principia and the Opticks, but He did not interrupt any of the equations or regularities therein. Johnson and other creationists who want to dismiss methodological naturalism would do well to consult Newton’s own rules of reasoning….

But in fact, Newton does not endorse methodological naturalism. In his Opticks, Newton claims that God sometimes intervenes in the world. Specifically, Newton thinks that, according to his laws of motion, the orbits of planets in our solar system are not stable over long periods of time, and his solution to this problem is to postulate that God occasionally adjusts the motions of the planets so as to ensure the continued stability of their orbits. Here’s a relevant passage from Newton. (It’s not completely obvious that Newton is saying that God will intervene but my interpretation is the standard one.)

God in the Beginning form’d Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable Particles … it became him who created them to set them in order. And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature; though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages. For while Comets move in very excentrick Orbs in all manner of Positions, blind Fate could never make all the Planets move one and the same way in Orbs concentrick, some inconsiderable Irregularities excepted, which may have risen from the mutual Actions of Comets and Planets upon one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this System wants a Reformation…. [God is] able by his Will to move the Bodies within his boundless uniform Sensorium, and thereby to form and reform the Parts of the Universe….

A scientist who writes this way does not sound like a scientist who is following methodological naturalism.

It’s worth noting that some contemporaries of Newton took issue with his view of God occasionally intervening in the universe. For example, Leibniz writes:

Sir Isaac Newton and his followers also have a very odd opinion concerning the work of God. According to them, God Almighty needs to wind up his watch from time to time; otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion.”

Note, though, that Leibniz also thought that God intervened in the world:

I hold that when God works miracles, he does not do it in order to supply the wants of nature, but those of grace.

Later investigation revealed that in fact planetary orbits are more stable than Newton thought, so Newton’s appeal to supernatural powers wasn’t needed. But the key point is that Newton is willing to appeal to supernatural powers, without using the appeal to supernatural powers as a ready-made answer for everything.

Pennock says that “Without the binding assumption of uninterruptible natural law there would be absolute chaos in the scientific worldview.” Newton’s own approach to physics provides a good counterexample to this—Newton is a leading contributor to the scientific worldview, and yet he does not bind himself by the assumption of uninterruptible natural law.

Bradley Monton, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design (Buffalo, NY: Broadview Press, 2009), 62-64.


Haha… just thought of this. Next you will tell me his Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University is less important than you Ph.D. UCLA. Funny. I love the humorous positions that come from these discussions. the Bible says “a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18b).

It is ironic that Tom would not accept the simple premise that Dr. Kenyon gave because he is both ONLY an assistant professor AND has a doctorate in a field of science not related wholly to that of Tom’s… yet, here he is talking with a 3-time felon/high school drop out.

Tom Melendy

Who’s being haughty now Sean? You’ve stopped your “dialog” with me and now you’re just proselytizing. You’re complaining that I’m criticizing people’s degrees – it’s not where they are so much as what their background is! I’m sorry, biophysics is NOT biology – it’s physics (yes, applied to biological problems, but it’s PHYSICS!). Like I’ve posted above, reading the books does not make you a specialist, I don’t care if you’re a three-time felon college drop-out, OR a person with a biophysics PhD from Stanford.


And I will point out that you now refuse to engage my arguments – again, it looks like you’ve chickened out of the dialog and are just throwing quotes at the wall hoping something sticks. ANSWER MY POINTS IF YOU WANT A DIALOG! Could it be perhaps that you don’t know how to respond to a scientist who isn’t invested in discrediting the existence of God or miracles, but instead is just interesting in arguing the merits of evolution? You’ve replied to none of my points over the past day Sean. While I have criticized some of the “specialists” you cite, I have also responded to most of your points.


It seems almost as if you didn’t really want a dialog Sean, and that it was more like you were looking for a soap-box. Are you still unwilling to admit any credence for a role in evolution in the creation of mankind (whether God-driven or natual-laws driven)?

Here we come to the end of where Dr. Melendy participates. I answer a couple of his specific inquiries, but know that they are asked as if they cannot be answered. Enjoy the responses:


(I will mention a book for each section for those reading this.)

YOU ASKED (I deal with two more in-depth below)

let me ask you a question. If God created all the species* currently on the Earth either 6000 years ago, or through intelligent design, why is there so much evidence that supports Evolution? Why Ancient species, why evidence for intermediate* species? If you believe in an all-powerful God, yet don’t believe in Evolution, then why are these fossils there, then why does the genetic code show evidence of intermediates and sequence-relatedness consistent with Evolution? Do you believe God put it all there just to try to confuse us? Seems like a lot of trouble just to play a little mind-game with mankind – ??

Have you ever sought out a book by a doctorate holding person to answer these? Or do you go around thinking they are unanswerable?


Correcting Some Bad Thinking


I still think you were passing false information on in this regard to Jim:

Jim, Macro evolution has been observed in the laboratory under controlled conditions – within just a few generations you can “breed” fish to be miniature fish, which reproduce and “grow” up while never getting bigger than the size they were bred for.

And to me:

Macroevolution does NOT require an “increase in the gene pool” – the gene pool of the horse and donkey are virtually identical, yet they are separate species (yet closely related enough to produce sterile offspring). The reason they are different species is due to the cytogenetic changes (note that does NOT involve additional genetic material or a greater gene pool).

You should know what the other side believes before asking a question, its 101, you asked: “If God created all the SPECIES currently on the Earth either 6000 years ago, or through intelligent design, why is there so much evidence that supports Evolution?” He didn’t, God created the “Kinds,” which is more like Order (Felidae, Canidae, etc). You have a doctorate, right? Do you get it yet? Order… species… different.

In every Oxford dictionary and companion book to biology, physics, and the like, textbooks (I have many university level texts)… macroevolution has the same definition. I think you telling people on this site that special change is evidence of macro-evolution is deplorable. But maybe you thought no one would catch this because you were degreed. You did back away from this though… in many more words though than just saying “I was wrong.” I even had to throw in an elementary picture to make the point (http://tinyurl.com/3npkel8).

It is very important not to confuse the “created kind” with the modern use of the word species. Although animals like the fox and coyote might be considered different taxonomic species, they are still parts of the same “kind” of animal. The created kind is thought to be more often synonymous with the “Family” level of classification in the taxonomic hierarchy; at least in mammals; and occasionally it can extend as high as the order level. Here are some examples:

Felidae — Scientists from Creation Ministries International and the Institute for Creation Research have proposed that the original feline kind was comparable to the Liger and the Tigon.

Canidae — Including Wolves, Foxes, Jackals, Coyotes, and Domestic dogs.

Camelidae — Including both the Camel and the Llama, which are reproductively compatible, their hybrid offspring being known as “Camas.”

Bovidae — Including Cattle, Buffalo, Bison, and Yaks.

Equidae — Including Horses, Zebras, and Asses.

Caprinae — Including Sheep, Goats, and Ibex.

Crocodilia — Including all the varieties of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Gharials.

Elephantidae — Including African and Asian elephants, Mammoths, Mastodons, and Gomphotheres.

Thus the created kind corresponds roughly to the family level of taxonomic classification, and possibly even the order, with the notable exception of humanity wherein the genus is representative.[10]

Humanity — Dr. Sigrid Hartwig-Scherer of the University of Munich concluded that H. erectus/H. ergaster, Neanderthals and H. sapiens were members of the same basic type (which corresponds to a monobaramin) genus Homo.


BOOK: “Refuting Evolution 2,” by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati. (Free online: http://creation.com/refuting-evolution-2-index)


Anthropologist Edmund R. Leach told the 1981 Annual Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science:

✔ “Missing links in the sequence of fossil evidence were a worry to Darwin. He felt sure they would eventually turn up, but they are still missing and seem likely to remain so.”

David Raup, curator of geology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago:

✔ “He [Darwin] was embarrassed by the fossil record because it didn’t look the way he predicted it would and, as a result, he devoted a long section of his Origin of Species to an attempt to explain and rationalize the differences…. Darwin’s general solution to the incompatibility of fossil evidence and his theory was to say that the fossil record is a very incomplete one…. Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information [archaeopteryx as well].”

Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, probably evolution’s leading spokesperson today, has acknowledged:

✔ “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”

George Gaylord Simpson, perhaps the twentieth century’s foremost paleontologist, said:

✔ “This regular absence of transitional forms is not confined to mammals, but is an almost universal phenomenon, as has long been noted by paleontologists. It is true of almost all orders of all classes of animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate.”

David B. Kitts of the school of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Oklahoma wrote:

✔ “Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of ‘seeing’ evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of ‘gaps’ in the fossil record. Evolution requires [key word, requires] intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them.”

Dr. Steven Stanley of the department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, John Hopkins University, says:

✔ “The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic evolution accomplishing a major morphologic [structural] transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid.”

Professor Heribert Nilsson, Director of the Botanical Institute at Lund University, Sweden, declared after forty years of study:

✔ “It may, therefore, be firmly maintained that it is not even possible to make a caricature of an evolution out of paleobiological facts. The fossil material is now so complete that it has been possible to construct new classes and the lack of transitional series cannot be explained as due to the scarcity of the material. The deficiencies are real, they will never be filled.”

Gareth J. Nelson, of the American Museum of Natural History:

✔ “It is a mistake to believe that even one fossil species or fossil ‘group’ can be demonstrated to have been ancestral to another. The ancestor-descendant relationship may only be assumed to have existed in the absence of evidence indicating otherwise.”

Moreover, Newsweek reported:

✔ “In the fossil record, missing links are the rule: the story of life is as disjointed as a silent newsreel, in which species succeed one another as abruptly as Balkan prime ministers. The more scientists have searched for the transitional forms between species, the more they have been frustrated.”

Moreover, one of my favorite quotes from an article entitled Paleontology and Uniformitarianism:

“Contrary to what most scientists write, the fossil record does not support the Darwinian theory of evolution because it is this theory (there are several) which we use to interpret the fossil record. By doing so, we are guilty of circular reasoning if we then say the fossil record supports this theory.”

BOOK: “Darwin’s Enigma,” by Luther Sunderland (free online: http://www.creationism.org/books/sunderland/DarwinsEnigma/)


I am merely continuing the conversation. You mentioned God is un-provable. However, God entered into creation, thus — giving us a verifiable way of proving the existence of Himself. You put the onus on someone (happened to be me) to explain a way that we can prove His existence as much as we can prove Augustus Caesar existed. If this is proselytizing, then so be it.

BOOK: “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” by Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona.


Both Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. J.P. Moreland use it to prove God. the earliest version is Aristotle, and Galileo Galilei and Albert Einstein used it. Remember, Einstein said, “I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist,” this doesn’t leave too many options.

BOOK: “The Case for a Creator,” by Lee Strobel.



The actual change in the study was by artificial selection (man caused — intelligence), leading to this truism:

Note that this is not evolution because the selection pressure—which is essentially an artificially-imposed version of “natural selection”—simply favors certain genes over others; it cannot generate any new genetic information. Neither such ‘artificial’ nor ‘natural’ selection can turn plaice into people; it can only operate on (i.e. cull out) genetic information that already exists.

Stephen Jay Gould called them “just-so stories” (also called an ad hoc fallacy, is an unverifiable and unfalsifiable narrative). “How the Daffodil Got Its Trumpet;” “How the Rhinoceros Beetle Got Its Horns;” Etc… evolution has stories, you merely told one yourself: how silversides size proved macro-evolution.

BOOK: “Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity, and Other Fables of Evolution,” by David Stove.


You seem to reject positions taken because of the persons degree or teaching position, or whether they are religious or not. So, here is a short list of biologists who are mostly creationists and some I.D.’ers:

• Dr. Arthur Ernest Wilder-Smith (Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry at University of Reading, England; Dr.es.Sc. in pharmacological sciences from Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich; D.Sc. in pharmacological sciences from University of Geneva)
• Dr. Jerry R. Bergman (Ph.D. student, department of chemistry Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; Ph.D. in human biology from Columbia Pacific University, San Rafael, California; Ph.D. in measurement and evaluation, minor in psychology, from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan)
• Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, Biology (Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Harvard Medical School)
• Dr. Kimberly Berrine, Microbiology & Immunology
• Prof. Vladimir Betina, Microbiology, Biochemistry & Biology
• Dr. Andrew Bosanquet, Biology, Microbiology
• Dr. Rob Carter, Marine Biology (Ph.D., University of Miami)
• Dr. David A. DeWitt, Biology, Biochemistry, Neuroscience (Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine)
• Dr. Andrew J. Fabich, Microbiology
• Prof. Carl B. Fliermans, Professor of Biology (Ph.D., Indiana University)
• Prof. Robert H. Franks, Associate Professor of Biology
• Dr. James A. Huggins, Professor and Chair, Department of Biology (Ph.D, University of Memphis)
• Dr. Arthur Jones, Biology (Ph.D., University of Birmingham)
• Prof. Gi-Tai Kim, Biology
• Dr. Leonid Korochkin, M.D., Genetics, Professor of genetics at Yale University, head of Molecular Biology laboratory of the Russian Academy of Sciences
• Prof. Chris D. Osborne, Assistant Professor of Biology
• Dr. Ariel A. Roth, Biology (Ph.D. in biology from the University of Michigan)
• Dr. Timothy G. Standish, Biology (Ph.D. in biology and public policy from George Mason University)
• Dr. Sung-Hee Yoon, Biology
• Dr. Henry Zuill, Biology (Ph.D. in biology from Loma Linda University)
• Dr. Frank Marsh, Biology
• Dr. Jonathan Wells, Biology (molecular and cell biology from the University of California at Berkeley)
• Dr. Lee Spencer, Biology
• Dr. Chris D. Osborne, Biology (Ph.D. in biology from Loma Linda University)
• Dr. David Menton, Biology (Ph.D .in Biology from Brown University)
• Dr. John W. Klotz, Genetics (Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Pittsburgh)
• Dr. Pierre Gunnar Jerlström, Molecular Biology (Ph.D. in molecular biology, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia)
• Dr. Karen E. Jensen, Biology (Ph.D. in biology from Loma Linda University)
• Dr. Wayne Frair, Biochemistry (Ph.D. in Biochemical Taxonomy from the Rutgers University)
• Dr. Daniel Criswell, Molecular Biology (Ph.D., University of Montana)
• Dr. Kenneth B. Cumming, Biology (Ph.D. [and M.S.] from Harvard)
• Dr. Art Chadwick, Biology (Ph.D., University of Miami)
• Dr. Michael E. Brown, Biology (Ph.D. in biology with an emphasis in molecular biology from Loma Linda University)
• Dr. Raymond G. Bohlin, Biology (Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of Texas)

BOOK: “In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation,” by John F. Ashton, ed.

My Discussion with Professor Tom Melendy (Part 1)

I was recently in a long discussion/debate with Tom Melendy, Ph.D. Molecular Biology, on the FaceBook page of a reporter. It is quite long and in-depth… I will include it all here as both a record for myself to reference in the future (for instance I lost the specified debate info I had with a professor of history at the University of Michigan about the Iraq war — many of my responses are encapsulated in my page entitled WMD); and to show others there are good responses to ideas many think are settled science ~ really settled “scientism.” I also post this here because Tom has taken positions and defended some things I think are questionable… but I am no scientist or specialist in the sciences. So this is posted here in order for others to access and dissect (hello Creation.com?!). A definition for scientism that exudes from the below conversation was made by an atheist, and it is apt here:

If science really is permanently committed to methodological naturalism – the philosophical position that restricts all explanations in science to naturalistic explanations – it follows that the aim of science is not generating true theories. Instead, the aim of science would be something like: generating the best theories that can be formulated subject to the restriction that the theories are naturalistic. More and more evidence could come in suggesting that a supernatural being exists, but scientific theories wouldn’t be allowed to acknowledge that possibility.

Bradley Monton, author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design ~ Apologetics315 h/t

This conversation started when a reporter, Virginia Heffernan, who has written for the New York Times, Slate, and currently writes for Yahoo News, came out as a creationist — of sorts. I say “of sorts” because even though she takes a creationist position, it is one taken on minimal understanding. I do not point this out as being a bad thing, people often get busy with schooling, careers, and family and lose the time to investigate the grounds and positions of ones own faith.  That being said, when someone is then challenged on a subject what often happens is they will abandon their previously held position in lieu of what they think is a more informed position. I touch on the “new medias” influence in this regards in the opening chapter of my book:

The importance of knowing, defining, and dissecting worldviews in our electronic age is more important today than ever.  The internet brings a myriad of religious and political opinions right into our living rooms daily. What we were able to confront, and if one so desired, to stop at their doorstep, is now with a touch of a button in our living rooms, children’s bedrooms, our cell phones, and the like, routing the old filter of that doorstep.  Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, all these words have entered our vocabulary in less than a decade and they offer a plethora of chances to encounter the world as never before.

Here is a little biographical background of Dr. Melendy:

Thomas Melendy, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology… at the University at Buffalo (SUNY), have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. he among 450 scientists selected by their peers this year for their “meritorious efforts to advance science or its applications.”

This is what happens often times when children leave a low information cocoon of faith via their parents and their local church and sit in a classroom like that of Dr. Melendy’s. The onus is then, as I see it, on each person of faith to step up to the plate and learn their faith as well as a guy would learn about their favorite sports team or a woman would learn about a character in a novel. In other words, conversation about one’s faith should flow as easily as talking about — say, the Angels baseball team or a Jane Austen novel.

Dr. Adler…

who was Chairman and Cofounder with Max Weismann of the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas and Editor in Chief of its journal Philosophy is Everybody’s Business, Founder and Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, Chairman of the Board of Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, Editor in Chief of the Great Books of the Western World and The Syntopicon: An Index to the Great Ideas, Editor of The Great Ideas Today (all published by Encyclopedia Britannica), Co-Founder and Honorary Trustee of The Aspen Institute, past Instructor at Columbia University, Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago (1930-52)

… was no “dummy,” and said the following about our faith:

“I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers that impose upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.”

Morimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in, Kelly James Clark, ed., Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of 11 Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 207

So I give kudos to Virginia Heffernan for having the tenacity to “keep the faith,” but this should be a lesson to all who read this that YOU should take the time to know how to defend, explain, and encapsulate your faith well to both inoculate yourself against being tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching; as well as showing others that faith is not blind, but in what we know.

…and other resources at:

So with this short admonition and the short list of books below to get the person who searches after truth thinking, and thinking well, I will document the professors and my debate/discussion. I start the discussion before I enter for clarity/reference:

Jim K. Starts out by saying

Tom Melendy Gravity is called a law and can be and has been observed. Macro-Evolution has never been observed. I believe in intelligent design This can include creation all the way to evolution by a God. If you want scientific proof on this watch “I do not have enough faith to be an atheist” by Frank Turek. Here are a few youtube websites for you http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFzJ8beUDvg

I will emphasize the point that concerned me:

Tom Melendy responds

Jim, Macro evolution has been observed in the laboratory under controlled conditions – within just a few generations you can “breed” fish to be miniature fish, which reproduce and “grow” up while never getting bigger than the size they were bred for. And Jim, I NEVER said that belief in evolution in inconsistent with a belief in God. I am merely saying that the case for evolution is overwhelming and cannot be denied by any rational person who bothers to examine the evidence. Belief in God is based on faith, not evidence; and it would be entirely appropriate to believe that evolution, like the other laws of the universe, are merely the hands of God shaping the world we live in. As for referring to evolution as “intelligent design”, I would have to agree – there can be no more intelligent a design program than the evolution that created the amazing diversity of life on this planet including mankind himself.

James P. hops in

Er Tom, as a biologist I would call what you’ve described as ‘artificial selection’ – not ‘evolution’. In the wild such a change might be called ‘speciation’ if the two varieties didn’t interbreed to produce fertile offspring, however that’s not ‘evolution’ either. There is no evidence for evolution whatsoever – and that’s coming from someone who has studied the subject in detail for 15 years.

Tom Melendy responds

“Er” I’m a PhD biologist myself James, and I’ve been studying evolution for 25 years. Evolution is a result of the combination natural selection (and yes, in the lab it would be artificial – same thing except in nature you have to wait until conditions change so selection is usually slower) AND speciation. Speciation is a much more complicated process that occurs on a much slower time scale. By definition (when two sub-species can no longer productively interbreed to create a group that can reproduce) – however, things are more complicated than that! As any biologist will tell you, the devil is in the details – some “speciation” can be a result of behavior – two subspecies may no longer ever mate due to changes in mating behavior and/or geographic separation. Others are due to cytogenetic changes – while a donkey and a horse are genetically 99+% identical at the gene sequence level, the cytogentic changes make their common hybrid (the mule) generally sterile (non-dysjunction during gamete formation), EXCEPT in a very rare cases where the chromosomes happen to align in just the right formation – there are a few documented and proven cases where mules were able to effectively cross-breed with horses or donkeys. Horses and donkeys are far down the speciation path so sexually reproductive hybrids are extraordinarily rare. Zebras show an intermediate cytogenetic phenotype/structure between those of horses and donkeys, and as such their progeny (zebroids) have much greater success at matings with either parental species. The “mules” for lion-tiger matings (ligers and tigons) are fairly functional reproductively and can fairly readily interbreed with their parent species (so much more like the zebroids), so these are less far down the speciation path, even though tigers and lions are still considered different species. There are examples of interspecies hybrids that can reproduce, thereby creating a hybrid species. This shows cases where the two species are even more closely related. One example is the American Red Wolf, which is a hybrid between the Gray Wolf and the Coyote. (There are other know cases too.) And finally there are sub-species which don’t generally mate, but can and when they do they produce offspring that can mate with either parental species or their own hybrid-type; examples of this would be Bengal and Siberian tigers mating or Kodiak bear or Grizzly bear matings with Polar Bears. The time-scale require for speciation is much greater than that for natural selection, but is the aspect of evolution that drives speciation (essentially ‘nails down’ the changes that build up over time in sub-species, and starts preventing backcrosses from homgenizing the two species). These cytogenetic changes are much like those that occur in all animals during the early stages of somatic cancers, but of course only the most conservative changes can be heritable (any gametes with the more significant cytogenetic changes would not survive development). So as you can see James, while it is not feasible to reproduce the ‘slow’ aspect of evolution (cytogenetic speciation) in the laboratory (because of the great time scales required), there is a wealth of evidence of how this process occurs in the natural world around us – showing species and sub-species at all levels of speciation. There is an extraordinary wealth of proof of evolution not only at the fossil level (which is dramatically greater than the state 20 years ago, the supposed “holes” creationists point to no longer exist), but also now at the genetic level (as many extinct species have had their genomes sequences with new high-throughput sequencing techniques, many within just the last couple of years), and this information complements and clarifies the fossil data wonderfully. And here I’ve told you about examples of speciation that are currently ongoing in the world today, and they are present in a wide range of levels. Anyone with a biology background who claims to see no evidence of evolution is being willfully blind!

Tom Melendy again responds

And Jon, you can put whichever “label” you want on it, model or theory, I don’t really care – either way it’s happened throughout the natural history of this world, and it continues to happen today.

This is where I wade in, and I concern myself with a single point that takes a while to get to. I keep this point alive throughout.


Tom Melendy, I missed the observation MACRO evolutionary proof. Please explain what this observation has been. Is there a peer reviewed article you can refer me to.

Tom Melendy responds

read it again, there’s an extensive outline of the paleontological, genetic, cytogenetic evidence. If you can’t understand it, let me know the part you can’t understand and I can explain it to you.


Is there a peer reviewed article on the Macro evolutionary evidence observed in the laboratory? I get every reasonably priced science mag (the Nature journal is too expensive for me). I have about 5,000 books in my home library, many are materialist — from Grecian times till today, neo-Darwinian topics (Mayr, Gould, Asimov, Miller, etc.), and other texts. About half of my library are views opposite of mine.

In other words, I have yet to meet, read, or watch proof of one species, say the Canis lupus, changing into a Felis silvestris catus. Centimeter changes in beaks of birds on an island is micro evolution (change within species).

Canis lupus being able to mate with the Canus domesticus, or Polar Bears with Grizzlies, or rabbits separated by a canyon [they are different species… but can mate… just cannot due to separation] … these are the same kind: in other words, a rabbit, is a rabbit, is a rabbit.

A Great Dane and a Chihuahua cannot mate, but they are still dogs.

Take note Tom refers to his education and position a lot. There is an ego, or, an emotion, involved here that drives his position more than the evidence. Although God is not mentioned yet, the topic is on “creationism,” so the below quote is perfect to set the stage for the “bias” behind the bias:

Naturalism and materialism are not scientific conclusions; rather, they are scientific premises. They are not discovered in nature but imposed upon nature. In short, they are articles of faith. Here is Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment [a faith] — a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

Dinesh D’Souza points to this in his recent book, What’s So Great about Christianity (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2007), 161 (emphasis added).

I wish to note I was corrected a bit on dogs, but this is the main point… “species” is not well-defined. A good questions and response is this one from Yahoo Answers:


Can 2 same animals from different species mate and reproduce?

For example

  • Can a great horn owl mate with a snowy owl?
  • Can black crickets mate with brown crickets?


Generally, animals within the same genus can breed – for example, that most famous of hybrids, the mule, is a cross between a male donkey and female horse, both of which belong to the genus Equus (the offspring of a male horse and female donkey is called a hinny, incidentally). Depending on how closely related they are, species in different genera but the same family can sometimes interbreed too – for example, the puma and the leopard both belong to the family Felidae, but the genera Puma and Panthera respectively, and can interbreed to produce a hybrid known as a pumapard.

Being closely related basically means that two species share a greater amount of genetic material with each other than with other animals. Beyond family level, two species cease to share enough genetic material for the egg and sperm to ‘recognise’ each other, which is why you can’t breed animals from different families like, say, a dog and a cat – a dog sperm simply wouldn’t be able to fertilise a cat egg, and vice versa.

In response to one of your answers, I’d just like to point out that it is not necessary for animals to have the same number of chromosomes in order to breed – horses and donkeys have different numbers of chromosomes, for example. The difference in chromosome number between the parent species is the reason many hybrids are sterile, as it means they cannot produce functional sex cells, but it does not prevent the existence of the hybrid itself.

Also, the definition of a species as a group of animals that can interbreed and produce fertile young is now recognised as being too simplistic. For example, all members of the genus Canis – wolves, dogs, dingoes, coyotes and jackals – can interbreed and produce fertile young. Under the old definition, this would mean that a grey wolf and a coyote, say, are the same species, and this is clearly not the case – physically, behaviourally and genetically, they are different species. They’re just very closely related. There’s a lot more to defining a species than just who can breed with whom.

Tom Melendy

I just explained to you “speciation”, which is the basis behind macro-evolution. I showed you how different species can sometimes mate (Canis lupus can mate with Canis latrans – two different species – and produce offspring that can reproduce with themselves), I explained as you move farther away evolutionarily the species can hybridize and hybrids show some, but decreasing ability, to successfully mate as the species are more distantly related (are you going to tell me lions are tigers, or zebras are horses or donkeys?) I pointed out how a macroevolutionary experiment cannot be done in the laboratory because of the time frame required for cytogenetic changes to occur (do you know what those are?). So unless you can provide a time machine, those experiments cannot be completed for many lifetimes. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t evaluate and measure the genetic and cytogenetic changes that are in the midst of occurring throughout the world in the many examples I’ve given of species, sub-species, and closely related species showing every step along the way toward speciation. In spite of your readings, you seem to lack some basic understanding of not only biology, but how to objectively evaluate biological data. But I guess that’s the case isn’t it – reading the Bible does not make one a minister, reading biology books does not make one a biologist, anymore than knowing an opera by heart makes one a opera performer. Reading something is different than the skill set to actually DO it. I am a biologist trained (and hired) at some of the best institutions in the world – I don’t write the textbooks, I do the research that ends up being written about by textbook authors.


Yes, Lions are tigers. They are cats, whether they can breed or not. They are a kind.

First Statement by You:

1) Macro evolution has been observed in the laboratory under controlled conditions – within just a few generations you can “breed” fish to be miniature fish, which reproduce and “grow” up while never getting bigger than the size they were bred for.

Second Statement:

2) I pointed out how a macroevolutionary experiment cannot be done in the laboratory because of the time frame required for cytogenetic changes to occur.

Miniaturizing a fish is not macro-evolution!? You have a Ph.D. alright — in obfuscating terms.


  1. American Heritage Science Dictionary: “Evolution that results in the formation of a new taxonomic group above the level of a species.”
  2. From an old 1962 textbook (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, [1962]… probably when you were going through school?) Evolution and Genetics: “The Modern Theory of Evolution:Quantum evolution, also known as mega- and macroevolution, is the term applied to the rapid shift of a population to a new equilibrium distinctly unlike the ancestral condition, thus leading to the origin of higher taxonomic categories such as new orders and classes.”
  3. What Is Evolution, Ernst Mayr: “Evolution above the species level; the evolution of higher taxa and the production of evolutionary novelties, such as new structures.”

Species is the key… you seem to be conflating it a bit.

So are you positing that this “smaller fish,” which in one breath you say is evidence of “Quantum evolution” a new taxonomy? Or is it [Quantum evolution] not able to be done in the laboratory because of the time frame required for cytogenetic changes to occur is not long enough in human terms?

So, Macroevolution is not observable, correct?

Tom Melendy

re-read!!! – I never said “macro” evolution could be observed. I was referring to the microevolutionary changes. When you brought up macro I started telling you about the cytogenetic changes required for speciation or macroevolution. Both steps, micro and macro, are required for evolution. Pay attention!

Man, you are not a very astute student are you?

Yes, according to your own citation above, lions and tigers are separate species. As I stated above. Very good Sean.


Let us get into the nitty-gritty later, I want to define terms first.


Species is not well defined. Example: Canis Domesticus (say, a, German Shepherd) and Canis Lupus (wolf) are classified as two separate species. But they can interbreed (i.e. a Wolf and a German Shepherd). But a Chihuahua and a Great Dane cannot breed, but they are both Canis Domesticus (the same species). The arctic hair cannot breed with the Florida hair, but both breed with the Dakota hair. Evolutionists recognize certain bowerbirds as distinct species even though they often interbreed.

Or consider the case of two different kinds of squirrels separated by the Grand Canyon. The Kaibab squirrel inhabits the north side of the canyon, while the Abert squirrel inhabits the south side. It seems evident the two descended from one original population. Rarely, however, can squirrels from both populations come together, and thus there is no interbreeding between them. And, for some time biologists have disagreed as to whether the squirrels had reached the level of two separate species.

Look, you could go to Galapagos Islands and get a pair of finches and bring them back to a laboratory and just let them have sex. After a few generations you will have small beaked, medium beaked, large beaked finches. The information is already in there genome, nothing new was created, specificity was lost if anything. Now if you simulate a drought, like on Galapagos, so that the seeds become hard and more beak strength is needed to open them, then of course the larger beaked finch will survive. A creationist came up with the survival of the fittest twenty-four years prior to Darwin. After all the other “parent” finches die off, you are left with only large beaked finches in the laboratory. This is not evolution; no new information was gained in the process. There are limits to its change, strep-throat may change into a flesh eating virus, but it loss specificity to get to that point or already had the information in its genome. It’s still strep-throat.

That finch didn’t turn into a dinosaur; that dog didn’t turn into a cat; that ape didn’t turn into a man, etc.. The genetic barriers wont and don’t allow it. You can post all the sites in the world, but you will never be able to find one proof of macroevolution in the fossil record or in the living world. All we have ever seen is what evolutionists’ call “subspeciation” (variation within a type), never “transpeciation” (change from one type to others). The primrose is a prime example of my point. The alleged new species of primrose that de Vries thought he had “discovered” were not new species at all but rather mere variations of the same species.

This “sport” (a certain primrose that de Vries created), with it’s doubled chromosome [no new information was added, it merely doubled the information that was already there], is still a primrose. Stickleback fish may diversify into fresh-water dwellers and salt–water dwellers, but both remain sticklebacks. One fruit fly may breed on apple trees and another on hawthorn trees, but both remain fruit flies. Speciation is a means of creating diversity within types of living things, but macroevolution is much more than diversity.

Macroevolution requires an increase of the gene pool, the addition of new genetic information, whereas the means to speciation discussed above represent the loss of genetic information (how so?). Both physical and ecological isolation produce varieties by cutting a small population off from its parent population and building a new group from the more limited genetic information contained in the small population. A large population carries genetic reserve, a wealth of concealed recessive genes. In a small group cut off from the parent population, some of these recessive traits may be expressed more often. This makes for interesting diversity, but it should not blind us to the fact that the total genetic variability in the small group is reduced!.

The appearance of reproductively isolated populations represents microevolution, not macro-evolution. Vertical change – to a new level of complexity – requires the input of additional genetic information. Can that information – the ensembles of new genes to make wrens, rabbits, and Hawthorne trees be gleaned from random mutations?

Thus far, there appears to be good evidence that the roles mutations are able to play are severely restricted by and within the existing higher-level blueprint of the organism’s whole genome.

To go from one-celled organisms to a human being means that information must be added to the genetic messages at each step of the way. Mechanisms for the loss of genetic information cannot be used as support for a theory requiring vast increases of genetic information.

Speciation is actually akin to what breeders do. They isolate a small group of plants or animals and force them to interbreed, cutting them off from the larger gene pool to which they belong. A century of breeding testifies to the fact that this produces limited change only. It does produce the open-ended change required by Darwinian evolution. Some think, as do I, that the extinction of the dinosaurs occurred because they didn’t have the genetic diversity to adapt to environmental changes.

Percival Davis & Dean H. Kenyon, with Charles B. Thaxton as Academic Editor, Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, 2nd Edition (Dallas, TX: Haughton Publishing Co., 1993), 19-20.

Tom Melendy

I disagree with the very opening aspect of this text. As I cited before while Great Danes and Chihuahuas cannot breed it is only due to physical limitations – artificial insemination would result in a perfectly viable mutt. This is no different than two sub-species which do not interbreed only because they’re on different canyon ridges and do not cross the canyon. This text is ‘popular’ science, it is not a text used by scientists. Some things are misleading.

Macroevolution does NOT require an “increase in the gene pool” – the gene pool of the horse and donkey are virtually identical, yet they are separate species (yet closely related enough to produce sterile offspring). The reason they are different species is due to the cytogenetic changes (note that does NOT involve additional genetic material or a greater gene pool).


Tom, Evolutions say I came from a rock. In fact, it says — ultimately — that a South-East Asian Man [dark completion] who just got home from a hard days work [BO: body-odor] came from an odorless, colorless gas. This man can sit down and read Aristotle and learn about the laws of logic that precede any scientific adventure and that are not known to the senses (law of excluded middle, law of identity, law of non-contradiction, etc), and use these “mind” (I would say “Mind”) reasoning tools to critique a fallacious statement… that, this south-east Asian man would expect someone half-way around the world to be able to understand.

So information added to the gene pool is not the topic I wish to zero in on, yet.

You are telling me that a donkey and a horse are a donkey ARE proof of macroevolution? You are telling me as well that Cats (Felidae) are a diverse group of carnivores that includes domestic cats, lions, tigers, ocelots, jaguars, caracals, leopards, mountain lions, lynx and many other groups of cats are not the same kind?

Let me restate that, wolves and a few other dog kind (Canidae) have all the genetic information in them that breeders are then able to change through intelligent input. So a Chihuahuas is still a Canidae, but with much less specified complexity — the bottom of the gene pool so-to-speak. [Left to its own devices with no help from man, the wolf, coyote, etc would survive, but the Chihuahuas would probably die out.]

You seem to be conflating “species” with other classification titles (http://tinyurl.com/3npkel8) [*SEE YOUR OWN STATEMENT BELOW* ~ not capitalized to yell, merely to emphasize]. I want you to be clear and concise so a high school student from L.A. Unified can understand you: “are you saying small changes in specie level adaptation (centimeter beak change in birds, or Brussels sprouts to hit a bit closer to home to your point [http://creation.com/eat-your-brussels-sprouts]) are more than that, they are evidence of macroevolution?

…. I still think this statement by you @Tom Melendy is a bit of an overreach:

Jim, Macro evolution has been observed in the laboratory under controlled conditions – within just a few generations you can “breed” fish to be miniature fish, which reproduce and “grow” up while never getting bigger than the size they were bred for.

Please give me the name of the fish you referenced… and through observed “quantum evolution, also known as mega- and macroevolutionary” what other Order this fish became under observation. You see Tom, we are still at one of your opening statements, which you have not clearly, eruditely, and concisely explained. So you lied to Jim? Or you were mistaken in your wording? What.

Tom Melendy

My apologies for the lack of clarity on my part. When this thread first started we were talking about common evolution in the lab. This is commonly seen with microorganisms. Someone asked what about non-microorganisms. I responded that you could see macro evolution in the lab in fish (macro just to differentiate from micro-organisms). Once you began defining your terms as micro and macro evolution as being the small changes due to variation and selection, versus the larger changes that produce different species that of course made my previous point unclear – I was referring to micro-evolution (variation and selection) being studied in a macroorganism (fish). It wasn’t an over-reach, it was a miscommunication due to us not having established an accepted nomenclature prior to that statement. Often different branches of science will utilize the same term to mean different things in different fields. As to your question of which fish – Atlantic silversides. Here’s the website showing you the surprising result that within just a handful of generations the fish size could be decreased dramatically. http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/conover_04

Tom posts a few followups

….Once you defined what you were discussing through the terms of micro versus macro evolution, all of my other statements made still stand as written

….As to your longer question about evolution above and how it relates to species and higher orders. There are many elements you have of confusion there. One simple one that makes me concerned is that you state a chihuahua has “much less specified complexity” amongst the Canids. Not at all true! It’s complexity is just a great, but everything has just been bred to be on a smaller scale – larger doesn’t inherently mean more complexity Sean.

As for your comment about my conflating species with genus or family – that is exactly my point Sean! The very definition of evolution is the creation of new species. The formal definition of a species is that it cannot interbreed and create viable young with another species. Yet we know of several cases where that does indeed occur – you give some examples yourself Canis lupus and Canis familiaris. Whereas most species do follow the rule that they cannot interbreed with others at all. There are other genuses or even families of organisms where there is still some interbreeding that can occur, but their ability to produce offspring vary – and I gave you examples of different species of bear that can produce viable offspring, but different species and even genuses of the horse family that can produce offspring with varying degrees of ability to interbreed successfully. I have even given you some information on why these various equines produce progeny of differing ability to interbreed – their speciation is being driven by cytogentic changes – in the cases of this group horses, donkeys and zebras all have very similar genetics (about 99% of their genes are the same) yet those genes are divided up amongst a different number of chromosomes (donkeys have more smaller chromosomes, horses the fewest larger chromosomes, zebras are intermediate in number and size). These cytogenetic differences are what limits production of offspring with a full ability to reproduce (due to nondysjunction during meiosis, production of gametes). And these are the type of cytogenetic changes that, as I was describing earlier, over time begin to prevent back-crossing, which allows the microevolutionary changes (like those we see with the fish) to over time become more permanent, driving the diversity of the evolutionary tree. My point has been that all these examples show speciation at different stages: while wolves and dog, or wolves and coyotes, are different species (by most criteria), they can still produce viable offspring – they have not truly become fully independent species as per the formal criteria; bears are somewhat similar as polar bears can produce viable offspring with Kodiak bears and grizzly bears and North American brown bears, any offspring produced with European brown bears do not survive to adulthood – speciation was achieved between polar bears and European brown bears, but is incomplete between polar bears and North American brown bears; equines are a third example, where all three discussed, horses, donkeys and zebras – which belong to not just different species, but even different sub-genuses, can produce offspring, but those offspring cannot interbreed successful, and have varying ability to produce offspring with the parent species (donkey-horse, extraordinarily rarely, horse-zebra or donkey-zebra, much more often) – so the equines are much further down the speciation path than Canis or Ursid, yet not nearly as far as some species which cannot produce offspring at all. So THIS Sean, is macroevolution – no one would say a polar bear is the same species as a grizzly or a brown bear – yet they are only partway along the path to speciation. Similarly donkeys and zebras are clearly not the same species as horses, yet these are further along the way to speciation. These are the examples where I’m showing you that evolution is occurring in the here and now, and that we can see different groups of animals at different stages of speciation. This is the best we can do in describing the individual steps in macroevolution as we cannot carry out speciation/macroevolution in the laboratory because of the time frame required to generate stable cytogenetic changes in organisms – selection can occur over just a few generations, cytogenetic changes occur over generations upon generations.

Tom has FINALLY mentioned the specific experiment he mentioned, as well as backing away from his previous statement of macroevolution being observed. But if you notice he beats around the bush quite a bit to still try and “save face” at the same time of still trying to obfuscate the issue of species.


Okay, that helps. The changes you mentioned were merely within a species and no new information was added to the genome, merely “rearranged” (layman terms) to get a specified output. In fact, this arrangement could be considered “less specified” from the parent population (like the Chihuahua). Examples of bacteria resisting anti-biotics exemplify this loss of information to the parent population/strain. Darwinism requires the opposite.

Thank you for the link to the fish, this helps. All creationists, intelligent design adherents, and the neo-Darwinian and cladists believe in change within species. If an evolutionists says evolution equals “change,” and then shows an experiment where no new information was added to the genome. nothing in that fish experiment disproves or challenges the creationist perspective:

…. For some years now, many fisheries management authorities around the world have instituted legal minimum size requirements for various fish species. Thus anglers must return ‘undersized’ fish to the water unharmed. Similarly, commercial fishermen use large-meshed nets to spare the smaller fish—with the aim of ensuring the long-term viability of the fishery.

However, the fish that are genetically predisposed to mature at larger sizes are the ones most likely to be caught before they can reproduce. Thus there has been a strong selection pressure favouring scrawny fish that never reach the minimum legal size. Hence the genes for late-maturing larger-sized fish have been progressively lost from many fish populations, leaving early-maturing smaller-sized ones to dominate the gene pool. (So, ironically, by catching only the biggest fish and letting the others go, humans have unintentionally selected against that which they desire most!)

Note that this is not evolution because the selection pressure—which is essentially an artificially-imposed version of ‘natural selection’—simply favours certain genes over others; it cannot generate any new genetic information. Neither such ‘artificial’ nor ‘natural’ selection can turn plaice into people; it can only operate on (i.e. cull out) genetic information that already exists.

Fisheries scientists David Conover and Stephan Munch, of the State University of New York, observed that size-specific culling of Atlantic silversides rapidly changes the genetic makeup of the population.7 After just four generations, fish populations from which the largest 90% of silversides were removed before breeding averaged just half the size of fish in populations from which the smallest 90% had been culled. In other words, removing big fish soon results in a population of little fish (and vice versa).

This is not evolution, as the genes for big or little fish were already present in the population beforehand. Note that the limits to how big or little the fish can be in the final population are determined by the amount of pre-existing genetic variety. Conover and Munch wrote: ‘Management tools that preserve natural genetic variation [i.e. pre-existing variety] are necessary for long-term sustainable yield.’ In other words, we need to leave at least some of the big fish in the water, so that their desirable genes (from a human perspective) remain in the fish population.

Despite this anti-evolutionary insight, their research paper refers to fish demonstrating ‘evolutionary effects’ and having ‘evolved rapidly’. That last claim took many of their fellow evolutionists by surprise. David Conover reported: ‘Even some fisheries’ scientists have been unwilling to accept that evolution is happening within a few fish generations.’ ….


I make this point in my earliest debate with a neo-Darwinist, in which I end with:

Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the twentieth centuries leading Darwinists, acknowledged this:

“And yet, a majority of mutations, both those arising in laboratories and those stored in natural populations, produce deteriorations of viability, hereditary diseases, and monstrosities. Such changes, it would seem, can hardly serve as evolutionary building blocks.”

Mr. Hitchings: “On the face of it, then, the prime function of the genetic system would seem to be to resist change: to perpetuate the species in a minimally adapted form of response to altered conditions, and if at all possible to get things back to normal. The role of natural selection is usually a negative one; to destroy the few mutant individuals that threaten the stability of the species.”

Goldschmidt said: “It is true that nobody thus far has produced a new species or genus, etc., by macromutation. It is equally true that nobody has ever produced even a species by selection of micromutaions.”

Goldschmidt would have known – he bread gypsy moths for twenty years and a million generations in various environments. All he ever got was more gypsy moths. Anyone who thinks that an accumulation of mutations (information-losing processes) can lead to Macroevolution (a massive net gain of information) “is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make it up on volume.” (Spetner)

(I have a .com now, this is my old blog: http://religiopoliticaltalk.blogspot.com/2007/11/one-of-my-first-debate-style-responses.html)

So the example of the fish is something that if defined properly doesn’t support the grand changes that Darwinism implies. Nor, if properly defined, no creationist finds anything wrong with it… other than someone takes this loss of information and applies it to the past spuriously [stepping out of science and using a meta-narrative to state something that is unobservable] to say, “see, I am related to a banana in the tree of life.” THAT is bananas.

About the author of the linked Creation.com article:

B.Ag.Sc. (Hons) [University of Adelaide, South Australia]—Honours thesis title: The effects of applied nitrate on nitrogen fixation by subterranean clover (1982)

Ph.D. [University of New England, New South Wales, Australia]—Thesis title: The contribution of tree legumes to the nitrogen economy and forage production in the humid tropics (1988)

Dr. David Catchpoole was once an ardent atheistic evolutionist, before being challenged to look critically at the problems of evolution, and the scientific evidence for creation and the Bible.

Tom Melendy

Dr. Catchpoole is an expert neither on evolution nor on genome integrity (one of my fields of expertise). He is not qualified.


I am merely pointing out that others exist with advanced degrees (that you mentioned about yourself) who write on “change,” does it matter if a young earth creationist got us to the moon, invented the MRI, and is a leading pediatrician who had a movie made about him (“Gifted Hands”). Belief about origins (historical science) and science in the lab are thus — provably — two areas that are separate.

I merely argue that “Darwinism” is a historical science that IS THE MATRIX that must be placed on the Atlantic silversides [and the loss of specificity compared to the parent population] in order to church out of the hopper “evidence” for Darwinian evolution. Circular.

Tom Melendy

And you’re wrong again, resistance to antibiotics is due to a GAIN of genetic material, not a loss. You talk a good game Sean, but the fact is that you don’t know enough facts about basic biology to support your thoughts. This is what we need to explain to college students who figure that once they read a text and can pass an exam, they must be experts; and why can’t they just do whatever they want in life (being an expert on something) because they can always ‘find’ the answers they need online or in a book. The problem is that you need a solid basis upon which to build – if you don’t have the basic material you really can’t support your ideas and arguments. (kind of like needing to have a vocabulary of words before you can write a paper). You Sean have collected a great number of books and ideas, but you don’t REALLY know the science behind what you’re talking about – which leaves your theories and positions full of holes/flaws. It’s been an interesting discussion but I can’t continue this indefinitely – I have work to do. If you don’t understand the concept that evolution is a continuum of small changes and selections, punctuated by larger cytogenetic changes that prevent back-breeding, ultimately leading to speciation (different species). And if you can’t understand how all I’ve shown you supports both aspects of that – then I suggest you head back to school for a degree in Biological Sciences – you clearly have the interest.


When I say “loss of specificity to the parent population,” what I mean is that if it were possible to kill all Canidae’s except the Chihuahua… wolves would be extinct. the information left in the Chihuahua is a loss that can never be regained. It is less specified.

Tom Melendy

No Sean, your last comment is very wrong. It wasn’t their advanced degrees in other areas that make them capable in other things. In each case those individuals had to study and learn a whole new area to become capable. Furthermore, development does not always come from an expert – some people do not full understand what they develop or contribute to. Invention does not always come from the greatest knowledge.


I have to start work. This is a great example, bacteria, for the conversation. Will check in this evening. thank you for your patience and willingness to talk.

Tom Melendy

That’s actually not true either Sean – are you saying that the genetic information in a wolf contains that of the chihuahau, but not the reverse? That’s not true at ALL. You don’t understand basic genetics. Selective breeding over enough time can create either from the other.


Okay, Home. I would love to get your thoughts on this.


No, there is specificity lost from the parent population:

Artificial breeding/selection is a good analogy. The original mongrel dog/wolf population had more genetic variety than any of the many individual breeds of dog today, but because of continual mixing up of the genes/alleles due to free inter-breeding (out-breeding), the outward appearance of the dogs/wolves would not generally have shown extreme variety. But selecting rare dogs with Chihuahua-like features and breeding them together (inbreeding) for many generations results in the concentration of alleles that give Chihuahua-likeness and the elimination of a lot of the other alleles—ones for ‘large dog’ for example. So you could never breed a Great Dane from a Chihuahua; the genetic information required has been depleted by the very process that has generated the extreme features.


Bacterium & Evolution II (This is part II of a debate I had)

It has been proven that resistance to many modern antibiotics was present decades before their [the antibiotics] discovery. In 1845, sailors on an ill-fated Arctic expedition were buried in the permafrost and remained deeply frozen until their bodies were exhumed in 1986. Preservation was so complete that six strains of nineteenth-century bacteria found dormant in the contents of the sailors’ intestines were able to be revived! When tested, these bacteria were found to possess resistance to several modern-day antibiotics, including penicillin. Such traits were obviously present prior to penicillin’s discovery, and thus could not be an evolutionary development. (Medical Tribune, December 29, 1988, p. 1, 23.)

In 1998, the National Academy of Sciences published and distributed a book to public schools and other institutions entitled Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., F.M., wrote a book, Refuting Evolution, which is a topic by topic rebuttal to this Academy of Sciences publication. Under the evidence for evolution in the evolutionist text is the following quote:

The continual evolution of human pathogens has come to pose one of the most serious health problems facing human societies. Many strains of bacteria have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics as natural selection has amplified resistant strains that arose through naturally occurring genetic variation.

Similar episodes of rapid evolution are occurring in many different organisms. Rats have developed resistance to the poison warfain. Many hundreds of insect species and other agricultural pests have evolved resistance to the pesticides used to combat them – even to chemical defenses genetically engineered into plants.

(Sarfati’s reply – any words in the [boxes] are mine):

However, what has this to do with the evolution of new kinds with new genetic information? Precisely nothing. What has happened in many cases is that some bacteria already had the genes for resistance to the antibiotics. In fact, some bacteria obtained by thawing sources which had been frozen before man developed antibiotics have shown to be antibiotic-resistant [6 different antibiotics in fact, penicillin in modern doses – which is way beyond the strength of natural penicillin found in nature]. When antibiotics are applied to a population of bacteria, those lacking resistance are killed, and any genetic information they carry is eliminated. The survivors carry less information [or specificity], but they are all resistant. The same principle applies to rats and insects “evolving” resistance to pesticides. Again, the resistance was already there, and creatures without resistance are eliminated.

[Much like if we killed all dogs (including Canis Domesticus and Canis Lupus) except for Chihuahuas, we would permanently lose the information of the parent population. You could then breed Chihuahuas for a millennium and not get an Irish Wolfhound]

…In other cases, antibiotic resistance is the result of a mutation, but in all known cases, this mutation has destroyed information. It may seem surprising that destruction of information can sometimes help. But one example is resistance to the antibiotic penicillin. Bacteria normally produce an enzyme, penicillinase, which destroys penicillin. The amount of penicillinase is controlled by a gene. There is normally enough produced to handle any penicillin encountered in the wild, but the bacterium is overwhelmed by the amount given to patients. A mutation disabling this controlling gene results in much more penicillinase being produced.

[Thus, the bacteria found frozen in 1845 already had the mutation to overcome modern medical doses of penicillin. So the mutation wasn’t the result of the penicillin in modern doses, thus seemingly becoming resistant… it already had the resistant mutation – informational or specificity losing – in the population. In other words, no new information was added to the parent population!]

…This enables the bacterium to resist the antibiotics but normally, this mutant would be less fit, as it wastes resources by producing unnecessary penicillinase. Another example of acquired antibiotic resistance is the transfer of pieces of genetic material (called Plasmids) between bacteria, even between those of different species. But this is still using pre-existing information, and doesn’t explain its origin.

So the above [first quote] is an example of, as Dr. Lee Spetner would say, “the transfer of resistance genes already extant in bacteria.” I would say as well that the only other example is the building of resistance as a result of losing genetic data because of mutation.

from one of my favorite posts [not mine] on the topic:

The second type of immunity, which comes about as a result of mutation, is not an example of evolution either. Spetner writes:

… [A] microorganism can sometimes acquire resistance to an antibiotic through a random substitution of a single nucleotide… Streptomycin, which was discovered by Selman Waksman and Albert Schatz and first reported in 1944, is an antibiotic against which bacteria can acquire resistance in this way. But although the mutation they undergo in the process is beneficial to the microorganism in the presence of streptomycin, it cannot serve as a prototype for the kind of mutations needed by NDT [Neo-Darwinian Theory]. The type of mutation that grants resistance to streptomycin is manifest in the ribosome and degrades its molecular match with the antibiotic molecule.

In his book Not by Chance, Spetner likens this situation to the disturbance of the key-lock relationship. Streptomycin, just like a key that perfectly fits in a lock, clutches on to the ribosome of a bacterium and inactivates it. Mutation, on the other hand, decomposes the ribosome, thus preventing streptomycin from holding on to the ribosome. Although this is interpreted as “bacteria developing immunity against streptomycin,” this is not a benefit for the bacteria but rather a loss for it. Spetner writes:

This change in the surface of the microorganism’s ribosome prevents the streptomycin molecule from attaching and carrying out its antibiotic function. It turns out that this degradation is a loss of specificity and therefore a loss of information. The main point is that Evolution… cannot be achieved by mutations of this sort, no matter how many of them there are. Evolution cannot be built by accumulating mutations that only degrade specificity.

To sum up, a mutation impinging on a bacterium’s ribosome makes that bacterium resistant to streptomycin. The reason for this is the “decomposition” of the ribosome by mutation. That is, no new genetic information is added to the bacterium. On the contrary, the structure of the ribosome is decomposed, that is to say, the bacterium becomes “disabled.” (Also, it has been discovered that the ribosome of the mutated bacterium is less functional than that of a normal bacterium.) Since this “disability” prevents the antibiotic from attaching onto the ribosome, “antibiotic resistance” develops.

At this point another person chimes in to compliment the tenor of the conversation so-far. Let me say, that the entire discussion was calmly and very little emotional jabs were taken. In most conversations I post the below in order to put in peoples minds that often time — whne sitting behind a keyboard — one tends to apply feelings to the other persons statements that he or she never intended. Which is why this “legal statement,” so-to-speak, typically precedes conversation:

“By-the-by, for those reading this I will explain what is missing in this type of discussion due to the media used. Genuflecting, care, concern, one being upset (does not entail being “mad”), etc… are all not viewable because we are missing each other’s tone, facial expressions, and the like. I afford the other person I am dialoguing with the best of intentions and read his/her comments as if we were out having a talk over a beer at a bar or meeting a friend at Starbucks. (I say this because there seems to be a phenomenon of etiquette thrown out when talking through email or Face Book, lots more public cussing and gratuitous responses.) You will see that often times I USE CAPS — which in www lingo for YELLING. I am not using it this way, I use it to merely emphasize and often times say as much: *not said in yelling tone, but merely to emphasize*. So in all my discussions I afford the best of thought to the other person as I expect he or she would to me… even if dealing with tough subjects as the above. I have had more practice at this than most, and with half-hour pizza, one hour photo and email vs. ‘snail mail,’ know that important discussions take time to meditate on, inculcate, and to process. So be prepared for a good thought provoking discussion if you so choose one with me.”


Nick DeM.

this is a remarkable discussion – it is civil!! what a mutation is observed having the ability to do, and what a mutation is observed lacking the ability to do are the strongest reasons to continue questioning macro-evolution(molecules to man). to GIORDANO and MELENDY – your info has been enlightening, and it’s refreshing to see that both of you have refrained from name calling or nasty sarcasm. i feel like I’ve just been through a college bio course.

Tom Melendy

Okay Sean, finally have a few. In response to your posts above about purebred dogs losing genetic diversity and bacteria – those statements you have reposted have elements of truth, but are written in a misleading fashion (whether purposeful or due to lack of understanding I have no way of knowing, so will not judge). It is true that purebred dogs have lost genetic diversity (variation) – but they have NOT lost genetic material. This is due to breeders continuing to backbreed to select for rare or desired traits. Note this also sometimes selects for genetic problems; as I’m sure you are aware many purebreeds have serious problems – just like humans have problems when backbred (why we have traditions and even laws against very close blood relatives marring and having children). But that loss in diversity is not due to a loss of genetic material (not due to a loss of genes). It is mutations, or slight changes in genes, that cause genetic diversity. This might alter their function, or might even turn the gene all the way off in some cases (Mexican hairless?). So yes, purebred dogs have lost genetic diversity, but all the genes required for them to be a wolf are still there! It would take probably hundreds of years of breeding to re-select for those wolf-characteristics, and some of the small mutations in genes that affect their function would have to re-arise, but it could and would happen. The genes ARE still there.

Bacterial selection for antibiotics: for bacteria the situation is a bit different. In addition to their bacterial chromosome, bacteria often also have extrachromosomal DNA that they can pick up from the environment or other bacteria, and that they can pass on to their progeny. Antibiotics generally act against basic physiological pathways that bacteria need to duplicate their DNA, make RNA, synthesize their bacterial proteins, or synthesize their cell walls, among others. As you can imagine stopping any of these processes will stop bacterial cell growth. Antibiotic resistance is not due to a loss of any bacterial genes. In some cases it may be due to some small mutation in a bacterial gene that leaves the protein encoded by that gene still functional, but changes the shape just enough that the antibiotic no longer binds effectively, so no longer works. More often bacteria pick up some DNA (whole genes) from the environment or other bacteria around (and these might be other types of bacteria that do not cause disease) that give the bacteria resistance to the antibiotic. Usually these antibiotic resistance genes act one of two ways: one is the gene may encode an enzyme that breaks down the antibiotic (common with penicillin-resistance); the second is that the gene may encode a molecular pump that pumps a variety of small molecules like antibiotics out of the bacteria. If the bacteria is continuously pumping the antibiotic out, the antibiotic is not effective. So in the case of bacterial antibiotic resistance, again there is no loss of genetic material, actually there is a gain of genetic material.

What these posts don’t recognize is that even when there is a mutation, this is NOT a loss of genetic information! It is a loss of diversity, and possibly function (or altered function). But the gene is still there – and it can be mutated back to full function just as easily as it mutated to lose function.

Also it is obvious why bacteria isolated from soil or from many years ago have these genes, penicillin was discovered in naturally occurring mold. This is in the environment, and some bacteria throughout natural history have had to deal with this as well as related molecules – so these enzymes and molecular pumps in some specific environments would be selected for over time. As we use antibiotics in healthcare (and sadly in animal feed), there is more selection for bacteria to pick up and hold onto these genes. That’s why they’re more prevalent in our environment than they were fifty years ago.


Oh, Sean, I forgot. As for how these antibiotics like beta-lactamase or antibiotic pumps arose though evolution. You can look at the amino acid sequence of these proteins and there are some very closely related proteins in some bacteria that are used for different purposes – they break down something other than beta-lactamase and pump other molecules into or out of bacteria. What has clearly happened is that these genes were duplicated and random mutations occurred. At some point in time, one or more of these mutations led to subtle changes in the protein which made it function in a new way – so that it could break down beta-lactamase (the ring in the penicillin structure). This then provided that bacterium with a selective advantage when it was in an environment with that family of mold. This idea of gene duplication is quite common – we humans also have gene duplications throughout our genomes. Most of these are not expressed and not currently “used” if you will – so don’t provide us any advantage now – but appear to be the place where new genes/functions can arise. There are cases where past pseudogenes have evolved to be used. There are several copies of human hemoglobin. In some other animals only a single hemoglobin is used, and the other copies remain as unused pseudogenes. In humans we still have some unexpressed hemoglobin pseudogenes, but we use more than one hemoglobin; at least one is only expressed and used in utero, and is developmentally turned down (to about 3%) as we are born and mature – then the standard hemoglobin is the primary hemoglobin. It is unclear what advantage the fetal hemoglobin provides in utero, but this is the way we have evolved. We guess there is some advantage to using it.


Okay. But even I would say that all by itself acquisition of antibiotic/pesticide resistance is not evidence for evolution. It’s just one very small brick in a very large wall. It’s consistent with evolution, but by itself it’s just one tiny piece of evidence. If it wasn’t for all the other evidence for evolution, then this by itself might be one little weird anomaly


“In his book Not by Chance, Spetner likens this situation to the disturbance of the key-lock relationship. Streptomycin, just like a key that perfectly fits in a lock, clutches on to the ribosome of a bacterium and inactivates it. Mutation, on the other hand, decomposes the ribosome, thus preventing streptomycin from holding on to the ribosome. Although this is interpreted as “bacteria developing immunity against streptomycin,” this is not a benefit for the bacteria but rather a loss for it. Spetner writes:

This change in the surface of the microorganism’s ribosome prevents the streptomycin molecule from attaching and carrying out its antibiotic function. It turns out that this degradation is a loss of specificity and therefore a loss of information. The main point is that Evolution… cannot be achieved by mutations of this sort, no matter how many of them there are. Evolution cannot be built by accumulating mutations that only degrade specificity.”

This is only partly correct Sean. These mutations that occur in the bacterial chromosomal genes that confer resistance to streptomycin (there are more than one that have been discovered) do indeed alter the structure of the ribosome (the enzyme complex that synthesizes proteins). But they do NOT “decompose the ribosome” as Spetner claims. If they did, the bacteria could not survive, as all bacteria (and larger life forms) require protein synthesis to survive! While these mutations alter the bacterial ribosome somewhat, so streptomycin does not bind, the mutant ribosomes still have enough structure to function. In the absence of streptomycin long-term bacteria with this mutation would be out-competed, as they’re not quite as efficient at protein synthesis – but they’d survive just fine in mixed populations without strong selective pressure. Also, as I said above, there is nothing to prevent these single point mutation from mutating back to the normal “wild-type” configuration in the absence of streptomycin. It doesn’t happen any more efficiently than the original mutation to streptomycin-resistance, but it doesn’t happen any less efficiently either. I’m actually shocked at Spetner’s statements you posted – it shows a clear lack of understanding of basic first year microbial biology! I’m kind of appalled.


Having a few beers with the neighbors, Cost Plus World Market had a sale on some really good micro-brew. Spetner breaks the types of resistance into two categories (have you read his book out of curiosity? If you have not I would be curious to talk to you about when you do read it):

1) The transfer of resistance genes already extant in bacteria.

2) The building of resistance as a result of losing genetic data because of mutation.

So the transfer of antibiotic resistance in this manner (number 1) “… is not the kind that can serve as a prototype for the mutations needed to account for Evolution… The genetic changes that could illustrate the theory must not only add information to the bacterium’s genome, they must add new information to the biocosm. The horizontal transfer of genes only spreads around genes that are already in some species.”

Evolution is not happening here — at least the kind neo-Darwinism needs. No new genetic information is produced: genetic information that already exists is simply transferred between bacteria.

In a debate Dr. Spetner had he summed it up thus with Dr Edward Max (via Talk Origins and True Origins):

It turns out, however, that a microorganism can sometimes acquire resistance to an antibiotic through a random substitution of a single nucleotide, and this is the kind of example Max presented. Streptomycin, which was discovered by Selman Waksman and Albert Schatz and first reported in 1944, is an antibiotic against which bacteria can acquire resistance in this way. But although the mutation they undergo in the process is beneficial to the microorganism in the presence of streptomycin, it cannot serve as a prototype for the kind of mutations needed by NDT. The type of mutation that grants resistance to streptomycin is manifest in the ribosome and degrades its molecular match with the antibiotic molecule. This change in the surface of the microorganism’s ribosome prevents the streptomycin molecule from attaching and carrying out its antibiotic function. It turns out that this degradation is a loss of specificity and therefore a loss of information. The main point is that Evolution A cannot be achieved by mutations of this sort, no matter how many of them there are. Evolution cannot be built by accumulating mutations that only degrade specificity.

In the final paragraph of my original critique, I said the following:

The mutations needed for macroevolution have never been observed. No random mutations that could represent the mutations required by NDT that have been examined on the molecular level have added any information. The question I address is: Are the mutations that have been observed the kind the theory needs for support? The answer turns out to be NO! Many have lost information. To support NDT one would have to show many examples of random mutations that add information. Unless the aggregate results of the genetic experiments performed until now is a grossly biased sample, we can safely dismiss Neo-Darwinian theory as an explanation of how life developed from a single simple source. http://www.trueorigin.org/spetner2.asp

You are saying it is an example of a gain of new information? If all anti-biotics were removed from human application, would the parent population be again the dominant bacterium due to its superior health under less pressure?

Oh! Bacterium transferring resistance laterally also fits with the predictive powers of I.D. (You had said: “It’s consistent with evolution”)

Tom Melendy

Sean, the point I made above, about how some of the things Spetner states are just plain wrong, makes me question his deductive powers. There are similar things in the sections you’ve posted above. He’ll take one correct point, and then follow it up with a second statement about it or a conclusion about it which is patently wrong! Because he starts with a correct statement, you start giving him credence (and it sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. But then he screws it up completely. I can’t even bear to read the little pieces you’ve posted he because he’s made such a mashup of some correct facts, some incorrect statements, and completely fallacious reasoning – I sorry, I just can’t bear to read his work. His reasoning is just garbage – as I’ve pointed out in the example I gave above.

Point mutations, like the one he describes about Streptomycin, do not “degrade specificity”. They ALTER specificity – and might even bind other things BETTER than the original. Because he uses the words “degrade” and “loss of genetic information” (I pointed out above how that conclusion of his is wrong too), it SOUNDS like his conclusion makes sense – that this “loss of specificity” and “loss of genetic information” could not be a positive for evolution. The problem is his characterization of those mutations as being a “loss” of information is simply incorrect. This is what I was talking about above, where he makes a point that is correct – a mutation can caused decreased binding to streptomycin – but his descriptions after that are incorrect and misleading. Virtually everything you’ve posted by him is like this – he starts with one correct statement, then makes misleading or mischaracterizing statements about it, allowing him to build a fallacious argument. One of two things – either he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he’s trying to mislead you – I don’t know which.


To be clear, less fitness is better?

….some mutant bacteria, because they have defective membranes, don’t absorb nutrients well. Fortuitously for them, that inefficiency also prevents their absorbing antibiotics. And so, in this instance also, they survive better than their normal cousins. But the mutation did not make them stronger or create new information, or “evolve” to a higher state.

So you teach your students that a harmful mutation in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood (sickle-cell anemia) is “good” — or — or an upward mobility in fitness on the whole and a proof of evolution? Its like air leaking slowly from a tire… it may do well temporarily in sand, but it isn’t an improvement.


Rearranging the same information is a prediction of I.D. AND creation… small changes in “species” is expected in all of the evolutionary models and creation models.

It seemed like from an above statement you couldn’t bear to read Spetner. I would feel fulfilled if I got a promise from you to read ONE book, one book: “Unshakeable Foundation,” by Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino. I will even buy it for you if you do not feel the need to spend money on it. Let me know.

You said:

Any scientist with an agenda is not a scientists but a poor philosopher with dangerous intent…. God is beyond being “proven” or “disproven”, which is of course inherent for a being all-powerful. It is beyond any man to prove or disprove God.

This is the same as saying, “God is indescribable,” which of course is a self-refuting [self-deleting] statement… e.g., incoherent. You mean, according to philosophical naturalism God is unprovable:

  • Professor: “Miracles are impossible Sean, don’t you know science has disproven them, how could you believe in them [i.e., answered prayer, a man being raised from the dead, etc.].”
  • Student: “for clarity purposes I wish to get some definitions straight. Would it be fair to say that science is generally defined as ‘the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us’?”
  • Professor: “Beautifully put, that is the basic definition of science in every text-book I read through my Doctoral journey.”
  • Student: “Wouldn’t you also say that a good definition of a miracle would be ‘and event in nature caused by something outside of nature’?”
  • Professor: “Yes, that would be an acceptable definition of ‘miracle.’”
  • Student: “But since you do not believe that anything outside of nature exists [materialism, dialectical materialism, empiricism, existentialism, naturalism, and humanism – whatever you wish to call it], you are ‘forced’ to conclude that miracles are impossible”

Unless, @Tom Melendy, God came into the world… a Christian is one who believes Jesus *IS* God incarnate. Do you believe this Tom?

Tom Melendy

It’s interesting Sean, I actually agree very much with that point made above “Any scientist with an agenda is not a scientists but a poor philosopher with dangerous intent…. God is beyond being “proven” or “disproven”, which is of course inherent for a being all-powerful. It is beyond any man to prove or disprove God.” – this is actually something I teach my students VERY hard – to not become wedded to a theory, to be willing to let that theory go WILLINGLY, if the data argues against it. I have no agenda here – I neither want to prove nor disprove God (such attempts are silly, if we accept God is all powerful, it is beyond the power of Man to prove or disprove). I only want to look at the data and see what they indicate. I would argue VERY STRONGLY that the scientists you have been posting have an AGENDA – and that agenda is to disprove evolution. Ergo, as per your post above – they are very poor scientists. And based on their writings that you’ve posted, I agree wholeheartedly – their writings are rife with errors and mis-conclusions. Conversely I do not believe that believing in Evolution precludes an all-powerful God. Much of the Bible is written as parable or allegory, and I believe that Genesis is written in much this way – written in a way so mankind at that time could comprehend what was written. So unlike most, I go into the Evolution question with an open mind, without any goal or either proving or disproving God. So if you put that question aside, and ask what the data supports, the data overwhelmingly supports Evolution – otherwise why would there be so many fossils of species showing intermediate forms between ancient life forms and current life forms, otherwise why would gene homologies across both current species as well as compared to ancient species show incremental changes consistent with Evolution. Instead of you probing my knowledge and ability to support Evolution with the biological systems in the world – let me ask you a question. If God created all the species currently on the Earth either 6000 years ago, or through intelligent design, why is there so much evidence that supports Evolution? Why Ancient species, why evidence for intermediate species? If you believe in an all-powerful God, yet don’t believe in Evolution, then why are these fossils there, then why does the genetic code show evidence of intermediates and sequence-relatedness consistent with Evolution? Do you believe God put it all there just to try to confuse us? Seems like a lot of trouble just to play a little mind-game with mankind – ??

…Continued in Part II