A road trip with a difference!
Creationism on trial
Published: 24 January 2013 (GMT+10)
Note from the CMI editors:
The following article is much longer than we usually feature on this website, but we believe it gives firsthand, eyewitness insight into the making of secular documentaries that purport to fairly deal with matters relating to our origins. What the viewer gets to see on screen can be a far cry from what actually went on, once footage has been edited! You’ll read about how allegedly ‘balanced’ documentaries deal with the information, you’ll encounter some of the thinking and actions of well-known anti-creationist campaigners involved on the evolutionist side. Some readers may even be surprised by the way in which they answered reasonable objections from the biblical creationist side. To help make it a teaching tool, we also provide plenty of links to pertinent articles which answer some of those same objections.
In October 2012, a BBC television documentary entitled Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip aired in the UK.1 I was one of the invited creationist participants on this program, which as we will see, was highly edited, misrepresented what really took place and totally failed to give a balanced view of the subject. What follows is an outline of what the documentary was originally supposed to be about, and how that all changed once we were on the road.2
Purpose of the documentary:
I have heard it said that the Christian life can be compared to a garden. The Christian life should not be about beating back the weeds trying to creep into your own garden, or even having a static garden, but instead should be about the pruning and shaping (learning and developing) of a joy-filled life found in Jesus. When a friend drew my attention to a new documentary being filmed for the BBC, about people who doubt the theory of evolution, I made further enquiries; perhaps such an opportunity would help me do some pruning and shaping in my own Christian walk.3 After submitting my details to say that I was interested to find out more, I was contacted by a researcher from Renegade Pictures who were making the documentary on behalf of the BBC. I was informed that the documentary,
“focuses on people who doubt the theory of evolution. We want to hear from people who feel that science is unable to explain our existence satisfactorily, whilst religion is able to offer a more convincing explanation. We are offering five people the opportunity to go to the American Deep South for ten days at the end of April . Whilst there they will be able to put forward their beliefs about evolution and the beginnings of the universe, and engage in a genuine debate at various sites in America where they will meet a wide range of individuals and take part in various experiments which will aim to elucidate and test their beliefs” (emphasis added).
On the face of it I thought that this sounded like a very interesting opportunity, although I explained to her that I did not think that this was a science versus religion debate, but rather a battle of worldviews looking at the same material evidence (see ‘It’s not science’ and Two worldviews in conflict). However, not to be naïve about the matter, I first watched another religious documentary produced by Renegade Pictures, called Reverse Missionary. I thought it was well produced and very fair in presenting Christianity. I then took part in a screen test, during which I met the director of the documentary Tom Williams. He further explained to me, when I asked about the nature of the documentary, that it was going to be a balanced documentary, just as I had been told previously; that they wished the participants to engage in a genuine debate, that it would be experiment based, and that the range of individuals that we would be talking with would include people who believe in evolution, intelligent design and young earth creationism.
Last minute information
On arriving at Gatwick to board the flight to Las Vegas, together with the other participants, I was presented with a release form informing me that the presenter of the documentary would be Andrew Maxwell. I was told that he was an Irish comedian and that this documentary would be part of a larger series called Conspiracy Road Trip. While this was new information, I was already booked onto my flight and had committed myself to take part. I then met the other candidates and flew to Las Vegas.4
The other participants
I and my fellow road-trippers were all selected for the program as people in the 20–35 age range.
Sam Lucas—a Christian student. Sam had read a little on the subject before the trip, and brought a copy of CMI’s Creation Answers Book with him, as well as theistic evolutionist Dennis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose? At the start of the trip Sam was not sure whether the age of the earth was important.
Jojo Meadows—a Christian who works for a Christian magazine. Jojo had not really read much on the subject and seemed to be largely unaware of any of the issues involved.
Bronwyn Rees—a Christian woman who had also read very little on the subject matter, but who is a creationist.
Abdul Akim Hashee—a Muslim who sells perfume for a living. Abdul described himself as a very devout Muslim. Abdul would certainly not describe himself as a creationist, and was very keen to point out at every opportunity that his Muslim faith was very different from the Christian faith.
The aggravation starts
About two weeks before the filming started, the destination changed from the Deep South to the Grand Canyon and the West Coast of the USA. I was promised beforehand that upon my arrival at Las Vegas, I would receive a full itinerary of the locations, what we would be doing and the persons that we would be meeting with. However, we only received an itinerary of the hotels that we were meant to stay at, and even this proved incorrect as it was changed during the trip. In this way, my fellow travellers and I were kept guessing. From time to time, we asked about where we were going and who we would be meeting, only to be told that we were not allowed to know as it was meant to be a surprise. This was a constant aggravation throughout the filming as our requests were frustrated and we could not adequately prepare. After the road trip was aired one of the experts even wrote on their blog that they were deliberately asked to avoid us so that we would not be able to find out who they were or talk to them before any filming began.5
Just two days before going on the trip, I was also informed by Renegade Pictures that they would like me to give two short presentations to the rest of the group, the first on the age of the earth and the second on Intelligent Design.6 The rest of the group would have their own presentations to give on different subjects. I was informed that I would be giving my ‘age of the earth’ presentation on our second day at the Grand Canyon.
In the remainder of this article, I have outlined what happened, both on and behind the scenes of the aired documentary. Keep in mind that all the discussions with the various experts mentioned below actually lasted around three hours at a time, and a few of them even longer than this. Therefore, I can really only give a flavour of each discussion, but at least this will be a lot more than was shown in the final documentary. What the viewers were shown was a very heavily edited version of conversations, often without the context of what was being said; and sometimes, different questions, answers and statements were put together in a manner such that the original point of their content and context would have been lost on the viewers.
Note also that, during filming, the format was that one of the five participants would give a short presentation, followed by a long presentation by the expert, during which we were supposed to refrain from interrupting the expert. We were supposed to be able to challenge those views later, but it did not always work out that way. This explains our silence on camera under the challenges and questions of certain experts, making it look like nobody had any answers! Also, there were times during the filming when one of the participants was given time to engage with the expert, during which the rest of us should politely not interrupt.
Into the frying pan
When we landed in Las Vegas we met the host of the show, Andrew Maxwell. Andrew opens the show by describing us as ‘Religious Fundamentalists’. This terminology is used in a derogatory sense and was presumably used here to try and introduce us as a narrow-minded bunch.
Just after I had made it through customs, I was asked to give my talk on the age of the earth—a day early and after two days of travel—and to give it on a moving tour bus while driving through Las Vegas. The reason given for this was purportedly filming time constraints. It was certainly an ‘into the frying pan’ moment! I reluctantly obliged and gave my presentation to the rest of the group on the bus. I had prepared a 10–15 minute talk and I was about 8 minutes into the talk when I was asked to stop by the director. I was informed that my talk was too ‘scientific’ as I had spoken about the age of the earth in reference to the Grand Canyon, which is where my talk was meant to be filmed. I talked about the hundreds of square miles of sediments that were laid down by water in processes that we do not see today, the layers of sediment being laid down quickly, (also here and here for more on the Grand Canyon). What the director really wanted was for me to speak of how the Bible comes to the age of the earth. He wanted a ‘religious’ statement without any facts or science to go along with it. It was at this point that I realised that there would be issues ahead as the director (Tom Williams) wanted to carefully craft and manipulate what he wanted us to say, rather than what we wanted to say. This was a major bone of contention between the five participants and the director throughout the 10 day trip. Tom carefully tried to manipulate all conversations from this point onwards. Only a short clip of my presentation was used when I put forward that the Grand Canyon was carved either at the end of the Flood in Noah’s time or in a post-Flood event (see A receding flood scenario for the origin of the Grand Canyon).
Extreme anti-creationist bias at Grand Canyon
The following day we took a light aircraft and flew over most of the Grand Canyon. Our pilot, Jeremy, unknown to the film crew before our arrival to the airfield, happened to be a Christian and a biblical creationist. He told us that every time he flew over the Grand Canyon he saw great evidence for the Flood. It was a true delight to meet Jeremy and I was filmed discussing the Grand Canyon with him. However, this was not aired.
Later on we travelled to Lipan Point on the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon where we met Prof. Donald Prothero, a mammalian palaeontologist and geologist.7 Prothero is an ardent and seasoned anti-creationist (see review of his book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters).
Prothero gave us a lengthy presentation in the intense heat, and kindly provided the group with a diagram outlining the layers of the Grand Canyon. He stated unreservedly that his assumptions were naturalism and uniformitarianism. He said he believed that the Grand Canyon was eroded over hundreds of millions of years by the Colorado River and that it could not have been formed as a consequence of Noah’s Flood. Prothero was quite clear on his opinion of creationists, saying, “If you don’t start with naturalism then you can’t be a scientist.” This is an incredibly biased statement, of course. However, at least he acknowledged his presuppositions, including that he would never look for a divine cause for anything. There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see!
When I asked Prothero if he had ever come to the Grand Canyon and discussed what he believed with a creationist who was trained in geology, he replied, “I wouldn’t waste my time, I have a life.” The debate went on for a couple of hours, in which we discussed such topics as the formation of the Coconino Sandstone and the fossil trackways contained in it; I explained that this rock layer was best viewed as the result of fast flowing water (see Startling evidence for Noah’s flood). I also discussed the significance of fossil crinoids and their exquisite preservation ; the lack of erosion between the layers (which are supposed, in some cases, to represent millions of years of time passing (see The case of the ‘missing’ geologic time); the dating of a basalt at the top of Grand Canyon which gave an older age than the basalt at the bottom of the canyon (see More and more wrong dates); and the significance of the Great Unconformity. When I mentioned the work of creationist geologist Steve Austin on the thousands of nautiloids which he had found spread over hundreds of square miles in the Redwall Limestone, Prothero had not heard of it before.
During this conversation, Prothero also told us that “dinosaurs did it for me at age four,” which convinced him of millions of years and evolution. Once again, this reinforces how dinosaurs are used as an evolutionary propaganda tool, and how the church and parents need to be ready to give their children solid biblical answers to such topics.
A failed experiment
Following our time at Lipan Point, we moved location to Horseshoe Bend, further up the Colorado River, where we did the only experiment in the whole 10 days. The basic premise of the experiment was this: the Colorado river is not a straight river but has some winding bends in it, like this famous example, which Prothero said couldn’t be explained by a flood. A flood, he argued, would have too much energy and would want to cut straight channels, so such bends are best explained by a slow moving river (low energy) moving towards the ocean over low-lying land. Prothero asked me to pour a bucket of water into the sand to show the pattern that the water would make, to see if fast moving water would form bends or carve straight channels. The experiment was a disaster as the water simply sunk straight into the highly porous sand; Prothero said, “Oh dear, that didn’t go as expected” and the ‘experiment’ really made a complete mockery of Prothero’s point. And this was in spite of the fact that he had set the conditions up himself! Why, then, should we trust his word on an event for which he was not there?
Regarding Horseshoe Bend’s formation, after a long discussion I replied that it would be silly for me to attempt a comprehensive answer as I am neither a trained geologist nor a hydrologist, but that any trained creation geologist would, I was sure, more than adequately explain it (indeed, see here). Unfortunately, when the same question (about Horseshoe Bend’s formation) was put to the rest of the group, Bronwyn and Jojo suggested that God may have done extraordinary miraculous things with the water to form the Horseshoe bend! While we can be sure that the Flood of Genesis had a supernatural origin,8 this does not necessitate that every element of it was supernatural, and we can learn much about that event by studying geological processes today.
Noah’s Ark mockery
The filming for this section, discussing Noah’s Ark, took place at Lake Powell, Utah, on a houseboat. The expert this time was Jerry Coyne,9 a biologist and another ardent, long standing, anti-creationist. Jojo gave a presentation on Noah’s Ark, which was based on the book, The Genesis Flood: Fact or Fiction? Afterwards, Andrew Maxwell asked Jojo if, in the intervening 4,500 years since the Flood, we now have the expected numbers of people and animals on the planet today. This was an excellent question as the population growth rates of mankind to reach today’s seven billion population fits very well with eight people getting off the ark some 4,500 years ago, but does not fit well with mankind having been on the earth for hundreds of thousands or millions of years (see Where have all the people gone? and Where are all the people?).
The conversation between Jerry and ourselves took place with a completely unrealistic toy of Noah’s Ark sitting on the table between us. The discussion broke down a couple of times during filming due to the fact that Abdul’s style of debate was too much for Jojo. The documentary shows her leaving the top deck, and describing her upset over the arguing. Meanwhile, the rest of the group continued trying to talk with Jerry Coyne. His points were as follows:
- The ark couldn’t have been built of wood—based on the 18th /19th Century wooden boat-building techniques, an Ark was impossible. I pointed out that it was a false assumption that Noah was using those same methods in his time, and that it was an evolutionary concept that things have only progressed upwards. I also mentioned wooden boats of comparable size to Noah’s Ark that had been built in the past, that Jerry was unaware of, for example see: The large ships of antiquity.
- Noah could not have had pitch as there weren’t any hydrocarbons before the flood. I pointed out that the Hebrew word used for the pitch covering of the Ark, kopher, does not specify that it was petroleum based, see: The pitch for Noah’s ark.
- Coyne put forward the false claim that everything outside the Ark was meant for destruction by God, which he said would have included all marine life. On the show, he asks the ridiculous question, “Where would a whale go in a boat?” He claimed to be proficient with the biblical text concerning the Flood, although he admitted to me that the last time he read it was a few years ago. I took considerable time to answer this question for Jerry, explaining that the Bible did not say that God intended to destroy all life on the earth as Jerry had stated. I quoted Genesis 6:7 and explained that the Bible was very clear on what God had intended to destroy: mankind, the air-breathing animals that move on the earth’s surface and the birds of the air. Therefore whales would not have been on the Ark. In the documentary, Sam is shown as unable to answer this question, who had been given a particular segment to talk with Jerry by himself,10 and it was made to look like I just remained silent and was unable to answer this totally absurd question—a case where clever editing was used to totally misrepresent myself and the general flow of the debate.
- We also debated what a biblical kind was. Jerry thought this was the equivalent of a species and that the Ark would have needed to hold millions of animals.11 I explained that this was not the case, but rather the biblical kind was more the equivalent to the modern definition of a family or genus (see Variation, information and the created kind).
- The typical questions of ‘How did all the animals get to Noah’s Ark?’ and ‘How did the animals get around the world after Noah’s Flood?’ were also briefly touched on (see The Creation Answers Book Chapter 13).
After the above, on the aired show, Jerry Coyne is shown stating that,
“Evolution is unique amongst the sciences because it strikes people on the solar plexus of their faith directly, it strikes them in the idea that they are specially created by God; because evolution says you are not, it says that there is no special purpose for your life because it’s a naturalistic philosophy. We have no more extrinsic purpose than a squirrel or an armadillo and it says that morality does not come from God, it is an evolved phenomenon, and those are three things that are really hard for humans to accept, particularly ones from a religious tradition.”12
This is a very honest statement (from a man who is certainly not a dispassionate scientist) and it should strike at the heart of every theistic evolutionist.
Coyne is rather straightforwardly pointing out that the theory of evolution, if true, completely demolishes the concept of a creator (particularly the biblical God), as it purports to explain everything without one, that your life is completely meaningless and that there is ultimately no right or wrong. Furthermore, people decide morality for themselves, so you can do what you want without any eternal consequences (but see Probably no God?).
Praise God, however, that life is not meaningless, that we can read the Bible and have complete confidence and faith that we were specially created by God, that we can have peace with God and the forgiveness of our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (Good news indeed)! Before leaving Jerry’s company I did give him a couple of things (including an evangelistic tract), hoping that he would come to know Jesus as his Saviour.
Strong challenge at the Tea Party rally
In the next segment of the documentary, we are shown attending a Tea Party13 rally in Gilroy, California. The Director wanted us to discuss a more political aspect of creation/evolution. I didn’t feel that this was consistent with what we had been told the program was meant to be about and that we could easily be misrepresented, so I tried to stay on the sideline of the conversations. However, it was really good to hear Jojo and Bronwyn being challenged over the issue of abortion, as neither of them would have held to the biblical position that it is murder, instead being more pro-choice. On what was aired, Jojo asked one of the women if she would be willing to call a woman who has had an abortion a murderer. The woman was not merely prepared to affirm this, but was able to speak of her own personal experience of having two abortions, and was very honest about calling herself a murderer. She said that she will remember and regret it for the rest of her life, but Jesus has forgiven her. And while the following was not aired, God, through a person’s repentance and faith in Jesus, can forgive any other women who are reading this and have done the same thing (see: Abortion argument unravels, Antidote to abortion arguments and Human life Questions and Answers).
Another interesting statement that made it onto the aired program was by an elderly gentleman at the Tea Party rally, who stated that he wouldn’t vote for an evolutionist as such a person would have no moral underpinnings. This directly picks up on the point that Jerry Coyne made earlier on—without God there is ultimately no foundation for morality (see Atheism no objective morality?, The creation basis for morality and Evolution: no morality). Creationists and evolutionists can agree on some things!
A perilous position
Moving on to Bakersfield, California, we got to look at fossils and discuss dinosaurs. Bronwyn gave a good presentation on how the Bible explains dinosaurs, their existence, their demise and the evidence that they lived with mankind (see Dinosaurs Questions and Answers), though none of this was aired, except her statement that dinosaurs were created 6,000 years ago on the sixth day. We travelled a short distance to a site near Shark Tooth Hill (part of Ernst Quarries) for a bit of fossil hunting. We collected lots of our own specimens, which were very easy to obtain and were all marine fossils, such as sharks’ teeth and rib bones of whales and sea lions.
Our expert for the day, Dr Gregg Wilkerson, a geologist and palaeontologist, said he was once a ‘young earth creationist’, but that this had changed in the 1980s due to the evidence for an old earth that he saw in his oil exploration job. He had become a theistic evolutionist. He is introduced by the presenter as a ‘devout Christian’, presumably to assure the viewer that there is some sort of balance.14 In the fierce heat, Gregg gave us a very lengthy presentation on what he believed. He covered far too much ground for me to comment on it (I was keeping notes) so I am just going to focus on the points that he made on the aired show.
Gregg shared that he now believes that, to squish all of God’s creative power into a 4,000 or 6,000 year framework is to tarnish His glory; he added that he was sorry for his former creationist involvement as he felt it made people less likely to come to church. I informed Gregg that, based on what he had told us, he was coming to the Bible from a very dangerous position; that this was because he picked and chose which parts of the Bible he wanted to believe and trust, and which parts he wished to re-interpret. When you start down that path, where does it end? Surely his approach would allow him to interpret the Bible however he saw fit, and that could change over time, just as it has with creation; for example, on whether Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross really paid the price for our sin. Rather than limiting God’s creative power by insisting that He created all things in six twenty-four hour days, this is what He has clearly told us (Genesis 1, Exodus 20:11) and we should accept His word; after all, He was there! If the truth is less likely to make people come to Church then perhaps we should just stop preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ altogether, as it might offend and convict sinners?! Bronwyn put it quite well (and this was aired15) when she said that she could never be half and half (accepting both evolution and the Bible); see: 10 dangers of theistic evolution and Theistic evolution: What difference does it make?
Coexistence of dinosaurs and men
Regarding the topic of dinosaurs, only one statement made by Gregg in his presentation was aired on the program;16 the problem that he had with dinosaurs and man living together was that “we don’t find dinosaur and human fossils together. It’s like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. That whole world is incompatible with a world for humans. I mean can you imagine pterodactyls trying to share the same sky with condors, I mean they couldn’t compete.”17 I don’t recall if this actual point was responded to by any of the participants after Gregg’s presentation.
It is true that, as yet, a human and dinosaur bone have never been found together in the fossil record. However, whenever we consider the likelihood of this happening, and the high ratio of marine to land life that we find fossilized, it is very unlikely that we will find this (see: Where are all the human fossils?). Gregg also seems to completely ignore the abundance of evidence that shows man and dinosaurs have lived together (see: Dinosaurs: Questions and Answers). Secondly, Gregg’s disbelief in the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans is driven by his evolutionary worldview that discounts the Bible as history. Thirdly, pterodactyls are not dinosaurs, and one wonders why exactly they could not have lived at the same time as condors since there are lots of birds of prey living and competing in today’s world.
Where are the creation scientists?
After the filming with Gregg, I pointed out to Tom Williams and Andrew Maxwell that we were only hearing one side of the story. I asked them how many creationist scientists/geologists on the trip they intended to interact with in their own field and they replied, “None.” I informed them that the documentary was completely unbalanced and it was not proceeding as it had been presented to me before the trip. The bias should be blatantly obvious to the viewer. On the aired show the conversation around this is a cut and paste of a much fuller conversation.18 Note that Andrew opened the documentary by saying that nearly 50% of people in America are on the ‘creationist’ side—strange how they didn’t get to talk to a single trained scientist from a creationist viewpoint for the two weeks we were there!
Some monkey business
The next segment sees us at Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife camp where we met animal trainer Chris Edrington and Billy the Chimp. This segment was obviously designed to play on the emotional heart strings and to persuade us that being related to a chimp through evolution is not really all that bad. They seemed to have the ridiculous idea that, by looking at this chimp, we would have a window into our evolutionary past!
Chris was a sincere man who had read widely on a range of religious positions. He seemed fairly open to most ideas, but did believe that we all go back to some form of a common ancestor via a god who may have ‘started the ball rolling’. He thought that it was fine for everyone to choose their own personal philosophy of life; however, the obvious question arises, ‘What if your philosophy comes into conflict with mine?’
During this time with Chris, Andrew suggested to him that we are all just animals. I challenged Andrew on this, by taking it to its logical conclusion and asking him if he would then like to be treated like an animal? He joked it away, not wanting to go where that would lead—but it’s a serious point, see: Ota Benga: the pygmy put on display in a zoo.
Chris obviously loved animals, and had a great relationship with Billy, but did tell us that chimps were not necessarily the easiest animal to work with or train. This hardly lends itself to the idea that chimps, our supposed closest evolutionary ancestors, have any special links with humanity in regard to their intelligence.
On the aired show Andrew stated the popular myth, that we share 99% of our DNA with chimps, trying to encourage the viewers to see ourselves and Billy as close cousins. However the reality is very different, and the 99% figure has long been known be highly exaggerated (see: Genomic monkey business) and in light of the new information from the recent ENCODE publications in Nature,19 this statement is meaningless.20 The Bible is clear that man was created separately, made in God’s image, and that we did not evolve from an ape-like ancestor, or anything else for that matter; there are huge differences between mankind and the rest of creation. On the show Andrew asked Chris, “Are we really that unique?” Chris replied that he saw similarities between chimps and us, that they have emotions, as do we, and that their biological functions are very similar to ours. However, I responded on camera, “In regards to the differences, the differences are also extreme, in regards to what human beings can do and accomplish, how they think and process things, and their awareness of the vastness of the universe and the God who created them”21 (for more see: Human evolution: Oh so clear?).
Trying to make it about something else: The church incident
On the way to our next stop we had a quick lunch in a petrol (gas) station. It was here that, in a private conversation between the Director and Jojo, he revealed his intention to take us to a gay church. This obviously worried us as we did not want the road trip to become something which could be portrayed as a ‘fundamentalist Christians bashing gays’ session; rather we wanted to stay on target and discuss the issues at hand, over Creation/Evolution. We prayed about this a lot.
The following morning we were taken to a church.22 However, on the bus while travelling to church, Andrew came back to talk with us, while Jojo was called to the front of the bus on her own and asked to film.23 Jojo came back a few minutes later, visibly distressed, just as the bus reached the church. She quickly informed us that the Director had begun by asking her about church, but had then started to ask her about her gay son on camera; he actually asked her to give him a sound bite saying, “My gay son is going to hell.” I believe that this outrageous behaviour was an attempt to get a sensational sound bite which would take the program off topic. I was now even more concerned about the nature of the church we were about to enter that morning!
When we got off the bus I immediately checked with one of the members of the congregation, who was parking up, as to what kind of church it was that we were attending—this was even filmed and included in the final documentary! Satisfied that it was an evangelical Christian Church, I went in and a segment of the service, with the road-trippers seated, was aired. Jojo gave me more details about how the Director had probed her for her opinions about her gay son. There is no doubt in my mind that Tom Williams was intent on portraying creationists as ‘homophobic’ and trying to bully Jojo into saying something to suit the kind of ‘car-crash TV’ program he was intent on making; and had the sound bite been given, it would have been completely out of the context of the full Christian message. From a Christian perspective, all human beings are sinners, and all need to repent and accept Jesus Christ as Saviour!
After the service, I am shown taking the director to task for his unacceptable actions—something I very much continue to stand by. He should be ashamed of himself, quite apart from the fact the road trip was meant to be about experimental evidence for evolution.24 It is because I believed we road trippers were now being bullied and misrepresented, that I asked Christians in the Church that morning to pray that we would be wise with our tongues, speak forthrightly with the truth and proclaim Jesus at every opportunity. This segment was included on the aired show.
Once outside, Andrew pulled me aside and asked to have a conversation with me. We had a very lengthy conversation of which a very short clip is shown. In this, Andrew asked me if at any point during the trip, I had attempted to influence the others in the group or told them what to say. In the context of our conversation, he was referring to the evolution/creation content of the show, filmed with the experts that we had spoken to so far. Of course, I and the other participants had many discussions about creation/evolution topics, but in what was aired, they freely expressed their own views. Andrew’s question was not in relation to the off-topic areas like homosexuality that we had just been shown discussing in the aired program; needless to say, crafty editing gave a different impression altogether.
Moving firmly into Phil’s camp?
In the next segment we travelled to the University of California, Berkeley. Before going to this section in the aired show, it is here that Andrew says that Sam has moved firmly into ‘Phil’s camp’; of course, it is not my camp, it is the biblical position on creation! Sam states, “From the evidence that we have looked at and looking at what the Bible says, I totally think that a young earth is possible, I have no issue with that anymore, and if that is what I have taken out of the trip then that’s great, because that’s what I came here for, was for answers. Answers that I could draw to myself”. What may not be clear to viewers at this point is that there was a lot of material that they are not shown that helped Sam to come to this conclusion, and that a straightforward reading of Genesis—as it is intended to be understood—will lead people to a literal 6 day position.
The other side were well informed
When we went into Berkley to film we actually had two sessions with three evolutionary experts. We first met with Brian Swartz and Kevin Padian, two evolutionary biologists, but this was not aired on the show.25 However it was here that Brian informed me that Donald Prothero had e-mailed him to let him know about the group that he would be speaking with, giving him the heads up as to what kind of arguments we used, how well informed we were and what type of people we are. It appears that the evolutionary experts were told all about who would be involved in the filming, while we were constantly kept in the dark.
A completely objective scientist?
Before we met Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Tim White, we took the opportunity to look at a display that had been set up by his students, which looked at the history of man, going backwards from the present day. At around 600 AD the display had Muhammad on the timeline and at around 400 BC Buddha appeared on the timeline, but at 0 AD, where Jesus should have been placed, he had Julius Caesar (no mention of Christ!), showing a complete anti-Christian bias and betraying Tim White’s lack of objectivity. The hallway outside his office also had numerous posters up about anti-creation and anti-intelligent-design meetings (see photographs).
The conversation with Tim White focused around human evolution. On the documentary Sam starts off with a short presentation on the biblical position that we are all descended from Adam and Eve. Andrew follows on from this point (a long portion of the discussion in between was cut out) to ask if it was genetically viable for the immediate offspring of Adam and Eve to reproduce with each other. Jojo, who had not read on the subject, then asked why God would forbid such close relationships later on in history? I gave a much fuller explanation than is shown in the documentary. I explained that Adam and Eve were created perfect in the beginning, that everyone came from Adam and Eve,26 that they had no copying mistakes in their DNA, but that as a consequence of the Fall they and their offspring would have started to accumulate mutations. Such mistakes, at the start, would not have been an issue; however, as time passed and mankind continued to go downhill genetically, it would not have been a good idea to marry someone closely related as there is a higher probability that they would carry the same copying mistakes in their DNA, so their children would be more likely to have genetic diseases. While at the start it was acceptable to marry close relatives, and even after the Flood it was acceptable—for example Abraham and Sarah were half brother and sister27 and their union was not only blessed, but from their line the Messiah was born—by the time of Moses, God then forbade close relatives from marrying as they were too close to one another28 (See: Who was Cain’s wife? and Cain’s wife explanation ‘gross and disgusting’?).
Skulls of genuine ‘ape-man’ ancestors or skulduggery?
Andrew then states that Tim White has dug up hundreds of human-like skulls from the same valley in Ethiopia, and that carbon dating has put them at different ages. But this is fantasy as, not only has Tim not dug up hundreds of human-like skulls from the same valley in Ethiopia,29 but he certainly didn’t use carbon dating to give them different ages! Andrew clearly does not understand that carbon dating can only give ‘dates’ of tens of thousands of years (as an upper limit) and certainly not millions (see: What about carbon dating? and Carbon 14 dating explained in every day terms).
Tim is shown getting Sam to line up some skulls in what Tim deems to be chronological order, from observation alone. However these fossils are not all from the Middle Awash river valley in the Afar region in Ethiopia to which Andrew and Tim both allude; in fact you even hear Tim referring to one of them coming from Kenya, such is the poor editing of this conversation.30 The following pertinent information was not shown on the documentary: I asked Tim directly whether he was telling us that, starting with the skull on my far right, supposedly the oldest, and working up to the most recent, these had evolved into one another. Tim White answered “No”, that was not what he believed. Both Andrew and the film crew were visibly shocked at this answer. I replied then that what he had done was to set up a false scheme before us, to make us think that was what he wanted us to believe. Andrew then sought clarification from Tim as to what he believed about the skulls in front of us. Clearly Tim White didn’t believe in the exact chain that he had set up on the table, which is the one that the viewer is made to think is a direct chain of human evolution. We made clear to Tim that there was a clear distinction in the skulls, that there were obvious human skulls, and then ape-like skulls, and never the twain did meet. For a firm refutation of supposed ape-like ancestors of man see: Anthropology and Apemen).
Abdul then points out to Tim that he has never seen natural selection changing one species into another and Tim replies that this is because we don’t live long enough. In actual fact both are wrong here and rapid speciation after the Flood is a part of the creation model. What Abdul should have been more specific about, is that we don’t see one kind of animal changing into another quite different kind of animal via natural selection. Species in the modern sense is a much narrower word than kind (see: Speciation and answers and Speedy species surprise).
The origin of life—well, it’s kinda complicated!
After a day off, Adbul gave the group a presentation on the origin of life and said that the idea of God creating life “seemed more intelligent as a concept, more reasonable and less of a jump” than naturalistic explanations. I agree, and this far more intelligent concept should not be excluded from science just because it involves God.
We were taken to the Fly Geyser near Gerlach, Nevada,31 where we met with Michael Russell, Professor of Astrophysics from Caltech, NASA, to discuss the origin of life. Michael’s explanation of the origin of life was incredibly weak and even fantastical. He informed us that he worshipped the universe and spoke to us as if the universe had an active will of its own. He explained to us that he thought the origin of life had come from undirected pure energy which had happened because the universe was heading towards entropy and the universe ‘knew’ that the most effective way of getting to an entropic state was to make us, mankind, because it knew that we expend huge amounts of energy and would help the entropy along! To be honest, at first I was quite taken aback by this explanation; here we had an evolutionary professor of astrophysics and that was his explanation as to why we were here? I pointed out to Michael that his explanation did not work for a number of observable reasons, the first being that energy by itself is destructive without something to properly harness and utilise it. For example, a computer is built to run on a specific voltage, but your computer will not react well if the voltage is too high, hence the need for surge protectors (also see: Plants have a dimmer switch).
To be fair to Andrew, he did push Michael for an answer as to how life actually began, but Michael couldn’t give one, which is why Andrew’s comment on the aired documentary, regarding the origin of life, is simply, “Well, it’s kinda complicated.” This is followed by Michael’s explanation, starting with bacteria; though how we got to bacteria, he didn’t explain. He concluded that life perhaps started near a geyser under the sea, but how exactly? He either didn’t know or wouldn’t say! The program shows me telling him the children’s rhyme “One, two, skip a few, ninety nine, a hundred,” but that is exactly how it was; he started by telling us that the universe had a will, and that he worshipped the universe, and then jumped to the bacteria on the geyser. I think he skipped a few rather vital stages in between, not least the origin of the complexity of a single cell (for example, ATP Synthase)—unsurprisingly, the programme makers did not show me giving my reasons for sharing the rhyme, another case of biased editing. Abdul made the good point that scientists should not present mysteries like the origin of life in the same way they present the theory of gravity. This is really a sleight of hand as these are two very different realms of science and the distinction should be made very clear—see ‘It’s not science’. (for further reading see: Hydrothermal origin of life? and Origin of life Q&A).
Evolution means no baggage
When I was asked about what I thought people like Michael were doing by presenting a naturalistic origin of life I answered, “They are giving you an alternative explanation which has no need or involvement for God. It is in direct opposition.” Andrew then asked, “It is a deliberately godless explanation of life?” I responded, “Yes” (as these two ideas cannot be married). Andrew then asked, “Why would he do that?” I replied, “I would say that people who want to explain life without God want a godless universe because they don’t want the baggage of Jesus Christ, they don’t want the sin, they don’t want the judgement, they don’t want the other aspects of God in their life, so they can live whatever way they choose, they can die whatever way they choose, and they can go wherever they choose whenever they die, if anywhere” (see: Probably no God?). My prayer is that perhaps this comment (which, amazingly, was not edited out32) will have made people think about what exactly they are using the godless theory of evolution to justify—a life without Jesus.
There is no doubt that a consistent understanding of evolution does lead to atheism.33 For example, when Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Howard Conder on Revelation TV, he was asked, “Was there a defining moment where you made a decision that you didn’t believe in God?” He replied, “Yes, I switched from Christian Theism, to some sort of deism around about 14 or 15, and switched to atheism around the age of 16.” Howard then asked, “And was there a particular point, or something that you read… ?” to which Dawkins replied, “By far the most important I suppose was understanding evolution. I think the evangelical Christians have really got it right, in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas, what shall we say, the more ‘sophisticated theologians’ are quite happy to live with evolution, I think they are deluded. I think that the evangelicals have got it right in that there really is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity, and I realised that about the age of 16.”34 Unfortunately this is not a one-off story, but is repeated by many people, even those who were once professing evangelical Christians, for example, the one-time famous evangelist Charles Templeton.
The conclusion of the ‘road trip’ documentary
The concluding remarks of the documentary were filmed at the old Governor of California’s mansion in Sacramento.
Bronwyn said that she needs to do more reading. Good. So do I, so do we all, for we are commanded to be prepared to give answers!35
Sam now believes in the biblical position—without the need for evolution story-telling, and in a young earth. Amen.
Me—I said, “The Bible says that you should always be ready to give answers, and I thank God that he raised up men who are capable of giving answers in their own specific fields, and there has been nothing raised that I won’t be able to get an answer to, or didn’t have an answer for at the time.” This is why the website creation.com and organisations like CMI are so important for answers.
Abdul said he didn’t believe Christianity or evolution had fared well, but Islam had come out on top. Perhaps after watching the show and realising that nothing was even mentioned about Islam, he will be disappointed. None of the Islamic stance on creation was actually aired on the show as he was very heavily edited, perhaps because of his rather aggressive debating style, momentarily shown when he is speaking with Jerry Coyne. Important differences between the Christian creation account and the Muslim one are explained in The Koran versus Genesis.
Jojo crumbled at the end, disappointingly—she didn’t tell the rest of us road-trippers about the change in her thinking. She said that she wanted to be open, and in one sense she is open, but uncritically so, seemingly without understanding any of the real issues at hand or the presuppositions of the experts who presented to us. Despite all the conversations that Jojo heard, she still didn’t understand that Evolution has the effect of removing God, as Jerry Coyne pointed out earlier on, so that it would be a strange method for God to have used in creating living things.
Andrew (as presenter) states that faith can bring an enormous amount of joy to people’s lives, that his idea of god is a giant eternal loving being; one who is either in all the texts, or he is in none of the texts; he is either in the good faith of these scientists as they go about their work, or he doesn’t exist at all. Furthermore, there is either a god for all of us or for none of us. All in all, a very weak conclusion indeed, with creation or evolution not even mentioned; it’s just a bit of postmodern mumbo jumbo.
Post-documentary thoughts and events
I am disappointed that we were not actually shown any proper scientific experimental evidence that we could have interacted with except for Prothero’s very crudely designed, failed experiment; after all, this was meant to be the basis of the program. I was looking forward to perhaps visiting a laboratory in which various radioactive dating methods are used so that I could see the assumptions in action. But this was not to be.
I am also disappointed that I was deceived, by the staff of Renegade Productions, about the nature of the program—that it was not a genuine debate as I was informed that it would be, and that we never spoke to any scientist from either a Creationist or Intelligent Design perspective, though there are plenty to choose from. Upon my return to the UK, I complained to the series producer, Riete Oord, about the false information I had received and also the director’s behaviour. In response, I received a letter back in which she admitted that, from the outset, the documentary did “not set out to achieve balance,”36 This was reinforced by the executive producer, Harry Lansdowne, who informed me that, “It was never intended to be a balanced film, but rather, an authored piece where Andrew aims to change the coach tripper’s minds”.37 This is more than evident in the aired edited documentary, a far cry from the genuine debate that I was informed that it would be; to the BBC’s shame. While both Riete and Harry maintain that I should have been informed about the exact nature of the documentary beforehand, which I only found out about in Gatwick airport when I studied the release form, Harry’s e-mail to me did say, “I concede that it may be that we could have done a better job, early on, of explaining the precise nature of the film to you. Therefore, moving forward, I have asked that release forms be sent out earlier to contributors.”38 I would urge other Christians to think very carefully before taking part in any such productions in the future.
During the filming of the documentary it was rather clear that the film crew had a very weak understanding of the subject matter.39 They couldn’t handle the issue so they made it about personalities. This is reflected in the fact that there is actually very little content in the documentary and nearly all of the proper science that was covered is not included.
Upon reflection, although it was the toughest ten days of my life, having to carefully watch every word to try and make sure that it was not misconstrued, answer questions from both the experts and the other contributors, and interact with a hostile film crew,40 I am nonetheless glad that I did it. I got to see some fantastic places, see some very unique things, and meet many interesting people. I learnt more about my own faith, the strength needed to continue to fight this battle41 and how to debate more effectively.
In the end though, the only ‘conspiracy’ is that the BBC continues to delude the public into thinking that the godless evolution story is actually viable when it is not.
- This was one of a series of ‘conspiracy road trips’ on a variety of topics, broadcast on BBC3. The program in question first aired on Monday 8 October, 2012. Return to text.
- The bulk of this article is based on notes that I took during the filming, as well as from viewing the final program itself. Return to text.
- My friend’s e-mail described a group called Beonscreen.com, whose advertisement read, “Do you doubt the theory of evolution? BBC3 documentary wants to hear from people whose faith dictates their beliefs about our existence. If you think that science cannot explain our existence, and religion offers a more convincing explanation, then we want to hear from you. Maybe you think that science can’t explain the beginnings of life? Or perhaps that humans did not evolve from apes? Or even that the earth is only 6000 years old? If this sounds like you, we are offering a unique experience to put your views to the test” (http://app.bronto.com/public/?q=ulink&fn=Link&ssid=2876&id=djbdiac7ydtqrzdlad7pxba2xc008&id2=4ewuygvmge09lps98jin3b2767kt2&subscriber_id=
cckmprbwblygtylluodunlgpcbnvbph&delivery_id=apkjhhimhkrjrybjhftpewojamgqbnc&tid=3.Czw.vi05.CMJs.OvNk..Yjzf.b..l.SH8.b.T1zE-A.T1z2MA.2XIY-w" t "_blank). Return to text.
- I had actually been e-mailed a copy of the release form but this arrived in my inbox just as I was leaving my house to fly from Belfast to Gatwick. Considering that the member of staff who sent the release form to me had been in contact with me by e-mail during the previous 2 ½ weeks, one cannot help wondering why it was not sent much earlier. Return to text.
- See <http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/11/07/a-surreal-journey/>, accessed 3 December 2012. Return to text.
- The second presentation was never filmed even though I had prepared one and we never spoke to anyone on this subject area. Return to text.
- Prothero is Professor of Geology at Occidental College and a lecturer in Geobiology at Caltech. Return to text.
- That is, whatever natural mechanisms God may have employed, it was He who caused the Flood ultimately. Return to text.
- Coyne is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. Return to text.
- As explained earlier in the article, during the filming the candidates were sometimes given a particular time when only they would ask a question of the expert, so that there would be some film time dedicated to them. This was such a time. Return to text.
- Although, considering Jerry Coyne’s knowledge of creationists, it is much more likely that he knew the creationist concept of the kind perfectly well, and that this was a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the facts. Return to text.
- 17 min, 47 sec into the ‘Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip’ documentary. Return to text.
- The Tea Party is a grassroots conservative political movement in America, many of its members would be theologically conservative Christians. Return to text.
- After watching the documentary I e-mailed Gregg and asked him to comment on this description of him. While I would never judge someone’s salvation, as I am certainly in no position to do so, Gregg does have a very different view of the Bible from me. He said, “I think the Bible is inspired, but it is tainted with humanity. The greatest mystery is how accurate information about a holy perfect God can come to anyone through frail, error-prone human messengers.” While I believe that the Bible is inspired and wholly accurate it appears that Gregg does not. Return to text.
- 28 min, 15 sec into the ‘Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip’ documentary. This comes after the conversation with Wilkerson when Bronwyn is reflecting on what he had said. Return to text.
- Gregg Wilkerson spoke on lots of different subjects at great length—to comment on everything he said would require a separate exhaustive article itself! Return to text.
- 26 min, 30 sec into the ‘Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip’ documentary. Return to text.
- 28min, 31 sec into the ‘Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip’ documentary. Return to text.
- See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v489/n7414/full/nature11247.html, accessed 3 December 2012. Return to text.
- The notion that 98% of the human genome was junk has finally been debunked, so the similarity between the human and ape genome will need to be completely re-evaluated with this new information. The so called ‘junk DNA’ is now understood to have a regulatory function for the protein coding genes. Creationists have always maintained that the junk DNA was not junk; it just took evolutionists a long time to catch up. This is a prime example of how evolutionary baggage holds real science back! (It should be noted that the Nature paper has only assigned definite functions to 80% so far). Return to text.
- 32 min, 20 sec into the ‘Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip’ documentary. Return to text.
- We attended Abundant Life Pentecostal Church. The presenter, Andrew, did not stay for the service, but the film crew only filmed some shots of him sitting at the back at the start, and then he left. It seems that while he wanted us to listen to what he believed in, evolution, he had no real interest in staying in a service and listening to what Christians actually believe. The Pastor that morning began his sermon by saying, “God calls us to fully integrate all parts of our life,” such a fitting line for the journey that we were on. Return to text.
- The show also took the opportunity to point out here that Jojo doesn’t attend a church and instead ‘follows Jesus in her own way.’ Perhaps this explains why she is theologically unsure of herself and her views are changeable. This is why it is important to be involved in a good church, to receive sound teaching and to be accountable as the New Testament clearly teaches. Return to text.
- In a note written to me by Jojo, inside the church, she wrote concerning the incident, “I feel really shaken inside … .. Do not like this feeling” The full stops (periods) are in her text, no words are missing. Return to text.
- In the morning session with Brian and Kevin we had the most productive discussion that took place during filming. It was inside an air conditioned room, with white boards for drawing diagrams on (both the experts and myself) and a table for taking notes on. Unfortunately it was not used in the aired documentary, perhaps because it was the most productive?! Due to the events of the day before, the church incident, and the complaints that were made to Renegade Pictures in respect of it, both by myself and by a member of one of the other contributor’s family, the director took a big step back and the conversation flowed very well. We covered lots of topics with Brian and Kevin, mostly on the interpretation of science, evolutionary relationships between living things, the fossil record and dinosaur to bird evolution. While the conversation flowed very well, no new arguments were put forward by either side here; it was more a session where points that were understood were delved into more deeply. Return to text.
- Genesis 3:20. Return to text.
- Genesis 20:12. Return to text.
- Leviticus 18:6. Return to text.
- One source said that nearly 250 individuals have been found in the middle awash valley in Ethiopia (not all by White), but when you actually go through what was found, that certainly does not equate to skulls, and even adding up the ‘individuals found’ it is very hard to even come close to the 250 figure; see http://www.efossils.org/site/middle-awash# which lists the Ardipithecus ramidus, Ardipithecus kadabba, Australopithecus anamenesis and Australopithecus garhi finds. Three skulls of Homo sapiens idaltu have been found. One of Tim White’s finds (a Homo erectus skull) is discussed here: http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2002/03/20_daka.html. Return to text.
- See https://middleawash.berkeley.edu/middle_awash/fossil_hominids.php, accessed 3 December 2012. Fossils from the valley can be found here. Return to text.
- See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_Geyser, 3 December 2012. Return to text.
- 53 min, 25 sec into the ‘Creationism: Conspiracy Road Trip’ documentary. Return to text.
- As for example, William Provine stated: “ … belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people. One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.” Source: Provine, W.B., ‘No free will’ in Catching up with the Vision, Margaret W Rossiter (Ed.), Chicago University Press, p. S123, 1999. Return to text.
- Howard Condor interviewing Richard Dawkins on Revelation TV, February 2011, creation.com/creation-videos . Return to text.
- 1 Peter 3:15, Colossians 4:6. Return to text.
- E-mail from series producer, Riete Oord, dated 21 June 2012. Return to text.
- E-mail from executive producer, Harry Lansdowne, dated 30 August 2012. Return to text.
- E-mail from executive producer, Harry Lansdowne, dated 26 September 2012. Return to text.
- Prothero also picks this up in his blog saying, “Only one of the five, a guy named Phil (no last names were given) was familiar with all the standard “flood geology” interpretations of the Grand Canyon by the likes of Steven Austin and John Woodmorappe. Naturally he tried to argue with me about arcane points that only he and I knew about (driving the producer and director crazy).” It drove them crazy as they didn’t understand the terminology or the points being discussed, so they knew that none of it could be used in ‘their’ documentary. Quote taken from www.skepticblog.org/2012/11/07/a-surreal-journey/, accessed 20 November 2012. Return to text.
- With the notable exception of one member of the team. Return to text.
- I started each day by reading Psalm 91 for strength and encouragement. Return to text.