Detailed response to CES Letter, Science

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Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Science Concerns & Questions"



A FAIR Analysis of: [[../|Letter to a CES Director]], a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Chart CES Letter science.png

Response to section "Science Concerns & Questions"

Summary: The author concludes that "The problem Mormonism encounters is that so many of its claims are well within the realm of scientific study, and as such, can be proven or disproven. To cling to faith in these areas, where the overwhelming evidence is against it, is willful ignorance, not spiritual dedication."

Science is embraced by Mormonism and understanding the past is something we believe helpful to being more perfectly instructed in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Our theology is not threatened by science (D&C 88: 78-79).


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Response to claim: "To cling to faith in these areas, where the overwhelming evidence is against it, is willful ignorance, not spiritual dedication"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The problem Mormonism encounters is that so many of its claims are well within the realm of scientific study, and as such, can be proven or disproven. To cling to faith in these areas, where the overwhelming evidence is against it, is willful ignorance, not spiritual dedication.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is pure arrogance on the part of the author: he knows that anybody who has faith is not doing so out of "spiritual dedication," but rather "willful ignorance." There is no acknowledgement that a believer might have a strong and unshakable faith, and the author therefore portrays believers as merely "clinging" to their faith in the face of what he considers to be overwhelming evidence.

Merriam-Webster's definition of the word "arrogance":

ar·ro·gance noun \ˈer-ə-gən(t)s, ˈa-rə-\

an insulting way of thinking or behaving that comes from believing that you are better, smarter, or more important than other people

Logical Fallacy: Inconsistency—The author applies contradictory standards, depending upon which group he is addressing.

  • The author states earlier in his Letter, "it would likewise be arrogant of a Latter-day Saint to deny their spiritual experiences and testimonies of the truthfulness of their own religion."
  • However, with regard to Latter-day Saints who believe in their own spiritual experiences, the author arrogantly states that they are "clinging to faith" because of "willful ignorance" rather than spiritual dedication


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Response to claim: "no death of any kind (humans, all animals, birds, fish, dinosaurs, etc.) on this earth until the 'Fall of Adam'"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

2 Nephi 2:22 and Alma 12:23-24 state there was no death of any kind (humans, all animals, birds, fish, dinosaurs, etc.) on this earth until the “Fall of Adam”, which according to D&C 77:6-7 occurred 7,000 years ago. It is scientifically established there has been life and death on this planet for billions of years. How does the Church reconcile this?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Church leaves the interpretation of whether or not there was "no death of any kind" on the entire earth up to the member.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "If Adam and Eve are the first humans, how do we explain the 14 other Hominin species who lived and died 35,000 – 250,000 years before Adam?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

If Adam and Eve are the first humans, how do we explain the 14 other Hominin species who lived and died 35,000 – 250,000 years before Adam? When did those guys stop being human?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Even Brigham Young acknowledged that this will "remain a matter of speculation."


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "Science has proven that there was no worldwide flood 4,500 years ago"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Science has proven that there was no worldwide flood 4,500 years ago....There are a bunch of other problems with the global flood and Noah’s ark story but I find it incredible that this is supposed to be taken literally considering the abundance of evidence against it.

Other events/claims that science has discredited: Humans and animals having their origins from Noah’s family and the animals contained in the ark 4,500 years ago.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Church does not require a belief in a global flood, despite BYU professor Donald W. Parry's article in the Ensign. What the Church teaches is that Noah was a real prophet, and that he was commanded to save his family along with a number of animals in an ark from a flood which covered his world.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "This doesn’t stop FAIR from acknowledging and admitting to the impossibility of Noah’s Ark and the global flood"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

This doesn’t stop FAIR from acknowledging and admitting to the impossibility of Noah’s Ark and the global flood.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This is a misrepresentation. FairMormon has never claimed "the impossibility of Noah's ark." We believe that the prophet Noah existed, that he was commanded to build an ark, that he was commended to gather animals, and that he and his family were saved from a flood which covered his world. It is only the scope of that flood that produces differences of opinion.

Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "Other events/claims that science has discredited"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

other events/claims that science has discredited.

 *Tower of Babel

 *People living to be 600+ years old

[. . .]

 *Jonah and the whale

* People turning into salt in Sodom & Gomorrah

[. . .]

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Latter-day Saints believe that the study of all things including science can help them to be better instructed in doctrine (D&C 88:77-79).


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "the sun getting its light from Kolob"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

the sun getting its light from Kolob (April 2013)
the sun receives its 'light from the revolutions of Kolob' (October 2014)

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This refers to an explanation given for an item in Book of Abraham Facsimile 2. The description is symbolic, and is not referring to "photons."

Logical Fallacy: Argument from Ignorance—The author has difficulty understanding the topic, so he or she assumes that it simply must not have any validity.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "They carried honey bees across the ocean? Swarms of them?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

They carried honey bees across the ocean? Swarms of them?
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "Does the lack of an explicit statement that they took their prized bees onboard their submarines to the Promised Land necessarily mean they didn't?"

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Book of Mormon does not state that the Jaredites brought honeybees across the ocean. It says that they brought them to the coast of the Old World.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "Does the lack of an explicit statement that they took their prized bees onboard their submarines to the Promised Land necessarily mean they didn't?"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

However, the Jaredites regarded their bees very highly, giving them a special name (Deseret), which Moroni considered important and relevant enough to include in his very short history. Does the lack of an explicit statement that they took their prized bees onboard their submarines to the Promised Land necessarily mean they didn't? I'm of the interpretation that they took their prized bees with them. They had already carried their bees for many years in their travels in the wilderness. They carried their swarms of bees to the seashore. When they arrived at the seashore, they were there with their prized bees for four additional years. Why would the Jaredites jettison their cherished bees, which were obviously very special and important to them, when they left to the Promised land?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author is now setting up a strawman so that he can knock it down. He attempts to salvage his previous conclusion that the Book of Mormon asserts that the Jaredites took their bees with them on the barges, even though it doesn't, so that he can knock the idea down by asserting that it is an impossibility. The possibility that the Book of Mormon does not assert that they took bees on the barges destroys the critic's argument. In order to preserve his argument, the author must assert that they aren't simply honey bees: he must now assert that they are regarded "very highly" as "prized bees" (mentioned three times), "cherished bees" and "special and important" bees. His evidence of this? The fact that Moroni said they were called "deseret." He infers all of this from a single Book of Mormon verse:

Ether 2:3: And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind.

Logical Fallacy: Argument from Silence—The author has formed a conclusion that is based on the absence of statements in historical documents, rather than on their actual presence.

The scripture simply says that they carried honey bees with them to the coast, and that they were called "deseret." It says nothing about the Jaredites regarding their bees "very highly" or being "prized," "cherished" or "special." It says nothing about them carrying bees in the Jaredite barges. The author simply infers all of these conclusions.


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Response to claim: "In addition to the above Jaredite problems, other Jaredite problems and absurdities include"

The author(s) of Debunking FAIR's Debunking (Debunking FairMormon (July 2014) make(s) the following claim:

In addition to the above Jaredite problems, other Jaredite problems and absurdities include:

1. There was no literal tower or linguistic scattering. Multiple written languages existed before 2200 B.C. This alone would disprove their existence. However, let's delve deeper. Assuming there was also a global flood as claimed by the LDS church, the world would have had only 200 years to repopulate itself, build a great tower, have the tower destroyed, and start this migration. It seems unreasonable for 3 families (all of Noah's children) to create such a large civilization in the time allowed.


2. Anachronisms, anachronisms everywhere. While bee keeping was not new, movable hives wouldn’t be created for another 3000 years. Transporting colonies was another 2000 years away (not to mention dangerous, and still destructive to the hive upon harvesting). Aquariums were another 2000 years off. Drying would have been an option, but you wouldn’t need a specialized, water tight bowl for this as claimed. Sheep were not introduced to America until the late 1400s. Likewise for european plants and other animals, especially the staples of the day such as European wheat and barley. So, bringing every kind of seed and herds of animals across the water in a barge likely never happened.


3. These ships didn’t exist. It would be about 1500 years until sea faring barges showed up in history. It was also 3500 years earlier than the first known submarine. It’s also the only wooden boat in history that is made with several water tight and usable doors, water tight corks in the top and bottom, and doubles as a submarine. That’s not even mentioning how it can be propelled by a wind that never stops; seeing as it has no sails, but would have significant drag from the weight and shape.


4. The timing doesn’t work. Coriantumr was found and lived with the People of Zarahemla, who came over at 587 BC. The average generation length is in the upper 20 years, with some nations reaching 30. Let’s go with 30 as it’s more favorable to the LDS side. That gives us a maximum timeline of (28 * 30 + 100) = 940 years. The Tower of Babel was said to have fallen in 2200 BC. This puts the final battle where Coriantumr kills Shiz at 1260 BC, and it bumps Coriantumr’s life span to an unrealistic ~800+ years. The other option is to say that the generation gap was far higher than normal (~58 years); however, such a late start for children would severely decrease birth rates and put the 4 million+ population into question.


5. The population number doesn't make sense. The book of mormon claims at least 2 million individuals, and an implication of at least 4 million. The 6 days of warfare imply a much larger number they do not state. That means in a span of 840 to 1613 years, this population (starting with at most 11 couples) was able to produce more humans than the entire world of 1 million people between 10,000 and 5,000 BC. Here’s another estimation to consider. So again, not impossible, but improbable with our current knowledge.


6. Lacking basic necessities. How much water would you need for 24+ people to survive 344 days on the ocean? According to the MayoClinic, each person needs 2.2-3.0 liters of water per day. Minimum. That's 756.8 liters per person per year, or 16649.6 liters for the entire trip for 24+. That's just for the sedentary adult. Now add the flocks and herds that they're also bringing. There's at least three sheep per flock. Multiple flocks, so even if we only add 6 sheep to the mix, that's another 12-24 liters per day or an additional 4128 liters of water per 3 sheep. If the herds are made of cattle, then you're now adding 40-70 liters per head per day. That comes to 13,760 - 24,080 liters per head. Now also ask how you're going to store these 40,729.6+ liters of water (40.7 meters, 1445 ft)? You're in a ship that can flip over any moment. You can't use pottery, barrels, or bowls. Any leaks would mean death. Animal skins would introduce bacteria. It's just not going to happen. And that's just water. Livestock, sanitation, scurvy/health, and food for everyone is another matter entirely. It's also worth mentioning that the WHO confirms these numbers will go up by 3-10x with even moderate activity or pregnancy/lactation. Higher salt intake (as it's the only means of preserving food at this time) would also increase water needs.


8. Warfare is wrong. Native Americans around this time did not have steel swords. Millions of dead natives would have left a trace. And according to historians, hand to hand engagements did not last that long. We’re talking about a maximum of hours, not several days. Routing, sieges, and hunting down enemies would extend it, but that is not the story being told here...

Author's sources: Reddit user curious_mormon

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The author first starts out with a hyperliteralistic assumption and interpretation of literally every verse in the Jaredite story. The scientific "problems" aren't nearly the "problems" the author appears to assume they are.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "Apparently Joseph forgot that he claimed Adam saw God face to face (God of the OT being Jesus). It’s also implied that Seth, Cain, and Enoch did as well. All of this contradicts the claim that the Brother of Jared is the first person to see the spirit body of Christ."

The author(s) of Debunking FAIR's Debunking (Debunking FairMormon) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

"Apparently Joseph forgot that he claimed Adam saw God face to face (God of the OT being Jesus). It’s also implied that Seth, Cain, and Enoch did as well. All of this contradicts the claim that the Brother of Jared is the first person to see the spirit body of Christ.'"

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This passage has been addressed by Jeffrey R. Holland and there are a number of ways to look at it faithfully.

Logical Fallacy: Special Pleading—The author creates a one-sided argument by including favorable data and excluding unfavorable data through improper means. In this case, the author "moved the goalpost" by changing his argument when his original claim was shown to be false.

The author uses a list from the ex-mormon subreddit that only considers one reading of this passage and then subsequently uses it to claim that Joseph was inconsistent in his theology.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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Response to claim: "A beheaded man doing a pushup and trying to breathe? Not likely"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

A beheaded man doing a pushup and trying to breathe? Not likely.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Actually, it is not only possible, but an accurate description.

Logical Fallacy: Argument from Ignorance—The author has difficulty understanding the topic, so he or she assumes that it simply must not have any validity.


Longer response(s) to criticism:

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LDS Truth Claims: Criticisms from Science


A FAIR Analysis of:
[[../|Letter to a CES Director]]
A work by author: Jeremy Runnells
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