Northeast Ohio Through the Ages

Ron Blakey, Professor Emeritus of Geology at Northern Arizona University, has made a great series of maps which show the changes in the continental masses from 600 million years ago to the present. They are Mollweide, or “oval globe” projections, which show the entire Earth (but have significant distortion around the edges). The maps are centered on 0 degrees longitude. Professor Blakey constructed the maps circa 2008, using the best available geologic data.

I added a red dot to each map, in order to show the approximate location of the spot on Earth we now know as Northeast Ohio (and its motion across the face of Earth through geologic time). The placement of the dots was done after analyzing every relevant map of prehistoric Earth that I could find online. The first map is of Earth in the late Precambrian Era, 600 million years before present, and the last one is Earth in the present day. The increments between maps vary from 15 to 50 million years, except the last two which are 50 thousand years apart. Then, I put the dotted maps into an animation with the maps changing at the smallest possible interval.

So here goes 600 million years of our location’s change across the face of the Earth. Our “journey” begins far south of the equator, in the Antarctic region – 600 million years ago, what is now Ohio (and the rest of proto-North America) was located there on the ancient supercontinent of Pannotia. Be sure to keep your eye on the red dot!

That one went a bit too fast – 600 million years of movement in 4 seconds! So I recently made a new version for my presentation for the Cleveland Freethinkers’ last in-person meeting before the dreaded covid-19 accelerated (on March 1st). In this animation, the maps are at 4 second intervals and the time periods (in millions of years before the present) are marked at upper left. Once again, follow the red dots –

Another series of maps made by Professor Blakey are centered on what is now the North American landmass. The first map represents the NA landmass as it was 550 million years ago, and the last one shows it at the present day. I’ve put these into animations as well, once again with the red dots marking Northeast Ohio. One of the first things one might notice is that earlier on, “we” were under water for great lengths of time. Here is the “quickie” version:

…And here is the 4 second interval version, with date markers –

I hope you enjoyed the animations, and thank you Professor Blakey for the use of your maps!

Mark T.


A Plea for Atheist Childrens’ Books

Prospective authors and illustrators- time to get busy!


Let’s face it… America is filled with books that promote religious indoctrination in children. There are thousands of titles available for Christian kids which range from the relatively benign to the downright maniacal.

The lack of overtly atheistic children’s books neatly illustrates the “protective cocoon” that religion has woven for itself… unfortunately with our help (the “secular” are generally WAY too concerned about being “controversial” or appearing to be “antagonistic” towards religion).

While there are some very good (and fairly current) parenting books for freethinkers on the market (Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide to Parenting Beyond Belief is a good one), there is a distinct lack of books for kids that give the very concept of “gods” the scrutiny it so deserves.

There are a few- Dan Barker’s Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong examines morality without supernaturalism. As one reviewer said, the book is “good for undoing religious brainwashing”.

Dan Barker also authored Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children which pretty much compares belief in gods to belief in Santa Claus, etc. (and justifiably so).

We also have S.C. Hitchcock’s Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism– this one is aimed at Grade 9 & up, though.

Fortunately, there are indeed many pro-science and pro-critical thinking children’s books on the market… some of you might want to list some good ones below in the comments.

But for those parents who are looking for a childrens’ book that includes those things, but also delves into the absurdity of religious dogma itself (the “heart of the beast”), the pickin’s are very slim indeed.

The world is ready for childrens’ books that directly challenge the very notion of gods & religious belief. Prospective authors, it’s a market that’s waiting to be tapped!

Cleveland’s Freethinking Past


The Cleveland area was a hotbed of freethought in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Here is an excerpt from The School and the Immigrant (1916), by Oberlin College professor of sociology Herbert Adolphus Miller :

The Bohemians

“In America, beginning more than 50 years ago, a reaction was organized until at the present time approximately two-thirds of an estimated million are aggressive free-thinkers. In Cleveland about half are Catholics and the rest free-thinkers, with only a few hundred Protestants. Both parties have many organizations and, while the feeling between the two is very strong, the common Slavic feeling manifests itself most strongly in antipathy for the German language. The free-thinkers are the more nationalistic, and fortunately so, for with the loss of the control of the church there is a tendency to materialism which can be counteracted only by devotion to some social cause. There is no group to which the mother tongue and national history can have more moral value. This is in part because their history is peculiarly rich… The influence of Bohemian history has been such that the people refuse to accept dogma, and even the children argue theology.”

Even the children?! It would be nice if that sort of critical thinking by the young was widely encouraged today.

In addition to the freethinking Czech immigrants, many other central and eastern Europeans who settled in this area during that time period were freethinkers as well.

Here’s hoping that the Cleveland area might once again be a hotbed of freethought!