Wake up, Neo! Pseudoscience, Fake History, and Baloney of Biblical Proportions
jhutson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 09:57:46 AM EST
In the beginning of The Matrix, Thomas Anderson, a hacker who goes by the alias Neo, falls asleep in front of his p.c. Behind him, a prompt appears onscreen: "Wake up, Neo." Mr. Anderson rouses and looks around at the screen. He types "CTRL X," but the letter "T" appears. He hits another command, but an "h" appears.  He furiously types functions and commands, but the computer types out a message as though it had a mind of its own. He stops and stares at the message: "The Matrix has you."

This call to consciousness foretells the film's plot. Mr. Anderson spends his days at a soul-sucking corporate job in order to spend his nights seeking all sorts of information that is forbidden to him. He struggles with the choice of whether to escape from or remain imprisoned in the Matrix -- a simulation program that perpetuates ignorance through illusion in order to bypass people's critical thinking and drain their vital energy. His alternative is to gain the knowledge necessary to wake up, and then take action to liberate himself and others. Mr. Anderson's role as one who fights ignorance and illusion, and who invites others to awaken to a life of liberty is seen in his family name, which literally means "son of man." You may recognize that as an alias that Jesus often used to describe himself, such as when he tried to wake up his sleeping disciples on the Mount of Olives. (Gospel According to Mark, 14:41)

So it is ironic that religious right leaders also invoke the "Son of Man" as they labor to put his followers back to sleep by perpetuating illusions based on intellectual dishonesty. Their Matrix is the myth of the "Christian Nation," a totally comprehensive but illusory simulation program. Perpetuation of the illusion relies on isolating people culturally and feeding them a steady diet of junk science, fake history, and baloney of biblical proportions.

Fellow believers and fellow citizens can reach out with compassion, and gently wake up our fellow Americans to the light of reason. Without condescension, we can show our fellow Americans that it is possible to seek spirituality and intellectual honesty at the same time. As Silver suggests in her diary, "The Lesbian and the Fundamentalist," we can build community around people who want it all -- spirituality, morality, and intellectual integrity. True religion and true patriotism do not require one to check one's brain at the door. Now is a time to share critical thinking, biblical scholarship, and true knowledge of American history. And, at long last, it is time for proponents of the "Christian Nation" myth to be called to account for spreading falsehoods. And they can start making amends by stripping their web sites, pamphlets, books, videos, and broadcasts of fake quotes from America's founders.

For years, historians and debunkers have pointed out Christian nationalists' repeated and flagrant use of fake quotes -- unsourced statements misattributed to American patriots, such as Patrick Henry, John Quincy Adams, James Madison, or George Washington. Such quotes have been exposed and debunked for years, but Christian nationalists continue to flog them, despite the fact that they can't find any primary source documents to support these fabrications. By now, they clearly know or should know that there's no basis to their phony quotes other than wishful thinking at best, or at worst, deliberate deception.

Here's an egregious example of a fake history quote, falsely attributed to Patrick Henry, and found on the web sites of the theocratic Chalcedon Foundation, Concerned Women for America, and many others:

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this quote does not appear in any of Patrick Henry's known writings; there's no proof he ever said it. But this bogus quote is perpetuated in homeschools and Christian radio shows, in televangelists' broadcasts and ersatz history books. A search on Google, the world's most popular search engine, shows that the quote crops up on thousands of web pages -- most of which repeat it uncritically, and a few of which point out that it is pure bunkum.

A touchstone of Christian nationalist fakery is this quote misattributed to John Quincy Adams, who apparently never said, "The highest glory of the American revolution was this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity." There's no primary source document, no proof that Adams ever said this. Yet this fake quote also appears on web site of the American Center for Law & Justice and thousands more web pages. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe pump up the drama to get people to buy into this falsely attributed quote on the web site of Coral Ridge Ministries:

John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States, said, "The highest glory of the American Revolution was. . . ." Can you guess what he cited? That the revolution secured our independence from England? Or that it got rid of the Stamp Tax? Or the Tea Tax? Or that the Revolution dissolved our bonds with Parliament and the king? No. What was the highest glory of the American Revolution, according to this President? Listen well. John Quincy Adams said, "The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."
They don't cite a primary source document, because there's not one: the quote is misattributed to Adams, even though clear and convincing evidence shows that it was written by a 19th century author named John Wingate Thornton. (See John Wingate Thornton, The Pulpit of the American Revolution, 1860 (reprinted NY: Burt Franklin, 1860; 1970), p. XXIX.)

And the fakery doesn't stop at make-believe American history; some supporters of "Intelligent Design" are manufacturing pseudoscientific claims, too. For example, in his November 2005 Esquire magazine piece, "Greetings from Idiot America," Charles Pierce describes a visit to the Creation Museum run by Ken Ham and his creationist group Answers in Genesis (AIG) in Hebron, Kentucky. The museum features exhibits teaching that cavemen domesticated dinosaurs and even got them to wear saddles. One dinosaur wears an English riding saddle.

"Dinosaurs," Ham laughs as he poses for pictures with his visitors, "always get the kids interested." AIG is dedicated to the proposition that the biblical story of the creation of the world is inerrant in every word. Which means, in this interpretation and among other things, that dinosaurs coexisted with man (hence the saddles), that there were dinosaurs in Eden, and that Noah, who certainly had enough on his hands, had to load two brachiosaurs onto the Ark along with his wife, his sons, and their wives... (Faced with the obvious question of how to keep a three-hundred-by-thirty-by-fifty-cubit ark from sinking under the weight of dinosaur couples, Ham's literature argues that the dinosaurs on the Ark were young ones, and thus did not weigh as much as they might have.) "We," Ham exclaims to the assembled, "are taking the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists!" And everybody cheers.

Sceptics may well wonder what archeological evidence, or what biblical passage, supposedly supports the notion that cavemen saddled up dinosaurs. That notion is not supported by Genesis or by archeology. Yet some people don't care about what they Bible says, or what biology or archeology say either. They just manufacture a false reality, pass their snakeoil off as the truth, and then act hurt and offended when a fellow Christian demands that they come clean and live up to the standards of intellectual honesty. But too few fellow Christians call their brothers and sisters to account for faking history quotes and passing off pseudoscience as the real thing. And too many believers are too quick to endorse any statement, no matter how unsupported, so long as it's made in the name of Christ.

For example, AIG's web site, which is also the official web site of the Creation Museum, offers this unique twist on dinosaurs: "T. rex--the real king of the beasts. That's the terror that Adam's sin unleashed! You'll run into this monster lurking near Adam and Eve. How's this possible? Find out soon!" Yeah, how's that possible? And how's it possible that Christian groups are buying into this pseudoscience, and teaching this to innocent children? Yet some do.

In fact, AIG's homepage brags that the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) announced on January 16 that its site -- addled, saddled dinosaurs and all -- has been selected as "Ministry Website of the Year" for 2005. NRB is an international association of Christian communicators with over 1,400 member organizations feeding stories to millions of viewers, listeners, and readers. How many of those millions of viewers, listeners, and readers remain culturally isolated and misinformed, waiting for the voice of reason to break through with a gentle, compassionate call to wake up?

...is the one the Creation Museum. It's a still from a PBS Online NewsHour special, dated March 28, 2005, when Correspondent Jeffrey Brown investigated how some biology teachers are handling the hot button debate over the theory of evolution, creationism and intelligent design.

by jhutson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 10:36:15 AM EST

Of that saddle to the addled Triceratops. But, it's said that there were giants in those days - right ? Or, it was a baby Triceratops.

Some even go so far as to claim that dinosaurs flapped about the skies of Medieval Europe :

[ source: Oopart.com* ] "The next image on the left is from the same book, "The Light of the Past". It shows what can only be pterosaurs flying high above.

At this time, the term dinosaur had not yet been coined. One should judge for oneself the accuracy of the pterosaur likeness.

Image hosting by Photobucket

The drawing itself is from a 17th century German tract about the dangers of witches and witchcraft. Witches are accused of causing houses to spontaneously combust. The pterosaurs depicted flying in the background, with characteristic headcrests and tails, were apparently associated with witchcraft--they were called dragons.

(Trevor-Roper, "The Persecution of Witches," 1965.) Many accounts from that time period describe creatures that sound suspiciously like pterodactyls/pterosaurs.

From my reading, pterosaurs were "common" and as you'll read in other accounts in this section were seen by quite a few people, flew in swarms. "

Personally, I think the "Pterosaurs" look like stylized crows. As far as I know the art and science of proportion in drawing wasn't rediscovered in European culture until the Renaissance. One would also think that with all those "Pterosaurs" flapping about in the Medieval skies there'd be a few extant skeletons. Unless, of course, all the flocks of Pterosaurs immolated themselves in volcanoes. Anything is possible, I suppose.

* "Oopart" is a fascinating blend of creationism and Eric Von Daniken-ism.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 12:14:53 PM EST

There was wee giant named Dorris
who straddled an addled 'osaurus
She rode hard to town
and hopped down with a frown
saying, "I've got a dino-and-sore-ass"

by jhutson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 12:41:44 PM EST

There are a lot of great examples here of how the playing field has, as in political and electoral life, been largely abandandoned to the huckster/theocratic alliance.

Symptomatic of the problem is what Silver essentially describes as a sneering indifference on the part of too many. I think the diagnosis is only part right, however. The sneering indifference comes not soley from the non-religious. It comes from people of many faiths, who pay no attention to the political and cultural implications of their activities and then are surprised, baffled and alarmed when the religious right enjoys such influence in the Bush White House.

Ignorance about the rise of the religious right is as likely to be found among, say, progressive Jews, Catholics and mainline protestants, as it is the non-religious.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 01:43:25 PM EST

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