Oreo Conspiracies on NatGeo, Moses Founds American Democracy in Texas, and a Call for Donations
One of the criticisms I receive all of the time is that it isn’t worth explaining what’s wrong with fringe theories because they’re just entertainment and are confined to fringe books and TV shows. Two events from this week show just how wrong this view is. Let’s start with the smaller and sillier story. It comes to us from the National Geographic Channel.
This past week NatGeo aired Eat: The Story of Food, a major three-part documentary series about the history of humanity’s relationship with its food supply. In the middle of the first episode, on sugar, the program decided to drop in—apropos of nothing—the conspiracy theory that the Oreo cookie features Knights Templar symbolism as a result of a centuries-old underground stream of hidden knowledge. This claim was made famous by Scott Wolter, who advocates it across multiple media, but NatGeo adapted it from claims made in The Atlantic, which as I’ve shown previously were derived from a credulous summary of an offhand question posed on April 24, 2004 on the Above Top Secret conspiracy discussion board by a conspiracy theorist who thought the Nabisco logo featured on the cookie resembled a cross associated with Freemasonry and Satan, and the resulting discussion of the connections between the Freemasons and the Knights Templar. The long and short of it is that viewers of Eat are not likely to be seeking Templar-themed conspiracy entertainment, but came away with the impression that there is a legitimate inquiry into Templar-Freemason infiltration of Nabisco.
Fortunately, that segment was confined to just a brief minute of air time. Much worse is the wholesale rewriting of history occurring in Texas as a result of the State Board of Education’s approval of new textbooks that raise Moses to the level of a Founding Father, according to articles on Patheos and Right Wing Watch. I have not seen the textbooks and cannot confirm Pantheos’s claims, but the New York Times reported that dissenting board members did raise questions about the inclusion of Moses in the U.S. history and government curriculum.
According to the Texas Freedom Network, “the new textbooks also include passages that suggest Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution and that the roots of democracy can be found in the Old Testament.” The Daily Beast quotes Southern Methodist University department chair Kathleen Wellman as saying that the books depict Moses as an honorary Founding Father.
We all know that the Constitution is routinely depicted as the Third Testament among Christian conservatives, who have suggested that it was divinely inspired.
However, the Law of Moses finds no parallels in the U.S. Constitution, which explicitly forgoes any mention of God or the divine. Consider just how many of the Ten Commandments (I used the Calvinist version here; Jews and Catholics number differently) actually make it into the U.S. Constitution:
We could look at the rest of the Law, but I have a feeling nobody would try making the case that the Constitution has much to say about mixed fibers, cross-breeding animals, etc. In fact, the one place where the Law and the Constitution are closest is the place where later generations struck it out by amendment: in endorsing slavery of people considered non-members of the citizenry.
The claim that modern democracy emerges from the Old Testament—a book devoted to patriarchs, Judges, and Kings—rather than from the ancient Athenians, the Roman Republic, and Enlightenment Europe comes to us from a tortured argument based on 1 Samuel 8. There, God initially refuses the call to appoint a monarch, and accedes only when the people “vote” for a monarchy. If you care about the whole of the argument, you can read a 1976 version of it here.
Evaluating bad claims is important because bad ideas keep popping up in unexpected places, from an innocuous show about sugar to your children’s social studies book.
So that’s why I’m going to finish out today’s blog post with an advertisement, just like the ones recently running on Wikipedia and in the Mozilla Firefox browser.
On December 1, the bill for this website comes due. For the past two years, since 2012, you have enjoyed the benefits of premium website performance due to the generous donations of readers like you, which allowed me to purchase a two-year Weebly Pro subscription. This Weebly level allows me more control over the website and a wider range of web tools to help maximize the user experience.
If everyone who reads this blog gave just $1 using the convenient donation button on the right side of the page, I would—well, I’d be in a new income bracket. A lot of people read this blog. Realistically, I’m looking to raise the money to fund the website for the next two years. Money raised through donations is used to pay for professional level web service, domain registration fees, and research materials to support the site and this blog.
Won’t you consider donating a few dollars to help defray the costs of running my website? The IndieGoGo campaign to raise $20,000 to send David Childress in search of the Ark of the Covenant raised just $75. Surely my generous readers can do better than that!
11/24/2014 07:04:06 am
Look at McNaughton's paining. With which group would you rather hang out: bottom left, or bottom right? :)
11/24/2014 07:06:35 am
I like to think the kid scanning the document for fine print is the most reasonable of the bunch.
11/24/2014 07:08:17 am
Is he giving the bottom-left group the finger? :)
11/25/2014 02:05:03 am
Are you sure he's not balancing his checkbook?
11/24/2014 10:27:29 am
Fun fact: The crying judge in the lower right had made a huge wager that Jesus wouldn't show up that day presenting the Constitution.
11/28/2014 02:51:35 pm
He looks a bit like Justice Breyer. If so, then he's probably just sad he keeps getting mugged and falling off his bike in DC :)
11/25/2014 11:17:56 am
I'm trying to figure out why Aragon (check out the tree emblem emblazoned on his shirt) is in that painting.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
11/24/2014 07:15:11 am
The NPR story on the textbook issue said that the textbooks mention four specific people as influencing the drafters of the Constitution: Montesquieu, John Locke, William Blackstone, and Moses. The people involved in drafting the Constitution specifically mentioned the first three as influences when writing about the Constitution. They did not bring up Moses.
11/24/2014 07:39:07 am
It appears that Mr. McNaughton does not to like lawyers very much. Which presumably means he won't start making any silly threats about "fair use" of his work - doesn't it? :)
11/24/2014 08:27:07 am
As I recall, the Constitutional Convention notes have more references to the Lycian Confederacy than Moses.
11/24/2014 11:20:57 am
As in "more than 0"? :)
11/25/2014 01:48:54 am
Let's argue that Moses did not exist in the first place, and that everything in relation to Moses is every bit as mythical as what Scott Wolter claims in his mythologies.
11/25/2014 01:03:08 pm
Let's not have you make useless posts, 666.
11/24/2014 11:38:42 am
Is there any archaeological that Moses was ever a real person?
11/24/2014 11:39:30 am
Sorry, meant to say "archaeological evidence."
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
11/24/2014 12:12:14 pm
No. There is no direct archaeological evidence of any events recorded in the Bible before the divided monarchy period (after Solomon, when Israel and Judah were separate kingdoms). Some of the events before that time must have a basis in fact, but arguments about which events those are depend mostly on internal evidence from the biblical books themselves, supplemented by general archaeological evidence from the times when they would have taken place. There are lots of complicated arguments about whether Moses existed. The one that seems to stand up better than most is that Moses' name, as well as those of other Levites in the Exodus story, seem to come from Egyptian, and the biblical text shows no evidence that the authors knew that. So there may have been some group of people who came out of Egypt and became part of a founding story for the Israelite/Judean peoples, but that's not to say that the Exodus was anything like how it's portrayed. It's like how "King Arthur" may have been a British chieftain who fought invading Anglo-Saxons, but that doesn't mean he led a court of chivalrous knights.
11/25/2014 01:49:59 am
The Bible is a fake from Genesis to Revelation
11/25/2014 01:07:59 pm
>>>The Bible is a fake from Genesis to Revelation<<<
terry the censor
11/25/2014 09:19:32 pm
11/25/2014 09:50:09 pm
Terry, my first requirement does allow for oral traditions or elements that were "made up". That's why I said body of work, not a limiting factor such as book, tract, manuscript, etc. The Bible itself is but a collection of stories that were deemed acceptable by Church leaders, while others were destroyed or hidden; it does not contain the full body of work of early Christian tradition or authorship.
terry the censor
11/26/2014 07:18:25 am
11/28/2014 02:53:52 pm
He is 666. His points are never good or interesting. His lame answers are only hilarious when he starts ranting about evil psychiatrists and poppyheads.
11/24/2014 01:52:20 pm
You mean the history we are being taught really IS wrong? :o
11/25/2014 02:06:59 am
Not history in the first place
11/24/2014 02:27:30 pm
Minor fix: the website is Patheos rather than Pantheos. Though I'm sure is at least one pantheist at one of their blog pages. So, fix that, and we'll talk about your one dollar. :)
11/24/2014 08:03:35 pm
11/25/2014 02:26:17 am
Donation done. My tag line was "Jason raises more than Childress!"
Donald B. Miller
11/25/2014 05:02:07 am
I've often come by to enjoy your writing and the lively banter in the comment section but never participated. I left a donation to help pay my way. Also, raising more than Childress would be a hoot!
11/28/2014 01:17:06 am
Please tell me the Oreo cookie conspiracy is a joke! You know, one to make fun of conspiracy theorists or to prove that even they can differaite stupidity to some extent.
11/28/2014 05:45:19 am
Just type "Oreo cookie conspiracy" into the search tab. That will give you everything Jason's found, for your enjoyment.
11/28/2014 01:33:12 pm
Oh great! Just when I think we humans have hit rock bottom with stupidity, someone somewhere manages to dig a little deeper.
11/28/2014 02:55:35 pm
"What's next? That there's some sort of water conspiracy where "they" want you to think you need water to live?"
11/28/2014 04:25:57 pm
And this is the only proper response to that sprinkler lady:
12/1/2014 09:28:14 am
Anyone interested in how ridiculous religious right's pseudohistory can get should check out David Barton's work (and I use the word loosely):
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