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'Lady Hopes' and other bogus claims abound these days

God knows, I'm not an expert on Charles Darwin, but a recent letter-to-the-editor in the Echo Press had me scratching my head in monkey-like puzzlement.

God knows, I'm not an expert on Charles Darwin, but a recent letter-to-the-editor in the Echo Press had me scratching my head in monkey-like puzzlement.

The letter-writer claimed that a Bible-reading Darwin, as his death approached, more or less recanted his theory of evolution. The woman who wrote that letter attributed it to a woman named Lady Hope, who lived in England during Darwin's time and claimed to have met with him as he lay dying. She said she witnessed his sudden conversion from evolution to creationism, which she obviously interpreted as an act of divine intervention.

Years ago, I read a biography of Darwin and don't remember anything about Darwin changing his mind about his famous theory. Puzzled, I did some research last week. I intended to refute the incantation in a letter-to-the-editor of my own. I'm not blaming the woman who wrote the letter to the Echo Press. I'm sure she believes the "conversion" really did happen.

Well, I was pleased to see, in the March 2 Echo Press, a letter from a man in England who refuted the gist of that woman's letter. Richard Carter of Hebden Bridge, a member of "The Friends of Charles Darwin" group, states that Darwin's own daughter (who was a devout Christian, by the way) was present at the great man's death and testified many times that he did not have any such conversion. She also stated she strongly doubts that Darwin ever met Lady Hope. The story, she said, was invented by Lady Hope, whose name perhaps ought be changed to Lady Liar.

Lady Hope was the moniker of Elizabeth Reid, a British evangelist, who wrote an account of Darwin's supposed conversion in The Watchman Examiner, an American Baptist newspaper on August 15, 1915. A later version she told contradicted many details in her own news article. Lady Hope, if not an outright liar, was most likely a victim of wishful thinking.

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Sadly, there are plenty of "Lady Hopes" on the loose in our own day and age. Point in case: the so-called "Birthers." It is downright sickening how many people insist President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and then some of these nuts go further by insisting he is not a Christian at all - but a Muslim. These people are not uneducated cretins; most of them are people who ought to know better, like former Arkansas governor and presidential contender Mike Huckabee. Last week, in a phone conversation with a supporter, Huckabee bemoaned the "fact" that Obama grew up in Kenya, and as a result his attitude to the British is alarmingly skewed and prejudicial. Huckabee suggested Obama's sympathies must have been influenced by the anti-colonialist Mau-Mau tribal uprisings decades ago in that east African country. That kind of tall-tale telling ought to disqualify Huckabee from the presidency forever.

I keep wondering, "Was Huckabee really born in America? Or was he, in fact, born and raised in Fantasyland?"

The trouble with these silly fantasizers is the more you show them facts and documentation, the more know-it-all stubborn they become in their lunatic assertions. And, of course, conspiracy theories abound, with some "birthers" claiming Obama's mother paid a bribe to a Honolulu newspaper so it would publish a bogus birth announcement. She apparently had a clairvoyant vision her son would become the American president some day. Yup. Quite a woman.

The ubiquitous Internet, of course, just exacerbates this current craze to repeat the most bizarre assertions, ludicrous exaggerations and outright lies - the kinds of things Rep. Michele Bachmann has taken to a new low. Just one example: the Obama entourage spending $200 million a day during their "junket" to India. Yeah, right, Ms. Bachmann. Sure, anything you say.

There's an adage that if you repeat a lie often enough you'll come to believe it. Just keep saying, "Obama wasn't born in America, Obama wasn't born in America, Obama wasn't ..." Then click your heels three times, say, "Abracadabra" and - by golly - it's true!

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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
This week in history in Douglas County.