Chemists in stew about intelligent design


The article seemed to contradict itself. It appeared in the April 2007 issue of Chemistry in Australia, the journal of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI), and began:

‘One rarely reads creationist perspectives on science first hand in journals such as Chemistry in Australia.’1

Yet it was entitled ‘A creationist’s view of the intelligent design debate’, and was published in the journal.

Photo by Griszka Niewiadomski www.sxc.hu Scientist

It was a well-written piece by John Ashton, a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, a Chartered Chemist, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology, strategic research manager for the Sanitarium Health Food Company, and a creationist. Ashton continued:

‘Secular and atheistic views have dominated western education for years and it is now very difficult to get a theistic based theory taught or discussed … However, I believed there is a sufficient case for the alternative view that in the beginning God’s creative power brought everything into existence to warrant teaching the evidence for this view in science classes.’

Food-poisoning bacteria

Fancy publishing a religious view in a scientific journal! Excepting, as Ashton explained, this is not just a religious view. It has practical application for chemists and their scientific research.

‘Over the past 30 to 40 years a number of new strains of food poisoning bacteria have evolved. That is before the 1970s or thereabouts, they did not exist (or were at least unknown)—now they are a threat to food safety. The evolution of these bacteria has been traced to the transfer of genetic information (toxin genes or acid resistance genes etc.) from one type of bacteria to another. And it is a similar situation for all the observed cases of evolution including mutations. They all involve either transfer of existing (i.e. created) genetic information from one to another or the loss of some pre-existing (created) genetic information.’

Thus, a creationist scientist like Ashton formulates the problem of food-poisoning bacteria quite differently from a materialist/naturalist scientist (note that CMI advises against words like ‘evolution’ or even ‘micro-evolution’ to describe such variation within the kind). They are working from different worldviews, lead to different scientific models, and make different predictions. Understanding the origin, adaptation and behaviour of bacteria is clearly an important issue for chemists dealing with food problems.

The supposed origin of the first living cell from non-living chemicals is also relevant to chemists, a discipline referred to as chemical evolution. Ashton says:

‘Darwinian evolution also requires abiogenesis, that is “living cells” spontaneously arising from non-living molecules (chemicals). Again, as George Javor, Professor of Biochemistry at the Loma Linda Medical School in California, points out, this has never been observed despite experimental attempts, and on the basis of current biochemical knowledge is absolutely impossible.’

Again, Ashton stresses that this is an issue with application to chemical problems in the modern world.

‘Oxford-educated philosopher Ronald Laura and myself have also shown that an intelligent design or “blueprint” based model is more effective in predicting adverse health and environmental outcomes resulting from new technologies than are conventional reductionist science models.’

Lots of responses

Test tubes

So the publication of the creationist’s view in Chemistry in Australia seemed to have been welcomed by the editor as relevant and thought provoking. Predictably, the journal received a lot of responses, both for and against, but mostly against.

Associate Professor Rob Brooks, President of the Australasian Evolution Society said:

‘I am sure your intentions in publishing Ashton’s piece were honourable. Creationists cynically and repeatedly appeal to our liberal intuition that it is best to air all sides of an argument. However, when one side conscientiously adheres to the scientific method and another tries to make contradictory claims in the name of science without adhering to the central evidence and refutation based principles of the scientific methods, it is no longer a debate in any sense. I believe you have been ill-served by Professor Ashton’s cynical exploitation of your desire for openness.’2

Cynical, unscientific, exploited. Hmmm. Brooks made a point of attacking the character of the author, but let’s see how he refutes the scientific arguments:

‘The article itself is riddled with red-herrings and just about every logical fallacy that one could care to mention. Every one of these arguments has been patiently debunked by evolutionary biologists, and in some cases by the courts.’

Readers will notice the common evolutionary tactic of elephant-hurling. I.e. no specific refutations, just more assertions and insults to Ashton … and the editor. But he made his most persuasive point at the beginning of his letter:

‘It is my concern that Professor Ashton and the editors who made the decision to publish this piece have done your magazine considerable harm.’

Harm! This is standard tactics by evolutionists. ‘We can’t discuss this issue because we would be a laughing stock.’ ‘Our reputations would be shattered.’ ‘We would set science back to the dark ages.’ This is their stock-in-trade whenever their evolutionary stranglehold is challenged in the slightest way. And they keep using it because it is so successful. It silences debate from the public square.

Another letter by Christopher Barner Kowollik, Past Chair of the RACI Polymer Division said much the same thing.

‘I fear greatly for the reputation of our society. This feature article—although it may not represent the official position of the RACI, which I most sincerely hope—has already done damage to the cause of exact science. Colleagues, PhD students and post-doctoral fellows at UNSW I have been in contact since this article appeared were plainly shocked.’3

Fear! Damage! Shock, horror!

‘While other learned and scientific societies are actively distancing themselves (including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers’ Association, the American Geophysical Union, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association of Physics Teachers to name but a few) from such scientific nonsense, the RACI is happy to have such views printed in their magazine.’

But Kowollik failed to present even one clear scientific argument refuting ‘the creationist nonsense’, resorting to more elephant hurling:

‘I will not go any way into refuting even the most untenable (and made up) arguments put forward in this feature article, as this has been done by other authors and the most eminent biologists in the world on multiple occasions before.’

Of course not. Note ‘and made up’. This seems to imply that he is accusing his fellow member of being a liar.

Yet, as an expert on polymers (big molecules formed from joining lots of small molecules), Kowollik should be in a position to address the huge problem for chemical evolution: that biological polymers would not form in an alleged primordial soup, and would break down (but he does not have the answer; see Origin of life: the polymerization problem).

The materialist stronghold

This exchange again illustrates the stranglehold that the materialists/evolutionists have on our scientific institutions and on suppressing public debate on important worldview issues in our culture. Their shrill voices do not represent all the members of their organizations (in fact my two chemist friends who told me about the article thought it was balanced). Yet these tactics are very intimidating. Is it any wonder that we have this situation which Ashton describes:

‘ … while we regularly read about scientists who believe in the Big Bang and life on earth being billions of years old, such as Stephen Hawking, Paul Davies and Richard Dawkins, we rarely read articles in the media about scientists like Professor Herrmann who believe that the heavens and earth were created in just six days about 6000 years ago. Yet scientists who believe the creation account and a young earth include many eminent scientists such as Professor David Gower DSc (London), Emeritus Professor of Steroid Biochemistry at the University of London; Dr Ker Thomson DSc (Colorado School of Mines), former director of US Air-force Terrestrial Sciences Laboratory; and Professor Werner Gitt D. Eng (Aschen) a former director of the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (the same institute where Einstein studied). These scientists emphasise the observations that much about origins that is often presented as facts is actually based on unproven hypotheses and that the weight of factual evidence favours recent creation.’

Yet there are lots of Ph.D. scientists who believe in creation in six days and who are sceptical of evolution. In fact, John Ashton’s book entitled In Six Days, with contributions from fifty of them, makes just that point.

It seems that the editor personally supported open scientific debate which is why he published the article. Good on him. But the storm that erupted has made things quite difficult.

And the scare tactics have worked again. Because of the perceived threat to the reputation of the RACI it seems the National Executive intervened. They decided to order the removal of all reference to the article from the website, something which took place in the ensuing days. On the journal website reference to Ashton’s article should appear in the ‘features’ section under the microwave article but it is no longer listed.

Why don’t creationists publish in science journals?

Of course, this (false) charge that ‘creationists don’t publish in refereed journals’ is really the last refuge of those who can’t refute the arguments. And they know perfectly well that overtly creationist papers are almost always censored, and the rare one that slips through results in a huge uproar. This episode is yet more evidence of materialistic censorship.

A previous example was an ‘intelligent design’ paper by Dr Stephen Meyer on the origin of basic types in the Cambrian explosion, published in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. However, groups like the atheist-founded-and-operated anticreationist organization NCSE wrote to the journal railing that the article was substandard—before they’d even read it. Then the Biological Society’s governing council backtracked, claiming that had they known about it beforehand, they ‘would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings’, and promised that ‘Intelligent Design … will not be addressed in future issues of the [journal].’ And the editor Dr Richard Sternberg was mercilessly persecuted (see The Smithsonian/Sternberg controversy: Cast doubt on Darwin, get cast out).

But don’t expect evolutionists to drop their hypocrisy any time soon. That is, claim that creationists must publish their creationist theories in secular journals in order to be considered legitimate science, and then turn around and whinge that it wasn’t legitimate for a journal to publish any peer-reviewed article from a creationist!

Stand up to the bully

Ashton said, ‘I believe this serves as a clear example of the bully boy tactics that can be put on organisations and individuals when one attempts to present a case for creation.’

Being a Christian professional means displaying Christ-like character in our dealings with our peers. And this must increasingly include speaking out when the prevailing mood is to suppress the truth about the Creator (Romans 1:18), and demolish their antichristian arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5).

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Published: 24 April 2007


  1. Ashton, J., A creationist’s view of the intelligent design debate, Chemistry in Australia April 2007, pp. 19–20. Return to Text.
  2. www-personal.une.edu.au/~cfellows/Brooks_Letter.pdf Return to Text.
  3. www-personal.une.edu.au/~cfellows/CBK_letter.pdf Return to Text.

Helpful Resources

In Six Days
by John F Ashton
US $17.00
Soft cover