24 Nov, 14 > 30 Nov, 14
14 Jul, 14 > 20 Jul, 14
3 Feb, 14 > 9 Feb, 14
20 Jan, 14 > 26 Jan, 14
18 Mar, 13 > 24 Mar, 13
28 Jan, 13 > 3 Feb, 13
30 Jan, 12 > 5 Feb, 12
5 Dec, 11 > 11 Dec, 11
31 Oct, 11 > 6 Nov, 11
24 Oct, 11 > 30 Oct, 11
10 Oct, 11 > 16 Oct, 11
22 Aug, 11 > 28 Aug, 11
4 Apr, 11 > 10 Apr, 11
14 Mar, 11 > 20 Mar, 11
7 Mar, 11 > 13 Mar, 11
28 Feb, 11 > 6 Mar, 11
24 Jan, 11 > 30 Jan, 11
17 Jan, 11 > 23 Jan, 11
10 Jan, 11 > 16 Jan, 11
27 Dec, 10 > 2 Jan, 11
20 Dec, 10 > 26 Dec, 10
13 Dec, 10 > 19 Dec, 10
6 Dec, 10 > 12 Dec, 10
29 Nov, 10 > 5 Dec, 10
22 Nov, 10 > 28 Nov, 10
8 Nov, 10 > 14 Nov, 10
1 Nov, 10 > 7 Nov, 10
18 Oct, 10 > 24 Oct, 10
11 Oct, 10 > 17 Oct, 10
4 Oct, 10 > 10 Oct, 10
20 Sep, 10 > 26 Sep, 10
6 Sep, 10 > 12 Sep, 10
16 Aug, 10 > 22 Aug, 10
12 Jul, 10 > 18 Jul, 10
31 May, 10 > 6 Jun, 10
3 May, 10 > 9 May, 10
19 Apr, 10 > 25 Apr, 10
5 Apr, 10 > 11 Apr, 10
11 Jan, 10 > 17 Jan, 10
28 Dec, 09 > 3 Jan, 10
30 Nov, 09 > 6 Dec, 09
24 Aug, 09 > 30 Aug, 09
16 Mar, 09 > 22 Mar, 09
9 Feb, 09 > 15 Feb, 09
8 Sep, 08 > 14 Sep, 08
1 Sep, 08 > 7 Sep, 08
4 Aug, 08 > 10 Aug, 08
9 Jun, 08 > 15 Jun, 08
26 May, 08 > 1 Jun, 08
19 May, 08 > 25 May, 08
12 May, 08 > 18 May, 08
5 May, 08 > 11 May, 08
28 Apr, 08 > 4 May, 08
21 Apr, 08 > 27 Apr, 08
14 Apr, 08 > 20 Apr, 08
24 Mar, 08 > 30 Mar, 08
3 Mar, 08 > 9 Mar, 08
25 Feb, 08 > 2 Mar, 08
18 Feb, 08 > 24 Feb, 08
28 Jan, 08 > 3 Feb, 08
7 Jan, 08 > 13 Jan, 08
24 Dec, 07 > 30 Dec, 07
17 Dec, 07 > 23 Dec, 07
10 Dec, 07 > 16 Dec, 07
12 Nov, 07 > 18 Nov, 07
29 Oct, 07 > 4 Nov, 07
20 Aug, 07 > 26 Aug, 07
30 Jul, 07 > 5 Aug, 07
7 May, 07 > 13 May, 07
9 Apr, 07 > 15 Apr, 07
26 Mar, 07 > 1 Apr, 07
5 Mar, 07 > 11 Mar, 07
19 Feb, 07 > 25 Feb, 07
5 Feb, 07 > 11 Feb, 07
29 Jan, 07 > 4 Feb, 07
8 Jan, 07 > 14 Jan, 07
30 Oct, 06 > 5 Nov, 06
23 Oct, 06 > 29 Oct, 06
16 Oct, 06 > 22 Oct, 06
9 Oct, 06 > 15 Oct, 06
2 Oct, 06 > 8 Oct, 06
25 Sep, 06 > 1 Oct, 06
4 Sep, 06 > 10 Sep, 06
28 Aug, 06 > 3 Sep, 06
10 Jul, 06 > 16 Jul, 06
3 Jul, 06 > 9 Jul, 06
26 Jun, 06 > 2 Jul, 06
12 Jun, 06 > 18 Jun, 06
5 Jun, 06 > 11 Jun, 06
29 May, 06 > 4 Jun, 06
15 May, 06 > 21 May, 06
8 May, 06 > 14 May, 06
10 Apr, 06 > 16 Apr, 06
3 Apr, 06 > 9 Apr, 06
20 Mar, 06 > 26 Mar, 06
6 Mar, 06 > 12 Mar, 06
20 Feb, 06 > 26 Feb, 06
13 Feb, 06 > 19 Feb, 06
6 Feb, 06 > 12 Feb, 06
23 Jan, 06 > 29 Jan, 06
16 Jan, 06 > 22 Jan, 06
26 Dec, 05 > 1 Jan, 06
19 Dec, 05 > 25 Dec, 05
12 Dec, 05 > 18 Dec, 05
21 Nov, 05 > 27 Nov, 05
7 Nov, 05 > 13 Nov, 05
24 Oct, 05 > 30 Oct, 05
17 Oct, 05 > 23 Oct, 05
3 Oct, 05 > 9 Oct, 05
26 Sep, 05 > 2 Oct, 05
12 Sep, 05 > 18 Sep, 05
29 Aug, 05 > 4 Sep, 05
22 Aug, 05 > 28 Aug, 05
8 Aug, 05 > 14 Aug, 05
4 Jul, 05 > 10 Jul, 05
27 Jun, 05 > 3 Jul, 05
13 Jun, 05 > 19 Jun, 05
6 Jun, 05 > 12 Jun, 05
30 May, 05 > 5 Jun, 05
16 May, 05 > 22 May, 05
9 May, 05 > 15 May, 05
2 May, 05 > 8 May, 05
25 Apr, 05 > 1 May, 05
11 Apr, 05 > 17 Apr, 05
28 Mar, 05 > 3 Apr, 05
21 Mar, 05 > 27 Mar, 05
14 Mar, 05 > 20 Mar, 05
7 Mar, 05 > 13 Mar, 05
28 Feb, 05 > 6 Mar, 05
21 Feb, 05 > 27 Feb, 05
7 Feb, 05 > 13 Feb, 05
17 Jan, 05 > 23 Jan, 05
3 Jan, 05 > 9 Jan, 05
22 Nov, 04 > 28 Nov, 04
8 Nov, 04 > 14 Nov, 04
1 Nov, 04 > 7 Nov, 04
2 Aug, 04 > 8 Aug, 04
26 Jul, 04 > 1 Aug, 04
21 Jun, 04 > 27 Jun, 04
17 May, 04 > 23 May, 04
29 Mar, 04 > 4 Apr, 04
22 Mar, 04 > 28 Mar, 04
15 Mar, 04 > 21 Mar, 04
1 Mar, 04 > 7 Mar, 04
2 Feb, 04 > 8 Feb, 04
24 Nov, 03 > 30 Nov, 03
10 Nov, 03 > 16 Nov, 03
3 Nov, 03 > 9 Nov, 03
27 Oct, 03 > 2 Nov, 03
20 Oct, 03 > 26 Oct, 03
29 Sep, 03 > 5 Oct, 03
22 Sep, 03 > 28 Sep, 03
15 Sep, 03 > 21 Sep, 03
4 Aug, 03 > 10 Aug, 03
5 May, 03 > 11 May, 03
Saturday, July 8, 2006
 Speaking event Sunday July 23rd

Topic: Announcements

The Origins of Christianity and the Jesus Myth
Sunday July 23 at 1:30 pm

This presentation will explore the evolution of Christianity from its early origins to an institution that dominated the failing Roman Empire. Who were the early Christians? What influences did the so-called "pagan" cultures have on Christianity? What do we really know about Jesus? How did Christianity become the exclusive religion of the Roman world? These issues and more will be addressed in this multi-media speaking presentation.

Additional Information:

Broward Community College North Campus Library - Room 226

(just west of Exit 67 on Turnpike on Coconut Creek Parkway)

Posted by at 8:48 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, June 30, 2006
 Regarding CEO Paycheck: $42,000 a day

Topic: Commentary

The well intentioned Jeanne Sahadi of CNN, who typically tries to provide "working class" oriented economic assessments, proves once against just how biased and skewed our economic language is in America.

In a recent CNN Money piece on executive pay, where she was trying to point out the flaws of CEO compensation, she still used the same flawed language that all "mainstream media" economists use, despite the fact that it actually undermined her own points.

What I'm talking about here is the use of the words "earn" and "make" when discussing incomes. These words have become ubiquitous in economics today, but they are completely biased terms that completely misrepresent the truth. The most accurate and unbiased way to describe a person's income is "receive". Receive always works, is always accurate, and is always correct. The very problem with our economy is that we don't really know if people "earn" their incomes, we don't really know how much a person actually "makes". We do know how much they are paid, and that is an objective value that we can discuss, but whether or not someone has actually "earned" that compensation or actually "created" that value, is subjective.

Money transforms something subjective into something objective. The use of the terms "earn" and "make" in popular economic lexicon misportrays something that is subjective as something objective. If I say that the CEO of XYZ company "earned" $20,000,000 last year, then I am telling you that he does deserve the money, and he did actually personally create $20,000,000 worth of value. That's an inaccurate statement though. You don't know if he personally created $20,000,000 worth of value, or if he really earned it or not. We do know that he received it, but that's all we know.

In fact, the problem with our economy is the fact that incomes do not match contributions. People are not receiving what they earn. Executives tend to receive more than the value that they create and average workers tend to receive less value than they create.

The value created by the workers is redistributed to the executives, who are receiving money that was earned by the workers below then in the company, as well as money that is a product of socially created value from public infrastructure and resources. Value created by other people is realized by corporate executives, which is why they are getting these insane compensation packages.

There can be no problem with income disparity if indeed the incomes are truly earned. If one person is actually creating 300 times more value a year than someone else, then that person deserves to keep that value, but the fact is that this is not happening. One person isn't creating 300 times more value than another person. One person is maybe creating 5 times or perhaps even 10 times more value than another person, but through social institutions the contributions of the various members of society are redirected, using various aspects of property rights to redirect value that is created by common workers to a few executives and property holders.

This is the problem that people have when they think about capitalism. People still think in terms of pre-capitalist production. For example:

We have 10 people who make bricks. They are paid $1 per brick that they make. Each individual makes their own bricks. Tom makes 50 bricks a day, Bill makes 80 bricks a day, Susan makes 100 bricks a day, Bob makes 30 bricks a day, etc. There is absolutely no reason to redistribute any of the income of these people. They each make as many bricks as they can or choose to do, and they get what they "earned". That's fine.

Now let's see this same process in a capitalist system.

We have 10 people, who work at making bricks. 5 of them are brick makers, 2 are middle managers, 1 is a book keeper, 1 is a salesman, and 1 is an executive. The 5 people make a total of 250 bricks a day and the company is able to sell all of them each day. Those 250 bricks a day produce the $250 a day revenuestream for the company. The $250 a day is then divided up among the various members of the company. How do we decide who gets how much? How do we know how much value each member of the company is contributing? In truth we really don't. Its subjective. Right now, in our capitalist system, many factors come into play, including the market demand/supply of the various types of workers, social pressures and customs, the personal persuasive ability of the workers and executives involved to advocate their self-interest, the knowledge or lack of knowledge about the revenue of the company, outside social perceptions, how people are educated to think about compensation and self-worth, overall social conceptions about the economic impact of compensation, etc.

To put it another way, consider a luxury car company, that makes $42,000 cars, where the people who build the cars get paid $42,000 a year, and the CEO gets paid $42,000 a day. What this means is that compensation is telling us that is the workers create 1 car a year each, while the CEO makes 1 car a day. Is this correct? This would mean that all of the work done by the worker would amount to building 1 car in a years time, while the CEO personally builds 260 cars a year. Does anyone really believe that this is true? I sure don't.

Compensation in our system is anything but straight forward. We must really admit that we have no idea how much each worker in society is really "earning" or really "making", all we know is what they are receiving.

Below is a copy of Jeanne Sahadi's article, with all of the words "earn" and "make" replaced with receive. As you can see, if you read the original first, it completely changes the impression given by the article, and it is also more accurate.

The top dogs at large companies received big bucks, no surprise. But it's always a little jolting to see just how big those bucks are relative to the paycheck of the average Joe.

Last year, the average CEO of a company with at least $1 billion in annual revenue received $10,982,000, or 262 times what the average worker received, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released Wednesday.

Put another way, the average worker -- who received $41,861 in 2005 -- received about $400 less last year than what the average large-company CEO received  in one day. That assumes 260 days of pay (52 weeks x 5 days a week).

The CEO-to-worker pay differential in 2005 was the second highest on record. The highest was 2000, when the average CEO received 300 times what the average worker received.

In 2002, the differential fell to 143 as the bear market took its toll on stock-related compensation. Nevertheless, between 2000 and 2005, median CEO pay rose 84 percent to $6.05 million on an inflation-adjusted basis, according to EPI.

Median worker pay during the same period fell an estimated 0.3 percent to $33,852, based on BLS weekly compensation data.

Critics of CEO pay contend that the compensation committees of publicly traded companies too often fail to tie pay to performance.

Posted by at 8:36 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, July 2, 2006 9:58 AM EDT
Sunday, June 25, 2006
 The Mis-portrayal of Darwin as a Racist

Topic: Announcements

The Mis-portrayal of Darwin as a Racist

There is a growing effort among opponents of evolution to portray Charles Darwin as a racist and to associate the theory of evolution with Nazism and the Holocaust. Several books have been written on this subject and legislation has been proposed some states to classify the theory of evolution as a racist ideology. The Discovery Institute has even produced a video documentary on the subject.

The facts about Darwin, evolutionary theory, and Nazism, however, are in stark contrast to the misportrayals put forward by anti-evolutionists. In this article I present the facts about the history of slavery, racism and genocide in Western Civilization, as well as the facts about Charles Darwin's progressive views on race. The fact is that the theory of evolution served to break down the accepted belief in a "divine separation" of races and the belief that blacks were "created to serve the white race by God".

Posted by at 5:43 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (52) | Permalink
Monday, June 12, 2006
 Just saw An Inconvenient Truth

Topic: Commentary

I just got back from seeing the movie An Inconvenient Truth, featuring Al Gore. Its somewhat difficult to evaluate this film, because you can't really call it "good" since the film points out so many problems. It is definitely a well done and thoughtful presentation however, which I highly recommend that everyone see.

Aside from the central message on global warming, I think that Al Gore did an excellent job of promoting science and the use of science in shaping our public policy and informing our daily lives. This is where I feel that the film was an excellent success. The film was a success because Al Gore laid a foundational groundwork and used that foundation to make the case. This is exactly what the Democratic Party should be doing on every issue.

The best thing about this film is that it defends science and reason and shows how science plays important roles in our daily lies and how science is critical for our future success and survival. Science cannot only be used by industry to create technology, science must also be used by the public to make decisions. Without this latter case, science has no morality and, more importantly, our morality has no science.

In a world that is being rapidly changed by technology, our instincts are no longer necessarily suitable to the situation at hand. Our lives are no longer in the ancient context. Our evolved morality no longer corresponds to the situations that face us. Instinct is no longer good enough and the stakes are so high that only science and reason can truly guide our judgment.

While this is not the central theme of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore does make this case.

It is remarkable to think, however, that a thoughtful and articulate man like Al Gore was denied the presidency in America, and that instead George Bush, an inarticulate and uninsightful man who seems to despise science and reason is the leader of the most powerful country in the world. It is truly amazing.

Al Gore has said that he does not plan to run for president in 2008, but I really hope that he does, because the Democrats don't have another candidate that comes close to the quality an caliber of Gore, and I think that Hilary Clinton would be a horrible choice as the Democratic nominee. Ms. Clinton has too many political and cultural enemies, too much baggage, and quite frankly, she's to conservative as well.

An Inconvenient Truth is not showing everywhere, which is unfortunate, but it is showing in most cities. To learn more or find a theater near you visit the official website:

Posted by at 6:36 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, June 15, 2006 6:45 AM EDT
Saturday, June 10, 2006
 The nonsense of Republican "Family Values"

Topic: Commentary

The three issues that the Republicans have brought before the Senate in the last few days are "defining marriage as between a man and a woman", a bill to make the full repeal of the estate tax permanent, and a bill to ban flag burning.

The Republicans claim that they are trying to "defend marriage", by ensuring that they restrict it to a select group of people. Republicans claim that marriage is the foundation of society, so one would think that they would want to expand the role of marriage in society, not restrict it. If conservatives are troubled by "the homosexual lifestyle", then why don't they encourage homosexuals to get married? The "homosexual lifestyle" is essentially the single lifestyle, and as long as it remains impossible for homosexuals to get married they will of course remain single.

The issues go well beyond this however.

Conservatives complain about the "breakdown" of the institution of the family, but do they explain this "breakdown", do they give reasons for it? They blame this breakdown on "attacks by liberalism", homosexuality, feminism, and a lack of prayer in schools, etc.

The fact is, however, that none of things things are causes of the breakdown of the so-called "traditional" family. In fact all of these things are symptoms of the same root cause, which is industrialization and market economy capitalism.

That's the irony of all this, the real root cause of change in American society is the very institution that conservatives so fiercely defend: Capitalism.

Many of these changes are simply inevitable and are unavoidable with the changes that come with industrialization, but others have been exacerbated by the American style market economy.

Several historical facts must be put in perspective to understand the "family", however.

What is a "family" and why did families evolve?

The family has traditionally been the core economic unit of society. Throughout most of history the household as been the primary place of production, and all family members were involved, including children from as soon as they were old enough to participate. Prior to the 18th century in England and America, children began "working" around age 5 in the home, became significant contributors to the family income by age 7, and had generated major profits for the family by age 18. Women have always worked. Its just that until the industrial revolution all business was run out of the home, so there was no need to leave home to work, for either men or women. Yes, men typically took care of the business outside the home, but the home was effectively the "corporate headquarters". Women did plenty of work there and there was plenty to do, not just raise children, that was only one aspect.

There was a division of labor between the sexes, rooted primarily in utility. Women did split their time between raising the children and preparing the meals for the family, which meant preparing meals for the workers effectively, but they often did much more than this, they also often took care of book keeping, arranged orders, directed the labor of the children, and managed inventories. You must keep in mind that every home in America when America was founded was effectively its own little factory. 95% of all production in America was done in the home in 1800. Today less than 1% is done in the home.

This dramatic restructuring of the economy IS THE ROOT CAUSE of the changes in family structure, the role of the family in society, and the significance of the family.

A family is no longer itself an economic enterprise that is needed for survival. Today business people are pressured by the market to form cooperative groups known as corporations. 200+ years ago the pressure was to form a family. One person alone can't produce much, but by forming a family a person could automatically produce a group of 8 to 15 people who worked as a small "corporation" and extended families could reach into the hundreds.

Today, however, the economy has expanded well beyond this and the family is no longer a business unit like it was in the past.

Children are no longer economic assets as they were a hundred years ago or more. Today children are major economic burdens who never generate a profit for the family until they are out of the house, if then. The return on investment for children has consistently diminished over the past 200 years and today it may actually be the case that there is zero return on investment for most families. These economic changes have had major influences on family structures.

To add to all of this, marketing has usurped the power of the family to influence society. Who has the biggest influence on society today? Corporations. What is the motivation of their influence? Profit motive. When families had more influence over the economy, they also had more influence over society. Now the economy is rooted in the corporation, not the family, and thus the entire basis of our culture has shifted from the family to the corporation.

Families always had a completely different interest in their children than corporations do. The family has an inherent interest in trying to influence the behavior of their children in ways that both benefit the family and benefit the child. To the family the child was both a worker, i.e. provider, and also an offspring, someone that they loved and cared for and wanted to succeed. So, families had an interest in instilling "positive values" in their children, both for the sake of the child and the sake of the family itself.

Corporations, however, have no such direct interest. Their immediate interest is to view the child as a consumer. Thus, now that our society is dominated by the corporation, the values of the society are the values instilled by corporations. Families have been weakened, not as gays have come out of the closet, but as corporations have taken on the leading role in society. The interest of the corporation, and thus "the market economy", is to influence behavior in ways that encourage people to make poor decisions, not good decisions (to be fair the direct interest is not to influnce people to bad bad decisions, but the net result of marketing is to induce bad decisions). The primary relationship between corporation and child is that the child has money (or access to the money) the corporation wants, and the corporation seeks to influence the child to engage in behavior that will result in funneling money to the corporation.

It cannot be any other way in a capitalist economy, that's how it works.

Furthermore, now that the home is no longer the basis of the economy, it no longer makes sense for women to "stay there". There is nothing to do at home, most of the work takes place outside the home. Women have always contributed to the economy, and by leaving the home all they are doing is acting in accordance with the free market to pursue jobs where jobs are, i.e. outside the home.

The Republicans fail to acknowledge that it is indeed the free market that explains the breakup of the family, not "gays getting the right to marry".

The analysis that I have provided here demonstrates a massive failure on the part of out society and especially the Democratic Party and so-called "liberals", because instead of using these provable facts to take charge of the debate on social issues, the Democrats and liberals are conceding the debate to the conservatives and falling back on empty slogans and emotional appeals. Our news media fails to discuss the issues or do any significant reporting on these types of issues, and our talk shows and analysts are filled with either conservatives who misrepresent everything or post-modernists who can't explain their way out of a paper bag.

What is to be done? I don't know, because it seems that rationalism and empirical data are taboo in the public sphere in America today.

What is certain is that conservatives tend to be wrong about everything, but no one else is stepping up to provide the reason why they are wrong and to give voice to the correct anwsers.

Posted by at 7:13 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, June 15, 2006 6:56 AM EDT
Sunday, June 4, 2006
 Re: If you were setting the agenda...

Topic: Commentary

I recently received a mass e-mail message from the Democratic Party asking "what would you do if you were setting the agenda". This is what they had to say:

Imagine for a moment that you're Republican Bill Frist, the Senate's Majority Leader, and you have the power and awesome responsibility to control what issues the Senate considers and when it considers them. Knowing everything you do about the crises facing our nation and the things that most concern Americans, would your top priority be to:

A) Force the administration to change its failed strategy in Iraq

B) Help consumers walloped by $3.00 a gallon gas and take steps to reduce our oil addiction

C) Pass the first minimum wage increase in 10 years and develop plans to create good jobs in America

D) Expand educational opportunities for college by providing relief from skyrocketing college tuition

E) Ensure access to health care for every American

F) Amend the Constitution to deprive gay people of equal rights under the law

As someone who cares deeply about this nation, its problems and its future, you probably said A, B, C, D, or E. But Republican Majority Leader Frist chose F.

The question was rhetorical, of course, and there was no way to actually reply to the e-mail, but I went to the Democratic Party website and replied from there. This is my response:

As a Leftist I think that the agenda of the Democratic Party should be to fundamentally make the case for  Leftist principles the way that the Republican Party fundamentally makes the case for its Right-wing policy.

If *I* were setting the agenda this is what I would do:

  • Promote and defend secularism, science, and rationalism both in public and in the Senate.
  • Nothing should be done to change the market price of petroleum products. The market price of fuel encourages conservation and efficiency. Taking action to reduce the price of fuel is counter productive.
  • Move for a Global Minimum Wage to be paid by all employers from developed countries when the employ workers in developing nations, or when they purchase goods from suppliers in developing nations. This would require a treaty with the G8 and all other developed nations.
  • In conjunction with the Global Minimum Wage, also move to remove all tariffs on foreign trade.
  • Completely rework the college scholarship system for pubic universities. All public scholarships should be terminated and replaced with a system that compensates based on grades. Students should be reimbursed 95% for As, 75% for Bs, and 50% for Cs. No reimbursement for Ds and Fs.
  • Promote and defend a fundamental ideology as the Republicans have done. Republican social and economic claims must be countered with the factual analysis which shows that social changes are products of economic changes. Social Changes in our society that conservatives complain about are in fact products of free-market capitalism and industrialization. The movement of the home based economy to an economy dominated by multi-national corporations, where 98% of production takes place outside of the home, is what has led to the major social changes in America over the past 100 years, especially the past 50 years. Yes women used to work in the home, back when the majority of businesses were run from the home.
  • Stop claiming that healthcare is a right. Healthcare is not a right, and should never be considered as such. Healthcare is a luxury that we, as the richest nation in the history of the world, should provide to all citizens both because it is cheaper in the long run, and because we have the means to do so, but it is not a right. Just because healthcare is not a right does not mean that we should not provide universal healthcare.
  • Remove the special taxation laws for capital gains. The taxation system can be simplified and made fair by taxing all forms of income equally. It is indefensible to have workers subsidizing investors by taxing workers more than investors.
  • Increase taxes on the wealthy and reduce taxes on the poor and middle class. Defend this with the same reasoning used by Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower: The wealthy receive the most benefit from society and the State, and thus deserve to pay the most for the benefits that they receive.
  • Tax the profits of the petroleum industry and use that money for research & development projects for alternative energy. Allow the petroleum industry to get their own money back by participating in this R&D if they choose.

The Republican Party has been faltering for 4 years now, yet in this entire time the Democrats have shown their incompetence by their inability to provide and substantial alternative to Republican ideas and programs. Despite the Republicans being in an extremely weak and exposed position, the Democrats remain unable to capitalize the the events, because they have no core message, not set of principles, and are afraid to take on a truly progressive agenda. They continue to do nothing, and provide few meaningful alternatives. They offer no solutions to the issues that people really care about, because they are unable to challenge Republican ideology in any meaningful way.

Posted by at 1:31 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, June 4, 2006 1:47 PM EDT
Friday, May 26, 2006
 Debunking the "Da Vinci Code" Debunkers and the Jesus Myth

Topic: Announcements

Debunking the "Da Vinci Code" Debunkers and the Jesus Myth

This article is meant to address the claims that are being used by religious organizations as they challenge the points made in The Da Vince Code. A critical aspect of the article is the discussion of the mythology of Jesus, showing that while claims made in The Da Vinci Code may be false, the claims used to refute The Da Vinci Code are often false as well.

Posted by at 9:54 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Saturday, May 13, 2006
 Da Vinci Code Critics - Fighting Lies with Lies

Topic: Commentary

With all of the fallacies in The Da Vinci Code it gives priests, preachers, and fundamentalists the perfect opportunity to convince people of even more fallacies. Many of the things that Dan Brown presents as "true" in his work of "historical fiction" are in fact false, gross misstatements, or products of proven mistakes or misrepresentations, and this provides an easy target for Christians to fight against.

I have already been able to see many historical fallacies being promoted by Christians in opposition to The Da Vinci Code. Here is an analysis of some of the "best":

The Da Vinci Code's Top 10 Errors

1) CLAIM: Jesus was merely a man, not God. Brown says that the “pagan” Roman emperor Constantine, for the purpose of consolidating his power, created the “myth” that Jesus was resurrected after being crucified. (231-234).

ANSWER: Constantine, who converted to Christianity and ended Rome’s persecution of Christians, convened the Council of Nicea in 325, but only to sort out differences among church leaders, all of whom believed Jesus was divine. Early church historians referred routinely to Christ’s divinity, including Ignatius (105 A.D.) and Clement (150 A.D.)

Ironically, there is plenty of support for the claim that there was no Jesus at all. Nevertheless, Constantine did not convert to Christianity until he was on his deathbed at the very least, if this even happened. So many of the stories about Constantine are forged that it is hard to separate fact from fiction, but certainly we do know that many of the stories about Constantine were fabricated by later priests and popes in order to lay claim to imperial property and provide a basis for their power, claiming that it was granted to them by Constantine, who had for all his life been the high priest of Deus Sol Invictus. Constantine always believed that Jesus was just another representation of the sun god Helios.

Additionally, not all of the early Christians did think that Jesus was divine. Yes, there were many early church fathers that did refer to him as divine, but there were others that did not. The ones that didn't believe he was divine have simply been rejected, and are not counted as "true Christians" today, so this self-imposed filtering is just a bit of nonsense. Everyone who didn't believe in a divine Jesus was rejected, but that doesn't mean that there weren't plenty of people who didn't believe in a divine Jesus.

3) CLAIM: The four New Testament Gospels (the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) comprise a false account. Numerous ancient writings tell a more truthful story.

ANSWER: Brown bases his view on 52 books collectively called the Gnostic Gospels, discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. All were written more than a century after the Biblical Gospels were written. None of these books has any tie to eyewitnesses in Christ’s time, unlike the Gospels themselves.

The Gospels have no ties to eyewitness accounts either. None of the stories about Jesus are based on eyewitness accounts. All of the Gospels about Jesus, including the ones that didn't make it into the Bible, such as the Gospel of Thomas, were written as if they were eyewitness accounts, but none of them were. This is most obvious when dealing with the story of the birth of Jesus, which is written as if it were based on eyewitness accounts, even though that would obviously have been impossible. The same can be said for all of the other myths of the ancient world. Stories about Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Orion, Hercules, etc., are written as if they were eye witness accounts too.

5) CLAIM: Jesus did not die on the cross but married Mary Magdalene and fathered children with her. Brown claims the church was led by Mary Magdalene, whose role was covered up by a ruthless Catholic Church.

ANSWER: Jesus’ crucifixion and reappearance after the resurrection are perhaps the best-documented theological events in history, with literally hundreds of eyewitnesses. The Roman pagan historian Flavius Josephus recorded the event this way:

"He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him."[3]

The nonsense about Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and having children with her came from the Plantard forgeries and the Gnostic gospels of Phillip and “Mary Magdala.”

First of all, the quote that is referenced here is widely acknowledged to be full of errors. Secondly, the writing from which the quote is supposedly taken was not written until 93 CE and would, even at best, have been based on claims of other people, not a first hand account. Adding to that the oldest existing copy of the quote comes from a Christian source from the 800s, and there are many different copies of the text which don't mention Christ at all. For the many errors in this quote see:

Thirdly, the Bible has many contradictions about the number of people Jesus supposedly appeared before after he died. All of the books except one state that "only a few" people saw Jesus after his supposed resurrection:

Acts 10:

33 Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us."

34 Then Peter began to speak: ... 39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

The number of people, and who they were, that Jesus appeared before according to the Bible is different according to every account.

Matthew: 13
Mark: 14
Luke: 13 plus an ambiguous amount: "them that were with them"
John: 14
Paul (I Corinthians): 500

For more information on the contradictions in the story of Jesus' resurrection see:

There are no claims of a crucified person, Jesus or otherwise, appearing to people after death, aside from in the Bible. Likewise there are dozens of other myths from the same time about other people or man-gods who supposedly came back from the dead and appeared before people too.

The claim that Jesus appeared before 500 people comes from one source, Paul, whom we know never saw Jesus at all or had any contact with anyone who had ever actually seen Jesus. None of the Gospels state that Jesus appeared to 500 people, only that he appeared to the apostils and a couple more (each Gospel lists different people that he appeared before). Far from being "the best documented theological event in history", the story of Jesus' death and resurrection is quite contradictory between all the accounts, and none of them can be considered "documentation", since none of them are eye-witness accounts, they are all STORIES.

Fourthly, however, even if we take the Gospel accounts of Jesus' death at face value, and this whole event isn't just a fabricated myth, then that does nothing to say that he didn't simply survive the crucifixion (he was supposedly taken down after a short period of time according to the story, not left for weeks to rot on the cross as was typical) and then leave town.

8) CLAIM: The “sacred feminine” was at the heart of the early church, but was ruthlessly suppressed. “It was man, not God, who created the concept of ‘original sin,’ whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy” (238).

ANSWER: Once again (and throughout the book), Brown calls Scripture a colossal lie. Far from oppressing women, the church has proved to be a liberating force. Women have achieved unprecedented status in nations where Christianity has had an impact. Jesus honored women among His followers. Mary Magdalene was the first to discover the empty tomb, see the resurrected Christ, and to tell the other believers.

Let's see, the Bible states that wives "should submit to their husbands", Jesus had basically no relationship with his mother, the 12 apostles were all men, Eve is the one who "cursed us all", women haven't been allowed to have leadership roles in the church until just recently, against much church opposition, etc., etc.

In what way did Christianity help women? Women were leaders in civic and religious life in the ancient world until Christianity came along. Women had positions of power in society in Greece and Rome and among many of the other so-called pagan cultures in Europe prior to Christianity. What examples are there of the church "liberating women"? By making them cover their heads and bodies and become nuns? Women have achieved unprecedented status in nations where Christianity has had any impact - IN SPITE OF Christianity, not because of it.

Posted by at 7:23 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2006 6:57 AM EDT
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
 The Irony of Da Vinci Code Criticism

Topic: Commentary

Ripping 'The Da Vinci Code'

Catholic Anwsers: Cracking The Da Vinci Code

With the coming of The Da Vinci Code to the big screen many Christian organizations, especially Catholic ones, are heavily criticizing the story. To be sure The Da Vinci Code is full of factual errors and presents a very twisted distortion of history. The Catholic Church is upset with The Da Vinci Code because it humanizes Jesus and presents him has a "real person", claiming that the story undermines Jesus' divinity, but the real irony is that The Da Vinci Code presents Jesus as more real than he really was.

Ultimately The Da Vinci Code lends support to the real fallacy, which is that Jesus actually existed and was a real person. As much as The Da Vinci Code presents itself as uncovering the "hidden truth", all it does is lend even more support to the biggest lie, which is that Jesus was a real live historical figure.

The reality is that The Da Vinci Code is based on the many fictional accounts of the Jesus figure. Yes, The Da Vinci Code is based on various texts about Jesus, but these texts are just as much fiction as the Gospels of the Bible are. The real truth is that all of the works about "Jesus" were fictional and mythological accounts, from which the Catholic Church chose four of the earliest ones that were the most believable. In reality there were close to 100 different stories written about "Jesus", and there were even more similar stories written about other mythical "saviors of mankind".

The Jesus story was not new or novel when it became popular. Stories about saviors born from virgins who had been impregnated by a god were as common in the ancient world as sci-fi stories are today. Likewise, stories about saviors who died for the sins of the people were common as well. Stories about half-god half-men who were killed and resurrected were equally as common as the afore mentioned motifs, as were stories about god-men that could turn water into wine, heal diseases, and walk on water. These are all common themes in many different mythological stories that were popular at the time that Christianity was born.

If we look at the structure of the Catholic religion we see that it mirrors the common pagan religions of the day. Effectively:

  • Jesus = Helios / Dionysus / Osirus / Zoroaster / Mithras / etc.
  • Mary = Diana / Isis / Ianna / Hera / etc.
  • 12 Apostles = 12 Signs of the Zodiac, a common theme in mythology of the time
  • Angels = Angels (Angels come from Greek mythology, the word means messenger)
  • Saints = Lesser gods
  • Satan = Angra Mainyu / Pluto / Hades / etc.
  • Demons = Devils / Imps / Pan / Lesser gods (the word devil comes from Persian language and was introduced to Greek culture after the conquest of Alexander the Great)

Thomas Paine, one of the founding figures of the United States, understood the role that the earlier Greek and Roman religions played in the development of Christian mythology:

It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story. Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. It was not a new thing, at that time, to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion. Their Jupiter, according to their accounts, had cohabited with hundreds: the story, therefore, had nothing in it either new, wonderful, or obscene; it was conformable to the opinions that then prevailed among the people called Gentiles, or Mythologists, and it was those people only that believed it. The Jews who had kept strictly to the belief of one God, and no more, and who had always rejected the heathen mythology, never credited the story.

It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian church sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which was about twenty or thirty thousand: the statue of Mary succeeded the statue of Diana of Ephesus; the deification of heroes changed into the canonization of saints; the Mythologists had gods for everything; the Christian Mythologists had saints for everything; the church became as crowded with one, as the Pantheon had been with the other, and Rome was the place of both. The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient Mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud.
- The Age of Reason; Thomas Paine, 1794

Indeed, some of the early saints were simply popular gods that were re-branded as Christian symbols. Just as each little god of the Greeks and Romans was dedicated to a specific role, such as the "god of sea fairing", "the god of travel", "the god of love", "the god of good harvest", etc., the saints simply took on these same roles. There are thousands of saints, just as their were thousands of lesser gods among the pagans. Pagan temples were in fact converted into places of worship for saints. Pagan tokens became saint tokens, etc.

There is really nothing at all in the Jesus story that is new or original; it's all there in hundreds of different myths from all over the Roman world.

Many of the early Christians didn't believe that Jesus was a real person, they believed that Jesus represented an idea or that Jesus was a myth, whose story was meant as a metaphor.

The irony is that The Da Vinci Code leads people to believe that there is more historical evidence for Jesus than there really is, when in fact the case is just the opposite. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that at the very least the character of Jesus in the Bible is a product of fiction and myth. If there is any historical basis to the Jesus story at all, then it is small and buried beneath a mountain of mythology and fantasy.

Indeed even the most celebrated part of the Jesus story, his supposed crucifixion, is very much in doubt. In truth there was no early belief that Jesus was killed on a cross. This is a story that came much later and has been affected by suspect translations. Even the Bible states in some sections that Jesus was killed by being hanged from a tree.

Acts 10:39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

The Gospels in their original Greek did not refer to any crucifix but used the word "stauros" (Mark 18:21, Matthew 27:32, Luke 23:26, John 19:17), meaning a stake or vertical pole. The Talmud refers to a Yeshua (the Hebrew version of the name Jesus) who claimed to be the messiah that was stoned to death and then hung from a tree.

Early Christians worshiped the cross for reasons that had nothing to do with the death of Jesus, as is illustrated by this defense of cross worship by an early Christian father, which lists many reasons for worshiping the cross, but never mentions Jesus:

The charge of worshipping a cross. The heathens themselves made much of crosses in sacred things; nay, their very idols were formed on a crucial frame.

As for him who affirms that we are "the priesthood of a cross," we shall claim him as our co-religionist. A cross is, in its material, a sign of wood; amongst yourselves also the object of worship is a wooden figure. Only, whilst with you the figure is a human one, with us the wood is its own figure. Never mind for the present what is the shape, provided the material is the same: the form, too, is of no importance, if so be it be the actual body of a god. If, however, there arises a question of difference on this point what, (let me ask,) is the difference between the Athenian Pallas, or the Pharian Ceres, and wood formed into a cross, when each is represented by a rough stock, without form, and by the merest rudiment of a statue of unformed wood? Every piece of timber which is fixed in the ground in an erect position is a part of a cross, and indeed the greater portion of its mass. But an entire cross is attributed to us, with its transverse beam, of course, and its projecting seat. Now you have the less to excuse you, for you dedicate to religion only a mutilated imperfect piece of wood, while others consecrate to the sacred purpose a complete structure. The truth, however, after all is, that your religion is all cross, as I shall show. You are indeed unaware that your gods in their origin have proceeded from this hated cross. Now, every image, whether carved out of wood or stone, or molten in metal, or produced out of any other richer material, must needs have had plastic hands engaged in its formation. Well, then, this modeller, before he did anything else, hit upon the form of a wooden cross, because even our own body assumes as its natural position the latent and concealed outline of a cross. Since the head rises upwards, and the back takes a straight direction, and the shoulders project laterally, if you simply place a man with his arms and hands outstretched, you will make the general outline of a cross. Starting, then, from this rudimental form and prop, as it were, he applies a covering of clay, and so gradually completes the limbs, and forms the body, and covers the cross within with the shape which he meant to impress upon the clay; then from this design, with the help of compasses and leaden moulds, he has got all ready for his image which is to be brought out into marble, or clay, or whatever the material be of which he has determined to make his god. (This, then, is the process:) after the cross-shaped frame, the clay; after the clay, the god. In a well-understood routine, the cross passes into a god through the clayey medium. The cross then you consecrate, and from it the consecrated (deity) begins to derive his origin. By way of example, let us take the case of a tree which grows up into a system of branches and foliage, and is a reproduction of its own kind, whether it springs from the kernel of an olive, or the stone of a peach, or a grain of pepper which has been duly tempered under ground. Now, if you transplant it, or take a cutting off its branches for another plant, to what will you attribute what is produced by the propagation? Will it not be to the grain, or the stone, or the kernel? Because, as the third stage is attributable to the second, and the second in like manner to the first, so the third will have to be referred to the first, through the second as the mean. We need not stay any longer in the discussion of this point, since by a natural law every kind of produce throughout nature refers back its growth to its original source; and just as the product is comprised in its primal cause, so does that cause agree in character with the thing produced. Since, then, in the production of your gods, you worship the cross which originates them, here will be the original kernel and grain, from which are propagated the wooden materials of your idolatrous images. Examples are not far to seek. Your victories you celebrate with religious ceremony as deities; and they are the more august in proportion to the joy they bring you. The frames on which you hang up your trophies must be crosses: these are, as it were, the very core of your pageants. Thus, in your victories, the religion of your camp makes even crosses objects of worship; your standards it adores, your standards are the sanction of its oaths; your standards it prefers before Jupiter himself, But all that parade of images, and that display of pure gold, are (as so many) necklaces of the crosses. in like manner also, in the banners and ensigns, which your soldiers guard with no less sacred care, you have the streamers (and) vestments of your crosses. You are ashamed, I suppose, to worship unadorned and simple crosses.
source: Ad Nationes; 197 :

Helios surrounded by 12 virgins, 12 disciples, and 12 signs of the zodiac

Apollo with halo

Apollo with halo

Christ as the sun-god from tomb in St. Peter's Basilica, discovered in 1942

Early image of Christ as "The Good Shepherd" (A common pre-Christian theme)

Jesus performing "miracle of loaves and fishes" depicted in royal robes

All of the earliest images of Jesus show him without a beard. The philosopher's beard and robes that he is traditionally seen in now were added around the 6th century CE.

From 420 CE, this is one of the earliest images of Jesus' crucifixion

Isis and Horus - Mary and Christ

Isis and Horus mosaic from The House of Dionysus

pre-Christian Roman figure

Mary - Queen of Heaven

Hera - Queen of Heaven

Helios the sun god "walked on the water" and had "12 disciples". Helio's resurrection after three days of death was celebrated on December 25th - Sol Invictus (Invincible Sun). The sun "died" on December 22nd, the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The sun was "reborn" on December 25th, 3 days later. Sol Invictus was appropriated by the Christians to become Christmas.

The Emperor Aurelian dedicated the Sol Invictus Temple on December 25th, 274 CE. The dedication celebration was called The Birthday of the Invincible Sun.

From Greek mythology the mortal hero Orion was fathered by the god Neptune. While Orion's story does not parallel that of Jesus', he was claimed to be able to walk on water.

Dionysus was a man-god of peace who was conceived by Zeus and a mortal woman named Semele. Before his birth Dionysus was merged with Zeus and then born from the god. Dionysus was a bringer of peace and was said to be able to convert water into wine. He was eventually tortured, killed, and resurrected according to myth.

The Egyptian god Osirus was one of the most important gods. He was the god of the dead, and considered to be a merciful god that judged the souls of the dead to see if they could enter the eternal afterlife. Osirus gave birth to the child-god Horus. Osirus was said to have died and been resurrected. The yearly growth of grain was said to represent the resurrection of Osirus and thus bread was seen as the body of Osirus. Every year "The Passion of Osirus" was performed as a religious play in which Osirus was killed, dismembered, rejoined, and then reborn. After Osirus is resurrected Horus sends him on to the afterlife and then there is a battle between Horus and Set in which Horus defeats the evil Set.

After the Greek and Egyptian cultures had merged, due to the conquest of Alexander the Great, the cult of Osirus and Horus was merged with the cult of Dionysus. The rituals and myths of these cults were also merged with Platonic philosophy, which was ostensibly monotheistic and believed that the material world is corrupt and the afterlife is a place of purity where the soul rejoices after death.

For more on the mythology of Jesus see:

Posted by at 10:31 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, May 12, 2006 8:22 PM EDT
Thursday, May 4, 2006
 Review of April 23rd Speaking Event

Topic: Announcements

he April 23rd speaking event actually took place on two days, the 21st and the 23rd. Together there were about 40 attendees, most of which were college students. After the video presentation of Ancient Monster Hunters I gave a 45 presentation that expanded on the information presented in the video.

The focus of my presentation dealt with the extent to which fossils have influenced cultures from around the world and how the rise of Christianity led directly to the loss of knowledge about fossils in Greek and Roman civilization and prevented later generations from understanding them.

The accepted view for the past 200 years in Western Civilization has been that "savages" and the ancients would have been incapable of comprehending what fossils were. The reality, however, is that virtually every culture in the world for the past several thousand years, except for Christian and Islamic culture, has recognized fossils and incorporated them into their worldviews.

In fact, the story of Noah and the "Great Flood" from the book of Genesis was likely inspired by fossils as well. Many ancient cultures believed in a world wide flood, because many different cultures, especially throughout Mesopotamia, observed fossilized seashells and fish on mountaintops. Seashells are by far the most common types of fossils, and were prevalent across Mesopotamia and around the world. We do have several recorded accounts from as far back as 500 BCE of people specifically stating that they believed that the world had been covered in water at one time because of the shells that they had found in the mountains. It is very likely that these observations and beliefs date back even farther and influenced flood myths in many cultures, including the flood myth of the Sumerians, The Epic of Gilgamesh, which the story of Noah is based upon.

For ancients, who saw seashells on mountaintops, the conclusion that the mountains must have been under water at some time was a logical conclusion, but they were unaware of plate tectonics of course, and thus had no way of knowing that the mountains had been pushed up from what had once been seabed.

Fossils were extremely important in Greek culture, both to the pagans and the materialists. Fossils became central to Greek pagan beliefs, and they became central installations in several Greek cities and were often on display in Greek temples. For Greek and Roman pagans fossils validated their mythological beliefs, and were thus very important symbols for their religions.

For the Greek materialists fossils were integral to their theory of evolution and their understanding of earth history.

For these reasons fossils and knowledge of fossils were majors targets of destruction for the Christians when they came to power. Fossils were important items that validated the beliefs of non-Christians, and were thus a threat to Christian beliefs and cultural domination. As such, Christians destroyed fossils and did not teach about them. A couple hundred years after the Christians came to power, knowledge of fossils had been forgotten in Western Civilization. For Christians the basis of knowledge was divine revelation, and the natural world was seen as something corrupt and not worthy of study. As such, for the next thousand plus years fossils were generally ignored and overlooked by Christian theologians and scholars.

When Europeans came to the Americas they encountered the Native Americans, many of which had a profound understanding of fossils and had integrated knowledge of fossils into their worldview. One of the first things that the Aztecs did when they came in contact with Cortez was show him their collection of fossils, which they claimed (and probably truly believed) were the remains of giants whom their ancestors had slain. This was a myth that validated the power of the Aztec people.

Western paleontology was heavily bolstered by the work and knowledge of the Native Americans, who introduced Europeans to many new fossils. The Europeans, however, gave no credit to the natives, shipping back tons of fossils to Europe, while taking all of the credit for discovering them.

Fossils held great cultural significance to many native tribes. In fact, the Zuni tribe had developed an origin myth that is essentially equivalent to the theory of evolution. They did so because of their careful observations of nature.

The Zuni creation story states that the earth is older than can be known, and that the earth was originally covered in water. In the early times there were many small bizarre creatures. Over time life developed and changed and grew bigger. During this time humans existed as small slimy creatures that lived in the water and were preyed upon by great monstrous creatures. Then the children of the sun-god came and began to dry out the earth so that land would be exposed. Life, including the proto-humans, moved onto land where it continued to evolve and change. On land even larger and greater predators developed, which continued to prey on the early weak humans.

Then the gods came and began killing all of the giant beasts with lightening, turning them to stone. Then, after all of the great beasts were killed, humans were able to develop and prosper.

This is the Zuni story of creation. It was developed based on fossil evidence and it closely resembles our present evolutionary understanding of the history of life on earth.

The fact of the matter is that human history has been significantly misinterpreted in Western Civilization because of the effects of Christianity. Not only did Christians eliminate much knowledge of natural history when they came to power, but they inculcated Western Civilization with a worldview that was divorced from reality and nature. As a result, Western culture has tended to view all cultures as being as divorced from reality as their own, but in reality most cultures have been much more naturalistic than Christian culture and based their understandings of the world on natural observations.

One question that I received after the presentation was:

What would explain why it is that so many cultures developed mythological explanations for fossils, or, in a more general sense, why do mythological explanations for phenomena seem more prevalent historically than naturalistic ones.

My answer at the time was that I did not know, but I think now that I do have an answer for this question. I believe the answer is that explanations for phenomena that have a perceived social value are naturally selected for. Myths are typically moralistic. They offer explanations that have direct social implications. When the cultures found giant bones they could explain them in many ways. Naturalistic explanations typically don't have any direct moral or social implication, they do not enforce sets of values or lend support to social systems. Mythological stories, however, can use the weight of observable evidence, such as giant bones, to lend support to moralistic stories that affect social behavior. Myths dominated ancient cultures because their main purpose was not to explain the world for the sake of explaining the world, their purpose was to support social institutions.

"Look at the power of our gods! Our gods have killed giants and turned them to stone, as you can see from these giant bones. Do you think that you can defy gods that are powerful enough to kill giants? Only a fool would think that they could defy such powerful gods! The gods have put me into power to rule and control you. If you defy me you defy the will of the gods, and as you can see, the gods are more powerful than any man. You can never hope to defy the gods, and you can never hope to defy me!"

The fact that mythological explanation serve some ulterior purpose has a lot to do with their use to explain phenomena, as we can see with the current debate of evolution and creationism in America today. The supporters of creation mythology support it for moralistic reasons, not for scientific ones.

Timeline of Fossil References

~50,000 years ago - Neanderthals collected fossil mollusk shells and used them to make necklaces.

~6000 BCE - Fossilized fish and shark teeth collected in ancient Egypt.

~3000 BCE - Legends of griffins recorded by the Babylonians.

~1600 BCE - First recordings of "dragon bones" in Chinese texts.

~2000 BCE - Evidence that Native Americans were finding and interpreting fossils by this time.

~1000 BCE - ~200 CE - Greeks and Romans record findings of large stone bones, as well as other fossils. Some of these items were excavated and put on display.

~600 BCE - ~100 CE - Greeks develop naturalistic explanations for fossils and use them to develop evolutionary explanations for the development of life on earth.

~300 BCE - First detailed description of dinosaur fossils in China by Chang Qu, who describes them as "dragon bones".

~414 CE - Chinese monk describes "dragon bones" he found in the Gobi desert.

~420 CE - Augustine of Hippo (Saint Augustine) Recalls having seen giant bones during his pagan years. Recommends using the pagan belief that there used to be giants to convince people to believe in the accounts in Genesis of people living to be hundreds of years old. Augustine also established the Christian doctrine that the earth was less than 6,000 years old.

~530 CE - The Code of Justinian legally demands the destruction of all non-Christian culture and scholarship.

~700 CE - Japanese describe a fossilized mound of sea shells in great detail.

~1020 - Muslim scholar publishes work on erosion, and argues that fossils are not the remains of previously living things, but rather just types of rocks.

~1500 - Leonardo da Vinci refutes common Christian explanation of fossil shells in the mountains as evidence of "The Great Flood", and refutes the dismissal of other fossils as unimportant.

1590 - The head of a dragon sculpted in Austria is noted to have been modeled on a "dragon skull" that was found in a rock quarry in 1335.

1668 - Robert Hooke presents a lecture to the Royal Society of Britain stating that fossil shells in mountains are not evidence of a global flood as described in the book of Genesis, but rather that mountains have been raised up by earthquakes from what was once sea bed.

Recommended reading:

The First Fossil Hunters - Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Mayor, Adrienne
Fossil Legends of the First Americans. Mayor, Adrienne
The Forgotten Revolution - How Science was Born in 300 BC and Why it Had to Be Reborn. Russo, Lucio
Ancient Worlds, Modern Reflections - Philosophical Perspectives on Greek and Chinese Science and Culture. Lloyd, G.E.R.

Posted by at 10:21 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, May 5, 2006 7:28 AM EDT

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