Friday, June 24, 2011

Facts, Snark, and Lies

American patriot and freethought pioneer Thomas Paine died in 1809, the same year in which Charles Darwin was born -- or, if you prefer (as I don't), Paine was seated at Satan's side in the same year Darwin was vomited up from the depths of Hell to sew anti-Christian and/or anti-Islamic "scientific" deceptions that would lead believers away from salvation and/or the straight path.

Darwin went on to formalize the theory of evolution in The Origin of Species in 1859, fifty years after Paine's death and seventy years after the 1789 ratification of the US Constitution, including its first ten amendments commonly called "the bill of rights."

Nearly all of the preceding claims are easily-checked facts available to everyone in this internets-crazy age, with its googles and wikipedias and youtubes and blogs and twitters and keyboard cats and Tea Party Jesuses.

Those, I say again, are the facts -- several of them, albeit mingling with a little snark. Subtract the snark and synthesize these facts into a coherent historical narrative, hack historian David Barton, won't you please?
As far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, they'd already had the entire debate over creation and evolution, and you get Thomas Paine, who is the least religious Founding Father, saying you've got to teach Creation science in the classroom. Scientific method demands that.
Well, to give Barton slightly more than the zero credit he deserves, his claim that Tom Paine was the least religious of the USA's founders* is at least arguably true, though I lack the time-traveling and mind-reading skills needed to assess it with complete confidence. The rest of this could be dismissed as bat-shit lunacy if not for the realization that genuine crazy is more scattered than this. The god-bothered far-right tilt of Barton's fanciful tale reveals it as pure distortion -- or, if you prefer (as I do), lying.

* Paine did write as follows:

THE WORD OF GOD IS THE CREATION WE BEHOLD: And it is in this word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man ...

Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of the creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible Whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful. In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called the scripture, which any human hand might make, but the scripture called the Creation.
Paine did not maintain a purely naturalistic explanation of life's diversity -- again, a thorough statement of that would not appear until fifty years after his death. He took a deistic view under which god and nature, to the extent they are distinguishable at all, are indistinguishable in their amenability to open-ended inquiry and discovery -- for example, the most celebrated investigations and discoveries of Charles Darwin.  


Sheldon said...

And if the chronology was different, and "The Founding Fathers" could debate evolution from a position of knowledge, and if they had agree on that, then so what? Do we have to say everything the founding fathers say? I hate that talk as if the FF were infallible law givers like gods themselves.

Dale said...

Sheldon -- Well, yes, exactly. Even when we find agreement among the "founding fathers" on this or that, nothing straightforwardly follows from it. I think it is worth getting it right when it comes to the terms under which this country was founded, in that this is (in theory) a republic governed by written law, including but not limited to the Constitution. What has been written into law (and what hasn't been), and what it means (and what it doesn't), therefore matters.

You are right to suggest this doesn't and shouldn't translate into a necessity to unduly revere the "founding fathers."

FWIW, for me, Tom Paine is a hero. That's another reason this particular blast of bullshit matters to me.

Sheldon said...

Agreed on everything, including Tom Paine rocks. It just strikes me as absurd the idea that the FF thought this in the 1700, therefore we should think the same in the 2,000.