Matt Brauer posted Entry 1916 on January 17, 2006 11:34 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1911

Many of the founders of the United States were motivated first and foremost by the ideals of the enlightenment. And among them, Benjamin Franklin most closely resembled the modern scientist, in his temperment, discipline and his lifelong quest for understanding of the natural world.

Among his more compelling aphorisms are:

“In the Affairs of the World Men are saved, not by Faith but by the Want of it.”

“To pour forth benefits for the common good is divine.”

and (my favorite):

“Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

The National Science Foundation has co-sponsored a site celebrating Franklin’s life and writings. Check it out.

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

Comment #72825

Posted by Matt on January 17, 2006 11:48 AM (e)

“None preaches better than the ant, and she says nothing.”

Comment #72827

Posted by Rich on January 17, 2006 11:58 AM (e)

Given the current wiretaping issue:

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Benjamin Franklin

Comment #72829

Posted by Greg H on January 17, 2006 12:03 PM (e)

I’ve seen that second one expressed as follows as well, and I like this version better - it’s more to the point

“A society that will trade a little liberty for a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Comment #72834

Posted by JONBOY on January 17, 2006 12:16 PM (e)

It is worth mentioning that Franklin was a deist,and made the statement “When a religion is good,I conceive it will support itself,and when it does not support itself,and God does not take care to support it so that it is obliged to call for help of the civil power, Tis a sign I apprehend,of its being a bad one.
How true that statement is.

Comment #72837

Posted by John Farrell on January 17, 2006 12:20 PM (e)

Beer? Heh. How about Gin….?

Comment #72845

Posted by Julie on January 17, 2006 12:50 PM (e)

“None preaches better than the ant, and she says nothing.”

Since I’m at least a facultative hymenopterist, I really like that one! (Hey – ouch! – watch the sting, lady!)

Comment #72855

Posted by Tracy on January 17, 2006 1:18 PM (e)

“The only President of the United States who was never President of the United States.”

Thank you, Firesign Theatre.

Comment #72857

Posted by Just Bob on January 17, 2006 1:22 PM (e)

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Usually misinterpreted. He didn’t mean that god ALSO helps those who are already helping themselves. He meant that the ONLY help you’re going to get is whatever you do for yourself.

Comment #72916

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 3:20 PM (e)

Benjamin Franklin was a cool dude and a scientist, but he most certainly was not a deist. No deist would have given this speech:

http://members.tripod.com/~candst/franklin.htm

Mr. President

The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.-Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service

Comment #72921

Posted by Wislu Plethora on January 17, 2006 3:32 PM (e)

P. Ghost,

That’s a bit of creationist quotemining. Have a look here: http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=19

Comment #72930

Posted by Rick on January 17, 2006 3:38 PM (e)

OK. I went to that site, and came across the following quote from Franklin:

Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody

Except for the last line, this is right out of the Talmud (Pirke Avot). What gives?

Comment #72932

Posted by JONBOY on January 17, 2006 3:40 PM (e)

Poppers, Not wishing to,” split hairs”,but according to his autobiography
Franklin quit the Presbyterian church in 1793 and became a deist in the mode of the Enlightenment,retaining only a belief in a God and future life

Comment #72944

Posted by Wislu Plethora on January 17, 2006 3:53 PM (e)

Rick:

This was political, don’t forget. People say things in the context of political debates. You can’t pluck one little incident out of a lifetime like Franklin’s and expect it to tell you everything you need to know.

Comment #72987

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 5:40 PM (e)

That’s a bit of creationist quotemining.

Did you actually read the citation? Whether or not creationists quotemine it, I’m not a creationist, and it’s a real statement by Franklin. (And in fact such statements are mined in the context of Christian fundamentalists arguing that the U.S. is a “Christian Nation”, not in the context of creationism vs. evolution.) As an atheist, I would just as soon have Franklin be a deist as anyone, but what should distinguish us from creationists is not claiming something is true just because we want it to be true. And you play into the creationist game by suggesting that the question of whether or not Franklin was a deist has any bearing on whether or not he was a scientist, or on the value of his scientific work, or on the validity of evolution or creationism.

but according to his autobiography Franklin quit the Presbyterian church in 1793 and became a deist in the mode of the Enlightenment,retaining only a belief in a God and future life

Well, I never heard before of a deist who believed in an afterlife, but Franklin can possibly be read has having been one. However, he still apparently believed in a God who answers prayers and is active in the world (contrary to the principles of deism) when he did the bulk of his scientific (and political) work.

Comment #72995

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 5:51 PM (e)

This was political, don’t forget. People say things in the context of political debates. You can’t pluck one little incident out of a lifetime like Franklin’s and expect it to tell you everything you need to know.

That’s a fascinating form of argument – it reminds me of Samuel Alito’s apologists. But what is required here is some reason to think that Benjamin Franklin claimed that God notices the fall of every sparrow, not because he believed it, but for some political purpose.

Comment #72997

Posted by Wislu Plethora on January 17, 2006 5:57 PM (e)

PG-

Why do you assume that I am basing my contention on the tiny bit of evidence immediately at hand? There’s absolutely no reason you should take my word for it, and I frankly don’t know if Franklin was a deist or not. Read and make up your own mind.

Comment #73000

Posted by yorktank on January 17, 2006 6:03 PM (e)

Am I crazy in thinking that everyone is missing the point of Franklin’s Talmud quote? Isn’t he saying that religion makes demands of people that no one of us is capable of fulfilling.

Comment #73006

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 6:15 PM (e)

Why do you assume that I am basing my contention on the tiny bit of evidence immediately at hand?

I made no assumption as to what you base your beliefs on. But if you would hope to affect the beliefs of others you should provide evidence – else you’re just wasting space.

Comment #73009

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 6:22 PM (e)

Am I crazy in thinking that everyone is missing the point of Franklin’s Talmud quote?

Since you are only the third person who was commented on that quote, and the first two didn’t make any clear statement as to its point, then I would say that that is indeed a crazy thought. OTOH, the point of Franklin’s quote about the sparrow seems to be pretty clear. In connection with Wislu Plethora’s comment about politics, it is perhaps relevant that Franklin wrote in his autobiography that he was wronged by people who had abandoned Christian morality, so perhaps his statement was part of a campaign to urge upon others what he didn’t believe in himself.

Comment #73021

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 6:59 PM (e)

In consideration of the previous point, here’s Franklin’s letter to Thomas Paine about his Age of Reason, from the (politically conservative, not “creationist”) site provided by Wislu Plethora:

http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=93


You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security….

This sounds quite a bit like Leo Strauss, who argued that the truth should be restricted to ruling elites. Which just goes to show that even our great icons like Ben Franklin were flawed human beings.

Comment #73027

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 7:20 PM (e)

Here’s something I found via Matt’s NSF link. Whatever Franklin may have called himself, he clearly was not what we mean today by “deist”:

http://www.historycarper.com/resources/twobf2/provdnc.htm

On the Providence of God in the Government of the World

Agreeing then that the World was at first made by a Being of infinite Wisdom, Goodness and Power, which Being we call God; The State of Things ever since and at this Time must be in one of these four following manners, viz.

1. Either he unchangeably decreed and appointed every Thing that comes to pass; and left nothing to the Course of Nature, nor allow’d any Creature free agency. or

2. Without decreeing any thing, he left all to general Nature and the Events of Free Agency in his Creatures, which he never alters or interrupts. or

3. He decreed some Things unchangeably, and left others to general Nature and the Events of Free agency, which also he never alters or interrupts; or

4. He sometimes interferes by his particular Providence and sets aside the Effects which would otherwise have been produced by any of the Above Causes.

I shall endeavour to shew the first 3 Suppositions to be inconsistent with the common Light of Reason; and that the 4th is most agreeable to it, and therefore most probably true….

Comment #73057

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on January 17, 2006 8:13 PM (e)

Deist or not, he did indeed help write “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

That’s all that counts.

Comment #73060

Posted by Lenny's Pizza Guy on January 17, 2006 8:21 PM (e)

And, I’m pretty sure that–if he didn’t actually invent pizza–he was the first to use a kite for pizza delivery.

Comment #73072

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 8:55 PM (e)

Deist or not, he did indeed help write “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

Franklin wrote at length in favor or freedom of the press, but if he did “help write” the establishment clause (did he steady Jefferson’s hand as he wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, or Madison’s as he wrote Memorial and Remonstrance?), it’s not something he’s known for.

That’s all that counts.

Not to those interested in rational inquiry even if the results don’t match one’s preferences.

Comment #73087

Posted by pete on January 17, 2006 10:26 PM (e)

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”

Comment #73092

Posted by Matt on January 17, 2006 10:30 PM (e)

I think it’s nearly impossible to understand someones religious or spiritual stance. This is true of living people, whom you can ask questions of, and it’s especially true of those who lived 300 years ago. It’s rare for anyone to have a theology that makes sense to others in their own lifetime, much less one that remains coherent centuries later. Trying to situate Franklin’s religious views in the framework of modern thought is an exercise in futility.

In Franklin’s time, there WERE no naturalistic explanations for many of the phenomena he would have observed. There is no way to know if his religiosity corresponded to what we now think of as “deism”, or to something else entirely. And I don’t think it matters much. Franklin is an emblem of the scientific spirit. His religious beliefs (whatever they were) don’t affect that.

Comment #73098

Posted by Ed Darrell on January 17, 2006 11:03 PM (e)

Popper’s Ghost,

You can ask Ben’s ghost to be sure, but that request for a prayer Franklin made at the Philadelphia convention was one of the best and most useful practical jokes in history.

It was a tense time at the convention. The Catholics of Maryland were at the throats of the Anglicans from Virginia; the Congregationalists of Massachusetts were plotting to murder the Anglicans of New York; the Baptists of Rhode Island (“Rogue’s Island” the conventioneers called it) refused to attend; and that’s just the strife on the surface. Big states and small states were ready to call the whole thing off, and everybody was behaving quite contrary to what Christians would call Christian behavior.

So Franklin, the world’s most famous non-Christian, made a motion to pray. This profoundly embarrassed the warring Christians, and shocked them to their senses.

Somebody immediately moved to adjourn for the day. I’ve seen two different reports on how the motion was handled the next day – one says it failed for lack of a second, the other that it was voted down, both agreeing that the delegates thought prayer unnecessary, and too expensive to hire a preacher (a made-up excuse, clearly). In any case, no prayers were said at the Constitutional Convention.

But the warring parties got the message. The Great Compromise was struck within a few days, and the Constitution was written.

PG, when you cite that story, you need to be careful that you know what was really going on. It was Franklin chiding the Christians to clean up their act.

Now, was Franklin himself a Christian? The president of Yale University, Ezra Stiles, asked Franklin that question early in 1790 (according to biographer Ronald W. Clark). Franklin answered,

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is like to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and more observed; especially as I do not perceive, that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure.
– (letter of March 9, 1790)

Franklin died five weeks later, on April 17, 1790. Religious liberty lives on.

Comment #73101

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 11:29 PM (e)

You can ask Ben’s ghost to be sure, but that request for a prayer Franklin made at the Philadelphia convention was one of the best and most useful practical jokes in history.

So you say, but your interpretation of the facts follows from assuming that, the facts do not imply it. When all the facts about Franklin are considered, your interpretation is very unlikely.

So Franklin, the world’s most famous non-Christian, made a motion to pray.

Major strawman. Of course Franklin was not a Christian. But he did believe in God, and in “God’s Providence”. That you babble about him not being a Christian when no one said otherwise, but when I have already posted his essay on providence that displays his concept of an active God, a God that responds to prayer, shows how wedded you are to an idée fixe. When Franklin wrote “He sometimes interferes by his particular Providence and sets aside the Effects which would otherwise have been produced by any of the Above Causes”, he wasn’t joking or disarming political factions.

Comment #73105

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 17, 2006 11:51 PM (e)

More from Franklin’s essay on providence:

It might be judg’d an Affront to your Understandings should I go about to prove this first Principle, the Existence of a Deity and that he is the Creator of the Universe, for that would suppose you ignorant of what all Mankind in all Ages have agreed in. I shall therefore proceed to observe: 1. That he must be a Being of great Wisdom; 2. That he must be a Being of great Goodness and 3. That he must be a Being of great Power. That he must be a Being of infinite Wisdom, appears in his admirable Order and Disposition of Things, whether we consider the heavenly Bodies, the Stars and Planets, and their wonderful regular Motions, or this Earth compounded of such an Excellent mixture of all the Elements; or the admirable Structure of Animal Bodies of such infinite Variety, and yet every one adapted to its Nature, and the Way of Life it is to be placed in, whether on Earth, in the Air or in the Waters, and so exactly that the highest and most exquisite human Reason, cannot find a fault and say this would have been better so or in another Manner, which whoever considers attentively and thoroughly will be astonish’d and swallow’d up in Admiration.

He sounds almost like an ID advocate. Which is hardly surprising, since he lived long before an alternative view had been conceived of.

If you say he has in the Beginning unchangeably decreed all Things and left Nothing to Nature or free Agency. These Strange Conclusions will necessarily follow; 1. That he is now no more a God. ‘Tis true indeed, before he had made such unchangeable Decree, he was a Being of Power, Almighty; but now having determin’d every Thing, he has divested himself of all further Power, he has done and has no more to do, he has ty’d up his Hands, and has now no greater Power than an Idol of Wood or Stone; nor can there be any more Reason for praying to him or worshipping of him, than of such an Idol for the Worshippers can be never the better for such Worship. Then 2. he has decreed some things contrary to the very Notion of a wise and good Being; Such as that some of his Creatures or Children shall do all Manner of Injury to others and bring every kind of Evil upon them without Cause; that some of them shall even blaspheme him their Creator in the most horrible manner; and, which is still more highly absurd that he has decreed the greatest Part of Mankind, shall in all Ages, put up their earnest Prayers to him both in private and publickly in great Assemblies, when all the while he had so determin’d their Fate that he could not possibly grant them any Benefits on that Account, nor could such Prayers be any way available. Why then should he ordain them to make such Prayers? It cannot be imagined they are of any Service to him. Surely it is not more difficult to believe the World was made by a God of Wood or Stone, than that the God who made the World should be such a God as this.

Franklin envisioned God as a personality that we should pray to and worship. More directly:

Now if tis unreasonable to suppose it out of the Power of the Deity to help and favour us particularly or that we are out of his Hearing or Notice or that Good Actions do not procure more of his Favour than ill Ones. Then I conclude, that believing a Providence we have the Foundation of all true Religion; for we should love and revere that Deity for his Goodness and thank him for his Benefits; we should adore him for his Wisdom, fear him for his Power, and pray to him for his Favour and Protection; and this Religion will be a Powerful Regulater of our Actions, give us Peace and Tranquility within our own Minds, and render us Benevolent, Useful and Beneficial to others.

This is Benjamin Franklin as he was, not how you wish he was.

Comment #73108

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 18, 2006 12:08 AM (e)

In Franklin’s time, there WERE no naturalistic explanations for many of the phenomena he would have observed. There is no way to know if his religiosity corresponded to what we now think of as “deism”, or to something else entirely. And I don’t think it matters much. Franklin is an emblem of the scientific spirit. His religious beliefs (whatever they were) don’t affect that.

I quite agree. But some people are trying to rewrite history out of the apparent belief that there’s something inconsistent between Franklin being an emblem of the scientific spirit and his belief in an active God meddling in worldly affairs, answering prayers, and being worthy of worship, praise, etc.

Comment #73111

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 18, 2006 12:19 AM (e)

PG, when you cite that story, you need to be careful that you know what was really going on.

ED, if you had bothered to read the page I linked in #72916, which is a debunking of “The Franklin Prayer Myth”, you would have learned that “Records of the remainder of the convention indicate that acrimonious debate continued right through to the end.” In fact, I wonder if you even read the quote you yourself provided: “I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.” No deist, as we now imagine that viewpoint, would merely have “some doubts” about the divinity of Jesus, nor would expect to learn the truth of the matter upon dying.

Comment #73113

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 18, 2006 12:30 AM (e)

Also from that page, which is part of a pro church/state separation site:

Mr. HAMILTON & several others expressed their apprehensions that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the convention, it might at this late day, bring on it some disagreeable animadversions & lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the Convention, had suggested this measure.

Apparently Mr. Durrell is part of this “public”, and goes beyond that to present this belief as if it were historical fact, something that has no support in the historical record (as the page says, “The documentation of the Convention states only that Dr. Franklin proposed daily prayer led by a clergyman and that the Convention adjourned without passing the motion”).

Comment #73115

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 18, 2006 12:38 AM (e)

A final point on the documentation from that page, which indicates how totally mistaken Ed Darrell (sorry for previous misspelling) is that Franklin offered his speech as a “practical joke”:

APRIL 8, 1788 Farrand’s Records–CXCV. Benjamin Franklin to the Editor of the Federal Gazette.

To conclude, I beg I may not be understood to infer, that our general Convention was divinely inspired when it form’d the new federal Constitution, merely because that Constitution has been unreasonably and vehemently opposed; yet I must own I have so much Faith in the general Government of the World by Providence, that I can hardly conceive a Transaction of such momentous Importance to the Welfare of Millions now existing, and to exist in the Posterity of a great Nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenc’d, guided and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent R beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior Spirits live & move and have their Being.

Comment #73116

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 18, 2006 12:56 AM (e)

One more:

Somebody immediately moved to adjourn for the day. I’ve seen two different reports on how the motion was handled the next day — one says it failed for lack of a second, the other that it was voted down, both agreeing that the delegates thought prayer unnecessary, and too expensive to hire a preacher (a made-up excuse, clearly). In any case, no prayers were said at the Constitutional Convention.

I find it bizarre that someone would write about “reports” they have “seen” when I already posted a link that gives the report of the actual events as recorded by James Madison. Not only was the motion immediately seconded (but was never voted on) before Franklin has even finished speaking, but the report also indicates:

Mr. WILLIAMSON, observed that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The Convention had no funds.

No one at the convention challenged this claim, nor did Madison when he reported it. Mr. Darrell’s claim that this was “a made-up excuse, clearly” is clearly made up, as is most else that he writes above, if not by him then by the “reports” he has “seen”.

Comment #73224

Posted by Ed Darrell on January 18, 2006 1:17 PM (e)

I took Ben Franklin’s word for it. He wrote after the convention of his intent. No one disputes it.

You can continue to believe Franklin wanted to create Christianity, but you believe that contrary to the testimony of the man himself, all observers, and all historical documents. You’re free to do that, of course – in this nation the First Amendment protects your right to believe foolish things. Please do not be disappointed if no one follows.

Comment #73226

Posted by Ed Darrell on January 18, 2006 1:21 PM (e)

Madison reported the debate, and the statements that the convention had no funds to hire a preacher.

But you ignore history. The Continental Congress opened with prayers from volunteer preachers. Every preacher in Philadelphia would have done the job for free.

Plus there were preachers among the delegates.

Plus non-clergy prayer was acceptable among most colonists.

Look, you can hold your beliefs. But Clinton Rossiter, Pauline Maier, and a (heavenly) host of other historians have reported the facts and the conclusions of those present and others. If you can find a reputable historian who disputes that the excuse was made up, cite them.

In the meantime, I’ll take Ben’s word over the ghost of someone named Popper any time.

Comment #73231

Posted by Ed Darrell on January 18, 2006 1:30 PM (e)

I find it bizarre someone would claim to know the faith of one of the founders contrary to the writings and life of the man himself.

I wrote:

So Franklin, the world’s most famous non-Christian, made a motion to pray.

PG said:

Major strawman. Of course Franklin was not a Christian. But he did believe in God, and in “God’s Providence”. That you babble about him not being a Christian when no one said otherwise, but when I have already posted his essay on providence that displays his concept of an active God, a God that responds to prayer, shows how wedded you are to an idée fixe. When Franklin wrote “He sometimes interferes by his particular Providence and sets aside the Effects which would otherwise have been produced by any of the Above Causes”, he wasn’t joking or disarming political factions.

Speaking of strawmen, I didn’t say you claimed Franklin a Christian. I pointed out that the purpose of Franklin’s suggesting prayer, according to Frankin’s testimony, was to shock the Christians into acting like Christians. He did not intend that prayers be said; he intended that Christians should change their ways and make a framework for the government. PG, you claim Franklin wanted to instill Christian belief – Franklin denies it, and the explanation I offer from Franklin and several other sources tells you why his actions might appear to you to be promoting Christianity, when in fact that was not the design of Franklin at all.

Your misinterpreting Franklin’s motives makes the point: You don’t know the purposes of actual, documented intelligent designers, and you fail to recognize design when it occurs, especially when the design contradicts one of your cherished myths.

That’s the danger of assuming intelligent design instead of investigating proximate causes. It’s the danger of claiming to know when one does not know, even if one does have hopes.

Franklin’s purpose was accomplished without prayer. He intended to, and succeeded, in tweaking the Christians at the convention. Typical of historical revisionists to try to cover up the fact that sometimes even Christians must be called to act like Christians.

Comment #73349

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on January 18, 2006 8:15 PM (e)

I will simply point out once again that, despite all the current fundie arm-waving about how the Founding Fathers really wanted to establish a Christian state, those Founding Fathers only mentioned “religion” twice in the entire Consitution — and both times, it was to ban government support for it.

Game over.

(shrug)

Comment #75119

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 3:16 PM (e)

“PG, you claim Franklin wanted to instill Christian belief”

Uh, no, I didn’t. Your reading comprehension is as poor as your intellectual integrity.

Comment #75121

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 3:21 PM (e)

“Your misinterpreting Franklin’s motives makes the point: You don’t know the purposes of actual, documented intelligent designers, and you fail to recognize design when it occurs, especially when the design contradicts one of your cherished myths.”

Whoa, are you assuming that I’m a proponent of intelligent design? If so, you’re more whacked than I supposed. Perhaps you’ve confused me with “Ghost of Paley”, and assumed, by the mere fact that “ghost” appears in both names, that we are the same person or hold the same views – yet, our views about ID are diametrically opposed. Perhaps you missed where I wrote that I’m an atheist, as well as my other posts on (against) ID. You’ve certainly missed a lot.

Comment #75124

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 23, 2006 3:39 PM (e)

popper’s right, he isn’t an IDer Ed.

However, popper is deflecting the substance of the argument by focusing on Ed’s mistake in this particular factoid.

Popper; your contention that Ed might have mistaken you for GOP sounds logical, so… get over it already.

the presentation of conflicting quotes and the few actual references presented were interesting.

If popper has direct counters to Ed’s argument, that’s what i would personally like to see, rather than a breakdown into who said who is an IDiot.

let’s get to actually primary sources. How does popper counter the historical consensus Ed presented?

wait! before you go all wiggly and start spouting that all historians but yourself are wrong on this, don’t. Please provide references where direct evidence is presented (by a historian with at least some credibility) that counters those whose consesus view was presented by Ed.

Comment #75195

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 7:48 PM (e)

let’s get to actually primary sources.

I offered the report of the events as written by James Madison, as well as an extensive analysis of those events by an atheist critic (which was nonetheless labeled by one poster as “a bit of creationist quotemining”) of “The Franklin Prayer Myth” – the myth that Franklin’s speech was instrumental in bringing about agreement and closure on the U.S. Constitution – with direct quotes from Franklin and others. Ed has made claims of what Franklin wrote in his autobiography, as well as the names of various historians, and his interpretation of what they say – but they are just his claims, not evidence. Notably, his statement that “Somebody immediately moved to adjourn for the day. I’ve seen two different reports on how the motion was handled the next day — one says it failed for lack of a second, the other that it was voted down” is historically incorrect, as it contradicts Madison’s report of the events, which has Franklin’s motion being immediately seconded, and the motion never being voted on. So I don’t have much faith in his take on other issues. Nonetheless, he may be right that when “Mr. WILLIAMSON, observed that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The Convention had no funds.” he was making up an excuse – but it certainly isn’t “clearly” the case – the “excuse” was offered up in response to the comment by “Mr. SHERMAN & others” that “the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission”. But it’s a totally trivial point whether this was a real reason why they hadn’t conducted prayers or a “made up” excuse. What isn’t trivial is that, whether Ed’s interpretation of Franklin’s speech calling for prayer as a “practical joke” is correct or not, Franklin wasn’t joking about the content, which was about “God’s Providence”, his involvement in the affairs of the world, and his receptivity to prayer, a subject on which Franklin wrote before and after (I provided direct quotes from Franklin above; see especially #73115, which was written after the Constitution was signed, and clearly reflects Franklin’s views of the matter, regardless of what Ed may have, or thinks he may have, read in Franklin’s autobiography). As I have noted, Franklin was not a deist in the sense we mean today – someone who thinks that God created the world and its mechanisms, set it in motion, and then let it run inexorably according to those mechanisms, without further involvement – Franklin believed something quite different. Which does not in any way imply that Franklin was a Christian or that I was saying that he was – which seems to have been Ed’s reading based solely on an ad hominem assumption from his misreading of my moniker (Popper = Paley??). But Franklin did voice an appreciation of Christian morality as he understood it, claimed to have been badly treated by people lacking that morality, and suggested therefore that people should be schooled in that morality. As is well known, Thomas Jefferson was also a “Christian” in a similar sense, going so far as to author “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels”, aka “The Jefferson Bible”. And please note that, just because I report these historical facts does not mean that I share Franklin’s or Jefferson’s views on these matters – in fact, I don’t.

Comment #75200

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 8:01 PM (e)

I will simply point out once again that, despite all the current fundie arm-waving about how the Founding Fathers really wanted to establish a Christian state, those Founding Fathers only mentioned “religion” twice in the entire Consitution —- and both times, it was to ban government support for it.

Yes, Lenny, but this thread is about Benjamin Franklin, not about fundies. And Franklin was more sympathetic to prayer (but not to fundieism or religious intolerance) than many of the other Founding Fathers. As he wrote, “The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.”

Game over.

Broken record.

Comment #75201

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 23, 2006 8:10 PM (e)

still reading your response, but just a quick point…

could you possibly do more to break up your response into paragraphs in future posts?

hard reading it as one big block, but I’m workin’ on it.

Comment #75203

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 8:12 PM (e)

One more note:

I find it bizarre someone would claim to know the faith of one of the founders contrary to the writings and life of the man himself.

This is, to be kind, ludicrous; I quoted Franklin on this subject at length, whereas the only quote Ed offered was on Franklin’s opinion of the morality and divinity of Jesus. My claim as to his faith as reflected in his speech to the Convention was drawn directly from his words, both before:

4. He sometimes interferes by his particular Providence and sets aside the Effects which would otherwise have been produced by any of the Above Causes.

I shall endeavour to shew the first 3 Suppositions to be inconsistent with the common Light of Reason; and that the 4th is most agreeable to it, and therefore most probably true.

If you say he has in the Beginning unchangeably decreed all Things and left Nothing to Nature or free Agency. These Strange Conclusions will necessarily follow; 1. That he is now no more a God. ‘Tis true indeed, before he had made such unchangeable Decree, he was a Being of Power, Almighty; but now having determin’d every Thing, he has divested himself of all further Power, he has done and has no more to do, he has ty’d up his Hands, and has now no greater Power than an Idol of Wood or Stone; nor can there be any more Reason for praying to him or worshipping of him, than of such an Idol for the Worshippers can be never the better for such Worship….

and after the Convention:

I must own I have so much Faith in the general Government of the World by Providence, that I can hardly conceive a Transaction of such momentous Importance to the Welfare of Millions now existing, and to exist in the Posterity of a great Nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenc’d, guided and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent R beneficent Ruler, in whom all inferior Spirits live & move and have their Being.

Comment #75206

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 8:24 PM (e)

hard reading it as one big block

Sorry. I realized that at the time, and added the italics to try to make it a little easier to read.

P.S. When I wrote

the comment by “Mr. SHERMAN & others” that “the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission”

that should have been “Docr F. Mr. SHERMAN & others”. I.e., according to Madison’s record, Franklin himself was among those who argued that, just because they hadn’t prayed earlier, that was no reason why they shouldn’t do so in the future. It’s also worth noting from the record that another motion, “that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence; & thenceforward prayers be used in yr Convention every morning” was also offered, and seconded by Franklin. That seems odd if Franklin, who by his own writings believed in the efficacy of prayer, had not actually intended there to be any.

Comment #75208

Posted by Sir_Toejam on January 23, 2006 8:27 PM (e)

… back tommorrow after i parse the latest.

cheers

Comment #75220

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 9:31 PM (e)

It’s the danger of claiming to know when one does not know, even if one does have hopes.

Franklin’s purpose was accomplished without prayer. He intended to, and succeeded, in tweaking the Christians at the convention. Typical of historical revisionists to try to cover up the fact that sometimes even Christians must be called to act like Christians.

If it were some creationist or IDiot expressing such confused hypocrisy, it might be funny, as that’s so common, but in this case it’s quite sad. Just today I received a note about Pete McCloskey’s statement of candidacy to run in the Republican primary against Richard Pombo (“one of the thirteen most corrupt Members of Congress”). McCloskey’s a good guy, who says “We are a Nation under God, but with a constitutional freedom of religion and from religion. Presbyterian views on Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims or even Episcopalians.” But he buys into the same mythology – a meme pushed mostly by conservative Christians – about Ben Franklin that you do (at least you know that the motion didn’t actually pass): “Most of all I remember that Ben Franklin was 82 when he made the powerful speech at the 1787 Convention which led to adoption of the Constitution.” Only Franklin’s speech did no such thing, as both McCloskey and you would know if you had read the debunking link I provided (McCloskey has an excuse, since he doesn’t even know it exists).:

http://members.tripod.com/~candst/franklin.htm

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was in dire straits and in danger of dissolution when Benjamin Franklin made an appeal and a motion for public prayer within the Convention in an eloquent speech on the floor of the Convention on June 28, 1787. David Barton, in his book The Myth of Separation, assumes that the motion passed as a matter of course and asserts:

Franklin’s admonition-and the delegates’ response to it-had been the turning point not only for the Convention, but also for the future of the nation. While neglecting God, their efforts had been characterized by frustration and selfishness. With their repentance came a desire to begin each morning of official government business with prayer … After returning God to their deliberations, were they effective in their efforts to frame a new government?

However, as James Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention demonstrate, dissension and debate broke out over Franklin’s motion!

Alexander Hamilton and others expressed misgivings that the motion might bring on “some disagreeable animadversions” (heated disputes) and cause the public to believe that “embarrassments and dissension” within the Convention had brought on the motion. One of the delegates pointed out that the Convention had no funds with which to pay a minister to offer prayers, even though, if David Barton is correct, local clergymen had volunteered to offer such prayers at no charge. Edmund Randolph proposed an alternative motion that a special service be held on the Fourth of July at which time prayers would be offered. Franklin seconded Randolph’s motion recognizing, as he later acknowledged, that the Convention “except for three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.” James Madison recorded in his notes that “after several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing the matter by adjourning, the adjournment at length carried, without any vote on the matter.”

On July 2, following the purported (but non-actual) institution of official, public prayer in the Convention’s proceedings that supposedly took place on June 29, the dissension within the Convention was still as heated and the division as deep as ever. Roger Sherman declared that “we are now at a full stop” and recommended that a committee work on the resolution of the issue of Senate representation. On the same day Gouverneur Morris, one of the most influential delegates to the Convention, stated, “Reason tells us we are but men, and we are not to expect any particular interference from heaven in our favor.” (What a revealing statement this is, in contrast to the sentiments of Franklin and the assertions of David Barton!)

The dissension and impasse within the Convention continued long after the Convention rejected Franklin’s call to prayer and after the observance of the Fourth of July religious service. On July 10 George Washington wrote to Alexander Hamilton:

Our councils are now, it is possible, at a worse train than ever; you will find but little ground on which the hope of a good establishment can be formed. In a word, I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of the Convention.

On July 15 Caleb Strong summarized the Convention’s situation: “The Convention has been much divided in opinion …. It is agreed on all hands [that] Congress [is] nearly at an end. If no accommodation takes place, the union itself must soon be dissolved.” Not until July 16 was the report of the committee, the so-called “Great Compromise,” adopted, and only then was the impasse within the Convention broken -not on June 28 with Franklin’s call and the Convention’s nonexistent return to prayer and to God.

Franklin’s “tweaking” had no discernable effect; if he “succeeded”, it is in some wholy unfalsifiable sense. And as for the notion that Franklin thought it necessary to call upon Christians to act like Christians, perhaps this comment from Benjamin Rush is relevant (in any case, it’s a fitting tribute to Franklin for this thread):

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(fr00341)):

Dr Franklin exhibits daily a spectacle of transcendent benevolence by attending the Convention punctually, and even taking part in its business and deliberations. He says “it is the most august and respectable Assembly he ever was in in his life, and adds, that he thinks they will soon finish their business, as there are no prejudices to oppose, nor errors to refute in any of the body.” Mr. Dickinson (who is one of them) informs me that they are all united in their objects, and he expects they will be equally united in the means of attaining them. Mr. Adams’s book has diffused such excellent principles among us, that there is little doubt of our adopting a vigorous and compounded federal legislature. Our illustrious minister in this gift to his country has done us more service than if he had obtained alliances for us with all the nations of Europe.

Comment #75223

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 9:34 PM (e)

Sorry for the screwup of McCloskey’s statement about “Presbyterian views”. If you want to know what he really said, just follow the link to his statement.

Comment #75226

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on January 23, 2006 9:43 PM (e)

I will simply point out once again that, despite all the current fundie arm-waving about how the Founding Fathers really wanted to establish a Christian state, those Founding Fathers only mentioned “religion” twice in the entire Consitution —- and both times, it was to ban government support for it.

Yes, Lenny, but this thread is about Benjamin Franklin, not about fundies. And Franklin was more sympathetic to prayer (but not to fundieism or religious intolerance) than many of the other Founding Fathers. As he wrote, “The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.”

Forgive me for being blunt, but … so f’ing what? What difference do Franklin’s religious opinions make to anyone but Franklin?

Game over.

Broken record.

And a damn good tune it is, too. I hope it keeps repeating for a long long time.

Comment #75231

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 10:06 PM (e)

I’ve learned that the letter that I referred to in #73021 as being written by Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Paine was not in fact addressed to Thomas Paine – yet more of David Barton’s fractured history. However, there isn’t any doubt that it is from Franklin (http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/franklin_paineletter.html), and its significance is the same, demonstrating Franklin’s views about providence, prayer, and the necessity of religion as a basis for morality.

Comment #75236

Posted by Popper's ghost on January 23, 2006 10:16 PM (e)

Forgive me for being blunt, but … so f’ing what? What difference do Franklin’s religious opinions make to anyone but Franklin?

I already made that point, Lenny:

you play into the creationist game by suggesting that the question of whether or not Franklin was a deist has any bearing on whether or not he was a scientist, or on the value of his scientific work, or on the validity of evolution or creationism.

So they only make a difference, or should only make a difference, to those who care about a historical dispute as to what those views were. If, as is apparent, you don’t care about that dispute, you can simply f’ing bugger off and not bother to read these comments.

Comment #75492

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on January 24, 2006 7:22 PM (e)

Okey dokey. Sorry to interrupt your academic debate about the beliefs of a guy who’s been dead for two centuries.

Comment #105917

Posted by Mary Box on June 15, 2006 6:19 PM (e)

You can’t be 47363 serious?!?