Revisionist History Goes Totally Off The Rails

David Barton is a self-styled historian who is very popular with the religious right in the US. So much so, that  Mike Huckabee, a contender in the 2008 Republican primaries, recommended  that every American should be forced, at gunpoint, to listen to every David Barton message.

Barton is the founder of a religious political group known as the Wallbuilders.

David is the author of numerous best-selling books, with the subjects being drawn largely from his massive library of tens of thousands of original writings from the Founding Era. He also addresses well over 400 groups each year.

His exhaustive research has rendered him an expert in historical and constitutional issues and he serves as a consultant to state and federal legislators, has participated in several cases at the Supreme Court, was involved in the development of the History/Social Studies standards for states such as Texas and California, and has helped produce history textbooks now used in schools across the nation.

One of the things that happens with great regularity in the US is debates over the intentions of the Founding Fathers – the men who either signed the Declaration of Independence, or were instrumental in developing it. It is not a subject I usually have any interest in.

This instance crosses over between nonsensical ‘history’ and a major milestone in the history of science

According to Barton, these Founding Fathers, in particular Thomas Paine, had the creation/evolution debate and declared that creationism had to be taught in school. Never mind that Paine died in 1809, the year that Darwin was born, and Darwin didn’t leave on his Beagle voyage until 1831, and publish his diary in 1839. Even that book had nothing in it about evolution; The Origin of Species was not published until 1859.

People believe this man.

It is always troublesome when someone purporting to be a scholar invents their own facts to base theories upon. It is even more troublesome when people like Barton have the ear of the powerful politicians in the most powerful nation on earth. In the Middle East and Africa, we have seen the consequences of theocracies. It is terrifying to consider the US moving more and more in that direction.

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6 Responses to Revisionist History Goes Totally Off The Rails

  1. Lance says:

    The Huckabee link was dated April Fool’s Day, 2011.

  2. lance says:

    It may very well be real. April 1st posts are always suspect though.

    • I haven’t seen anything to suggest that Huckabee’s wasn’t real, and even if it wasn’t, Barton is a) completely full of shit; and b) a darling of the religious right politicians.

  3. monado says:

    The questions of evolution or speciation vs. special creation in situ were kicking around before Darwin’s time.

    Thomas Jefferson, who examined a giant ground sloth from fossil bones found in Virginia, described and named it in a paper to the Philosophical Society. He consulted with Alexander von Humboldt (discoverer of the Humboldt current) about Virginia’s fossils. Jefferson did not believe that God would allow any species to go extinct, which was the majority opinion at the time, so he expected that explorers would find not only buffalo, but mammoths and giant ground sloths somewhere in America.

    Interestingly, Humboldt modelled his account of his adventures on Jefferson’s very thorough Notes on the State of Virginia, which he wrote for the French government. Biologists who were inspired by Humboldt included Charles Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, and Henry Bates (discoverer of Batesian mimicry), and possibly even Charles Lyell (I forget)_. Darwin modelled his section of the official account of the Royal Navy expedition in the Beagle, which was published as a separate book, after Humboldt’s account.

    All of this is told very well in Sean B. Carroll’s book, Remarkable Creatures.

    I conclude that Thomas Jefferson is Charles Darwin’s intellectual grandfather.

    • Just as today, we cannot begin to imagine what the state of science might be in 25, never mind 200 years from now. Barton is simply trying to justify his own beliefs by misrepresenting history. The scary part is that he has the ears of some very powerful people.

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