A surgeon looks at creation
Interview with Dr Warwick Glover, M.B. B.S., FRACS, FRCSED
Dr Warwick Glover is a general surgeon working in Melbourne, Australia. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
Ken Ham [K.H.]: Dr Glover, I understand that you don’t believe in evolution and you accept the Genesis account literally. How did you come to that position as a doctor?
Dr. Warwick Glover [W.G.]: I come from a family that were perhaps Christian ‘fellow travellers’—trying to maintain a Christian ethic but not perhaps understanding why they did. I had tended towards Christianity but did have trouble with this. I had been brainwashed into believing evolution but did find it difficult to understand when I studied all the miraculous design in something like the human body. It was hard correlating my beliefs in Christianity and Darwinian evolution theory. I suppose I would say that I thought I believed in evolution, but I could never really accept it because I couldn’t actually see a mechanism, and thought all the odds were so far-fetched. I was searching for a way to continue Christianity without having to compromise my science. I went through a period of a few years of reading books which were written by evolutionists but who tended to ‘can’ the theory. Then I saw an advertisement for one of the Creation Science Foundation lecture tours. You were one of the speakers Ken. I must say that I came away from that meeting and felt a fool. You said so many things which I knew from my medical training were true, but I suddenly realized that I had been brainwashed to think otherwise. From that moment—I didn’t have an ‘on the road to Damascus’ conversion, but very quickly I think—I became a much more devout Christian. I gave my life to the Lord and I’ve really devoured anything on creation science ever since. I have never found any problems in correlating Christianity with true scientific beliefs and I do spend a lot of my time discussing this with colleagues. I of course have a great opportunity to do this with patients and I see this as part of my vocation; to alert people to the true meaning of life and the true meaning of science, and what the scientific evidence represents.
[K.H.]: Have any of your non-Christian colleagues or patients come to listen to the claims of Christ as a result of your witnessing to them about creation?
[W.G.]: Many have become interested in creation science, reading its literature; a few have come to CSF meetings. I do know of quite a few who I think are nearly there. I rejoice that one or two have become complete Christians.
[K.H.]: Does the creation area help you to communicate with them concerning Christian things whereas previously you may not have been able to do that?
[W.G.]: Markedly so. I think another area where this came up was in my practice in dealing with a lot of cancer patients where you may have to tell them that you are unable to cure them but you have been able to help them. They eventually come back and ask how long they have to live and then, amazingly, a large percentage ask my own personal views on the meaning of life.
[K.H.]: Would it be true to say that the majority of your colleagues would be evolutionists, and if so do you think it is because they were indoctrinated in this during their university training?
W.G.]: I think initially that would have to be the reason. However, most of them are very professional people dealing with technology, and they do at times make flippant remarks about the improbability of all these things coming about by chance. But there is that stumbling block in their hearts. They don’t want to entertain any ideas that might make them have to confront God.
[K.H.]: How intense was evolutionary indoctrination during your own university training?
[W.G.]: I think I would have to say that it was absolute. Biology was my favourite subject at school; the biology books in those days were already heavily evolutionary. This continued in my early years of medicine, although I would say that after first or second year in medical training, origins does not really come into it at all. Everyone just assumes evolution. Lecturers in biochemistry and physiology occasionally made reference to our evolutionary past just like they would to Newton’s law of gravity.
[K.H.]: So creation as an option is not entertained?
[W.G.]: No, and I think this continues into your post-graduate times. In Australia at the moment one would have to be guarded about creationist views to remain successful in one’s position in an institution. That is a personal opinion.
[K.H.]: Have you ever had any discrimination because of your creationist views?
[W.G.]: Not discrimination of a nasty kind, just jibes and some ridicule at times.
[K.H.]: Can you think of anything in your university training that you were taught dogmatically as fact about evolution that has since been totally refuted?
[W.G.]: Yes, I have reviewed all the evidences for evolution which I was taught. I have actually even retained the original biology books I used. I have come to realize that there really isn’t much fact there that would make one think that evolution should be strongly supported. In particular I think of the area of embryology. The falsehood that has been spread in the community at large about the human embryo recapitulating its evolutionary history as the embryo develops, as evidenced by early embryos supposedly having ‘gill slits’.
[K.H.]: Yes, I remember being taught that at school. We were taught ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’ and we were taught an embryo had gill slits, that it had a tail like a reptile and had a yolk sac like a bird and so on. Were you taught those same things?
[W.G.]: Yes. Ernst Haeckel and his ‘biogenetic law’ sort of got these ideas rolling. Of course embryos of a wide range of mammals look similar at various stages of development, but we should be looking at the differences. A human embryo is always destined to become a human, an elephant is always destined to become an elephant, and a whale is always destined to be a whale. If we carefully study embryos at early stages we can recognize quite easily which one is to become the elephant or the whale or the human respectively.
[K.H.]: So a human embryo does not have gill slits?
[W.G.]: A human embryo definitely does not have gill slits. We know all embryos begin as two germ cells uniting and each of those germ cells contributes to the DNA blueprint which causes the embryo to develop into what it is designed to be. This follows an architect’s design or blueprint just like assembling cars in a factory. Making the analogy with cars on a production line—there are similarities between a Volkswagen and a Rolls-Royce in the early stages of assembly, in that we have to put on wheels, have a windscreen and a steering wheel. But a Volkswagen is always destined to be a Volkswagen and a Rolls-Royce is always destined to be a Rolls-Royce.
[K.H.]: I remember being shown at school a diagram with some little markings or something on the embryo that were said to be the ‘gill slits’. If they are not gill slits, what are they?
[W.G.]: Early embryos have what we call pharyngeal pouches, or branchial pouches. Fishes have a branchial apparatus which develops and gives them gills which they need. A gill is a communication between the pharynx and the outside so that the large surface area of a gill can absorb oxygen and excrete wastes just like human lungs do. But the human embryo has pouches, it never has slits communicating with the outside. From the pouches in the human we develop very important organs. For example, the third and fourth pharyngeal pouches give rise to the thymus gland and the parathyroid glands—both very essential glands for immunity and calcium control respectively.
[K.H.]: Dr. Glover, do your students know about these facts, or do they generally believe that humans have gill slits?
[W.G.]: I regularly instruct Monash University medical students in their surgical training. When we are doing head and neck structures, I put up a slide of an embryo and just ask the question: ‘Does the human embryo have gill slits?’ I find the vast majority answer that, yes, it does.
[K.H.]: What do you then tell them?
[W.G.]: I refer them back to a standard embryological text, which is a book called Medical Embryology by Jan Langman [fourth edition, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, 1981] and in the section on head and neck development it indicates that the grooves which are often called branchial (gill) clefts are now properly called pharyngeal, not branchial, because ‘in the human embryo real gills—branchia—are never formed.’ The associated pouches ‘do not establish an open communication with the external clefts’ [p. 268]. Most of them then look at me with a blank look and consternation and we usually go on to something else.
[K.H.]: Have they already studied that textbook? In other words, have they seen that textbook before?
[W.G.]: Yes, that is the prescribed textbook back in second and third years. Of course I am not sure if as embryology students we read every page of a book, but I do know the teachers still promulgate that false idea, which is the reason they believe it.
[K.H.]: So the presupposition that they have gill slits would probably even override what they read in their textbook, it is so strong.
[W.G.]: I would suggest that’s correct.
[K.H.]: When the students hear that, do any of them ever comment to you later?
[W.G.]: Some get frustrated and want me to get on with teaching them surgery rather than becoming a theologian for them. I have had some positive feedback. Even this year a student whom I taught three years ago actually sought me out, as he is now a resident at the hospital I am working at, and he said that he has never stopped thinking about what we discussed that day. Although he is from a very ‘churchified’ family I think he very shortly may well be going his own way and following the truth—becoming a Christian. I recently lent him Bone of Contention and Myths and Miracles, and about two weeks ago I lent him In the Minds of Men. He gave it back to me three days later saying that he had read it twice and said it was a great book.
[K.H.]: This whole idea of embryonic recapitulation was really thrown out in the early part of this century. Haeckel admitted to having fraudulently ‘doctored’ his diagrams. Have you ever talked to any of the lecturers who teach embryonic recapitulation and do they know it has been proved wrong
[W.G.]: Those I have spoken to know it has been discredited but still cling to it because cause they are evolutionists. And of course it used to be held up as being perhaps the strongest evidence; they are reluctant to give it up. If you read Stephen J. Gould’s book Ontogeny and Phylogeny he still says that, although he knows it is discredited, it is a nice idea that has some substance to it.
[K.H.]: I was also taught when I went to school that there were vestigial organs in the human body, organs left over from our evolutionary ancestry that we don’t need. In particular I was taught about the appendix. Were you taught this at school and at university?
[W.G.]: Yes, and I would say the majority of surgeons who remove the appendix even today think that it does absolutely nothing.
[K.H.]: Has there been much research done on the appendix to show whether or not it does have a function?
[W.G.]: There has been scant written about it. The appendix seems to receive little attention, which is actually quite amazing considering one-third of all abdominal emergencies at any hospital would probably be cases of acute appendicitis.
[K.H.]: Have you done any research yourself to find out whether it has got special functions or not to refute this idea of its being vestigial?
[W.G.]: Yes, I have researched papers of others on the structure of the appendix and there have been some quite good advances made since we have had electron microscopes and can get hold of fresh tissue and examine it fairly quickly. I think the evidence indicates that the appendix is a very vital organ. Most of its functions are probably very early in life in embryological and fetal stages. Probably, after about four weeks of life, it has finished its major role—other organs can take over should it be removed subsequently. [For an excellent creationist technical discussion, see Dr. Glover’s article in Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, Vol. 3, 1988, pp. 31-38. — Ed.]
[K.H.]: What would some of those roles be in the early weeks?
[W.G.]: I think we can classify them into embryological, physiological, bacteriological and immunological, and even biochemical. The predominant one is immunological. The appendix is a little like the tonsil at the upper end of the alimentary tract, with immune mechanisms concerning bacteria that might go down the gullet. Well, the appendix is involved in the immunity of the small bowel, to keep it sterile. Normally the small bowel is sterile and the large bowel of course has bacteria which we need—they provide essential substances—and the appendix keeps some sort of immune barrier between the surface of the bowel and the bloodstream.
[K.H.]: Now that you know the appendix does have some very special functions, has that affected you as a surgeon in how you counsel people regarding an appendix operation?
[W.G.]: After every appendix operation I do, when the patients come back to my rooms to have their stitches out, I get an opportunity to discuss what the appendix does compared with what they have been taught—that because it is useless it is more likely to get infected. You know, Charles Darwin stated that, and later Darwinists said because you have it out and you are all right, it means it does nothing, which is nonsense. You can cope without a gall bladder, but it’s far from useless.
[K.H.]: Is it possible that the appendix has some other functions even in adulthood that have not yet been discovered or researched?
[W.G.]: That is possible. In the past decade we have discovered all sorts of hormones in the gut and different types of immune cells. Immunity is no longer as simple as it was even 10 years ago, with divisions into cellular and humoral immunity and now intermediate types. The appendix obviously plays a role in this.
[K.H.]: I have heard that in less developed countries where the diet includes much more roughage, the incidence of appendicitis is way down. Would that suggest that rather than getting infected a lot because it is useless, maybe it has something to do with the fact that we have changed our lifestyle?
[W.G.]: Yes, I think that is true. The incidence of appendicitis, although still high, is actually falling around the world and this may relate to better dietary conditions. In under-developed countries with a large diet of unprocessed fibre and not much processed food, the incidence is markedly decreased.
[K.H.]: Tell me, Dr. Glover, were you taught similar things about other organs as you were the appendix?
[W.G.]: Another embryological organ we were taught about was the yolk sac being a remnant of a true yolk sac when we were once like a bird. Well, of course as we know all germ plasm and all blood stem-cells for the blood to form in the bone marrow come from cells in the yolk sac. This is a case of an Architect using economy of structure for different purposes. The yolk sac is used for storing yolk in a bird and a similar structure is used for giving rise to germ cells and blood stem-cells in a human embryo. It is actually a sign of a thoughtful and all-wise Architect, for we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’.
[K.H.]: With so much information now coming from creation organizations, plus anti-evolution books from noncreationists, do you see any changes among the students coming through that shows, even though they might be committed to evolution, they are a bit unsure of the whole thing?
[W.G.]: Yes, I think this is definitely so. I don’t think that there are going to be dramatic changes, but people in science generally are finding it harder to believe that there is ‘nothing going on out there’. Science is becoming more metaphysical — unfortunately in some quarters almost mystical. I think creation science is ploughing the ground now and will start reaping the rewards of that perhaps a decade or two down the track.