Excerpts from the Transcript of the CDC’s Private Simpsonwood Meeting

First things first: What was the Simpsonwood Meeting and why should you care about reading excerpts from it?

July 7, 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Public Health Service issued a joint statement which provides the background for the private CDC meeting that would occur the next year. Keep these statements in mind when reading the excerpts from Simpsonwood. Once you have read them, ask yourself if you are inclined to agree with the last two statements in particular.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Modernization Act of 1997 called for FDA to review and assess the risk of all mercury-containing food and drugs. In line with this review, U.S. vaccine manufacturers responded to a December 1998 and April 1999 FDA request to provide more detailed information about the thimerosal content of their preparations that include this compound as a preservative. Thimerosal has been used as an additive to biologics and vaccines since the 1930s…”

…there are no data or evidence of any harm caused by the level of exposure that some children may have encountered in following the existing immunization schedule.” (emphasis mine)

The recognition that some children could be exposed to a cumulative level of mercury over the first 6 months of life that exceeds one of the federal guidelines on methyl mercury now requires a weighing of two different types of risks when vaccinating infants. On the one hand, there is the known serious risk of diseases and deaths caused by failure to immunize our infants against vaccine-preventable infectious diseases; on the other, there is the unknown and probably much smaller risk, if any, of neurodevelopmental effects posed by exposure to thimerosal. The large risks of not vaccinating children far outweigh the unknown and probably much smaller risk, if any, of cumulative exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines over the first 6 months of life.” (emphasis mine)

(As an aside #1- how exactly does one make a definitive public statement that the “large risks of not vaccinating children far outweigh” (fill in the blank comparative risk) when in the very next breath one describes said comparative risk as “unknown” and “probably much smaller”?)

Just shy of one year later, June 7th and 8th of 2000, the CDC convened a group of experts to discuss the issues. This meeting is briefly mentioned, although not by name, in the CDC’s Timeline: Thimerosal in Vaccines (1999-2010):

“Fifty-one vaccine and vaccine safety researchers and experts meet in Atlanta, GA to review data regarding thimerosal in vaccines and nervous system disorders. A report summarizing the meeting was presented to ACIP.”

The primary focus of the private discussion was this study led by Thomas Verstraeten: increased risk of neurologic impairment after high-exposure to thimerosal containing vaccine in first month of life. Age of Autism summarizes of Verstraeten’s study in a Special Report linked below:

“This study, conducted by investigators at the CDC using the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) of computerized HMO databases was a two-part ‘retrospective cohort study.’ The first phase looked at potential associations between neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) – including autism, ADD, speech and language delay and tics – and thimerosal among 124,170 US children born from 1992 to 1999 at one of two HMOs (A and B)…”

It is very important that you view this unpublished abstract of the first version of the study because these are the data the researchers are responding to. By the time the study was finally published in 2003 it had undergone multiple additional analyses, with each analysis getting closer to conclusions deemed acceptable. The following are the relative rates of increased risk to children exposed to greater than 25 mcg of thimerosal according to the original study:

ADHD: 11.35 times more likely

autism: 7.62 times more likely

ADD: 6.38 times more likely

Tics: 5.65 times more likely

Speech and language delay: 2.08 times more likely

(As an aside #2: This study alone invalidates the 2nd claim excerpted from the AAP and PHS joint statement above. If there were no data, Verstraeten would have had nothing to compile. If what he compiled was not taken seriously, surely the CDC would not have bothered to hold a private meeting of 51 experts to discuss it.)

For frame of reference, Robert F. Kennedy Jr famously points out that the relative risk for smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and getting lung cancer is 10. Of course, cigarettes come with a Surgeon General’s warning on every pack, but I digress…

(As an aside #3: it is outside the scope of this article to discuss the issues of how and why the subsequent analyses of this study concluded with results that are far more favorably suited for public vaccine policy. Those interested in a very detailed discussion of that issue may refer to Age of Autism’s Special Report: Vaccines and Autism- What do Epidemiological Studies Really Tell Us? Verstraeten’s study is discussed at length along with several others.)

The Simpsonwood Transcript was uploaded in a 259 page pdf by the group Safeminds.org. Safeminds obtained the transcript of this meeting along with subsequent private correspondence between some of the researchers via a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. Some very illuminating comments from this correspondence are included in the Age of Autism Special Report linked above, in the section on Verstraeten’s study.

Thimerosal was mostly removed from vaccines in 2001. How is this discussion relevant today? These excerpts are an irrefutable example of the disparity between the CDC’s often definitive, “science is settled” type statements (which essentially amount to public relations blurbs) found in their superficial, front page, pediatrician’s office summarized info sheet- type information versus the data discussed privately among their experts. While the focus of the meeting was specifically thimerosal, many comments unequivocally illustrate the uncertainly about the safety of other vaccine ingredients (particularly aluminum- which is still in many vaccines) and of the vaccine schedule as a whole, with respect to the very same neurodevelopmental concerns. Summarized in one statement:

The Simpsonwood Transcript is why no parent can accept any statement of “settled science” regarding vaccine safety at face value.

FULL DISCLOSURE:

I have personally read this entire document. I intentionally chose comments to highlight the disparity between definitive statements made by the CDC/other officials and private expert conversations, NOT to provide a summary or overview of the entire meeting. To avoid accusations of misrepresentation, each citation will be followed by its corresponding page number so that the reader may personally read it in its context. The first citation of each commenter will be followed by that individual’s biographical information provided on pages 1-8 of the transcript.

-Begin-

Dr. Johnston (Immunologist and Pediatrician and the University of Colorado School of Medicine and National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine. Says “Adverse events related to vaccines has been of particular focus and interest for me mostly through serving on a series of committees dealing with the relationship between the vaccine and punitive adverse events.”):

…Thimerosal is in many vaccines because it is a preservative and lowers the rate of bacterial and fungal contamination that may occur during the manufacturing process, packaging and the use of vaccines in the field…” (p. 14)

…There are three licensed preservatives in the United States…We won’t talk about the other two today…Thimerosal is the most active and it has been utilized in vaccines since the 1930’s…” (p. 15)

Thimerosal functions as an anti-microbial after it is cleaved into ethylmercury and thiosalicylate, which is inactive…There is a very limited pharmacokinetic data concerning ethylmercury. There is very limited data on its bloodlevels. There is no data on its excretion. It is recognized to both cross placenta and the blood- brainbarrier. The data on its toxicity ,ethylmercury, is sparse. It is primarily recognized as a cause of hypersensitivity. Acutely it can cause neurologic and renal toxicity, including death, from overdose…” (p.15)

…And then at the end of the meeting ironically, Walt Orenstein asked the most provocative question which induced a great deal of discussion. That was, should we try to seek neurodevelopmental outcomes for children exposed to varying doses of mercury by using the Vaccine Safety Datalink data from one or more sites?” (p. 18)

…Finally I would like to mention one more issue. As you know the National Vaccine Program Office has sponsored two conferences on metals and vaccines…We just recently had another meeting that some of you were able to attend dealing with aluminum in vaccines. I would like to say just one or two words about that before I conclude…First, aluminum salts…reduce the amount of antigen and the number of injections required for primary immunizations. Secondly…it would present a significant burden to try and develop different vaccines for primary and subsequent immunizations…Aluminum and mercury are often simultaneously administered to infants …However, we also learned that there is absolutely no data, including animal data, about the potential for synergy, additivity, or antagonism, all of which can occur in binary metal mixtures that relate and allow us to draw any conclusions from the simultaneous exposure to these two salts in vaccines.” (pp. 19-20)

Dr. Clarkson (“associated with the mercury program through Rochester [NY] for a long time):

As you know, there is a paper just published on this now…if you are given mercury day by day as the guidelines are based on, whether it’s EPA, ATSDR, or FDA, these are based on constant daily exposure…Whereas we are just considering one single dose for vaccines. But nevertheless, a single dose from vaccines can raise blood levels by a certain amount…” (p. 22)

Dr. Brent (Developmental Biologist and Pediatrician from Thomas Jefferson University and Dupont Hospital for Children) repsonding to Dr. Clarkson’s comment above:

It’s just the sensitivity of the central nervous system, based on the mechanism that’s involved in producing the end result. You know the thalidomide data taught us that autism is related to the high brain and it produces it in the 22nd day of gestation, while the central nervous system from the standpoint of mental retardation, its most sensitive period is in the eighth week to the fifteenth week. That’s when we see neuro-maturation…I think that you have to realize that each of the developmental problems that have been evaluated here have a different stage where they are most sensitive from environmental factors.” (p. 23)

*** If you’re not familiar with the thalidomide reference he is making, you can learn the basics at this Wikipedia entry.

Dr. Johnson (State Public Health Officer in Michigan and member of ACIP) responding to Dr. Brent’s comment above:

“Are any of them different from birth, term birth to six months?” (p. 23)

Dr. Brent responds:

In Hiroshima, Nagasaki, you had severe mental retardation after 75 rads. If you give 75 rads to an infant, nothing will happen with regards to their central nervous system development. So you have this changing sensitivity throughout embryogenesis and early childhood development that makes it difficult to generalize.” (p. 23)

Dr. Johnson responds: “So the answer is that we don’t know…” (p. 23)

Dr. Sinks (Associate Director for Science at the CDC National Center for Environmental Health, Acting Division Director for the Division of Birth Defects, Developmental Disabilities and Disability Health):

I want to ask an unrelated question, and this has to do with potentially looking at confounding as we go through this. You mentioned the issue of aluminum salts. I know it’s an issue, but I don’t know the specifics of it. I wonder is their a particular health outcome that has been of concern that is related to the aluminum salts that may have anything to do with what we are looking at here today?” (p. 24)

Dr. Weil (Pediatrician representing the Committee on Environmental Health of the Academy):

Two things. One, up until this last discussion we have been talking about chronic exposure. I think it’s clear to me anyway that we are talking about a problem that is probably more related to bolus acute exposures, and we also need to know that the migration problem and some of the other developmental problems in the central nervous systems go on for quite a period after birth. But from all the other studies of other toxic substances, the earlier you work with the central nervous system, the more likely you are to run into a sensitive period for one of these effects so that moving from one month or one day from birth to six months of birth changes enormously the potential for toxicity. There are just a host of neurodevelopmental data that would suggest we’ve got a serious problem.” (p. 24)

The second point I could make is that in relationship to aluminum, being a nephrologist for a long time, the potential for aluminum and central nervous system toxicity was well established by dialysis data. To think there isn’t some possible problem here is unreal.” (p. 24-25)

Dr. Johnson responding to Weil:

Thank you, Bill, for your comments. As an old pediatrician, I had that same kind of feeling. That there must be a difference with age.” (p. 25)

Dr. Verstraeten (EIS Office at National Immunization Program- leading author of study linked above which is being discussed):

…Finally, and this may be the toughest one of all, how do we know that it is a Thimerosal effect? Since all vaccines are Thimerosal containing, how do we know that it’s not something else in the vaccines such as aluminum or the antigens?” (p. 50)

In conclusion, the screening analysis suggests a possible association between certain neurologic developmental disorders. Namely Tics, attention deficit disorder, speech and language disorders and exposure to mercury from Thimerosal containing vaccines before the age of six months…” (p. 50)

Dr. Weil:

I think what you are saying is in terms of chronic exposure. I think the other alternative scenario is that this is repeated acute exposures, and like many repeated acute exposures, if you consider a dose of 25 micrograms on one day, then you are above threshold. At least we think you are, and then you do that over and over to a series of neurons where the toxic effect may be the same set of neurons or the same set of neurologic processes, it is conceivable that the more mercury you get, the more effect you are going to get.” (p. 75)

Dr. Bernier (Associate Director for Science in the National Immunization Program):

…let me just reemphasize if I could the importance of trying to protect the information that we have been talking about. As many of you know, we are invited here. We have asked you to keep this information confidential. We do have a plan for discussing these data at the upcoming meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on June 21 and June 22. At that time the CDC plans to make a public release of this information, so I think it would serve all of our interests best if we could continue to consider this data The ACIP work group will be considering also. If we could consider these data in a certain protected environment. So we are asking people who have done a great job protecting this information up until now, to continue to do that until the time of the ACIP meeting. So to basically consider this embargoed information…” (p. 113)

Dr. Brent:

…The other thing is with some biological of some chemicals, the more you are exposed to them sometimes enzymes change with regard to excretion and metabolism. Is that known for mercury at all or is it totally unrelated to experience with the substance?” (p. 123)

Dr. Clarkson (repsonding to Dr. Brent’s question):

As you know, methylmercury and ethylmercury are slowly metabolized to inorganic mercury. The common mercury bond is broken. It’s achieved in two ways. The microflora in the intestinal tract break down methyl to inorganic and that’s how we get rid of it. Methylmercury goes through entroypathic recirculation from liver to bile, to intestine and back reabsorbed again and but for these obliging micro organisms in the GI tract, we wouldn’t really get rid of it. So does the microflora break it down to inorganic, which is not well absorbed and comes out in the feces.” (p. 124)

The other way it is metabolized is by phagocytic cells in almost every tissue in the body, probably including microglia in the brain. These phagocytic cells will also break down methylmercury. We don’t know for ethyl, but it is probably the same mechanism. So to what extent this change would do us, it’s not known. It’s an interesting question, but that’s not know (sic).” (p. 124)

Dr. Phillips (Family Medicine Private Practice in Seattle, Washington; Chair of Commission on Clinical Policies and Research for the American Academy of Family Physicians):

…What is the population attributable risk we are talking about? Even if we assume that all children completed the complete series of immunizations and they all include Thimerosal containing vaccinations, what is the burden of illness that we are talking about for these areas of interest? Speech delay and ADHD, that could possibly be attributable, if we believe these figures, to this exposure? What is the public health impact of the findings?” (p. 145)

Dr. Verstraeten (responding to Phillips’ question):

I haven’t come around to calculating the attributable risk…As you are aware, however, a large majority of children are vaccinated, so it will probably be quite high, if we believe the signal.” (p. 145)

Dr. Brent:

…many of your curves showed the rise in the relative risk, is that not correct?…I mean over a period of time, you give me the explanation of why over a period of time you got this increased risk.” (p. 161)

“Wasn’t it true that if you looked at the population that had 25 micrograms you had a certain risk and when you got to 75 micrograms you had a higher risk…What is your explanation? What explanation would you give for that? ” (p. 161)

Dr. Verstraeten (responding to Brent’s questions):

Personally I have three hypotheses. My first hypothesis is it is parental bias. The children that are more likely to be vaccinated are more likely to be picked up and diagnosed. Second hypothesis, I don’t know. There is a bias that I have not yet recognized, and nobody has yet told me about it. Third hypothesis. It’s true, it’s Thimerosal. Those are my hypotheses.” (p. 161)

Dr. Brent (in response):

If it is true, which or what mechanisms would you explain the finding with?” (p. 161)

Dr. Verstraeten (answers):

You are asking for biological plausibility?” (p. 162)

Dr. Brent:

Well, yes.” (p. 162)

Dr. Verstraeten:

When I saw this, and I went back through the literature, I was actually stunned by what I saw because I thought it is plausible.” (p. 162)

Dr. Brent:

…I would add a couple of things in there and that is that there are three reasons you might have the findings that you reported. One is, and we don’t have the data, that with the multiple exposures you get an increasing level, and we don’t know whether that is true or not. Some of our colleagues here don’t think that is true, but until we demonstrate it one way or the other, we don’t know that. The other thing is that each time you have an exposure there is a certain amount of irreversible damage and that as you exposure (sic) the damage adds up. Not because of dose but because they are irreversible. And the third thing is that maybe the most sensitive period is later, like in the fifth or sixth month. In other words, the sensitivity period is not the same over the first six months. Those would be explanations that you could only demonstrate with research, and probably not human…” (p. 163)

Dr. Weil:

…there is something else we won’t ever find out from these data, I don’t think, and that is whether or not 37.5 milligrams at one month is different than 37.5 milligrams at two months or three months, and that may be because of brain development. A critical issue and we can’t answer that from these data, no matter how they get manipulated or how many times we review. So some of the really gutsy questions from a person who is very concerned about neurodevelopment cannot be answered out of this. I don’t think we have anything that says this establishes this. All we can say is we are anxious and we need to get data the way we ordinarily do. We need to go to animal neurotox studies, developmental neurotox. We need to look at some other data that can be obtained to see if we get a comparable kind of impact, but let’s not try to refine and refine and refine these data. These are what they are. They show something and you cannot, by twiddling them and manipulating them, get much more out than Tom, Bob, and others have already done.” (p. 178)

Dr. Johnson:

…Do you think the observations made to date in the Vaccine Safety Datalink Project about a potential relationship between vaccines which contain Thimerosal and some specific neurologic developmental disorders, speech delay, attention deficit, ADHD and developmental delays constitute a definite signal? That is are a sufficient concern to warrant further investigation?…” (p. 179)

**** To the question above, most vote yes along with explanations for their votes which I will not cite in their entirety. These votes along with comments can be found on pages 179 and following. I will continue citing comments only as they are relevant to my stated goal. If a comment references a “yes” vote, it is a response to this.

Dr. Oakes (Chair of Biostatistics at the at the University of Rochester):

The other side to this is these data are out now. I mean they may not be public, but they will be. So this data exists, and then we can’t go back to the state where this duty has not been done, so there is a need to understand the data we have…” (p. 187)

Dr. Clover (Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Louisville, and ACIP member):

Maybe that’s an impossible question to answer, your first question, because no one around here is going to say that mercury per say is not a concern.” (p. 187)

Dr. Weil:

…My answer is yes. Although the data presents a number of uncertainties, there is adequate consistency, biological plausibility, lack of relationship with phenomenon not expected to be related, and a potential causal role that is as good as any other hypothesized etiology of explanation of the noted associations. In addition, the possibility that the associations could be causal has major significance for public and professional acceptance of Thimerosal containing vaccines. I think that is a critical issue. Finally, a lack of further study would be horrendous grist for the anti-vaccination bill. That’s why we need to go on, and urgently I would add.” (p. 187-188)

Dr. Brent:

…I remember when I was an intern, I rotated to Boston and there was a woman there by the name of Pricilla White. Because I had been a researcher before I was an intern, she would come down and show me these placentas from mothers who were diabetic and because they were using DES, and she would say to me look at that placenta. Look how healthy it is from mothers who are on DES. Of course she was eventually crushed psychologically when they found out that it caused adenocarcinoma of the vagina. And the implications here are much vaguer. That was an epidemic which was horrendous. Causing learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. ADD is a tremendous problem in our society and I think it is one we should be very concerned about.” (p. 190)

Although my gut reaction, which is totally irrelevant, is that it is probably not causatic, the only way you can come to a conclusion is through the data, and that’s the data I think we have got. Even if we put the vaccine in single vials and put no preservatives tomorrow, we still want the answer to this question. Because remember, epidemiological studies sometimes give us answers to problems we didn’t even know in the first place. Maybe from all this research we will come up with an answer for what causes learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, and other information…” (p. 191)

Dr. Koller (Pathologist, Immunotoxicologist, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University):

…As you increase the vaccination, you increase effects, but you don’t know. You have modified live viruses. You have different antigens. There is a lot of things in those vaccinations other than mercury, and we don’t know if this is a vaccination effect or a mercury effect. But I am almost sure it is not a mercury effect. Positive as a matter of fact, and there are several experts particularly that have viewed this, the methylmercury aspect who I think would agree with that due to dose response.” (pp. 192-193)

Dr. Johnson (to Koller):

Loren, if you are absolutely sure there is no causal relationship, why would you answer yes to question one?” (p. 194)

Dr. Koller (responding to Johnson):

Because I think there are other factors. There is (sic) many confounders that have not been evaluated. Biological and environmental. As a matter of fact, in question two one of my answers is there does appear, however, to be a weak positive association between increased numbers of vaccinations and some neurological endpoints…Because as you increase mercury, you increase vaccinations, so there could be several other factors in those vaccinations that are causing these effects. There is (sic) also other types of vaccines that these children are exposed to. There might be a combination biological effect. It might be antigen effects. There is (sic) all kinds of possibilities here. Some of these are modified live viruses. I would assume they are modified live viruses. Something between the combinations or subsequent exposures in a sensitive population, or hypersensitive population may trigger some of these effects.” (p. 194)

Dr. Clarkson:

It will be interesting, Mr. Chairman, to know the conclusion of the aluminum meeting in Puerto Rico. What came out of that? Because we heard yesterday from the CI’s that the aluminum will correlate just as well as mercury with these results. Is Dr. Myers here? What were the conclusions?” (pp. 194-195)

Dr. Myers (Acting Director of the National Vaccine Program Office):

Well, first we didn’t have this data to study. We didn’t have available what we are discussing today. This study, so I am not sure.” (p. 195)

Dr. Clarkson:

What did they reveal about the all (sic) aluminum in terms of…” (p. 195)

Dr. Myers:

They thought there was an enormous margin of safety, that were well below concerns, but again they hadn’t seen these associations. By summary we thought we were well below the mercury as well.” (p. 195)

Dr. Stein (General Pediatrician and General Pediatric at University of California, San Diego; Co-Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics recent practice guideline on diagnosis and evaluation of ADHD):

…Well, of course I answered yes also, but first I want to say thank you to everyone for giving me a course in Epidemiology. I learned a lot. I also want to congratulate the group that did the data and the study analysis. It also gave me a great respect for the problems of evaluating vaccine safety beyond what I had ever known or expected before, and obviously I have been practicing pediatrics for a long time…” (p. 195)

Dr. Johnson:

…In my opinion the evidence today is insufficient to determine whether or not Thimerosal containing vaccines caused the neurological sequelae in question…Now on the other hand, the data suggests that there is an association between mercury and the endpoints. ADHD, a well known disability, and speech delay as entered into the database…This association leads me to favor a recommendation that infants up to two years old not be immunized with Thimerosal containing vaccines if suitable alternative preparations are available. I do not believe the diagnosis justifies compensation in the Vaccine Compensation Program at this point.” (p. 199)

I deal with causality, it seems pretty clear to me that the data are not sufficient one way or the other. My gut feeling? It worries me enough. Forgive this personal comment, but I got called out at eight o’clock for an emergency call and my daughter-in-law delivered a son by C-section. Our first male in the line of the next generation, and I do not want that grandson to get a Thimerosal containing vaccine until I know better what is going on. It will probably take a long time. In the meantime, and I know there are probably implications for this internationally, but in the meantime I think I only want that grandson to only be given Thimerosal-free vaccines.” (pp. 199-200)

Dr. Brent:

…The epidemiological data is valid, as is (sic) the associations that were reported. It is more difficult, if not impossible, to refute a causal association based on this study. Therefore, the question of causal association remains unanswered until we obtain the data that was suggested in the answer to the first question I wrote.” (p. 205)

Dr. Weil:

…The number of dose related relationships are linear and statistically significant. You can play with this all you want. They are linear. They are statistically significant.” (p. 207)

…The increased incidence of neurobehavioral problems in children in the past few decades is probably real…I work in the school system where my effort is entirely in special education and I have to say that the number of kids getting help in special education is growing nationally and state by state at a rate we have not seen before. So there is some kind of an increase. We can argue about what it is due to…But there are certainly more kids with ADD and there are more kids with speech and language disorders than there have been in the past.” (p. 207)

…The rise in the frequency of neurobehavioral disorders, whether it is ascertainment or real…is much too graphic. We don’t see that kind of genetic change in 30 years.” (p. 207-208)

Dr. Oakes:

…I don’t think we have seen any evidence that the causal agent, if there is one, is Thimerosal and not some other constituent of the vaccine.” (p. 211)

Dr. Brent (responding to Oakes):

Could you say that again?” (p 211)

Dr. Oakes (responding to Brent):

We haven’ seen any evidence that it is the mercury, if there is some damage being caused, that these associations are real, that it is an association with mercury. The question is what other things are in there that are also potential causal agents?…” (p. 211)

Dr. Myers:

Can I go back to the core issue about the research? My own concern, and a couple of you said it, there is an association between outcomes and vaccination that worries both parents and pediatricians. We don’t really know what the outcome is, but it is one that worries us and there is an association with vaccines. We keep jumping back to Thimerosal, but a number of us are concerned that Thimerosal may be less likely than some of the other potential associations that have been made. Some of the other potential associations are number of injections, number of antigens, other additives. We mentioned aluminum and I mentioned yesterday aluminum and mercury. Antipyretics and analgesics are better utilized when vaccines are given…and yet all the questions I hear we are asking have to do with Thimerosal. My concern is we need to ask the questions about the other potential associations, because we are going to the Thimerosal-free vaccine. If many of us don’t think that is a plausible association because of the levels and so on, then we are missing looking for the association that may be the important one. I thought I would put that out. That we shouldn’t just think in terms of mercury.” (pp. 231-232)

Dr. Chen (Chief of Vaccine Safety and Development at the CDC National Immunization Program) responding to Myers:

To address Marty, I think that is quite reasonable, although we have a limited amount of manpower because of what we just studied. At the moment, I would think most people around the room would argue that these are biologically plausible outcomes potentially related to mercury, and then we will keep the other ones in mind…” (p. 233)

Dr. Myers (responding to Chen):

I agree with you, Bob, but the think the conclusion (sic) is that there is an association between vaccinations and the outcomes that we cannot reject and of which one compliment of the vaccines that is associated is Thimerosal, but it is only one of the associations. I don’t think it is any more plausible than some of the others. And I think I heard several of the consultants say the same thing.” (p. 233)

Dr. Caserta (Chief Medical Officer for the Vaccine Compensation Program):

One of the things I learned at the Aluminum Conference in Puerto Rico that was tied into the metal lines in biology and medicine that I never really understood before, is the interactive effect of different ions and different metals when they are together in the same organism. It is not the same as when they are alone, and I think it would be foolish for us not to include aluminum as part of our thinking with this.” (p. 234)

Dr. Orenstein (CDC’s Director of National Immunization Program):

You have to add smallpox and IPV. In fact, one of the studies from the perinatal project suggested an increased risk of tumors in the off spring (sic) of parents who received three CBL. Heard of these associations.” (p. 234)

Dr. Clements (Expanded Program on Immunization, WHO, Geneva):

…I am really concerned we have taken off like a boat going down one arm of the mangrove swamp at high speed, when in fact there was no (sic) enough discussion really early on about which way the boat should go at all. And I really want to risk offending everyone in the room by saying that perhaps this study should not have been done at all, because the outcome of it could have, to some extent, been predicted and we have all reached this point now where we are left hanging, even though I hear the majority of the consultants say to the Board that they are not convinced there is a causality direct link between Thimerosal and various neurological outcomes.” (pp. 247-248)

I know how we handle it from here is extremely problematic. The ACIP is going to depend on comments from this group in order to move forward into policy, and I have been advised that whatever I say should not move into the policy area because that is not the point of this meeting…But there is now the point at which the research results have to be handled, and even if this committee decides that there is no association and that information gets out, the work has been done and through freedom of information that will be taken by others and used in other ways beyond the control of this group. And I am very concerned about that as I suspect it is already too late to do anything regardless of any professional body and what they say.” (p. 248)

My mandate as I sit here in this group is to make sure at the end of the day that 100,000,000 are immunized with DTP, Hepatitis B, and if possible Hib, this year, next year, and for many years to come, and that will have to be with Thimerosal containing vaccines unless a miracle occurs and an alternative is found quickly and is tried and found to be safe.” (p. 248)

So I leave you with the challenge that I am very concerned that this has gotten this far, and that having got this far, how you present in a concerted voice the information to the ACIP in a way they will be able to handle it and not get exposed to the traps which are out there in public relations…How will it be presented to a public and a media that is hungry for selecting the information they want to use for whatever means they have in store for them…I have the deepest respect for the analysis that has been done, but I wonder how on earth you are going to handle it from here.” (p. 249)

-End-

As a former very pro-vaccination individual, these are the things that bother me the most about this interaction:

    • Experts do not know what I consider to be basic and necessary safety information for a multitude of vaccine ingredients and how they may or may not interact with one another and affect the body.
    • The absence of the above information is in no way considered an impediment to vaccine approval, utilization, and forceful recommendation.
    • Prior to reading private conversations such as this, I assumed the experts did know these basic and necessary data.
    • The public is preliminarily assured of safety before anyone has any idea of whether or not these assurances are accurate, even before scientific data has been sufficiently collected and/or reviewed.
    • Given evidence of the distinct possibility that some element of vaccination (not sure which, it could be multiple things) is directly associated to neurological developmental disorders (among other things), experts feel justified in withholding this information from the public to ensure that confidence in vaccination is not lost.
    • Although aluminum was clearly identified as (at the very least) an ingredient equivalently dangerous to mercury, there was not, and there has not been, any effort to remove this ingredient or seriously study it.

These realizations are particularly unsettling in light of the 2011 Institute of Medicine Report. The ICAN white paper on Vaccine Safety summarizes their findings on pages 8-9:

This third IOM Report reviewed the 158 most common vaccine injuries claimed to have occurred for vaccination from varicella, hepatitis B, tetanus, measles, mumps, and/or rubella. The IOM located science which ‘convincingly supports a causal relationship’ for 14 of these serious injuries including pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis, MIBE(deadly brain inflammation a year after vaccination), febrile seizures, and anaphylaxis. The review found sufficient evidence to support ‘acceptance of a causal relationship’ for 4 additional serious injuries. The IOM, however, found the scientific literature was insufficient to conclude whether or not those vaccines caused 135 other serious injuries commonly reported after their administration…For the remaining 135 vaccine-injury pairs, over 86% of those reviewed, the IOM found that the science simply had not been performed.”

I won’t list all of the 135, but the following is a sampling: Encephalitis, Encephalopathy, Seizures, Transverse Myelitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Guillain-Barre, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Juvenile Ideopathic Arthritis, Rheumatoid Athritis, Fibromyalgia, SIDS. (Relevant IOM Report link here)

At the outset of this article I asked the reader to reflect on the last two statements made by the AAP and PHS. After considering this interaction between experts, how would you answer the following questions: 1) Are they sufficiently transparent and unbiased? 2) Do you trust that you are being given adequate information to make your own decisions? 3) Do you agree with policies and recommendations that have been made in the interest of public health? 4) Going forward, would you accept official statements at face value and continue to vaccinate yourselves and your children, no questions asked? 5) Does it bother you that the US is reaching epidemic levels of autoimmune diseases and neurological behavioral disorders, yet the cause is a complete mystery? 6) Might the interest of the public health be at odds with your interest, as a parent, in the specific health of your child? 7) Is the risk of historically benign, low risk, short-lived infections such as measles, mumps, and chicken pox beginning to look very attractive compared to the vast number of unknowns and high stakes long- term, life- altering diseases potentially associated with vaccination?

 

If you answered those first four questions with a “no” and the last three with a “yes”, welcome to the “vaccine hesitant” club.

 

Creationist Theory on Ascending Complexity of Life Ordered in Precambrian/lower Cambrian Sediments

In my opinion, one of the most challenging arenas of science for a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) is geology. Both sides of the debate have the same data to work with- the geologic column. Likewise, they share the same goal- reconstructing a plausible theory to explain the earth’s history. The very deepest layers in this geological column, the Precambrian and lower Cambrian, pose quite a mystery for us to solve since they contain the very first signs of life.

Of particular interest within these lowest levels, is the presence of a clear order of organisms increasing in complexity along the vertically ascending layers of sediment. The questions are: how do we explain the method by which these layers came to be deposited historically and what is the significance of the increasing complexity in the fossil record? Creationists and Evolutionists have two vastly different answers largely due to the presuppositions underlying their respective world views. These presuppositions unavoidably affect interpretation.

Evolutionary theory sees the layers as being deposited over millions of years, containing the record of the evolution of life from simple to complex. This view traditionally enjoys the “edge” in modern thought for two reasons. First, it’s the only view most people are aware of since it is the only one approved in public education systems; and second, it is certainly a simple/obvious explanation if one agrees with evolutionary presuppositions.

YEC theory sees the deposition of these deepest layers as the result of one catastrophic event- the global flood recorded in Genesis chapters 6-9 which devastated the entire earth. Since YEC’s maintain that life didn’t evolve, but came into existence simultaneously according to the Biblical 6 day Creation narrative, the difficulty has been arriving at an explanation of the increasing complexity demonstrated in the fossil record. However, Dr. Kurt Wise (Ph.D. in Paleontology and M.A in Geology from Harvard) described a theory during his presentation at the 2017 “Is Genesis History?” Conference proving that the evolutionary reconstruction is not the only one data supports. Wise admits that “Creationist palaeontology is an immature field” and that theirresources… are severely limited.” However, Wise believes his theory is the one aligning most closely with the evidence.

Shared Evidence

Early in Dr. Wise’s presentation, he sets the stage by documenting the data both evolutionists and creationists have to interpret:

At the base of the geologic column, the lowest level is referred to as the “Precambrian.”

                                                  Image via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Wise notes that there are only 12 geographical locations where geologists can access the complete Precambrian series of sediments exhibiting the order of increasing complexity (stratomorphic series). In fact, he explains, it has only been within approximately the last 30 years that these rocks have been recognized as what they are- Precambrian sediments that did not erode away. Within this series, there is a clear and consistent sequence of sediments containing organisms increasing in complexity beginning with simple bacteria. This same order of increasing complexity in the fossil record is observed throughout the geological column. For example, the order is present even throughout the Great Unconformity (which exists on almost all continents) despite the fact that some of the layers present in the Precambrian series of sediments are missing altogether.

Dr. Wise supplies the following examples of this ascending complexity. In the deepest layer of sediment, the only fossils present are bacteria or bacteria related. Rising up into younger sediments, in addition to the bacteria, you begin to find single celled algae. Continuing upward, protists appear (single celled, non-photosynthetic organisms- not an animal, plant, or fungus). Next, appear a group called “Ediacaran Fauna” which are large (1-2′), flat macrofossils (fossils observable with the naked eye).

Photo: Dickinsonia, by Ilya Bobrovskiy, Australian National University (fair use for scientific and educational purposes), via SBS News.

Following this group is “Tommotian Fauna” (or “small shelly fauna”) which are small (around 1 inch at most) cone-shaped fossils.

Tommotian Fauna image via fossilmuseum.net

Next, come the “Atdabanian Fauna.” This is the lowest level in which Trilobites are found.

Plate from Barrande’s work Système silurien du centre de la Bohême via Wikipedia

Evolutionist Interpretation of the Data

Traditional evolutionary theory presupposes both uniformitarianism and naturalism. The former can be defined as the “concept that ‘the present is the key to the past’ (that events occur at the same rate now as they have always done)…Today, Earth’s history is considered to have been a slow, gradual process, punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events.” Therefore, each layer of sediment in the geologic column (some of which are tens of thousands of feet thick) represents millions of years of history. This “deep time” is crucial to support the latter presupposition which can be summarized as the “idea or belief that only natural (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) laws and forces operate in the world.” Barring the possibility of a Creator God existing outside of His Creation, evolutionists conclude that the ascending complexity of organisms can only be explained by slow evolutionary processes requiring millions of years.

No one would disagree that given the presuppositions above, these conclusions are reasonable. Wise notes an additional factor supporting evolutionary theory while being problematic for YEC. Essentially, if the lowest levels of sediment can preserve bacteria, it should be able to preserve more complex organisms if they existed simultaneously. The simplest and most logical deduction is that only bacteria are preserved because they were the only thing in existence. This is the problem Wise’s theory addresses.

At this juncture it must be noted that the assumption of uniformitarianism underlying evolutionary theory is not scientifically provable. As influential 20th century paleontologist G.G Simpson famously stated, “Uniformity is an unprovable postulate justified, or indeed required, on two grounds. First, nothing in our incomplete but extensive knowledge of history disagrees with it. Second, only with this postulate is a rational interpretation of history possible, and we are justified in seeking—as scientists we must seek—such a rational interpretation.” This is imperative due to modern day rhetoric claiming that creation science is “pseudoscience.” The entire foundation of evolutionary theory is underscored by an “unprovable postulate” rendering its resulting conclusions no more or less scientific than the conclusions of creation science.

YEC Interpretation of the Data

YEC’s operate under their own set of presuppositions. While agreeing that relatively recent geological history can be reconstructed with the assumption of the slow, gradual processes that we witness today, they reject that uniformitarianism can be projected infinitely backward in antiquity to arrive at an accurate historical reconstruction of earth’s ancient history due to the global Flood. YEC’s also presuppose a Creator who created life supernaturally as described in Scripture rather than via naturalistic means. Wise submits that the evidence indicates that “the uppermost Precambrian are the very beginning of the Flood deposits and they are preserving a Pre-Flood ecological sequence of some sort.”

Interestingly, this alternative interpretation of the data wasn’t arrived at by a group of YEC scientists. Instead, the theory that follows was developed during the course of a Harvard University graduate class under renowned paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Gould, studying the Cambrian explosion. Although Wise doesn’t reveal if any of the other class participants besides himself were YEC’s, he does note that the conclusions being drawn were (understandably) disconcerting to the evolutionists working on the project.

It all began when the group made an interesting observation: within the stratomorphic series,

each type of fauna is specific to a particular type of rock. For example: the Ediacaran Fauna is almost always found in sand; the Tommotian Fauna is always in carbonates; and the Atdabanian Fauna is always in shale. Therefore, the faunal sequence is dependent on the type of rock (facies dependant).

The group recognized this phenomenon to be in keeping with “Walther’s Law” which Wise summarizes as, “a principle in geology stating that if you have a series of lithosomes (types of rock) stacked vertically in a particular order, it could be that the order is due to a transgression event or a regression event, where the first thing is formed in shallow water, the next thing is formed in deeper water, and the next thing is formed in even deeper water. It could be that what you see vertically, is what the world was like horizontally at the time of deposition… So, you’re not actually looking at three different aged things. You’re looking at three different things at different positions.”

“Stratigraphic column on the north shore of Isfjord in Svalbard Norway. The vertical succession of rock types (representing sedimentary facies) reflects lateral changes in paleoenvironment.” via Wikipedia

Wise clarifies with the following scenario: you have sand at the shore, mud off shore, and reefs out beyond that. This would result in layers of sandstone, mud shale, then carbonate. So, if you see a sequence of sandstone/shale/carbonate in a vertical sequence, you could conclude that rather than life evolving into greater complexity over millions of years, you merely have three separate facies existing side by side that became buried on top of each other because water came in over the land. Therefore, these three faunas may not be separated in time, but are separated horizontally. Three different fauna, living at the same time, getting buried in a sequence only because water is either coming in or going out. Subsequently, the shallow water organisms are buried on bottom, followed by those inhabiting medium depth water, followed by deep water organisms.

This essentially reveals that millions of years of time is not a necessary factor in the formation of these 12 areas in which geologists have a clear cross-section of the Precambrian.

Adding Radiometric Dating into the Mix

It is beyond the scope of this article to address the numerous and very valid problems with the accuracy of ages of rocks assigned by radiometric dating. Interested readers can refer to Dr. Andrew Snelling’s treatment of that topic in his article Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions. To greatly simplify, I will merely state that the science behind the dating models is sound. However, the scientifically unprovable assumptions plugged in as constants in the equations render the results unrealiable at best and completely invalid at worst.

For our purposes, the only relevant issue is the range of time that these radiometric dating models indicate regarding the successive layers of rock which cumulatively result in the millions of years evolutionists assign to the geologic column in the form of the geologic time scale. When it comes to these ancient date ranges assigned to each layer of sediment, Wise explains that the smallest increment of measurement is the “radiometric pixel” which is a unit of 5 million years. Essentially, this means that radiometric dating methods employed in this context cannot discern periods of time between sediments in increments less than 5 million years.

This becomes of paramount importance when Wise notes that the graduate team examining the radiometric dating data pertaining to these layers of sediment discovered that the evidence revealed the time period separating these layers was not, in fact, hundreds of millions of years, but something less than a radiometric pixel! Here, Wise points out, that when you are at the Cambrian level (dated by the evolutionary time scale to be 5 million years ago), 5 million years is 1%- you can’t see anything less than 1%. Foundationally, you can’t distinguish the different age of things less than 1% apart.

How do these facts alter the interpretation of the data? Wise states, “The radiometric data suggests that there is less than a radiometric pixel between these three faunas. Add that to the facies issues of the faunas and we concluded these faunas don’t represent successive faunas, they represent three faunas at the same time. Buried in that order, but not living in that order.”

Wise continues by explaining that this finding is magnified when one realizes that whatever process has buried these fauna in this same pattern, it is represented identically in 12 different geographical locations all over the earth! So, the next step becomes figuring out how closely the age of these 12 different deposits can be determined. Wise says, “Again, we concluded that we cannot discern differences in their age at the level of the radiometric pixel. So, they could all be at exactly the same moment in time, and that the same event, a global event, buried them in the same sequence for that reason.” Therefore, the data contained in the Precambrian and lower Cambrian layers can very well be interpreted in support of the Genesis global flood event, documenting life existing simultaneously, and ordered in horizontal proximity to one another.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, evolutionists will never consider the YEC theory to be valid. Not because the data contained in the Precambrian and lower Cambrian sediments preclude it, but because it violates the two foundational presuppositions of uniformitarianism and naturalism- neither of which are scientifically provable.

 

 

Refuting the “Pagan Origins of the Lord’s Day” Myth Part 3: On the power of Rome, Constantine, and Councils

In the previous installments of this series we have systematically disproved the most integral elements of the Seventh Day Sabbatarian myth that the Christian tradition of gathering for worship on Sunday is rooted in pagan practice. In Part 1, we established that no weekly pagan observance was held on Sunday in honor of a pagan deity in either Rome or Greece. In Part 2, we clarified the following: historically, the term “catholic” refers merely to the early Christian church and is not synonymous with the entity which later became known as the “Roman Catholic Church”; the Christian practice of gathering for worship on Sunday was a well established tradition long before the 300’s (the alleged rise of the Roman Catholic Church); this practice was not confined to the geographical area of Rome; this practice was not considered a “replacement Sabbath”; it was overwhelmingly adopted due to early Christians’ reverence of Jesus’ resurrection; and finally, that the Roman Catholic Church’s claim that they “changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday” is based on their own brand of revisionist history and not historically supportable.

One may logically wonder what is even left to dispute since the Seventh Day Sabbatarians’ required foundational claims have been effectively dismissed as fallacious. However, there are three subjects left which must be addressed: the alleged unopposed power of Rome, Constantine, and the ecumenical councils of Nicea (325 AD) and Laodicea (364 AD). The vast majority of Seventh Day Sabbatarian “evidence” comes in the form of excerpted quotes, edicts, and canons from selected decrees and councils which are strategically placed within their publications to construct an erroneous historical context.

Did Rome Have the Authority to Establish Sunday Worship Throughout Christendom?

Perusal of Seventh Day Sabbatarian literature of all stripes leaves one with the clear impression that Rome had complete, unopposed authority over all of Christendom from an extremely early date. Essentially, this belief can only be sustained if one has little to no knowledge of the structure of the early church. An excellent resource on this topic is David Guzik’s second lecture in his Early Church History series, The Spread of the Gospel and the Apologists.

Guzik explains that the early church leaders did not see themselves as apostles, but heirs to the apostles, so the focus was placed on the office of bishop which is a new testament office. Guzik defines the authority of the office of bishop as, “leader of the Christians in a particular city and its immediate region.” He continues, “He had oversight over the many congregations of Christians in that area.” The office of bishop did increase in power over time due to a variety of factors, but Guzik notes that “this was a trend encouraged by the apostolic fathers, including Ignatius of Antioch (110-117 AD).” The four cities that rose to prominence were Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, and Alexandria which did result in the bishops of these cities acquiring more authority than other bishops of less prominent cities.

Guzik notes that “this naturally led to competition between the prominent patriarchal bishops” and is indeed the manner by which there came to be a “Pope” much later down the road. How much later down the road? According to the Biblicalcyclopedia entry for “papacy,” “The first pope, in the real sense of the word, was Leo I (440-461).” However, the rest of the article attests to the fact that even at this point the struggle for supremacy was far from over. Eventually, the bishop of Rome did emerge as the leading figure of the church in the west. This is an evolution elaborated upon in Guzik’s fifth lecture, The Christian Empire: The Roman Catholic Church and the Papacy for those interested in pursuing that topic.

For our discussion, the pertinent question is: Was the bishop of Rome capable of exerting his authority over the other three prominent bishops (of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria) with regard to Christian practice during the early time periods required by the Seventh Day Sabbatarian theory. The clear historical answer is no. One of the best examples to demonstrate this is the Quartodeciman Controversy which took place in three stages over a period of 170 years swirling around the debate concerning the appropriate date the resurrection should be celebrated and when the fast would end. Ironically, many pagan origin conspiracy theorists erroneously bill this debate as an Easter vs Passover disagreement. For more on that, you can check out my article: So You Think Easter is Pagan Part 2: The Constantine Conspiracy.

In take one of the controversy, Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna) came to visit Anicetus (bishop of Rome) in 155 AD to convince Anicetus to follow his tradition of observing Passover on Nisan 14 rather than on the Sunday following Nisan 14, but neither bishop could convince the other. They ended up agreeing to disagree and took the Lord’s Supper together. In take two of the controversy circa 195 AD, Victor (the bishop of Rome) tried to excommunicate Polycrates (bishop of Ephesus) for observing Passover on Nisan 14 rather than the Sunday after Nisan 14. Irenaeus (Polycarp’s disciple) agreed that Sunday should be kept, however, he and several other bishops opposed Victor’s attempt to excommunicate Polycrates citing the peaceful example set by Polycarp and Anicetus in 155. Polycrates was ultimately not excommunicated. This shows that even at the end of the 2nd century, the bishop of Rome did not have the power to make mandates on the church as a whole and the other bishops both opposed and defied him without consequence. Both Polycarp and Polycrates acted as equals to the bishop of Rome.

As D.M. Canright writes in his no nonsense manner, “Specially mark this fact: The observance and sanctity of the Lord’s Day was fully established throughout all the great Eastern Churches long before the Roman Papacy could rule even in the West, much less in the East.”

Seventh Day Sabbatarians have no problem identifying who they believe is responsible for what they claim is the “replacing” of the seventh day Sabbath with Sunday- Rome and the Papacy. However, the when is not so clearly established. Are any of the suggested occasions plausible? Let’s take a look at the options.

Constantine’s 321 AD Edict

Constantine, Roman Emperor 306-337 AD

Here I will provide an example of how Seventh Day Sabbatarian groups commonly surround quotes with their “revised” context in order to lend credibility to a narrative where none exists. The following is a citation of Constantine’s 321 AD edict found in United Church of God, an International Association’s article, Was the Saturday Sabbath Changed to Sunday:

The article states, “Constantine the Great, a worshipper of the pagan Roman sun god Sol Invictus, famously converted to Christianity at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in A.D. 312… Several years later, he dictated the following edict which established a national day of rest on Sunday, the holy day of Sol Invictus.”

Here the article inserts the edict from the source Codex Justinianis lib. 3, tit. 12, 3:

On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th day of March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time [A.D. 321]”

The UCG article bookends this citation with the following assertion, “With this edict, Constantine effectively combined pagan worship practices from the Roman sun god he worshiped with aspects of his new-found Christianity. This pattern is replicated throughout early Roman Catholic History.”

Encased in such a sinister context, the content of the edict is easily assigned meaning that is wholly foreign to its author’s intent. The goal of presenting the edict in this way is to insinuate that the language used in the edict corroborates their two foundational claims: 1) that Sunday was an established weekly pagan observance in honor of the sun god in Rome; 2) that with this edict, Constantine exercised his authority to require Christians to change the day of their Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Reading the edict with these two presuppositions in mind leads one to view the edict as directed toward Christians with the intent of requiring them by law to worship on what the pagans referred to as “the venerable day of the Sun.”

The problem with this is that we have already revealed that both of those presuppositions are patently false. First, there was no such weekly pagan observance to the sun deity to co-opt in Rome, rather it was annual. One may not commandeer (no matter how much power one wields) a pagan observance that does not exist. Second, the overwhelming testimony of early church history (dating back to even the 1st century) is that the tradition of Christian worship on Sunday was already well established throughout Christendom by the time of the issuance of this edict – not merely in Rome. Canright highlights the absurdity of assigning this edict as the origin of widespread Christian worship on Sunday by noting the limited scope of its authority, “This law applied only to the Roman Empire. At that date there were numerous Christian Churches outside of the Roman jurisdiction, all keeping Sunday…This law in no way could affect them.”

In light of these truths, the Seventh Day Sabbatarian assertions are nonsensical. Why would Constantine issue an edict requiring Christians to cease work on Sunday when this had already been their tradition for generations? The logical question becomes: To whom was this edict directed if not Christians? Clearly there was a group of people in Rome who were working on Sunday. The use of pagan language in the edict itself describing Sunday as “the venerable day of the Sun” identifies the group to whom it was directed- pagans! Constantine’s edict then becomes further evidence of what all Roman historians already attest: that Roman pagans were not already setting aside this “day of the Sun” as any type of weekly holy day in which they abstained from work.

Canright writes, “Christians needed no law to compel them to keep the day, for they all kept it already as a Christian duty. But the pagans kept no weekly day. Hence the law was directed to them, and, of course, used pagan terms for that day, ‘the day of the sun.’ That is the manifest explanation of why the pagan name was used.” Were the edict directed at Christians and intended to become an alternative Sabbath certainly the language of the edict would reflect that. But it doesn’t. It is obvious that Constantine did not intend Sunday as any type of replacement Sabbath as defined by a Sabbatarian. The word “Sabbath” is noticeably absent and farmers were explicitly given the freedom to work on that day as they pleased.

It should also be mentioned that although the edict declared Sunday a civil day of rest within the cities, it did not force pagans outside the city to conform to Christian tradition. Canright cites the significance notable and well-respected early church historian Philip Schaff places on the clause within the edict giving those “in the country” the freedom to work their fields on the civilly designated day of rest, “He expressly exempted the country districts where paganism still prevailed.” Canright elaborates, “This is true, and it shows that the pagans did not keep Sunday nor did they wish to. Hence, where they were greatly in the majority, they were exempted from obeying this law. But in the cities where Christians largely were, there secular business had to cease. This law was made to protect Christians and the Christian’s day, not pagans nor a pagan day.”

But, Weren’t Early Christians Who Chose to Gather for Worship on Saturday Persecuted?

This is another instance of a claim which is repeated ad nauseum by Seventh Day Sabbatarians with absolutely no source citation as corroboration. The argument is that most early Christians wanted to gather on Saturday and believed this is what Scripture teaches, but were forced to abandon this belief practically en masse and gather on Sunday instead due to persecution. Essentially, “Sunday worship” survived predominately as tradition due to these circumstances.

Admittedly, I find this an interesting path of reasoning due to the fact that, historically, Christianity as a whole both thrives and spreads particularly in times of grievous persecution. That being said, after sifting through mountains of Seventh Day Sabbatarian literature I finally found one source which provided a single citation to corroborate the claim. The source cited as “proof” was Constantine’s 315 AD decree, Concerning Jews, Heaven Worshippers, and Samaritans from Fordham University’s Jewish History Sourcebook which reads as follows:

We wish to make it known to the Jews and their elders and their patriarchs that if, after the enactment of this law, any one of them dares to attack with stones or some other manifestation of anger another who has fled their dangerous sect and attached himself to the worship of God [Christianity], he must speedily be given to the flames and burn~ together with all his accomplices. Moreover, if any one of the population should join their abominable sect and attend their meetings, he will bear with them the deserved penalties.”

This decree does not do anything to bolster the Seventh Day Sabbatarian case for the following reasons:

  1. This law was instituted in 315 AD, 6 years prior to Constantine’s alleged institution of Sunday observance and it actually says nothing about Sunday observance at all. It would be truly confusing to assert that Constantine had instituted a persecution of individuals for breaking a law that he had yet to decree.
  2. If the law was enforced as it is written, it certainly doesn’t constitute persecution. It does however assign a harsh, capital punishment for Jews who attack via stoning, etc, individuals who have converted to Christianity.
  3. All other laws documented on this Fordham University site which DO constitute persecution were instituted by Roman Emperors that came well after Constantine.

In order to corroborate their claim, Seventh Day Sabbatarians would need a citation of Saturday keeping Christians being persecuted prior to this date since the tradition of gathering on Sunday was well established long before Constantine even existed. Do they have evidence of that? If so, I have never seen it provided.

On the flip side of the coin, do we have any historical evidence that the small number of Christians who chose to gather for worship on Saturday instead of Sunday were not persecuted by the church? As a matter of fact we do. Justin Martyr discusses these very individuals in his Dialogue with Trypho 47 (dated between 155 and 167 AD). Trypho asks Martyr if individuals who recognize Jesus as the Messiah, yet choose to keep the law of Moses (including the seventh day Sabbath) will still be saved. The following is an excerpt from Martyr’s response:

But if some, through weak-mindedness, wish to observe such institutions as were given by Moses, from which they expect some virtue, but which we believe were appointed by reason of the hardness of the people’s hearts, along with their hope in this Christ, and [wish to perform] the eternal and natural acts of righteousness and piety, yet choose to live with the Christians and the faithful, as I said before, not inducing them either to be circumcised like themselves, or to keep the Sabbath, or to observe any other such ceremonies, then I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren. But if, Trypho,’ I continued, ‘some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them. But I believe that even those, who have been persuaded by them to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession of God in Christ, shall probably be saved.” (emphasis mine)

Martyr doesn’t mince words- there is no ambiguity. While he clearly disagrees with those who choose to keep the Sabbath as a requirement, as long as these individuals do not harass other Christians by telling them they are required to hold the same belief, he considers them his “kinsmen and brethren.” Furthermore, even with regards to those who do harass (or as Paul would say “judaize”) other Christians, Martyr still believes they are “saved” even though he avoids association with them. Disagreement does not equal persecution by any stretch of the imagination.

How About Ecumenical Councils?

Frankly, any Seventh Day Sabbatarian effort to pinpoint an alleged forceful institution of a “replacement” Sabbath on Sunday on any ecumenical council is an exercise in futility no matter what quotation is cited. Why? Because the very first ecumenical council was the Council of Nicea which did not occur until 325 AD. Since we are quite nearly guilty of beating the proverbial dead horse when it comes to providing evidence that the Christian tradition of worship on Sunday was, by this point, extremely old news we will only mention two councils very briefly.

The Council of Nicea 325 AD

“16th-century fresco depicting the Council of Nicaea” via Wikipedia

This council is the subject of quite a number of conspiracy theories, the vast majority of which are beyond the scope of this article. Canright cites the allegation relating to our topic as leveled by an editorial in the Advent Review and Herald, February 26, 1914:

“I find that three hundred and twenty-five years after Christianity was born, a council of human beings, called the Council of Nice, convened by a human being named Constantine the Great, instituted the first day Sabbath to displace the seventh day Sabbath.” The editor endorses this language thus: “The position which the writer of the letter takes is impregnable and the arguments unanswerable.”

As it turns out, the position is neither “impregnable” nor the arguments “unanswerable.” The entire purpose for the council and prime debate to be settled was the relationship of the Father and the Son. Specifically, whether or not Jesus Christ is a created being or true God. Amid the secondary disputes presented at Nicea, the subject of worship on Sunday was not even broached. However, James R. White mentions that “Twenty canons were presented dealing with various disciplinary issues within the church.” It is here that Seventh Day Sabbatarians attempt to lodge a foot in the door. However, the only one that even remotely touches our topic is the twentieth canon which reads:

Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord’s Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.”

This canon bypasses the subject of the propriety of gathering for worship on the Lord’s Day entirely (and during Pentecost) and discusses instead whether or not individuals should kneel or stand while praying. Paul Pavao provides these comments on the 20th canon, “In De Corona (ch. 3) Tertullian, around A.D. 200, says that the practice of praying while standing on Sunday and between Passover and Pentecost was a long-standing tradition. So this tradition predates Nicea by around two centuries, at least. The reason for this is that the first day of the week and Passover were days to celebrate the resurrection. Since they were days of celebration, kneeling and fasting were forbidden. Tertullian seems to think those traditions were observed everywhere…The observance of the Lord’s day and the avoidance of fasting and kneeling on the first day of the week is a very ancient tradition.”

Canright cites the following historical facts (including sources) regarding the Council of Nicea which further damage the Seventh Day Sabbatarian case:

This world-renowned council was held at Nice in Grecian territory near Constantinople, A.D. 325. It was the first general council of the Christian Church. Dean Stanley, in his ‘History of the Eastern Church,’ devotes one hundred pages to this council. On page 99 he says it was Eastern, held in the center of the Eastern Church. Its decrees were accepted by all Christendom ‘as a final settlement of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity’ (page 102). It was a democratic assembly; no Pope ruled over it (page 107). In calling the council, the Bishop of Rome was not consulted, nor did he or any bishop from Italy attend. Only two presbyters came to represent Rome and only five or six bishops from all the West. There were three hundred and eighteen bishops present. All these were from the Eastern Greek Churches, except the six as above. It was emphatically an Eastern Greek council, held in Greek territory, and conducted in the Greek language. The ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ Article ‘Nice,’ says: “The West was but feebly represented. Two presbyters as deputies of the Roman Bishop, Sylvester, were present. Thus an immense majority of the Synod hailed from the East.” (emphasis mine)

Furthermore, the 6th Nicene canon refutes the Seventh Day Sabbatarian assertion of an ultimately authoritative Rome:

Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.”

On this canon James R. White writes, “This canon is significant because it demonstrates that at this time there was no concept of a single universal head of the church with jurisdiction over everyone else. While later Roman bishops would claim such authority, resulting in the development of the papacy, at this time no Christian looked to one individual, or church, as the final authority.”

Once again referring to the “persecution” element of the discussion, let’s briefly make a note of just who these bishops voting at Nicea were. James R. White writes:

When it (the Council of Nicea) began on June 19, 325, the fires of persecution had barely cooled. The Roman Empire had been unsuccessful in its attempt to wipe out the Christian faith. Fourteen years had elapsed since the final persecutions under the Emperor Galerius had ended. Many of the men who made up the Council of Nicea bore in their bodies the scars of persecution. They had been willing to suffer for the name of Christ.”

So we have bishops, many of whom had been willing to die and had indeed submitted to torture rather than betray their faith, voting on the issues at the Council of Nicea. Does it make sense that these same men would vote to compromise the church by enforcing a foreign tradition rooted in paganism fourteen years after they were willing to die for their principles? No.

Canright aptly summarizes, “This, it will be seen, simply recognizes the Lord’s Day as a well-known Christian day of worship familiar to all that great Eastern council. There was no discussion over it, no opposition to it. Here were eighteen hundred bishops and clergy nearly all from the Eastern Churches. Did any one of them object that they kept the Sabbath instead of the Lord’s Day? No, not a hint of it. All were agreed on the day. And this was over a hundred years before the Papacy was born and only four years after Constantine’s Sunday law of A.D. 321.”

The Council of Laodicea 364 AD

If it were not far too little, far too late, the twenty-ninth canon of the Council of Laodicea might give us pause:

“Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”

Why is this no help for the Seventh Day Sabbatarian case? Canright cites multiple reasons:

Laodicea is not Rome. It is situated in Asia Minor over 1,000 miles east of Rome. It was in Asia, not in Europe. It was an Eastern, not a Western town, an Oriental, not a Latin city…It was a Greek, not a Roman city…The Pope of Rome did not attend this council at Laodicea, A.D. 364…nor did he send a legate or a delegate or any one to represent him. In fact, neither the Roman Church nor the Pope had anything to do with the council in any way, shape, or manner. It was held without even their knowledge or consent… I have searched through a number of cyclopedias and church histories and can find no mention at all of the council at Laodicea in most of them, and only a few lines in any…Rev. W. Armstrong, a scholar of Canton, Pa., says: ‘This council is not even mentioned by Mosheim, Milner, Euter, Reeves, Socrates, Sozomen, nor by four other historians on my table.’ McClintock and Strong’s ‘Cyclopedia’ says of this council: ‘Thirty-two bishops were present from different provinces in Asia.’ All bishops of the Eastern Church, not one from the Roman Church!…Now think of it: this little local council of thirty-two bishops revolutionizes the whole world on the keeping of the Sabbath immediately without opposition!”

Conclusion

We have clearly established that Rome most certainly did not have the authority to forcibly “change” the day upon which the vast majority of Christendom worshiped at the early date Seventh Day Sabbatarian theories require. Nor can the institution of this tradition be traced to Constantine’s 321 AD edict. Even less logic can be detected in attempting to declare subsequent ecumenical councils as the culprit which were not Roman but Greek, and not even attended by a Roman bishop (pope). Canright states in his forthright fashion that one may “As well claim that Russia established our Fourth of July.” I find this comparison particularly relevant in light of our current political climate.

Seventh Day Sabbatarians may choose to esteem Saturday rather than Sunday. They may not, however, vilify those who choose to esteem Sunday by ascribing fallacious and historically unsupportable pagan origin to the tradition. A tradition that is well attested universally by Christians in all geographical areas, from the very earliest documentation, citing the very same reasons, without controversy or written record of debate.

As the Apostle Paul writes by divine inspiration in Romans 14:5-12:

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. […] 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

To that, I reply with a hearty, Amen!