Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thomas Jefferson: Creationist???

At the Publick Occurrences, 2.0 blog, Jeff Pasley posts an interesting/mind boggling article on the "Creation Museum" outside of Cincinnati. The "Creation Museum" was established in 2007, mostly through the efforts of the controversial group Answers in Genesis, and the highly criticized Christian speaker/"scientist," Ken Ham. The museum's mission is to to try and bridge the gap (or destroy the gap) between science and the Bible, thus proving that the infallibility of the Bible reigns supreme over modern scientific theory. As the Creation Museum's website states:

The state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers. The serpent coils cunningly in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Majestic murals, great masterpieces brimming with pulsating colors and details, provide a backdrop for many of the settings.
In addition to its emphasis on dinosaurs roaming the earth only a few thousand years ago and Noah riding the waves in his arc during a global flood, the Creation Museum "paves the way for greater understanding of the tenants of creation and redemption" by refuting the "traditional" understanding of science (it is worth noting here that a recent poll by the American Association for the Advancement of Science revealed that 99.85% of the material presented in the Creation Museum is refuted by the scientific community).

So what does this have to do with the theme of our blog? Well, as Jeff Pasley points out in his article mentioned above, none other than THOMAS JEFFERSON has been credited as being one of the museum's "intellectual progenitors." Pasley writes:

The Creation [Museum] is an expensive, high-tech send-up of modern scientific thought about natural history, devoted to presenting the text of the Bible as literal scientific fact and instilling visitors with a fear and loathing of the post-Enlightenment world. Yet guess who gets named by the article’s author (Joseph Clarke) as one of the museum’s intellectual progenitors? Poor Thomas Jefferson, whose liberal religious views and avid interest in Enlightenment science were constantly ridiculed and condemned during his life-time. He clipped all the miracles and supernatural references out of the Gospels for nothing, apparently.
In this post, Pasley mentions an article by Joseph Clarke, who defends the Creation Museum's "scholarly" pursuit of scientific truth. In addition, Clarke pathetically attempts to include Thomas Jefferson as a supporter of the Creation Museum's mission. He writes:

But while the Creation Museum undoubtedly reflects these recent trends, moralistic distrust of city life has a rich history in America. When, in 1925, John Scopes was tried for teaching Darwinism to a high school science class in violation of Tennessee law, the case against him was argued by William Jennings Bryan, a luminary of the young fundamentalist movement and a staunch agrarian. In Bryan’s view, urban industrial capitalism was inextricable from the social Darwinist credo of survival of the fittest and the cultural ills to which it gave rise. Before Bryan, Thomas Jefferson argued against Alexander Hamilton that the cold rationality of economic development would lead to social waywardness unless held in check by a thriving agrarian culture: “Corruption of morals…is the mark set upon those, who, not looking up to heaven, to their own soil and industry, as does the husbandman, for their subsistence, depend for it on casualties and caprice of customers.” Jefferson’s proposed design for the Great Seal of the United States depicted the nation of Israel journeying through the wilderness in search of the Promised Land
Yes, even the religious skeptic, Thomas Jefferson, who not only doubted the legitimacy of Christianity but also removed a number of stories from his own Bible is now loosely linked with creationism! This is a bizarre attempt at linking modern creationism with America's founding history, especially when we consider Jefferson's own words on the "infallibility" of the Bible:

The religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers...Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger athletes to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages.


Brad Hart said...

For a little comedy relief go here:

Dan said...

Science is far from certain on a number of things. Not long ago (the time of Columbus) "scientists" believed that the world was flat. Science also believed that the Earth was the center of the universe.

Such is the case with evolution. If scientists knew anything, they would know that the Egyptian pyramids show drawings of serpants that can talk and of dinosaur looking creatures. Answers in Genesis is thus far the only group I know of that is fighting to get this information out to the public. Everything in the Bible can and is proven by science. This is a fact. Your attempt to belittle the Creation Museum shows your ignorance of the issue. Sorry, but your case does not stand.

Ed Darrell said...

Even creationists know that Thomas Jefferson was most often right -- and so they do whatever they can to hitch their wagon to his star, even when his star goes in a different direction.

Was Jefferson creationist? He had a difficult time accepting that rocks fall from the sky (meteorites), but his difficulty was based in deep skepticism. He was reluctant to go where evidence did not lead. Early in his life he came to view the Bible as one of those books bound with more fable than fact. Jefferson conducted his own breeding experiments, and he worked hard to find exotic species that would do well in America, often commenting on the geographic spread of plants and animals, and what might cause such distributions. Jefferson was a collector of fossils, and a student of geology. It would be interesting to know whether Jefferson ever knew of Smith's maps of Britain, or whether Jefferson ever read Paley's conjectures, but I think it would be safe to say Jefferson did not deny geology.

Which would, by itself, leave him out of the realm of "creationist."

Brad Hart said...

Hmmmm...not sure where to start on this one. You left yourself wide open to so many attacks that I feel like a fat man at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I don't know where to begin.

First off, "scientists" knew that the world was round LONG before the days of Columbus. You should have learned that one in History, 101.

Second, as for the Earth being the center of the universe, it was RELIGION that insisted on this belief. Scientists, namely Nicolaus Copernicus, discovered that the Earth was not at the center of the heliocentric universe...something that religion had insisted upon for centuries. BTW, the church nearly killed Copernicus for his findings.

Now, as for the Egyptian pyramid B.S., PLEASE tell me that you are not being serious. Dan, the Egyptians drew pictures of humans with alligator heads. Does this mean that there once was a race of alligator-headed people, along with your talking snakes?

The dinosaurs living a few thousand years ago comment isn't really worth a comment here, but i guess that sort of this is believable...if you also accept the Flintstones as reality television!

You also write, "everything in the Bible can and is proven by Science." Really? So when Joshua talks about the earth stopping in its rotation so that daylight lasts for 3 days, you are telling me that science has proven this? Because having talked with physicists, they tell me that if the earth stopped in its rotation it would turn into a molten ball of lead. What about the talking goat? Can science prove that one? Or how about the land all being connected just a few thousand years ago? Geologists INSIST that this took millions of years, not a couple thousand.

Sorry Dan, but it is YOU that doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Ed Darrell said...

Dan, there are many things in the Bible that cannot be proven by science -- the existence of Jesus, for one; the existence of David for another.

And there are things in the Bible that are directly contradicted by the facts as science has found them, such as a worldwide flood, or Jesus's rhetorical flourish about the mustard seed being "the smallest of all."

There are many seeds smaller than mustard seeds, even considering that there were at least two different mustards known in the area at the time. Jesus picks an interesting plant, though. What would you say if you knew that modern broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, rapeseed and canola, and radishes, are all descended with modifications from the mustards Jesus knew?

Perhaps Jesus verified evolution in that parable, yes?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Second, as for the Earth being the center of the universe, it was RELIGION that insisted on this belief.

Now, now. Aristotle said so too, and medieval Christianity had built upon him in its effort to reconcile revelation and reason. This why Galileo was so upsetting.

Now, even I have my limits in defending religious belief on principle, and creationism is it.

Still, Brad, I can't find the direct link of the Creation Museum claiming Jefferson. I'd like to examine it for myself. No doubt it exists, but I can't tell who's saying what.

Who is Joseph Clarke? Is he connected to the museum? Is he just some guy? The bio says he's an architect from Manhattan.

I mean, are we just hunting down heretics [in this case creationists] who mention the Founders?

The argument that the agrarian-minded Jefferson might have opposed industrial social Darwinism is an interesting one, although not related to creationism, really. It seems like more a digression on Clarke's part than an enlistment of Jefferson for creationism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

For those actually interested in what the Bible says about creation, my pal Jay Homnick, who's a bit of a rabbinical scholar, looks at some wild speculations on the Torah's part that turned out to be true...

Our Founding Truth said...

Even creationists know that Thomas Jefferson was most often right>

He wasn't right about God, was he?

Which would, by itself, leave him out of the realm of "creationist.">

The evidence supports the assertion Jefferson was a creationist:

DEAR PAGE, This very day, to others the day of greatest mirth and jollity, sees me overwhelmed with more and greater misfortunes than have befallen a descendant of Adam for these thousand years past, I am sure; and perhaps, after excepting Job, since the creation of the world. I think his misfortunes were somewhat greater than mine; for, although we may be pretty nearly on a level in other respects, yet, I thank my God, I have the advantage of brother Job in this, that Satan has not as yet put forth his hand to load me with bodily afflictions.

Dec. 25th, 1762 to John Page

Not only did Jefferson believe in the God of the Bible, he most likely believed in the supernatural, referring to what happened to Job.

Apparently, Jefferson believed the entire Bible while forming the nation:

But by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose;

Nov. 29, 1775 to John Randolph

Dan, there are many things in the Bible that cannot be proven by science -- the existence of Jesus, for one; the existence of David for another.>

Wow! I haven't seen that one in a while. You should know, besides the crucifixion of Christ, there is more historical manuscript evidence of His Resurrection from the Dead than any other event in the ancient world. If you get rid of Jesus, you better get rid of Aristotle, Thucydides, Plato, Homer, and the rest. Jesus is Love.

And there are things in the Bible that are directly contradicted by the facts as science has found them, such as a worldwide flood,>

There's plenty of evidence for a worldwide flood:

Polystrate Fossils, Clastic Dikes, Mt. St. Helens, Palouse Canyon, Turbidity Currents, etc.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Dude, can you scale it back a little? If Jefferson believed that the world was created mere thousands of years ago, it would be normal for 1762. There's no way Thomas Jefferson would be a creationist today. No. Way.

I'm trying to make room for you around here in the discussion, but this last batch is the kind of literalist sophistic stuff ["Jefferson said God made him!" as if that proves anything atall] that makes it impossible to defend someone even in principle.
Read folks like my friend Homnick for some arguments that will gather you and your POV credit, not derision, and fer crissakes, man, don't link to creationist websites. If you can make your case, you can make it with neutral ones, not advocacy sources.

Brad Hart said...


The arrogant presumption that you exhibit is truly extraordinary!

Our Founding Truth said...

There's no way Thomas Jefferson would be a creationist today. No. Way.>

I hear you, we just agree to disagree.

If creationism is based on the Bible, we are only assuming in how Jefferson would believe, but he never rejected the creation of Genesis. It doesn't matter anyway.

don't link to creationist websites.>

Whatever way you slice it, there is plenty of evidence for a flood, but I'll check out what your friend Homnick has to say.

Brad Hart said...

OFT writes:

"Whatever way you slice it, there is plenty of evidence for a flood."

Nope. You are now revealing how very little you know on the issue. There is NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE for it. Anything you have is either bogus or outright lying. This is almost like saying there is no evidence for DNA. Ask any geologist....ANY geologist!

Anonymous said...

Thomas Jefferson: Creationist???

Thomas Jefferson died in 1826, 33 years before Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species in 1859, so Jefferson couldn't have known anything about the only scientific explanation for the diversity of life. All evolution deniers of the 21st century are religious extremists and scientifically illiterate like the wacko Dan Atkinson. I'm sure if Jefferson lived today he would laugh at the hopeless ignorance of creationists.

Anonymous said...

Dan Atkinson: serpants that can talk

Atkinson, even most creationists are not as stupid as you are.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I'm afraid I agree, having read enough Jefferson [and Lord knows he wrote enough!] to have an informed opinion.

But gentlemen, especially Mr. Goswick---can we please leave the truth claims of the Bible---or any religion---of the table here on this blog? Please? It's simply not our stated purpose to explore them. We are secular---or more accurately, pluralistic---in at least that respect.

If we don't pump truth claims, those who don't accept them are not obliged to dispute them, we keep our stables clean, and we can stick to our real purpose, religion and the Founding.

Whether God exists or whether the Bible is true or how old the world is makes no difference. We can have perfectly reasonable discussions about the convictions of the Founders without getting into the actual truth claims.

Please permit me to end this: A global flood was impossible. However there is some geological evidence of a flood that affected the Black Sea and perhaps the Mediterranean.

The matter is still under scientific investigation. Note how it's possible to use neutral, not advocacy websites:

"There's no dispute that the Black Sea was flooded when rising world sea levels caused the Mediterranean to fill the Black Sea. Prior expeditions show the flood was so monstrous it raised water levels by 155 meters, and submerged up to 100,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles) of land.

The questions are when did it happen, and how rapidly? Until recently, scholars believed the drowning occurred about 9,000 years ago and was gradual. But Columbia University marine geologists Walter Pitman and William Ryan wrote in 1997 that the flood was sudden and took place about 7,150 years ago. The scientists' conclusions reinvigorated the Noah flood debate, which the Bible chronicles as a calamitous event spanning 40 days and 40 nights."

Now take it somewheres else. George Washington wasn't there and neither was Jefferson. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Our Founding Truth wrote "You should know, besides the crucifixion of Christ, there is more historical manuscript evidence of His Resurrection from the Dead than any other event in the ancient world." and he also wrote "There's plenty of evidence for a worldwide flood:"

I suppose if some people are stupid enough to believe in the resurrection of Jebus, then it shouldn't be any problem for them to deny virtually every scientific discovery ever made. Believe in the childish insane stories about Jebus, and you can believe any nonsense.

I will never understand how so many people can be so hopelessly stupid.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hey bobxxxx, please take that stuff somewheres else too, OK? We have enough of that going on here sub rosa and with far more elegance. We call him Jesus around here.

Our Founding Truth said...

Ask any geologist....ANY geologist!>

Talk about being ignorant, there are many geologists who believe in a flood, such as, Dr. John K. Reed. I'll leave it at that, I believe you may be turning red in anger.

Brad Hart said...

Nope, I am not turning red in anger, but instead my eyes are watering from laughing so hard. Seriously, how can anyone take you seriously, OFT? After all, it is YOU that believes in talking snakes, global floods, burning bushes that don't burn (and manage to talk as well), and that dinosaurs lived just a few thousand years ago.

Who's the ignorant one?

Tom's right. All this stuff is pointless to argue about. That's my final shot. I'm not going to bother with this crap any more.

Dan said...

To bobxxxx:

I forgive you. I have pitty on you because one day you will know the truth and it will be too late for your soul. I'm sorry you have rejected your Savior.

Tom, you always talk about being a searcher of truth, yet you couldn't see truth if it hit you in the head. I do not excuse my faith. It IS truth...the ONLY truth. I am in complete agreement with Mr. Our Founding Truth, my brother in Christ. You may all mock the Bible all you want, but it does not change the fact that it is the truth...THE WHOLE TRUTH. Every word of it is inspired. God's Holy Spirit has revealed it.

Brad, I am also sorry for you too. Mock the Genesis story all you want, but that does not change the fact that there WAS an Adam and Eve and they WERE tempted by the devil in a seprant form. There WAS a global flood that forced Noah to be upon the water for 40 days. These are all indisputable TRUTHS...yes, TRUTHS Tom Van Dyke.

Jesus IS Lord.

Tom Van Dyke said...

To say that you think I mock the Bible means you don't read me carefully enough, Mr. Atkinson.

Neither do we mock the Book of Mormon around here or any other book that is held to be holy. That's how we do things. To grant the next fellow respect and space for his own beliefs is inarguably the American way. If you have learned anything from your studies of the Founding and the First Amendment, surely that has stuck.

If America is indeed "the shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere," and if Divine Providence indeed guided man to Found it---as undoubtedly they believed back then---it's God's will that every man seek Him and find Him each in his own particular way, because He created us each unique. Even if all roads lead home to the truth that you believe you already possess.

Who is to sit in the indescribable and incomprehensible joy of God's bosom in the afterlife? It's not up to you and it's not up to me, it's up to He who gave us life in the first place. What I have been taught in this life is, butt out.

Go in peace, brother. Not a sparrow falls...

bpabbott said...

Dan: "Science is far from certain on a number of things."

Dan, with your fist passage you demonstrate that you have no idea what science is or does.

Science is not certain of *anything*. The number of things science is no certain of is *infinite*!

What science does it seek explanations/understanding of natural phenomena using natural models. Models are nothing more than approximations of reality. They are not "certain".

Dan continues: "Not long ago (the time of Columbus) "scientists" believed that the world was flat."

That is a ridiculous and obvious lie. Columbus intended to sail around the globe. He did not think the earth flat.

Your reputation would be greatly served in you validated your claims before broadcasting your ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Linnaeus classed humans as primates back in the 1740's, and the concept of evolution was around before Darwin. It's my impression that Jefferson spent the latter part of his life consumed more by practical and political than scientific or philosophical concerns, and I have no idea how his thoughts evolved after "Notes on Virginia". I seem to recall a (Peale?) portrait of him considering a mastodon tusk. God only knows what he must have made of it.

Kristo Miettinen said...


I think you are misreading Clarke (if you read him at all - you may only have read Pasley).

First of all, Clarke is not a defender of the creation museum, but a critic. Consider, for instance, this passage: "All the paraphernalia of a modern natural history museum—real fossils, accurate models of organisms, placards about galaxies, geologic processes, and DNA—are here, but marshaled to disassemble positive knowledge by relentlessly questioning the tools of rational discourse. Instead of making an evidence-based case for creationism, the multisensory spectacle of video simulations, diagrams, and animated displays creates an aura of knowledge while at the same time deterring close reading. The result is an intellectual fog, a pseudoscience resembling the worst caricatures of postmodern thought."

Second, Clarke is surprised (it seems) to find that the creation museum isn't all about creation. As Clarke himself puts it, "The dinosaurs at Kentucky’s Creation Museum are stalking evolution, reason, and the American city."

And it is in the context of negative views of the American city that Clarke finds the legacy of Jefferson.