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Jason Lisle vs. Eugenie Scott on CNN!

1 December 2004

On 29 November, there was a nationally televised mini-debate/interview on creation vs. evolution—Dr Jason Lisle, a creationist astrophysicist, debated leading anti-creationist Dr Eugenie Scott, an anthropologist and ardent atheistic humanist and executive director of the pretentiously named National Center for Science Education. This has nothing to with real science such as physics and chemistry, as will be shown, and everything to do with promoting materialistic philosophy and suppressing dissent.

Below, we have reprinted the full transcript so readers can see for themselves how Dr Lisle was (unlike Dr Scott) acknowledged as a real scientist, and made some instructive key points in a very limited time under pressure. Dr Scott resorted to interruptions and then to making the most absurd closing comment about the work of Dr Humphreys, knowing that Dr Lisle could not respond. But Dr Humphreys himself asked her in an open letter to explain her bizarre claims about what he said, as you will see …

We also have some hyperlinks to articles for more information, and footnotes to further comments from CMI's Dr Jonathan Sarfati, since Dr Lisle properly confined himself to key points in the time limit, and could not say everything that could be said.


Paula ZAHN (moderator): Joining me now to debate this: Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education. She joins us from San Francisco tonight. And from Cincinnati, Jason Lisle. He has a Ph.D. in astrophysics and works with a pro-creationism group called Answers in Genesis.

Welcome, both of you.

Jason, let’s start with you tonight. If you were to teach creationism in a classroom, what would you teach?

Jason LISLE, Answers in Genesis: Well, I would show that the scientific evidence, when you understand it, is consistent with what the Bible has to say about creation.

If I had the—if I had the legal right to talk about the Bible,1 I would use that. If I didn’t, I would at least show that the evidence is consistent with there being a creator, with design.

For example, we see created kinds—we see different kinds of organisms in the world and we see them reproducing after their kinds. We don’t see one kind of organism turning into [an]other kind of organism. That’s not something that we actually observe in nature. And that’s something that evolution—evolutionists say is required.

ZAHN: So Eugenie, how would you explain that?

Eugenie SCOTT, director, National Center for Science Education: Well, hearing a creationist define evolution is a little bit like having Madalyn Murray O’Hair define Christianity.2 You’re not really going to get the—the straight story there.3

The way evolution is taught at the university level is the way it should be taught at the high school level. And that’s really what we’re talking about here. It’s not between evolution and science.

ZAHN: What do you mean by that?

SCOTT: At the university level, which is where I used to teach, we teach evolution, biological evolution, as the inference that living things had common ancestors. And we teach it neutrally. We don’t teach it that God did it or God had nothing to do with it. We just present the science.4

And that’s what should be done at the high school level.

ZAHN: Jason, I want to share with you a result from the latest CBS/New York Times poll, which shows that 65 percent of those people polled were in favor of teaching both creation and evolution in public school classrooms. Do you appreciate these numbers?

LISLE: I do. I think that a lot of people realize that it would be very smart to teach both creation and evolution if that were possible. Because …

ZAHN: So you don’t have a problem with both being taught side by side?

LISLE: Not at all. In fact I encourage people to actually teach evolution. But teach it warts and all. Show the problems with it, as well, and then show what the creationist interpretation of the evidence is. Because we feel that the creationist interpretation of the evidence makes a lot more sense when you understand it.

ZAHN: What about the argument Eugenie made that you can teach it in a more neutral way, and I’ll let you expand on that in a moment, Eugenie?

SCOTT: Thank you.

LISLE: Well, there’s no neutral ground, is there? I mean, you’re ultimately either for what God has said as word or against it. And that’s what the real issue is here.

ZAHN: Eugenie?

SCOTT: No, we’re treating this as if there are two alternatives,5 evolution, and the institute, or the Answers in Genesis version of creation.6

But you know, his version of creation, which is everything was created all at one time in six days, 10,000 years ago,7 is not what Catholics believe.8 It’s not what Episcopalians believe,9 and it’s certainly not what Hopi believe or what Navajo believes. So you can’t say teach both, because there’s more than two alternatives.

Now my view, the view that the National Center for Science Education takes, is that we should know more about a lot of creationisms, plural.10 But it has no place in science class. I think comparative religion is a wonderful study, and we should be more theologically literate than we are. But keep it out of science class, because it is not scientifically demonstrable.11

ZAHN: So Jason, would you support the idea of moving that into a religion class?

LISLE: I have no problem with creation, evolution being taught in a religion class, as well. But it would be nice if the scientific aspects of the creation models, just the idea that there is an intelligent creator, would be brought up in a science classroom.

There’s scientific evidence supporting that position. I mean, is the evolution model so weak that its adherents feel the need to suppress any alternatives?12

SCOTT: I don’t think it’s a matter of …

ZAHN: Eugenie, there’s a lot of, you know, strong words that are used when it comes to this debate that creationism is actually being censored out of the curriculum.

SCOTT: Of course. It’s being censored out of the science curriculum, because, contrary to the claims that have just been made, there are no scientific data supporting it.13

Look, the fact of the matter is that science is not a fair process. I mean, it’s not a democratic system. The creationists have the same right that I have to make their position to the scientific community and convince them that there is evidence supporting the idea that everything was created all at one time. The problem is, there are no data. They haven’t made the case. But what they want to do is make an end-run around the scientific community14 and go directly to the school district, as opposed to the normal process of having these ideas filter down from the scientific community.

You know, the thing is, scientists and teachers aren’t trying to get creationism into this—into the curriculum. It’s the politicians. And what this has done is politicize science education in a very negative fashion.15

ZAHN: Well, Jason’s a scientist.16 He’s trying to get it into the curriculum.17

LISLE: Yes, and you know, real science, real science thrives on competing models.18

SCOTT: That’s right.19

LISLE: A real scientist …

SCOTT: Make your argument to the scientific community.20

LISLE: A real scientist would not squelch the evidence.

SCOTT: Don’t make it to a—don’t make it to a high school teacher.

LISLE: But see, I find it interesting that evolutionists would try to use political pressure to suppress certain ideas. For example Russ Humphreys, he’s a Ph.D. physicist, and he has a model of how magnetic fields work. It’s based on their being created 6,000 years ago. And he’s able to actually predict the magnetic fields of the planets Uranus and Neptune based on creation.21

And yet, most students will never hear about that, because we’re not allowed.

SCOTT: And there’s—and there’s a very good reason for that.

ZAHN: All right, Eugenie, you get the last word tonight in the debate.22 The very good reason for that is what, Eugenie?

SCOTT: The very good reason for that is that he has to fool around with some constants that completely violate the laws of physics, which is why these arguments are not made in the scientific literature. They’re made—they’re made politically at the local school board. And that’s not the place for them.

ZAHN: Eugenie Scott, Jason Lisle, thank you for educating us tonight. Appreciate it.

LISLE: Thank you.

SCOTT: Thank you for asking us.

ZAHN: My pleasure.


Dr Humphrey’s letter to Dr. Scott

Hi NCSE folks:

Please relay this to Dr Scott. Having watched her talk about my theory of planetary magnetic fields on the Paula Zahn show tonight, I’m mildly curious as to which “physical constants” she is alleging that my theory changed in making the predictions Jason Lisle mentioned. Would she please specify them? Has she even read the Creation Research Society Quarterly article in which I made those predictions?23

By the way, I thought Dr Lisle won the debate. He looked sharp and well-informed, which he is.

Hoping to get Genie up to speed,

D. Russell Humphreys, Ph. D.

Institute for Creation Research


References and Notes

  1. The first amendment of the US Constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. It actually says nothing about what states or teachers can do, but activist courts have twisted it to expunge God from the classrooms. They even refer to “separation of church and state” and a “wall of separation”, which is not in the constitution. Return to text.
  2. This seems rather hypocritical, considering that Scott has often tried to tell Christians what they should believe about evolution, although her religion is practically identical to O’Hare’s. Her humanist-founded-and-operated organization even had the gall to recruit a liberal churchian to write a “Congregational Study Guide” for the PBS Evolution series—see Atheists—infiltrating churches! Scott is not the only antitheist to co-opt theistic evolutionists as what Lenin called “useful idiots”, while in reality having little but contempt for those who try to “run with the hare and hunt with the hounds”. Return to text.
  3. Dr Lisle’s definition was perfectly fair and is consistent with that of evolutionary biologist Dr Gerald Kerkut. And Scott has actually approved a definition so broad that it would make all of CMI evolutionists too! She approvingly cited a teacher whose pupils said after her “definition”: “Of course species change with time! You mean that’s evolution?!” (Dealing with anti-evolutionism, Reports of the National Center for Science Education 17(4):24–28; quote on p. 26, with emphasis in original, 1997.) But of course, Scott doesn’t intend to claim that we are evolutionists; rather this is equivocation with the word, which is deceitful in effect. She clearly aims to portray creationists as ignorant hillbillies who have to deny that things change at all to be consistent. Of course, creationists believe in plenty of change, but just not that which crosses the kind boundary. That is the point of debate, not whether things change. Also, evolution from goo to you via the zoo requires changes to increase information content, whereas the observed changes that evolutionists often tout as “proof” are going in the wrong direction. See Beetle bloopers: Even a defect can be an advantage sometimes and The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction). Return to text.
  4. This is disingenuous. The “science” Scott advocates is really a view of history where God, if He even exists, did not perform miracles to create things. Return to text.
  5. Actually, that’s the way it is. It’s simply the Law of Excluded Middle in elementary logic. Either things were made or they weren’t! As shown in note 10, there are many religious subdivisions of both, but in the broadest senses of each, creation and evolution exhaust the possibilities. Other evolutionists have had no problem with this simple logic, e.g., Professor D.M.S. Watson wrote: “evolution [is] a theory universally accepted not because it can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible” (Adaptation, Nature 124:233, 1929). Return to text.
  6. I.e., the version of creation taught in the Bible determined by the normal rules of its grammatical and historical context, and understood by most exegetes throughout church history. It is dishonest to claim that this biblical understanding is something only recently invented by CMI or 20th century creationists. Return to text.
  7. More like 6,000 years—see Biblical chronogenealogies. Return to text.
  8. Note our previous comment about an atheist telling church groups what they believe. In fact, there are Catholic creationists such as those featured on Evolution: Fact or Belief? (VHS), and many of those the church regards as “saints”, such as Basil the Great. Return to text.
  9. Once again, we have been to conservative Episcopalian (Anglican) churches who do believe. In fact, the majority of Anglicans in the world are conservative Anglicans, not heretics like Spong. Return to text.
  10. If Scott really wants to split up the scientific notion of creation into its various religious understandings, then she should do the same with evolution. Not only is evolution a religion in itself, as leading evolutionary philosopher Dr. Michael Ruse argues cogently (see quote), but it can be subdivided just as Scott has done with creation. E.g., there are atheistic evolutionists, theistic evolutionists, New Age evolutionists, astrology-believing evolutionists (New Age astrologers nearly all have an evolutionary mindset), crystal-power–invoking evolutionists, Raëlian evolutionists, Marxist evolutionists, Nazi evolutionists … Return to text.
  11. Of course—we claim that creation and evolution are not views of operational science, but really views about history, which might be called origins science. No scientist observed God create the universe or life, and no scientist has seen the big bang “bang” or life being spontaneously generated from nonliving chemicals. Rather than observation, origins science uses the principles of causality (everything that has a beginning has a cause) and analogy (e.g., we observe that intelligence is needed to generate complex coded information in the present, so we can reasonably assume the same for the past). And because there was no material intelligent designer for life, it is legitimate to invoke a non-material designer for life. Creationists invoke the miraculous only for origins science, and as shown, this does not mean they will invoke it for operational science. See Naturalism, Origin and Operation Science. Return to text.
  12. Scott evidently thinks so, at least in her heart of hearts, because she said, “In my opinion, using creation and evolution as topics for critical-thinking exercises in primary and secondary schools is virtually guaranteed to confuse students about evolution and may lead them to reject one of the major themes in science.” (cited in Where Darwin Meets the Bible—by anti-creationist Larry Witham, Oxford University Press, 2002). I.e., we can’t have kids learning about problems with evolution, because then they might not believe it! Return to text.
  13. Incredible ipse dixit. She has also claimed, in all seriousness, that there are no problems with evolution. That would be news to evolutionary researchers who claim that science is about solving problems, such as Dr Scott Todd (note 19). Return to text.
  14. What Dr Scott really means is the evolutionary science establishment. But all this nonsense that “creationists don’t publish in refereed journals” is really the last refuge of those who can’t refute the arguments. And they know perfectly well that overtly creationist papers are almost always censored. One “intelligent design” paper that slipped through the “paper curtain” was Dr. Stephen Meyer’s one on the origin of basic types in the Cambrian explosion, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. However, groups like NCSE wrote to the journal railing that the article was substandard—before they’d even read it (not reading things may be no deterrent for Dr Scott—consider her closing comments about Dr. Humphreys’ paper). Then the Biological Society’s governing council backtracked, claiming that had they known about it beforehand, they “would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings,” and promised that “Intelligent Design … will not be addressed in future issues of the [journal].” So it’s ironic for evolutionists like Scott to pontificate that a scientific movement must publish a peer-reviewed article in order to be considered legitimate, and then turn around and complain that it wasn’t legitimate for a journal to publish any peer-reviewed article from that movement! Return to text.
  15. Rather, evolutionary activists, liberal lawyers from groups like the ACLU (the misnamed American Civil Liberties Union) and activist judges are doing their best to suppress dissent. Return to text.
  16. That must have been galling for Scott—a moderator singling out a creationist opponent as a real scientist, which of course he is. She has probably had it her own way for far too long with the secular media that exhibits so much leftist liberal bias and arrogance (the titles of books by former CBS journalist Bernard Goldberg that thoroughly document this). Return to text.
  17. No he wasn’t, actually. CMI is not a lobby group, and we oppose legislation for compulsion of creation teaching [see Textbook wars: a different angle]. For one thing, one school of thought is that sending kids to public schools is in any case like Moses sending the Israelite children to Canaanite schools. But mainly, why would we want an atheist forced to teach creation and give a distorted view? But we would like legal protection for teachers who present scientific arguments against the sacred cow of evolution such as staged pictures of peppered moths and forged embryo diagrams. Return to text.
  18. Of course. For example, good chemistry professors will teach their students about Thompson’s “plum-pudding” model of atomic structure, followed by Rutherford’s “solar system” model and Bohr’s model of quantized orbits—and about problems with all these models. Only then will they get onto atomic orbital theory, which solved all the problems and was refined with experimental data. Return to text.
  19. Exactly. So she should cease complaining when there is competition for evolution. Even the evolutionary immunologist Dr Scott Todd of Kansas State University said: “Additionally, one must question the interpretations of the observed phenomena and discuss the weaknesses of the model. Honest scientists are far more inspiring than defensive ones who scoff arrogantly at the masses and fear that discussing the problems of macro-evolutionary theory will weaken general acceptance of it. On the other hand, free debate is more likely to encourage the curious to seek solutions” (correspondence to Nature 401(6752):423, 30 September 1999). Return to text.
  20. One is tempted to say: “And you wait your turn!” Even here, Scott can’t stand to see any dissenting views, so has to rudely interrupt her opponent. Return to text.
  21. See The earth's magnetic field: evidence that the earth is young for explanation. Return to text.
  22. And Scott immediately breaks a major rule of debating—a closing statement must not bring up new material that the opponent will have no chance to rebut. But we should not be too surprised whenever someone who denies an absolute moral Lawgiver chooses to trangress moral/ethical bounds. As the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) puts in the mouth of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov, “Without God, everything is permissible; crime is inevitable.” So when Christians debate atheists, we should heed the warning of the 18th century British statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke: “There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men” [meant inclusively in those days] (Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 249). Return to text.
  23. Humphreys, D.R., The Creation of Planetary Magnetic Fields, Creation Research Society Quarterly 21(3):140–149. Return to text.

Ken E. wrote: “I just wanted to drop a note to express my gratitude for the kind of information you supply at the CMI web-site. I love science and find it thrilling to see how it may be used to glorify God and build faith in Him.” Glorify God in His creation. Support this site

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