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Creationists Admit “Difficulties” in Regard to the Age of the Earth/Cosmos

Age of the Earth and Answers in Genesis

“Now - let me add this. Weʼre not going to have all the answers. There will be some things like the issue of light from the farthest star in a young universe… we donʼt have all the answers.”
—Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis iTunes Podcast “Sermon: Six Days & The Eisegesis Problem”, time into program: 1:09:12

“Ken Hamʼs answer is consistent with his response on this question from his ‘Answers’ book. The last question is this and he attempts to offer an explanation for it by saying that some YECs support an “Appearance of Age” hypothesis but Ham agrees that hypothesis is unsatisfactory since that makes God looks deceptive. Ham concludes in his book with very similar language as his iPod broadcast that we really just donʼt know, and have to trust. This really was unconvincing to me as this was the first book I read when I was searching out this issue and this lack of response on this issue was instrumental in leading me away from YEC to the RTB position.”
—John Walley [a Christian] on the ASA listserv

Creationists Admit The Evidence For Stellar Evolution Poses Problems

“Perhaps the most important remaining question [in astronomy] for [young- universe] creationists is the origin of the turnoff points in the H-R diagrams of different clusters. The stars are real physical objects and presumably follow physical laws; we would rather not take the easy way out by saying simply that ‘God made them that way.’ But if creationists take the position of rejecting stellar evolution, they should provide a feasible alternative.”
—Paul Steidl [young-universe creationist], The Earth, the Stars, and the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), p. 153 — as quoted by Howard J. Van Till in The Fourth Day: What the Bible and the Heavens Are Telling Us about the Creation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p. 239

“…the theory of stellar structure appears to be founded on a good physical basis and…stellar evolution is intimately related to stellar structure…

“If creationists wish to scrap stellar evolution completely, then it is incumbent on us to rework stellar structure and/or physics in a convincing fashion…

“The standard observational tool used in studying stellar structure and evolution is the Hertzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagram… It consists of a plot of stellar luminosity increasing upward and temperature increasing to the left…Most stars are found on a roughly diagonal band called the main sequence (MS)…

“This agreement is quite impressive and the physical assumptions that go into it are so well founded it is doubtful that many creationists would have much to argue with in main sequence (MS) stellar structure. However, what is generally called post MS evolution is not far removed from the brief outline of stellar structure given above.

“The most massive stars may pass through successive steps of fusing helium nuclei with increasingly more massive nuclei up to iron…Note that these transitions have not actually been observed. However, they are based on physics principles and will naturally occur…

“The upshot is that the most massive stars have MS lifetimes of only a few hundred thousand years (of course, still much longer than young-age creationists would allow), while the lowest mass stars have MS lifetimes approaching 100 billion years…

“And evolutionary assumption concludes that the stars in a star cluster should form from a single cloud so that the members represent…a homogenous group. Different clusters should have different ages, and though they technically have different compositions, even large differences in composition do not seriously affect the overall appearance of an H-R diagram…

“The agreement of the theory [of stellar evolution] is quite impressive…

“[The expected evolutionary] trend between globular and open clusters is observed…

“Evidence [exists] that the formation of planetary nebulae and the evolution of white dwarfs are related…These two ages have a very good correlation…

“A similar relationship holds for neutron stars and supernova remnants. As with planetary nebulae, the expansion velocity and observed size of the remnant can be used to estimate the time since the explosion…Where a pulsar can be identified in a supernova remnant, the ages of the remnant and the pulsar are well correlated.

“Very brief discussions of stellar structure and evolution have been presented. Though it would seem that creationists would not have much with which to quarrel in the former, most would largely dismiss the latter. However, the two are intimately related, and one cannot be rejected without seriously calling into question the other. We are appealing to readers to give much attention to the study of stellar evolution…”
—Danny R. Faulkner & Don B. De Young [young-universe creationists], “Toward a Creationist Astronomy,” Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 28, Dec. 1991, pp. 87-91

Admissions By Creationists Regarding The Evidence For An Old Earth

Young-earther creation-evangelist Duane T. Gish has refused to debate the age of the earth and has even admitted (much to his fellow creationistsʼ chagrin) that the evidence for fossil succession is a challenge that his fellow young-earthers at ICR have not adequately met:

“When I visited the Institute for Creation Research towards the end of 1978… The associate director is Duane T. Gish, who has a PhD in biochemistry from Berkeley. … Considering that I believe living things have a common origin and have evolved over a long period of time, and Duane Gish doesnʼt, there turned out to be a surprising amount of shared ground between us. … Duane Gish and others of his standing are well aware of this problem [for their young-earth views, i.e., the problem of the age of the earth], but in the end they let their faith over-ride it. When I asked him what were the biggest difficulties for creationist science the points in a debate which he felt least comfortable in answering - he answered after a momentʼs thought that it was the apparently great age of Earth as shown by the fairly recent advances in radiometric dating; and that the the fossil record could be interpreted as showing ecologically complete ages - the age of invertebrates, the age of fishes, the age of reptiles, and so on up to the present.” [from Hitching F., The Neck of the Giraffe: Or Where Darwin Went Wrong, Pan: London, 1982, pp.115-121]

In 1938 Harold Clark (a disciple of the Flood geologist, George Macready Price, whose work also inspired Henry Morris for hypothesis “flood geology” as an explanation for the geological record) was invited by a student to visit the oil fields of Oklahoma and northern Texas, where Mr. Clark saw with his own eyes why geologists believed as they did. Observations of deep drilling and conversations with practical geologists gave Clark a real shock that permanently erased any confidence he had left in Priceʼs vision of a topsy-turvy fossil record. Clark wrote to Price:

“The rocks do lie in a much more definite sequence than we have ever allowed. The statements made in your book, The New Geology, do not harmonize with the conditions in the field. All over the Midwest the rocks lie in great sheets extending over hundreds of miles, in regular order. Thousands of well cores prove this. In East Texas alone are 25,000 deep wells. Probably well over 100,000 wells in the Midwest give data that has been studied and correlated. The science has become a very exact one. Millions of dollars are spent in drilling, with the paleontological findings of the company geologists taken as the basis for the work. The sequence of the microscopic fossils in the strata is remarkably uniform. The same sequence is found in America, Europe, and anywhere that detailed studies have been made. This oil geology has opened up the depths of the earth in a way that we never dreamed of twenty years ago.” [Cited by Donald R. Prothero, A Review Essay of The Creationists by Ronald L. Numbers]

Another Challenge For Young-Earth Creationism

When dealing with stellar matters itʼs not simply a question of “apparent age,” itʼs also a question of “apparent HISTORY IN THE MAKING.” We see galaxies turning that never really turned, pulsars pulsing that never really pulsed, rings of matter expanding that never really exploded in the first place, stars changing in brightness and frequency but such events are not really taking place, they never took place, not ever. Stars exploding, but no such explosions ever took place. Our galaxy (one of over 50 billion such galaxies) contains about a hundred billion stars and is about 100,000 light-years in width. If you are a young-earth creationist that means all the light beyond 6,000 light years distance is “created light,” which means that most of the light from stars in our galaxy is telling us about the changing histories of stars and other matter that is completely fabricated history, such history never took place, but we SEE IT TAKING PLACE as if it had. And thatʼs just for our galaxy, beyond our galaxy lay over 50 billion more galaxies, all far far beyond 6,000 light years away. And all that we see is fabricated history taking place before our eyes.

So why even create the rest of the cosmos, maybe nothing really exists beyond 6,000 light years around the earth but a projection screen and God is showing a movie of things that donʼt exist and never really happened, but we just see it happening.

Think about it, the young-earth cosmos only presents us with true history from 6,000 light years away, and even That history, at the outskirts of 6,000 light years away, only just NOW kicked in. But the cosmos is Billions Of Light Years Across, thatʼs a heck of a lot of false history unfolding before our eyes of things that never ever happened, but we See It Happening, Unfolding, Becoming, Passing Though Stages, None Of Which Ever Really Happened?

Supernova 1987A and a 6000 Year Old Universe

Numerous articles on a classic piece of astronomical observation that poses multiple insoluble problems for young-earth astronomy: Supernova 1987

Scroll down the above web page for info on SN 1987A

YECʼs admitting that SN 1987A poses a problem

(The above webpage consists of an email thread from a discussion group at the American Scientific Affiliation website, a major national organization consisting of Christian men and women who are professional scientists, most of whom are old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists, with some young-earthers. It is older than Henry Morrisʼ ICR and Morris actually quit the ASA to form the ICR after having some of his pet young-earth hypotheses questioned by scientists who were ASA members. )

See also this discussion of SN 1987a

Ed (Edward T. Babinski, editor of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists)

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Creationist Admits “Problem”… “The Chimpanzee Genome and the Problem of Biological Similarity” by Todd Charles Wood

Todd Wood

Creationists like Todd Wood of Bryan College have admitted that viewing humans and chimps as completely different “kinds” is a “problem” because humans and chimps are nearer to one another genetically than species that creationists view as a single “kind,” like “cats” for instance. Woodʼs technical paper discusses a number of specific “problems” for creationism. Below are edited portions, along with portions of articles by others on the topic, and a suggested reading list.

The Chimpanzee Genome and the Problem of Biological Similarity” by Todd Charles Wood, creationist [Center for Origins Research, Bryan College, Dayton, TN, USA], 2006

“Abstract. Evidence for the great similarity between chimpanzees and humans was recently reinforced with the publication of a rough draft of the chimpanzee genome…

“If the entire chimpanzee genome had been sequenced, it would probably reveal 40-45 million nucleotides unique to each species. That difference… may sound profound, but remember that the majority of nucleotides are contained in simple repeats, either of satellites or transposable elements. Further, even a length variation of 90 million nucleotides constitutes only 3% of the entire genome.”…

“When comparing the chimpanzee and human genomes, we find a near identity of gene sequences but important differences in transpositional features (including differences in chromosome number, chromosomal inversions, and transposable element content). As noted above, this implies that the important biological differences are not so much in the genes themselves but in how the genes are expressed, which may be related to the substantive differences between the genetic context that arise from transposable or repetitive elements. [See for instance the “60-second science” video, “What is Evo-Devo,” in which Christopher Mims, an editor of Scientific American magazine, explains the role that differing “gene expression” plays in evolution.]

“The high degree of genetic similarity between apes and humans has been repeatedly confirmed since King and Wilsonʼs (1975) summary. Chromosomal banding patterns revealed a high degree of correspondence between human and chimpanzee chromosomes (Miller 1977, Yunis et al. 1980, Yunis and Prakash 1982). Major chromosomal differences detected were a putative fusion of chimpanzee chromosomes 12 and 13 to form human chromosome 2, and pericentromeric inversions on human chromosomes 4, 5, 9, 12, 15, and 16 (Yunis and Prakash 1982).”…“Human chromosome 2 corresponds to two separate chromosomes in chimpanzee. These findings have subsequently been confirmed in studies using fluorescence in situ hybridization (Müller and Wienberg 2001).

“The evolutionary explanation for human chromosome 2 corresponding to two separate chromosomes in the great apes is that two chromosomes in a human ancestor fused at their ends (telomeres), with one of the centromeres becoming inactive. By examining the putative ‘fusion’ point, researchers have discovered an inverted array of telomeric repeats (TTAGGG)n (Ijdo et al. 1991) and other sequences found in subtelomeric chromosomal regions (Fan et al. 2002). Centromeric alpha satellite sequences have been detected on the long arm of chromosome 2, which seem to correspond to an inactive centromere (Alexandrov et al. 2001).…”

“…it is difficult to imagine a scenario other than chromosomal fusion to explain the inverted array of telomere and subtelomere repeats at the putative fusion site on chromosome 2 (Ijdo et al. 1991).”

“Previous Creationist Responses — Since the Bible clearly teaches the special creation of human beings (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7, 21-22), what does the similarity of humans and chimpanzees mean for creationists? Creationists have responded to these studies in a variety of ways. A very popular argument is that similarity does not necessarily indicate common ancestry but could also imply common design (e.g. Batten 1996; Thompson and Harrub 2005; DeWitt 2005). While this is true, the mere fact of similarity is only a small part of the evolutionary argument.

“Far more important than the mere occurrence of similarity is the kind of similarity observed. Similarity is not random. Rather, it forms a detectable pattern with some groups of species more similar than others. As an example consider a 200,000 nucleotide region from human chromosome 1 (Figure 2). When compared to the chimpanzee, the two species differ by as little as 1-2%, but when compared to the mouse, the differences are much greater. Comparison to chicken reveals even greater differences. This is exactly the expected pattern of similarity that would result if humans and chimpanzees shared a recent common ancestor and mice and chickens were more distantly related. The question is not how similarity arose but why this particular pattern of similarity arose. To say that God could have created the pattern is merely ad hoc. The specific similarity we observe between humans and chimpanzees is not therefore evidence merely of their common ancestry but of their close relationship.

“Evolutionary biologists also appeal to specific similarities that would be predicted by evolutionary descent. Maxʼs (1986) argument for shared errors in the human and chimpanzee genomes would be an example of a specific similarity expected if evolution were true. [Maxʼs article was updated in 2003, including responses to creationists.]

“This argument could be significantly amplified from recent findings of genomic studies. For example, Gilad et al. (2003) surveyed 50 olfactory receptor genes in humans and apes. They found that the open reading frame of 33 of the human genes were interrupted by nonsense codons or deletions, rendering them pseudogenes. Sixteen of these human pseudogenes were also pseudogenes in chimpanzee, and they all shared the exact same substitution or deletion as the human sequence. Eleven of the human pseudogenes were shared by chimpanzee, gorilla, and human and had the exact same substitution or deletion. While common design could be a reasonable first step to explain similarity of functional genes, it is difficult to explain why pseudogenes with the exact same substitutions or deletions would be shared between species that did not share a common ancestor.

“Creationists have addressed these more specific arguments in a variety of ways. Batten (1996) makes three arguments:

  1. similarity is necessary to reveal a single Creator, since dissimilarity implies multiple creators (also in ReMine 1993, p. 23),
  2. biochemical similarity is functionally necessary in order for humans (and other organisms) to obtain food (also in Wise 1992),
  3. the anatomical similarity of humans and chimpanzees should imply a molecular similarity as well (also in Wise 1992; Rana 2001; Wieland 2002).

The first two arguments are good reasons to create some degree of biological or biochemical similarity but they do not explain degrees of similarity. If there were no nonhuman primates, humans would still be recognizably mammalian and therefore revealed as part of the design of a single Creator, but humans would also stand out as special mammals not closely similar to any other particular group of mammals. The necessity for a common biochemistry for nutrient cycles does not explain why chimpanzees exist. They neither form a major source of dietary nutrients for most humans nor share a significant fraction of the diet of most humans. Further, common biochemistry would not explain shared pseudogenes. The third argument merely shifts the problem to the anatomical level. The question remains as to why God created an animal that is so similar to humans.

“More recently, creationists have begun to argue that the similarity between chimpanzees and humans is less - sometimes much less - than claimed by evolutionary biologists (DeWitt 2003, 2005; Criswell 2005; Thompson and Harrub 2005)… Differences are certainly important, and there are many differences between the human and chimpanzee genomes, as detailed above. However, emphasizing these differences does not resolve the problem of similarity. Even if the chimpanzee genome were more than 5% or 10% different from the human genome, the differences are still vastly outnumbered by the similarities (at least 9 to 1). The major pattern that requires explanation is the surprising degree of genomic similarity, as King and Wilson (1975) noted thirty years ago. Listing differences between the genomes does not alter the overall pattern. If anything, the differences are more striking because of the overwhelming similarity.

“An Alternative Creationist Response — Having found most popular arguments about the human/chimpanzee genome similarity insufficent, I find myself in the unenviable position of devising my own explanation. Since I have none, I will attempt instead to develop some principles that could guide research into this problem… As mentioned already, the common creationist response… is to appeal to a designer as the source of the similarity. Although this is undoubtedly true, it is trivial. The point Darwin makes is not that similarity alone indicates common ancestry but that the particular pattern or scheme of similarities across all organisms is the same pattern we would expect from common descent. As Darwin noted in the quote above, appealing to the will of the Creator does not explain the particular pattern of similarity that we observe, except in an ad hoc fashion. Creation biology needs an explanation of the pattern of similarities, not merely an ad hoc appeal to a common designer…

“…Robinson and Cavanaugh (1998b) concluded that all extant felids [cats] belong to the same baramin and presumably descended from a single pair of cats on the Ark, but Slattery and O’Brien (1998) found distances greater than 5% among felid Zfy genes and greater than 3% among felid Zfx genes. Certainly if felid sequences can vary by that amount, what is to preclude the conclusion that the much lower differences observed between human and chimpanzees genomes indicates their cobaraminic status? [“co-baramic” means “belonging to the same ‘baramin’ or ‘kind’”] … As with the genetic diversity of cats, what is to preclude application of this same argument to chimpanzees and humans with the conclusion that we share a common ancestor with an animal? To put this question another way, how can we maintain that felids share a common ancestor with their genomic differences, and deny that the smaller differences between humans and chimpanzees could not also arise from a common ancestor? The only way to do this is to favor other data in baraminology, and to deny the primacy of the genome in determining true phylogenetic or baraminic relationships.

“The Future Of Creationist Genomics — The genome revolution, exciting though it is, is not an obvious victory for creationism. Although more data allows for better testing of ideas, the data that we have present significant challenges to creationist theory, particularly in the realm of biological similarity… If we wish to be good stewards of our very limited resources, we should avoid projects that are unlikely to be productive (e.g. overemphasizing potentially insignificant differences or trivializing the striking similarities) and focus instead on one of the most pressing problems in biology, biological similarity.”

Evidence Of Similarity That The Creationist Above Is Speaking About

2003 — New genetic evidence demonstrates that lineages of chimps (currently Pan troglodytes) and humans (Homo sapiens) diverged so recently [i.e., so closely resemble one another] that chimps should be [reclassified] as Homo troglodytes [i.e., members of the same genus, which is exactly how other species are classified whose genomes resemble one another so closely]. The move would make chimps full members of our genus Homo, along with Neandertals, and all other human-like fossil species. ‘We humans appear as only slightly remodeled chimpanzee-like apes,’ says the study… Within important sequence stretches of these functionally significant genes, humans and chimps share 99.4 percent identity. (Some previous DNA work remains controversial. It concentrated on genetic sequences that are not parts of genes and are less functionally important, said Goodman.) [“Chimps Belong on Human Branch of Family Tree, Study Says” John Pickrell in England for National Geographic News May 20, 2003]

2005 — The first comprehensive comparison of the genetic blueprints of humans and chimpanzees was reported. The DNA sequence that can be directly compared between the two genomes is almost 99 percent identical. When DNA insertions and deletions are taken into account, humans and chimps still share 96 percent of their sequence [with perfect identity].

The typical human protein has accumulated just one unique change since chimps and humans diverged from a common ancestor about 6 million years ago. To put this into perspective, the number of genetic differences between humans and chimps is approximately 10 times LESS than between the mouse and rat. [And just think of how similar a mouse and a rat appear to be, such that some creationists probably are willing to guess that mice and rats arose from the same “kind” via “micro-evolution.” Yet humans are 10 times nearer to chimps than rats are to mice, genetically speaking]

On the other hand, the number of genetic differences between a human and a chimp is about 10 times more than between any two humans.

The researchers discovered that a few classes of genes are changing unusually quickly in both humans and chimpanzees compared with other mammals.
These classes include genes involved in perception of sound, transmission of nerve signals, production of sperm and cellular transport of electrically charged molecules called ions. Researchers suspect the rapid evolution of these genes may have contributed to the special characteristics of primates, but further studies are needed to explore the possibilities.

The genomic analyses also showed that humans and chimps appear to have accumulated more potentially deleterious mutations in their genomes over the course of evolution than have mice, rats and other rodents. While such mutations can cause diseases that may erode a speciesʼ overall fitness, they may have also made primates more adaptable to rapid environmental changes and enabled them to achieve unique evolutionary adaptations, researchers said.

Despite the many similarities found between human and chimp genomes, the researchers emphasized that important differences exist between the two species… Most of these differences lie in what is believed to be DNA of little or no function. However, as many as 3 million of the differences may lie in crucial protein-coding genes or other functional areas of the genome.

“As the sequences of other mammals and primates emerge in the next couple of years, we will be able to determine what DNA sequence changes are specific to the human lineage. The genetic changes that distinguish humans from chimps will likely be a very small fraction of this set,” said the studyʼs lead author, Tarjei S. Mikkelsen of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. [“New Genome Comparison Finds Chimps, Humans Very Similar at the DNA Level,” The National Human Genome Research Institute, 2005]

The human genome is nearly 99% chimp, which also means that the chimp genome is nearly 99% human. And if you changed base pairs in each — one base pair at a time —making both human and chimp draw even nearer to one another genetically, you would eventually reach a point where changing just a single base pair in the genome would make that human a chimp or make that chimp a human. Of course by that time the line between human and chimp would have grown very fuzzy indeed.

Ed (Edward T. Babinski, author of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists, paperback 2003, Prometheus Books)

Genetic Evidence Exists That Suggests That Soon After The Species That Were To Become “Chimpanzees” And “Humans” Diverged From A Common Ancestor, They Continued To Interbreed For A While

December 10, 2006
Human-Chimp Hybrids
By Stephen Mihm

“On hearing of Darwinʼs theories, the wife of the bishop of Worcester supposedly exclaimed: “Descended from apes? My dear, let us hope that it is not true.” Now the geneticist David Reich of the Broad Institute at Harvard and M.I.T. has advanced a theory that the bishopʼs wife would have found even more disturbing: human and chimp ancestors, after diverging into separate species millions of years ago, came back together and interbred.

“Reich came up with the idea after comparing the genes of humans and chimps. When two species split from a common ancestor, their genes will continue to diverge, or mutate, at a regular clip over time. Reich and his team of researchers, after comparing some 20 million base pairs (the “rungs” of DNA) from humans and chimps, found that different genes began diverging at different times — with genes located on the X chromosome of humans and chimps parting ways most recently.

“Reichʼs explanation is that the two populations interbred on repeated occasions over hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years, producing hybrids of protohumans and protochimps. The male hybrids were likely to be sterile, but Reich posits that the female hybrids (with their two X chromosomes) were able to mate with males of one of the original species. This would explain why genes on the X chromosome of humans and chimps diverged more recently.

“Itʼs a radical concept. Conventional wisdom holds that the development of separate species happens quickly, most often when populations become separated by a geographical barrier. Even if these groups meet again and manage to mate before diverging too far from one another, their offspring will be unfit and die out. Or so the thinking goes.

“By contrast, Reich argues that hybrids could play an important and positive role in speciation, introducing advantageous traits into a gene pool — including ours. If Reich is correct, the customary image of the human family tree, with its neat and discrete divisions, should be replaced by another metaphor: a dense and impenetrable thicket of branches concealing countless acts of interspecies sex. Itʼs enough to make a bishopʼs wife blush.”

NATURE magazine, 2006
Genetic evidence for complex speciation of humans and chimpanzees
Nick Patterson 1, Daniel J. Richter 1, Sante Gnerre1, Eric S. Lander1, 2 & David Reich 1,3

“The genetic divergence time between two species varies substantially across the genome, conveying important information about the timing and process of speciation. Here we develop a framework for studying this variation and apply it to about 20 million base pairs of aligned sequence from humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and more distantly related primates. Human–chimpanzee genetic divergence varies from less than 84% to more than 147% of the average, a range of more than 4 million years. Our analysis also shows that human-chimpanzee speciation occurred less than 6.3 million years ago and probably more recently, conflicting with some interpretations of ancient fossils. Most strikingly, chromosome X shows an extremely young genetic divergence time, close to the genome minimum along nearly its entire length. These unexpected features would be explained if the human and chimpanzee lineages initially diverged, then later exchanged genes before separating permanently.”

Reading List

Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA (Published Dec. 2007)

Darwinian Detectives: Revealing the Natural History of Genes and Genomes (Oxford U. Press, July 2007)

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution (W.W. Norton, Sept. 2007)

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body

And On The Fossil Front… More Creationist Admissions

“I was surprised to find that instead of enough fossils barely to fit into a coffin, as one evolutionist once stated [in 1982], there were over 4,000 hominid fossils as of 1976. Over 200 specimens have been classified as Neandertal and about one hundred as Homo erectus. More of these fossils have been found since 1976.”
—Michael J. Oard, Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 30, March 1994, p. 222

“The current figures [circa 1994] are even more impressive: over 220 Homo erectus fossil individuals discovered to date, possibly as many as 80 archaic Homo sapiens fossil individuals discovered to date, and well over 300 Neandertal fossil individuals discovered to date.”
—Marvin L. Lubenow, author of Bones of Contention—A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils, in a letter to the editor of the Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 31, Sept. 1994, p. 70

Ape-Hominid Species In Relative Geological Order Along With Their Cranial Capacities

Sahelanthropus tchadensis
Cranium size, 350 cubic centimeters

Australopithecus [= “Southern Ape” in Latin] afarensis
Cranial capacity varied from about 375 to 550 cc.

Australopithecus africanus Brain size may also have been slightly larger, ranging between 420 and 500 cc. This is a little larger than chimp brains (despite a similar body size)

Australopithecus aethiopicus
The brain size is 410 cc

Australopithecus robustus
The average brain size is about 530 cc.

Australopithecus boisei (was Zinjanthropus boisei)
The brain size is about 530 cc.

Homo habilis
500-800 cc
H. habilis, “handy man”, was so called because of evidence of tools found with its remains. The face is still primitive, but it projects less than in A. africanus. The back teeth are smaller, but still considerably larger than in modern humans. The average brain size, at 650 cc, is considerably larger than in australopithecines. Brain size varies between 500 and 800 cc, overlapping the australopithecines at the low end and H. erectus at the high end. The brain shape is also more humanlike. The bulge of Brocaʼs area, essential for speech, is visible in one habilis brain cast, and indicates it was possibly capable of rudimentary speech. Habilis is thought to have been about 127 cm (5'0") tall, and about 45 kg (100 lb) in weight, although females may have been smaller.

Habilis has been a controversial species. Originally, some scientists did not accept its validity, believing that all habilis specimens should be assigned to either the australopithecines or Homo erectus. H. habilis is now fully accepted as a species, but it is widely thought that the ‘habilis’ specimens have too wide a range of variation for a single species, and that some of the specimens should be placed in one or more other species. One suggested species which is accepted by many scientists is Homo rudolfensis, which would contain fossils such as ER 1470.

Homo georgicus
600-780 cc
This species was named in 2002 to contain fossils found in Dmanisi, Georgia, which seem intermediate between H. habilis and H. erectus. The fossils are about 1.8 million years old, consisting of three partial skulls and three lower jaws. The brain sizes of the skulls vary from 600 to 780 cc. The height, as estimated from a foot bone, would have been about 1.5 m (4'11"). A partial skeleton was also discovered in 2001 but no details are available on it yet. (Vekua et al. 2002, Gabunia et al. 2002)

Homo erectus
750-1225 cc
H. erectus existed between 1.8 million and 300,000 years ago. Like habilis, the face has protruding jaws with large molars, no chin, thick brow ridges, and a long low skull, with a brain size varying between 750 and 1225 cc. Early erectus specimens average about 900 cc, while late ones have an average of about 1100 cc (Leakey 1994). Study of the Turkana Boy skeleton (from Africa) indicates that erectus may have been more efficient at walking than modern humans, whose skeletons have had to adapt to allow for the birth of larger-brained infants (Willis 1989). Homo habilis and all the australopithecines are found only in Africa, but erectus was wide-ranging, and has been found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. There is evidence that erectus probably used fire, and their stone tools are more sophisticated than those of habilis.

Archaic Homo sapiens (also Homo heidelbergensis)
1200 cc on average
Archaic forms of Homo sapiens first appear about 500,000 years ago. The term covers a diverse group of skulls which have features of both Homo erectus and modern humans. The brain size is larger than erectus and smaller than most modern humans, averaging about 1200 cc, and the skull is more rounded than in erectus. The skeleton and teeth are usually less robust than erectus, but more robust than modern humans. Many still have large brow ridges and receding foreheads and chins. There is no clear dividing line between late erectus and archaic sapiens, and many fossils between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago are difficult to classify as one or the other.

Homo sapiens neanderthalensis (also Homo neanderthalensis)
1450 cc on average
Neandertal (or Neanderthal) man existed between 230,000 and 30,000 years ago. The average brain size is slightly larger than that of modern humans, about 1450 cc, but this is probably correlated with their greater bulk. The brain case however is longer and lower than that of modern humans, with a marked bulge at the back of the skull. Like erectus, they had a protruding jaw and receding forehead. The chin was usually weak. The midfacial area also protrudes, a feature that is not found in erectus or sapiens and may be an adaptation to cold. There are other minor anatomical differences from modern humans, the most unusual being some peculiarities of the shoulder blade, and of the pubic bone in the pelvis. Neandertals mostly lived in cold climates, and their body proportions are similar to those of modern cold-adapted peoples: short and solid, with short limbs. Men averaged about 168 cm (5'6") in height. Their bones are thick and heavy, and show signs of powerful muscle attachments. Neandertals would have been extraordinarily strong by modern standards, and their skeletons show that they endured brutally hard lives. A large number of tools and weapons have been found, more advanced than those of Homo erectus. Neandertals were formidable hunters, and are the first people known to have buried their dead, with the oldest known burial site being about 100,000 years old. They are found throughout Europe and the Middle East. Western European Neandertals usually have a more robust form, and are sometimes called “classic Neandertals”. Neandertals found elsewhere tend to be less excessively robust. (Trinkaus and Shipman 1992; Trinkaus and Howells 1979; Gore 1996)

Homo floresiensis
Ancient extinct dwarf human species
Homo floresiensis was discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. Fossils have been discovered from a number of individuals. The most complete fossil is of an adult female about 1 meter tall with a brain size of 417cc. Other fossils indicate that this was a normal size for floresiensis. It is thought that floresiensis is a dwarf form of Homo erectus - it is not uncommon for dwarf forms of large mammals to evolve on islands. H. floresiensis was fully bipedal, used stone tools and fire, and hunted dwarf elephants also found on the island. (Brown et al. 2004, Morwood et al. 2004, Lahr and Foley 2004)

Modern Homo sapiens sapiens
1350 cc on average
Modern forms of Homo sapiens first appear about 195,000 years ago. Modern humans have an average brain size of about 1350 cc. The forehead rises sharply, eyebrow ridges are very small or more usually absent, the chin is prominent, and the skeleton is very gracile. About 40,000 years ago, with the appearance of the Cro-Magnon culture, tool kits started becoming markedly more sophisticated, using a wider variety of raw materials such as bone and antler, and containing new implements for making clothing, engraving and sculpting. Fine artwork, in the form of decorated tools, beads, ivory carvings of humans and animals, clay figurines, musical instruments, and spectacular cave paintings appeared over the next 20,000 years. (Leakey 1994)

Human Evolution During The Last 100,000 Years

Even within the last 100,000 years, the long-term trends towards smaller molars and decreased robustness can be discerned. About 30,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic the face, jaw and teeth of humans were 20 to 30% more robust than the modern condition in Europe and Asia. About 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic the face, jaw and teeth of humans were about 10% more robust than ours. Today the smallest tooth sizes of modern day homo sapiens are found in those areas where food-processing techniques have been used for the longest time. This is a probable example of natural selection which has occurred within the last 10,000 years (Brace 1983). Interestingly, some modern humans (aboriginal Australians) have tooth sizes that are larger and more typical of archaic species of homo sapiens.

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Billy Graham Now Believes People of All Religions (Or None) May Wind Up in Heaven, Admits He Can't Judge.

Billy Graham

Transcript of Rev. Billy Grahamʼs conversation with Rev. Schuller on “The Hour of Power” TV program:

Schuller: “Tell me, what is the future of Christianity?”

Billy Graham: “Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think thereʼs the body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups. I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether theyʼre conscious of it or not, theyʼre members of the body of Christ. And I donʼt think that weʼre going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because theyʼve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they donʼt have and they turn to the only light they have and I think theyʼre saved and theyʼre going to be with us in heaven.” [So Graham has apparently adopted the “anonymous Christian” view defended by liberal Catholic theologians like Hans Kung. I also suspect that Grahamʼs view may have been influenced by seeing good friends die without becoming born again Evangelical Christians, including lifelong friend and fellow-evangelist-turned-agnostic, Charles Templeton, succumb to Alzheimerʼs.—E.T.B.]

Schuller: “What I hear you saying is that itʼs possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life even if theyʼve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what youʼre saying?”

Graham: “Yes it is because I believe that. Iʼve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, have never heard of Jesus but theyʼve believed in their hearts that there is a God and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.”

Schuller: “This is fantastic. Iʼm so thrilled to hear you say that. Thereʼs a wideness in Godʼs mercy.”

Graham: There is. There definitely is.”

[SOURCE: The Hour of Power television program #1426, “Say “Yes” To Possibility Thinking,” aired May 32, 1997]

“When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people... Graham says:

‘Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.’”

[SOURCE: Jon Meacham, Pilgrimʼs Progress: In the Twilight, Billy Graham Shares What Heʼs Learned in Reflecting on Politics and Scripture, Old Age and Death, Mysteries and Moderation, Newsweek, Oct. 15, 2007]

Check out these videos concerning Billy Graham on YouTube:
This one provides the above “Hour of Power” video.

On Larry King Live

John MacArthur talking about Billy Grahamʼs stance.

Other Ways In Which Grahamʼs Views Have Mellowed Over The Years

Rev. Graham was caught on the “Nixon tapes” complaining to the president about “the Jews” and their “stranglehold” on the media, and blaming them for “all the pornography.” Even after the president replied that he agreed but “you canʼt say that” in public, Graham pressed the point: Yes, right, but if you get elected to a second term, then we could do something about the problem. Graham added that while many Jews were friendly to him, “they donʼt know how I really feel about what they are doing to this country.” [After the Nixon tapes came to light Graham said he had no memory of ever having said such a thing, but none the less he apologized profusely multiple times after hearing them for himself.]

[SOURCE: David Vest, The Rebel Angel, ‘They Donʼt Know How I Really Feel’ Billy Graham, Tangled Up in Tape, March 5, 2002, Counterpunch]

In 1965, Billy Graham dismissed demonstrations for peace in Vietnam, saying, “It seems the only way to gain attention today is to organize a march and protest something.”

[SOURCE: Jon Meacham, Pilgrimʼs Progress: In the Twilight, Billy Graham Shares What Heʼs Learned in Reflecting on Politics and Scripture, Old Age and Death, Mysteries and Moderation, Newsweek]

Rev. Graham was caught on the Nixon tapes giving a wholehearted thumbs up to the controversial plan by some of president Nixonʼs military advisors to “bomb the damns” in North Vietnam which would have drowned many and starved a million or more North Vietnamese by draining the water used for their rice paddies. (The plan was never carried out.)

[SOURCE: Alexander Cockburn, The Lordʼs Avenger: When Billy Graham Wanted to Kill One Million People, March 12, 2002, Counterpunch]

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The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church

Fall of Evangelical Nation

Christine Wicker has a blog one may subscribe to via RSS or Google Reader that keeps abreast of the bookʼs latest reviews and readerʼs comments. Meanwhile, Steve Locks, at Leaving Christianity has done us the favor of reading her book and summing up its contents…

The author is a Christian of sorts, an ex-Southern Baptist and ex-evangelical, but still a mild believer (she has a mini-testimony at the end of the book) saying that she accepts Jesus as her Saviour and would count her self as born again on certain days when she is in the mood for it! She also prays when she wants to but has many doubts and disagreements with the church.

Her data comes from interviews with leading Christians, polls and published studies. If you want her references for any of these below, let me know.

Here are a few notes of interest that I found within it:

  • Church attendance figures are inflated as many Christians attend more than one church and are multiply counted.
  • Roughly 1,000 evangelicals leave Christianity altogether every day and donʼt come back. As a whole American Christians lose 6,000 members a day (i.e. the other 5,000 going onto their own private views of religion — leaving organized religion, whilst maintaining some unorthodox religious belief like Christine Wicker, the author).
  • Conservative religious causes and spokesmen are over-represented on TV as they are featured 3 times more often in TV and print reports than moderate and progressive Christians.
  • The proportion of Christians who subscribe to all core evangelical beliefs is about 25%.
  • The fastest growing “religious group” in America is non-believers.
  • There are twice as many people claiming no religion as there are participating evangelicals that have made the religious right powerful.
  • Southern Baptist growth isnʼt keeping up with population growth and it hasnʼt for years.
  • 86% of baptisms are of people who are already Christians. (i.e. Christians “changing brands” rather than conversions of unbelievers).
  • In the remaining 14% baptisms are going down in every group except children under five.
  • Southern Baptist baptisms were 100,000 in 1980 but 60,000 in 2005.
  • Evangelicals are slightly more likely to believe that astrology impacts oneʼs life (13.6%) than Americans as a whole (12.3%).
  • Mega-churches are often heavily dept-laden and suffer particularly when an influential pastor retires or dies, or the local population demographics change.
  • 11% of Americans identify with the religious right.
  • 20% of evangelicals identify with the religious right.
  • Some evangelicals blame the Internet for allowing people to think differently about Christianity. (note: exactly as Farrell Till predicted in The Skeptical Review many years ago!)

Steve Locks, Leaving Christianity

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Rejoicing at the Sight of People Suffering in Hell (Have J.P. Holding, Dave Armstrong, James White, Steve Hays, studied this topic as deeply as TCJ?)

Rejoicing at Suffering

For centuries, Christians believed that the heavenly few would see and even rejoice at the sufferings of hellʼs multitude. As Paul Johnson [himself a defender of Christianity] admitted in A History of Christianity, “This displeasing notion was advanced and defended with great tenacity over several centuries, and was one of the points Catholics and orthodox Calvinists had in common.”

The idea is still being defended today in Trevor C. Johnsonʼs thesis composed for his masterʼs degree in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in 2004. (Johnson is also a loving and faithful Christian missionary, husband, and parent serving the Lord in a potentially dangerous mission field.) I would like some Evangelical Christian apologists on the web to read Johnsonʼs masterʼs thesis which is now online (and also offered at — note the three positive reviews from fellow Christians), and explain either why you agree with it, or disagree with it, and if you disagree, how such a notion came to be derived from various Biblical stories and verses, and also came to be defended from the philosophical necessity of heavenʼs occupants remaining joyful (no tears in heaven) and knowledgeable concerning Godʼs decisions, and view such decisions as praiseworthy such that there is not the least bit of doubt nor lack of joy at viewing such decisions in action.

Read Seeing Hell: Do The Saints In Heaven Behold The Sufferings Of The Damned (And How Do They Respond)

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The Famous “Burgh - Spinoza” Exchange (Almost As If Spinoza Was Speaking to Lee Strobel, J.P. Holding, Steve Hays, James White, Dave Armstrong, et al)

Spinoza - World's Great Letters

Below are a pair of letters exchanged between the philosopher Baruch Spinoza and a young friend who had converted to an evangelical form of Catholicism (so evangelical that the young man almost sounds like a modern day Evangelical Christian, especially at the end of one paragraph in which he tells Spinoza, “Give in, turn away from your errors and your sins; put on humility and be born again,” or in another place when he compares the evidence for the truth of his beliefs with the evidence that “Julius Caesar lived,” or when he writes of the “wretched and restless life of Atheists”).

Their exchange — on the topic of Christianity versus Spinozaʼs philosophy — parallels todayʼs feisty (at times fiery) debates on the internet (and in places makes one chuckle at the young manʼs endorsement of a few supernatural tales no longer heard these days, such as “the restoration of plants and flowers in a glass phial after they have been burnt; Sirens; pygmies very frequently showing themselves, according to report, in mines.” (I mean who can explain that last one? Perhaps the translator messed up and should have used the word “dwarf” — as in the dwarfs who lived in mountains per “Lord of the Rings” — instead of “pygmies?”) Goethe, the famed German poet and natural philosopher, declared that Spinozaʼs correspondence with his friends and disciples was “the most interesting book one could read in the world of uprightness and humanity.” But first… a little background before presenting Burghʼs letter and Spinozaʼs reply.

Born in 1632, Spinoza lived most of his life at The Hague, earning a bare subsistence as a lens grinder, yet his works influenced Descartes, Leibnitz, Hobbes and many among others (even Einstein compared his “God” to Spinozaʼs ideas of God). Spinoza helped give birth to modern biblical criticism and to the idea of separation of church and state. He was also focused on philosophy so much that neither wealth, fame, nor even marriage, could tear him away, much like some ancient Greek philosophers.

When a prince, the Elector of Palatine, offered Spinoza a professorship in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg and thus promised him freedom from financial cares, Spinoza, unwilling to make any promise to refrain from “disturbing the publicly established religion,” graciously but firmly refused. When Louis XIV of France offered him a pension, in return for the dedication of his next book, he again refused. Obstinately, but quietly, serenely, even graciously and elegantly, Spinoza rejected the advice of “worldlings and careerists” and spurned “the spurious immortality of popular acclamation.” The easy security of a comfortable post offered by His Electoral Highness or His Imperial Majesty could not lure him. The truth Spinoza sought would be found only in solitude — and besides he needed every year, every day, every precious hour to finish his Ethics, undistracted by fame, free from royal favor.

Spinozaʼs integrity met the supreme test when he was cast out from the Jewish religion and reviled by the synagogue of his forefathers for heresies springing from his thirst for truth. His denial of immortality won him the hatred alike of Jews and Christians.

The only books published by Spinoza in his lifetime were The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy (1663) and Tractatus Theologico-Politicus: A Critical Inquiry Into the History, Purpose, and Authenticity of the Hebrew Scriptures, which appeared anonymously in 1670. This was promptly honored with a place in the Index Expurgatorius — a list of books banned by the Catholic Church; it dates back to 1559 and was prompted not so much by the occult but by the rise of Protestantism.

Spinoza had many friends among the influential governing classes at The Hague. Among them was Conrad Burgh, one of the wealthiest citizens of Amsterdam, who in 1666 (the “666” being merely a coincidence) held office as Treasurer General of the United Netherlands. His son, Albert Burgh, was a pupil of Spinoza. Young Burgh continued his study of philosophy in Italy, and finally turned to the Catholic faith with fanatical zeal. Burghʼs family was disturbed by this and persuaded Spinoza to write to Albert.

When Spinozaʼs books were banned by the civic authorities, many of his friends and disciples carried on the resulting theological controversy both in person and by correspondence. Spinoza received many letters “intended to reform him.” Typical of them was the one he recʼd from young Albert Burgh, his old friend and former pupil — a letter telling some students of church history believe was officially prompted or at least encouraged by the ecclesiastical authorities of the time.

Young Albert Burgh To Spinoza:

“…You Wretched Little Man, Vile Worm Of The Earth, Ay, Ashes, Food For Worms…”

To The Very Learned and Acute Baruch Spinoza:
Many Greetings.
When Leaving my country, I promised to write to you if anything noteworthy occurred during my journey. Since, now, an occasion has presented itself, an one, indeed, of the greatest importance, I discharge my debt, and write to inform you that, through the infinite Mercy of God, I have been restored to the Catholic Church, and have been made a member thereof [later Burgh even entered the Franciscan Order—E.T.B.]. You may learn the particulars of the step from a letter which I have sent to the distinguished and accomplished Professor Craanen of Leyden. I will therefore, now only add a few remarks for your special benefit.

The more I formerly admired you for your penetration and acuteness of mind, the more do I now weep for you and deplore you; for although you are a very talented man, and have received a mind adorned by God with brilliant gifts, and are a lover of truth, indeed eager for it, yet you suffer yourself to be led astray and deceived by the wretched and most haughty Prince of evil Spirits. For, all your philosophy, what is it but a mere illusion and a Chimera? Yet you stake on it not only your peace of mind in this life, but also the eternal salvation of your soul. See on what a miserable foundation all your interests rest.

You assume that you have discovered the true philosophy. How do you know that your philosophy is the best of all that ever have been taught in the world, are now being taught, or ever shall be taught? Passing over what may be devised in the future, have you examined all the philosophies, ancient as well as modern, that are taught here, and in India, and everywhere throughout the whole world?

Even if you have duly examined them, how do you know that you have chosen the best? You will say: “My philosophy is in harmony with right reason; other philosophies are not.” But all other philosophers except your own followers disagree with you, and with equal right say of their philosophy what you say of yours, accusing you, as you do them, of falsity and error. It is clear therefore, that before the truth of your philosophy can be made manifest you must put forth arguments not common to other philosophies, but which can be applied to yours alone. Otherwise you must admit that your philosophy is as uncertain and as worthless as the rest.

However, restricting myself to that book of yours with an impious title (Tractatus Theologico-Politicus) and taking your philosophy together with your theology, for you yourself blend them altogether with diabolic cunning, you pretend to show that each is separate from the other, and that they have different principles, I proceed thus—

Perhaps you will say: “Others have not read Holy Scripture so often as I have; and it is from Holy Scripture, the acknowledgment of which distinguishes Christians from the rest of the world, that I prove my doctrines.” But how? “By comparing the clear passages with the more obscure I explain Holy Scripture, and out of my interpretations frame dogmas, or else confirm those that are already produced in my brain.”

But I adjure you seriously to consider what you say. How do you know that you have correctly applied your method, or again, that your method is sufficient for the interpretation of Holy Scripture, and that you are thus interpreting Holy Scripture on a sound basis? Especially since Catholics say, and it is very true, that the whole Word of God is not given in writing, so that Holy Scripture cannot be explained through Holy Scripture alone, I will not say, by one man, but not even by the Church itself, which is sole authorized interpreter. For the Apostolic traditions must likewise be consulted. This is proved from Holy Scripture itself, and by the testimony of the Holy Fathers, and it is in accord not only with right reason but also with experience. Thus, as your first principles are most false and lead to perdition, what will become of all your doctrine, built up and supported on so rotten a foundation?

So then, if you believe in Christ crucified, acknowledge your most evil heresy, recover from the perversion of your nature, and be reconciled with the Church.

For do you prove your views in a way that is different from that in which all the Heretics who have left Godʼs Church in the past, or are leaving it now, or will leave it in the future, have done, do, or will do? For they all employ the same principle as you do, that is they make use of Holy Scripture alone for the formation and confirmation of their dogmas.

Do not flatter yourself because, perhaps, the Calvinists, or the so-called Reformers, or the Lutherans, or the Mennonites, or the Socinians, etc., cannot refute your doctrine: for all these, as has already been said, are as wretched as you are, and, like you, are seated in the shadow of death.

If you do not believe in Christ you are more wretched than I can say. But the remedy is easy. Turn away from your sins and consider the deadly arrogance of your wretched and insane reasoning. You do not believe in Christ. Why? You will say: “Because the teaching and the life of Christ, and also the Christian teaching concerning Christ are not at all in harmony with my principles, nor is the doctrine of Christians about Christ consistent with my doctrine.” But I repeat, do you then dare to think yourself greater than all those who have ever arisen in the State or Church of God, than the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Doctors, Confessors, and Holy Virgins innumerable, and in your blasphemy, even than Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself? Do you alone surpass all these in doctrine, in manner of life, in every respect? Will you, wretched little man, vile worm of the earth, ay, ashes, food of worms, dare, in your unspeakable blasphemy, to put yourself above the Incarnate, Infinite Wisdom of the Eternal Father? Will you alone, consider yourself wiser and greater than all those who from the beginning of the world have belonged to the Church of God and have believed, or still believe, that Christ would come or has already come? On what do you base this bold, made, pitiable and inexcusable arrogance?

You deny that Christ is the son of the living God, the Word of the eternal wisdom of the Father, made manifest in the flesh, who suffered and was crucified for the human race. Why? Because all this does not correspond to your principles. But, besides the fact that it has now been proved that you have not the true principles but false, rash and absurd ones, I will now say more, namely that even if you had relied on true principles and based all of your views on them, you would not be more able to explain, by means of them, all things that exist, or have happened, or happen in the world, nor ought you to assert boldly that something is really impossible, or false, when it seems to be opposed to these principles.

For there are many, indeed innumerable things that you will not be able to explain, even if there is some sure knowledge of natural things; you will not even be able to remove the manifest contradictions between such phenomena and your explanations of the rest, that are regarded by you as quite certain.

From your principles you will not explain thoroughly even one of those things that are achieved in witchcraft and in enchantments by the mere pronunciation of certain words, or simply by carrying about the words or characters, traced on some material, nor will you be able to explain any of the stupendous phenomena among those who are possessed by demons, of all of which I have myself seen in various instances, and I have heard most certain evidence of innumerable happenings of the kind from very many most trustworthy persons, who spoke with one voice.

How will you be able to judge of the essences of all things, even if it be granted that certain ideas that you have in your mind, adequately conform to the essences of those things of which they are the ideas? For you can never be sure whether the ideas of all created things exist naturally in the human mind, or whether many, if not all, can be produced in it, and actually are produced in it, by external objects, and even through the suggestion of good or evil spirits, and through a clear divine revelation.

How, then, without considering the testimony of other men, and experience of things, to say nothing now of submitting your judgment to the Divine omnipotence, will you be able, from your principles, to define precisely and to establish for certain the actual existence, or nonexistence, the possibility, or the impossibility, of the existence of, for instance, the following things (that is, whether they actually exist, or do not exist, or cannot exist, in Nature), such as divining rods for detecting metal and underground waters; the stone that the Alchemists seek, the power of words and character; the apparitions of various spirits both good and evil, and their power, knowledge, and occupation; the restoration of plants and flowers in a glass phial after they have been burnt; Sirens; pygmies very frequently showing themselves, according to report, in mines; the Antipathies and Sympathies of very many things; the impenetrability of the human body, etc.?

Even if you were possessed of a mind a thousand times more subtle and more acute than you do possess, you would not be able, my Philosopher, to determine even one of the said things. If in judging these and similar matters you put your trust in your understanding alone, you no doubt already think in this way about things of which you have no knowledge and no experience, and which you, therefore, consider impossible, but which in reality should seem only uncertain until you have been convinced by the testimony of very many trustworthy witnesses. Thus, I imagine, would Julius Caesar have thought, if someone had told him that a certain powder could be made up, and would become common in subsequent ages, the strength of which would be so effective that it would blow up into the air castles, whole cities, even the very mountains, and such too that wherever it is confined, which ignited, it would expand so suddenly to a surprising extent, and shatter everything that impeded its action. Julius Caesar would in no wise have believed this; but he would have derided this man with loud jeers as one who wanted to persuade him of something contrary to his own judgment and experience and the highest military knowledge.

But let us return to the point. If you do not know the aforementioned things (divining rods, alchemy, etc.), and are unable to pronounce on them, why will you, unhappy man swollen with diabolical pride, rashly judge of the awful mysteries of the life and passion of Christ that Catholic teachers themselves pronounce incomprehensible? Why, moreover, will you rave, chattering foolishly and idly about the innumerable miracles, and signs, which, after Christ, his Apostles and Disciples and later many thousands of Saints performed in evidence and confirmation of the truth of the Catholic Faith, through the omnipotent power of God, and innumerable instances of which, through the same omnipotent Mercy and loving kindness of God, are happening even now in our days, throughout the whole world? If you cannot contradict these, as you surely cannot, why do you object any longer? Give in, turn away from your errors and your sins; put on humility and be born again.

But let us also descend to truth of fact, as it really is the foundation of the Christian religion. How, if you give the matter due consideration, will you dare to deny the efficacy of the consensus of so many myriads of men, of whom some thousands have been, and are, many miles ahead of you in doctrine, in learning, in true and rare importance, and in perfection of life? All these unanimously and with one voice declare that Christ, that incarnate son of the living God, suffered, and was crucified, and died for the sins of the human race, and rose again, was transfigured, and reigns in heaven as God, together with the eternal Father in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, and the remaining doctrines which belong here; and also that through the Divine power and omnipotence there were performed in the Church of God by this same Lord Jesus, and afterwards, in his name, by the Apostles and the other Saints, innumerable miracles, that not only exceeded human comprehension but were even opposed to common sense (and of these there remain even to this day countless material indications, and visible signs scattered far and wide throughout the world) and that such miracles still happen.

Might I not in like manner deny that the ancient Romans ever existed in the world, or that the Emperor Julius Caesar, having suppressed the Liberty of the Republic, changed their form of government to a monarchy, if I disregarded the many monuments evident to all, that time has left us of the power of the Romans; if I disregarded the testimony of the most weighty authors who have ever written the histories of the Roman Republic and Monarchy, wherein they particularly treat of Julius Caesar; and if I disregarded the judgment of so many thousands of men who have either themselves seen the said monuments, or have put, and still put, their trust in them (seeing that their existence is confirmed by countless witnesses) as well as in the said histories, on the ground that I dreamed last night that the monuments, that have come down from the Romans, are not real things, but mere illusions; and similarly, that those stories that are told of the Romans are just like the stories that the books called Romances relate, puerile stories about Amadis of Gaul and similar Heroes; also that Julius Caesar either never existed in the world, or if he existed was a melancholic man, who did not really crush the Liberty of the Romans, and raise himself to the Throne of the Imperial Power, but was induced to believe that he had performed these achievements, either by his own foolish imagination or by the persuasion of friends who flattered him…

Lastly, reflect on the very wretched and restless life of Atheists, although they sometimes make a display of great cheerfulness of mind, and wish to seem to spend their life joyfully, and with the greatest internal peace of mind. More especially consider their most unhappy and horrible death, of which I have myself seen some instances and know with equal certainty of many more, or rather of countless cases, from the report of others, and from History. Learn from their examples to be wise in time.

Thus you see, or at least I hope you see, how rashly you entrust yourself to the opinions of your brain (for if Christ is the true God, and at the same time man, as is most certain, see to what you are reduced; for by persevering in your abominable errors, and most grave sins, what else can you expect but eternal damnation? How horrible this is, you may ponder for yourself) how little reason you have for laughing at the whole world with the exception of your wretched adorers; how foolishly proud and puffed up you become with the knowledge of the excellence of your talents, and with admiration for your very vain, indeed quite false, and impious doctrine; how shamefully you make yourself more wretched than the very beasts, but depriving yourself of the freedom of the will; nevertheless, even if you do not actually experience and recognize this, how can you deceive yourself by thinking that your works are worthy of the highest praise, and even of the closest imitation?

If you do not wish (which I will not think) that God or your neighbor should have pity on you, do you yourself at least take pity on your own misery, whereby you endeavor to make yourself more unhappy than you are now, or less unhappy than you will be, if you continue in this manner.

Come to your senses, you Philosopher, and realize the folly of your wisdom, the madness of your wisdom; put aside your pride and become humble, and you will be healed. Pray to Christ in the Most Holy Trinity, that he may deign to commiserate your misery, and receive you. Read the Holy Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church, and let them instruct you in what you must do that you may not perish, but have eternal life. Consult Catholics profoundly learned in their faith and living a good life, and they will tell you many things that you have never known and whereat you will be amazed.

I, for my part, have written this letter to you with truly Christian intention, first that you may know the great love I bear you [Did Burgh forget that earlier in the same letter he illustrated his “great love toward Spinoza” with the words, “…You Wretched Little Man, Vile Worm Of The Earth, Ay, Ashes, Food For Worms”—E.T.B.] although a Gentile [since I guess in Burghʼs day “Gentiles” did not normally bear “great love&rduqo; toward Jews like Spinoza]; and secondly to beg you not to continue to pervert others also.

I will therefore conclude thus: God is willing to snatch your soul from eternal damnation if only you are willing. Do not hesitate to obey the Lord, who has so often called you through others, and now calls you again, and perhaps for the last time, through me [how humble of Burgh to think so—E.T.B.], who, having obtained this grace [again how humble of Burgh to think heʼs obtained Godʼs special approved grace through the Catholic Church and believing what it tells him, while everyone else is going to catch hell come judgment day—E.T.B.] through the ineffable Mercy of God Himself, pray for the same for you with my whole heart [“…You Wretched Little Man, Vile Worm Of The Earth, Ay, Ashes, Food For Worms”]. Do not refuse, for if you will not hear God now when He calls you, the anger of the Lord Himself will be kindled against you, and there is the danger that you may be abandoned by His Infinite Mercy, and become the unhappy victim of the divine Justice that consumes all things in its anger. May the omnipotent God avert this fate to the greater glory of His name, and to the salvation of your soul, and also as a salutary and imitable example for your most unfortunate Idolaters, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who with the Eternal Father lives and reigns in the Unity of the Holy Spirit as God for all eternity. Amen. [Why did Burgh stop repeating the liturgy formula there? Why didnʼt Burgh just end his letter by writing down the WHOLE liturgy of the Catholic Mass? Kind of like an exorcism Mass in letter form to try and “save” Spinozaʼs soul from “the Evil One” whom Burgh mentioned earlier had power over Spinoza?—E.T.B.]

Florence, (Sept. 3, 1675.)

Spinozaʼs Reply

“…How Do You Know That You Have Chosen The Best?”

Baruch Spinoza Send Greetings
To the Very Noble Young Man Albert Burgh:
What I could scarcely believe when it was related to me by others, I at least understand from your letter; that is, that not only have you become a member of the Roman Church, as you say, but that you are a very keen champion of it and have already learned to curse and rage petulantly against your opponents. I had not intended to reply to your letter, being sure that what you need is time rather than an argument, to be restored to yourself, and to your family, to say nothing of other grounds that you once approved when we spoke of Stenonius (in whose footsteps you are now following). But certain friends who with me had formed great hopes for you from your excellent natural talent, earnestly prayed me not to fail in the duty of a friend, and to think of what you recently were rather than of what you now are, and similar things. I have been induced by these arguments to write to you these few words, earnestly begging you to be kind enough to read them with a calm mind.

I will not recount the vices of Priests and Popes in order to turn you away from them, as the opponents of the Roman Church are wont to do. For they are wont to published these things from ill-feeling, and to adduce them in order to annoy rather than to instruct. Indeed, I will admit that there are found more men of great learning, and of an upright life, in the Roman than in any other Christian Church; for since there are more men who are members of this Church, there will also be found within it more men of every condition. You will, however, be unable to deny, unless perhaps you have lost your memory together with your reason, that in every Church there are many very honest men who worship God with justice and charity; for we have known many men of this kind among Lutherans, the Reformers, the Mennonites, and the Enthusiasts, and to say nothing of others, and know of your own ancestors who in the time of the Duke of Alva suffered for the sake of their Religion every kind of torture with both firmness and freedom of mind. Therefore you must allow that holiness of life is not peculiar to the Roman Church, but is common to all.

And since we know through this (to speak with the Apostle John, the First Epistle, Chapter 4, verse 13) that we dwell in God and God dwells in us, it follows that whatever it is that distinguishes the Roman Church from others, it is something superfluous, and therefore based merely on superstition.

For, as I said with John, justice and charity are the only and the surest sign of the true Catholic faith, and the true fruits of the Holy Spirit, and wherever these are found, there Christ really is, and whence they are lacking, there Christ also is not. For by the Spirit of Christ alone can we be led to the love of justice and of charity. If you had been willing duly to ponder these facts within yourself, you would not have been lost, nor would you have caused bitter sorrow to your parents who sorrowfully lament your lot.

But I return to your letter in which you first bewail the fact that I suffer myself to be deceived by the Prince of evil Spirits. But I beg you to be of good cheer, if I am not mistaken, you used to worship an infinite God, by whose power all things absolutely come into being, and are preserved, but now you dream of a Prince, an enemy of God, who, against the will of God, misleads and deceives most men (for good men are rare), whom God consequently delivers up to this master of vices to be tortured for all eternity. Thus divine justice permits the Devil to deceive men with impunity, but does not permit the men who have been miserably deceived and misled by this same Devil to go unpunished.

These absurdities might still be tolerated if you worshiped a God infinite and eternal, and not one whom Chastillon in the town of Tienen gave with impunity to the horses to eat. [Spinoza is speaking about a consecrated host from a Catholic Mass being fed to horses — by a Protestant I presume. Catholics believe during Mass the host becomes consecrated, turning into the literal (but invisible) body and blood of Jesus. I might add for my Protestant friends that even the apostle Paul writing to the earliest Christian churches took the idea of the Lordʼs Supper so seriously as to believe God was punishing “many” Corinthian Christians with “illnesses” and even striking some “dead” for not celebrating the Lordʼs supper the right way. See 1 Cor. 11:27-30: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.” I also assume from Spinozaʼs story about the horse being fed the host that both rider and horse survived. Otherwise Iʼm sure that Catholics living back then, including Burgh, might have cited the illness or deaths of horse or rider as yet another reason to become a Catholic.—E.T.B.]

And do you, unhappy one, weep for me? And do you call my Philosophy, which you have never seen, a Chimera? O brainless youth, who has bewitched you, so that you believe that you swallow the highest and the eternal, and that you hold it in your intestines? [Spinoza is again speaking about a consecrated Catholic host.—E.T.B.]

Yet you seem to want to use your reason, and you ask me, how I know that my philosophy is the best among all those that have ever been taught in the world, or are taught now, or will be taught in the future? I could ask you the same question with far better right. For I do not presume that I have found the best Philosophy, but I know that I think I have found one that pursues truth. If you ask me how I know this, I shall answer, in the same way that you know that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. That this is enough no one will deny whose brain is sound, and who does not dream of unclean spirits who inspire us with false ideas that are like true ones, for the truth reveals itself and the false.

But you who presume that you have at last found the best religion, or rather the best men, to whom you have given over your credulity, how do you know that they are the best among all those who have taught other Religions, or are teaching them now, or will teach them in the future? Have you examined all those religions, both ancient and modern, that are taught here and in India and everywhere throughout the world? And even if you have duly examined them, how do you know that you have chosen the best? For you can give no reason for your faith. But you will say that you assent to the inward testimony of the Spirit of God, while the others are cheated and misled by the Prince of evil Spirits. But all those outside the Roman Church make the same claims with the same right for their Churches as you do for yours.

As to what you add about the common consent of myriads of men, and of the uninterrupted succession of the Church, etc., this is the same old song of the rabbis/Jewish teachers/Pharisees. For there also, with no less confidence than the adherents of the Roman Church, produce their myriads of witnesses, who relate what they have heard about, with as much pertinacity as do the witnesses of the Romans, just as if they themselves had experienced it.

They trace back their lineage to Adam. They boast with equal arrogance that their Church maintains its growth, stability, and solidity to this very day, in spite of the hostility of the Heathen and the Christians. Most of all do they take their stand on their antiquity. They declare with one voice that they have received their traditions from God Himself, and that they alone preserve the written and unwritten word of God.

No one can deny that all heresies have left them [the Jews were fairly well united in doctrine, moreso than the Christians, generally speaking—E.T.B.], but that they have remained constant for some thousands of years without any imperial support or compulsion [such as Christianity received after Constantineʼs conversion to Christian and also received from the Christian Emperors that followed in his wake—E.T.B.], but rather through the mere power of superstition. The miracles they [the Jews] relate are enough to weary a thousand gossips. But what they chiefly pride themselves on is that they number far more martyrs than any other nation and daily increase the number of those who with extraordinary constancy of mind have suffered for the faith that they profess. And this is not untrue. I myself know [have heard], among others, of a certain Judah, whom they call the Faithful, who in the midst of the flames, when he was believed to be dead already, began to sing the hymn that begins, “To Thee, O God, I commit my soul,” and died in the middle of the hymn. [The person to whom Spinoza is referring was a Spanish nobleman who was converted to Judaism via the study of Hebrew and who had adopted the named “Judah” as his Hebrew name. His given name was Don Lope de Vera y Alarcon de San Clemente, and he was burnt at Valladolid, July 25, 1644 according to Gratzʼ book Gesch. der Juden x. 101. This reminds me also of the famous story of a rabbi facing the Inquisition who was asked to deny his faith. He requested time to think it over. The next morning he said, “I will not become a Catholic, but I have a last request — before Iʼm burnt at the stake my tongue should be cut out for not replying at once. To such a question ‘No!’ was the only answer.”—E.T.B.]

The order of the Roman Church, which you so greatly praise, I confess, is politic and lucrative to many. I should think that there was none more suited to deceive the people and to constrain the minds of men, were there not the order of the Islamic Church, which far surpasses it. For from the time that this superstition began there have arisen no schisms in their Church. [Spinoza means I suppose that in the history of Christianity there have been many major ruptures — from early church theological differences resulting in violence like the Arian vs. the Athansians, or the Catholics vs. the Donatists — to such major schisms as the Catholic-Orthodox split that arose after the whole eastern half of the Christian Roman Empire excommunicated the entire western half, and vice versa — to the Great Schism within Catholicism itself whereby two and then three popes existed simultaneously — to the Reformation — and a host of other “heresies” arising during each age. While Islam like Judaism has never complicated its central formula though even in Islam a big schism (the Sunni-Shia schism) occurred when the Islamic prophet Muhammad died in the year 632, leading to a dispute over succession to Muhammad as a caliph of the Islamic community. Over the years Sunni-Shia relations have been marked by both cooperation and conflict. Today there are differences in religious practice, traditions, and customs as well as religious belief. Though the Shia now only constitute about 15% of all Muslims. —E.T.B.]

If therefore, you calculate correctly, you will see that only what you note in the third place is in favor of the Christians, namely, that unlearned and common men were able to convert almost the whole world to the faith of Christ. But this argument militates not only for the Roman Church, but for all who acknowledge the name of Christ.

But suppose that all the arguments that you adduce are in favor of the Roman Church alone. Do you think that you can thereby mathematically prove the authority of the Church? Since this is far from being the case, why then do you want me to believe that my proofs are inspired by the Prince of evil Spirits, but yours of God? Especially so, as I see and your letter clearly shows that you have become a slave of this Church, under the influence not so much of the love of God as of the fear of hell, which is the sole cause of superstition. Is this your humility, to put no faith in yourself, but only in others, who are condemned by very many? Do you regard it as acquiesce in that true Word of God that is in the mind and can never be depraved or corrupted? Away with this deadly superstition, acknowledge the reason God has given you, and cultivate it, if you would not be numbered among the brutes. Cease, I say, to call absurd errors mysteries, and do not shamefully confuse those things that are unknown to us, or as yet undiscovered, with those that are shown to be absurd, as are the horrible secrets of this Church, which, the more they oppose right reason, the more you believe they transcend the understanding.

For the rest, the basis of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, namely, that Scripture must only be explained through Scripture, which you so boldly and without any reason proclaim to be false, is not merely assumed, but apodictically proved to be true or well established, chiefly in Chapter 7 [On the Interpretation of Scripture], where the opinions of opponents are also refuted. Add to this what is proved at the end of Chapter 15 [Theology Does Not Assist Reason, Nor Does Reason Aid Theology. Of the Grounds Of Our Belief in the Authority of the Sacred Scriptures].

If you will consider these carefully, and also examine the Histories of the Church (of which I see you are most ignorant), in order to see how false are many of the Pontifical traditions, and by what fate and with what arts the Roman Pontiff, six hundred years after the birth of Christ, obtained sovereignty over the Church, I doubt not that you will at least come to your senses. That this may be so, I wish you from my heart. Farewell, etc.

B. d. Spinoza [the Hague, Dec. 1675]

What Became Of Spinoza And Burgh?

Spinoza died two years later, in 1677, at the age of forty-five. Albert Burgh died in a monastery in Rome [I wonder, was he ever reunited with his family?]. A little over two hundred years later, in 1882, a statue was unveiled of Spinoza at The Hague, and Renan (the French theologian and author) gave an address at its unveiling, calling Spinoza, “The greatest Jew of modern times,” adding, “Ages hence, the cultivated traveler, passing by this spot, will say in his heart, ‘The truest vision ever had of God came, perhaps, here.’”

While Einstein wrote: “I believe in Spinozaʼs God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.” [Albert Einstein, following his wifeʼs advice in responding to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of the International Synagogue in New York, who had sent Einstein a cablegram bluntly demanding “Do you believe in God?”]

Einstein even wrote a brief poem about Spinoza (here).

How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though heʼll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own.

Spinozaʼs portrait was featured prominently on the Dutch 1000-guilder banknote, legal tender until the euro was introduced in 2002. And the most generous and prestigious scientific award of the Netherlands is named the Spinoza prijs (Spinoza prize).

To Find Out More, See This Great Little Commentary On Tne Burgh-Spinoza Exchange.

See Also Spinozaʼs Wikipedia Page, And Also This Online Book Review: Michael Dirda, Expelled from the Jewish community of his day, Spinoza went on to construct a lasting philosophy. A review of Rebecca Goldsteinʼs 2006 work, Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity.

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