Is the Bible trustworthy?


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This is an article I wrote for American writing site Helium now defunct.

In my view, the Bible is one of the least trustworthy (purportedly) non-fiction works ever written. Let’s look at the background of the New Testament first. No original manuscripts remain and we are unsure who wrote them or when. For the gospels, there are various dates given, usually a range of dates, and often quite a wide range spanning several decades. The earliest generally accepted date for one or two of the gospels is probably from about the mid 60s CE. Why wait more than 30 years before putting reed to papyrus, as it were, if Jesus was such an important person?

There is much debate over which of the four gospels was written first. Matthew is traditionally first, although Mark is increasingly thought to be first, while some even think Luke was first. There is the synoptic problem among these three books, which are far too close to one another to have been written by three independent authors. Yet there are some odd inconsistencies such as Jesus’ ancestry between Mark and Luke. Matthew probably didn’t write the gospel attributed to him. Luke may have written Acts too, although both books may have been partly written by or sourced from Josephus. Mark probably wrote his gospel, but whether he was a witness is pure speculation. John’s book is regarded as an unreliable source of Jesus’ life and may have been written by several authors, including for example Cerinthus in the 2nd century. The four traditional writers were rejected as early as c. 100 CE.

Authorship of many of the other New Testament books has also been questioned for a long time. Authors and dates can be guesswork when, apart from a fragment of the Book of John, there is nothing else before c. 200 CE, with the earliest manuscripts for many books dating to the 3rd or 4th century.

Most of the numerous changes to the original biblical manuscripts came in the first few centuries. There was much bickering among early Christians as to what was scripture, and various christological issues were hotly debated. This meant that documents went through more changes than other less controversial documents. Many of the writings were chopped and changed amid followers accusing one another of corrupting text. Second century philosopher Celsus said that some of the writers “changed the original text of the gospels three or four times or even more, with the intention of thus being able to destroy the arguments of their critics”. Tatian’s Diatessaron was one of a number of works that aimed to rewrite the gospels as a narrative, fixing conflicting passages and eliminating duplication. In the third century, Origen admitted that “there is much diversity among the manuscripts, due either to the carelessness of the scribes, or to the perverse audacity of some people in correcting the text, or again to the fact that there are those who add or delete as they please, setting themselves up as correctors”. Many other early church leaders, such as Jerome and Augustine, were concerned about the extent of changes to biblical documents.

Further, there are issues with language itself. Many early New Testament manuscripts, such as Paul’s letters, used no punctuation and this was added later. The inadvertent wrong placement, or omission, of punctuation can completely change the meaning. Also, the Hebrew and ancient Greek languages have idioms that are difficult to translate. And then there is the problem of finding scribes fluent in old and new languages.

‘Proofs’ of the Bible’s accuracy often date back to the 19th century and the methods never seem to be explained. A figure that is often quoted as the degree of accuracy of the New Testament is 99.5%, although the original source is puzzling. It is sometimes sourced to Bruce Metzger’s 1963 publication, Chapters in the History of New Testament Textual Criticism, but the problem is that there is no mention of 99.5% or any similar figure in Metzger, or any other original source that I know of.

The figure of 99.5% or anything close to it is most unlikely. Less than 1% of the 5700-odd New Testament manuscripts are complete and less than 10% include most of it. None of them are originals and every single one is different. About half of the manuscripts date to the 12th or 13th century or later, and less than 3% date back to ancient times. At least 80% of the manuscripts are in Byzantine text and are therefore unreliable, but this was the predominant text used from c. 600 CE until the advent of printing in the 15th century; and these were the manuscripts used for the early printed editions. New editions of the Greek New Testament don’t tend to use the Byzantine text manuscripts. There have been thousands of versions of the Bible through the ages. By c. 1500 a version of the Latin Vulgate was regarded as no longer following the gospel. In fact, the church wandered so far from biblical teachings by the 16th century that it split. The King James version contains thousands of errors.

A study of accuracy for which there is evidence is by Aland and Aland in their 1995 publication, The Text Of The New Testament. They compare Nestle-Aland’s Greek New Testament with seven other editions and conclude that 62.9% of verses in the Nestle-Aland version differ from at least one of these editions. This excludes differences in spelling or of one word. The proportion of variant-free verses is highest for 1 Timothy at 81.4% (the only one above 80%) and lowest for Mark at 45.1% accuracy. The gospels together score just 54.5%, with none being above 60%.

Another study, by Aland, Black, Martini, Metzger and Wikgren in 1968 using slightly different criteria, found that 81.8% of verses of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament were textually certain, 1.6% were virtually certain, 6.1% were doubtful to some degree, 8.8% were of considerable doubt and 1.7% were very highly doubtful. Adding in the ‘virtually certains’, this gives an accuracy of 83.4%. In other words, there was uncertainty with over 1300 verses, including more than 830 of considerable doubt or worse.

These studies only consider variations between different versions. Neither study takes into account that much of what is in the Bible is arguably fiction to start with, such as many or most references to Jesus, given that a historical figure can’t be reliably found in any non-biblical source. And there’s no mention of Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls. His birth and death dates are usually given as a range of possible dates spanning several years. Islam believes the crucifixion was an illusion. If there was a three hour eclipse and an earthquake, hundreds of thousands of people would have witnessed it, and the time, day, month and year of Jesus’ death would have been well known and written in various documents, biblical and nonbiblical by the late first century. And whatever happened to Paul’s 500 witnesses?

Numerous articles, books and websites point out specific textual and other problems with the Bible. One that I like is Joe Wallack’s site, It is not necessarily the best one or the worst one, but it’s well structured and goes through the verses of the first five books in turn. One of my favorite biblical errors, and an important one in my view, isn’t among the 1001 errors. This is the inconsistency over the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. John 19:14 suggests Jesus’ crucifixion was sometime after the sixth hour, while Mark 15:25, says it was at the third hour. Christians try and explain away this contradiction by saying that John was using the Roman system of counting hours from midnight. The problem is that although the Romans’ civil day went from midnight to midnight, they counted their hours from sunrise to sunset and from sunset to sunrise. No one counted hours from midnight. To do so would assume 24 hours of equal length all year round, and clocks simply weren’t accurate or practical enough for this to happen. Daytime was divided into 12 equal hours that varied in length according to the time of year. Thus when John said the sixth hour and Mark said the third hour, they were both counting hours in the usual way and meant early to mid morning and middle of the day respectively. Whoever wrote this part of John, 60 or so years after the crucifixion, probably thought the death occurred early during the alleged eclipse, whereas Mark believed the eclipse came about three hours after Jesus’ death.

Is the Old Testament any more trustworthy? It probably is, but not greatly so. The earliest Old Testament writings probably date to c. 1200 BCE. Yet the reference period goes several thousand years further back. Accurate accounts of the period would have been impossible. Writings would have been based on oral stories handed down over generations, complete with embellishments, gaps, and errors increasing with each generation. But people wanted answers such as where did they come from. An author who was able to reduce this to a manageable number of generations had more credence. Thus there are tall stories of people living many hundreds of years.

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is Noah’s Ark and how the earth was covered in water to a depth of twenty feet above the highest mountain after forty days of rain. Let’s stop to think what this means. Coastal plains would be under about five and a half miles of water, and the oceans and seas would be five and a half miles deeper than usual. Five and a half miles is 348,480 inches. If this amount of rain fell in 40 days, that would be an average of 8712 inches a day, 363 inches an hour and 6.05 inches a minute, worldwide. Rainfall intensity records as at 2006 are given as 73.62 inches in a day at Reunion Island in 1952, 15.78 inches in an hour at Shangdi, China in 1975 and 1.50 inches in one minute at Guadeloupe in 1970 (see This means that rain resulting in the biblical flood would have been four times the intensity of the heaviest rainfall ever recorded over one minute and this had to last 40 days across the whole planet. Noah’s family, the animals, and the ark would have been obliterated by rain like sheets of concrete. Nothing would have survived the rain, let alone the flood. Apart from all this, the rain has to come from somewhere. You can’t have this much evaporation and condensation in a short period.

As another example of the untrustworthiness of the Old Testament, let’s look at the prophecies. Many prophecies made in the Old Testament are allegedly confirmed in the New Testament. But let’s pick one of the trickier, harder-to-refute ones, complete with time scale rather than just a vague statement. It would be easy to say the Old Testament predicted the birth of Jesus and this came true in the New Testament, even though it was written best part of a century after the event, and there’s no corroborative evidence, or any firm date as to when it happened, only a range of dates that generally extend from 8 BCE to 2 BCE.

So let’s try something more difficult. Many of the prophecies relate to a resurgence of the Jews and of Israel. I’ll work through the one that seemingly prophesies the exact day of Israel’s re-establishment on 14 May 1948. We can get this from Ezekiel 4:3-6 and Leviticus 26:18, 26:21, 26:24 and 26:28, which refer to a set period of punishment of the Jews, although I don’t think there’s any explicit reference to a re-establishment anywhere in the Bible. The sevenfold punishment of the Jews for not returning to their homeland started in 536 BCE, 70 years after an initial punishment of 430 years. Thus, multiplying 360 by 7 equals 2520 years. According to the Bible, the year length in those days was 360 days, so adjusting for this, we purportedly arrive at 2484 years exactly (sometimes it’s given as 2485 years) between the first day of the Babylonian month of Nissan and the Gregorian 14 May 1948. Incidentally, 2484 solar years equals 907,281 days if you assume a solar year is 365.25 days. Using the more accurate 365.2424 day solar year gives 907,262 days. Multiplying 2520 years by 360 gives 907,200. So for a start, the timing is out by 2-3 months. That’s still close. But wait a minute.

The biblical year of 360 days is also mentioned by Africanus, Isaac Newton, Robert Anderson and others. They’re not wrong. Most years were indeed 360 days in length in those times. However, just as we add a leap day every fourth year to stay in line with the solar year, most ancient civilisations added a 13th month every few years, or they added a few days at year’s end. Thus these calendars were lunisolar. The calendars tended to be a bit all over the place. And there were numerous regional variations. But at the time, there were no lengthy periods where each and every year was 360 days. In the long-term, the average length of a calendar year equalled a solar year. Agriculture and thus human life depended on it! Every calendar the Jews came into contact with to any extent between 536 BCE and 45 BCE when the Julian calendar came into effect in Rome was lunisolar. These calendars were the Hebrew calendar and those of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires, when Israel was part of these empires. References to any long period of years would have been to solar years. Thus the date of the re-establishment of Israel differed from that prophesised in the Bible by about 36 years.

There’s another interesting little glitch in the argument. The difference between 536 BCE and 1948 CE is often given as 2484 years, by simply adding the numbers. The problem is that there was no year 0, either BCE or CE. Thus the elapsed time between these two dates is actually 2483 years. Had there been a year 0 BCE or a year 0 CE, then the interval would be 2484 years. Had there been both a year 0 BCE and a year 0 CE, then the interval would be 2485 years.

The final nail in the coffin of this prophecy relates to the fact that the date of 14 May 1948 as the biblical end of the Jews’ punishment has been known since medieval times. Back then, however, access to documents was limited and if the Old Testament talked about a 360 day year, it was probably assumed that all years at that time were 360 days rather than most years. There is nothing in the Bible about BC or AD or no year zero as this was all worked out many years after the Bible had become reasonably set. Scholars made the calculations using what information they had, and locked in 14 May 1948, which carried into modern times.

Something important was always going to happen on this date. Jews started moving back to Israel from the Middle Ages. Migration increased and it was strong by the 1880s, probably partly due to knowledge of the 14 May 1948 date. By the late 19th century there was a move to re-establish a Jewish state, and the Zionist Organization was formed in 1897. Then there were the British government’s Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920, which was supported by the Palestine Mandate of the League of Nations in 1922. The 14 May 1948 date was known by world leaders, including Hitler, as well as leading industrialists who included Christians and Bible-reading Jews. The United Nations Partition Plan was in 1947, and Israel declared its own independence one day before British withdrawal, a date obviously worked out in advance. The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel contains historical background, including reference to “freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel”.

By reading some of the Christian sites, a reader could get the impression that sometime after Israel was re-established, someone happened to pick up a Bible, did some calculations and made an amazing discovering that the re-establishment was on the exact day prophesised two and a half millennia ago, as if nothing had been previously known about the date. But as we’ve seen, no incredible coincidence or miracle was involved. It was all quite planned, even if it was out by 36 years.

In conclusion, the Bible is such a mixture of facts, part-truths, errors, contradictions and pure fiction that it cannot be relied upon as a trustworthy source of information.


How the United States got to have national daylight saving time in WWII


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The United States resumes daylight saving time on Sunday 4 November. Here’s another excerpt from my book on the history of daylight saving time around the world, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, available at Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Google. This excerpt looks at the lead-up to national daylight saving time in the United States during World War II …

With the war escalating in Europe, the United States became increasingly concerned for its friends across the Atlantic and for its own defence. By 1940, it was sending war materials and money to the Allies, which was stepped up after France fell in spring. American volunteers were helping out in aircraft squadrons despite it being illegal, and the country was sending billions of dollars in food, oil and equipment under the Lend-Lease agreement after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Various people and organisations were calling for national daylight saving to redirect energy into the country’s defence efforts by early 1941, including business groups such as the Merchants’ Association of New York, interior secretary Harold Ickes, and Robert Garland, often regarded as the “father of daylight saving” in the United States and who had recently retired after 28 years as a Pittsburgh councillor. Ickes felt that substantial fuel savings could be had from daylight saving but also called for priorities and restrictions, believing that making aluminium was more important than night baseball. Power shortages were also evident in drought areas that relied on hydroelectricity. Industrialists pushed for continuous daylight saving, while defence chiefs wanted two hours of the measure. Bills were introduced for federal daylight time.

President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress on 15 July to draft a bill to give him broad power to implement daylight saving, including on a national or regional basis, just in the summer or continuously, and for one or two hours. He wrote to the governors of south-eastern states where power shortages were particularly acute asking them to initiate daylight saving. A week later, the governors of Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and South Carolina issued proclamations, while Georgia, Florida and Louisiana refused, and North Carolina and Virginia at first took no action but later agreed to the measure. As governors didn’t have authority to order a change in time, the proclamations only applied to state offices and not to businesses and citizens, who would have to act on a voluntary basis perhaps encouraged to varying degrees by their governor and other politicians. One person who was less than enthusiastic was South Carolina representative and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Hampton Fulmer, who said that “the farmers wouldn’t even set their clocks ahead … It might be all right in big cities but in the little old country villages and farms, it would be nonsense. They wouldn’t pay any attention to it.”[1]

Overall support for daylight saving was strong though, as evidenced by a Gallup poll in June 1941 (see following table [see book]). Respondents were asked: “To save electricity and to increase daylight working hours, it has been suggested that the entire country be put on daylight saving time until the end of September. Do you favor or oppose this suggestion?” Now that the country’s security was at stake, many people changed their minds about daylight saving. Results showed that all parts of the country were happy to have the measure on a national basis, including the South region [which had been opposed to it in a poll in April 1940] where approval was at 64 per cent, while only 16 per cent were opposed and 20 per cent were undecided. Nationwide, two-thirds of people would be happy with daylight saving and just one-fifth against the idea.

Continuous daylight saving was less popular. As part of the same survey, people were asked: “Would you favor or oppose keeping the country on daylight saving time throughout the coming year?” Just 38 per cent favoured this proposition, 41 per cent opposed it and 21 per cent were undecided. Only New England and Middle Atlantic showed majority support (see table [see book]).

Despite strong support for the measure by the public, the plan for national daylight saving was shelved on 5 December 1941 due to lack of interest by Congress. Two days later, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and America declared war on Japan the next day. The United States immediately stepped up its assistance to the Allies, which led to Germany declaring war on the US on 11 December to which America reciprocated on the same day. Talks on daylight saving resumed by mid month, including the option of all year fast time for the duration of the war and beyond.

Another Gallup poll in December showed an increase in support for continuous daylight saving although the surveys aren’t strictly comparable over time due to different wording in questions and a new set of circumstances with America now at war. This time, respondents were asked: “As long as the war lasts, would you favor or oppose daylight saving time in your community for the entire year?” The poll found 57 per cent of people approved of the plan, 30 per cent didn’t and 13 per cent were undecided (see following table [see book]). In each region, considerably more residents backed the policy than disliked it. The Far West now had the second highest proportion in favour, probably due to the threat across the Pacific. Support for the proposal was higher in larger cities than smaller ones. Resistance continued from farmers, with just 36 per cent supporting it. A North Dakota farmer commented: “You can’t change a cow’s milk habits to fit the clock, or evaporate the morning dew an hour earlier.”

In January 1942, Congress debated the bill to give the president the power to order daylight saving of up to two hours, regionally or nationally, and all year or just in summer. The House didn’t want to give him this much flexibility and set down a few specifics, including just an hour of daylight saving across the country on a continuous basis. Support for advanced time year round was strong among representatives as peak demand for electricity in the evening was higher in winter than summer and keeping the clocks ahead all year would conserve a considerable amount of extra fuel. The amendments were made and the bill was passed by both houses. Daylight saving would start 20 days after the president signed the bill and extend to six months after the end of the war or some earlier date approved by Congress.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Chamber of Commerce wanted the Interstate Commerce Commission to move the southern part of the state to Pacific time as this would put it in its true zone rather than in Mountain time. Standard time in capital city Boise was 45 minutes ahead of local time. With year round daylight saving added on, sunrise would be as late as about 9:20 a.m. in winter. Other areas would also be disadvantaged by the new time, such as parts of Ohio and Michigan which had been transferred from Central to Eastern time in 1936 and would effectively have two hours of daylight saving. However, no changes were made to standard time zones.

Roosevelt agreed to the amendments to the bill and signed it on 20 January. It became “An Act to promote the national security and defense by establishing daylight saving time”. The measure began on 9 February for all federal government and interstate commerce activities, and the government was confident the rest of the country would follow. A week before daylight saving was due to start, the government labelled it “War Time” and the Eastern time zone, for example, would be on Eastern War Time.

[1] “Daylight saving assured despite farm opposition”, Dunkirk Evening Observer, Dunkirk, New York, United States, 16 July 1941, p. 1, (subscription only), at 

DST book cover

The lead-up to year round daylight saving time in the UK in the 1960s


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The United Kingdom goes onto daylight saving time once again on 28 October. Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, on the lead-up to the United Kingdom’s experiment with permanent daylight saving time or GMT+1 in 1968-71. The move was controversial and almost straightaway there were various studies and moves to rescind it. …

The question of harmonising British time with Europe came up again in parliament in 1963. Most of the Continent didn’t have daylight saving at that time although many countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands were effectively on year round summer time with clocks 40-50 minutes ahead of the sun in their capital cities. The United Kingdom was on the same time as its European trading partners for seven months each year but was one hour behind in the other five months. Support for staying on GMT+1 all year was strong among business and workers as shown by the 1960 survey but not among the farming community or the education sector. By late December, sunrise wouldn’t be until after 9 a.m. in London and around 9:45 a.m. in Edinburgh.

In general, the tide of opinion was thought to be moving in the direction of keeping the clocks forward. In October 1966, just before the end of daylight saving, a motion was introduced into the House of Commons to align with Western Europe all year:

“That this House, recognising the success of the experimental extensions to the period of British Summer Time and that reversion to Greenwich Mean Time will unnecessarily hamper commercial communication with Europe, urges Her Majesty’s Government to bring Great Britain into line with Europe by adopting British Summer Time, mid-European time, throughout the whole year.”[1]

Home secretary Roy Jenkins undertook a review into the matter in 1966 and 1967, consulting with 87 organisations in agriculture, industry, commerce, construction, energy, education, travel, health, sport, women’s groups, local government, and other areas. He was able to report in March that the Trades Union Congress supported the proposal. The congress had been in favour of continuous daylight saving back in 1960. Jenkins finished his inquiry and was satisfied that shifting the United Kingdom’s time zone to GMT+1 after the end of summer time in 1968 would be in the best interests of the country. An announcement to this effect was made on 22 June 1967.

There seemed to be little backlash to what would in effect be a move to ongoing daylight saving time. Even the Farmers’ Union of Scotland more or less accepted the decision, with president Mr C Young stating: “We do not like it and we do not see the need for it, but we will put up with it if it is in the national interest.” A public opinion poll found that 45 per cent of people approved of the government’s proposal while 25 per cent didn’t want any change and 27 per cent had no particular view.

Daylight saving in 1968 would commence on the earlier date of 18 February for several reasons. It would accustom people to the new time before a permanent change. Sunrise in London would be at about the same clock time, just after 8 a.m., as in late December. Sunset would be 6:20 p.m., after peak traffic, which should mean fewer road deaths and injuries. Clocks would then remain one hour ahead rather than being wound back in October.

A name was needed for the proposed new time arrangement as British Summer Time would no longer be appropriate. Home secretary James Callaghan called for suggestions from members, the media and the public as to what the new time should be called. He received over 100 different names, such as British European Time, British Standard Time, Central European Time, Mid-European Time, Western European Time, Churchill Time, Willett Time, Advance Time, Advanced Meridian Time, Civil Time, Common Time, Mean Civil Time, and Permanent Time. Names that included Greenwich were Advanced Greenwich Time, Greenwich Advanced Time, Greenwich Ante-Meridianal Time, Greenwich British Time, Greenwich Global Time, Greenwich Less One, Greenwich Mean Time Advanced, Greenwich Plus Time, Greenwich Time, New Greenwich Mean Time, and Plus Greenwich. Some novelty names included Orbitim, Orbitime, Orbitum, Same All the Year Round Time, Solar Plus, Solar Time, and Solextra.

Two newspapers ran naming competitions and British Standard Time was selected by one paper as the most favoured choice by far. Callaghan agreed with it. The name was the standout choice in the government poll too, being more than five times as popular as the second favourite pick. In the House of Lords, 61 preferred British Standard Time to Advanced Greenwich Time and 49 favoured the latter. Greenwich Mean Time would be retained for astronomy, meteorology and navigation.

The British Standard Time Bill was introduced into the House of Lords in November 1967. Minister of state Lord Stonham stressed that the proposed change in time zone wasn’t so much due to the United Kingdom trying to join the European Economic Community but to expected improvements in the overall economy after weighing up the advantages for productivity, energy, communication and transport with the disadvantages for agriculture and construction. On the social side were the greater opportunities for outdoor sport and other activities, the expected reduction in road accidents, relative safety for school children heading to school in the dark compared with walking home after nightfall, and not having to alter the clocks twice a year. After a lengthy debate, the bill passed the second reading by 49 votes to 13. Later it was read a third time and sent to the Commons where an even longer debate was followed by a 179 to 61 second reading vote at about 11 p.m.

The bill was eventually passed and became the British Standard Time Act 1968 on 26 July. Plenty of concerns remained, such as children in the north walking to school in the dark who would be encouraged to wear reflective armbands as well as vests and cuffs for visibility, especially as some local governments turned off street lighting at midnight. By May 1968, secretary of state for Scotland William Ross had received 114 representations from local councils, churches, agricultural and other organisations, private firms and individuals against moving permanently to GMT+1 and none in support of it. A few representations had been received by the Home Department from England, three from Wales and none from Northern Ireland by late in the year.

After more than 50 years of daylight saving, the United Kingdom abandoned the practice and instead shifted to GMT+1, which would be used 12 months of the year, initially as a three year trial from 27 October 1968.

[1] Parliament of the United Kingdom, Hansard, House of Commons, 23 March 1967, at

For more, see The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, available at Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Google.

DST book cover

Tasmania was first Australian state to have daylight saving time


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Much of Australia goes onto daylight saving time this Sunday. This includes New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, but not Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory which do not have daylight saving. It is usually reported that all of Australia first had daylight saving time on 1 January 1917 under federal legislation during World War I. Tasmania actually had daylight saving from 1 October 1916. It also had daylight saving in 1917-18 and 1918-19 when the rest of Australia stayed on standard time and this is not commonly reported either.

The following excerpt is from my book, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, and is from the start of the 13 page chapter on Tasmania, ‘Apple Isle leads the way’.

“Tasmania was the first Australian state to introduce daylight saving time. This took place in October 1916, three months before federal legislation put the other five states, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, on daylight saving in January 1917. The Apple Isle turned its clocks forward for three summers during World War I, 1916-17, 1917-18 and 1918-19, whereas the other states opted out as soon as the federal government allowed them to in March 1917. Tasmania was also first with daylight saving in the post-World War II period, readopting it in 1967-68, four years ahead of other states.

The location and size of Tasmania probably makes it more suited to daylight saving than other Australian states, which are larger and warmer. The Apple Isle has a cool temperate climate, not unlike the United Kingdom and parts of Europe and North America. It is small, covering an area of around 68,000 square kilometres (26,000 square miles) or about half the size of England and, excluding small islands, extends roughly from latitude 40.7 degrees to 43.6 degrees south and from longitude 144.6 degrees to 148.3 degrees east. The state doesn’t have to worry about large differences in solar time between west and east or warm evenings. Sunrise and sunset times in capital city Hobart in midsummer would be about 4:30 a.m. and 7:50 p.m. without daylight saving.

Tasmania wasn’t the first Australian state to introduce a daylight saving bill into its parliament. Victoria brought in eight bills between 1908 and 1916 and New South Wales three from 1909 to 1916 before the Commonwealth government moved to bring in nationwide daylight saving. Initially, Tasmania seemed less than enthusiastic about the concept. During a discussion on daylight saving at the May 1915 Premiers’ Conference in Sydney, Tasmanian premier John Earle of the Labor Party quipped: “We anticipate in our state having shortly an electrical system that will be better and cheaper than daylight!”[1]

Despite Earle’s comment, a Daylight Saving Bill to “promote the earlier use of daylight in summer” was brought into the Tasmanian Parliament on 1 July 1915. It would apply for six months each year from September to March. Charles Howroyd, Labor member for Bass, was opposed to the bill as he felt it would be used as an excuse to extend overtime and wanted a committee to inquire into and report on it.

A select committee of five members, including Howroyd, was set up on 30 September. It sent a circular to 100 businesses, trade unions, government bodies, and individuals, seeking their views and pointing out what it saw as the advantages of moving the clock hands:

  • increased time in daylight for recreation
  • saving of cost for artificial light
  • daylight for military training without trenching so much on Saturday afternoon
  • less use of licensed houses
  • general benefit to health on account of greater time spent in the open air, and less time in artificially lighted rooms.[2]

The committee met six times and examined 20 witnesses. Support for daylight saving was strong. The transport sector, post office and education department were in favour as were large businesses and unions. Objections were considered from occupational groups who already rose early although the committee felt this affected only a small minority of the community. Also, theatres were worried that people wouldn’t attend while it was still light outside, but this concern was brushed off by the committee. It admitted that it thought the saving in artificial lighting would be small and any advantages for licensed houses minor. The committee saw the benefits relating to recreation and military training as significant but better general health from lower use of artificial light as less important.

An amendment to shift the start time to October was proposed as the weather was still quite wintry in Tasmania in September. Howroyd tried unsuccessfully to get the committee to reject the whole idea. A favourable report was released on 23 December 1915, much later than the scheduled date of 2 November. But the bill went no further.

It was followed up by a Daylight Saving Bill introduced by treasurer Neil Lewis on 2 August 1916. The bill passed through the House of Assembly on 18 August but was held up in the Legislative Council as John Hope of the Anti-Socialist Party and member for the rural electorate of Meander wanted it stopped. However, the motion was lost 12 votes to 4 and the bill was passed, becoming the Daylight Saving Act 1916 on 22 September.

This was Australia’s first daylight saving time legislation. It was to apply from the first Sunday in October until the last Sunday in March each year. Newspapers reported: “Practically everybody is welcoming the innovation. Only farmers and milkmen are growling, because it will shorten their early morning.” Clocks were advanced one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday 1 October 1916. Daylight saving was applied in all Australian states and territories from 1 January 1917 under federal legislation (see chapter 18: Southern states in and out of sync). This ended on 25 March, the same day that Tasmania reverted to standard time under its own Act.

Many people, especially in the country, were opposed to daylight saving. …

[1] Victorian Parliament, Report of the Resolutions, Proceedings, and Debates of the Premiers’ Conference held at Sydney, May, 1915, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1915, p. 65, at

[2] The Royal Society of Tasmania, About Time: Daylight Saving in Tasmania, by T. A. Newman, 1984, p. 25, at

[end of except]

The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy presents a detailed history of daylight saving time in all countries. It is available at Amazon, Kobo Books, Apple and Google.

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Who was the first person to propose daylight saving time?


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With daylight saving time starting up again in New Zealand on Sunday, I thought I would post an excerpt from my book, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy. It’s the first six paragraphs of the chapter on New Zealand, ‘The long road to daylight saving across the ditch’.   . . .

“Just as people in Europe and North America talk about “across the pond” to mean the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, “across the ditch” refers to the other side of the Tasman Sea which separates Australia and New Zealand. The country or dominion of New Zealand was the first to officially adopt standard time, in 1868, and was at the forefront of daylight saving with George Vernon Hudson the first person known to advocate it, in 1895. Legislating for it would take longer. Politician Thomas Kay Sidey pursued with daylight saving bills for nearly two decades before New Zealand finally put its clocks forward in summer.

Benjamin Franklin of the United States is credited with sparking the idea of daylight saving and William Willett of the United Kingdom is regarded as the father of the scheme, but New Zealand postal clerk, entomologist and astronomer George Hudson was the first to propose it. On 15 October 1895, he presented a paper, “On seasonal time-adjustment in countries south of lat. 30°”, to the Wellington Philosophical Society. He suggested a two hour change in clock time between 1 October and 1 March. Standard time in New Zealand was then GMT+11:30, half an hour earlier than now.

Many of the benefits Hudson described of advancing the clocks were broadly similar to those used later by Willett and others, as were some of the concerns he addressed. He pointed out that “the early-morning daylight would be utilised, and a long period of daylight leisure would be made available in the evening for cricket, gardening, cycling, or any other outdoor pursuit desired”.[1] Instead of getting up around 7 a.m. and retiring at 11 p.m., his idea was that people would rise at the equivalent of 5 a.m. and go to bed at about 9 p.m., saving two hours of artificial light. But the proposal was met with similar negativity and ridicule often experienced later by Willett. Society members called the idea unscientific and impracticable and the paper wasn’t published in the society’s journal.

Encouraged by positive comments from Christchurch though, where 1,000 copies of his paper were printed and circulated in 1896, Hudson followed this paper with an update, “On seasonal time”, which he delivered to the society on 18 October 1898. He reiterated the main thrust of his argument and then expanded on the benefits of daylight saving and addressed the potential problems.

He felt it was easier to alter the clocks, and to do this in the middle of the night, rather than to expect people to change their hours in the summer months as the measure would involve different work and meal times, adjusting transport timetables and changing business opening hours. Hudson was aware of employees’ concerns that shopkeepers and others might make them work longer, but he said there was legislation already dealing with working hours. He knew that milkmen and people in certain other occupations would have to get up even earlier by clock time but that they were a small minority. He thought the disadvantage to electricity and gas companies would be more than offset by community savings on power. And he knew that theatres and concert halls would suffer as many people would remain outdoors.

But he was sure that the benefits of better health and happiness brought about by extra time spent outside by working people and school children would outweigh any of the alleged drawbacks of turning the clock hands forward in the summer months. He didn’t use the term daylight saving but used “seasonal time” which is perhaps a more accurate description. Unlike Willett, Hudson didn’t seem to pursue with his interest in seasonal time and nor did anyone else in New Zealand as far as we know, including in parliament.” (Or not until a little later.)

[1] George Hudson, “On seasonal time”, Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand, vol. 31, 1898, pp. 577-583, Royal Society of New Zealand, National Library of New Zealand, at

The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy can be obtained from Amazon, Kobo Books, Apple iTunes or Google.




NZ: as per US



Kobo Books






Apple iTunes







Australia: and click on Angus & Robertson

Or check out other articles and excerpts on daylight saving time at the Daylight saving time book category on this site.

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The debate over creation and evolution


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Some years ago I wrote four articles on evolution and religion for US writing site Helium now gone. Here’s the second one (link to first one at bottom) …

The debate over creation and evolution has been going on for more than 2,000 years. Creationists have held sway for most of that time. Indeed, it wasn’t always good for one’s health to have a different viewpoint. Evolutionists, hiding in the closet for centuries, suddenly got a boost in the mid 19th century with the work of Charles Darwin. But creationists were having none of that, and initiated a resurgence in creationism around the 1920s. Today, the debate rages, especially in the United States, and I hope I can make some small contribution to it.

We should remember that when the creation story was written, the earth was thought to be flat and at the centre of the universe, with other components being just a few lights in the sky. Scholars and ordinary people wanted answers, even back then. When the Old Testament was written, nothing was known of evolution, and creation seemed like a logical explanation of how we got here. We now know how huge the universe is, and that our planet, solar system and galaxy are just an infinitesimal part of it. The creation of trillions of stars, maybe half of them with their own planets and moons, would perhaps be beyond any god. And if there is a creator, who or what created him, her, or it? And who or what created the thing that created the creator? And who or what created the thing that created the thing that created the creator?

Integral to creation is the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. We don’t know its location, with various hypotheses having been put forward over the years. Even some theologians feel it never existed on earth but was an adjunct to heaven. Some scholars regard Adam and Eve as metaphorical, a story made up by early leaders to teach people about truth, sin, and so on.

Also relevant to creation is the story of Noah’s Ark and the flood. The ark has never been found despite its location being reasonably well identified in Genesis. Given the creation model doesn’t allow macroevolution, the number of species that turned up at the ark at the time of the flood would have to be at least the number today that would be in need of saving from such an event. The number of species has been estimated at anything from 2 to 100 million. Allowing for sea dwellers, insects and any others that allegedly didn’t need saving, that’s still a lot of animals, especially when a pair (or was it seven pairs?) of each animal went onto the boat. It might have been millions. Even using the biblical “kinds” (baraminology is regarded as a pseudoscience like other creation sciences), this would still be a very large number of animals. On this basis, estimates range from 2,000 to 35,000 animals.

The alleged boat was an unlikely 450 feet in length, the size of a modern ship. Theoretically, it would have been large enough to accommodate many thousands of animals. However, it is far larger than other ancient boats. How did Noah acquire the skills to build such a huge vessel, one that would have been way too large for one man and his family to operate in any case? How would you get all these animals onto a boat? Old paintings have them, quite unrealistically, marching in an orderly fashion up a ramp, and onto a vessel far smaller than 450 feet. How would you round them up in the first place? What if the elephants, lions and other formidable beasts refused to cooperate? What about those native to Africa, the Americas and Australia – how would they be expected to find their way around the world to a boat that was allegedly going to save them? And how would you prevent the animals fighting and trying to eat one another as they stood in queue to board the boat?

Assuming all this is possible and did happen, let’s consider how much rain is required in 40 days to flood the earth to a level 20 feet above the highest mountain. Mount Everest is about five and a half miles above sea level. Coastal plains would be under this amount of water, and the seas and oceans would be this much deeper. Five and a half miles is 348,480 inches. This would require daily average rainfall of 8,712 inches for 40 days, or 363 inches an hour, or 6.05 inches a minute, worldwide. Rainfall intensity records are given as 73.62 inches in a day at Reunion Island in 1952, 15.78 inches in an hour at Shangdi, China in 1975, and 1.50 inches in one minute at Guadeloupe in 1970. Rain resulting in the biblical flood would have been four times the intensity of the heaviest rainfall ever recorded over one minute and this had to last 40 days across the whole planet. Noah’s family, the animals and the ark would have been obliterated by rain like sheets of concrete. Nothing would have survived the rain, let alone the flood. Apart from all this, the rain has to come from somewhere. You can’t have this much evaporation and condensation in a short period. Even subscribing to the biblical view that mountains were much lower at the time of the flood, for all the land to be covered with water would be physically impossible.

Can we necessarily believe what we read in the Bible about creation (or much else)? We don’t really know who wrote the Gospels or when. Numerous changes have been made to the Bible over time, especially in the early centuries. There was much bickering among early Christians as to what was scripture, and various christological issues were hotly debated. Many of the writings were chopped and changed amid followers accusing one another of corrupting text. Second century philosopher Celsus said that some of them “changed the original text of the gospels three or four times or even more, with the intention of thus being able to destroy the arguments of their critics”. Tatian’s Diatessaron was one of a number of works that aimed to rewrite the gospels as a narrative, fixing conflicting passages and eliminating duplication. In the third century, Christian scholar Origen admitted that “there is much diversity among the manuscripts, due either to the carelessness of the scribes, or to the perverse audacity of some people in correcting the text, or again to the fact that there are those who add or delete as they please, setting themselves up as correctors”. Many other early church leaders, such as Jerome and Augustine, were concerned about the extent of changes to biblical documents. Then there is the curious absence of Jesus’ birth and death dates (which of course are unknown) and of his life between infancy and the age of about 30. A lack of evidence for Jesus’ historicity in non-biblical sources (e.g. Josephus’ paragraph on Jesus turns out to be a later addition) brings doubt to the Bible’s story of Jesus, let alone the creation story.

When science was still recovering from something like 1,500 years of suppression at the hands of religious leaders, one Charles Darwin made a number of observations relating to fossils and the distribution of wildlife that led him to propose that life evolved from common ancestors, including humans. He coined the term “natural selection” to describe how animals passed on their traits from one generation to the next. His ground-breaking book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, shook the establishment to its core. But this wasn’t Darwin’s intention. Indeed, he had studied theology at Cambridge. He simply recorded what he saw and aimed to draw logical conclusions from it.

Evolution soon became accepted by scientists and the general public. In the second half of the 19th century, few scientists or religious people had a problem with the earth being very old indeed. Few accepted the literal description of the flood and few felt it was geologically significant. By 1900, even the Catholic Church accepted that humans evolved from animals, but that humans’ souls were God’s domain. A return to fundamentalist Christianity occurred after World War I, at least in the US. The opposing views of creationists and evolutionists diverged ever wider after this, despite more and more evidence for evolution and its general acceptance by scientists, and little evidence for creation, or Christianity in general for that matter. Today, evolution is accepted by at least 95 per cent of biological and earth scientists, with one survey suggesting a figure as high as 99.8 per cent. Neither the Church of England nor the Catholic Church accepts a literal interpretation of Genesis. Evangelists and Protestants in the US appear to be the chief supporters of a literal view.

Creationists come up with all sorts of ways to try and discredit evolution. Let’s start with thermodynamics. Its second law says that entropy or disorder will always increase over time. Creationists jump on this as proof that evolution can’t happen as it requires an increase in order. But entropy only increases in closed systems and there are none of these in nature. An organism maintains its internal order as it takes from free energy sources such as nutrients and sunlight, returning the same quantity of energy to its environment in the form of heat and entropy. There is no reason for animal and plant life to deteriorate over a period of time. Individual species may deteriorate, and may become extinct, while other species will strengthen, depending on their environment and how well they adapt to it and to changes in it. With extra nutrition and sunlight, humans are taller and stronger than in the 19th century when many people struggled to find enough food and worked long hours in dingy factories. Our liking for junk food may see a weakening in the human species as it adversely affects our health and reduces our life expectancy.

Another favourite argument among creationists for evolution not being possible is an alleged lack of transitional forms or fossils. Christian websites often quote from works by scientists saying no transitional forms have been proven. But note that the references are always old, usually from the 1960s through to about 1980. Research into transitional forms is difficult, time consuming and costly, and virtually none was carried out before the mid 1970s, a major reason being the lack of commercial possibilities. An early researcher, Phillip Gingerich, took 10 years to document two lineages, completing this work in the late 1970s. In the last few decades, there has been a steady increase in this research and in findings from it. Numerous transitional forms have now been identified. For a list of some of these forms, see For a detailed discussion of transitional forms, with references to numerous books and journal articles on the subject, see Sure there are many missing links, and probably always will be.

The creationist model doesn’t allow for transitional forms, with every species regarded as separate and having no link to any other species. That’s all Genesis allows for, and thus there can’t be any grey areas under this model. It won’t matter what is found or how many gaps are closed, creationists will regard any two fossils as separate species with no links between them if they feel the difference is great enough. If the difference is small, then it’s regarded as the same species. In other words, the model allows microevolution but not macroevolution. However, the two terms describe the same process. Any division is arbitrary and, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has no scientific basis.

If these fossils are less common than other forms of fossils, this might be because the evolutionary process is usually one of gradual change and a transitional form might not always show up. However, the equilibrium might be punctuated when a species experiences a sudden change in its environment, such as an ice age. At this time, many species might become extinct. Those that survive often have to adapt quickly to their new environment, and a transitional species might not be around for as long and therefore leave less evidence.

A quickening of the evolutionary process seems to have happened during the Cambrian explosion. Before this, there are few fossil records as the soft bodies of pre-Cambrian animals left few traces. Various causes of the explosion have been put forward, for example an increase in oxygen in the atmosphere, changes in ocean chemistry, gene development, climatic change or a large meteorite, or some or all of these to a varying extent. Whatever happened, it seems that conditions were right for a rapid increase in the evolutionary process. But 10 million years is still a long time, and considerable change would be possible in this timeframe if there are major changes in the overall environment.

Interestingly, fossil records don’t support creationism. As we’ve seen, the story of Noah’s Ark had all remaining animals at a single place at the same time. Yet, all around the world, there are fossils of numerous species that are only found in the vicinity of their current location. There are no trails of various American or Australian animals in Europe or Asia. How would a creature such as the slow, awkward, tree-dwelling koala travel from the Middle East to Australia and not leave behind a considerable trail of fossils over a long period? And how would it cross oceans and seas? The so-called land bridge between Asia and Australia thousands of years ago had at least one water channel. This could be negotiated by humans in canoes but not by koalas, which at any rate have been in Australia for millions of years.

The impossibility of virtually all aspects of the biblical flood story hasn’t stopped the likes of Tom Vail coming up with a non-fiction (sic) book, Grand Canyon: A Different View, and running canyon tours. The book is about the canyon being carved out by the flood, rather than erosion over millions of years. The American Geological Institute and other bodies want the book removed from national park shops. The idea that a single flood caused all geological strata was rejected as early as 1837 by Reverend William Buckland, professor of geology, Oxford University. The scientific community regards flood geology as pseudoscience. Through the principle of uniformitarianism, geologists have found that the earth has been shaped mainly by slow acting forces rather than one or more massive catastrophic events. Geochronology has determined that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, rather than 6,000-10,000 years under creation. So speeding up the camera, if science says the earth has been here 24 hours, creation says it’s been here around 0.1 or 0.2 of a second. The ancients could not have envisaged an earth and a universe as old as what they actually are.

Unlike creationism and the Bible, evolution isn’t contradictory. Biochemistry backs it up, including DNA and protein sequences. The genetic code is nearly the same for all species. There are new fossils and more evidence all the time. The UK Natural Environment Research Council states: “It is almost certain that all life developed from the same single source, as all life discovered has the same complex molecule – DNA.” ( American professor of ecology and evolution Douglas Futuyma believes there are enough similarities in species to show that all species are related. This is generally accepted in biology.

Just a note on the use of the word “theory”: In scientific terms, a theory has to include evidence for it to be called a theory, for example Newton’s theory of gravitation, or the theory of evolution with its vast evidence base. However, in common usage, people tend to think of a theory as a hypothetical proposition that isn’t backed up by any evidence. People will often say: “In theory …; however, in practice …” about different issues. Creationists often criticize evolution as a theory, saying: “It’s only a theory”, knowing that many people will then think of evolution as something that some bunch of scientists dreamed up, perhaps to get under the skin of creationists (!), and that it doesn’t or can’t work in practice. The definition of “theory” from the US National Academy of Science is: “Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” ( Scientists don’t spend their time and money and careers trying to stir up creationists. They wouldn’t be doing this work if they thought evolution was nonsense.

Those who accept evolution have done their research and have concluded that evolution makes more sense to them than creationism. They have found answers that, to them, they don’t get from religion and creationism. But there are gaps in evolution, and many people really must have answers to everything, without any gaps. These people become or remain Christians or belong to some other religion that supports creation as they feel this gives them all the answers. Creationism and Christianity will give these people an answer to everything they seek. This is one of the features of these things that attract people to them. It’s a pity that many of the answers, so often promoted as fact or truth, are actually void of evidence.

If you could find, and bring to earth, an intelligent alien who knew nothing about creation or evolution and explained both to him, her, or it, I think I know which one the alien would find more believable. My bet would be on evolution.

See also:

[I have discovered the above article of mine here,, posted by someone called Hailstone. I have emailed to try and get it removed. When it’s done, I’ll remove this endnote.]


Postwar daylight saving time confusion in Indiana, US


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This is another extract from my daylight saving time book, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy. It looks at the situation in Indiana, United States, in part of the post-World War II period or from 1949 to 1961. The book is available at Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Google. …

Yet another state to forbid daylight saving was Indiana where Central Standard Time, or GMT–6, had been the law since 1949. That didn’t stop most municipalities putting their clocks forward each summer. A meeting of mayors, councillors and attorneys in Indianapolis in October 1954 voted to have permanent daylight saving or Eastern Standard Time, or GMT–5, and the idea quickly gained support. Many eastern and northern counties were already on Eastern time. By September, Indiana had a confusing mixture of Central and Eastern standard time and daylight saving time, with each community deciding its time zone and when to finish fast time.

A vote was held in November 1956 to determine if residents wanted Eastern or Central standard time and with or without daylight saving. Eastern Standard Time year round got the most votes (32 per cent), followed by Central Standard Time all year (31 per cent), Central time with daylight saving (24 per cent) and Eastern time with daylight saving (13 per cent).

But the state legislature passed a bill in April 1957 for the third most popular option, Central time with daylight saving, figuring that none of the options had anywhere near half the vote, that Central time had more support overall (55 per cent) than Eastern time (45 per cent), and that Central Daylight Time was the same as Eastern Standard Time. That way, the politicians perhaps hoped to keep most people and communities at least partly happy although this seemed unlikely as only 37 per cent of voters wanted daylight saving. Any government official who broke the law would be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and jail for up to 60 days. Also, state funds could be withheld from municipalities that dared contravene the order.

Straightaway, councils looked for ways to circumvent the new law, such as operating an hour later in winter months. Indianapolis had been on EST since 1955, which is the same as Central Daylight Time, and didn’t have to change its clocks in the summer of 1957. In autumn, it shifted to CST. North-eastern and south-eastern communities unofficially stayed on EST through winter and did this each year. The following summer, the capital changed back to EST and remained in this time zone.

This pattern continued and by late 1960, only the north-west and south-west corners were going back to CST although the changeovers were at different times, while the majority of the state kept to EST. The boundary between CST and EST areas went through the middle of many counties and seemed subjective. In December, The Indianapolis Star Magazine commented on the chaos as follows:

… this state has huffed and puffed itself into a condition of horological horror, a phrenetic, incongruous mixture of such a simple thing as the time of day. … The time map of Indiana is a cartographer’s nightmare, sort of speckled all over like a purebred Dalmatian. It’s a confusing, tremendously expensive, intolerable situation that we haven’t been able to straighten out ourselves by compromise, treaty, referendum or legislative act.[1]

The state law demanding Central time with daylight saving was repealed in March 1961 and time was left to each community to sort out. Various bodies had been asking the Interstate Commerce Commission for some years to move the boundary between the Central and Eastern time zones to the west, which it did in June. After the shift, about half of Indiana, including the capital, was in the Eastern time zone although a considerably greater proportion of the state used this zone in practice and most or all of it kept on doing so.

[1] Joseph Shepard, “A time of confusion”, The Indianapolis Star Magazine, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States, 4 December 1960, p. 9, (subscription only), at

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What is evolution?


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Some years ago I wrote four articles on evolution and religion for US writing site Helium now gone. Here’s the first one …

Evolutionary thought has been around since before the time of Jesus. In the 6th century BCE, Greek philosopher Anaximander speculated about the origin of life and he believed that animals originated from the sea. A succession of Greek, Roman, Arab and Persian philosophers put forward their ideas on evolution. Such ideas became more sophisticated in the 18th century as Pierre Maupertuis and Erasmus Darwin took advantage of the greater knowledge of biology by this time. Biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck wrote about the transmutation of species in 1809.

But it was Charles Darwin’s ground-breaking book, On the Origin of Species, in 1859 that shook the establishment to its core. He proposed that life evolved from common ancestors, including humans. He coined the term natural selection to describe how animals passed on their traits from one generation to the next. Evolution soon became accepted by scientists and the general public. Today, evolution is accepted by at least 95 per cent of biological and earth scientists, with one survey suggesting the figure is 99.8 per cent. However, a resurgence in creationist beliefs since about the 1920s has led to at least 40 per cent of people in the United States supporting creation, although the figure is generally thought to be lower in other countries.

Evolution refers to the changes in a population’s traits or characteristics between generations. These changes can be caused by genetic influences or by environmental factors or both. Inherited traits in any individual come from the parents’ genes, which are passed on to it automatically. Mutations, or changes, in genes can occur due to things like chemical agents, viruses or radiation and can result in altered traits in offspring. Migration is likely to speed this process up as genes from different groups are passed on to the next generation. Some mutations will decline in a population while other more favourable ones will increase by natural selection and may lead to evolutionary change. Favourable mutations are those that help a species to survive in its environment and to reproduce.

The other main factor in the evolutionary process is genetic drift. Under this principle, introduced in the 1920s by American geneticist Sewall Wright, random chance determines which gene variants will be passed from the current generation to its offspring. To see how this works, imagine a barrel with 10 blue balls and 10 brown balls. Look away and take a ball from the barrel. Put a ball of the same colour in a second barrel and return the ball you took from the first barrel to that barrel. Shake the barrel and pick a ball. Do this 20 times and see what combination you end up with in the second barrel. It could be 10 and 10, or 11 and 9, or some other combination although the chances of a particular combination decrease the further it is from 10 and 10. The second barrel will be the new generation. Repeat the first step and another different combination of balls will likely result. Keep repeating the process. Sometimes there will be more blue balls, and other times more brown balls. It’s possible that one of the colours will disappear altogether after a large number of generations. This is how genetic drift works.

Natural selection and genetic drift occur at the same time in any population. In a small population, genetic drift will dominate. However, in a larger population, natural selection will tend to overshadow drift, even when selection is weak. Try the above experiment with 50 blue and 50 brown balls and you will see that the relative effect of drift will be less than what it was with 10 blue and 10 brown balls.

How did life come from non-living matter in the first place nearly four billion years ago? I wish I knew. Whether scientists will eventually come up with a satisfactory explanation is hard to tell. It could have been the result of some sort of spontaneous chemical reaction or self-replicating molecules (e.g. ribonucleic acid, or RNA) or self-assembly of simple cells. Lots of things are possible in an open system. But understanding how evolution occurs, and the fact that it does occur, doesn’t depend on knowing how life started.

All organisms have a common ancestor or gene pool. The first organisms on earth go back 3-4 billion years. These were the prokaryotes, single cell bacteria and archaea that can live in inhospitable environments. The next step was eukaryotic cells which evolved from ancient bacteria. Various multi-cellular organisms developed independently in the oceans from around one billion years ago. Evolution accelerated during a 10 million year period known as the Cambrian explosion about 530 million years ago. Complex forms of animals developed at this time. Some 500 million years ago, plants appeared on the land. Animals such as certain arthropods soon followed. Other animals appeared later, such as amniotes from 340 million years ago, amphibians 300 million years ago, mammals 200 million years ago, and birds 100 million years ago. The evolutionary process is ongoing. What we see today is a collection of species at their current stage in the process. New species will form and others will become extinct.

Perhaps the best way to see what evolution is and how it occurs is by way of example. Let’s assume a particular species lives in a certain area and goes about its daily routine of survival: eating, sleeping and reproducing. If food becomes short due to over-populating or drought or some other reason, some of this group will have to move and find another home if all members are to survive. Let’s say a few hundred of the species move on and a few hundred stay put. The migratory group finds a new home that is a bit warmer and wetter, has more food, has fewer natural predators, and has trees that are easier to climb as the timber is softer. The environment of the sedentary group is somewhat the opposite, and actually continues to become drier. (For the purposes of the example, the new environment of the migratory group might be dry and the old environment wet. It doesn’t matter.)

What would happen to the two groups? Assuming they are a reasonably hardy, adaptable species and would survive, the two groups would gradually adapt more and more to their respective environments. Over time, the migratory group would probably breed faster, eat more, perhaps get larger and fatter, and maybe slower and lazier. Their claws might lose strength and sharpness over time. The sedentary group might not breed as fast as there is less food and water. They have to watch their backs more and will become quicker and perhaps develop better eyesight or smell or both to avoid predators and to catch their own food. And they would develop sharper claws, and stronger limbs, to climb the hardwood trees. Eventually, physiological changes in the two groups might make them sufficiently different that a male and a female from each group could no longer breed. The result is two species from one. This might take many tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of years depending on the circumstances.

But food is running out in the habitat of the sedentary group, so some of them migrate in search of a better food supply. They find it, and live in this new, different environment for a long period and adapt to it. Eventually, they are sufficiently different from the rest of the group they left behind, that the two parts of the group become separate species. The part of the group that migrated is then hit by an ice age and a large number of them set off to find a warmer climate and more food. And so the process continues.

Some groups and part groups continue to adapt to their ever-changing environment, while others die out. Some subgroups have to become smarter to survive. Constant use of their brains results in them finding new ways to survive. They use sticks and rocks to help them kill prey, and fire to cook it and to keep warm during cold winters. These particular subgroups no longer live in trees as there are predators waiting for them, so they start living in caves instead where they can throw sticks and stones to ward off these predators, and put up barricades at night, knowing that other, bigger, stronger species don’t have the know-how to tear them down.

One particular subgroup develops its brainpower at a faster rate than similar species and secures the lion’s share of the available food. The several species that make up the close cousins of this superior species become increasingly hungry. Their numbers dwindle and they eventually become extinct. The surviving species is modern humans. Their close cousins, the Neanderthals and others, have disappeared. Meanwhile, slightly more distant cousins within the Hominidae family are doing their own thing in their own environment, perhaps including members of the initial species described in this example, and are still climbing trees and have plenty of food and man is not a threat (until far more recently). Evolution has taken place!

We might be seeing the potential for further evolutionary change in humans in the last hundred years or so. We saw an increase in height and weight as we improved our nutrition, general living conditions and health. More recently, we’ve seen further considerable increases in weight due to junk food and sedentary lifestyle. If you divided a group of humans into two further groups, put up a wall between them and let one group continue a lazy, junk food existence and let the other group become fitness fanatics, changes in each group might become sufficient that breeding between the “lazy” and “fit” groups may no longer be possible in perhaps as little as several tens of thousands of years, assuming the “lazy” group survives its excesses.

The evolutionary process is sometimes divided into microevolution, which describes small changes over a short period of a few generations, and macroevolution, which refers to the larger changes that occur over a longer period. The creationist model supports microevolution but not macroevolution where new species might be formed. However, the two terms describe the same process. Any division is arbitrary and, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has no scientific basis. In the example above, two groups of the same species aren’t going to stop evolving simply because they’ve reached the boundary of their ability to reproduce together. They may continue to evolve and may end up as two separate species.

Evidence of evolution is abundant. You may have seen those Christian websites that quote from works by scientists admitting to a lack of transitional forms. The sites then claim that the absence of these forms means that evolution is nonsense and therefore everything had to be created by a creator. But note that the references are always old, usually from the 1960s through to about 1980. Research into transitional forms is expensive and has long lead times. Since pioneering research in the mid and late 1970s, numerous transitional forms have been identified. Sure there are many missing links, and probably always will be. But knowledge of evolution has come a long way since Darwin first made his observations on fossils and species, and saw evidence of evolution, rather than accepting without question what was stated in literature from 2,000 years ago.

How the events of WWI led to the start of daylight saving time in the US


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The following is an extract from my book on daylight saving time, The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy, and shows how certain events in World War I initiated daylight saving time in the US for the first time in 1918. The ebook can be obtained from Amazon, Kobo Books, Apple and Google. See links at bottom …

… A German U-boat had sunk British passenger liner Lusitania in May 1915 with 128 Americans among the dead. President [Woodrow] Wilson had declared that “America was too proud to fight” and demanded an end to passenger ship attacks. Soon supporters of daylight saving were linking the idea to patriotism and efficiency, with slogans such as “mobilize an extra hour of daylight and help win the war”.

Then, in February 1917, America learned of a coded telegram sent the previous month by German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmermann via the German ambassador in Washington, D.C. to the German ambassador in Mexico. It asked that he persuade the Mexican government to become Germany’s ally against the United States in exchange for financial assistance and support to regain Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, lost in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. The telegram was intercepted by the British. The same message announced that Germany was starting unrestricted submarine warfare from 1 February. Over the next two months, a number of American merchant ships were attacked and three sank. This was the final straw.

On 2 April 1917, the first day of the new parliamentary session, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. Congress complied and on 6 April the United States was at war. Less than two weeks later, on 17 April, a bill calling for standard time and daylight saving time was drawn up by the National Daylight Saving Association and brought into Congress by [William] Borland [of Missouri] and senator William Calder of Brooklyn. The bill not only asked for five months of daylight saving, but to finally make railway time (effectively standard time) official, which had been observed by virtually the whole country for well over 30 years.

A long list of leading daylight saving supporters testified before the Senate committee, including [Marcus] Marks, [Robert] Garland, [Lincoln] Filene, George Renaud, C. M. Hayes and [Harold] Jacoby. They presented a wide range of arguments in favour of daylight saving, such as reduced fuel consumption, an increase in food production, improved health, and more time for recreation. Garland, for example, stated that the estimated number of incandescent lamps in America was 130 million and growing rapidly, and to illuminate them all for one hour a day from May to September took 937,000 tons of coal. The energy saved could be rechannelled into the war effort, he pointed out. Professor Robert Willson of Harvard University reminded the committee of how most cities near railway time zone boundaries chose the eastern zone and hence longer afternoons. Sidney Colgate of Colgate & Company spoke about his firm’s experiment in 1915, where it put clocks an hour ahead in July and August. A vote among staff found that 94 per cent wanted it to continue through September.

Meanwhile, very few places advanced their clocks in the summer of 1917. Two that did were the cities of Green Bay and Superior in Wisconsin although a number of businesses around the country and a few schools kept daylight saving hours. Perhaps the general thinking among communities was that national daylight saving was close and there was no need to go it alone.

As usual, farmers and the railways were against daylight saving time. The American Railway Association’s D. C. Stewart had calculated the number of timepieces at stations and on rail staff across the country at about 1.7 million and stressed to the committee that if just one clock or watch wasn’t changed correctly, there could be a terrible accident on one of the many single track lines.

While the reasons to have daylight saving were sufficient to carry the bill through the Senate on 27 June 1917, the bill’s path in the House of Representatives took much longer. Various government and business spokesmen supported the bill, and the press now largely favoured the scheme. P. S. Risdale of the National War Garden Commission said that daylight saving would add 910 million person hours of home vegetable gardening a year. This meant that more food produced by the large firms could be transported to America’s allies in Europe where millions of farm hands had been taken off the land to become soldiers, and countries were starving.

But farming and railway groups kept up their fierce opposition to daylight saving, as did many politicians. Some felt they couldn’t treat it as a pressing matter, such as representative Otis Wingo of Arkansas who commented:

“I do not know that I have any particular objection to this bill; I just decline to take it seriously. … A majority of the men who advocate this character of legislation have not seen the sun rise for twenty years. … This bill is for the relief of the slackers of the nation who are too lazy to get up early. … We should not be wasting our time on such bills, but should go on to the war-finance bill. … While our boys are fighting in the trenches, we are here like a lot of schoolboys ‘tinkering’ with the clocks.” (United States, Congressional Record, 1917)

Nevertheless, the tide of support for the bill continued to grow. When the House was advised that considerably more coal was consumed in the cooler months of March and October than over summer, it revised the bill from five to seven months of daylight time to start on the last Sunday in March and finish on the last Sunday in October. The amended bill was passed by 253 votes to 40 on 15 March 1918 and approved by the Senate the following day, becoming law on 19 March. The result was the Standard Time Act of 1918, or the Calder Act, which included daylight saving time, the long title being “An Act to save daylight and to provide standard time for the United States”.

Except for Alaska, clocks throughout the country were put forward an hour for the first time at 2 a.m. on Sunday 31 March 1918. Thus 2 a.m. became 3 a.m. Many folk stayed up until 2 a.m. to make the change although the National Daylight Saving Association had suggested that households adjust their clocks before they went to bed the previous evening and for workplaces to alter theirs at the end of the last shift of the previous week. It was Easter and priests were worried that people would oversleep and be late for service due to the time change. The association advised churches to “ring their bells more lustily than usual”.

Some people went out and celebrated the changeover. Thousands turned out at Madison Square Park in New York to watch a parade featuring the New York Police Department Band and members of the Boy Scouts. As the crowd listened to patriotic speeches, Marcus Marks appeared from the Aldine Club where he had been celebrating with other Daylight Saving Association members. He made his way to the Metropolitan Tower and moved the minute hand of the clock ahead an hour to resounding cheers. Similarly, William Calder attended a gathering in nearby Brooklyn where the Borough Hall clock was wound forward.

(end of extract)

DST book cover

The Great Daylight Saving Time Controversy can be obtained at the following:




NZ: as per US



Kobo Books






Apple ITunes







Australia: and click on Angus & Robertson

Or see other extracts and an index to the book here:

Brisbane’s 200th anniversary


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Last Monday (7 May 2018), I sent the following email to the Queensland premier, relevant councils, and historical and other organisations about a proposal for celebrating Brisbane’s 200th anniversary …

Dear Premier, Councils and Organisations

Brisbane will be 200 years old in 2024 and this might be a good time to celebrate the history of the city just as we did in 2009 with the 150th anniversary of Queensland or Q150. Plans would probably need to start during the current term of government which is due to run until late 2020. Q150 planning started in 2005. Call it B200?

What is now Brisbane was founded in September 1824 at Redcliffe and moved to its current site on the Brisbane River in May 1825. A relevant lead-in would be the story of the castaways who were marooned in the Moreton Bay area in 1823. Their journey would make a very interesting re-enactment or series of re-enactments starting in April 2023, 200 years after they landed on Moreton Island.

I have copied a number of organisations and councils into this email who may be interested in being involved in some capacity in a B200 celebration which I would envisage to run from 2023 to 2025 with a series of events. Please feel free to forward this email to any others you think might be interested.

I haven’t contacted any Aboriginal groups re involvement, sensitivities, etc but I think the best people to do that would be the Qld Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships. There could also be involvement by schools, universities, sponsors and of course the media. I know that some schools cover the castaways’ story in their curriculum. A person I know is writing a children’s book on the castaways and also suggests a play be put together telling the castaways’ story.

I would also like to suggest a one hour television documentary on early Brisbane and a 90-120 minute movie on the castaways. Their story is in my non-fiction book, Through the Eyes of Thomas Pamphlett: Convict and Castaway, now also an ebook. I would like to write a script for such a movie. I haven’t contacted any film companies at this stage. The federal government is increasing the tax breaks for the movie industry. Another option would be a book on the history of Brisbane.

This could be an excellent tourism opportunity for the wider Brisbane region. I think the Queensland Government might be the best ones to coordinate any B200 celebration although I’m happy to help in any way I can. There could be a role for each government department as there was for Q150. Part of the program could include support for regional cities and towns to celebrate their birthdays.

Those included in this email are as follows:

Queensland Premier
Brisbane City Council (via website)
Moreton Bay Regional Council
Noosa Shire Council
Redland City Council
Sunshine Coast Council
Abbey Museum
Bribie Historical Society
Brisbane History Group
Brisbane’s Living Heritage Network
Cooroy-Noosa Genealogical & Historical Research Group
History Redcliffe
North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum
Pamphlett Sea Scouts
Pine Rivers Heritage Museum
Queensland Colonial and Heritage Dancers
Queensland Living History Federation (via website)
Royal Historical Society of Queensland
Sandgate and District Historical Society and Museum
Wynnum Manly Historical Society
Screen Queensland

I’d like to put the contents of this email on my web page at and my Facebook page at

Please let me know if you have any queries.

Yours sincerely

Chris Pearce