Christmas in the “Year of Darwin”

The 2009 RI1 Christmas Lectures trumpet the supposed 300-million-year evolutionary ‘arms race’ between plants and herbivores

by CMI staff

Photo by Zoe Margolis, Wikipedia  In Britain, the ‘Year of Darwin’ kicked off with the British Humanist
Association (BHA), supported by prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, launching a £36,000
advertising campaign on UK buses.
In Britain, the ‘Year of Darwin’ kicked off with the British Humanist Association (BHA), supported by prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, launching a £36,000 advertising campaign on UK buses.

As expected, evolutionists certainly used 2009—heralded in advance as the “Year of Darwin”—as an opportunity to tout evolution.

Events were held throughout the year, with much of the fanfare, not surprisingly, centred on the ‘celebrations’ in February of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and, in November, the 150th anniversary of the publication of his Origin of Species.2,3,4

Atheists, of course, love evolution. Richard Dawkins, who so famously said, “ … Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist,”5 has been particularly busy. His activities have attracted widespread media coverage, from the “No God”6 advertising campaign on British buses to the release of his latest book in September, The Greatest Show on Earth: The evidence for evolution.

Richard Dawkins released his book The Greatest Show on Earth
In September 2009, Richard Dawkins released his book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. In it, he disparagingly referred to creationists as “history-deniers”. But it’s Dawkins who is denying true history, and his interpretation of the evidence is (sadly) faulty.

(Actually, that book is probably the most significant of all of Dawkins’ books so far, as he says it is the first time that he has attempted to present a defence of evolutionary theory7—the very foundation upon which his previous books such as The God Delusion were based.8)

Also, a UK correspondent has alerted us to an article in The Times last month about this year’s annual RI Christmas Lectures, with the title:

“This year we’re talking about an evolution”9

The Times explained that the RI Christmas Lectures have become something of an institution in themselves:

“[Michael] Faraday started the lectures in 1825 with the aim of teaching science in an entertaining fashion. For almost two centuries, lecturers have unravelled the mysteries of physics, chemistry and the natural world to an eager audience in which a child must still accompany each adult. Watching the programmes on television has become a tradition as hallowed as the Queen’s Speech.”

It is a sad indictment on a once-Christian society that the very institution set up by a devout Christian is used in 2009 to indoctrinate children and adults with anti-Christian dogma—and at Christmastime to boot. Because, according to The Times article, Professor Sue Hartley, the one chosen to deliver the Christmas Lectures in this Year of Darwin, would address the “300-million-year war” between plants and herbivores.

“It’s an arms race,” said Hartley, adding that plants have long evolved complex defence systems to ensure survival. Her lectures would consider “how plants will constantly evolve to beat the herbivore”.

The ‘arms race’ notion is commonly employed as an argument that today’s ‘dog-eat-dog’, ‘nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw’ world is evidence for evolution. In Dawkins’ latest book, for example, he devotes a whole chapter to it (Ch. 12: “Arms Race and Evolutionary Theodicy”).

In reality though, what is at issue between creationists and evolutionists is not the evidence, but rather the interpretation of the evidence.

As we have presented across the now more than 7,000 articles on this website, today’s world is better understood in light of the biblical account of earth history, which speaks of an originally “very good” Creation (Genesis 1:31) now corrupted (cursed) because of the first man’s sin. That account explains how there was no death before the Fall as all creatures, including man, were herbivorous/vegetarian. Plants were created to be food (Genesis 1:29–30), i.e. designed to be crunched, munched, browsed and grazed—many plants do not have any defence mechanisms at all and have survived quite well.

Thorns are specifically mentioned in the Bible as being a direct consequence of the Fall (Genesis 3:18).10 Other plant ‘defence’ mechanisms such as poisons can be similarly understood from the biblical account of the “very good” Creation, followed by the Fall.11

In fact, some of those ‘poisons’ have turned out to be very therapeutic (human nutrition or medicinal value) at non-lethal doses, with researchers scouring rainforests and wilderness areas for more. Duplicating the chemistry to produce such compounds in the laboratory requires time, inventiveness and intelligence—testament to a Designer having designed them in the first place. Yet evolutionist Sue Hartley does not give credit where it’s due, instead saying that “much of our food, our drugs, medicines and materials are all by-products of this epic 300 million year war.”12

Some of the evidence doesn’t really fit with notions that plants “constantly evolve”, and are in an ongoing “war” with herbivores, though this doesn’t seem to rattle the proponents of evolutionary theory. For example, cycads are viewed as being ‘primitive’ yet they seem to do quite well alongside those said to be ‘more evolved’. Hartley has obviously observed this, yet the evolutionary incongruence seems lost on her.

“On the whole, plants do pretty well at surviving, especially when you think that they can’t move,” she says. “Some plants such as cycads have defended themselves since the age of the dinosaurs. And they’re still here, which is more than can be said for the dinosaurs.”

Actually, the ‘age of dinosaurs’ is a myth, and a concept which has let evolutionists down many times over. For example, they said that artists (e.g. of children’s books about dinos) must not draw dinosaurs roaming on grassland, as grass only appeared (evolved) after dinosaurs became extinct. But when it was discovered that dinosaurs had eaten grass, the evolutionary timeline had to be radically altered accordingly.13,14 And the whole millions-of-years paradigm can’t account for soft tissue and even red blood cells recovered from dinosaur bone.15,16

“A seasonally appropriate donkey”

Apart from the evolutionary dogma they presented, The Times article did refer to one apparent link to Christmas at the RI Christmas Lectures. In the context of Professor Hartley “ignoring the old showman’s mantra: ‘Never work with children or animals’”, the article said that Hartley would have both “on call”, with “a guest appearance by a seasonally appropriate donkey”.

That’s it. A donkey.17 With atheists eager to tear away every tradition from once-Christian western cultures, with calls for nativity plays to be banned from schools and other public places,18 how long will it be before many children no longer see any connection at all between a modern-day “Christmas” event and the birth of our Lord and Saviour 2,000 years ago? That birth was an actual birth, of an (the only) actual Saviour, who had actually created everything “very good” in the beginning, but who then came to this fallen world of death and suffering to save mankind—so that all who believe in Him might “have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).

Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, is the “reason for the season”. And the reason for His coming is understandable only in light of the biblical Creation-Fall-Flood-Babel-Christ chronological heritage. This heritage and history is under direct attack from the likes of Professor Sue Hartley, Richard Dawkins and others.

The real war is not between plants and herbivores. Nor has it been waged for 300 million years. Rather, there’s a war raging between the proponents of truth and error, of which the creation/evolution “debate” is a part.

And just because the so-called ‘Year of Darwin’ is drawing to a close does not mean that atheists are likely to quieten down on pushing evolution. In fact, they are already advertising a number of atheism-promoting events worldwide for 2010. That’s why we have already issued a specific public challenge to a well-known group of outspoken atheists in response to one of their mooted 2010 international events—keep an eye on the front page of our website for a CMI announcement on this early in the new year.

In the meantime, we at CMI wish all readers a blessed time of remembrance of the wonderful event of the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and we trust that the New Year will see an even closer walk with Him. We would also encourage you, if you have not yet done so, to read the Christmas-related articles under “Further Reading” below.

Published: 25 December 2009


  1. The Royal Institution of Great Britain, www.rigb.org. Return to text.
  2. Walker, T., The 2009 Darwin celebrations, Creation 31(2):6, 2009. Return to text.
  3. “Year of Darwin” hype, Creation 31(3):11, 2009. Return to text.
  4. Sarfati, J., Darwinist hype and the culture war, Creation 31(4):6, 2009. Return to text.
  5. Dawkins, R., The Blind Watchmaker, Penguin Books, London, England, 1991, p.6. Return to text.
  6. The exact wording was, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” See: Atheists advertise on British buses, Creation 31(2):10, 2009. Return to text.
  7. By Dawkins’ own admission: “Looking back on these books, I realized that the evidence for evolution is nowhere explicitly set out, and that it seemed like a good gap to close.” Return to text.
  8. And so if that foundation is destroyed, the basis for Dawkins’ previous books collapses as well—which is why CMI is going all-out to finish our forthcoming book rebutting Dawkins’ “Greatest Show”, which will be titled, The Greatest Hoax on Earth? Refuting Dawkins on Evolution. For a taste of what is to come, see Sarfati, J., Richard Dawkins v Darwinopterus—Pterosaur missing link poses problems for Dawkins evolutionary story in The Greatest Show on Earth, 27 October 2009. Return to text.
  9. Fishburn, A., This year we’re talking about an evolution, The Times Eureka magazine, November 2009, p. 54. Ironically, Faraday was a devout Bible-believing Christian. Return to text.
  10. According to plant scientists, there is evidence that thorns are “modified” leaves, i.e. which instead of growing out as properly functioning leaves do, are instead tightly compacted in the form of a thorn. It has been suggested that a single genetic mutation affecting the leaf formation process could be responsible. If so, it may be that God allowed such a “downhill” (loss-of-information) mutation to bring about the onset of thorns—consistent with a post-Fall world being “in bondage to decay” (Romans 8:20–21). Return to text.
  11. For a more detailed analysis on this topic, see The Creation Answers Book, Chapter 6: How did bad things come about? That chapter outlines three possible positions as to how defence-attack structures originated. For example, in relation to plant biochemical pathways that produce chemicals that are poisonous to animals today, (thus preventing them being overgrazed in a post-Fall world), it’s possible that after the Fall, many creatures progressively lost the pre-Fall ability to digest certain plant constituents, rendering them vulnerable to allergic/toxic reaction. A similar scenario has been suggested for jellyfish stings. See: Skeptics challenge: A God of Love created a killer jellyfish? Also see: Bergman, J., Understanding poisons from a creationist perspective, Journal of Creation 11(3):353–360, 1997. Return to text.
  12. The Royal Institution of Great Britain 2009 RI Christmas Lectures, The 300 million year war, with Prof Sue Hartley, http://www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayContent&id=00000003536, last accessed 22 December 2009. Return to text.
  13. Catchpoole, D., Grass-eating dinos: A ‘time-travel’ problem for evolution, Creation 29(2):22–23, 2007. Return to text.
  14. Walker, T., Dino dung overturns objection, Creation 29(4):35, 2007. Return to text.
  15. See: Wieland, C., Dinosaur soft tissue and protein—even more confirmation!, 6 May 2009. Return to text.
  16. If a dinosaur (or dinosaurs) were discovered alive today, it would be no surprise to creationists, but how would evolutionists react? Probably the same way as they’ve done with the discovery of a range of creatures previously thought extinct. See: Irwin, B., Theropod and sauropod dinosaurs sighted in PNG?, 1 July 2008; and Catchpoole, D., The “Lazarus effect”: rodent “resurrection”!, Creation 29(2):52–55, 2007. Return to text.
  17. A donkey is often a key feature of nativity plays/scenes (e.g., carrying Mary to Bethlehem, and in the stable.) Return to text.
  18. Henry, J. and Miller, V., School nativity plays under threat, The Telegraph (UK), 2 December 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1571187/School-nativity-plays-under-threat.html (last accessed 22 December 2009). Return to text.