NDEs, anti-evolutionists, and a fan of thinking

5/2 - 6/18 Messages

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 7/15/99
your web page about the DOMA and the mormon churches involvement you argue

Actually, I don't argue anything. The page is a quote from an email as stated at the top. I didn't write a word of it.

From the legislation: "This bill, an urgency measure, extends to the Internal Audits and Special Investigations Unit within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) special investigative authority including the authority to conduct hearings, administer oaths, subpoena witnesses and subpoena records." Actually what you are referencing is the most recent version of the legislatin that was ammended to address the "Los Angeles Unified School District" which ammended and totally changed the orientation of the legislation on May 19, 1999.


However, when you look at the original text of the legislation for SB1260 as it was introduced on Feb 26, 1999, you will see that it indeed does address issues of alternative lifestyles being taught in the public schools, most notibly:

This bill would require the State Department of Education to make available to school districts a human relations curriculum that addresses the issues of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and gender diversity in an effort to foster understanding, tolerance, and modes of conflict resolution based on respect and that also relates to the sources and patterns of racism, sexism, religious intolerance, homophobia, bias against persons who have disabilities, and other forms of bigotry. The bill would require the State Department of Education to develop ways to incorporate that curriculum into existing history and social studies courses. The bill would require each school district to include that curriculum in the required course of study for pupils in kindergarten, and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, thereby imposing a state-mandated local program.


I think it would be well worth your time to look at the history of the legislation and see that for whatever reason it began as "Human relations school curriculum" and was later ammended to"Los Angeles Unified School District"

You are correct that in its current form, the legislation has nothing to do with lifestyle issues, but the original bill was clearly marching down that path.  For a complete history of the legislation please seen the California Senate's web page.

Thanks for the information. Since the Q&A was only read in Mormon meetings after it was changed to its current form I think the critique of the Q&A is still valid. It's always better to operate under all the facts. The Mormon DOMA Q&A reads like a slanted propaganda piece--objectivity and accuracy were certainly not leading factors in its creation.

received 6/18/99
You say in
the review that you may have had a nde. Have you since written about it? Reading about NDE's was one of my break-away methods from Mormondom. There were/are "seers" but they weren't men or priesthood holders or even members of the church! Eyes opening up a little here. I am still interested in this topic. If you have not posted this experience could you?

Sure. It was actually a pseudo-NDE as I probably wasn't really near death (even though I absolutely thought I was at the time).

I previously went to a dentist who was, shall we say, less than gentle. Every thing this guy did to my mouth hurt. It wasn't just minor, run-of-the-mill dentist pain either. I would be in agony during just his cleanings (and my teeth are in really good shape)! I'd also be sore for days after one of his fillings or cleanings.

One time, he was going to give me a cleaning and a filling. Since he was such a pain inflictor he would actually give gas (nitrous oxide) at any time if I would pay for it. Other than when I got my wisdom teeth pulled I had never had gas. I imagine it is very rare for dentists to give gas for fillings and/or cleanings but this guy, again, was really bad.

I don't think the gas is supposed to knock you out. It is supposed to make you feel a bit giddy, light headed, and merely deaden the pain. At least that was my experience with gas the previous time. (Apparently others have had similar pseudo-NDE experiences to mine thanks to nitrous oxide though.) I knew what was going on when I got my wisdom teeth pulled even though I was on the gas. This time was totally different though.

As I breathed in the stuff, it felt like I was dying. External noises and happenings faded completely away. In my mind everything went completely white. It began with a white tunnel I travelled down but then turned into just complete whiteness. I couldn't imagine a scene, a sound, or anything else except that in my head the thought "you need to tell the dentist you are dying" kept repeating itself over and over, faster and faster. I tried with all my might to do so, but I could not move, talk, or do anything. The gas had completely taken over my physical functions, including what I could think. At some point, this thought stopped and a new one started. It was, "you are dead", again, repeated over and over again, increasing in speed each time. After this thought ended, there was absolutely nothing going on in my head. Strangely, I was aware of this fact. It was a most unusual sensation to have--as "no thoughts" is something I have never experienced. Even when I'm falling asleep, I have thoughts. Essentially, for the first time in my life, my head was completely free of any thoughts except an awareness that there was nothing going on. This lasted for a while.

The next thing I heard or felt was the dentist saying that I needed more oxygen so I could drive home. When the gas wore off, I was very aware of what had happened and had a complete--even emphasized compared to normal memories--recollection of the experience. My clothes felt like I had been out in the rain as they were drenched in my sweat.

I mused on the experience for several days (and switched dentists!). This was one of those experiences that provided evidence, to me at least, that there is no such thing as a soul separate from the body. If gas, or drugs, or a coma, or a head injury, etc. can so change or control a person's consciousness or personality then it is fairly obvious that it is the physical neurons in the brain that create a person's mind and not some impossible to detect 'spirit.'

Since then I've studied the origins and evolution of animism and find it rather odd that such primitive and superstitious beliefs persist in modern life and religion given our scientific findings--especially of the last few decades--with respect to the mind.

received 6/4/99
An Instructional Designer showed me your site. I love it. Data is vast, knowledge can be complex, but wisdom makes data and knowledge simple and accessible. Your site does that for logical thought.

Thanks for the kind words!

As a kid, there were 2 books I found in the library that shaped me along these lines. One was Darrell Huff's popular "How To Lie With Statistics," still being reprinted after 30 years.

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll look into it.

The other was... well, I'm looking for someone who might know the title and author. It, too, was almost cartoonishly simple, and covered, chapter by chapter with real world examples, the examination of any proposed truth (political, commercial, whatever) by running it through the newspaperman's "who, what, when, where, why, and how."

E.g.: "To whom is this asserted fact true? Is it true to me, or only some others? And is it always true in all places and contexts, or only some?" etc. One chapter, re: the "who" bit, was titled "To Me."

I thought it was called "How To Think," but a search of various possible titles/subjects of various online engines and book finders comes up with nothing.

I am not personally familiar with this book. Maybe someone who reads the above who knows the title can be kind enough to email in with the title and author.

received 5/7/99
My purpose is to see if you have really thought through your position as an
agnostic-atheist. Your web site has a lot of material which could damage the faith of an unprepared Christian. I'm pretty well prepared. But it is unfortunate that many educated Christians are too busy to engage in active debate, so I see many ineffective arguments popping up on sites like yours.

For instance?

When I argue, I try my hardest to both document sources and present hard evidences. This way, context can be checked if it becomes a question, and it is much harder to discredit the evidences.

You've bought into evolution so deeply from what I've gleaned in your web site, I'm not sure you can see the truth that's right in front of you.

Actually, I'm more than willing to change my views. Just present a theory that better fits the facts.

When someone looks at an arrowhead, they don't attribute it to natural processes, but they recognize the plan and purpose behind its shape. If you see a cloud formation which spells, "Things go better with Coca-Cola," you start looking for the airplane which did the sky writing - you recognize this is not a natural formation. You don't attribute the faces on Mt. Rushmore to wind and water erosion over time - it is obviously a product of intelligent design, with both plan and purpose. These are all examples of ordered complexity. The probability odds of these happening as accidents of nature is negligible - effectively zero (at least for the sky writing and Mt. Rushmore). We could continue the analogy with a dictionary, TV, car, building, space shuttle, etc. We wouldn't expect to find any of these as a result of purely natural processes.

Sounds like you are building a false analogy here. Dawkins has already discussed this one at length in "The Blind Watchmaker". An analogy fails when the two objects are different in a significant way. Comparing artificially constructed objects with natural processes or objects is worse than comparing apples and oranges. When Rushmore, a TV, or cars begin to reproduce themselves and adapt to their environments or face going extinct then you will have a much better analogy on your hands. In addition, analogies should be used to clarify a difficult concept--not to make an argument in a case you are trying to prove. In other words, an analogy can't be effectively used as evidence.

The creationist carries the argument further into the life sciences. They (along with the evolutionists) see immense complexity in the "simple" cell, with increasing complexity up to the human brain. The molecular machinery systematically organized and optimized to adaptively control these life systems boggles the mind.

You are ignoring evidence to make the conclusion that there is systematic organization and optimization. For instance see this page and this book.

The messages encoded in the compact DNA package which make it all work is an engineering marvel.

Only if you completely ignore the non-working DNA, poorly working DNA, and other such 'marvels'.

The fact that intelligent mankind, who can design and engineer a Mt. Rushmore or space shuttle, but cannot duplicate the complexity of a blade of grass, indicates to the creationist an intelligence of immense proportion far beyond humanity.

It does? You are really stretching here. How does mankind's ever decreasing ignorance indicate an intelligence of immense proportion far beyond humanity? If anything, the opposite conclusion would make more sense.

The evolutionist, of course, would dismiss this appeal to design as merely a temporary gap in knowledge. After all, in the recent past we attributed lightning and disease to divine intervention, but with increased scientific knowledge, we can explain these events within the realm of natural laws. Thus, it seems that this will eventually be the case for every phenomenon.

But will it? Certainly there are gaps in our knowledge and we continue to learn every day, but the growth in our knowledge has led to a revolution in the field of molecular biology. Information theory demonstrates that nature exhibits two types of order. The first type is produced by natural causes - shiny crystals, hexagonal patterns in oil, whirlpools in the bathtub - and the science of thermodynamics involved in this type of order is well understood. But the second type - the complex structure of the DNA molecule - is not produced by any natural process known to experience.

Ever heard of Stanley Miller?

Yet, experience does offer another example of the second type of order, namely, the letter arrangements in a written message. In our experience, a written message is always the product of an intelligent agent; hence we can construct a positive argument that information structures such as DNA are likewise the result of an intelligent agent.

Another false analogy. Ever heard of pseudogenes?

We get a hint at the power of this argument in Francis Crick's autobiography, What Mad Pursuit (1988), where he surveys his role in the DNA revolution and then remarks, "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." (p. 138). The words sound almost as though Crick has to persuade himself - against the most natural reading of the evidence - that life is really a result of natural causes alone.

Is it natural to posit a creator when we witness no such being and no such continual creation?

It's as though a geologist were to gaze on the four presidential faces carved into Mt. Rushmore and then to insist, despite the obvious marks of human workmanship, that the faces are the product of natural forces alone - of wind and water erosion.

Same false analogy again. Mr. Crick has witnessed the copying of DNA. Did he see any supernatural powers get involved? Until we do, there is no reason to assume anything but natural forces.

In DNA, the marks of intelligent workmanship are equally evident. (*Some ideas from p. 245 of THE SOUL OF SCIENCE, 1994, ISBN 0-89107-766-9, by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton)

Sounds like they haven't heard of pseudogenes either. What would you say if you passed on a genetic defect to your child? Sometimes nature sucks or God did it?

Next we have the virtual impossibility of life arising from non-life, which requires an accident beyond cosmic proportions. Robert Shapiro, a Chemistry Professor at New York University and DNA expert (and an evolutionist), wrote ORIGINS: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (ISBN 0-553-34355-6) in 1986. On page 128, he accepts the probability calculation of Harold Morowitz, a Yale University physicist, for the accidental creation of life from non-life. The odds are 1 chance in 10 to the 100 billionth power according to Morowitz's calculation. To put a perspective on this number, the number of protons in the known universe is 10 to the 80th power, according to a Scientific American article, "The Challenge of Large Numbers," Feb 97, by Richard E. Crandall (Ph.D. in Physics, MIT, 1973), p. 75. Thus, the natural laws which include the laws of mathematics governing our universe argue with incredible strength against life coming forth from non-life.

So I guess the odds against your living god, who is so powerful as to create life from non-life, are even more astronomical? Has anyone calculated those odds? For some of the many possible errors (most involving assumptions which can't possibly be known or even reasonably estimated with any surety) in the above kinds of estimates see this page.

There is another problem with the concept of molecules-to-man evolution. It requires favorable mutations, where the genetic information content in the cell genome increases. The absence of this evidence is well documented.

Be careful that you don't confuse 'well documented' with 'creationists haven't looked for it' (which is usually the case).

Lee Spetner (Ph.D. in Physics, 1950, from MIT), who has been interested in the research of biophysics as applied to evolution since receiving a fellowship in the Department of Biophysics of Johns Hopkins University in 1962, recently wrote NOT BY CHANCE (1997, ISBN 1-880582-24-4). He provides the following insightful statements:

"... in all the reading I've done in the life sciences literature, I've never found a mutation that added information. The NDT [neo-Darwinian theory] says not only that such mutations must occur, they must also be probable enough for a long sequence of them to lead to macroevolution." (pp. 131-132)

"All point mutations that have been studied on the molecular level turn out to reduce the genetic information and not to increase it." (p. 138)

And, two quotes from p. 160.
"The neo-Darwinians would like us to believe that large evolutionary changes can result from a series of small events if there are enough of them. But if these events all lose information they can't be steps in the kind of evolution the NDT is supposed to explain, no matter how many mutations there are. Whoever thinks macroevolution can be made by mutations that lose information is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make up for it on volume."

"Not even one mutation has been observed that adds a little information to the genome. That surely shows that there are not the millions upon millions of potential mutations the theory demands. There may well not be any. The failure to observe even one mutation that adds information is more than just a failure to find support for the theory. It is evidence against the theory. We have here a serious challenge to neo-Darwinian theory."

So since someone with a physics degree hasn't witnessed such a mutation you are going to assume that it is an impossibility? I did a quick search of the net and the very first page I looked at showed that your good doctor speaks about what he hasn't even researched.

Did Spetner's god add all the junk DNA to my genome just for fun?

Along these lines, the current evolutionary star, Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, was interviewed in the recent video BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE OF CREATION (1998, Produced by Keziah, ISBN 1-57341-085-3). In it he is asked if he can think of any mutations where the genetic information content of the cell genome is increased. It is most interesting to watch him contemplate his answer during about 15 seconds of silence, and then his answer avoids the question! As the world's foremost defender of Darwinism, he, of all people, should have been able to say, "Yes, we know of xxx." Could it be that he is forced to agree with Spetner, that no "real" favorable mutations exist?

It would have been even more interesting if creationists weren't the editors of the video. Even if Dawkins couldn't come up with a specific example off the top of his head, the above anecdote means nothing in spite of your far stretching conclusion phrased as a question.

Finally, a favorite argument evolutionists use to discredit the idea of creation is, "if God had designed it, He blew it." These "smarter-than-God" scientists, who can't even design something as insignificant as a blade of grass ...

I don't understand this 'blade of grass' reasoning that you've used twice now. How does the fact that you and I can't create a blade of grass out of thin air 'prove' an intelligent designer? I could certainly design grass (in theory at least) that does a better job of beautifying my front yard and provide a better playing surface for a baseball game than the grass I currently have. It wouldn't require watering, mowing, and it would automatically fend off all weeds. But design isn't really the issue with grass anyway. The fact still remains that I can observe the reproduction of grass over several generations and still not witness any supernatural intervention or other intelligence involved in its replication and survival.

... let alone a living cell, have the (pick your metaphor: pride, arrogance, conceit, audacity) to tell us why the idea of believing in God is foolishness. In examining this argument, creationists recognize the fallacies. I recently was asked by an evolutionist to read the following web page where the "eye" was shown to have "design flaws":

Here's how I responded:
"Frank Zindler and George Williams present a common argument - if God had designed it, He blew it. What does this prove? Are Frank and George all-knowing about the intricacies of the eye? I'll bet they'd say no. If the God of the Bible is true, would He be able to demolish their arguments - absolutely! He laughs at prideful humans who deny Him and are foolish enough to say He doesn't exist (Ps 2:4; Ps 14:1). This type of argumentation has a history of failure, so why should I be so impressed by it? Why are you?

Because Zindler and Williams' arguments are based on facts and yours is based on faith, circular reasoning (God exists because the Bible says so and the Bible is true because it is God's word), and the fallacy of begging the question (why should I rely on the Bible when you haven't proven it to be a valid source of authority and truth).

Here's a recent example of where it flopped - "junk" DNA. In the early 90's it was claimed that long sequences of DNA didn't code for anything. They were nonsense and leftovers from an evolutionary past. This was an argument used against the God of the Bible. But what happened? As research continued, it was found that these "junk" sequences were very useful. They functioned to correct errors and regulate genes, turning them on and off at appropriate times. They were absolutely necessary to the robust design of DNA.

You have got to be kidding. Junk DNA is still junk DNA--even in 1999.

Only about two to three percent of human DNA codes, corrects, or regulates anything. The crested newt has more than six times as much DNA as us humans--the vast majority being utterly useless.

Another well documented example is the supposed vestigial organs - around 180 were proposed by Darwin enthusiasts way back in the 1860's. We can do without that coccyx (tail bone), right? After all, it is just a leftover from when we used to have tails. WRONG. Big mistake demonstrating their ignorance of both fetal development and human anatomy.

Where is your proof that the coccyx is required (or even useful) for human life?

Considering the recurring pattern of error in evolutionary arguments, I have little faith in their enduring truthfulness."

I also told this evolutionist:
"I also want you to realize that what you claim to be truth, is really theoretical shifting sands. I love science, and I recognize that this is the nature of science, which is not "truth" but simply the search for truth. Science has never claimed to be the truth, and a cursory study of the history of science demonstrates changing theories. Do we call these changing truths? No. Again, science doesn't claim to be the truth.

Science is a method. Anyone's claims, when not based on facts, are meaningless. When based on facts they are the best thing we have to go on until we get better evidence.

It sounds as though claims-to-truth are more important to you than rigorous methodologies that can better shed light on exactly what is Truth.

But Jesus did claim to be the truth (John 14:6). The Bible does too (Deut 32:4; Ps 19:7; Titus 1:2; 2 Tim 3:16).

So does the Book of Mormon, the Koran, and other so-called scripture. Why do you reject them? Again, begging the question and circular arguments aren't helping your case.

I find it interesting that those who claim the Bible has errors repeat the same mistakes over and over again. You know why? It's because they haven't done their homework."

Or they have and no one has given a reasonable answer to questions about Biblical problems.

Those who argue the "fact" of evolution deny a designer. They are without excuse, for in Romans 1:20 we are told, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" The evidence of order and complexity, with plan and purpose seen in "the things that are made" argues strongly for a designer of immense intellect. Bible believing Christians need not shrink from the Creation/Evolution debate, because, coupled with evidences for the truthfulness of the Bible, it is quite logical - even reasonable - to conclude that the God of the Bible is the Creator, just as the Bible claims. And if that's the case, maybe Jesus Christ really is the Savior and ONLY way (John 14:6) to God.

Your 'proof' of 'intelligent design' falls even flatter than that of Behe, Denton, Johnson and other creationists but for the same reasons. You fail to show any evidence of intelligent design. Instead you have to resort to sloppy analogies and the Bible. At the same time you ignore the evidence that shows the 'design' is less than intelligent.

received 5/2/99
Your web site just keeps getting better. I have appreciated the objective and unbiased nature in which you have represented the various topics outlined in your site, especially with regard to the Mormon Church. You simply state the facts and let the chips fall where they may.

My commentary is regarding the Mormon Priesthood and recent (within the past 10 years), significant changes in the priesthood order which go directly to the official "restoration" claims of the church. If Jesus actually ordered the restoration of priesthood authority and divine order through heavenly messengers and revelation to Joseph Smith, why did the melchezidek priesthood order subsequently change and where is the revelation received by the modern-day prophet and published in canon which authorized such a change (like the lifting of the ban on blacks holding the priesthood for example)? I am speaking of the termination of the office of patriarch for the church and its lineal order from descendants of Hyrum Smith as outlined in the doctrine and covenants and the abandonment of the office of the seventy as an ordination between elder and high priest (not the general authority office of seventy which existed before and after the deletion of the melchezidek priesthood office).

I haven't seen any commentary on these two issues, which to me are very strong evidence of a contemporary and evolutionary church run by men. Combine this with the changes made in the revealed and restored temple endowment in 1990 and how can any objective individual believe the tales previously represented as truth by the church as they pertain to the restoration of such principles. Doesn't a change in the religious doctrine which comes subsequent to the revealed restoration of such negate the revelation/restoration claim? How can a divine truth which is revealed by God and restored to man later be changed by the church, if in fact such a truth was ever restored?

Keep up the good work.

You need to stop thinking and start following the bretheren Elder. ;)

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