A remarkable gift seals an enduring friendship—and further reinforces the Biblical reality of human origins.
Updated 8 Apr 2020
Outward appearances do not provide too many more striking contrasts than this. Clement William (‘Bill’ or ‘Kookaburra’) Coolburra has been lightheartedly called ‘blacker than the ace of spades’, whereas they don’t come much paler than his ‘best mate’ (Australian for closest friend), George ‘Snow’ Wilson. They are so close that they referred to each other as their ‘twin brother’.1
Bill and Snow have been ‘mates’ for around 40 years, having met when they were both 19-year-old volunteers among the first Australian combat troops into Vietnam. They were part of a group of ‘sappers’ (army engineers) known as ‘tunnel rats’, who had one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs of the war. Their task was to clear and explore some of the huge underground tunnel networks used by the North Vietnamese. Theirs was the only allied troop to undertake a mission into the infamous enemy tunnel system in southern Vietnam known as ‘the Pentagon’.
Bill says people and government seem to have little understanding of the horrors of that war. One time when he was hit by ricochet (‘like being kicked by a horse’), he believes that Snow, who dragged him into the bushes, may have saved his life. Another time, when Bill’s colleagues thought he was dead, he regained consciousness and noticed that he had a tag on his arm and was in the morgue section of a MASH unit!
The photo above shows them both in 1964, when the two of them were serving with the Australian Army in Borneo.
Both Snow and Bill believe that their many shared experiences of the reality of death are what forged the lasting bond between them. So when Bill was suffering kidney failure brought on by severe diabetes, Snow offered one of his own kidneys. He says that it took him six months of hoping that a suitable donor kidney would turn up. But when Bill’s wife Edna told him, ‘If he doesn’t get a kidney soon, he’s going to die’, he did not hesitate to set the wheels in motion.
It is of course well-known that to minimize the risk of rejection problems with such a transplanted organ, one needs to have the closest possible match between the donated tissue and one’s own. The highest chance of finding such a close match is from among one’s close relatives, although this is no automatic guarantee of a transplant matching. So it is not surprising to often hear of live organ donations between parents and children, or siblings. But where such an option is not available, those needing an organ often have to wait in agonizing hope until a close-enough match turns up among the organs donated from people who have died in car accidents, for instance.
Organ recipients and their families are frequently surprised to hear that when their ‘ship comes in’ in the form of a suitably close tissue match, the donor may often be from a different ‘race’. In the United States, for instance, an African-American is very likely to find a good donor match from a Euro-American just as he might from a fellow African-American—and vice versa.2 Bill’s and Snow’s tissue turned out to be quite a good match.
When we realize how trivial the so-called ‘racial’ differences are between people (as CMI has often pointed out), this should be no surprise.3 After all, we are all relatives—descendants from one family surviving the great Flood around 4,500 years ago. The fact that some groups have more or less of any characteristic than others is primarily a result of the ‘sorting’ that took place at Babel.4
In fact, we all have the same skin colouring—the browny-black pigment melanin. Bill has more of it, Snow has less. After Babel, as people groups were rapidly broken up and then dispersed across the globe, they took subsets of the previous gene pool with them, each with differing proportions of the genetic information.
Biologists, including evolutionists, are today fully aware of the amazing genetic closeness of all of humanity. This is totally consistent with the Bible’s declaration that we are all from ‘one blood’ (all descendants of Adam) as the Bible puts it (Acts 17:26).
Though evolutionists have had to rework their stories of human origins to try to somehow fit this data, today no evolutionary molecular biologist or geneticist would find the story of Bill and Snow’s transplant compatibility surprising. But it is no wonder that the general public is still astonished. After all, there has been around a century and a half of evolutionary conditioning since Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species, followed by The Descent of Man. And the obvious prediction from an evolutionary/long-age history of mankind would be that there should be a vast genetic gulf between the ‘races’.
Darwin taught that the differences between various people groups were the result of many tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years of separation, in which each group allegedly evolved independently.
According to the mechanisms by which evolution is supposed to occur, this should have involved the accumulation of a large number of genetic differences.
Since Bill and Snow are not supposed to have had any common ancestry for maybe one or two hundred thousand years (even in the most modern evolutionary ‘just-so’ stories), why would anyone predict the sort of genetic closeness that exists?
Clearly, the biological reality, so movingly affirmed in the true story of Bill and Snow, is utterly inconsistent with the direction in which evolutionary thinking has been brainwashing our culture for generations. Namely that, since evolution has no preferred tempo or direction, then it follows that some groups of separately-evolving people would be less evolved (and thus by implication ‘less human’) than others.
People like Bill and Snow feel deeply that there should be reconciliation between ‘black and white’ Australians.
One important step would be to recognize the deep scars that Darwinist thinking has left upon Western nations. Most people carry at least some form of residue of the evolutionary conditioning mentioned above.
Another important step to true reconciliation and away from racism would involve recognizing the truth which the Creator’s handbook has told us all along about who we are and where we came from. All of us, by way of our created origins through Adam (then Noah) are part of one (human) family. There is ultimately only one race—the human race.
The more important issue still is to recognize that this same history teaches us that we have all been estranged from God—no matter what our superficially varying attributes (like shades of skin colour) may be. And that we all desperately need to be ‘reborn’ into another family—God’s family—through faith in Christ, who is also our ‘kinsman-redeemer’ (Isaiah 59:20).
Update: Sadly, Bill Coolburra died on 28 Oct 2009 aged 64.5
I would like to convey the respect and thanks of the Australian public for the contribution Bill made to this country, through his military service, his works as a lay pastor and elder in the Palm Island community.6
Bill was also a keen sports fan, and has been honoured by Townsville’s annual Bill Coolburra Memorial Shield in Rugby League.
- “Former Prime Minister Harold Holt took it literally. On a visit to Vietnam he asked to meet Snowy’s twin brother and was shocked to find out that he was an Aboriginal person! Together, the twin brothers fled the Military Police after a bar brawl in Vietnam. Together, they faced life and death situations in the field. And eventually, they were joined together in a physical sense. When Bill needed a new kidney, Snowy gave him his.” Dickie, M., Anzac Day: difficult to forget, when that’s the date you were blown up, National Indigenous Times, 22 Apr 2019; nit.com.au. Return to text.
- CMI archival note, 27 May 2014: this sentence originally read, “In the United States, for instance, once close relatives are excluded, an African-American is as likely to find a good donor match from a Euro-American as from a fellow African-American—and vice versa.” Return to text.
- Wieland C., One Human Family: The Bible, science, race and culture, CPB, 2011. Return to text.
- Batten, D. (Ed.), The Answers Book, Creation Ministries International, Brisbane, Australia, chapter 18, ‘How did all the different ‘races’ arise? 1999. Return to text.
- Onward Christian Soldier, Courier Mail, 14 Nov 2009; pressreader.com. Return to text.
- Trio will be dearly missed, Townsville Bulletin, 17 Dec 2009; pressreader.com. Return to text.