It just occured to me that it's the end of the month and I haven't given you all a "Picture of the Month" yet. So, here it is!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
On September 4, A.D. 476, a barbarian named Odoacer was placed on the Roman throne, ending the long line of Roman rulers that had lasted for centuries. Today, many historians mark this date as the fall of the Roman empire. The subject of Rome's fall has raised many controversies, and many fears. Why did Rome fall? How could such a powerful civilization, lasting nearly a millennium, crumble apart? If Rome fell, what does it mean for America? While many factors led to Rome's fall, the largest were economic and military troubles; which this paper will focus on. Our current economy, and military and foreign relation conditions in some ways resemble the Roman empire just before things began to get bad.
The Roman empire's economic failure played a great role in its fall. Some people theorize that a major cause of Rome's economic troubles was a decrease in farming and trade. From about 450 to 250 B.C., the Mediterranean area had a good climate for farming; and then a steady decrease in rainfall brought a steady decrease in agriculture. People flocked to towns, which in time became cities. The capital, where many people went, grew to a population of over one million by the first century A.D. (Nardo, The Fall of the Roman Empire, 61). Poverty became so bad that many people received free bread from the government. The price of land dropped, and rich farmers bought up huge estates, paving the way for the medieval feudal system.
When this happened, small independent farmers decreased in number, and large estates owned by rich people or the government increased in number. Don Nardo explains it well in his book The Fall of the Roman Empire: “Many of the peasants whose ancestors had owned and worked their own lands became the coloni; dependent tenant workers on the big estates; and over time the government passed laws binding these workers and their descendants both to their jobs and their respective geographic locations” (Nardo 65). People thus lost overall motivation and productivity declined.
Another huge factor in Rome's economic crisis was a decline in coinage value. It started when cheap metal alloys were used in coins instead of silver. When the value of coins dropped, the emperor Septimius Severus (197-211) tried to fix the problem by creating coins with even less silver content. However, this only made the economy worse. As barbarian tribes became a threat in the north, Severus needed more money to pay for his military, and issued higher taxes. This created a greater stress on the economy. His successor, Caracalla (211-217) followed many of the same policies as his father; excellently defending the empire's borders while allowing the internal issues, such as the economy, to grow worse and worse.
With each emperor that followed, Rome became more and more unstable. Trade continued to decline. Poverty and crime skyrocketed. Coinage became nearly worthless. Because soldiers' pay was so low, they started looting villages and farms of enemies and Romans. One emperor, Diocletian (284-305), finally broke the pattern of incapable rulers and tried to bring stability. While some of his changes may have helped, his attempts at reforming the economy failed. He thought he could fix the economy by regulating prices, but people did not like the government telling them how much they could make on goods, and often ignored or avoided the rules. Thus, the economy remained out of control. According to Peter Heather's book The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians: “By the early 470s... the Roman state's main problem was lack of money” (Heather 428).
The decline in Rome's military also contributed to its fall. Because of the economy, the government could not afford to hire more troops, and the army became smaller. Soldiers were not as well-trained and less disciplined. There was also a major loss in morale and national pride, and people did not want to join the army. Young men did whatever they could to avoid military service, including amputating their own thumbs. At first, the government burned these people, but eventually the need for recruits became so great that they forced them to serve in the military anyway (Nardo, The Fall of the Roman Empire, 74). The economy also caused the quality of weapons and armor to decrease.
Because of its weakened militaristic state, the Roman empire may seem like it was a prime target for invaders. Many historians blame the devastating wave of barbarian attacks for Rome's fall. As the French historian André Piganiol put it, “Roman civilization did not die a natural death. It was murdered” (Nardo, The Fall of the Roman Empire, 75). Yet despite the increase in barbarian attacks and the decrease in military strength that the Roman empire experienced, the empire was still strong enough that it should have held the barbarians off. The barbarians had inferior armor, training, and numbers to the Romans. In adding up all the barbarians that opposed Rome, it is estimated that 110-120,000 helped bring down the empire; while the estimated size of the Roman army was at least 300,000 in AD 375 (Heather 446). In fact, some people say it was double that size. How, then, could the barbarians have conquered the Roman empire?
There were a few factors that helped the barbarians become victorious. First, the Roman empire had enemies on two fronts: the barbarians in the north, and the Persians in the east. This made it hard for the Romans to concentrate their troops in either of the two areas. Persia grew into a superpower status in the third century, and became a massive threat to the Eastern Roman Empire; causing the attention of Rome to shift east. Thus, they were possibly more open to attack from the north, since those 300,000 men were not necessarily in full concentration where the barbarians attacked.
Second, the waves of barbarian attacks were increasing greatly. To give an idea of how frequent these waves were, here is a list of various barbarian invasions: In the 230s, Germanic tribes invaded the area around the Danube River. Just eight years later, and again in 251, Goths from north of the Black Sea raided Rome. They defeated and killed the emperor, Decius. In 260, the Alamanni people attacked northern Italy. Around that time, the Roman regions of Gaul and Spain were invaded by more barbarian tribes. Meanwhile, Sassanian Persians captured Antioch in 253. The emperor Valerian held them back for some time, then was captured and died as a prisoner (Nardo, The Fall of the Roman Empire, 81-82). The attacks from both the north and the east were becoming more than Rome could handle.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the empire was rotting from the core. The barbarians alone were not responsible for Rome's fall; they were only able to overcome it because it was already weak and deteriorating from internal issues. These issues included the economy, a loss in morale and patriotism, a corrupt government, weak leadership, a false sense of security and invincibility, awful poverty, increasing crime and disorder, a rise in immorality, escalation of divorce and destructions of families, and more. In a sense, the Romans were in a vicious and destructive cycle: as the internal issues got worse, the empire became weaker and more susceptible to attack; as the empire grew weaker, the barbarian invasions increased and became more devastating; as barbarian attacks became greater, the Romans were too preoccupied with fighting them to focus on internal issues, letting the internal issues grow worse; and thus the cycle continued. Each time the cycle completed its circle, the empire was crippled even further.
How does the Roman empire before its fall compare to America today? Find out in part 2... to be continued...
Fisher, David A., PhD. World History. Third Edition, 2009, Bob Jones University Press, Greenville, SC. Page 119.
Gill, N. S. “Fall of Rome – The End of the Roman Empire.”
Accessed 6 May 2010.
Heather, Peter. The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. 2006, Oxford University Press, Inc., New York City, NY
Murphy, Cullen. Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America. 2007, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York City, NY
Nardo, Don. The Fall of the Roman Empire. 1998, Greenhaven Press, Inc., San Diego, CA
Nardo, Don. From Founding to Fall: A History of Rome. 2003, Lucent Books, Farmington Hills, MI
Sunday, June 13, 2010
My blog now has a new look. Yay! I like to change things every so often... and I guess that includes my blog. Sometimes I get tired of seeing the same things over and over. I'm sure many of you can relate.
Speaking of "new", there are two new polls on the sidebar. Be sure to cast your vote! The current polls are: "What do you think about the Obama administration?" and "Who is your favorite Eld Lord from Curse of the Spider King?" Here are some polls that have been on this blog in the past:
2009 Poll: “What is your favorite type of book?”
Fantasy: 16 (72%)
Nonfiction: 2 (9%)
Historical Fiction: 4 (18%)
22 votes total
2009 Poll: “Who is your favorite Narnia character?”
Lucy: 5 (26%)
Edmund: 11 (57%)
Susan: 1 (5%)
Peter: 2 (10%)
19 votes total
2009 Poll: “Which of these Christin fantasy series have you read? (It counts if you've only read one book in the series.)”
-Dragons in our Midst: 5 (41%)
-The Kingdom Series: 4 (33%)
-The Chronicles of Narnia: 11 (91%)
-Binding of the Blade series: 3 (25%)
-The Sword of Lyric series: 1 (8%)
12 voters total
2009 Poll: “How Many Books Do You Read in a Year?”
1-2 Books: 0 (0%)
3-4 Books: 1 (5%)
5-10 Books: 5 (29%)
10-20 Books: 0 (0%)
More than 20 Books: 11 (64%)
Less than 1 Book: 0 (0%)
17 votes total
2009 Poll: “Who is Your Favorite American President of the Past?”
George Washington: 5 (27%)
Abraham Lincoln: 8 (44%)
Theodore Roosevelt: 2 (11%)
Ronald Reagan: 2 (11%)
George W. Bush: 1 (5%)
(also, I had put a few other presidents that no one voted as their favorite)
18 votes total
2009/2010 Poll: “What is your favorite thing about the Lord of the Rings trilogy? (Books and/or movies)”
The story: 0 (0%)
The characters: 2 (100%)
The setting (the world of Middle Earth): 0 (0%)
I don't like LOTR. 0 (0%)
2 votes total
2009/2010 Poll: “If you could visit any fantasy world, what would it be?”
Middle Earth, The Realm, Alagaesia (Inheritance Trilogy), and Kirthanin (Binding of the Blade) all had zero votes.
Arrethtrae (Kingdom Series): 1 (25%)
Narnia: 3 (75%)
4 votes total
2010 Poll: “According to Thomas Jefferson, When the government fears the people, there is liberty; When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. According to this definition, do you think the United States is in a state of liberty, or tyranny?”
Liberty: 2 (22%)
Tyranny: 7 (77%)
9 votes total
2010 Poll: “What is your favorite location in Lord of the Rings?”
The Shire: 3 (27%)
Rivendell 5 (45%)
Rohan: 1 (9%)
Mordor: 2 (18%)
11 votes total
One more random update: the futuristic novel that I began in November now has a word count of 11,942. My goal is somewhere around 40,000 words. So, I'm making progress, even if it's slow progress! =)
Thursday, June 3, 2010
In 1953, at the University of Chicago, graduate student Stanley Miller conducted a famous experiment that allegedly created “life”. Excited evolutionists and newspapers everywhere announced, “Life has been created!” While Miller technically did not create life, his experiment did produce the fundamental building blocks of life: amino acids. According to evolutionists, his experiment confirmed that in the earth's primitive environment, non-living chemicals could form amino acids; and in theory, those amino acids could then come together into proteins and make living cells. Many evolutionists believed this was a great leap forward in proving the theory of evolution; but how much did the experiment really prove? Let us examine his experiment and its results, and see what the evidence truly offers.
Stanley Miller in 1999, with his apparatus that "created life"
In his experiment, Miller used an apparatus with two flasks that were connected by glass tubes. One flask contained a mixture of gases – methane, ammonia, water vapor, and hydrogen – which represented the primitive atmosphere; the other contained boiling water to represent the primitive ocean. In the first flask, he continually sparked the gases with electricity to simulate the effects of lightning. Since he knew that the electric sparks would destroy any organic molecules they tried to create, he made a trap at the bottom of the apparatus that would catch any reaction products before they were destroyed. After about a week, he found a gunky mixture in the trap, consisting of about 98% tar, and 2% amino acids.
Diagram of Miller's apparatus
However, there are a number of problems with Miller's experiment. First of all, Miller conducted his experiment in an oxygen-free environment, because he knew that nothing could form in the presence of oxygen. This is because oxygen is extremely reactive, and will react with virtually everything it comes into contact with. Any element in a oxygen-containing environment will become oxidized before it can form amino acids or other compounds. Yet evidence has shown that oxygen has always been in our atmosphere. No matter how far geologists drill into the ground, they find oxidized rocks; even at the lowest, so-called “oldest” strata layers (Thomas www.icr.com).
In addition, it was already well-known in Miller's time that amino acids readily form in the right mixture of reducing (or “non-oxygen”) gases. So, Miller's experiment would not have proved anything new unless the conditions in his experiment resembled prebiotic earth (Meyer www.discovery.org). Miller himself said, “In this apparatus an attempt was made to duplicate a primitive atmosphere of the earth, and not to obtain the optimum conditions for the formation of amino acids” (Ibid).
Secondly, Miller's experiment produced both left-handed and right-handed amino acids. Only left-handed amino acids exist in living things; life could not form with the presence of right-handed amino acids. In a sense, Miller's experiment actually disproved evolution: it showed that when amino acids are created synthetically, equal amounts of left- and right-handed amino acids are produced; and thus, life cannot form.
Since his experiment, Miller has hypothesized an answer to this problem. He speculates that during the development of life, a pre-RNA molecule formed before it evolved into modern-day RNA; or in other words, life molecules somehow formed with both left- and right-handed amino acids, and then evolved into today's life molecules (Henahan www.accessexcellence.org). However, until some scientist figures out what such a molecule actually would be, and how it could possibly evolve into RNA, this question remains unanswered.
Thirdly, even if Miller's experiment did resemble the conditions in prebiotic earth, and even if it did produce only left-handed molecules, it took very high-level intelligence to get there. The whole point of the experiment was to prove that life could form randomly on its own in nature, without any intelligent assistance, and yet none of the results would have taken place without the careful oversight of Miller, and his science professor, Harold Urey. For an example, they only used short wavelength ultraviolet light, instead of both short and long wavelength, because they knew long wavelength would destroy the amino acids. However, in the real atmosphere both types of ultraviolet light would have definitely been present (Meyer www.discovery.org). They also had to remove oxygen from the apparatus, as we have seen, and use a trap to funnel out the amino acids before they could be destroyed by the electricity. In nature, there would be no such trap to protect the amino acids. Later, Miller himself admitted that his own experiment could not happen by chance outside a laboratory (Ferrell 233).
Even if all these things worked – if the perfect products were obtained, just as they would in nature, without any intelligent intervention – these products would have a long way to go before they could become life. The next step would be for these amino acids to form proteins, and this would be no easy task. It would be similar to randomly mixing together letters and expecting them to form words, sentences, and books. Proteins only function if the amino acids are in very, very specific arrangements. The chance for getting just 100 amino acids to form a functioning protein is 1 in 10^65 (Meyer www.discovery.org). That is 1 with 65 zeros after it! And remember, a protein can not even form unless all the amino acids involved are left-handed. The chances of randomly producing only left-handed amino acids for just one small protein is 1 in 10^210 (Ferrell 266). That is a staggeringly large number. To put it into perspective...
10^18 seconds is 10 billion years!
The weight of the earth is 10^26 ounces!
The universe has a diameter of 10^28 inches!
There are 10^80 elementary particles (electrons, protons, neutrons, photons, etc.) in the universe (Ibid)!
Considering these numbers, the chance of 1 in 10^210 is unfathomable. It is not a possibility; it is an impossibility.
And then, even after the amino acids formed proteins, the proteins would have to come together into cells. The least complex cell needs about one-hundred complex proteins (and other things like DNA and RNA) all working close together (Meyer www.discovery.org). At this point, chance is not even adequate to explain how impossible this is.
The evidence offered by Miller's experiment points to one thing: only God could have created life. When you consider life's most complicated and minuscule details, you will see that chance – even if given billions of years – could never have created it.
Farrell, Vance. The Evolution Handbook. Altamont, TN: Evolution Facts, Inc., 2001.
Henahan, Sean. “From Primordial Soup to Prebiotic Beach: An interview with exobiology pioneer, Dr. Stanley L. Miller.” October 1996. http://www.accessexcellence.org/WN/NM/miller.php
(accessed 12 May 2010)
A Question of Origins: Chapter 6. http://www.christiananswers.net/creation/aqoo/06-aqoo-en.html (accessed 12 May 2010)
Meyer, Stephen C. “DNA and Other Designs.” 1 April 2000. http://www.discovery.org/a/200
(accessed 14 May 2010)
Thomas, Brian M.S. “Ancient Oxygen-Rich Rocks Confound Evolutionary Timescale.” 8 April 2009. http://www.icr.org/article/ancient-oxygen-rich-rocks-confound/
(accessed 14 May 2010)