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21 October 2000

Dear Ross,

Since I received your last letter, 15 Oct 2000, I needed more time to study the four Grand Canyon articles you sent me and to get more information on population growth, middle-east history, and the ancient Greek language. Meanwhile, our readers have had almost a week to read, among other distortions, the false picture you gave of how I became an atheist.

It has been an arduous task for both of us to address 10 different topics in each letter. Below I have fleshed out a few of the more important issues. To preserve the format familiar to any readers that have been following this discussion, I have used the main headings contained in our previous letters.


ROSS: You still cannot see that to be a cog in a cosmic clock means that every word and every thought as well as every action is completely out of your control. Yet you live as if there are changes that can be made and things that can be accomplished.

TOM REPLIES: To say that all words, thoughts, and actions are completely out of one's control contradicts the fact that one's decisions are dependent upon one's experience, desires, goals, etc. You seem to be saying that YOUR decisions are to some degree NOT dependent on your experience, desires, goals, etc. I don't want to be anywhere in your vicinity when you make THOSE decisions!

ROSS: . . . God made us with choices. He does not control us but knows what we will choose.

TOM REPLIES: If God knows what we will choose, then it follows logically that our choices must be strictly determined.


ROSS: You claim to have hope for a better world, through improvements of technology, medicine, politics, economics and peace making. . . . But the point here is this, you have no message of comfort or hope to the one for whom all this has failed.

TOM REPLIES: There are many ways that one may comfort another without giving false hope. Atheists do this all the time.


ROSS: In claiming that we cannot call living things designed because we only know of human design, you forget that in computer technology we now have very good models of information storage and retrieval systems.

TOM REPLIES: Yes, and you have ignored the fact that in computer technology we now also have "very good models" of evolution that you oddly refuse to acknowledge unless, as you once said, the computer and the programmer have arisen by chance.

ROSS: "Pseudo-genes" and "junk DNA" are the "vestigial organs" of the present era. The arrogance is to say, "Since I don't know what it is for, it must be useless."

TOM REPLIES: I have not mentioned junk DNA in this discussion. I referred to a pseudo-gene, a gene which we KNOW once had a useful function, but, because of a copying error has lost that function. A good example is the pseudo-gene in humans that used to code for the last of four enzymes to produce ascorbic acid. We know precisely what its function ought to be in humans because we see the complete and functioning gene in the same relative position in animals that CAN manufacture ascorbic acid. You have not explained this copying error, except to give the bizarre explanation that it is deterioration following original sin.


ROSS: Your comments on morality indicate that on the one hand you cannot answer my criticism: that even though reciprocal kindness does the most for the masses, one despot can destroy it all the good.

TOM REPLIES: One despot can destroy all the good, but, as all nations approach modernity, this scenario becomes ever less likely. We are not out of the woods yet, but, overall, the peoples of the world have made progress in spite of the despots.

ROSS: But [your morality] also betrays your anger at God . . .

TOM REPLIES: When I became an atheist I had never opened a Bible and had not attended church for years since confirmation, in which I was asked to memorize what for me was a bunch of meaningless verbiage. I became an atheist because I noted that people of all religions believe that their religion is the only true one, and because their equally deep convictions made it clear to me that they must all be mistaken. When I became an atheist, I knew nothing about God, so it was not possible for me to harbor any love, fear, blame, or anger. The fact that you must resort to ad hominem psychologizing only shows the weakness of your position and its inability to account for rational reasons not to believe in a god.


ROSS: You doubt that a person can be trapped in a non-functioning body and brain and still be a person? It is not as simple as you try to make it. People have awakened after prolonged comas. And a person under deep anesthesia is clearly still the same person.

TOM REPLIES: First, I was not referring to a "non-functioning BODY." Second, one does not awaken from Alzheimer's.

ROSS: In dealing with abortion, you really ought to admit that your analogy of a fertilized ovum (zygote) with all the other POSSIBLE zygotes that MIGHT have resulted was a poor illustration of your point.

TOM REPLIES: I think my point is an excellent one. You have twice misinterpreted what I said, which is that any one or more of the 24 billion potential zygotes has the potential to become a special, unique, valued personality. Think of all the thousands of Einsteins and Beethovens and Mother Teresas that could materialize but never will. Then apply that same rational view to any one person's dozens of actual zygotes, of which only a few will fully develop. Of course, a potential zygote is "not real." Is nothing potential in your universe?


ROSS: Your answer to the population question indicates that you STILL don't want to do the math. You said that the population could not have reached city size on the Biblical timetable. I pointed out that at reasonable growth rates of 2 - 4% a year it was not a problem. You counter with data that the population of the earth doubled over 1600 years, but you fail to note that by your own data (a population of 508 million in 1650) it increased 10 times in the next 350 years. That is a growth rate of 0.8% per year. And, indeed, some countries are growing much faster than that today.

TOM REPLIES: The population in 1950 (1600 + 350) was 2.5 billion, so I WILL do the math and show all the steps. In the growth formula:
pct = -1 + (fp / pp)^(1 / yrs)
pct = % increase in population per year (in decimal form: e.g. 0.02 = 2%)
fp = future population
pp = present population
yrs = number of years
I plug in the following values:
pct = -1 + (2.5 x 10^9 / 508 x 10^6)^(1 / 350) = .00456 x100 = 0.456% per year.
I don't know how you got 0.8%. Worldwide, a birth rate of 35 to 40 persons per 1,000 population per year combined with a death rate of 15 to 20 persons is producing a 1.75% annual increase in population, compared with 0.1% in ancient times. A 1.75% growth rate annually adds, e.g.: almost 9 million persons to India's population and almost 4 million to that of the United States.

Walt Brown puts the date of the Flood at 2403 to 2319 BCE. Henry Morris puts it at 2350 BCE. Paul Ackerman puts it at 2300 to 2200 BCE. The following two historical accounts, the first in what is now the Pakistan-India area and the second in Mesopotamia, easily cover the period from 2403 to 2200 BCE:

The Harrappan civilization thrived between about 2500 and 1700 BCE. Their largest settlement was in the Indus Valley, located in what is now Pakistan and western India. The Harappans exhibited skill in town planning and in building structures, drainage systems, central storehouses, lines of workers' dwellings, and communal bathhouses. In 2350 BCE, the very year that Morris claims the Flood occurred, the Harappans were building public structures in a major city and commercial center.

In the Sumerian Empire, the kingdom of Lugalanemundu of Adab, extending from the Zagros to the Taurus mountains and from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea, flourished between 2520 and 2520 BCE, followed by Meslim, king of Kish, about 2500 BCE. The Sumerian city-states engaged in constant internecine struggle, exhausting their military resources. About 2425 BCE, Eannatum, one of the rulers of Lagash, succeeded in extending his rule throughout Sumer and some of the neighboring lands. About 2365 BCE, Uruinimgina was noteworthy for instituting many social reforms but was defeated by the governor of the neighboring city-state of Umma, Lugalzagesi, who reigned about 2370-2347 BCE. Thereafter, for about 20 years, Lugalzagesi was the most powerful ruler in the Middle East. He and his people were overtaken by the Semitic ruler Sargon I, The Great, who reigned about 2335-2279 BCE and succeeded in conquering the entire country. Sargon founded a new capital, called Agade, in the far north of Sumer and made it the richest and most powerful city in the world. The people of northern Sumer and the conquering invaders, fusing gradually, became known ethnically and linguistically as Akkadians, whose dynasty lasted about a century.

In either of these historical accounts, does one see any room for a catastrophic, mountain-deep, world-wide Flood that wiped out all of mankind except for 8 people? The answer is a resounding No!

ROSS: But anyway, the unrealistic numbers you bring to the table are still a problem for an ancient age or man. If the population doubled every 1600 years for 19 doublings, one person (ignore the lack of a mate) would have reached a population of 1 million. How many years is that? 30,000! In another 30,000 years, the 1 million, by the miracle of compound interest, would reach 1 trillion. That happened in 60,000 years using a very very low estimate of population growth. . . . A 4% growth rate is very conservative in any scenario where children are an economic asset, unlike the present developed world.

TOM REPLIES: Regular growth is the exception, not the rule of history. Population levels have followed, not an exponential curve, but a series of wide plateaus, each followed by a sudden upward curve. The problem with all creationist estimates, which supposedly refute an old Earth, is that they assume a high, fixed rate of growth over immense spans of time. Most of the time throughout history the net population growth was zero. The population-growth formula above cannot be used with a population as tiny as 3 human couples. In wild populations of vertebrate animals, only 3 mating pairs of, say, gorillas or elephants, would be regarded as virtually extinct and soon would become really extinct.

On the other hand, humans, with their great intelligence and knowledge, have a much better chance to grow to a viable population, but warfare, epidemics, or natural disasters could easily wipe out a small group or a substantial part of a larger group. Typically, in various regions, populations rise and fall. For instance, the population in the lower Diyala region of Iraq grew from about 10,000 around 4000 BCE to about 90,000 in 2000 BCE, fell to about 15,000 in 1000 BCE, and then skyrocketed, first to about 300,000 at the time of Christ and then to about 840,000 in 900 CE. In the next 200 years, it plummeted to under 400,000. By about 1800 it was only about 50,000. Then it soared again in the next 150 years, reaching about 750,000 in 1950 -- about 90,000 less than it was 1,000 years before!

ROSS: [1st rebuttal] Also there is also pollen preserved in the Pre-Cambrian levels of the Canyon, a layer that is supposed to predate all pollen-bearing plants by eons. (Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 23, December 1986, pp 99 - 104; Vol. 23, March 1987, pp. 151 - 153; Vol. 24, March 1988, pp. 173 - 182 ).

TOM REPLIES: You then sent me four articles about the Grand Canyon, three (Part I, II, and III) on topic of Precambrian pollen and one on a missing stratum, all published by creationist George F. Howe, et al. Having studied them, I am amazed that you think this is evidence for a young Earth.

Part I is an historical account of the work of the late Clifford Burdick and, as a scientific paper, is a colossal waste of time. Burdick apparently hoodwinked his instructor, Dr. Kremp, with a "PhD" that was, as creationist Walter Lammert discovered, not from an educational institution, but from a society of individuals of common interest. Burdick's partner on one of his Grand Canyon sampling trips, was the equally infamous Harold S. Slusher, whose "PhD" was obtained from a correspondence school that appears to come from a diploma mill. Slusher's supervising professor was Thomas Barnes who has only an honorary doctorate.

Part II came to the breathtaking conclusions that outdoor air movement increases pollen contamination of samples and that indoor contamination is unlikely.

Part III dealt with the negative evidence in the 1981 report of creationist Arthur V. Chadwick, who stated:

Add to this picture the many thousands of macerations of lower Paleozoic and Precambrian rocks which have been carried out in scores of palynology laboratories around the world which have not supported Burdick's claims. There is a general absence of evidence for flowering plants below the middle Cretaceous. It is a responsibility and challenge to creationists to develop a model of earth history which explains this absence.

Chadwick's own meticulous tests of material from Burdick's sites were completely negative. Howe, et al, claimed that Chadwick's testing destroyed the pollen. The authors grossly mislead readers about the main force of Chadwick's paper when, after having just commented in the Abstract on his negative results, then followed in the Introduction with a citation to Chadwick (1981) as one of the ". . . creationists and others [that] have reported the presence of fossil pollen from various land plants in layers designated Cambrian and even Precambrian by orthodox historical geologists." This statement, which implies that it is Chadwick's main conclusion, may refer, if it refers to anything at all, to a short description of a 30-year-old anecdotal case of Precambrian pollen in India. Nevertheless, as recently as 9 Sep 1997, Chadwick still maintains his 1981 conclusions, saying:

I am a creationist who spent several very frustrating years trying to reproduce Burdicks work. In the end I was able to conclude that his report was due to sample contamination with modern palynomorphs, a conclusion that was not hard to reach given the source rocks he was using and the condition of the spores and pollen. I published these results in a couple of different venues.

The fourth article dealt with a missing stratum in the Grand Canyon. As an example of their sorry scholarship, the authors apparently had nothing better to do than, for example, quote from a national park sign as evidence of the evolutionary position. Although there are very few parts of the world that contain a complete geologic column, at least 25 DO have a complete column, including one in North Dakota. Lehi Hintze's "Geologic History of Utah" describes about 100 local geologic columns for that state, all of which differ at least slightly from each other. However, all correlate from location to location, and one can build a history of the larger area from a number of local columns. For example, the geologic columns of Utah are rich in Mesozoic strata and dinosaur fossils, while most of those in Illinois have neither Mesozoic age rocks nor dinosaur fossils. One missing stratum in one part in the Grand Canyon is a non-issue that doesn't prove anything about the age of the Earth. An incomplete local geologic column is typical and means only that during the particular geologic period of time represented by the missing strata, no sedimentary rock was being deposited in that area.


ROSS: The Greek language has several words for love including eros for erotic love, phileo for a fond personal attachment and agape for a selfless sacrificial love. Language has devolved since the time of the Greeks with loss of distinctions and blurring of meanings. The word used in John 13:38 is agape.

TOM REPLIES: Very misleading. The word "phileo" is used in "the other disciple, whom Jesus loved" in John 20:2. "Phileo" and "agapao" are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament. Since "erao" seems not to occur, it is irrelevant, but a companion of the apostle Paul was named Erastus, which means "beloved" and derives from the verb "erao."

"Agapao," which you reserve for "selfless, sacrificial love," is also used in love your enemies [Mat 5:44; Luk 6:27, 6:35], love your neighbor [Mat 19:19, 22:39; Mar 12:31; Jam 2:8], love your brother [1Jhn 2:10], Paul loves his companion Gaius [3Jhn 1:1], and for a whore who "loved much" [Luk 7:47]. In "Father loves the Son," "agapao" is used in Jhn 3:35, but "phileo" is used in Jhn 5:20. In such mundane subjects as love for the "uppermost seats in the synagogue" and "greetings in the market," "agapao" is used in Luk 11:43, but "phileo" is used in Luk 20:46. "Phileo" is used in love of Jesus [1Cr 16:22], while "agapao" is used in the love of husbands for their wives [Eph 5:25, 5:28, 5:33; Col 3:19].

Most significant is the fact that you have twice avoided giving me your explanation for why John reminded the reader five times that he was the disciple whom Jesus loved.

ROSS: As far as what generation will not pass away until all things are completed in Matthew 24, it seems clear that Jesus is talking about the generation that sees the signs He is describing. Of course He is talking to the disciples because they are the ones who will convey to all future believers -- by voice and pen -- the things that He has said.

TOM REPLIES: Yes, Jesus IS talking about the generation that sees the described signs, but, if you didn't torture the English to salvage your religious view, you would realize that the disciples will also see the signs and that said generation of the seers of the signs is also the generation of the disciples. Jesus said to the disciples, "So also, when you [the disciples] see all these things, you [the disciples] know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you [the disciples], this generation [of the disciples] will not pass away till all these things take place." If I talk face-to-face to you, Ross, and I say, "So also, when YOU see the fall colors and falling leaves, YOU [will] know that winter is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to YOU, this year will not pass away till the leaves turn color and fall from the trees," then I mean that when ROSS sees the fall colors and falling leaves, ROSS [will] know that winter is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to ROSS, this year [of ROSS'S life] will not pass away till the leaves turn color and fall from the trees.

Closing Comments

ROSS: . . I could chide you for a scientific error ( " . . that the sun will rise . .") . .

TOM REPLIES: Nitpicking. In everyday English, one does not watch an "earthrise" or an "earthset."

ROSS: Perhaps you will be gone when I begin to truly suffer for that firmness, but the stage is being set for systematic persecution of Christians, by the open-minded humanists in whom you place your trust for creating a better world.

TOM REPLIES: Tsch, tsch! "Closed-minded" Christians have been persecuting atheists and humanists for many centuries. Atheists and humanists do not persecute Christians -- they just ask that Christians not force their beliefs upon them, whether through intolerance or through the government by passing laws that destroy the separation between church and state. This republic appears to me to be headed toward a Christian theocracy. All other religions, beware! Your problem is that you adhere to a literal interpretation of the Bible, so if you are persecuted, it will be by Christians or members of other religions that do not hold your views.

With love and sadness for you,
but with hope for an enlightenment,



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