Vanity, vanity, says the preacher

Phil sent me this link to a story about evidence (through chicken bone analysis, no less) that the Polynesians sailed to South America about a century before Columbus.

This, as Phil mentions in his note, still leaves them about 400 years behind Leif Eriksson.

But it doesn’t surprise me in the least. The Polynesians were truly phenomenal blue water sailors.

What particularly intrigued me was the idea that Thor Heyerdahl might have been right, but backwards. Although he proved with his Kon Tiki voyage that it was possible for South Americans to have populated the South Pacific islands, recent DNA studies have proved that Polynesians are not the descendents of Native Americans.

Apparently the voyage was made at least once, though. Only it was in the opposite direction than Heyerdahl theorized.


Speaking of Norwegians, I’ve been asked to give a short talk at a heritage-themed service at my home church later this month. In looking for information on one of the early pastors, I came on an old book called Fifty Years in America, by N. N. Rønning (long out of print. Don’t even bother looking for it on Amazon).

Rønning came to America from Norway in the 1880s, about the same time my own people arrived. He had a more intellectual bent than most immigrants, though, and eventually attended the University of Minnesota, ending up as a professional writer.

He gives character sketches in the book of some of his teachers at the U. of M., including Cyrus Northrop, the university president:

In an address delivered November 18, 1908, at Whitman College, Washington, [Northrop] said:

“I would not stay one day at a state university if I were hampered in the maintenance of Christianity, and were compelled to recognize agnosticism as being as good as Christianity. I said to the Regents of the University of Minnesota in my inaugural address that I must be free as a believer in Christianity, and daily service in chapel, with singing of hymns, reading of scriptures and prayer to God has gone on all these years, and hundreds of students daily attend these services, their attendance being entirely voluntary….”

In another address delivered at the commencement of the University of Wisconsin, June 21, 1893, he said: “I have a very genuine contempt for a class of men who are forever proclaiming the failure of Christianity, or the failure of education, or the failure of the human mind, or the failure of God, because everything is not yet perfect.”

Minnesotans today know Northrop’s name primarily from Northrop Memorial Auditorium, a stadium at the university that’s named in his honor. Here’s its web site. You’ll note that one of the first events listed on the schedule (if you’re reading this in the archive, sometime in the future, never mind—it will have changed by now) is an event called “Glitter and Be Gay.”

You know, some days I feel like the guy in Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 (NIV): “I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.”

But I suppose that would make me like one of the men Northrop expressed contempt for in 1893.

Update: Phil tells me the original message came from reader Greg Smith, and he forwarded it to me. For the record.

2 thoughts on “Vanity, vanity, says the preacher”

  1. I agree with you on Heyerdahl Lars. I hate to trust my memory but I’m sure (insert joke) the ocean currents run from Asia toward North and south america. I believe the current at one point runs directly to the Hawaian islands.

    – there are people who claim asian seafarers came to north america millenia ago. (It’s been a few years since I read up on this so I’ll say no more :=)

  2. Ten years or so ago I read a good overview of the subject (ancient contact with the americas) – ‘Columbus was Last’ (Trust me; I have a phenomenal memory :=)

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