Ernestine Rose: "Geology speaks…"

During my time away, I had a gallop through the index of Doubt: A History. It’s been a while since I read the book, and all the women who doubted were scattered amongst the men who doubted, so I figured I’d list out the ladies. The basic method was finding their names in the index, then searching for their writing online. And in doing so, I rediscovered Ernestine Rose.

Ernestine Rose. Image courtesy National Museum of American Jewish History.

So here’s a woman born in 1810, a rabbi’s daughter, who started doubting by age 5 and rejected the Torah by 14. When her dear old dad betrothed her against her will, she took her case to court and won. That was Ernestine – if life threw her something she didn’t like, she found a way to fix it. She wasn’t about to accept tradition and authority as excuses.

She supported herself by inventing a new kind of room deodorizer, reached England by way of a shipwreck and started from scratch. Nothing seemed to daunt her. She fought for women’s rights, civil rights, abolition, public education, and woman’s suffrage. She was an unabashed atheist in a time when being an atheist was far more damaging than it is now. If she couldn’t get the support she needed, she went on with what she had until she’d won that support. When her health knocked her down, she took just enough time to heal and was right back into the fray.

She was an awesome woman, someone who’s fast becoming one of my personal heroines of the past, but I really became starstruck when I stumbled across her lecture “A Defense of Atheism.” I love it when geology gets a shout-out! And this one’s gloriously eloquent:

The question arises. Where shall we begin? We have been told, that “by searching none can find out God,” which has so far proved true; for, as yet, no one has ever been able to find him. The most strenuous believer has to acknowledge that it is only a belief, but he knows nothing on the subject. Where, then, shall we search for his existence? Enter the material world; ask the Sciences whether they can disclose the mystery? Geology speaks of the structure of the Earth, the formation of the different strata, of coal, of granite, of the whole mineral kingdom. It reveals the remains and traces of animals long extinct, but gives us no clue whereby we may prove the existence of a God.

Natural history gives us a knowledge of the animal kingdom in general; the different organisms, structures, and powers of the various species. Physiology teaches the nature of man, the laws that govern his being, the functions of the vital organs, and the conditions upon which alone health and life depend. … But in the whole animal economy—though the brain is considered to be a “microcosm,” in which may be traced a resemblance or relationship with everything in Nature—not a spot can be found to indicate the existence of a God.

Mathematics lays the foundation of all the exact sciences. It teaches the art of combining numbers, of calculating and measuring distances, how to solve problems, to weigh mountains, to fathom the depths of the ocean; but gives no directions how to ascertain the existence of a God.

Enter Nature’s great laboratory-Chemistry. She will speak to you of the various elements, their combinations and uses, of the gases constantly evolving and combining in different proportions, producing all the varied objects, the interesting and important phenomena we behold. She proves the indestructibility of matter, and its inherent property-motion; but in all her operations, no demonstrable fact can be obtained to indicate the existence of a God.

Astronomy tells us of the wonders of the Solar System-the eternally revolving planets, the rapidity and certainty of their motions, the distance from planet to planet, from star to star. It predicts with astonishing and marvellous precision the phenomena of eclipses, the visibility upon our Earth of comets, and proves the immutable law of gravitation, but is entirely silent on the existence of a God.

In fine, descend into the bowels of the Earth, and you will learn what it contains; into the depths of the ocean, and you will find the inhabitants of the great deep; but neither in the Earth above, nor the waters below, can you obtain any knowledge of his existence. Ascend into the heavens, and enter the “milky way,” go from planet to planet to the remotest star, and ask the eternally revolving systems, Where is God? and Echo answers, Where?

The Universe of Matter gives us no record of his existence.

One hundred and fifty-one years later, there’s still no record. Yet science has progressed in leaps, bounds, and long hard trudges. We’ve even discovered the Goddamn Particle, but no trace of God. Funny, that. You’d think this God person might be a figment of the imagination or something.

I think Ernestine would be delighted with science now. Not so pleased with where we are on women’s rights, though – I expect she’d expect us to have achieved actual equality by now, and not have to be fighting things like unequal pay, the dearth of women in STEM careers, and for the basic right to birth control. It’s been one hundred and fifty-one years. Why are we still fighting for basic rights and respect?

Ernestine Rose: "Geology speaks…"

Accretionary Wedge #49 – Posts Due This Friday!

A few of you have reported to Mission Control, but we haven’t got a full ship yet. Don’t forget to send me your posts by the end of day Friday, September 7th.* We’ll be blasting off over the weekend!

Layers at the Base of Mount Sharp. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

This is an incredibly exciting time for geology – we’re doing astrogeology, people. Or exogeology, or whatever we end up calling it. That’s us, sending robots to other planets, exploring the local landforms millions of miles away.

Inspiring, yeah? Hope it inspires some truly otherworldly posts!


*If you have any difficulty posting in comments, please email your link to dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. It won’t do to leave anyone behind.

Accretionary Wedge #49 – Posts Due This Friday!

UFD: The Only Unabashed Bird on Mount St. Helens

I know. I have an inbox full of UFDs from other parts of the country, even the world, some of which may pose an actual challenge, and here I am posting yet another Pacific Northwest UFD that you’ll probably have identified within, like, 30 seconds.


Thing is, it’s the only damned bird I photographed at Mount St. Helens. I think I know what it is, but I’m not positive. And it’s a denizen of Mount St. Helens, which sort of fits the theme we’ve had going on for a while.

You have no idea how excited I was when I saw this little bugger perched on a lamp post at Johnston Ridge Observatory. I’d just spent the majority of two days hearing birds everywhere. Nearly every stop, on every hike, birds burbling in the trees, rustling round in bushes, letting me know they were there and weren’t about to pose. On the hummocks trail, some absolutely adorable fluffy golden ones were busily flitting here and there, tweeting madly, and I actually saw them – behind enough branches to confound my camera. I was desperate. And then, at very nearly the last minute – a bird! A bird not flying away!!


So it’s probably a common species. We’ve possibly even identified it before. It’s not the greatest set of shots in the world. But it’s mine, my only MSH bird, and I loves it. Hopefully, so do you. If not, there will be more and better birds along shortly.

UFD: The Only Unabashed Bird on Mount St. Helens

A Rare Second Chance to See a Pirate Woman's Life – and Help Burien Little Theatre

It’s the time o’ year when Burien Little Theatre does its fundraising for the year. It’s a little simpler than the madness that was 9-10-11 – no 24-hour fundraisers this time. Instead, you get a rare second chance to see a pirate woman’s tale:

Anna Richardson stars in two special fundraising performance of “Bold Grace: The Voyages of the Pirate O’Malley”, Sept. 7 and 8, 2012. Photo by Mike Wilson, poster by Craig Orsinger.

I saw this last year, and it was awesome. Grace O’Malley was an amazing woman, and this play does an outstanding job telling the story of her remarkable life. So if you’re in the Seattle area, go see, and help Burien Little Theatre present another fantastic season.


A Rare Second Chance to See a Pirate Woman's Life – and Help Burien Little Theatre

Damn You, Patheos!

First they stole Libby Anne, which was annoying enough – she’s one of my favorite bloggers, and I was delighted when she joined us. But now they’ve poached JT Eberhard, and that’s where I must draw the line, damn it. One of the best things about joining FtB was having the honor of sharing the same network as one of my personal heroes.

JT Eberhard. Photo courtesy MikeSheridan89.

I’ve been kind of stunned into silence by the whole thing. I mean, on the one hand, JT’s embarked on a career as a full-time writer and lecturer, which is fantastic, and I’m thrilled for him. On the other hand, I’m gonna miss having his ass around here. You have no idea how much fun it is to work with him. It’s been a pleasure getting to know him not just as a blogger and an activist, but as a friend.

I’m glad Patheos recognizes his talent, but I’ll never forgive them for stealing him away. And I have a personal message for them, which I hope they’ll pay attention to:

Look, you fuckers: stop picking us off one-by-one. Since you obviously have discerning taste and like so many FtBloggers, just offer to move the whole damned network over there and be done with it. Then I can be with JT and Libby Anne again. *sniffle*

Ah, well, I still have all the other bloggers who make FtB great – until Patheos gets round to snatching them up, too. JT may have moved to a different network, but he’s still one of us, and still my friend. And I have you, my darlings. (Attention, Patheos: If you steal my readership next, I will understand it as a declaration of blog war. You have been warned.)

I’m not going to say I hope JT succeeds in his new endeavors, because I know he will. It would be like hoping water continues being H2O. I’m just going to say that Patheos had better treat him right, or else, and that I hope he gets a speaking gig in Seattle very soon, because there’s a drink out here with his name upon it.

Visit his new digs and wish him well. Also, have popcorn handy. Now that he’s not got a day job, that means the leash is off. This should be fun

Damn You, Patheos!