Dear Netters, Last night (May 15, 1992) I saw a program on CBS about the Bible, and how sc

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Dear Netters, Last night (May 15, 1992) I saw a program on CBS about the Bible, and how science has allegedly proven that everything in it is the absolute truth. Rather than bore you with the details, I have attached a copy of the letter I am sending to CBS. It's long, but I wanted it to be detailed. I encourage you all to write to CBS, and to make your displeasure at this show known. Please feel free to use parts of my letter, so long as the original intent of the letter is not changed. The more _unique_ letters CBS receives, the better. At the end of this post, I have also included the list of companies who advertised on this program, with their addresses. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! The networks consider 40 letters received to be a significant message. WRITE CBS! WRITE THE SPONSORS! Tell them that you will no longer purchase their products because of their association with this program, unless CBS also airs a program that leans the other way (towards a rational point of view). Let CBS know that you are writing their sponsors. Swamp CBS with letters - tell your friends to write in as well. We can make a difference in fighting the growing tide of religion and superstition that is sweeping the country. But we must act! Lastly, if you _do_ write, please let me know. If your friends write, please have them let me know. I'd like to have a rough count of how many letters CBS is receiving! Hopefully so I can gloat over a successful campaign! :) David Hunt, Graduate Student Department of Mechanical Engineering Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh PA 15213 ------- BEGIN LETTER TO CBS ------- May 16, 1992 CBS 51 West 52nd Street New York NY 10019 Dear Sirs, I am writing to you concerning the program aired last night about the Bible, called "Ancient Secrets of the Bible." This program was clearly intended to pander to the religious right, and paid the merest token of respect to true scientific methodology. GENERAL COMPLAINTS 1) Many experts were included on the show. Their credibility would have been aided (or eroded?) had their institutional affiliations been clearly stated - most were not. What makes them an "expert", and what are their qualifications? How are they regarded in the scientific community at large - what are their reputations? 2) Most of the experts were clearly biased. The program had one skeptical expert with a 10 second sound bite, then the program spent 20 minutes with other experts, along with glitzy productions that illustrated the story in question without actually illustrating the explanation given. By this I mean that a possible scientific explanation for a "miracle" is given, then the re-enactment shows a supernatural (i.e. Biblical) version of the event. The two were not consistent. For example - a strong wind is given as the explanation to the Red Sea parting, yet the production shown had no evidence of such a wind. Rather, it was the miraculous parting of the sea that was shown. 3) The program didn't touch on the myriad contradictions contained in the Bible. Nor did it touch on the New Testament miracles, or on many topics such as the flood (except in passing) that could have proven damaging to the claims being put forth. 4) The logic used in the narration was abysmal. If a lawyer used that style of logic in a courtroom, he/she would be the laughing stock of the entire legal community. Just because a thing is possible does not mean it exists. By the logic used in the program, I can claim that fairies make flowers grow. Since it is theoretically possible, and you can't disprove it, it must be true! This is not science, it's faith - something that has nothing to do with true rational, scientific inquiry. 5) The show made strong claims - "We have proven that...", "It is clear that.." and "Since it cannot be disproven it must be true that...". True science rarely works with that much conviction. Most scientists allow for the possibility that they might be wrong - a humility that the program's writers could learn from. 6) Most Biblical skeptics concede the fact that the Bible quite possibly has a great deal of historic accuracy. The program's logic, that since various cities have been discovered their mere existance proves the veracity of Biblical miracles, is faulty to the extreme. By that logic I could claim that the Greek Gods truly exist because of the ancient ruins in Greece and the recent discovery of Troy. 7) The program covered quite a variety of topics. If you had truly been interested in producing a quality program, you should have had a series with one topic per program, each one examining in great detail all of the available evidence. Picking and choosing of evidence is not allowed - and have more than one skeptic. Balance the odds and have a real debate, if you want to be taken seriously. Better yet, have a proportional representation of the camps - if skeptics are 90 percent of the population, have them be 90 percent of the debators. People might learn something from the proportions. 8) In the segments where a natural explanation was offered - wouldn't that remove the need for Divine Intervention? If an earthquake stopped the Jordan River, why does God have to be brought into the picture? Again, this logic is faulty to the extreme. SPECIFIC COMPLAINTS 1) Sodom & Gomorrah These were some questions that came to mind: What possible explanations other than a volcanic eruption are possible? Is there a history of such eruptions in the area? What corroberating evidence do you have - e.g., ice cores from Antarctica? Are all the ruins from the same time? These are all common-sense questions, for a rational inquiry, yet they were not even touched on. 2) Babel About the Ancient Astronaut theory - where's the evidence? Where is one single shred of tangible, physical evidence that there were extra-terrestrial visitors during that time? And biologically, there's no reason they'd look human. About the quartz/radio idea - try asking a Physicist or an Electrical Engineer if that would be possible, let alone likely. As an engineer, I have my doubts! Given the speed of light, any radio communication would have been tremendously slow, as we have not found any signs of intelligent life within a 20 light-year radius. In fact, even if there were an advanced civilization at the closest star, Proxima Centauri, the round trip message time would have been 8 years. This would have taxed anyone's patience - even if they knew that it would take that long. And if they knew, I find it highly suspicious that no records have been found to that effect. Racial diversity - again, just because something is theoretically possible does not mean it happens. Your expert was one expert - what about other biologists? Is there a consensus on this theory? What about the DNA-comparison evidence showing racial splits not 3000 years ago, but more than 50,000 years ago? Another ignored piece of evidence that would have damaged your claims. Regarding the storms about the tower depicted in your mini-movie: Anything tall would have attracted lightening. So what? I thought there was a rainy season in that region of the world - wouldn't that explain why storms were constantly around? Finally, your presentation of Saddam Hussein was not called for. While I do not defend his deplorable actions, your description and jabs at him were despicable and clearly political posturing, something not relevant to scientific inquiry. 3) The Burning Bush Any flame requires both heat and fuel, and I find it hard to believe that a bush could survive a flame without some signs of damage. Why only Israeli experts - surely there are some others who are also qualified? Does being an Israeli automatically make one an expert? This was implied. Does the bush claimed to be the actual bush date from those times? Has an attempt to date the bush ever been made? What about this super-volatile oil theory - it sounds good. Surely there are other bushes around so that it could be tested? Why was this not done? It would be an easy test, and would be very convincing if it worked. 4) Parting of the Red Sea There was the skeptical Rabbi in the beginning who talked about the probable numbers of people involved in the Exodus as being greater than 2 million. How were the logistics of the travel done? Food and distribution? Movement coordination? Where are the traces of the migration - surely a movement of 2 million plus people (plus herds of animals) would have left quite significant traces on the landscape. The alleged israelite markings - those markings look like stick figures! While I readily concede the difficulty of carving rock, I know that art had evolved far beyond stick figures at that point. How were these dated? What about peer review - independent confirmation? Are the markings consistent from location to location? Are they consistent with known israelite practices of the time? Are there traces of a 2 million-person migration in the area of these markings? All these potential flies-in-the-ointment questions are not even asked, let alone dealt with. As to the actual crossing of the Red Sea - the Pharoh was delayed by a pillar of fire. This wasn't even mentioned - why? What explanation was there for it? Or could such an explanation not be found that fit into the scheme of the program, and therefore was it ignored in the hope that the error of omission would be overlooked? Finally, that cute fluids experiment showing the wind blowing the water away has tremendous flaws. What wind speed would be required to actually do that to the Red Sea? What could possibly cause a wind to blow that hard naturally, for the required duration to allow 2 million people (plus animals) to cross? If the wind speed required turns out to be greater than the speed of sound, then the wind theory is automatically disproven. And how could the israelites have stood, let alone walked, in a wind of that force? Have egyptian relics been found in that area, and have they been dated to the proper time? 5) Dinosaurs and People (evolution) More than 99 percent of U.S. scientists believe in the veracity of evolution. While having a majority does not mean that the view held is true, in a community whose fundamental principles call for constant re-examination and re-evaluation, I feel it unlikely that a false theory would have lasted for over 100 years. There is a tremendous amount of evidence in favor of evolution - and while the anomolies quoted by the (creationist?) scientists should be addressed, the program ignored the mountains of other evidence. As to dinosaur footprints alongside human ones - that has been disproven several years ago. It is a habit of creationist "scientists" that, despite having their claims carefully debunked, they keep making these claims hoping that some listeners will not have heard the evidence refuting their claims. They hope that if they keep chanting the same theme repeatedly, the scientific community will eventually tire of constantly having to re-refute their "evidence". And about the 1977 discovery of an alleged dinosaur carcass - why haven't most credible scientists heard of it? Or was it so long ago disproven that it has become a non-issue for most scientists? While I was in elementary school at the time, a true discovery of such an artifact would have been national news for weeks - yet I remember no trace of any discussion on the topic. Behemoths are mentioned - if dinosaurs really were around, why are there no artistic depictions of them? Cave-dwellers surely would have drawn them if they'd seen them, not to mention China, which has had a continuous civilization back at least 3000 years. Lastly, the standard creationist argument is the claim that since evolution is obviously wrong, their particular mythos is correct. Why not another of the religions? Why not Shintoism? Hinduism? One of the African religions? Why does the "refutation" of evolution automatically mean that the judeo-christian creation is the true one. Faulty logic, again! 6) The Ark of the Covanent Was there the necessary technology? Sure - wood and gold working were well advanced by this time in history. Why couldn't the israelites have made one? As to there actually being one - why not? People have undertaken colossal projects to appease their gods. Just look at the temples of many different religions, and the cathedrals that took over a century to build! What's a small, gold-covered box in relation to these projects? About the ark being under the temple mount - the 3 Rabbis never said they saw the ark. They just supposed it might be there. Then the narrator announced that "...clearly, the ark is underneath the temple mount." This is clearly exaggeration and extrapolation of a supposition - no hard evidence given. 7) The Bible as Scientific Predictor The earth was known by the greeks to be a sphere for quite a long time - they even had a reasonably accurate estimate for how large it was. There was nothing miraculous about it - just good observation and keen minds. Consider that in Genesis the world is described and it is nothing resembling a sphere. The spherical description comes much later, when the news from Greece could have made its way to that area of the world. As to the scientific predictions - if you're looking for a pattern to match, you will find it. For example, in PI if you want a pattern of 10 7's to be found, the odds are rather low. But if you ask for any unusual pattern, then your odds increase dramaticaly. Such patterns could be 10 1's, or 2's, etc. Or 1123581321, or 1234567890, or 0987654321, or 2718281828 (base of the natural logarithm). The same thing happens with "paths in the ocean". If you want to match a prediction, expecially one that vague, you will. Water tunnel 1700 feet long: Sure - it's amazing what you can do with slave labor and a little simple geometry. The greeks did it. There was quite a lot of engineering skill in those days, and cheap labor was readily available. 8) Walls of Jericho Wall sapping has been known for millenia. Sapping is the technique of tunnelling under a wall, supporting the roof with wood. Then the wood is lit on fire and when the tunnel gives way the walls collapse. Why rely on a miracle when a rational explanation is readily available? Nor is lightening mentioned in the story, yet your mini-movie had lightening striking the walls. As to the grain not being plundered - has the possibility that the grain was poisoned been investigated? Tainted grain would have stopped any force from plundering. What about gold, and other valuables? Have they been found in sufficient quantities to justify the no-plunder restriction? This would have been a telling point in the support of the story, yet no mention was made. 9) Brotherhood and Comfort The Bible has some of the most vicious stories in history - the slaughters of entire peoples at God's direct command, the institutionalism of slavery, and the subjugation of women as near-chattel. God himself comes across as a vain and arrogant diety, full of loathing and disgust for anyone who dares not toe the line. This book has been the cause of some of the bloodiest acts in history - witness the Crusades, or the Inquisition. What of the 100 Year's War, where Catholics fought Protestants in wholesale slaughter? The list goes on and on. While there is much wisdom in the Bible, especially the Golden Rule, it is sandwiched between atrocity after atrocity. And as to providing comfort - surely the Roman gods provided comfort to those who worshipped them. By the program's "logic" the fact that some people derived comfort from Jupiter et al means that they existed as well. CONCLUSION I am writing to each and every company that advertised during this program, and I will tell them that their advertisement on this program linked their name with a program that was nothing more than religious propaganda thinly veiled as science. I will inform them that I am working on spreading the word of their support for the program, and am encouraging people not to buy their products. Additionally, in these days where poll after poll of the american population shows a frightening lack of knowledge of basic science and the scientific method, your representation of the methods and logic in this program as scientific is nothing short of criminal. Many people in this country have the TV as their sole source of information - your airing of this program (among others, such as the upcoming "Intruders" info-drama) reduces you from a respectable network willing to find the truth to the "National Inquirer" of TV networks. I am calling on you, as a national network with national responsibilities, to produce another program which truly and scientifically investigates the Bible and the stories in it. There are many persons and organizations who would appreciate a chance to publically examine the claims made in the Bible. I challenge you to produce such a scientifically-valid program. Sincerely, David Hunt Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student Carnegie Mellon University ------- END LETTER TO CBS ------- Again, please write to CBS and to the sponsors, listed below. Ask your friends to write as well. And keep me posted on the numbers of letters - I WANNA KNOW! I do not have the address of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or American Atheists. If some kind soul would send these on to them, so they can alert their members, I would greatly appreciate it. Please pass along my request for being posted on the progress as well. Thanks, David Product Address DEPENDS Kimberly-Clark Corp., Consumer Services, Dept. DUEE-10, PO Box 2020, Neenah, WI, 54957-2020 VISA International PO Box 8999, San Francisco, CA, 94128 ULTRA-SLIM FAST PO Box 5047 FDR Station, New York, NY, 10150 RAGU CHICKEN Ragu Foods Company, Rochester, NY, 14606 SIMMER SAUCES ACE HARDWARE unknown as of this writing MOTRIN IB The Upjohn Company, Kalamazoo, MI 49001 MIRACLE GRO unknown as of this writing ALL DETERGENT Lever Brothers Company, New York, NY, 10022 ADVIL and Whitehall Labs, Inc. New York, NY, 10017 PREPARATION H FRISKY'S CAT FOOD Office of Consumer Affairs, Frisky's, PO Box 29055 Glendale, CA, 91209-9055 MITSUBISHI CARS unknown as of this writing HELLMANS MAYO Best Foods, CPC International Inc., General Offices, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 07632-9976 KRAFT MIRACLE WHIP Kraft Inc, Glenview, IL, 60025 CRISCO Proctor & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH, 45202 GIANT EAGLE unknown as of this writing (supermarket in PA) DEXATRIM unknown as of this writing LITTLE CAESAR'S unknown as of this writing PIZZA EGGOS and Kellogs, Consumer Affairs, PO Box CAMB, Battle Creek ASSORTED CEREALS MI, 49016-1986 ROLAIDS and Warner-Lambert Co., Morris Plains, NJ, 07950 BENADRYL =========================================================================== Path: taco!rock!mcnc!rutgers!!!!zuber_rg From: (Robert G Zuber) Newsgroups: alt.atheism Subject: My Letter to CBS (comments requested) Message-ID: <> Date: 17 May 92 16:51:46 GMT Organization: HAC - Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore Lines: 222 The following is the first draft of the letter I will be sending to CBS concerning "Ancient Secrets of the Bible." Critical comments are welcomed, but please respond through e-mail unless you think your comments are relevant to alt.atheism. I focused narrowly on Carl Baugh and some of his claims. I did this because I am most familiar with this topic, and I didn't see the entire show. I still have to double-check the accuracy of my typing in the letter. Please let me know of any mistakes. I am most concerned with being factually correct about details. And please write to CBS if you saw the show! ============================================================================ May 17, 1992 CBS 51 West 52nd Street New York NY 10019 Dear sirs, I am writing to you concerning the show, "Ancient Secrets of the Bible" which aired friday night, May 15th, 1992. My comments will be focused on only a small part of the two-hour program, for I am not competent to speak on many of the controversial issues discussed. I also did not see the entire program. However, the issues that I'm familiar with were covered very poorly, and I suspect that the remainder of the program was of similar quality. The program gave the clear impression that the scientific community was actively engaged in a debate over the issue of whether humans coexisted with dinosaurs. Let me assure you that this debate was settled conclusively over a hundred years ago. Dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years ago (Eldredge, 1991, p. 118). Humans came along many millions of years later, definitely after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The scientific community argues over this point about as much as it argues over the issue of whether the earth is flat or spherical. In other words, it doesn't. The program contained comments from a creation 'scientist' by the name of Carl Baugh. Mr. Baugh claimed (among other things) to have evidence of human footprints alongside dinosaur footprints in the sediments of the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas. He claims that this evidence shows that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. Mr. Baugh also showed an iron hammer with a wooden handle found near London, Texas by others in the 1930's in an 'Ordovician' stone concretion. If this claim were authentic, it would show that either hammer-making humans existed 500 million years ago (the age of the Ordovician period) or current ideas about the history of life on earth are incorrect. I will deal with these two claims separately, but first I want to discuss Baugh's authenticity as an 'expert.' The program gave the impression that Mr. Baugh was a scientist who argues for the coexistence of man and dinosaurs. However, Mr. Baugh has no science degrees relevant to the study of fossils and fossil footprints: "Thus, all of Baugh's alleged science degrees seem to trace circuitously back to Baugh himself and his partner Wilson - through their own unaccredited religious schools and/or branches of them. Last, there is no evidence that Baugh has even an undergraduate degree in any field of science." (Kuban, 1989, p. 16) Carl Baugh is hardly an expert, yet "Ancient Secrets of the Bible" presented him as one. Concerning the alleged 'mantracks' at Paluxy River, it should be noted what Baugh really says. Mr. Baugh claims that giant humans existed several thousand years ago. He claims that these giant humans left behind their footprints. For example, on the basis of five footprints, he claims that a 13 foot, 600 pound, flat-footed human once walked the muddy banks of the Paluxy River (Cole et. al., 1985, p.2). Yet the program did not mention this! Was it too embarrassing? Mr. Baugh interprets the bible to say that giant humans existed, so he believes it. It is fine with me if people wish to use the bible as the basis of their beliefs, but it cannot be labelled as science. The actual footprints that Baugh uses in his arguments have been studied extensively by scientists. It is a long and detailed story, so I will attempt to summarize. I encourage the reader to check out the sources at the end of this letter. Godfrey (1985, pp. 34-35) states that Baugh's 'mantracks' at the McFall Site (at Paluxy) fall into three categories: (1) Clear toe impressions of tridactyl [three-toed] dinosaurs (2) poor dinosaur tracks (3) Invertebrate burrow casts of _Thalassinoides_ that creationists identify as 'toes' of their 'mantracks.' In addition, various scientists have explanations for the supposed 'mantracks'. Godfrey (1981, p. 25) mentions the work of Walter Coombs, a vertebrate paleontologist who has studied dinosaur tracks: "[Coombs] published a marvelous article on this subject in the March 1980 issue of _Science_ [pp. 1198-1200]. In it he shows that tridactyl (three-toed) dinosaurs made very different impressions, depending upon how deeply they sank into the muddy substrate and upon their mode of locomotion - whether walking over the ground or swimming over it, barely touching bottom." Apparently Baugh does not even possess the skills necessary to do careful excavation: "But I noticed that some of the shallow dinosaur prints exposed in June were now destroyed, not so much by weathering as by digging and by debris from nearby 'human' prints being dumped on them." (Hastings, 1985, p. 7) and, "When I telephoned Langston on the 13th, he said it was 'too late' for professionals to be of any help and that the amateur excavation of the skeleton [dinosaur skeleton] had already been botched. It was tragic that this unusual and potentially very important find fell into Baugh's hands." (Hastings, 1985, p. 13) Even more amazing is a confession from one of Baugh's co-workers (Hastings, 1985, p. 14): "Al West, a Baugh co-worker for two years, follower of mantrack claims since 1974......went public with his charge that Baugh never had evidence for manprints as claimed......... West declared, 'I can safely say that I have seen no science in their activities. The facts have flat been dismissed.' He [West] added that Baugh's prints were 'totally contrived from his imagination.' West had worked directly on excavations and had even made the plaster casts for Baugh of some of the tracks. In this connection, West noted that he had seen some plaster casts which, when they were transformed into fiberglass casts, were made to look more human in the process." Baugh's claims have even been questioned by creationists: "Knowledgeable creationists now recognize that Baugh's 'mantracks' are probably spurious." (Schadewald, 1986, p. 9) So why is CBS airing a program that represents this man as a reputable scientist? Finally, "No paleontologist who has studied the flora and fauna of the Comanchean deposits in Central Texas has ever reported a human footprint in these rocks." (Godfrey, 1985, p. 16) Concerning the hammer: "The stone concretion is real, and it looks impressive to someone unfamiliar with geological processes. How could a modern artifact be stuck in Ordovician rock? The answer is that the concretion itself is not Ordovician. Minerals in solution can harden around an intrusive object dropped in a crack or simply left on the ground if the source chemically soluble." (Cole, 1985, p. 46) I have no desire to censor the views of creation 'scientists.' But various United States court rulings have clearly identified the purpose of creation 'science.' Judge William Overton, in striking down the Arkansas Balanced Treatment Act (Act 590 of 1981), stated: "The evidence is overwhelming that both the purpose and effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion in the public schools." (Overton, 1982, pp. 934-43) In 1987, the United States Supreme Court held unconstitutional the Act for Balanced Treatment for Creation Science and Evolution Science in Public School Instruction (Creationism Act). The court opinion, written by Justice William Brennan, Jr. stated: "The preeminent purpose of the Louisiana legislature was clearly to advance a religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind. The term 'creation science' was defined as embracing this particular religious doctrine by those responsible for the passage of the Creationism Act." (As quoted in Strahler, 1987, p. 528) I realize that the program was not primarily concerned with the views of creation 'scientists.' However, I feel that by airing "Ancient Secrets of the Bible," CBS has helped to advance the creationist cause. Now, what is CBS going to do about it? Sincerely, Rob Zuber Astrophysics Graduate Student Johns Hopkins University Eldredge, Niles. 1991. "Fossils: The Evolution and Extinction of Species," Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York Kuban, Glen J., "A Matter of Degree: An Examination of Carl Baugh's Credentials," NCSE Reports, Vol. 9, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1989. Cole, J.R., Godfrey, L.R., Hastings, R.J., Schafersman, S.D., "Introduction," Creation/Evolution XV, Vol. 5. No. 1. Godfrey, L.R., "Foot Notes of an Anatomist," Creation/Evolution XV, Vol 5., No. 1. Godfrey, L.R., "An Analysis of the Creationist Film _Footprints in Stone_," Creation/Evolution VI, Fall 1981. Coombs, Walter P. Jr., March 1980. "Swimming Ability of Carnivorous Dinosaurs." Science 207 Hastings, R.J., "Tracking Those Incredible Creationists," Creation/Evolution XV, Vol 5. No. 1. Schadewald, Robert. "Scientific Creationism and Error," Creation/Evolution XVII, Vol. 6, No. 1. Cole, J.R., "If I Had a Hammer," Creation/Evolution XV, Vol. 5., No. 1. Overton, William R., 1982, "Creationism in the Schools; The Decision in McLean versus the Arkansas Board of Education." Science 215 Strahler, Arthur N., 1987. "Science and Earth history: The Evolution/ Creation Controversy," Prometheus Books, Buffalo, N.Y. ============================================================================ Rob Zuber


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank