Tribute to David Catchpoole
Former CMI speaker/scientist/writer Dr David Catchpoole was ’promoted to glory’ on 4 July 2022. This was shortly after an extensive interview with him appeared in the July edition of Creation magazine. We are pleased to bring forward the web release of this article now, as a tribute to his life, his relationship with the Lord, and his faithful service. David leaves behind his wife, Esther, their four children, and five grandchildren. Those who know him will have good memories of him. We expect you will be inspired by David’s story.
Dr Catchpoole graduated with a B.Ag.Sc. (Hons) from the University of Adelaide, and was awarded his Ph.D. by the University of New England (NSW). This was based on fieldwork in Indonesia, where he met and married his Indonesian-born wife Esther (pictured below). He worked for over a decade with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, researching mango fruiting and flowering physiology. For three years, he was seconded to the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Sugar Development at James Cook University in Townsville, North Queensland. In 1999 he commenced work as a fulltime speaker and writer for CMI in Brisbane, Australia. In 2014 David retired from full-time work with CMI, but still contributed many articles while writing part-time.
Creation Magazine: Were you raised in a Christian household, David?
DC: Absolutely not. It was a thoroughly non-churchgoing household. When I went to Indonesia for three years in my early 20s I was a classic atheist. But I saw things there that confronted my worldview. One of these: I was there as part of an Australian aid project, white Anglo people helping these ‘inferior brown people’ (as I patronizingly saw it from my evolutionary perspective). But I discovered that a whole lot of them were actually smarter than I was. Also, though Indonesia is majority-Muslim, all the world’s major religions are represented there, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. I got to compare the good and bad of various religious influences on the people and regions. It dawned on me that the good things we have in Australia are not because we’re racially superior, it’s our Judeo-Christian foundation.
At one time I had reason to remember the injunctions of my Christian friends, to call on the Lord in a crisis; and I did just that. I’ve often said: I went to the world’s most populous Muslim country as an Aussie atheist, and came back a Christian.
How did you come to believe in 6-day creation?
In 1997, I attended a seminar on creation/evolution by what is now Creation Ministries International. I didn’t know it would change my life. I was already a Christian, for 12 years. My views on origins were a nebulous hybrid mix of ‘theistic evolution’, ‘day-age theory’, and ‘gap theory’. I went to the seminar to tell the two presenters (Dr Don Batten and Dr Carl Wieland) where they were wrong.
Well, I soon realized I was the one in the wrong, and let go of my long-age evolutionary views. I realized instead that the earth could be no older than about 6,000 years. The exact moment that turned my thinking around was when a simple image was put up, of Eden with layers of fossil bones in the earth beneath Adam and Eve. This showed the stark implications for Christianity if e.g. dinosaur fossils were millions of years old.1
That would mean there was not only death before the Fall; many fossils also show evidence of suffering, bloodshed and violence, and diseases like bone cancer. Yet after Adam and Eve were created, God called everything He had made “very good” (Genesis 1:31). I realized with a jolt that it made no sense for God to have looked at tumorous dinosaur bones on Day 6, then call this very good, knowing that cancer would cause such enormous future human misery.
The Eden-on-bones scenario also raised a fundamental doctrinal issue. If we put the shedding of blood before sin, then why did God in Jesus shed blood because of sin? (Genesis 3:21, Hebrews 9:22, 10:4–10) I could see that my compromising of God’s Word by believing the secular millions of years completely destroyed the whole basis for the Atonement (1 Corinthians 15:21–22)1.
From listen-and-learn … to show-and-tell!
I didn’t know that two years later, I would be joining CMI’s international panel of speakers. So, for many years I had the heart-warming experience of seeing others ‘switched on’ by the Eden-on-bones illustration, as I had been.
Of course, those were mostly church audiences. What about outreach to secular groups?
After one university meeting with many non-believers present, I was challenged on my statement that various evolutionary geneticists had themselves realized that mutations accumulate so quickly (about 60–100 per person per generation), the human species should have become extinct at least ten times over. That presumes we’ve been here for the 100,000+ years of the evolutionary timeline. It’s not a problem in the Bible’s 6,000-year timeline, with only about 200 generations since Adam. We’re still going downhill fast (Romans 8:19–22), but it’s understandable we haven’t gone extinct—there simply hasn’t been enough time.
The non-believers protested: “No secular geneticist has ever said such a thing!” I responded that our publications had cited them accurately, with source references. “Where?”, they challenged, holding up their internet-ready smartphones. I said I didn’t have all that at the top of my head, but knew of at least one in my article, ‘Time—no friend of evolution’.2 Within seconds, a young lady near the front very aggressively said, “Well, I’ve found your article … there’s no reference here at all.” I said, “There surely is!” Sounding very self-righteous, she said that the only thing at the bottom were links to our own articles. I told her to scroll down further. She went quiet, having evidently found the reference list, with no. 15 the one in question. Even in the article’s title, evolutionary geneticist Alexey Kondrashov asks, “Why have we not died 100 times over?”3
This highlights the importance of even our lay-friendly articles having source references from secular science journals. When Christians are presenting evidence to non-believers, e.g. re soft tissue in dinosaur bones (below left), but the non-Christian refuses to read creationist-authored articles, simply direct them to check it out for themselves. The original secular references are there so they can see that the evidence is not something concocted by Christians.
It also shows the importance of the entire support team ‘standing behind’ each speaker; the website team, the events coordinators, those who bring our publications to fruition, administrators, volunteer helpers at events—and of course our supporters, who make the whole operation possible.
David, you’ve had quite a bit of ministry to Aboriginal communities—what stands out for you?
Arriving in Woorabinda in central Queensland, I could see evidence of its reputation as a rough town. Outside the Aboriginal mission church I was due to speak in, I saw piles of glass bottle shards. They formed a row along the ‘dripline’ from this now gutter-less building.
As it turned out, no men attended from Woorabinda, only women. A busload of men arrived for the meeting from the distant Aboriginal community of Cherbourg. It had an even worse reputation. At the end of the sessions, one of those men said:
I’ve been locked up in every jail in Queensland, so I’ve had the Gospel preached to me more times than I can count. But I ain’t never heard the Gospel like this. Just think … we [Aboriginal people] haven’t been here 60,000 years like they tell us; we come from Noah just 4,500 years ago, and Adam 6,000 years ago—along with everyone else alive today—that’s powerful! So Christ died for everyone—whitefella and blackfella!
You’ve done a lot of international ministry over the years, too. One experience you recounted made many of us smile at the time.
Yes, coming into London’s Heathrow airport, before my tour had even started, the passport control officer, seeing from my entry details that I was a ‘scientist’ there to attend ‘conferences’, asked “So, what sort of scientist are you, anyway?” Taking a deep breath, I said: “I’m a trained agricultural scientist, but I’m here to speak on the creation/evolution issue.” Looking straight at me, he said, “Creation science? That’s not real science.” After 15 seconds of me pondering how best to respond, he said, “Don’t want to go there, eh?” I replied immediately, “Sir, every fibre of my being wants to engage with you in debate on this issue right here and now.” Glancing over my shoulder at the long queue of tired travellers I continued, smiling, “But I can see that you’re a busy man, and a decent one at that.” Without any further delay, I was in!
That was a stark contrast with the one time I’ve been to the USA on ministry. The official asked the same question about what sort of a scientist I was. He got the same answer, about speaking on creation/evolution. With a broad smile he stamped my passport, and handing it back said, “Preach it, brother!”
You undertook a very long ministry tour around many parts of Indonesia (pictured, below). In the rural areas where English knowledge is less prevalent, you even preached in the Indonesian language you’d learned earlier. What were your impressions?
Just like in the West, children’s books on dinosaurs say they died out millions of years ago. This indoctrination continues through to university. A 4th-year medical science student there told me: “The lecturers taught us that the reason both orangutan and human mothers have four-hourly breastfeeding cycles is because of common evolutionary ancestry.” Of course, common design explains that readily. Why shouldn’t the Lord arrange things so that a stomach that size gets hungry after 4 hours in both cases?
An Indonesian high school teacher, qualified in mathematics and biology, came to me after the tour to testify of its impact on him; we recorded it on film. He said that in junior school “I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. And so I grew spiritually—by faith I believed that man was created by God.” But in the course of his science study, he learnt about evolution. “Until now”, he said, he had accepted it “without reservation”, including that man descended from ape-like ancestors.
So all this time I was holding to two opposing ideas. At school, when I was asked, “Did man come from apes, or did God make him?”, I would reply, “From apes.” But at church, whenever asked that question I would reply that “Man was created by God.” … this contradiction became a problem for me. But last night, praise God, I saw there’s a scientific explanation, [the] evidence which you presented … is just so logical. … I now see that evolutionary theory just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny … there’s no need for us to believe [it]. … [the teaching of evolution in schools] affects the behaviour and beliefs of children.
How has your belief in the Bible, and especially the truth of Genesis creation, influenced your struggle with cancer in recent years?
Some have actually wondered why I haven’t rejected the faith, since ‘God seems to have abandoned you to the ravages of cancer.’ But having a solid creation foundation is like a bulwark of truth. It gives more, not less reason to trust the promises of the Bible.
Genesis history, which includes the Fall of the whole creation, makes sense of both the good and the bad things we experience. Mind you, of late I’ve often thought of how Adam will have some accounting to do! But in any case, the Gospel is bigger than me—or any of us. It’s all about God, not our own comfort or health.
I’ve been so sick lately that I was thinking; if I were unsaved, what if someone offered Jesus to me now? With painkillers many times making it hard to think straight, I find it difficult to see how I would even be able to make such a choice, humanly speaking. My message is: The time for you, and your friends and acquaintances, to get right with God is now, when healthy—not ‘at the last minute’.
There’s a further experience you once shared, one that highlights the important role of the audience itself in this sort of outreach. You said you would like to finish on that note.
Yes, indeed. I was CMI’s speaker for a public outreach meeting held by a church in a large Australian city. Thinking it would better attract non-Christians if held in a ‘neutral’ venue, they had booked an evening at an auditorium that one of the local universities makes available for community hire.
When the lecture was advertised on Facebook, things erupted online and off. The gist of all the vociferous and often venomous outbursts was: evolution should not be questioned, and creation must never be allowed to be proclaimed on uni campuses. Of those which were at least repeatable in polite company, one said this meeting was an “affront” to the university. Another called it an “embarrassment”. One commenter wrote:
Easy way to prove evolution:
Gas all the creationists in death camps Observe increase in intelligence
So much for a ‘neutral venue’, or the idea that universities are about open exchange of ideas and views in a quest for truth.
Getting wind of the uproar, the university administrators asked the church’s pastor to withdraw the booking. They had already contacted a nearby venue as an off-campus alternative, and even offered to pay for it. The pastor stood firm, rightly pointing out that the reservation had been confirmed and paid for.
The Q&A was predictably rowdy. At one point I suggested it would be a more productive use of their time to use this opportunity to ‘suss out’ a view of origins they were normally not permitted to hear about in daily life—they would definitely never hear about it at uni. In fact, I said, I knew of other instances where creation presentations had been outright banned on campus. Somewhat better attention followed. After being on my feet for two hours, I closed the question time. I indicated I was still available for private questions/challenges, then the pastor closed the evening. What happened next caught me completely by surprise.
‘The Body’ leaps into action
I expected to be assailed by atheists (who had been easily identifiable during the Q&A) wanting to challenge me. But to my astonishment, none did. Instead, the atheists were suddenly engaged in animated conversations with small groups of Christians who’d eagerly approached them.
I was amazed. I’d never seen anything like this. Since none seemed willing to take it up with me one-on-one, perhaps their ‘challenges’ in public were for show or disruption? Regardless, the Christians present were very excited. One said 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.” I did so, walking amongst small groups of people in the expansive foyer. Nobody spoke to me or apparently even saw me. They were simply too engrossed in deep, intense discussions. Only very few of the topics I overheard discussed were on technical creation/evolution matters. Rather, the dialogues were overwhelmingly about the Love of God, His mercies, compassion, the reality of sin, and God’s forgiveness and salvation through Christ.
By dealing with the evolution issue, creation ministry often exposes it as an excuse or façade hiding the real reasons people reject God. And now the core of the Gospel was clearly front-and-centre. It was wonderful to see believers—the body of Christ—springing into action.
References and notes
- So it makes sense that most fossils are from the global watery cataclysm more than 1½ millennia after the events in Eden—the Flood of Noah (Genesis 6–8). Return to text.
- Catchpoole, D., Time—no friend of evolution: Our downhill genetic slide fits the biblical creation timeline, Creation 34(3):30–31, 2012; creation.com/time-genetic. Return to text.
- Kondrashov, A., Contamination of the genome by very slightly deleterious mutations: why have we not died 100 times over? J. Theoretical Biology 175:583–594, 1995. Return to text.