Creation pioneer looks back
Editors for Creation magazine interview our magazine's founder, Dr Carl Wieland
You started creation magazine (at first named Ex Nihilo) in 1978. Why?
Creation/Flood evidences were crucial in my own early-’70s conversion. They overcame the huge stumbling block of evolution and its associated long-age system. Looking back, I realized that my belief that evolution was fact—since about age ten—was mostly due to glossy magazine presentations, especially drawings of ‘ape-men’ (ironically, virtually all were later abandoned as viable ‘ancestor’ candidates).
So I realized that people needed to not only get good creation information, it had to be professionally presented. I’ve always believed that in everything, Christians should strive to deliver top quality and performance, exceeding the world if anything. And while there was a handful of creation books available, there simply was no glossy magazine anywhere in the world regularly presenting quality creation information.
What did you hope to achieve with this?
I guess one is supposed to come in here with the ‘vision’ thing, but to be honest, I didn’t really have a detailed end goal in sight. I simply knew that the more such a magazine circulated, the more people would be strengthened in the faith and converted, as evidenced now by all the testimonies CMI gets continually. The fact that it now goes to over 100 countries worldwide is very gratifying, of course, but at the time it was more a matter of seeing a crying need and meeting it the best way one could.
Colour printing was far too expensive, especially back then, given the very small number of issues each run. So the first couple of editions were in fact photocopied; pretty woeful quality. But one simply had to start somewhere. It took many years before the circulation increased enough to be the full-colour quality publication it has been now for a considerable time.
Did you perceive some sort of special calling?
Not in the sense one sometimes reads about. Nor did I hesitate about whether it was ‘God’s will for me’. It seemed straightforward; evolution was this huge obstacle to the Christian’s task of spreading the Gospel. And here was an obvious way to do something about it, which no one else was doing. If someone had stepped up I would have been delighted; it certainly didn’t have to be me.
What was different about the creationist movement back then?
It was vibrant, certainly, but a bit raw in hindsight—me included. Back in the ’70s, I think we came across more as if creation arguments were something like Newton’s Laws which, once understood, would cause all reasonable people to abandon evolutionary belief—‘here’s the proof’, as it were. Now, creationists have been quick to point out the limits of science when it comes to dealing with the past, a major reason that evolutionists repeatedly revise or abandon their mechanisms and models. But I think we’re more aware now that this applies to our arguments as well. These can therefore be expected to come and go as more information comes to light, so we shouldn’t despair when our favourite argument or model comes undone. These have to be held lightly—as in my March ’89 editorial Hanging Loose.3
Of course, just as evolutionists, despite changing mechanisms, don’t abandon their Foundational axiom (the world made itself), we need to hold fast to ours—the ‘big picture’ issue of Genesis history. For example, the originally good world was ruined by sin, which is why Jesus came. That means there is no way that the fossil record, with its panorama of suffering, disease and bloodshed—of both real human (Homo sapiens) fossils and animals— could have preceded the Fall.
Therefore the Flood’s importance as an explanation for the bulk of fossils?
Yes, and there’s a good example: the fact of the global Flood is one of the axioms of biblical creation (the Bible is so plain there). But models of the mechanism of the Flood are things that one should be prepared to modify, even replace, as necessary. Becoming wedded to our manmade constructs can be a real trap.
Can you give an example?
Yes … I recall when the ministry (including me) was positive about the ‘vapour canopy’ Model (VCM)—the idea that the pre-Flood earth was surrounded by an invisible layer of water vapour. Early editions of what is now CMI’s Creation Answers Book in effect promoted it; it seemed such a delightfully straightforward way of explaining and tying together so many things. This canopy was supposedly the ‘waters above’ of Genesis 1:7, and its collapse was the source of the massive rainfall. Also, by blocking cosmic radiation, it was supposed to have caused the huge pre-Flood lifespans—and much more besides. So when a NZ creationist4 wrote us a comprehensive critique (from both Scripture and science) challenging the major assumptions and premises behind the VCM, my first reaction was defensive and negative. But logically, he was right. And other points came to mind as time went on.
Well, rethinking the canopy made me rethink an associated issue—the dramatic drop in post-Flood lifespans. I realized creationists generally (not just canopy enthusiasts) were assuming that the cause was external to humanity, from Flood-caused changes to the environment. But Noah was 600 when the Flood began, already well past his prime even by pre-Flood standards. So if this new world was suddenly so toxic to living to much more than 100 or so, how could he have lived another 350 years, seemingly fulfilling his potential pre-Flood lifespan (the third longest in recorded history)?
That suggested the cause was internal, and in any case evidence was already pointing to genetics as probably the major factor in aging. So it led to a Journal of Creation article on lifespans that seemed to be the first to get the ball rolling on explanations that fitted the biblical and biological facts.5 In any case, modelling by a scientist with an organisation that was perhaps the earliest proponent of the VCM showed that such a canopy would also make the pre-Flood world uninhabitably hot. So that organisation no longer sees it as their pioneering ancestors once did.
But saying that is in no way to denigrate those earlier pioneers. It’s much easier to finetune and modify the approach of giants like, for example, the late Dr Henry Morris, than to have set the modern movement in motion in the first place, as his seminal writings did.
And of course the interactions with and contributions of thought by many of my colleagues in the CMI ministry, past and present, have been of incalculable value to me and the movement.
Which of your articles or books come to mind as particularly significant for you?
I guess if I had to mention only one it would be One Human Family: the Bible, science, race and culture. That book embodies a lot of my life’s work, my fascination with human behaviour, society and all of that … . It shows, I think, some of that maturing we talked about earlier; it’s way beyond the simplistic ‘we’re all one race’ conclusion of earlier creation books on the topic: for more information see One Human Family.
What was unexpected though is the many positive comments I’ve also had for the more recent World Winding Down, a layman’s guide to the Second Law of Thermodynamics (2LT). I thought the subject would only appeal to a very small subset of our constituents, so that’s been an eyeopener. Maybe some of the appeal is because even though I wasn’t into highpowered physics, I had a strong desire to understand the 2LT at a deep (‘why is it so’) level. So that struggle helped me explain it with many everyday scenarios in ways that often ‘click’ with lay people. It’s also gratifying that I’ve had trained Ph.D. physicists, and full professors of physics too, tell me they’d gained extra insights, especially into its implications for the origins debate.
The book’s blurb mentions that both sides misunderstand the 2LT. Some examples?
Some creationists claimed that the 2LT began at the Fall, since entropy or disorder are supposed to be bad. However, life depends on many processes that increase disorder, e.g. sunshine, breathing, digestion. And many evolutionists claim that ordered crystals refute the creationist argument. However, their shape is the result of the chemistry of the molecules.
Conversely, the machines of life can’t be explained by the chemistry of the building blocks, any more than a book can be explained by the chemistry of the ink and paper. Used correctly—especially when it comes to the beginning of the universe—the 2LT is a strong argument.
What do you see as the most gratifying aspect of your years in the ministry?
Without doubt, the current team of people at CMI around the world, including younger scientists in the ‘pipeline’—knowing their calibre and their commitment is very special. Despite heartaches along the journey, and my own limitations, this organization has always been blessed as it has kept focusing on the ‘main game’, not allowing itself to be sidetracked by opposition, or by controversies over other issues.
And importantly, CMI has avoided the trap of focusing on any ‘personality’. I’m very confident that we will see the work not just continued, but taken to the next level, as people around the world keep getting behind CMI, which is increasingly happening.
Finally, I love the way that so many in the developing world have been helped, including with translated articles now in almost 40 languages on creation.com. That’s been very dear to my heart, and I’m delighted at CMI’s plans to keep expanding this aspect.
References and notes
- For more see Dr Carl Wieland retires after four decades. Return to text.
- Latin for ‘out of nothing’. It later become Creation Ex Nihilo, then simply Creation. Return to text.
- Hanging loose: What should we defend? Creation 11(2):4, 1989, creation.com/hanging-loose. Return to text.
- Entomologist David Lane, who was a co-founder of the Wellington Christian Apologetics Society along with the later-renowned Dr Jonathan Sarfati, currently with CMI-US. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Decreased lifespans: Have we been looking in the right place? J. Creation 8(2):138–141, 1994; creation.com/lifespan. Return to text.