Plimer-Roberts Court Case: Media Mendacity
The following is a report by one Leigh Dayton with a point-by-point response by the Creation Science Foundation [now Creation Ministries International], Brisbane, Australia. It was a feature article entitled ‘In the Beginning’ published in a major Australian metropolitan weekly newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, Friday, April 4, 1997. Before publication, this woman contacted CSF, but ignored virtually all our points. In contrast, she printed just what the sceptics told her, as if it was ‘gospel’.
The paragraphs of original Sydney Morning Herald article are headed SMH; the Creation Science Foundation’s responses are headed CSF, and are in red.
The introduction read:
SMH: And you thought the big question of God and science had been settled in a small Tennessee courtroom 72 years ago?
SMH: Not so. The Monkey Trial Mark II starts in Sydney next week, with science once again going head-to-head with creationism. LEIGH DAYTON discovers why the geologist at the heart of the matter is going to all this trouble.
CSF: Of course, the typical loaded language: ‘science’ vs. Creationism. This ignores the creationist basis for modern science, the many great creationist scientists of the past, and the large number of qualified creationist scientists of the present.
Also, as Dayton knows perfectly well, the case had nothing to do with putting creationism on trial. She was given CSF’s press release on the court case. But she, like many journalists who hold the evolutionary humanistic religion, doesn’t want to let mere facts spoil her propagandistic tirade.
Dayton’s article proper starts:
SMH: Ian Plimer is not a fanatic. Although with his intense gaze and shock of bright white hair, he may look like one. Certainly his dogged determination sings “fanatic”. But, in fact, Plimer is down-to-earth - literally. As a professor of geology and head of the School of Earth Sciences at Melbourne University, he can truthfully claim: “I am not a fanatical extremist, a gun-slinging atheist.”
CSF: This statement is true, because Plimer doesn’t sling a gun (at least not as far as we are aware) … However, as a member of the Humanist Society of Victoria, he would certainly be an atheist. Its membership application (1994) says ‘I subscribe to the objects and rules of the Humanist Society of Victoria in order to create a society in which a person may reach their full potential free from supernatural beliefs’ (emphasis in original). See why humanism is a religion!
SMH: Still onlookers may be fooled next Monday when he walks into the Federal Court in Sydney to battle the foe with passion and flair.
CSF: Well, if he looks like a fanatic by Dayton’s own admission, acts like a fanatic, talks like a fanatic, one can understand how people might be fooled into thinking Plimer just might be a fanatic ….
SMH: For Plimer takes his science seriously …
CSF: **Does he really? ** Then why does he make so many crass scientific (and other) blunders in his book Telling Lies …? See Plimer’s Bloopers for documentation of a few of them. Plimer has made no effort, to our knowledge, to correct the pseudoscience permeating his book. None of his friends in the Australian Skeptics seem bothered either - as long as it’s anti-creationist, who cares about the bad science?
SMH: … and he has had it up to here with the creation science crowd …
CSF: Not surprising - Bible-centred creation science is a severe threat to his atheistic religion.
SMH: … particularly Dr Allen Roberts and his Ark Search Incorporated.
CSF: Dayton was informed that neither Roberts nor Ark Search Incorporated have any connection with any acknowledged creation science organisation. See the main points of the trial.
SMH: In an extraordinary court case - dubbed the Monkey Trial Mark II in honour of the famous 1925 “Monkey Trial” in which John Thomas Scopes, a high school science teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was tried for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution - Plimer will accuse Roberts and Ark Search of “misleading and deceptive conduct” under section 25 of the Federal Trade Practices Act.
SMH: This does not impress Plimer, an expert on 2-billion-year-old rock formations. He claims that Roberts has violated the act by arguing in books, videos, brochures and in lectures that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, not 4.5 billion as scientists claim; …
CSF: only some scientists claim this - see some scientists who are creationists. Anyway, none of us were there, so we should accept the word of One who was there (cf. Job 38:4), and tells us the world is young.
See some of the scientific evidence that the world is young.
SMH: … that a “great flood” 4,000 years ago triggered global mass extinctions; and that all the species alive today emerged, safe and sound, from Noah’s ark.
CSF: This is a caricature. Scripture indicates that the Ark only contained land vertebrate animals, because plants, marine creatures, invertebrates and microbes could have survived outside the Ark. Also, creationists believe that many of the ‘kinds’ aboard the Ark have given rise to several ‘species’. E.g. coyotes, wolves and dogs are probably descended from a ‘canine kind’. Creation scientists have shown how the Ark could have contained all the land vertebrate kinds.
SMH: “As a geologist, it’s time to say this is codswallop,” says Plimer,…
CSF: Many other geologists who are at least equally well qualified disagree with Plimer. Plimer’s field of expertise is mineral geology, while the creationist Dr Andrew Snelling has considerable research experience in uranium dating and its assumptions, and Dr John Baumgardner, has developed the world’s leading 3-D supercomputer model of plate tectonics, which has implications for the Flood and the age of the earth.
SMH: … who, surprisingly, has been joined in his action by a former creation scientist, David Fasold.
CSF: Fasold has never been affiliated with mainstream creationist organisations. He is a former marine salvage specialist who was infatuated with the Ark site for about nine years. Fasold has since declared his opposition to Christianity. In his enthusiastic Ark-hunting days, he resorted to a technique akin to water divining, which mainstream creationists would obviously not endorse.
SMH: Fasold claims that the defendants in the case have breached copyright law by using material from his book, The Ark of Noah, without permission.
CSF: That remains to be seen. The artist for Roberts’ book claims his drawings are independent, and that there are significant differences. But it’s ironic that his co-applicant Ian Plimer has a notorious reputation for plagiarism … see the site ‘The Professor Plimer Chronicle’ at:
SMH: But other groups, notably the Queensland-based Creation Science Foundation (CSF), are furious.
CSF: That’s a loaded term. But obviously we are displeased with the **media’s deliberate misrepresentation!**
SMH: Dr Carl Wieland, CEO of the fundamentalist religious group,…
CSF: Another loaded term. Historically, fundamentalism has been used to identify one holding to the five fundamentals of the faith adopted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the USA in 1910. The five fundamentals were the miracles of Christ, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and the inspiration of Scripture. Behind these is the doctrine that Christ is both fully God and fully man, and the Trinity. If this is what is meant by ‘fundamentalism’, then CSF is unashamedly fundamentalist. Dayton exploits the negative modern connotations of the term to attack those who hold to the original meaning.
SMH:… has taken pains to distance the CSF from the Roberts case ever since it was revealed last November by the Herald.
SMH: [Wieland said] “Nobody involved in that case, on either side, has any connection to the mainstream creation science movement,” he said at the time. “It’s completely inappropriate for the impression that somehow this case has anything to do with the creation-evolution controversy.”
Further, Wieland now dismisses Plimer’s claims as having “little substance”, and charges that much of the international media interest in “what is really a rather trivial case bordering on pathos: is based on “misinformation”. The whole business has nothing to do with creationism, Wieland claims.
Rubbish, says Dr Alex Ritchie, a geologist, palaeontologist and research fellow at the Australian Museum. “The CSF is the main thread,” he charges. “The CSF cannot be allowed to say, ‘we have nothing to do with Roberts’. They are the main thread of creation science in Australia.”
CSF: Ritchie is the one talking ‘rubbish’. Wieland was simply stating the truth - Roberts and Ark Search have never been associated with CSF. It is true that CSF is ‘the main thread of creation science in Australia.’, but it doesn’t logically follow that we have anything to do with Roberts. Perhaps Ritchie needs to enrol in a course in introductory logic.
SMH: In fact, a group of burly creationist converts once tried to haul the venerable Ritchie out of his seat in a lecture room. Their difficulty was that the sceptical scientist had asked an unwelcome question of Allen Roberts who had just given a public talk about Noah’s ark.
CSF: there is generally another side to every story told by the sceptic spin-doctors. Creationist sources note Ritchie’s tendency to monopolise the question time, and start lecturing the audience rather than ask a question. Asking honest questions is one thing, but being disruptive is quite another. And please note, that to our knowledge, no one has been hauled out of his seat at any meeting organised by an Australian creation science group.
SMH: Ritchie goes further. He claims to have done his “homework” on one of Wieland’s key CSF colleagues, Dr Andrew Snelling, a man with impeccable scientific credentials as a geologist.
CSF: That’s an astonishing admission. The rest of this article pretends there is a sharp distinction between ‘scientists’ and ‘creationists’. But now Dayton is forced to admit that **Snelling has ‘impeccable scientific credentials as a geologist.’** In fact, if anything, they are better than Plimer’s. Snelling’s doctorate was awarded by the prestigious Sydney University, while Plimer’s was awarded by the relatively minor Macquarie University.
SMH: According to Ritchie, there are really two Andrew Snellings inhabiting the same body and publishing articles about the age of the Earth. Snelling the scientist writes of billions of years, whereas Snelling the creationist pooh-poohs such time depth with dismissive comments about the “so-called” old Earth.
“One of the Dr Snellings is a liar and only Dr Snelling can say which one,” says Ritchie.
CSF: Check the refutation of this charge, and see where the real lies are …. The sceptics realise that Dr Snelling’s existence refutes their charge that no qualified geologist doubts evolution/long ages. So they have to try to find some mud to throw and hope that some sticks.
SMH: Unfortunately, neither Snelling wished to speak to the Herald.
CSF: Not surprising, since the Herald has repeatedly shown that it would ignore what suits them.
SMH: Nor has he taken up Ritchie’s offer of a public debate, made in the Herald in December 1987.
CSF: Well, if Ritchie wants a debate, he can debate me on the proposition: ‘that Ian Plimer, in his book Telling Lies for God, tells lies, half-truths and outright lies; and shows gross incompetence in science, logic, mathematics, and biblical exegesis.’ I presume he would want to negate that proposition, since he has been so supportive of the book. The Clarrie Briese committee’s refutation of Plimer’s ethical charges and Plimer’s Bloopers would be a start for the affirmative side.
Or perhaps we could debate the Embryonic Recapitulation theory, which was discredited in the 1920s — see Ernst Haeckel: Evangelist for Evolution and Apostle of Deceit.
But the Australian Museum, where Ritchie is chief paleontologist, promotes something very similar, with the tired old myths that the human embryo has ‘gill slits’ and a ‘tail’. Well, why not - the most important thing is to convince the public that evolution is true, and who cares if the evidence has been discredited?
SMH: Given their vocal criticisms of creation science, generally, and members of the movement, personally, it is no wonder that Plimer and Ritchie have been on the receiving end of some decidedly uncivilised behaviour. Both get abusive letters and Plimer claims to have received anonymous threats.
CSF: So they claim … Of course, creationists get their share of abusive letters too, as well as plenty of public abuse by Plimer, Ritchie and the sycophantic media. And it’s rare that CSF is permitted the customary right of reply, and if they are, the reply is usually heavily edited.
SMH: Further, Plimer says he has spent more than $300,000 …
CSF: I would like to see some independent auditing of Plimer’s finances before taking that claim at face value.
SMH: … preparing his case and defending himself against a defamation action brought by creationists angered by his public defence of science.
CSF: The defamation action was brought by Allen Roberts, not a creationist organisation. And it was for allegedly defamatory comments made, not for an alleged ‘public defence of science.’
SMH: He has funded his battle with the sale of his home and personal assets,
CSF: Again, some independent auditing would give Plimer some credibility.
SMH: as well as through contributions from concerned members of the public and the Australian Skeptics.
CSF: Quite considerable funding from the estate of a reclusive miser millionaire and fanatical sceptic.
SMH: [Plimer] “It has had a significant effect on my career in that I’m not at the leading edge.”
CSF: I wasn’t aware that he ever was at the ‘leading edge.’
SMH: [Plimer] “As a research scientist I’ve slipped behind.”
CSF: It was his choice to make defence of his humanistic faith his top priority, so he should stop whineing!
SMH: Are Plimer, Ritchie and their ilk God-bashing in the name of science?
CSF: Of course they are - I repeat, the Humanist Society of Victoria, to which Plimer belongs, says on its membership application form (1994) says ‘I subscribe to the objects and rules of the Humanist Society of Victoria in order to create a society in which a person may reach their full potential **free from supernatural beliefs’** (emphasis in original). If God is not supernatural, I don’t know what to call Him!
SMH: “Let me make it clear. I’m not attacking religion, but keep it in the church where it belongs,” says Ritchie.
CSF: No, Ritchie doesn’t mind Christians, as long as they don’t claim their beliefs are actually objectively true and supported by evidence, and affect the real world …
SMH: So God is not their problem. In fact, many scientists are believers. More than 80 years ago, Professor James Leuba found that nearly 40 per cent of scientists in the US believed in God.
CSF: Indeed, this has not changed much in the 1990s according to a recent survey published in Nature
SMH: No, what has Plimer and Ritchie hopping mad is their contention that creationists are targeting young people, that they are packaging religion as science to give it unwarranted credibility and then pushing it in public schools.
Although Wieland, for one strongly denies the charge, Denis Fitzgerald, president of the NSW Teachers Federation, says Plimer and Ritchie are right.
CSF: Fitzgerald, Plimer and Ritchie are simply wrong - CSF does not lobby for compulsory creation teaching in schools. I defy them to produce any evidence to the contrary. Anyway, why would we want an atheist to be forced to teach creation science, when it’s likely he will misrepresent it?
SMH: Fitzgerald claims NSW is the only State to ban the teaching of creation science from its mainstream curriculum. It is religion, not science, and has no place being taught as such alongside evolution, he says.
**CSF: Creation science is the scientific evidence which supports the religion of biblical Christianity ** evolution is the ‘scientific’ justification for the religion of humanism.**
SMH: “Secular education has been one of the mainstays of a tolerant, liberal and inclusive curriculum,” Fitzgerald argues. “It underpins and successfully reproduces the values of tolerance, liberalism and inclusion.”
CSF: Oh, very ‘tolerant, liberal and inclusive’ - Fitzgerald doesn’t tolerate any challenge to evolution, teachers do not have the liberty to present any such challenges, and Fitzgerald doesn’t want to include them.
SMH: [Fitzgerald] ‘One of the preconditions of freedom of religion is freedom from religion.’
CSF: The concept ‘freedom from’ is usually no freedom at all - it usually involves repression of some sort. In this case, the information against evolution is repressed. How can people make informed choices if some information is withheld?
SMH: Once you lose that secular underpinning in public institutions, especially public education, you run the risk of having a theocratic society,” argues Fitzgerald.
CSF: Fitzgerald evidently prefers an atheocratic society. The former Soviet Union, Albania, Cuba and Communist China are some examples …
SMH: And as Plimer points out, we are all entitled to our beliefs … but in a pluralist society we should also expect them to be subject to public scrutiny, something Fitzgerald says is strongly resisted by “furtive” and “publicity-shy” creationists.
CSF: Actually, creationists would like to see evolution challenged, but Fitzgerald doesn’t want that.
Well, this guy is president of the NSW Teachers Federation, and he wants to repress religion (actually, only the Christian religion, not the humanistic religion) and much scientific evidence for creation.
Fitzgerald has strange priorities - many children can’t read, write or add up, and Fitzgerald is on this anti-Christian crusade. No wonder many Australian parents are fed up with the State education system and opt for Christian schools or home schools.