A Stupid Liberal Meme Gets Schooled
There was a time when folks on the left were brilliant and learned, and debate required folks on the right to work hard to match wits with them. That was the 60s through the early 80s. Now the left resembles the day room in a 19th century institution for the feeble-minded.
For example, a Facebook post I saw recently, which represents so much of leftist talk these days. It read:
This is your periodic reminder that the US constitution was written by a handful of rich dudes who didn’t know what atoms were, practiced medicine based on the four humors, had no idea that dinosaurs existed, used guns that fired four rounds per minute, regarded women as literal property, and would have considered a lightbulb to be pure witchcraft.
Let’s deconstruct this latest meandering from another skull tragically filled with mush. Pay attention liberal kids. School is now in session at Casa Nadal, where the teacher knows something about these subjects (he has a Ph.D. in molecular biology) and has taken some time to put together this liberating list of facts.
Atoms, Humors, and Dinosaur Bones
In 1803 John Dalton called the smallest particles of matter, “atoms.” Though he did this slightly after the U.S. Constitution was written, the writers of that document were classically schooled in Greek and Latin. They knew well what Dalton knew: It was the Greeks 2,000 years earlier who reasoned that one could only divide matter for a finite number of divisions until one reached that which could no longer be divided. They called these fundamental units of matter, atomos. Atoms!
The ancient Greeks believed health resulted from these four fluids or “humors” (blood, phlegm, black bile, yellow bile) being in balance. The view dominated Western medicine until 1628, when the great anatomist and physician, William Harvey, began to change the thinking with his discovery that blood circulated in the body.
This began a process of scientific discovery that revolutionized medical practice with detailed study of anatomy and the emerging field of pharmaceutical science. The “rich dudes” would have known about this. In 1729, an Irish immigrant, Christopher Marshall, opened one of the first apothecaries (pharmacies) in the colonies, setting up in Philadelphia, PA. In 1752 The Philadelphia Hospital opened the first hospital pharmacy.
While blood-letting was still a thing in western medicine at the time, it was one of the last vestiges of humoral medicine. The Founding Fathers, several of whom were keen students of science, would know the idea of humors was passé.
In 1677 Robert Plot is credited with discovering the first dinosaur bone, but thought it belonged to a giant human. It wouldn’t be until 1824 that the Oxford geologist, William Buckland, would discover bones from the same creature as Robert Plot, and name it, Megalosaurus (Great Lizard).
So, yes, the Founding Fathers didn’t know about dinosaurs. Nobody at the time of our founding knew that dinosaurs existed. But what exactly the knowledge of dinosaurs has to do with systems of government seems to be an issue only in liberal minds.
Women and Lightbulbs
Women were never considered property by the Founders, and indeed the status of women was markedly different between unmarried and married women under Common Law. The arrangement was unfair in many ways from our point of view, but daughters and wives weren’t considered property, and the Revolution brought them rights they hadn’t had before.
If the meme’s author had studied their AP US History in High School — or even a good book on the subject — they would have known this. So here’s a bit from the AP US History study materials. For example: “A husband could not sell or mortgage the realty his wife brought to their marriage without her consent. … A wife also had important rights to the real property that her husband brought to the marriage or purchased afterwards. He could not sell or mortgage it unless she signed a statement signifying her free consent.”
Only a dimwit would have written this about lightbulbs. Benjamin Franklin was not only a Founding Father of the United States, he was also one of the Founding Fathers in the field of Electrical Science, and was world renowned in his lifetime for it.
Franklin designed an electric battery and coined that very term. He also coined the terms, “positive charge” and “negative charge.” He did experiments with Leyden Jars, used to store electricity, and discovered that electricity was stored in the material in the jars, and not in the water surrounding those materials. He also discovered that the amount of energy stored depended on the materials the jars were made of.
Even more, he discovered that electricity was not generated by rubbing two objects together, but was transferred from one object to the other. He thus contributed the Principle of Conservation of Electrical Charge, and used the terms “charging” and “discharging” to describe the transfer of electrical charge between two bodies. Based on his kite experiment, Franklin invented the lightning rod.
Had the Founding Fathers been shown a lightbulb they would have grasped almost immediately the principle by which it works, as parlor demonstrations of electricity were around since the early 1700s, and only grew in complexity and wonder because of Franklin’s discoveries.
The Great Lines
Far from being unenlightened rustics, the Founding Fathers were learned and sophisticated political thinkers. As I say, whether or not they knew about dinosaurs doesn’t matter in the least. Only a dimwit would think it did. They knew philosophy from Plato and Aristotle onward, they were up to date with the latest learning, they understood how science works and that knowledge grows. Has the meme-maker ever read their writings? Like the Federalist Papers, one of the classics of world political thought?
Those Founding Fathers thought deeply — as deeply as any practical politicians in human history — about human nature, the way societies and governments work, how vice can be restrained and virtue rewarded. These were the men who distilled 250 years of Enlightenment Philosophy into these few lines that set off revolutions around the world:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Then, they created a Constitution to make this as much of a political reality as humanly possible. And wisely knowing the imperfections of the system they set in place, they built in the machinery for future generations to amend the Constitution.
The Nation They Founded
They lived in the age of modern Medicine’s beginnings, Chemistry’s beginnings, Physics’ beginnings, Pharmaceutical Science’s beginnings, Paleontology’s beginnings, among others. They revolutionized the world as much as the world’s intellectual revolutions shaped them.
The nation they founded would rise up to lead the world in the industrial revolution, and most of the scientific and technological revolution of the latter 20th Century.
If the preamble to the Declaration of Independence is the distillation of 250 years of Enlightenment philosophy into just a few lines, this meme is the distillation of the left’s ignorance of the life, times, and contributions of the Founding Fathers, and the 246 subsequent years of the American experience.
Dr. Gerard M. Nadal holds a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology and medical microbiology, and has taught for more than 20 years at St. John’s University and Manhattan College, and most recently served as Academic Dean at Holy Apostles College and seminary. He is President and CEO of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer.