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Re: 2400-word Case For Giant Pre-Columbus American Populations

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Posted by M.W.Pearson on March 10, 2002 06:09:02 UTC

ya wrote:
"What makes you think otherwise. The European penchant for slaves is well known. And half of them died before they did any useful work. We are living with the descendants of the other half."

Ya, these persons are precious and it is a tragedy. If we ever have a chance again...but we do!
There were an estimated 200 million slaves in the world around 1990…according to Britain’s Geographic Magazine*...

Ya wrote:
"Please let us know why you deny such a obvious European failing"

I've answered part of this in a nearby post.

In the book you cited, the chapter which covers all the history before the founding of the United States is all of 2400 words. Not quite exhaustive proof, but a start. I don’t see footnotes or bibliography.

Some quotes and my comments:

Zinn wrote: "The chief source-and, on many matters the only source-of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus came is Bartolome de las Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba. For a time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty."

My response: las Casas' tales of the cruelty deserve some creedence. About the numbers, I'm not so sure. Among his numbers:
"... mountains are stripped from top to bottom and bottom to top a thousand times.

Really? A thousand times?

Las Casas is quoted as saying:
In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the 250,000 Indians on Haiti were dead."

Please believe I feel this is no way to behave.
I am sad for the loss. What I am writing about is about the importance of questioning accounts and popular legends. Maybe the numbers are wrong.

He wrote:

"The Indian population of 10 million that lived north of Mexico when Columbus came would ultimately be reduced to less than a million."

I respond only briefly; I think the burden of proof is on the person proclaiming a number.
I doubt it in good faith.
After saying they stripped mountains a thousand times, I wonder if he did a real good census.
Combine this with the following, please.

Your source wrote:
"Huge numbers of Indians would die from diseases introduced by the whites. A Dutch traveler in New Netherland wrote in 1656 that "the Indians . . . affirm, that before the arrival of the Christians, and before the smallpox broke out amongst them, they were ten times as numerous as they now are, and that their population had been melted down by this disease, whereof nine-tenths of them have died." "

An anonymous Dutch traveler reports that Indians, who elsewhere kept no account of property, did keep counts of their own populations in the area around New York so they can tell the difference between five times as many and ten times as many. If we can accept that, we are, however, not being told that this is census extends to the entire continent. So your source does not cite any source for his number given below that
there were 10 million on the continent. NO source. Uh oh.

A few points...
1) Will we also account for the damage to Native Europeans of having tribes and armies sweep in from Asia (Mongols and Aryans, for example)
and the Mediterranean (Romans and Moors, for example)?
2) We KNOW that plagues killed millions in Europe (where there were huge cities, so we know there were millions living there) but we didn't say,"The plague, though not understood by its carriers, came from (name a continent or country) and so we accuse them of murder!" We CAN say that most likely, the plague diseases incubated in the tropics of Asia or Africa.

Your author paraphrases his sources:
"...much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance..."

Well, that's a little ham-handed. Did the author do a study amongst the common people in each region of Europe? There's a quote that the Renaissance was a time of mayhem, whilst non-Renaissance Europe was over-controlled but somewhat a land of peace and fellowship in the context of its largely illiterate times. Not all of Europe can be described as your source describes it. There were indeed generous Europeans.
As Jefferson said,"I tremble for my country when I realize that God is just." I tremble when I realize the love that was lost for gold. Well, maybe they could say this in other lands too.

Las Casas wrote:
"My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write...."
He was talking about cruelty, and I could not criticize him on this.

Your source wrote:
"...if his figures are exaggerations (were there 3 million Indians to begin with, as he says, or less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or 8 million as others now believe?)

I reply:
"others now believe" is still not enough authority. I want more.

I tried to reply to your question.


And finally for the footnote from my first point:

* And of today's 200 million slaves in the world today, how many are slaves to Europeans as compared to those who are slaves to others? If we consider the causes of poverty, we can make a case that slavery is often a result of the pressures of the currency system. But that would be a level of complexity you (so far) have not been willing to explore.. Do you agree that even if the numbers and implications cited in the book turn out to be correct and I was mistaken, it would be proper for me to question them until satisfied, especially in such a large question?


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