Getting behind the evolution façade
While evolution is often just an excuse that atheists use to justify their unbelief, it’s important to deal with it in order to see what their real objections are
Published: 6 May 2014 (GMT+10)
First, let’s set the scene for what transpired to become a memorable event in many ways.
A church in a large Australian city contacted Creation Ministries International to request that one of their speakers (me, as it turned out) address a public outreach meeting they were planning to host. They decided that in order to better attract non-Christians it would be best to hold the event at a neutral venue, i.e. not a church building, so they booked an evening timeslot at an auditorium that one of the city’s universities makes available out-of-hours for community hire.
But when the church’s flyer advertising the meeting with the title ‘Evolution—busting the myth’ was posted on Facebook … well, that’s when the trouble started. The gist of the vociferous and often venomous online (and other) protests was that evolution should not be questioned, and creation must never be allowed to be proclaimed, on university campuses. Here’s a sample of the more reprintable ones (i.e. where the language was not so foul that we can’t repeat it):
- “This event is an affront to the University in which it is being held.”
- “The fact that [the university] is hosting this event honestly makes me embarrassed to have a degree from there.”
- “Easy way to prove evolution:
* Gas all the creationists in death camps
* Observe increase in intelligence”
So much for the idea that universities are about open exchange of ideas, exploring all views in a quest for truth. A ‘neutral’ venue? Apparently not!
When the university administrators got wind of the disquiet, they contacted the church’s pastor to ask that he withdraw the booking. The caller even said that the university would pay for an alternate venue off campus! And that they had already contacted a venue in a nearby suburb. When the pastor questioned the caller about why the university was trying to move the event, it then came out that the science faculty said it would not be in line with the university’s science emphasis. The pastor stood firm, rightly pointing out that the auditorium reservation had been confirmed, and paid for.
And so the meeting went ahead, as scheduled, on the university campus. Some of the more vociferous opponents indicated they would deliberately stay away. Others, however, indicated they would attend—and did so, much to the excited delight of the hosting church.
A cacophony of atheists
As people filed in to the auditorium and took their seats, Christian observers quietly pointed out to me those they believed to be atheists, or at any rate non-Christians. I noted firstly that there seemed to be a good ‘spread’ of them throughout the lecture theatre. (Later, in light of the cacophony of voices agitating during Q&A, I estimated that the ‘atheist’ contingent made up about one-third of the total attendance.) And secondly, I found it noteworthy and very pleasing that the Christians had even reported this to me, as it meant that they were eager to look out for the nonbelievers. Here in fact is what one early-arriving atheist posted to Facebook (via his hand-held phone/device) while waiting for proceedings to begin:
“Just got to the lecture hall and was already approached by a proselytising church member lol.”
Good on that church member!
Before inviting me to the lectern to present, first the pastor, and then another church representative, laid down ‘ground rules’ for the way the evening would be conducted. No interjections please, nor questions, during the speaker’s presentation—there would be plenty of opportunity for Q&A from the moment my formal presentation concluded.
However, it didn’t take long for certain of the atheists attending to show their disregard for the church’s request that the speaker be given the courtesy of addressing the gathering without interruptions. I had barely started to mention the red blood cells discovered in T. rex bone by evolutionist Dr Mary Schweitzer and her colleagues in the 1990s when the loud interjections commenced.
“She’s retracted that!”, exclaimed one man. When I replied with, “No, she hasn’t”, there was a chorus wail of protestations from several in the audience. “Yes, she has!”, they exclaimed, and were deaf to my “No, she hasn’t” rejoinders until finally the fracas subsided for long enough for me to present the many other soft-tissue-in-dino-bone evidences more recently reported by Dr Schweitzer herself, and others, in the two decades since. E.g. the blood vessels in 2005 and DNA in 2012. (For good measure I also used the opportunity to mention the non-Schweitzerian reporting of radiocarbon in dinosaur bones in 2013.) Thus confronted with these facts showing their claim was false, the protesters fell silent, and so with order restored I was able to continue.
But not for long. When I began to present how the changes observable in living things certainly reflect natural selection, adaptation and speciation but none of these represent evolution (in the sense of having been able to have turned microbes ultimately into man), there were more howls of protests from the atheists in the auditorium.
They challenged, for example, my statement that various evolutionary geneticists had themselves realized that such is the rate of generational accumulation of mutations (about 60–100 per person per generation), the human species should therefore have become extinct at least ten times over, presuming that we’ve been here for the 100,000 years mooted by the defenders of the evolutionary timeline. (Cf. the Bible’s 6,000-year timeline—there have only been about 200 generations since Adam, so although we’re going downhill fast (Romans 8:19–22), it’s understandable that we haven’t gone extinct; there simply hasn’t been enough time for that to happen.) “No secular geneticist has ever said such a thing!”, they protested.
In response I said that indeed evolutionary geneticists have, and that our publications had quoted them word-for-word, and carefully cited the source reference in each case. “Where?”, they challenged, holding up their hand-held internet-ready devices. I replied, “Look, I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I know you can find at least one in my article on creation.com, Time—no friend of evolution.” Within seconds, a young lady seated in the 2nd-to-front row very aggressively said, “Well I’ve found your article here, and there’s no reference here at all.” I said, “It surely is!” But she said, very self-righteously, “No, I’ve scrolled right down, there’s only ‘Related articles’ here, which are all only links to articles on your own website.”
I told her to scroll down further. She went quiet, having evidently found that the reference from which this Alexey Kondrashov attribution in the main text was sourced …
[E]volutionary geneticist Alexey Kondrashov asked, “Why aren’t we dead 100 times over?”
… was indeed listed in the References (#15):
Kondrashov, A., Contamination of the genome by very slightly deleterious mutations: why have we not died 100 times over? Journal of Theoretical Biology 175:583–594, 1995.
[This incident highlights the importance of our being careful to include in our layman articles for Creation magazine our source references from secular peer-reviewed scientific journals. When Christians are presenting evidence to non-believers, e.g. re soft tissue in dinosaur bones, but the non-Christian refuses to read creationist-authored articles, simply direct them to hunt up the original secular references listed at the foot of our articles for themselves. Thus they can see the evidence is genuine, and not something concocted by Christians.]
Although the young lady had been quietened on this matter, others had not, and the disorderly interjections prevented me from continuing with my presentation. I noticed later that one of the live posts to Facebook at about this time boasted, “We’re causing a ruckus”. Indeed they were, and I was not surprised given the Apostle Paul’s warning in Romans 1:18. (I.e. that people who say, “there is no God” (Psalm 14:1) are more interested in suppressing the truth, rather than debating it.)
Among the on-going clamour railing against ‘declining genes’ were voices directing my attention to a man in about the 5th row: “He’s a university geneticist, he ought to know.” Thus goaded, he spoke up boldly, saying that there was now a wealth of scientific literature against what I had presented. “Then where is it?,” I replied, “Surely someone by now would have eagerly used it to challenge us.”
The geneticist responded, “It’s there, it’s there—hundreds of examples …”
“Well then,” I said, “document them in writing and if we haven’t already answered in our literature or website the material you refer to, then we’ll happily publish your submission on our website. I’ll very much look forward to receiving it because … you would surely know of John Sanford, inventor of the gene gun?” (The geneticist nodded.) “We’ve got one of his books out on our resource tables here. Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. I find it curious that Dr Sanford doesn’t seem to have heard of what you’re talking about.”
If I’m not mistaken, at the mention of John Sanford’s name, the geneticist’s facial expression became somewhat more circumspect. Perhaps someone else present noticed it too, because they loudly taunted: “Bet you he doesn’t send you anything!”
But I told the gathering, “No, let’s be fair to him, I’m willing to take this gentleman at his word. And for my part, you all have my word on this—a public promise made before everyone here as eyewitnesses tonight—on behalf of Creation Ministries International, I promise that we will publish this gentleman’s submission on our website, giving it full prominence on the front page as a daily feature article, if the objections he documents haven’t already been answered elsewhere on our website. Notice that exactly this process has contributed to the strength of our website: if someone writes in with a hitherto-unanswered challenge, we post it along with our response as one of our front-page articles—the archive now extends to over 7,000 articles. No wonder it’s become such a powerful resource accessed by people worldwide.”
For the rest of the evening, I heard nothing more from the mouth of the geneticist. [Nor, to date, has CMI to my knowledge yet received the promised written submission from him.] And sufficient quiet now settled on the rest of the assembly that I was able to proceed with presenting some of the remaining material in my presentation—not all, sadly, as too much time had been lost.
Ironically, in disrupting my address, the atheists had actually deprived themselves of a particular ‘pleasure’ they’d pre-prepared for themselves (as I discovered later). One of the attendees mentioned on Facebook that she had her “bingo cards and pens” ready. By ‘bingo’ she meant ‘creationist bingo’. I was told that this is where a group of atheists each brings a list of known favourite creationist teachings to a creation presentation, then carefully ticking off each item as soon as the presenter mentions it. As the final box is ticked, all the atheists are to shout ‘Bingo!’—a very effective disruption no doubt.
Anyway, closing my formal presentation, I then invited public questions/comments/challenges.
A very lively Q&A!
As I expected, the questions initially were of a ‘technical’ nature, and coming from a classical skeptical perspective. That is, from the Christian-hostile (and wrong) presumption that the Bible can’t be true because scientific evidence shows it isn’t. The sorts of questions already answered by creation.com and our various other resources, e.g. The Creation Answers Book. In fact, I was surprised that the questions were so run-of-the-mill, given the clear desire of the atheists present to ‘score points against the creationist’. They were clearly both uninformed and ill-informed about even the basics in the creation/evolution ‘debate’. Indeed, when a young man in the very back row asked a question, I was able to use the opportunity to answer it with the aid of slides/photos which I’d already pre-prepared for my formal presentation, but which I’d had to bypass because of atheist interruptions. Apparently frustrated and surprised at their own inability to score points on facts, information and evidence, their pointscoring tactics shifted to attacking me (i.e. rather than the information I was presenting to them).
“You said you’d finished your presentation!”, a man in the very middle of the auditorium said, in an accusatory tone of voice.
“I did, and I have,” I replied, “don’t you remember I opened it up to questions?”
“But you’re presenting slides again,” he said.
“Yes, in answer to the question from the man in the back row,” I replied.
“But you haven’t answered his question!”, he accused.
“Oh, I’m sorry if that’s the case,” I said, then addressing the man in the back row, “Have I answered your question, sir?—I can’t remember exactly what it was.”
Now the young man in the back row began to nod (it seemed to me) and I think was about to say “Yes” or perhaps even “Yes, but …”—however, he never got the chance to speak. My accuser in the middle of the auditorium interrupted angrily: “No! You tell us the question!”
I replied, “I’m sorry, I can’t remember it. Sir, [I said again to the man in the back row] have I answered your question—can you remind us of what it was, please?” And again, my accuser occupying the central area interrupted, “No! You tell us the question!”
Bizarrely, this pattern repeated several times until the audience rapidly tired of it and voices shouted the man down, exhorting him to “Let it go! Leave it alone!”1
When things had quietened, I said to the general assembly, “Look. Did you come here tonight merely to ‘point-score’? If so, you’ll have no trouble finding a chink in my armour. You want to focus on my deficiencies? I’ve got plenty! And they’re getting worse—I’m “in decay” like the rest of creation—worryingly, of late I’ve started doing the old person’s trick of going into a room and forgetting why. (Just wait till you get to your 50s and experience it for yourself!) But how is it a productive use of your time to make an issue out of my short-term memory loss? Why not instead make productive use of tonight’s opportunity to suss out a view of origins that you’re not even being allowed to hear about, in your daily lives. After all, when do you ever hear of this material being presented at the university? I even know of instances where intended on-campus presentations of this material have been banned by university authorities!” [I had in mind a different campus-imposed ban on a seminar event in 2010,2 rather than the censorship attempt on tonight’s meeting.] “This to me is super-ironic given that we intend these presentations to be for your benefit. Do you think I like travelling thousands of kilometres to come and be the object of your derision and scorn? I would much rather be back at home with my wife! But I came here to do my bit to let you know that the Bible’s account of history is true, that it explains the mess we’re in, and that the ‘rescue package’ offered through Jesus is for real, and the only solution. That’s why I’m speaking to you tonight.”
“No!,” someone objected, “you’re doing this because you get paid to do it!”
“Sure I get paid,” I replied, “but I get paid less than if I’d stayed in my secular scientist job working for the government.”
I could have also pointed out that my wage to ‘proclaim creation’ is paid for by voluntary donations, in stark contrast to the teaching of evolution which is funded by compulsory state-collected taxation of everyone, whether they agree or not!
I continued, “So why do I do this for less pay? I put to you that I do it out of love—love for God, and love for my neighbour. Which of you, if you saw a blind man walking unknowingly towards a pit, would not shout out a warning? Well, that’s what I’m doing—I think you know what I’m talking about!”
A young man near the front put up his hand and, saying courteously that he would like to ask a “productive question”, proceeded to do so. It was standard Creation Answers Book fare. After I answered it, I added, “You know, all of your questions so far have really been the standard questions that many skeptics and uncertain Christians have raised before and which have long been answered in various creationist publications and on our website. These days anyone really with a mind to do so can easily seek out answers to these questions. Let me put this to you; if you really have a commitment to testing things scientifically, why not do this ‘scientific experiment’ in line with Jesus’ words: Go into your bedroom, shut the door, and try speaking to God. Seek Him out for yourselves—do the ‘experiment’. You don’t have to tell anyone else about it—just do it privately, and see what happens.”
Up to this point the serious questions had been of a technical nature, but we were about to witness a dramatic gear-shift from ‘head issues’ to matters-of-the-heart.
The mood changes
A young lady spoke up, “Well I’ve tried the praying ‘experiment’ you refer to—in my room, with the door shut. I used to be a Christian, but one day I wanted to kill myself, so I prayed to God that if He was real, please stop me from committing suicide. But He didn’t. So I set about to kill myself. However, my flatmate came home unexpectedly, and intervened to stop me. But where was God when I needed Him?!”
Immediately I replied, “How do you know it wasn’t God who arranged for your flatmate to return home at precisely the right moment?”
There was a spontaneous burst of applause from (I presume) the Christians in the assembly. But also something of a disturbance broke out between the lady who’d tried to kill herself and another lady about her own age in the row behind. I couldn’t discern what exactly was happening, but I could see (and hear!) that the would-be suicider was very angry in tone with who she was talking to.
Meanwhile other angry voices were directed at me, apparently rebuking me for my ‘heartlessness’ in giving such a ‘callous’ answer to the young lady. Trying to defuse the anger, I remember saying something along these lines: “I apologise if my bluntness has caused any offence. Of all the talents God has given me, I recognise that my strongest suit probably isn’t diplomacy. But there are many parts of the body—and Pastor Peter here, for one, I’m sure is just itching to provide gentle Christian counsel to anyone here who is hurting.” Pastor Peter (to my relief!) nodded in affirmation of this point. But a 20s-something male objector said, “No! You need professional psychologists in order to get proper counselling. I used to be a Christian, but the so-called counselling I got from the church was dreadful. But then I consulted professional psychologists—they were the only ones who could help.” Others raised their voices in support of his ‘testimony’, saying it matched their own. I said, “You want to trade testimonies, as evidence? Well, here’s mine for balance. As an atheist, suffering from depression [while a PhD student], I went to my university’s free counselling service staffed by professional psychologists. And while it felt nice while I unloaded my troubles to them, later on when I got home I realized that outside of work hours they didn’t really give two hoots about me, actually. As soon as they weren’t being paid to listen to my troubles, that was the end of their interest in my welfare. Contrast that with the genuine and on-going love and compassion shown to me by Christians later when I ‘joined’ the church—‘Love must be sincere’, the Bible says [Romans 12:9]—what a difference that made. And now I see why. Only those who’ve tapped into the Source of all Love have love to give out in spades.”
As I recall, it was at about this point that we closed the Q&A session and thus the formal part of the night’s proceedings—a full two hours after I’d taken up position at the lectern. But I made it clear to the assembly that I was still available for private questions/challenges. I must admit, however, that as Pastor Peter thanked everyone for their attendance and stepped away from the lectern, what happened next caught me completely by surprise.
‘The Body’ leaps to action
I expected to be assailed by atheists wanting to challenge me over various things I’d said (or not said). But to my astonishment, none did. Instead the moment that the pastor formally ended proceedings, the atheists were suddenly engaged in frenzied conversations with the Christians who’d eagerly gotten around them. (Having no doubt easily identified them during the presentation and Q&A).
I was amazed. I’d never seen anything like this. And with them all too busy to come and challenge me, I almost felt somewhat abandoned. (Of course, the thought also occurred to me that their ‘challenges’ during the public forum were exposed now as being just for show, for disruptive purposes only, given none was apparently wanting to take it up with me on a one-on-one basis.) However, the Christians were very excited. One came and reported to me: “You won’t believe it. A most amazing change has swept through the auditorium. It’s like a spirit of peace has descended on the gathering. Have a walk around and experience it for yourself.” So I did. Throughout the expansive foyer, I walked amongst the pairs, threes, fours and small groups of people who were deep in intense discussion. As I did so, nobody spoke with me, or apparently even saw me—they were simply too engrossed in their own conversations. I overheard various topics being discussed. Only a very few were on technical matters related to the creation/evolution controversy. Rather, I could hear that the dialogues were overwhelmingly about the Love of God, His mercies, compassion, the reality of sin, God’s forgiveness, salvation through Christ. While the evening had begun as ‘Evolution—busting the myth’, the core of the Gospel was now clearly front-and-centre. One group was working through how a loving God could ask Abraham to put his son on the altar.
The conclusion, to me, was obvious. As I’d witnessed in previous years (e.g. See Box: When Werner laid bare his heart), tonight was yet another example of how when the atheist’s ‘first defence’ is penetrated, i.e. the facade of evolution, one gets to see the real objections to God they have in their heart. First deal with the facade to their unbelief, then you get to deal with aspects lying behind it.
I left the venue about an hour after the end of the public Q&A, but there were many people still there, in earnest dialogue. Later, I heard that:
- Private conversations continued on the pavement outside the building long into the night (even into the ‘wee small hours’) after Security had locked everything up.
- Christians from other churches who attended tonight were powerfully impacted by what they’d seen. E.g., “I’d never heard that there were straightforward answers to these key questions!”, and “I never realized this was such a touchstone issue—I’ll be using it in my witnessing from now on.”
- Three pastors from other churches who attended that night were now considering organising events with an invited CMI speaker.
- The ‘daggers of hate’ from the eyes of the would-be suicider to the Christian lady her own age softened during their conversation afterwards—turned out she’d mis-heard what the Christian had actually said to her earlier. Dialogue revealed mutual interests—neurophysiology and linguistics. A burgeoning friendship? (A proffered gift of CMI’s Walking Through Shadows DVD was gratefully accepted, with a promise in return to view it.)
- Several (at least) of the atheists had accepted offers from various church people to visit them for further discussions over dinner.
- One of the atheists, a university researcher convinced that self-replicating molecules could create life without an intelligent designer, was apparently challenged to think further on the classic C.S. Lewis trilemma: was Jesus Lord, Liar or Lunatic?
Incidentally, there was one atheist who approached me personally afterwards, but it was not to challenge me. He said, “I’m an atheist, and after your presentation tonight, I’m still an atheist. But I want to tell you that I was very impressed with the dignified way in which tonight’s meeting was conducted. Bless you for that.”
Wow, a blessing from an atheist!!! I wonder how that works?
When Werner laid bare his heart
In the DVD Creation Evangelism: Sharing Your Faith, David Catchpoole describes his interactions with a colourful gentleman named Werner, the non-Christian husband of one of the parishioners at a church in Australia that hosted a series of CMI seminars in 2002. In this videoclip extract (duration: 7 minutes, 25 seconds), note that it’s only after many of Werner’s questions relating to the creation/evolution issue were dealt with that he revealed a key objection in his heart, harking back to his childhood under Hitler.3
The full DVD is Dr Catchpoole’s presentation at the Creation Supercamp held in Australia in January 2004. We have since received two further ‘post-scripts’ of news regarding Werner.
In 2006, one of his friends told us that Werner was still regularly attending church and Bible studies, “and still asking the hard questions”. But in 2008, Werner became seriously ill, and passed away some days later. However, the congregation were delighted to report to us that, on his deathbed, Werner very clearly said for all gathered around to hear, “Jesus is my friend.”
* * *
As Dr Jonathan Sarfati explains in his DVD presentation Evolution and the Holocaust, it was actually evolutionary ideas permeating Germany that paved the way for its descent into unspeakable brutality.
He quotes leading evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins and thus exposes to the light what many atheists are unwilling to acknowledge (and some even outright deny): “As far as these evolutionists are concerned, if evolution is true, there is no basis for right and wrong!”
Nazis eagerly made use of the evolutionary concepts already entrenched in German academia. Noting that the subtitle of Darwin’s The Origin of Species by means of natural selection was The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life, Dr Sarfati points out that evolutionary teachings were simply carried to their logical conclusion by the Nazis. They tried to exterminate the ‘inferior’ races like the Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs, as well as the ‘unfit’ (e.g. the handicapped). This is confirmed by the evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith, who wrote: “The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.”
References and notes
- One of the church’s elders subsequently emailed to the author the details of the ‘forgotten question’! Here is his account: “The actual question that was asked that you were challenged over not remembering was ‘What evidence would you accept that would convince you that Creationism is wrong or what is the strongest evidence against Creationism?’ (or something similar). You responded by saying that the most challenging issue for a Creationist is star light and the age of the universe. You then mentioned that however, when we look at the universe and our solar system we see other evidence that points to a young creation. That was when you pulled up slides on the rings of Saturn (and possibly some other points – that’s as much as I remember). That was when one person objected that you were starting your presentation again instead of answering questions.” Return to text.
- It was a widely advertised CMI seminar that had to be hurriedly rescheduled off-campus in the same locale. For a write-up of how protests from various skeptics succeeded in getting it banned by the university administrators, see: Jackmanson, D., University of Southern Queensland bans Young Earth Creationist seminar, 4ZZZFM News, 3 October 2010, 4zzznews.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/university-of-southern-queensland-bans-young-earth-creationist-seminar/. Return to text.
- Irrespective of whether Werner’s stated objection was more his perception rather than reality, objections of that ilk are addressed in many of our articles. E.g. Sarfati, J., What about bad things done by the church? Creation 36(1):16–19, 2014. Return to text.
Post-Script: Since this article was written but before it was published, we received an unsolicited letter from an elder of the church providing us with their feedback of the event. Interested readers can view the contents of the letter (minus identifying names/details of the church and university) here: Eyewitness feedback matches CMI’s report.