Simple arithmetic washes out Flood story

The Talk Origins post of the month for February is by Lenny Flank: “Is present human diversity possible if only eight people survived Noah’s Flood?”

The first stumbling block is how much genetic variation got off the boat. Lenny points out that with eight people and two genes each for each gene location, the whole family, even if none of them shared a single gene, could carry only 16 alleles (variations) for each gene. Larry writes:

today we find human genetic loci (such as hemoglobin or the HLA complex) that have well over *400* different alleles (indeed some have over *700* different alleles). Hmmmm. Since there could have only been 16 possible on the Big Boat, and since there are over 400 now, and since 400 is more than 16, that means that somehow the GENETIC INFORMATION INCREASED from the time they got off the Big Boat until now.

And he goes on from there.

Read Is present human diversity possible if only eight people survived Noah’s Flood?

God pitilessly drowns His children

God drowns children because their parents displease Him

Mark Twain wrote:

Then at last, Noah sailed; and none too soon, for the Ark was only just sinking out of sight on the horizon when the [dinosaurs] arrived, and added their lamentations to those of the multitude of weeping fathers and mothers and frightened little children who were clinging to the wave-washed rocks in the pouring rain and lifting imploring prayers to an All-Just and All-Forgiving and All-Pitying Being who had never answered a prayer since those crags were builded, grain by grain, out of the sands, and would still not have answered one when the ages should have crumbled them to sand again. (From Noah, the Ark, and dinosaurs)

Quoting Mark Twain: Our inalienable rights

Excerpt from Letter 2:

Mark Twain once said:

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practise either of them.

See also:
Mark Twain on writing crisply

Mark Twain on writing crisply

“Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”


See also
People’s beliefs and convictions
“We are strangely and wonderfully made”
Letters from the Earth: Naked and unashamed

Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, Letter 7

In this letter, Mark Twain tells of God’s careful preservation of disease germs and parasites on Noah’s Ark Ken Ham’s creation museum is probably not covering this part of the story in enough detail:

Noah and his family were saved — if that could be called an advantage. I throw in the if for the reason that there has never been an intelligent person of the age of sixty who would consent to live his life over again. His or anyone else’s. The Family were saved, yes, but they were not comfortable, for they were full of microbes. Full to the eyebrows; fat with them, obese with them, distended like balloons. It was a disagreeable condition, but it could not be helped, because enough microbes had to be saved to supply the future races of men with desolating diseases, and there were but eight persons on board to serve as hotels for them.

The microbes were by far the most important part of the Ark’s cargo, and the part the Creator was most anxious about and most infatuated with. They had to have good nourishment and pleasant accommodations. There were typhoid germs, and cholera germs, and hydrophobia germs, and lockjaw germs, and consumption germs, and black-plague germs, and some hundreds of other aristocrats, specially precious creations, golden bearers of God’s love to man, blessed gifts of the infatuated Father to his children — all of which had to be sumptuously housed and richly entertained; these were located in the choicest places the interiors of the Family could furnish: in the lungs, in the heart, in the brain, in the kidneys, in the blood, in the guts. In the guts particularly. The great intestine was the favorite resort. There they gathered, by countless billions, and worked, and fed, and squirmed, and sang hymns of praise and thanksgiving; and at night when it was quiet you could hear the soft murmur of it. The large intestine was in effect their heaven. They stuffed it solid; they made it as rigid as a coil of gaspipe. They took pride in this. Their principal hymn made gratified reference to it:

Constipation, O Constipation,
The Joyful sound proclaim
Till man’s remotest entrail
Shall praise its Maker’s name

The discomforts furnished by the Ark were many and various. The family had to live right in the presence of the multitudinous animals, and breathe the distressing stench they make and be deafened day and night with the thunder-crash of noise their roarings and screechings produced; and in additions to these intolerable discomforts it was a peculiarly trying place for the ladies, for they could look in no direction without seeing some thousands of the creatures engaged in multiplying and replenishing. And then, there were the flies. They swarmed everywhere, and persecuted the Family all day long. They were the first animals up, in the morning, and the last ones down, at night. But they must not be killed, they must not be injured, they were sacred, their origin was divine, they were the special pets of the Creator, his darlings.

By and by the other creatures would be distributed here and there about the earth — scattered: the tigers to India, the lions and the elephants to the vacant desert and the secret places of the jungle, the birds to the boundless regions of empty space, the insects to one or another climate, according to nature and requirement; but the fly? He is of no nationality; all the climates are his home, all the globe is his province, all creatures that breathe are his prey, and unto them all he is a scourge and a hell.

To man he is a divine ambassador, a minister plenipotentiary, the Creator’s special representative. He infests him in his cradle; clings in bunches to his gummy eyelids; buzzes and bites and harries him, robbing him of his sleep and his weary mother of her strength in those long vigils which she devotes to protecting her child from this pest’s persecutions. The fly harries the sick man in his home, in the hospital, even on his deathbed at his last gasp. Pesters him at his meals; previously hunts up patients suffering from loathsome and deadly diseases; wades in their sores, gaums its legs with a million death-dealing germs; then comes to that healthy man’s table and wipes these things off on the butter and discharges a bowel-load of typhoid germs and excrement on his batter-cakes. The housefly wrecks more human constitutions and destroys more human lives than all God’s multitude of misery-messengers and death-agents put together.

Shem was full of hookworms. It is wonderful, the thorough and comprehensive study which the Creator devoted to the great work of making man miserable. I have said he devised a special affliction-agent for each and every detail of man’s structure, overlooking not a single one, and I said the truth.

Many poor people have to go barefoot, because they cannot afford shoes. The Creator saw his opportunity. I will remark, in passing, that he always has his eye on the poor. Nine-tenths of his disease-inventions were intended for the poor, and they get them. The well-to-do get only what is left over. Do not suspect me of speaking unheedfully, for it is not so: the vast bulk of the Creator’s affliction-inventions are specially designed for the persecution of the poor. You could guess this by the fact that one of the pulpit’s finest and commonest names for the Creator is “The Friend of the Poor.” Under no circumstances does the pulpit ever pay the Creator a compliment that has a vestige of truth in it. The poor’s most implacable and unwearying enemy is their Father in Heaven. The poor’s only real friend is their fellow man. He is sorry for them, he pities them, and he shows it by his deeds. He does much to relieve their distresses; and in every case their Father in Heaven gets the credit of it.


Just so with diseases. If science exterminates a disease which has been working for God, it is God that gets the credit, and all the pulpits break into grateful advertising-raptures and call attention to how good he is! Yes, he has done it. Perhaps he has waited a thousand years before doing it. That is nothing; the pulpit says he was thinking about it all the time.

When exasperated men rise up and sweep away an age-long tyranny and set a nation free, the first thing the delighted pulpit does is to advertise it as God’s work, and invite the people to get down on their knees and pour out their thanks to him for it. And the pulpit says with admiring emotion, “Let tyrants understand that the Eye that never sleeps is upon them; and let them remember that the Lord our God will not always be patient, but will loose the whirlwinds of his wrath upon them in his appointed day.”

They forget to mention that he is the slowest mover in the universe; that his Eye that never sleeps, might as well, since it takes it a century to see what any other eye would see in a week; that in all history there is not an instance where he thought of a noble deed first, but always thought of it just a little after somebody else had thought of it and done it. He arrives then, and annexes the dividend.

Very well, six thousand years ago Shem was full of hookworms. Microscopic in size, invisible to the unaided eye. All of the Creator’s specially deadly disease-producers are invisible. It is an ingenious idea. For thousands of years it kept man from getting at the roots of his maladies, and defeated his attempts to master them. It is only very recently that science has succeeded in exposing some of these treacheries.

The very latest of these blessed triumphs of science is the discovery and identification of the ambuscaded assassin which goes by the name of the hookworm. Its special prey is the barefooted poor. It lies in wait in warm regions and sandy places and digs its way into their unprotected feet.

The hookworm was discovered two or three years ago by a physician, who had been patiently studying its victims for a long time. The disease induced by the hookworm had been doing its evil work here and there in the earth ever since Shem landed on Ararat, but it was never suspected to be a disease at all. The people who had it were merely supposed to be lazy, and were therefore despised and made fun of, when they should have been pitied. The hookworm is a peculiarly sneaking and underhanded invention, and has done its surreptitious work unmolested for ages; but that physician and his helpers will exterminate it now.

God is back of this. He has been thinking about it for six thousand years, and making up his mind. The idea of exterminating the hookworm was his. He came very near doing it before Dr. Charles Wardell Stiles did. But he is in time to get the credit of it. He always is.

It is going to cost a million dollars. He was probably just in the act of contributing that sum when a man pushed in ahead of him — as usual. Mr. Rockefeller. He furnishes the million, but the credit will go elsewhere — as usual. This morning’s journal tells us something about the hookworm’s operations:

The hookworm parasites often so lower the vitality of those who are affected as to retard their physical and mental development, render them more susceptible to other diseases, make labor less efficient, and in the sections where the malady is most prevalent greatly increase the death rate from consumption, pneumonia, typhoid fever and malaria. It has been shown that the lowered vitality of multitudes, long attributed to malaria and climate and seriously affecting economic development, is in fact due in some districts to this parasite. The disease is by no means confined to any one class; it takes its toll of suffering and death from the highly intelligent and well to do as well as from the less fortunate. It is a conservative estimate that two millions of our people are affected by this parasite. The disease is more common and more serious in children of school age than in other persons.Widespread and serious as the infection is, there is still a most encouraging outlook. The disease can be easily recognized, readily and effectively treated and by simple and proper sanitary precautions successfully prevented [with God’s help].


The poor children are under the Eye that never sleeps, you see. They have had that ill luck in all the ages. They and “the Lord’s poor” — as the sarcastic phrase goes — have never been able to get away from that Eye’s attentions.

Yes, the poor, the humble, the ignorant — they are the ones that catch it. Take the “Sleeping Sickness,” of Africa. This atrocious cruelty has for its victims a race of ignorant and unoffending blacks whom God placed in a remote wilderness, and bent his parental Eye upon them — the one that never sleeps when there is a chance to breed sorrow for somebody. He arranged for these people before the Flood. The chosen agent was a fly, related to the tsetse; the tsetse is a fly which has command of the Zambezi country and stings cattle and horses to death, thus rendering that region uninhabitable by man. The tsetse’s awful relative deposits a microbe which produces the Sleeping Sickness. Ham was full of these microbes, and when the voyage was over he discharged them in Africa and the havoc began, never to find amelioration until six thousand years should go by and science should pry into the mystery and hunt out the cause of the disease. The pious nations are now thanking God, and praising him for coming to the rescue of his poor blacks. The pulpit says the praise is due to him. He is surely a curious Being. He commits a fearful crime, continues that crime unbroken for six thousand years, and is then entitled to praise because he suggests to somebody else to modify its severities. He is called patient, and he certainly must be patient, or he would have sunk the pulpit in perdition ages ago for the ghastly compliments it pays him.


Science has this to say about the Sleeping Sickness, otherwise called the Negro Lethargy:

It is characterized by periods of sleep recurring at intervals. The disease lasts from four months to four years, and is always fatal. The victim appears at first languid, weak, pallid, and stupid. His eyelids become puffy, an eruption appears on his skin. He falls asleep while talking, eating, or working. As the disease progresses he is fed with difficulty and becomes much emaciated. The failure of nutrition and the appearance of bedsores are followed by convulsions and death. Some patients become insane.


It is he whom Church and people call Our Father in Heaven who has invented the fly and sent him to inflict this dreary long misery and melancholy and wretchedness, and decay of body and mind, upon a poor savage who has done that Great Criminal no harm. There isn’t a man in the world who doesn’t pity that poor black sufferer, and there isn’t a man that wouldn’t make him whole if he could. To find the one person who has no pity for him you must go to heaven; to find the one person who is able to heal him and couldn’t be persuaded to do it, you must go to the same place. There is only one father cruel enough to afflict his child with that horrible disease — only one. Not all the eternities can produce another one. Do you like reproachful poetical indignations warmly expressed? Here is one, hot from the heart of a slave:

Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.
See also
Letters from the Earth: God’s personality, or why God needed a fly
Letters from the Earth: God, science, and diseases

Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, Letter 6

To commemorate the opening of Ken Ham’s ridiculous Creation Museum, I’m printing a letter by Mark Twain about Noah’s voyage and its consequences for humankind:

On the third day, about noon, it was found that a fly and been left behind. The return voyage turned out to be long and difficult, on account of the lack of chart and compass, and because of the changed aspects of all coasts, the steadily rising water having submerged some of the lower landmarks and given to higher ones an unfamiliar look; but after sixteen days of earnest and faithful seeking, the fly was found at last, and received on board with hymns of praise and gratitude, the Family standing meanwhile uncovered, our of reverence for its divine origin. It was weary and worn, and had suffered somewhat from the weather, but was otherwise in good estate. Men and their families had died of hunger on barren mountain tops, but it had not lacked for food, the multitudinous corpses furnishing it in rank and rotten richness. Thus was the sacred bird providentially preserved.

Providentially. That is the word. For the fly had not been left behind by accident. No, the hand of Providence was in it. There are no accidents. All things that happen, happen for a purpose. They are foreseen from the beginning of time, they are ordained from the beginning of time. From the dawn of Creation the Lord had foreseen that Noah, being alarmed and confused by the invasion of the prodigious brevet fossils, would prematurely fly to sea unprovided with a certain invaluable disease. He would have all the other diseases, and could distribute them among the new races of men as they appeared in the world, but he would lack one of the very best — typhoid fever; a malady which, when the circumstances are especially favorable, is able to utterly wreck a patient without killing him; for it can restore him to his feet with a long life in him, and yet deaf, dumb, blind, crippled, and idiotic. The housefly is its main disseminator, and is more competent and more calamitously effective than all the other distributors of the dreaded scourge put together.

And so, by foreordination from the beginning of time, this fly was left behind to seek out a typhoid corpse and feed upon its corruptions and gaum its legs with germs and transmit them to the re-peopled world for permanent business. From that one housefly, in the ages that have since elapsed, billions of sickbeds have been stocked, billions of wrecked bodies sent tottering about the earth, and billions of cemeteries recruited with the dead.

It is most difficult to understand the disposition of the Bible God, it is such a confusion of contradictions; of watery instabilities and iron firmness; of goody-goody abstract morals made out of words, and concreted hell-born ones made out of acts; of fleeting kindness repented of in permanent malignities.

However, when after much puzzling you get at the key to his disposition, you do at last arrive at a sort of understanding of it. With a most quaint and juvenile and astonishing frankness he has furnished that key himself. It is jealousy!

I expect that to take your breath away. You are aware — for I have already told you in an earlier letter — that among human beings jealousy ranks distinctly as a weakness; a trade-mark of small minds; a property of all small minds, yet a property which even the smallest is ashamed of; and when accused of its possession will lyingly deny it and resent the accusation as an insult.


Jealousy. Do not forget it, keep it in mind. It is the key. With it you will come to partly understand God as we go along; without it nobody can understand him. As I have said, he has openly held up this treasonous key himself, for all to see. He says, naïvely, outspokenly, and without suggestion of embarrassment: “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”
You see, it is only another way of saying, “I the Lord thy God am a small God; a small God, and fretful about small things.”

He was giving a warning: he could not bear the thought of any other God getting some of the Sunday compliments of this comical little human race — he wanted all of them for himself. He valued them. To him they were riches; just as tin money is to a Zulu.


But wait — I am not fair; I am misrepresenting him; prejudice is beguiling me into saying what is not true. He did not say he wanted all of the adulations; he said nothing about not being willing to share them with his fellow gods; what he said was, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

It is a quite different thing, and puts him in a much better light — I confess it. There was an abundance of gods, the woods were full of them, as the saying is, and all he demanded was that he should be ranked as high as the others — not above any of them, but not below any of them. He was willing that they should fertilize earthly virgins, but not on any better terms than he could have for himself in his turn. He wanted to be held their equal. This he insisted upon, in the clearest language: he would have no other gods before him. They could march abreast with him, but none of them could head the procession, and he did not claim the right to head it himself.

Do you think he was able to stick to that upright and creditable position? No. He could keep to a bad resolution forever, but he couldn’t keep to a good one a month. By and by he threw it aside and calmly claimed to be the only God in the entire universe.

As I was saying, jealousy is the key; all through his history it is present and prominent. It is the blood and bone of his disposition, it is the basis of his character. How small a thing can wreck his composure and disorder his judgement if it touches the raw of his jealousy! And nothing warms up this trait so quickly and so surely and so exaggeratedly as a suspicion that some competition with the god-Trust is impending. The fear that if Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge they would “be as gods” so fired his jealousy that his reason was affected, and he could not treat those poor creatures either fairly or charitably, or even refrain from dealing cruelly and criminally with their blameless posterity.


To this day his reason has never recovered from that shock; a wild nightmare of vengefulness has possessed him ever since, and he has almost bankrupted his native ingenuities in inventing pains and miseries and humiliations and heartbreaks wherewith to embitter the brief lives of Adam’s descendants. Think of the diseases he has contrived for them! They are multitudinous; no book can name them all. And each one is a trap, set for an innocent victim.

The human being is a machine. An automatic machine. It is composed of thousands of complex and delicate mechanisms, which perform their functions harmoniously and perfectly, in accordance with laws devised for their governance, and over which the man himself has no authority, no mastership, no control. For each one of these thousands of mechanisms the Creator has planned an enemy, whose office is to harass it, pester it, persecute it, damage it, afflict it with pains, and miseries, and ultimate destruction. Not one has been overlooked.

From cradle to grave these enemies are always at work; they know no rest, night or day. They are an army: an organized army; a besieging army; an assaulting army; an army that is alert, watchful, eager, merciless; an army that never relents, never grants a truce.

It moves by squad, by company, by battalion, by regiment, by brigade, by division, by army corps; upon occasion it masses its parts and moves upon mankind with its whole strength. It is the Creator’s Grand Army, and he is the Commander-in-Chief. Along its battlefront its grisly banners wave their legends in the face of the sun: Disaster, Disease, and the rest.

Disease! That is the main force, the diligent force, the devastating force! It attacks the infant the moment it is born; it furnishes it one malady after another: croup, measles, mumps, bowel troubles, teething pains, scarlet fever, and other childhood specialties. It chases the child into youth and furnishes it some specialties for that time of life. It chases the youth into maturity, maturity into age, age into the grave.

With these facts before you will you now try to guess man’s chiefest pet name for this ferocious Commander-in-Chief? I will save you the trouble — but you must not laugh. It is Our Father in Heaven!

It is curious — the way the human mind works. The Christian begins with this straight proposition, this definite proposition, this inflexible and uncompromising proposition: God is all-knowing, and all-powerful.

This being the case, nothing can happen without his knowing beforehand that it is going to happen; nothing happens without his permission; nothing can happen that he chooses to prevent.

That is definite enough, isn’t it? It makes the Creator distinctly responsible for everything that happens, doesn’t it?


The Christian concedes it in that italicized sentence. Concedes it with feeling, with enthusiasm.

Then, having thus made the Creator responsible for all those pains and diseases and miseries above enumerated, and which he could have prevented, the gifted Christian blandly calls him Our Father!

It is as I tell you. He equips the Creator with every trait that goes to the making of a fiend, and then arrives at the conclusion that a fiend and a father are the same thing! Yet he would deny that a malevolent lunatic and a Sunday school superintendent are essentially the same. What do you think of the human mind? I mean, in case you think there is a human mind.

See also:
Letters from the Earth: God, disease, and compassion
Letters from the Earth: Noah, his Ark, and the dinosaurs
Letters from the Earth: Science and diseases

Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, Letter 5

In this letter, Twain describes how Noah collected the animals for his Ark and set sail. I’m printing it as an antidote to Ken Ham’s creation museum:

Noah began to collect animals. There was to be one couple of each and every sort of creature that walked or crawled, or swam or flew, in the world of animated nature. We have to guess at how long it took to collect the creatures and how much it cost, for there is no record of these details.

When Symmachus made preparation to introduce his young son to grown-up life in imperial Rome, he sent men to Asia, Africa and everywhere to collect wild animals for the arena-fights. It took the men three years to accumulate the animals and fetch them to Rome. Merely quadrupeds and alligators, you understand — no birds, no snakes, no frogs, no worms, no lice, no rats, no fleas, no ticks, no caterpillars, no spiders, no houseflies, no mosquitoes — nothing but just plain simple quadrupeds and alligators: and no quadrupeds except fighting ones. Yet it was as I have said: it took three years to collect them, and the cost of animals and transportation and the men’s wages footed up $4,500,000.

How many animals? We do not know. But it was under five thousand, for that was the largest number ever gathered for those Roman shows, and it was Titus, not Symmachus, who made that collection. Those were mere baby museums, compared to Noah’s contract. Of birds and beasts and fresh-water creatures he had to collect 146,000 kinds; and of insects upwards of two million species.

Thousands and thousands of those things are very difficult to catch, and if Noah had not given up and resigned, he would be on the job yet, as Leviticus used to say. However, I do not mean that he withdrew. No, he did not do that. He gathered as many creatures as he had room for, and then stopped.

If he had known all the requirements in the beginning, he would have been aware that what was needed was a fleet of Arks. But he did not know how many kinds of creatures there were, neither did his Chief. So he had no Kangaroo, and no ‘possum, and no Gila monster, and no ornithorhynchus, and lacked a multitude of other indispensable blessings which a loving Creator had provided for man and forgotten about, they having long ago wandered to a side of this world which he had never seen and with whose affairs he was not acquainted. And so everyone of them came within a hair of getting drowned.


They only escaped by an accident. There was not water enough to go around. Only enough was provided to flood one small corner of the globe — the rest of the globe was not then known, and was supposed to be nonexistent.

However, the thing that really and finally and definitely determined Noah to stop with enough species for purely business purposes and let the rest become extinct, was an incident of the last days: an excited stranger arrived with some most alarming news. He said he had been camping among some mountains and valleys about six hundred miles away, and he had seen a wonderful thing there: he stood upon a precipice overlooking a wide valley, and up the valley he was a billowy black sea of strange animal life coming.
Presently the creatures passed by, struggling, fighting, scrambling, screeching, snorting — horrible vast masses of tumultuous flesh! Sloths as big as an elephant; frogs as big as a cow; a megatherium and his harem huge beyond belief; saurians and saurians and saurians, group after group, family after family, species after species — a hundred feet long, thirty feet high, and twice as quarrelsome; one of them hit a perfectly blameless Durham bull a thump with its tail and sent it whizzing three hundred feet into the air and it fell at the man’s feet with a sigh and was no more.

The man said that these prodigious animals had heard about the Ark and were coming. Coming to get saved from the flood. And not coming in pairs, they were all coming: they did not know the passengers were restricted to pairs, the man said, and wouldn’t care a rap for the regulations, anyway — they would sail in that Ark or know the reason why. The man said the Ark would not hold the half of them; and moreover they were coming hungry, and would eat up everything there was, including the menagerie and the family.

All these facts were suppressed, in the Biblical account. You find not a hint of them there. The whole thing is hushed up. Not even the names of those vast creatures are mentioned. It shows you that when people have left a reproachful vacancy in a contract they can be as shady about it in Bibles as elsewhere. Those powerful animals would be of inestimable value to man now, when transportation is so hard pressed and expensive, but they are all lost to him. All lost, and by Noah’s fault. They all got drowned. Some of them as much as eight million years ago.

Very well, the stranger told his tale, and Noah saw that he must get away before the monsters arrived. He would have sailed at once, but the upholsterers and decorators of the housefly’s drawing room still had some finishing touches to put on, and that lost him a day. Another day was lost in getting the flies aboard, there being sixty-eight billions of them and the Deity still afraid there might not be enough. Another day was lost in stowing forty tons of selected filth for the flies’ sustenance.

Then at last, Noah sailed; and none too soon, for the Ark was only just sinking out of sight on the horizon when the monsters arrived, and added their lamentations to those of the multitude of weeping fathers and mothers and frightened little children who were clinging to the wave-washed rocks in the pouring rain and lifting imploring prayers to an All-Just and All-Forgiving and All-Pitying Being who had never answered a prayer since those crags were builded, grain by grain, out of the sands, and would still not have answered one when the ages should have crumbled them to sand again.


See also:
Letters from the Earth: God’s personality, or why God needed a fly
Letters from the Earth: Report on a rumor or facts vs. miracles

Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth: “Report to the I.I.A.S.”

"Letters from the Earth"

One of the articles in Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth is the “Report to the I.I.A.S.” or Indianapolis Institute of Applied Science, written in 1909. In this letter, the secretary of the Institute must decide upon the truth of a report that an explorer has reached the North Pole.
He consults a professor of Comparative Science and Theology:

Professor Bledso asked leave to consider the question for a few minutes. Then he said, “The answer, yes or no, depends entirely upon the answer to this question: Is it claimed that Dr. Cook’s achievement is a Fact, or is it a Miracle?”

“Why so?”

“Because if it is a Miracle, any sort of evidence will answer, but if it is a Fact, proof is necessary…. A very pertinent remark has been quoted from the Westminster Gazette, which points out that ‘the golfer, when he puts in a record round, has to have his card signed, and that there is nobody to sign Dr. Cook’s card; there are two Eskimos to vouch for his feat, but they were his caddies, and at golf their evidence would not be accepted.’ There you have the whole case. If Dr. Cook’s feat is put forward as a Fact, the evidence of his two caddies is inadequate; if it is put forward as a Miracle, one caddy is plenty.”

“Is there really all that difference between Fact and Miracle?”

“Yes, there is history for it—ages of history. There has never been a Miracle that noticeably resembled a Fact. Take an illustration. Mr. Janvier quotes this item from Henry Hudson’s log—Hudson wrote it fourteen months before his discovery of the River:

‘This morning one of our companie looking overboard saw a mermaid, and calling up some of the companie to see her, one more came up and by that time shee was come close to the ships side, looking earnestly on the men. A little after a sea came and overturned her. From the navill upward her backe and breasts were like a woman, but her body as big as one of us. Her skin was very white, and long hair hanging downe behinde of colour blacke. In her going downe they saw her tayle, which was like the tayle of a porpoise, and speckled like a macrell. Their names that saw her were Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayner.’

“Observe, to Hudson that was not a Fact, it was a Miracle. How do I know this? Because he believes, on the mere say-so of a couple of sailors. He knows they saw the mermaid, for he doesn’t say he thought they saw, he says with convinced positiveness, they saw. Very well. As a Miracle, the sailors’ say-so is quite sufficient—indeed, more than sufficient; there isn’t a better-grounded Miracle in history. But to Dr. Asher, a recent commentator, who considered that Hudson was registering the incident as a Fact, the evidence was but caddy evidence and quite inadequate. He remarks, ‘Probably a seal.'”

“Then the difference—”

“Quite so. The difference between a Miracle and a Fact is exactly the difference between a mermaid and a seal.

Mark Twain has given us a new term for biased evidence from interested parties: “caddy evidence.”

A manatee swimming beside a mermaid

Whence came mermaids?

See also:
Letters from the Earth: Noah, his Ark, and the dinosaurs
Letters from the Earth: An unjust war

Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth: Papers of the Adam family

"Letters from the Earth"

Mark Twain still has a lot to say to us. In Mark Twain’s partially completed “Papers of the Adam family,” this is his ‘translation from the Adamic of a letter from Methuselah:’

Against our traditions we are now entering upon an unjust and trivial war, a war against a helpless people, and for a base object—robbery. At first our citizens spoke out against this thing, by an impulse natural to their training. Today they have turned, and their voice is the other way. What caused the change? Merely a politician’s trick—a high-sounding phrase, a blood-stirring phrase which turned their uncritical heads. Our country, right or wrong! An empty phrase, a silly phrase. It was shouted by every newspaper, it was thundered from the pulpit, the Superintendent of Public Instruction placarded it upon every schoolhouse in the land, the War Department inscribed it upon the flag. And every man who failed to shout it, or who was silent, was proclaimed a traitor–none but those others were patriots. To be a patriot, one had to say, and keep on saying, “Our country right or wrong,” and urge on the little war. Have you not perceived that that phrase is an insult to the nation?… Only when a republic’s life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is in the wrong. There is no other time.

This Republic’s life is not in peril. The nation has sold its honor for a phrase. It has swung itself loose from its safe anchorage and is drifting, its helm is in pirate hands. The stupid phrase needed help, and it got another one: “Even if the war be wrong we are in it and must fight it out: we cannot retire from it without dishonor.” Why, not even a burglar could have said it better. We cannot withdraw from this sordid war because to grant peace to those little people upon their terms–independence–would dishonor us. You have flung away Adam’s phrase–you should take it up and examine it again. He said, “An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.”

… But it was impossible to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.

‘Kill every one over ten’ orders U.S. General Jacob H. Smith in Philippine-American War.

See also:
Letters from the Earth: Facts vs. miracles
Letters from the Earth: Science and diseases

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