Gary Hurd posted Entry 877 on March 15, 2005 07:48 PM.
Trackback URL:

Fred Reed, right-wing creationist hero of the moment asked what he imagined to be hard questions that challenge the validity of evolutionary biology.  They are actually rather tired and often answered “problems.”  When confronted with any creationist making bold pronouncements,  one should first look in The Index of Creationist Claims, or Creationist Lies and Blunders.  That will take care of a majority of their so-called “evidenecs.”  Several of Reed’s arguments have been debunked here already; The Neck of the Giraffe, and How I Spent My Morning.
The key appeal of the Fred Reeds of the world is that they are ignorant, and lazy.  It is neither a shame nor a crime to be ignorant, we are all born totally ingnorant.  It is not a crime to be lazy, but it is a waste of ability.  And true enough, it is not a crime to be ignorant and lazy, nor should it be even abstractly.  But what chafes my butt is that I am actually forced to pay thousands of dollars a year on “professional liability insurance” because I am legally acknowledged as an expert in certain areas, and people, and courts of law, and corporations pay me cash money to provide them with my professional expert opinion.  The salt in the wound is that ignoramuses like Fred Reed can promote their inanities without liability.  Something to do with the First Amendment freedom of speech ‘guarantee.’  Nothing is ever truly secure and ironically the seperation of Church and State also ‘guaranteed’ in the First Amendment is under attack by the far-right.  Because he isn’t an expert at anything, and even stressed that he doesn’t know what he is writing about, Fred’s not accountable for his false statements.  This is a classic example of ‘buyer beware.”

Fred Reed, and echoed by one of our local creationist pests, DaveScot, have also promoted insect metamorphosis and a “big” problem unexplained by science.  There are many textbooks on insects, and evolution, and developmental biology of near a thousand pages a piece (some of which I’ll refer to below).  There are also thousands of individual journal publications, many highly specialized.  (Highly specialized means that I could hardly tell what they were about, and neither Fred nor Dave would have any clue at all.  Otherwise, as honest and dillignet scholars they would have already read them all.  Yeah, sure).  Creationists count on that massive gap between what is known by science and even the literate public.  {A personal note here:  I come from a family which ranges from illiterates to doctorates.  For example, my dear Grandmother couldn’t finish the sixth grade in 1908 because the family buggy lost its axle when their horse spooked one morning.  She was never to return to school.  I am not making fun of those less educated, Fred is far better educated than many of my kin.  Therefore, he should be held far more accountable for willful ignorance}.

Anyway Fred, just for openers, not all insects undergo metamorphosis and to start your ‘argument’ with the highly evolved lepidoptera (critters with caterpillars) is lamebrained at best. 

Endopterygota: Insects with complete metamorphosis
Insects undergoing Metamorphosis

Follow the tree, dofus.  The evolution of metamorphosis started way way back, not just at the very end.

An additional, and a bit easier to follow for beginners, version is available a
Kendall Bioresearch Services: Insect Taxonomy - Agroecology - Biometrics - Expert Witness.  Some people might be surprised at the “expert witness” category for Dr David A Kendall’s consulting entomology practice, but entomologists are significant members of the forensic science community which reaches far beyond the popular TV shows like “CSI: where-ever” (which are commended for at least making a decent effort of being scientifically acurate).  This rather gives lie to the “would you convict someone based on this evidence?” argument we sometimes see from creationists.  Yes, we would- and jury verdicts prove it!

And I think that good start for little kids, Fred Reed, and our local eartick, DaveScot, is  INSECT CHARACTERISTICS: METAMORPHOSIS: Growing Up.  Good advice as well.

Next, consider a popular introductory college level textbook, The Insects: An Outline of Entomology Third Edition By: Penny Gullan, and Peter Cranston, University of California, Davis published by Blackwell, inc.  They only devote one out of 17 chapters to issues relating explicitly to insect evolution. Why?  Because there is no time to waste on issues that are already long resolved in general, and far too complex in the details specified by specialists devoted to minutiae.

Another example with a bit more supplemental data is the chapter on Insect Metamorphosis found in the exemplary textbook Developmental Biology, Seventh Edition by Scott F. Gilbert, published by Sinauer Associates. I strongly recommend the DivBio website, and consideration of Prof. Gilbert’s textbook for adoption.

Fred Reed, “Or consider caterpillars. A caterpillar has no obvious resemblance to a butterfly. The disparity in engineering is huge. The caterpillar has no legs, properly speaking, certainly no wings, no proboscis.”

This is the first very ignorant thing Fred has to say on the subject.  Oh, it is of course the first thing Fred has to say on the subject.  Caterpillars of course have legs.  In fact, most have multiple sets of legs which are developmentally differentiated.  I currently have at least 6 species of insect larva crawling around the front yard, and I just checked.  Fred could too.  In the entomology literature, these are often referred to as “protopodia” (those which undergo the least metamorphosis and typically different structurally from the other larval leg sets, plus are typically the front 3 pairs), and “pseudopodia” (those expressed on larval body segments that are not conserved in later stages). There is also an obvious evolutionary relationship here: the “protopodia” are conserved (that means ‘retained’ Fred) through all insect larva to adults.  And they are not “engineered” Fred; that is called “assuming your conclusion.”  It is a creationist “dead giveaway.”  Remember you are pretending not to be a creationist?

Back to Fred, “How did a species that did not undergo metamorphosis evolve into one that did? Pupating looks like something you do well or not at all: If you don’t turn into something practical at the end, you don’t get another chance.

  This is a more subtle error.  The butterflies Fred has based his ‘shattering’ critique on are at the near end of an evolutionary trajectory of over 450 million years.  The answer, of course, lies in the far end of this trajectory.

Think about this. The ancestor of a modern caterpillar necessarily was something that could reproduce already. To get to be a butterfly-producing sort of organism, it would have to evolve silk-extruding organs, since they are what you make a cocoon with. OK, maybe it did this to tie leaves together, or maybe the beast resembled a tent-caterpillar. (Again, plausibility over evidence.) Then some mutation caused it to wrap itself experimentally in silk. (What mutation? Are we serious?) It then died, wrapped, because it had no machinery to cause it to undergo the fantastically complex transformation into a butterfly. Death is usually a discouragement to reproduction.

Fred might have “thought” when he should have studied.  First, butterflies don’t produce a silk cocoon, although some moths do.  And even many moths don’t produce a silk cocoon and rely on a dried mucus chrysalis much like that of the butterfly.  Some have a bit of both; a mucus chrysalis suspended loosely by a silk webbing.  They all burst their enclosure simply by growing- and that growth is achieved by more by rearangement than by addition of new cells.  A well known (but not to creationists) fact is that all insect larva store large amounts of fat prior to metamorphosis to feed the necessary cell growth and rearrangement.

Tell me how the beast can gradually acquire, by accident, the capacity gradually to undergo all the formidably elaborate changes from worm to butterfly, so that each intermediate form is a practical organism that survives. If evolutionists cannot answer such questions, the theory fails.

This is just stupid, Fred.  Insect larva are not worms.  Worms do not undergo
metamorphosis to emerge as insects.  There are obvious evolutionary links between the segmented “worms” and insects, but you will need to start with understanding some basics first.  You are still restricted to the shalow end of the pool.  Next, evolution of advanced organisms is not the product of “accident.”  The technical use of the idea of “random” which Fred bastardized with the term “accident” referred to chemical events which are in of themselves not merely by chance (see; Jeffrey S. Wicken, 1979 The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Vol. 77 (April ), p. 349, or Kauffman, Stuart A. 1993  The Origins of Order: Self -Organization and Selection in Evolution Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Finally Fred, your gross ignorance has little to do with the success or failure of biological science.  At worst, you and you pro-ignorance fellows will drive science off shore like the rest of America’s lost manufacturing employment base.

Here the evolutionist will say, “Fred, caterpillars are soft, squashy things and don’t leave good fossils, so it’s unreasonable to expect us to find proof.”

There are fossil data, but the more significant is the current, living species data.  What is stupid of Fred is to ask for detailed fossil data from organisms that don’t fossilize well. 

Some of the current literature that Fred should have become very familiar with before poping off is:

1999 “The origins of insect metamorphosis” Nature 401, 447 - 452 (30 September 1999)

Abstract: Insect metamorphosis is a fascinating and highly successful biological adaptation, but there is much uncertainty as to how it evolved. Ancestral insect species did not undergo metamorphosis and there are still some existing species that lack metamorphosis or undergo only partial metamorphosis. Based on endocrine studies and morphological comparisons of the development of insect species with and without metamorphosis, a novel hypothesis for the evolution of metamorphosis is proposed.  Changes in the endocrinology of development are central to this hypothesis. The three stages of the ancestral insect species—pronymph, nymph and adult—are proposed to be equivalent to the larva, pupa and adult stages of insects with complete metamorphosis.  This proposal has general implications for insect developmental biology.

Note that in the last 7 years, a great deal more has been added to the information from  the above publication.  For example,

Donning, Daryl P. “Metamorphosis and Evolution.” NCSE Reports 14 (2) 11.

James W. Truman, Lynn M. Riddiford
INSECTS” Annual Review of Entomology Vol. 47: 467-500 (Volume publication date January 2002) (doi:10.1146/annurev.ento.47.091201.145230)

Shanavas A, Arif A, Murthy CRK, Dutta-Gupta A
2004 “Developmental and hormonal regulation of actin and tubulin in the central nervous system of silkworm, Bombyx mori during postembryonic development” CURRENT SCIENCE  87 (3): 383-388 AUG 10 2004

Erezyilmaz DF, Riddiford LM, Truman JW
2004 “Juvenile hormone acts at embryonic molts and induces the nymphal cuticle in the direct-developing cricket”  DEVELOPMENT GENES AND EVOLUTION 214 (7): 313-323 JUL 2004

During embryogenesis of hemimetabolous insects, the sesquiterpenoid hormone, juvenile hormone (JH), appears late in embryogenesis coincident with formation of the first nymphal cuticle. We tested the role of embryonic JH by treating cricket embryos with JH III, or the JH-mimic (JHM) pyriproxifen, during early embryogenesis. We found two discrete windows of JH sensitivity. The first occurs during the formation of the first (E1) embryonic cuticle. Treatment with JHM prior to this molt produced small embryos that failed to complete the movements of katatrepsis. Embryos treated after the E1 molt but before the second embryonic (pronymphal) molt completed katatrepsis but then failed to complete dorsal closure and precociously formed nymphal, rather than pronymphal characters. This second sensitivity window was further assessed by treating embryos with low doses of JH III prior to the pronymphal molt. With low doses, mosaic cuticles were formed, bearing features of both the pronymphal and nymphal stages. The nymphal characters varied in their sensitivity to JH III, due at least in part to differences in the timing of their sensitivity windows. Unexpectedly, many of the JH III-treated embryos with mosaic and precocious nymphal cuticles made a second nymphal cuticle and successfully hatched. JH treatment also affected the growth of the embryos. By focusing on the developing limb, we found that the effect of JH upon growth was asymmetric, with distal segments more affected than proximal ones, but this was not reflected in misexpression of Distal-less or Bric-a-brac, which are involved in proximal-distal patterning of the limb.

Note: Those above are only ones I have, and have read. There are many many more.  As I am far from an expert, and would never presume to publish an independent opinion a la our boy Freddy that there is no data regarding insect evolution that could explain metamorphosis, it is the responsibility of the “freddies” for analysis and to counter these scientific studies of which they are so ignorant.

Even obsolete references serve to refute Fred Reed and his creationist compadres:

Metamorphosis: Postembryonic Reprogramming of Gene Expression in Amphibian and Insect Cells. LAWRENCE I. GILBERT, JAMSHED R. TATA, AND BURR G. ATKINSON, eds. Academic Press. 1996. 687 pages. $125.00. ISBN 0-12-283245-0.

reviewed : in American Zoologist,  Feb 1997  by H Frederik Nijhout and presented online today.

Much of the difficulty in understanding the role of JH in metamorphosis no doubt arises from the fact that metamorphosis and its endocrine control have undergone significant evolutionary divergence and specialization. Features that apply to one taxon are not fully generalizable to others. In the opening chapter Sehnal et al. make the case that the key to understanding the diversity and evolution of metamorphosis and its endocrine control lies in a comparative cladistic analysis of endocrine and developmental mechanisms. They are obviously correct. The remainder of this volume, preoccupied with molecular details of model systems and eschewing a comparative approach, suggests that the community of developmental endocrinologists is not yet ready to hear this plea. But the development Sehnal et al. call for is inevitable, because once we are done describing the shared primitive characters of the molecular mechanisms of metamorphosis we will be forced to deal with the things that make animals different, both in development and in evolution. We look forward to descriptions of such studies in Metamorphosis IV, which should appear in about 2010.

Fred again: “I see the problem. But it is unreasonable to expect me to accept something on the grounds that it can’t be proved. Yes, it is possible that an explanation exists and that we just haven’t found it. But you can say that of anything whatever. Is it good science to assume that evidence will be forthcoming because we sure would like it to be? I’ll gladly give you evidence Wednesday for a theory today?

Fred, you have not the least valid interest in biology, otherwise you would have learned a little bit about it before opening your mouth so wide.  You clearly haven’t.  You have swallowed a load in the back of the throat from creationist ignorance peddlers.

Swallow hard, boy- you begged for it.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of See our full disclaimer.

Comment #20411

Posted by Ken Willis on March 15, 2005 10:49 PM (e)

the First Amendment; which the far-right would like to eliminate

The far right maybe, but not the right in general. The left hates the first amendment even more, especially when someone tells the truth. Just ask Larry Summers. Campaign Finance Reform seems to have carved out a political speech exception to the first amendment. I know Bush signed it but it’s a left-wing idea. Campus speech codes at state supported schools are repugnant to the first amendment and they are part of a left-wing agenda. More examples abound. The main attack on the first amendment today is from the left.

But you are quite right in everything else you have said about Fred Reed. He and all like him make the right look stupid. It hurts the cause and I hate it because I want the left to be defeated. At the ballot box, of course.

Comment #20416

Posted by Jonathan Abbey on March 15, 2005 11:03 PM (e)

I’d love to see more of this sort of thing on the thumb. As an amateur, I don’t really know where to start learning about this sort of thing, other than by reading Dawkins, Gould, et al.

Both devestating and illuminating, very nicely done.

Comment #20417

Posted by Gary Hurd on March 15, 2005 11:06 PM (e)

The far-right attack on the first amendment most significant here is the seperation clause. And sad to say it aint all that far far-right, and it sure does include the majority of the GOP.

Comment #20427

Posted by Ed Darrell on March 16, 2005 12:16 AM (e)

Um, Ken, don’t look now, but Lawrence Summers was Clinton’s treasury secretary … if it’s the left going after him, then it’s a fight totally on the left.

And I don’t think anyone has questioned that Summers had the right to say what he said. The questions are about other issues, including the wisdom of saying it in that forum without proposing solutions. The debate is wholly about the issue.

Both McCain and Feingold tend to be from the right, in the current round of campaign finance reform …

Speech codes on campus are a right-wing solution to a center-left-exposed problem.

It’s the creationists who ask for legislation to require speech; it’s creationists who ask for school boards to order science changed when creationism can’t win in the marketplace of ideas.

I thought the first complaint about the right wanting to gut the First Amendment was close to over the top – we don’t need to go over the top the other way to balance things out.

Comment #20429

Posted by TonyB on March 16, 2005 12:21 AM (e)

The wackos blather on and on while sensible people labor diligently to expose their ignorance, misrepresentations, and facile “explanations” of why evolution is in such dire trouble. The wackos like Reed and Berlinski dash off their lines and then scurry off to other triumphs, while the sensible people painstakingly offer detailed arguments and references galore. As Bush would say, “It’s hard work!” The asymmetric effort seems damned unfair, but the struggle is too important to abandon, so plaudits to GH and others in the front lines.

Comment #20447

Posted by Kerry on March 16, 2005 5:00 AM (e)

A link from Ed Cone sent me here. As an ex-collector of butterflies and an insect enthusiast generally, I found your gratuitious remark, “the First Amendment, which the right wing…” to be as groundless as the assertions you were debunking. Who is this far right wing? What are the tactics they are using? What is their strategy? When said goal is realized, what will be the punishment for offenders? Tickets, jail time, community service, exile to Phyrgia, hemlock lattes? Please leave out such silly notions from your very thorough postings. That, and the name calling, “follow the tree dofus”. If your thinking is rigorous, spittle is not required. That last certainly colored my first impression of your site; not what I expected seeing the opening page.

Comment #20463

Posted by David Heddle on March 16, 2005 7:36 AM (e)


Please leave out such silly notions from your very thorough postings. That, and the name calling, “follow the tree dofus”. If your thinking is rigorous, spittle is not required.

Get used to it. Some of the posters on PT are able to discuss science, but more than a few do little beyond cutting and pasting the work of others to use as matrix upon which they can attach insults.

I find this topic very interesting, and I am appreciative that GH gave some references.

Comment #20490

Posted by Russell on March 16, 2005 9:36 AM (e)

Excellent post GH! Thanks for taking the time.

I think the Fred Reeds and Neurodes of this world like to paint a picture of Darwinian Thought Police standing thuggishly around questions like this, saying “move along, move along; nothing to see here”, when in fact, these are the puzzles scientists love most.

As for Kerry’s complaints about style: First, did you read the Fred Reed essay that initiated this discussion? “Doofus” is pretty mild, considering. Also, I don’t think there’s much confusion about what GH is stating as opinion and what is fact. The problem with Reed’s propaganda is that it’s sloppy non-research taken as fact by the footsoldiers of creationism. Watch for tidbits from this essay to start popping up like mushrooms among creationist talking points.

Comment #20501

Posted by Grant Canyon on March 16, 2005 10:09 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #20534

Posted by Ken Willis on March 16, 2005 11:40 AM (e)

These posts, except the one by Grant Canyon which is eloquent and wise, sort of confirm my unfortunate dilemma. There is no home for me. I am on the right because I believe in liberty, I love the truth and hate lies, and I distrust BIG anything, especially government.

This thinking naturally follows from the realization that men and women run society’s institutions and men and women are not angels.

But the right is also the home of the big lies of creationism and ID. I call them “lies” because I don’t believe the proponents actually believe their own BS. Maybe Phillip Johnson does because he is a lawyer and therefor has an impaired ability to discern truth. But Demski is a scientist, as are Behe and Jonathon Wells. They know better.

But the left? Well, while the right is correct about most things except evolution, the left is wrong about everything except evolution. The left was wrong about communism, welfare, gun control, criminal control, education, social security, economic growth, national defense, etc., etc. Every institution in America that the left has controlled for the last 50 years, from K-12 education to poverty to health care, has been made worse by them. Every idea that has brought improvement and relief to the destruction they have wrought, from welfare reform to educational choice to medical savings accounts, has come from the right. When will the left apologize? Never. Because like creationism and ID, leftism is a religion. I am sad to say it is the religion of a lot of scientists.

Comment #20538

Posted by Gary Hurd on March 16, 2005 11:47 AM (e)

Creationism is a creature of the rightwing of American politics. The first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The GOP is paying off its debt to the far-right with their “Faith Based” federal cash payouts and other attacks on the seperation of Church and State.

I have edited the opening post to make this clearer, and to remove the free speech ‘red herring’ that so distressed Kerry.

I should know by now not to let these distractions sneek in like that, enabling creationist evassion of the actual topic.

I suggest no further responces to comments regarding Summers, or Chruchill, etc… be made. The seperation clause is of course still a key issue.

Comment #20588

Posted by Ken Willis on March 16, 2005 2:04 PM (e)

Separation of church and state is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. You may think it is implied in the 1st Amendment. I think the text should be read to mean what it meant at the time it was adopted, and doing that you won’t think it is implied. The ease with which it could have been said should be a warning not to supply it by interpretation.

Nevertheless, separation of church and state is an American value. That we have such a mulitude of religions and sects with none dominant over the other is a testament to how well it has been achieved. Funding faith based organizations is not an attack on separation of church and state because the criteria for receiving funding is whether you get the job done not which church or religion you represent.

Since leftism in American meets all the criteria for a well established religion, if you object to funding of faith based organizations you should object to any type of government grant to most universities.

Comment #20590

Posted by Great White Wonder on March 16, 2005 2:14 PM (e)


These posts, except the one by Grant Canyon which is eloquent and wise, sort of confirm my unfortunate dilemma. There is no home for me.

Oh, I’m sure there’s a home for you somewhere.

Comment #20593

Posted by MisterOpus1 on March 16, 2005 2:32 PM (e)

Doesn’t “dofus” have an extra “o” in there?

Hehe, sorry. Couldn’t help it. Terrific post. I think it’s very interesting to notice more and more politics come into play with this debate, both here and elsewhere (WaPost, my state of Kansas, blogs, etc.). To be honest I somewhat welcome the politics into this, because with politics we can start following underlying motives, connections, and the good ‘ol money trail that much better.

If anything, this weakens the IDers/Creationist cause by continuing to expose such political underpinnings. And if you’re a Progressive like myself I think you just might see a bonus benefit of seeing the Right slowly being weakened by such connections and stances as well to Creationists/IDers, slowly but surely.

Sorry for the tangent.

Comment #20597

Posted by Colin on March 16, 2005 3:10 PM (e)

Mr. Willis, as a Harvard grad I’ve followed the Summers brouhaha fairly closely. At no point have I ever heard anyone challenge the man’s right to make his opinion known. Not from any commentator or any source. Every criticism is leveled at the wisdom and appropriateness of the comment, which was pretty boneheaded. The idea that he’s being ‘censored’ because his opinion is merely unpopular is a straw man. Summers himself is unpopular, with both the faculty and the students, for other reasons, but no one is saying that he shouldn’t be allowed to make crass comments. The gist of the criticism is that the president of a university with a bad record of finding and keeping female academics shouldn’t shoot his mouth off and essentially blame the problem on the women. It reflects badly on the university and his office, not because it’s un-PC, but because it’s a crappy job of being president.

Moreover, wild tangential rants like “everything the left touches goes bad” and “leftism is a religion” just make you sound like a nut. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t rant whenever you feel like it–you’d be in solid company around these parts–but it makes most people, even those on your side of the fence, just glaze over and skip to the next comment. There are plenty of ideologues around here; do we really need one more?

Comment #20598

Posted by Michael Rathbun on March 16, 2005 3:14 PM (e)

The “right” and “left” vocabulary items are inutile at best; the are the impoverishing result of attempting to map variables in at least six dimensions onto a one-dimensional space. They should be abandoned as dangerous.

Even without that problem, the terminology itself is slippery and imprecise. I had, until recently, considered myself a life-long conservative “Goldwater” Republican. I recently discovered that I am now regarded (along with Goldwater himself) as fairly far to the “left” of center.

Stick to the structural issues, folks, and leave the polemical labels in the drawer.

Comment #20601

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 16, 2005 3:26 PM (e)

Ken Willis wrote:

But Demski is a scientist, as are Behe and Jonathon Wells. They know better.

I’m confused. Why would anyone mistake Bill Dembski for a scientist?

Comment #20621

Posted by Gary Hurd on March 16, 2005 4:47 PM (e)

Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Letter

To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem & approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful & zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more & more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. {Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from presenting even occasional performances of devotion presented indeed legally where an Executive is the legal head of a national church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.} Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

(signed) Thomas Jefferson Jan.1.1802.

The section in italics was in Jefferson’s original draft with a margin note indicationg that he deleted this from the message as sent out of political consideration.

The following were abstracted from:Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church

I do not believe it is in the best interests of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times of these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the Constitution has deposited it. (Thomas Jefferson, just before the end of his second term, in a letter to Samuel Miller–a Presbyterian minister–on January 23, 1808; from Willson Whitman, arranger, Jefferson’s Letters, Eau Claire, Wisconsin: E. M. Hale and Company, ND, pp. 241-242.

History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)

The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man. (Thomas Jefferson, as quoted by Saul K. Padover in Thomas Jefferson on Democracy, New York, 1946, p. 165, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 48.)

I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives…. It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolt those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Mrs. M. Harrison Smith: Mrs. M. Harrison, August 6, 1816. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 492.)

… our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.

These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [Fourth of July] forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them…. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, June 24, 1826 [Jefferson’s last letter, dated ten days before he died]; from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 372.)

James Madison
(1751-1836; principal author, U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights; 4th U.S. President, 1809-1817)

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize [sic], every expanded prospect. (James Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774, as quoted by Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 37.)

… Congress, in voting a plan for the government of the Western territories, retained a clause setting aside one section in each township for the support of public schools, while striking out the provision reserving a section for the support of religion. Commented Madison: “How a regulation so unjust in itself, so foreign to the authority of Congress, and so hurtful to the sale of public land, and smelling so strongly of an antiquated bigotry, could have received the countenance of a committee is truly a matter of astonishment.” (Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, Harper & Row, 1973, p. 206. The Congress here referred to was the Continental Congress; the Madison quote is from his letter to James Monroe, May 29, 1785, according to Morris.)

Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents. (James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788; from Michael Kammen, The Origins of the American Constitution: A Documentary History, 1986, pp. 369-370. )

Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history. (See the cases in which negatives were put by J. M. on two bills passd by Congs and his signature withheld from another. See also attempt in Kentucky for example, where it was proposed to exempt Houses of Worship from taxes. (James Madison, “Monopolies. Perpetuities. Corporations. Ecclesiastical Endowments,” as reprinted in Elizabeth Fleet, “Madison’s Detatched Memoranda,” William & Mary Quarterly, Third series: Vol. III, No. 4 [October, 1946], p. 555. The parenthetical note at the end, which lacks a closed parenthesis in Fleet, was apparently a note Madison made to himself regarding examples of improper encroachment to use when the “Detatched Memoranda” were edited and published, and seems to imply clearly that Madison supported taxing churches. )

And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. (James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822; published in The Complete Madison: His Basic Writings, ed. by Saul K. Padover, New York: Harper & Bros., 1953.)

Comment #20700

Posted by Ken Willis on March 17, 2005 12:05 AM (e)

Leftism is felt, not thought. Leftist political ideas are intellectually vapid and wither away when subjected to challenge and refutation. They only thrive in the rarefied atmosphere of academia or Hollywood where everyone thinks the same way and leftists are not forced to hear other viewpoints. Larry Summers said something that just so happens to be true, but because it does not square with the leftist worldview the lefties want to tar and feather him. If leftists were open minded they would simply debate Mr. Summers. Persuade people that he is wrong. But no, they have to shut him up.

Sorry, I’m not trying to needle anyone here. This started with the gratitutous comment by GH that the right wants to abolish the first amendment. What a crock. It is the left who hate free speech and try to muzzle everyone who disagrees with them. You on the left are the most arrogant, intolerant and close-minded people on this planet. I know you aren’t used to hearing that and you don’t like it one bit.

I started reading this website because I am interested in evolution and I believe the anti-evolutionists are wrong. But what do I get? A bunch of left wing tripe like “the right wants to abolish the first amendment.” Ok, fine. Have a nice life.

Comment #20701

Posted by Great White Wonder on March 17, 2005 12:36 AM (e)


You on the left are the most arrogant, intolerant and close-minded people on this planet. I know you aren’t used to hearing that and you don’t like it one bit.

Actually I have grown used to hearing that but, yeah, it’s still sort of annoying.

A bunch of left wing tripe like “the right wants to abolish the first amendment.”

Look back up at comment 20411. Notice anything odd?

It is the left who hate free speech and try to muzzle everyone who disagrees with them.

Hmm. Maybe that’s why I got banned for two weeks – it was a leftist conspiracy!

Comment #20711

Posted by jonas on March 17, 2005 4:38 AM (e)

To get away from the left versus right rants completely irrelevant to the topic at hand and back to the fascinating work done on insect metamorphosis:
Does anybody know about studies in how far the features of the larval stage of insects are homologeous to basal onychophors or cambrian lobopods earmaked as contenders for common ancestry of several branches of ecdysozoa? Those look a lot like caterpillars, but are the similarities developed independently from a common body plan or have metamorphing insects just reactivated the developmental pathways of their ancestry and specialized them for the larval stage?

Comment #20760

Posted by Gary Hurd on March 17, 2005 11:02 AM (e)

Re: onychophors or cambrian lobopods

I don’t have any informed opinion. But, you might enjoy reading Transitional Forms and the Evolution of Phyla by Glenn Morton who looks at the origin of cambrian phyla from the perspective of Christian apologists.

Comment #20856

Posted by Gary Hurd on March 17, 2005 8:00 PM (e)

Look back up at comment 20411. Notice anything odd?

Yeah, I got it. But look, we need to start just ignoring some of these minor things. I do agree with the notion that the entire creationist, and particularly the IDC, effort is purely political because it fails a any sort of science.

But, bear in mind that the scientific pretensions of creationism are exactly their vulnerability. When confronted with rigor, and data, they are always compelled to retreat in to ‘muriculs, dagnabit, its mericals.’

Comment #20908

Posted by jonas on March 18, 2005 3:34 AM (e)


thanks for the pointer, I just love cambrian phyla overviews.

Comment #20980

Posted by evilgeniusabroad on March 18, 2005 4:56 PM (e)

Excellent post regarding metamorphosis and creationist ignorance in general.

As for the left right stuff, it strikes me that Ken Willis feels a very great deal, and like many emotional people then enslaves his intellect to provide all the back-up required with selective data, truncated truncated, and the common understanding that if you feel something strongly it must be true.

I particularly enjoyed the rather devastating series of quotes regarding the separation of church and state. It demonstrates yet another person sounding off on subjects that they are essentially ignorant on.

Couple of things…whats wrong with taking a load down the back of the throat? And isnt it normally the right-wing that gibber on about censorship, porn, homosexuals, and want them all to shut up?

Comment #20988

Posted by Gary Hurd on March 18, 2005 5:58 PM (e)

Ah, the sexual image had not occurred to me, I was imagining stuffing caterpillars down Fred’s front orifice. Fun for a nestling ( I almost wrote “chick,” another double entendre best avoided), but not so fun for Fred.

Thanks for your kind words.

Comment #21386

Posted by Ken Willis on March 21, 2005 11:51 AM (e)


As for the left right stuff, it strikes me that Ken Willis feels a very great deal, and like many emotional people then enslaves his intellect to provide all the back-up required with selective data, truncated truncated, and the common understanding that if you feel something strongly it must be true.

I particularly enjoyed the rather devastating series of quotes regarding the separation of church and state. It demonstrates yet another person sounding off on subjects that they are essentially ignorant on.

All I said was that the Contitution says nothing about separation of church and state. I’m right about that, so I don’t understand your charge of ignorance. Ignorant of what?

I don’t know what all these quotes about separation of church and state prove. If it were so important why did’t they put it in the Constitution?

The quotes about separation of church and state seem to be intended to show that was the intent of the founding fathers. But like many Constitutional scholars who are beyond any charge of ignorance, such as Justice Scalia, I believe in “orginalism” which is not the same as “original intent.” Orginalism means you look first at the words themselves in the document. If it is clear what those words meant at the time they were adopted, that is the end of the inquiry.

It is never desireable to look to “original intent” if that can be avoided because such an endeavor is fraught with uncertainty. One will often find conflicting accounts or no account at all with which to divine original intent. It is never legitimate to look to “original intent” unless the words themselves are ambiguous and one simply cannot be sure of what was meant without consulting contemporaneous writings.

In this case it is clear. The writers of the Constitution were concerned with two things they did not want government to be involved in. First was the establishment of a state religion and the second was interference with the free exercise of religion. That we have such an abundance of different religions in America is a testament of how successful the United States has been in avoiding the establishment of any state religions. And the free exercise of religion is enjoyed here to a greater extent than anywhere in the world.

If they had been overly concerned with creating a wall of separation of church and state, as opposed to making statements to each other in the quotes cited above, I think they would have agreed to place those words in the Constitution. They chose not to. If anyone desires to place those words in the Constitution there is a legitimate way to do that and an illegitimate way to do it. The former would be by an amendment adopted by 2/3 of the Congress and ratified by 3/4 of the states. The latter is the way all you leftist liberals prefer. Having left-wing judges simply cram it down our throats.

Comment #21395

Posted by Jim Harrison on March 21, 2005 1:15 PM (e)

I’m not very interested in the original intent or original language arguments. I support the notion of the separation of church and state because we badly need to keep them separate in an age when resurgent superstition has been enlisted in the service of authoritarian capitalism.

In any case, since the founders faced a very different political and cultural situation, it would have been amazing if they had addressed our issues in our terms in their documents. It is kind of funny, though, that modern Conservatives, who certainly would have supported King George, try to turn the Revolutionaries into fundamentalist know-nothings. Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and even the George Washington were cosmopolitans and children of the Enlightenment who would be denounced 24/7 on Fox if they reappeared today.

Comment #21405

Posted by Ken Willis on March 21, 2005 2:27 PM (e)

Jim Harrison:

It is kind of funny, though, that modern Conservatives, who certainly would have supported King George, try to turn the Revolutionaries into fundamentalist know-nothings.

That makes no sense.

Comment #21416

Posted by Gary Hurd on March 21, 2005 3:37 PM (e)

It is kind of funny, though, that modern Conservatives, who certainly would have supported King George, try to turn the Revolutionaries into fundamentalist know-nothings.

Well, Adams was a bit of a prig.

The political realities are what they are, and we may be witness to the end of the American experiment. But, I see that it was a mistake to mention the first amendment at all in what ought to have been a simple scientific debunking of a willfully ignorant creationist.

Comment #21425

Posted by Smokey on March 21, 2005 4:49 PM (e)


Someone who complains about “left-wing tripe” should probably refrain from making statements such as these:

Leftism is felt, not thought. Leftist political ideas are intellectually vapid and wither away when subjected to challenge and refutation. They only thrive in the rarefied atmosphere of academia or Hollywood where everyone thinks the same way and leftists are not forced to hear other viewpoints.


It is the left who hate free speech and try to muzzle everyone who disagrees with them. You on the left are the most arrogant, intolerant and close-minded people on this planet.

Or is it just left-wing tripe you’re opposed to, and not tripe in general?

That said, this part of the discussion should probably move over to the Bathroom Wall where we can all indulge in political invective to our hearts content.

Comment #21481

Posted by Gary Hurd on March 22, 2005 8:17 AM (e)

That said, this part of the discussion should probably move over to the Bathroom Wall where we can all indulge in political invective to our hearts content.

Well said. Comments closed.