Hollywood High Students to Receive Movie Debunking Evolution

| 69 Comments

That is the headline of a press release printed unedited in the Sacramento Bee. The movie, by Ray Comfort of banana fame, is an excruciating 35 minutes of quote-mined sound bites, mostly from undergraduate science majors, but also from PZ Myers and a handful of other scientists (Gail Kennedy, Craig Stanford, and Peter Nonacs).

The interviewer, a fast-talking smart aleck, asks for observable evidence of evolution but predictably accepts only changes of “kinds” that can be observed in real time. Thus half of the movie consists of “Were you there?” and “Still finches!” He goes on to ask inane questions like “Can you build a rose?”

After establishing Hemingway as the only atheist on a poster that purports to show half a dozen or so famous atheists, the movie takes an unbearably sleazy and cheap shot, noting that Hemingway blew his brains out. That may be the low point of the movie, but there is much competition.

The interviewer asks people whether they have ever lied, stolen, and so on, and then notes that they are all liars, thieves, blasphemers, and adulterers at heart. He traps Myers by asking him if there is a universal moral code, or something to that effect, and elicits a predictably incoherent response. Asked whether they would save their dog or their neighbor, several students shockingly chose their dog, incidentally. The interviewer tells one person that he has chosen evolution because it gets rid of moral accountability.

The rest of the movie was almost unendurable, except for a snippet where one of the interviewees asks the interviewer whether he himself could be wrong about God’s existence. No? Then you are close-minded. The interviewer’s answer is priceless – I know the Lord, just as you know your wife. This, remember, is the interviewer who barely 20 minutes earlier wanted visible, tangible proof of evolution.

69 Comments

Who were the other purported atheists on the poster who acc. to Comfort weren’t atheists? Comfort has many times lied about Einstein being a theist.

I was sad to learn that PZ took the bait to be a part of this dis-information campaign. I hope he knows better now.

diogeneslamp0 said:

Who were the other purported atheists on the poster who acc. to Comfort weren’t atheists? Comfort has many times lied about Einstein being a theist.

This is the poster, in which Comfort thought Hemingway was the only atheist. Strictly speaking, the rest were perhaps deists, pantheists, or agnostics – positions, which under Comfort’s view don’t fit the definition of a-theism. I’m not sure if actually Hemingway himself fits the strict definition of atheism that Comfort adopts. Even Richard Dawkins wouldn’t be classified as an atheist in Comfort’s eyes.

This is a video review of the movie, if anyone is interested. And for the record, since there’s no substance in the movie to address, let’s bring up the fact that Comfort was an exorcist and a witch doctor before he came to fame. And I think that it’s quite obvious that all he cares about is filling his pockets by deceiving sincere believers. This man has no intellectual credibility or moral accountability whatsoever.

The YECs keep claiming Kelvin and Lewis were YECs. Both were neither.

Answers in Genesis have even lied about Spurgeon being a YEC:

http://www.beyondcreationscience.co[…]ou_the_Truth

The YECs keep claiming Kelvin and Lewis were YECs. Both were neither.

Kelvin was a young-earth creationist – 100 million years is not even close!

They routinely claim Pasteur was a YEC, without any evidence.

The DI has falsely claimed James Clerk Maxwell was a creationist.

In this poster we have:

Einstein- Atheist. Not even a deist. If you don’t believe in a god with anything like human intelligence, you’re an atheist.

Mark Twain- Deist; possibly atheist. Read “Letters from the Earth.” Didn’t believe in the afterlife.

Lincoln - Deist. Not a Christian. Liked the Bible.

Franklin - Deist. Not a Christian. Believed in the afterlife.

Jefferson - Deist/unitarian, not a Christian, flirted with atheism. I suspect he was an atheist but it’s not proven.

Darwin - deist or atheist; his ideas changed over time.

Sagan - agnostic or atheist, I dunno.

Hemingway- I dunno.

If this poster had been labeled “non-theism”, it would be perfectly correct.

Once could more easily make a poster with famous people known with certainty to be atheists.

diogeneslamp0 said:

They routinely claim Pasteur was a YEC, without any evidence.

The DI has falsely claimed James Clerk Maxwell was a creationist.

In this poster we have:

Einstein- Atheist. Not even a deist. If you don’t believe in a god with anything like human intelligence, you’re an atheist.

Mark Twain- Deist; possibly atheist. Read “Letters from the Earth.” Didn’t believe in the afterlife.

Lincoln - Deist. Not a Christian. Liked the Bible.

Franklin - Deist. Not a Christian. Believed in the afterlife.

Jefferson - Deist/unitarian, not a Christian, flirted with atheism. I suspect he was an atheist but it’s not proven.

Darwin - deist or atheist; his ideas changed over time.

Sagan - agnostic or atheist, I dunno.

Hemingway- I dunno.

If this poster had been labeled “non-theism”, it would be perfectly correct.

Once could more easily make a poster with famous people known with certainty to be atheists.

I have read that Maxwell did not accept Darwin’s theory of evolution, although calling him a creationist is probably somewhat overdone. He certainly was not a YEC.

Actually Jefferson was an Arian.

Einstein denied being an atheist in one of his letters. He probably might best be described as an agnostic with a slight leaning toward Deism.

The notion that Kelvin was YEC is ludicrous. His estimate of the age of the earth was a lot greater then 6000 years.

The film is a hoot, but what’s also funny is what Ray uses as a barometer to gauge his crap vox pop’s “success” – Youtube. He posts regular updates on his official Facebook page about how many views the film has most recently garnered. I suppose that serves as a convenient counter-point to the accusations that Ray is just “fleecing the sheep”, if he’s posted the film on Youtube, free to view. But other than that, I really don’t know what he thinks he’s accomplishing. “Evolution vs. God” has only passed the 100,000 view mark – meanwhile, “Gangnam Style” is closing in on 2 billion views. Clearly, Youtube views are not an accurate measurement of quality.

Since Ray Comfort tried to argue against vestigial organs, I thought that we should make a fitting response to what amounts to the only scientific content in the movie. I know that Douglas Theobald wrote a nice article about the vestigiality of the human appendix. And he also addressed the definition of vestigiality in his 29+ evidences for macroevolution article at TalkOrigins. If any of you might be interested in the definition of vestigiality itself, I recommend reading G.B. Muller’s entry in the Encyclopedia of Evolution on the subject.

Does anyone have have well-researched responses to the other vestigial organs that creationists usually argue against? For instance, the tailbone (coccyx) in humans, wisdom teeth, etc.

Yes, evidence from the past takes faith–not like the Bible or anything.

The most disgusting thing about creationism of all kinds, from ID to Ray Comfort, is that it has taken to opposing anything like good thinking. Stephen Meyer’s schtick is nearly the same as Ray’s, he just pretends that you have to be able to observe a process in order for us to be sure it happens, arguing from obsolete “principles” of Lyell, partly accepted by Darwin. Of course that rules out much of cosmology, astrophysics, abiogenesis, and evolution (well, one could argue about the latter–that’s the real point).

It’s bad enough when this fraud is perpetrated with straight-up lies about the evidence. The lies that we can’t even determine processes that occurred without human eyewitnesses are produced to keep people from even considering the evidence, but this doesn’t just threaten evolution. Which is also why the DI remains nearly as anti-science as Comfort and Ham, despite accepting science that it has in principle ruled out as being reliable.

Glen Davidson

On August 13, students entering Hollywood High School will be given a DVD that shows top evolutionary scientists unable to give any scientific evidence for Darwinian evolution.

In short, children will be accosted on the street with intellectual pornography …

Matt Young:

Kelvin was a young-earth creationist

That’s not quite fair. Kelvin had the best thermodynamics of his day on his side. It wasn’t his fault that Curie hadn’t discovered radioactivity yet. And, at least apocryphally he was gracious about being shown up.

Does anyone have have well-researched responses to the other vestigial organs that creationists usually argue against? For instance, the tailbone (coccyx) in humans, wisdom teeth, etc.

Shove a mike in Comfort’s face and ask him what his nipples are good for. And agree that God made his pubic lice.

That’s not quite fair.

It was a joke. Did you need a smiley to figure that out? :)

Kelvin had the best thermodynamics of his day on his side. It wasn’t his fault that Curie hadn’t discovered radioactivity yet.

Becquerel discovered radioactivity in 1897, not Curie. And contrary to popular myth the internal radioactivity inside the earth was not the problem; the problem was Kelvin’s faulty assumptions and the lack of reliable data.

And, at least apocryphally he was gracious about being shown up.

I do not think you mean apochryphally. But can you provide a citation?

John said:

On August 13, students entering Hollywood High School will be given a DVD that shows top evolutionary scientists unable to give any scientific evidence for Darwinian evolution.

In short, children will be accosted on the street with intellectual pornography …

So it’s kind of like the bible thumpers that stand outside the schools peddling their bible wares. Are the students to be harassed if they don’t take one? Will the thumpers block the entrance to the school such that the students have to pass directly through their ranks, on school property? Why would the school super and/or the school board allow this? Has anyone complained?

Is it surprising that Ray isn’t targeting university students this time around? His simple-minded tripe might play okay to some university students who largely avoid science, but clearly there would be plenty of professors who would happily show what a load of BS it is to anyone with doubts.

At high school, perhaps not so much. True, plenty of teachers could explain what’s wrong with anything that addled, but they might not seem so impressive to students already not inclined to like science.

But feeding this propaganda to Hollywood High seems to be little more than Ray’s attempt at aggrandizement, sold to the pious as a means of persuading the influential (and potentially influential) people. Probably not much impact at all on the students, who don’t really want to hear bunk from a street preacher type, yet good for Ray. High school students would be less likely to criticize it tellingly, though, so at least his dishonesty and mindlessness won’t be so heavily exposed by this stunt.

I do think that it wouldn’t hurt if a proper response were made available to Hollywood High. At least something science teachers might be able to pass out to anyone who might think that Ray makes a point (or simply made available to anyone to pick up from somewhere convenient). Which he really doesn’t, anyway, not properly.

Glen Davidson

Matt:

It was a joke. Did you need a smiley to figure that out? :)

Jokes can’t be unfair?

Becquerel discovered radioactivity in 1897, not Curie. And contrary to popular myth the internal radioactivity inside the earth was not the problem; the problem was Kelvin’s faulty assumptions and the lack of reliable data.

One might say Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor discovered it, but never mind. If you can assign any fault to jokes, I can assign them to shorthand.

I don’t pretend to be a historian of science but it is certainly common for otherwise reliable sources to attribute Kelvin’s mistake mostly to the his lack of knowledge of radioactivity.

I do not think you mean apochryphally. But can you provide a citation?

Well, it was Rutherford’s account of a presentation he made in front of Kelvin of Rutherford’s calculation that a lump of pure radium generates enough heat to melt its own weight in ice each hour, and can do so for over 1000 years. According to Rutherford: “I said Lord Kelvin had limited the age of the earth, provided no new source (of energy) was discovered. That prophetic utterance refers to what we are now considering tonight, radium! Behold! The old boy beamed upon me.”

I called it apocryphal because Rutherford might have mistaken dyspepsia for approval.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

John said: That’s not quite fair. Kelvin had the best thermodynamics of his day on his side. It wasn’t his fault that Curie hadn’t discovered radioactivity yet. And, at least apocryphally he was gracious about being shown up.

However, take a look at this from the Wikipedia article about John Perry: Challenging Lord Kelvin.

TomS:

As I said, I’m no historian of science. ;-)

Still, scientists, especially at the end of their careers, probably shouldn’t be judged solely by what they got wrong. Few would pass that test.

Kelvin was, of course, wrong and, as you show, held on to that wrongness when he should have given it up. But so did Einstein, Darwin and many others. It is part of the human condition.

it’s perfectly legal for individuals to stand out on the sidewalk in front of the school and hand out non-pornographic literature. However, if they block the sidewalk or the pathway leading from the front door of the school to the sidewalk, or accost the exiting students in an aggressive manner, they can be arrested. The authorities have become much more aggressive about this sort of thing as a result of the child molestation scandals.

John said:

On August 13, students entering Hollywood High School will be given a DVD that shows top evolutionary scientists unable to give any scientific evidence for Darwinian evolution.

In short, children will be accosted on the street with intellectual pornography …

Matt Young:

Kelvin was a young-earth creationist

That’s not quite fair. Kelvin had the best thermodynamics of his day on his side. It wasn’t his fault that Curie hadn’t discovered radioactivity yet. And, at least apocryphally he was gracious about being shown up.

students entering Hollywood High School will be given a DVD that shows top evolutionary scientists unable to give any scientific evidence for Darwinian evolution.

Sounds perfectly legal, I was given Jack Chick pamphlets by people on the street as a child. It did not make me into a creationist, and from the sounds of it, Jack Chick is a master of persuasion compared to this DVD. By the way, do kids even watch DVDs any more?

The writer of the press release was obviously a creationist, but hey, if the Sacramento Bee wants to harm its reputation by printing unedited press releases, that’s legal. Maybe some employee of the Bee is a creationist who selectively let this through unedited. As a private entity, it’s their business.

Long after today’s post-modern hateful fantasy-fulfillment-based right wing social/political/religious movement has gone the way of the Whig party, irritating people will legally push annoyingly wrong ideas, with a tendency to obsessively target vulnerable and naive populations, including high school students. That’s the price we pay for freedom of speech.

So it’s kind of like the bible thumpers that stand outside the schools peddling their bible wares. Are the students to be harassed if they don’t take one? Will the thumpers block the entrance to the school such that the students have to pass directly through their ranks, on school property? Why would the school super and/or the school board allow this? Has anyone complained?

Obviously, it could violate local law - or even federal and state law - if done in such ways. On the other hand, there’s almost certainly some spot near the school from which they can nicely hand out DVDs, legally. Predictions: 1) If this event happens at all, they will behave in a way intermediate between respectful and illegal - they won’t grab or threaten kids, or block entrances, but will be as provocative and belligerent as they can without getting themselves immediately shut down. 2) Someone will complain, to put it mildly. Other than some parts of the New York City area, I can’t think of a better location for running into affluent, easily offended people who will complain about them, make calls to local officials, make calls to attorneys, etc.

harold said:

The writer of the press release was obviously a creationist, but hey, if the Sacramento Bee wants to harm its reputation by printing unedited press releases, that’s legal. Maybe some employee of the Bee is a creationist who selectively let this through unedited. As a private entity, it’s their business.

Every time I see a creationist press release, and I’ve seen many, they often pop up shortly thereafter at the Sacramento Bee. I don’t know if they ever print any other content at all. But as you say, that’s their business.

Or the kids will just laugh and turn them all into Frisbees™

fnxtr said:

Or the kids will just laugh and turn them all into Frisbees™

Metal Frisbees? That sounds dangerous. ;)

Henry J said:

fnxtr said:

Or the kids will just laugh and turn them all into Frisbees™

Metal Frisbees? That sounds dangerous. ;)

DVDs would be plastic Frisbees. Granted, hard plastic with thin edges, but plastic.

Drat. Blockquote failure.

Rhazes said:

Since Ray Comfort tried to argue against vestigial organs, I thought that we should make a fitting response to what amounts to the only scientific content in the movie. I know that Douglas Theobald wrote a nice article about the vestigiality of the human appendix. And he also addressed the definition of vestigiality in his 29+ evidences for macroevolution article at TalkOrigins. If any of you might be interested in the definition of vestigiality itself, I recommend reading G.B. Muller’s entry in the Encyclopedia of Evolution on the subject.

Does anyone have have well-researched responses to the other vestigial organs that creationists usually argue against? For instance, the tailbone (coccyx) in humans, wisdom teeth, etc.

slightly off topic - but I suspect but do not KNOW that wisdom teeth are not vestigial. They would be adaptive in circustances where oral hygene/destistry is not readily available (most of human history, much of the current 3rd world). Emerging wisdom teeth tend to push molars forward and help fill gaps left from lost teeth.

AFAIK, wisdom teeth are the last row of teeth that no longer fit our smaller jaws, a result of agriculture and cooked foods.

Here are a few: outer ear, muscles that move the outer ear, goosebumps (to raise non-existing fur) raised hackles (Has happened to me!) Babinski response in very young infants.

https://me.yahoo.com/a/XRnHyQl8usUn[…]_GLu.k#d404b said:

Rhazes said:

Since Ray Comfort tried to argue against vestigial organs, I thought that we should make a fitting response to what amounts to the only scientific content in the movie. I know that Douglas Theobald wrote a nice article about the vestigiality of the human appendix. And he also addressed the definition of vestigiality in his 29+ evidences for macroevolution article at TalkOrigins. If any of you might be interested in the definition of vestigiality itself, I recommend reading G.B. Muller’s entry in the Encyclopedia of Evolution on the subject.

Does anyone have have well-researched responses to the other vestigial organs that creationists usually argue against? For instance, the tailbone (coccyx) in humans, wisdom teeth, etc.

slightly off topic - but I suspect but do not KNOW that wisdom teeth are not vestigial. They would be adaptive in circustances where oral hygene/destistry is not readily available (most of human history, much of the current 3rd world). Emerging wisdom teeth tend to push molars forward and help fill gaps left from lost teeth.

Actually dental caries and premature tooth loss (other than from trauma) are much rarer in developing countries. Medieval skeletons tend to have good teeth. Refined sugar and similar foods massively increase tooth decay. The stereotype of poor people with “rotten” teeth comes mainly from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, when industrially refined sugar had become cheap.

Refined cane sugar was an intensely expensive luxury in medieval Europe; stereotypes of “medieval peasants” with severe dental problems are highly anachronistic.

Dave Luckett said:

“Tough” was not meant as a description of a selected genetic factor. Obviously it is far too vague a term for that. Nevertheless, it has some validity, I think. The medieval peasant who survived to adulthood and managed to reproduce was, among other things, resilient and resistant to infection, as well as being physically strong and enduring for his or her size, and in animal breeding terms “a good doer”, capable of subsisting on a high-carbohydrate but (generally) low-protein diet and still performing heavy physical labour, day in, day out. They were, if you like, selected for those traits.

They were selected to be tough, in other words. In the sense of infection resistance, we are their heirs, no argument. But selection pressures have shifted. It will take some time for them to work through.

Prediction: shifts in agricultural production and access to a more varied (and more generous) diet have already had the effect of increasing the height and, alas, weight of people in postindustrial societies. One adverse result is the obesity epidemic in North America, my own country, and even western Europe. But obese people are, apart from being less healthy, less fertile. I suspect that natural selection is already at work on that.

Final comment on this.

I suspect I am not being clear enough, and failing to get some simple points across to some of my fellow informed and pro-science readers of this forum.

1) You keep saying “the medieval peasant” but you might as well be saying “the neolithic peasant” or “the Classical Antiquity peasant”. The conditions you are ascribing to the medieval period began with the agricultural revolution. Yes, pre-industrial humans who live in one locale, domesticate animals, and engage in near subsistence agriculture have a different morbidity and mortality pattern than either hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, or contemporary inhabitants of developed nations, but that is not unique to medieval Europe. There is a mild eurocentric tendency, which I share as a “white” American, to see “the past” as the relatively recent European past.

2) I hope I am wrong, but I suspect that the fallacy that medieval peasants were “genetically” much “tougher” may be at play here. Certainly medieval people and early modern people were tougher than modern people by many standards. When healthy, they were on average much stronger for their size, much better conditioned to walk long distances, more used to enduring pain, etc. For the most part this is entirely environmental. For example, we are more likely to be myopic, but illiterate people are virtually never myopic. European and Asian agricultural peasants must have had alleles that predispose to myopia, but if you don’t read, you don’t become myopic.

3) Modern humans have been using agriculture for 10,000 years, which is a fairly short period of time by evolutionary standards. Clearly, modern hunter gatherers who have never used agriculture are indistinguishable in most ways, absent cultural identifiers, from other modern humans. Some limited innate resistance to common Eurasian infectious diseases seems to have been selected for in Eurasian agricultural populations. Similarly, some African populations are more resistant to some infectious diseases than some Eurasians. In all cases, the innate resistance is quite limited, and local populations suffer considerable morbidity from local disease.

4) Last but not least, I and many other readers here are genetically medieval peasants to a large degree. Adaptations that helped medieval peasants, gradually selected for over thousands of years, have probably not been selected against in the last hundred and fifty years. Differences in toughness are nearly all environmental. If my mother had had twelve children instead of two, and raised us as medieval peasants, I might still have survived, and if I had, without certain modern environmental problems and with a lot of toughness, but also probably illiterate, superstitious, and easy prey to mob-rilers. (For full disclosure there is some evidence that I may have a moderate amount of Amerindian ancestry, but I’m majority of old world descent, and almost certainly majority of “peasant” descent.)

I bother to emphasize this last point because misunderstanding of how alleles change frequency in populations never justifies inhumane policies, but has been part of the rationale for brutal policies in the past.

Seems ‘King Crocoduck’ took charge… Contacted the school’s administration, the school stepped in and requested that students dump the movies in the trash.

The video below is ‘King Crocoduck’ debating with Ray Comfort before his dishonest attack on school children.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIehVeZYUyY

harold said:

Ancient Egypt is often stereotyped as a land of mysterious wisdom, and medieval Europe often stereotyped as “filthy” and “squalid”; however, ancient Egyptians, unsurprisingly, had morbidity and mortality rates similar to, probably higher than, medieval Europeans.

Schistosomiasis, a rather nasty parasitic disease that limits life span to the 40s or less, is still endemic in Egypt, but in ancient times, everyone in the country, including the Pharaoh and elite classes suffered from it.

harold said:

1) You keep saying “the medieval peasant” but you might as well be saying “the neolithic peasant” or “the Classical Antiquity peasant”. The conditions you are ascribing to the medieval period began with the agricultural revolution.

I don’t think this is entirely true. Conditions varied considerably over such a long timescale. Prolonged unfavourable weather made life much harder for long periods. Increasing populations meant less available per head from harvesting natural resources. What I have read of the findings at Pompeii and Herculaneum suggests life was easier than during the early 14th century. And even though this may have to some extent been built on slavery, a Roman slave had much better prospects than a 18th century sugar plantation slave, maybe even no worse than the mediaeval peasant. The huge reduction in population during the Black Death pushed up the living standards of the survivors at the bottom of the social scale as labour became a much more valuable commodity, and there was suddenly a relative oversupply of non-perishable goods and resources.

Helena Constantine said:

harold said:

Ancient Egypt is often stereotyped as a land of mysterious wisdom, and medieval Europe often stereotyped as “filthy” and “squalid”; however, ancient Egyptians, unsurprisingly, had morbidity and mortality rates similar to, probably higher than, medieval Europeans.

Schistosomiasis, a rather nasty parasitic disease that limits life span to the 40s or less, is still endemic in Egypt, but in ancient times, everyone in the country, including the Pharaoh and elite classes suffered from it.

This one film I saw in my Human Parasitology class alleges that schistosomiasis is “the Pharaoh’s curse,” which, according to one cryptically peculiar hieroglyph, was once thought to be “male menstruation”

Dave Lovell said:

harold said:

1) You keep saying “the medieval peasant” but you might as well be saying “the neolithic peasant” or “the Classical Antiquity peasant”. The conditions you are ascribing to the medieval period began with the agricultural revolution.

I don’t think this is entirely true. Conditions varied considerably over such a long timescale. Prolonged unfavourable weather made life much harder for long periods. Increasing populations meant less available per head from harvesting natural resources. What I have read of the findings at Pompeii and Herculaneum suggests life was easier than during the early 14th century. And even though this may have to some extent been built on slavery, a Roman slave had much better prospects than a 18th century sugar plantation slave, maybe even no worse than the mediaeval peasant. The huge reduction in population during the Black Death pushed up the living standards of the survivors at the bottom of the social scale as labour became a much more valuable commodity, and there was suddenly a relative oversupply of non-perishable goods and resources.

This is not an area of professional expertise for me, but I will note that most sources do NOT show the European middle ages to have been, overall, a time of special mortality, relative to other pre-industrial times. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_e[…]on_over_time. If anyone has evidence that medieval England truly was more disease-ridden, overall, than other pre-industrial societies, I’m willing to look at it. Monty Python doesn’t count.

Furthermore, whether or not the medieval European peasant had an even higher mortality rate than the Roman slave or the Chinese peasant of a thousand years earlier is not my main point. My main point is that we are not many generations away from the medieval/early modern peasantry, and those of us with substantial European ancestry are almost certainly not very different from them at the genetic level. Most differences between them and us are better explained by environmental differences. Alleles that increased in frequency in their population due to some kind of environmental selection are probably at similar frequency in our population.

Lastly, I’m sure everyone now concedes that my original point, that medieval people didn’t have a comparatively huge problem with dental caries because they didn’t have access to the type of refined foods that promote dental caries, regardless of whatever other problems they had, is valid.

Lastly, I’m sure everyone now concedes that my original point, that medieval people didn’t have a comparatively huge problem with dental caries because they didn’t have access to the type of refined foods that promote dental caries, regardless of whatever other problems they had, is valid.

Sorry Harold, I must contest your point about the access of cavity-promoting refined foods by medieval people. Sugar is not the only refined food promoting dental caries: other refined carbohydrates (primarily from grains: flour, bread, etc.), staples in many (if not most) medieval European diets, also do. The following study suggests that medieval populations consuming high amounts of cereal foods exhibit significantly higher rates of dental caries compared to those whose diets were less reliant on cooked grains/starches (the populations compared also appeared to be of similarly poor socio-economic standings): http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijd/2011/519691/

Of course, I do understand that your are referring to comparative rates of dental caries. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Aztecs and, of course, modern societies were/are also high refined grain eaters and also plagued with this problem, so overall dental cavities were likely not any more problematic in medieval people. Of course, the large scale production and importation of refined cane sugar exacerbated the problem.

Prometheus68 said:

Lastly, I’m sure everyone now concedes that my original point, that medieval people didn’t have a comparatively huge problem with dental caries because they didn’t have access to the type of refined foods that promote dental caries, regardless of whatever other problems they had, is valid.

Sorry Harold, I must contest your point about the access of cavity-promoting refined foods by medieval people. Sugar is not the only refined food promoting dental caries: other refined carbohydrates (primarily from grains: flour, bread, etc.), staples in many (if not most) medieval European diets, also do. The following study suggests that medieval populations consuming high amounts of cereal foods exhibit significantly higher rates of dental caries compared to those whose diets were less reliant on cooked grains/starches (the populations compared also appeared to be of similarly poor socio-economic standings): http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijd/2011/519691/

Of course, I do understand that your are referring to comparative rates of dental caries. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, Aztecs and, of course, modern societies were/are also high refined grain eaters and also plagued with this problem, so overall dental cavities were likely not any more problematic in medieval people. Of course, the large scale production and importation of refined cane sugar exacerbated the problem.

Thank you for the reference.

I’m not sure why you think we disagree.

I have not been arguing that medieval populations completely lacked dental caries.

Rather, I have been noting that stereotyped depictions of medieval populations with high dental decay rates, relative to more recent populations, are inaccurate.

I believe this point is rather obvious, but also that there is resistance to it. I believe the resistance arises from the cultural heuristic of describing everything “bad” that can be addressed by modern technology or health care as “medieval”.

In fact, your reference makes much the same point that I was making. Emphasis mine.

Following the historic chronology, in the Middle Ages, caries incidence increased and affected around 20% of teeth in populations whose food was cooked and included carbohydrates [20, 21].Later, in the 18th C., Whittaker and Molleson in England [22] drew a parallel between the increase of caries incidence and the increase in the importation of sugar.

To summarize - Pre-industrial farming populations that eat a lot of cooked whole grain apparently have higher dental cavity rates than hunter gatherer populations or other populations who eat less grain. However, tooth decay really explodes as a public health problem when refined carbohydrates, especially sugars, become widespread. Modern developed countries have populations which compensate for a cavity-promoting diet with extensive dental hygiene and modern dentistry. Eighteenth century European populations would have had the worst of both worlds - sufficient access to cheap sugar to promote tooth decay, while dentistry and dental hygiene were not yet developed. Medievals lacked well-developed dentistry, but also lacked much access to the worst kinds of foods for teeth. Therefore, stereotyped depictions of people with massively poor dental hygiene apply more to later centuries, than to the medieval period, even though medieval peasants may have had somewhat more tooth decay than hunter gatherers.

Query: How does grit from STONE millstones factor into such dental problems? Would it be worse or better with mechanized (e.g. wind or water powered) mills compared to hand-ground grains? Does accumulated wear from eating milling grit contribute to dental caries?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on August 10, 2013 11:14 AM.

Freshwater: Advising Springboro creationists? was the previous entry in this blog.

Magnesium burning is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.38

Site Meter