Foxes crying foul in the henhouse!
Atheists’ cunning ploys to silence debate about origins
Published: 5 February 2009 (GMT+10)
Published: 5 February 2009, updated with comments below, 9 February 2009
Recent news articles have featured claims that famous evolutionary naturalist Sir David Attenborough, apparently receives hate mail from alleged creationists telling him to “burn in hell” for not crediting God in his presentations.1 One wonders why a man held in such high regard would think that this is worthy of a news announcement.
At CMI, we regularly receive such mail, and often more ‘colourful’ than that—but so what? However, even the fundamentalist Darwinian evolutionist Richard Dawkins thought this was worthy of a mention on his own site.2 But why?
Those of us closely involved in the origins debate realize that “crying foul” is an oft-used tactic by the biblioskeptics to try and marginalize, in particular, the creationists. Understandably, the immediate reaction the average person (both Christians and non-Christian) has to such statements is revulsion. Evolutionists like Attenborough and Dawkins know that most Christians (me included) would be embarrassed to be associated with such remarks. Their hope is that the average Christian who might be sitting on the fence when it comes to whether God may have used evolution or not, will distance themselves from talking about or having anything to do with creation or creationists. Similarly, their hope is that the non-Christian will regard creationists as hypocrites, because, after all, “Aren’t they supposed to be loving Christians?” For example, one blogger wrote on Dawkins’ site:
“As for sending hate mail to him, that tells you all you need to know about the people who espouse the ‘loving and peaceful’ religion they follow like sheep.”2
Unfortunately, this shows how all can be tarred with the same brush, i.e. guilt by association. We all know that there is the occasional extremist out there (in Christian and non-Christian circles alike) who will go too far. It’s ironic though that no one bats an eyelid when someone like Dawkins et al. lets fly at Christians, often feeling justified by the unswerving faith he has in his own worldview. In CMI-UK CEO Philip Bell’s review of Dawkins book The God Delusion, he suggests that such tactics reflect Dawkins’ insecurity in his own position. He cites examples of name-calling with invectives such as “psychotic delinquent’, “evil monster” to describe God. Elsewhere he lets fly at creationists, calling them “unsophisticated Christians” and “dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads”.
Creationists … not allowed to speak back!
Let me share just one example from personal experience—one of a type I know most creation speakers could probably attest to—that will show what’s going on here. (I will withhold the location and the name of the church to avoid embarrassment.)
Some years ago, an evangelical church that is very active on university campuses arranged an afternoon seminar. I was invited to give several lectures and conduct question and answer sessions. It was an exciting event as many hundreds of people, both young and old, turned out to hear the information. At the end of the first session I made myself available for questions (as all our speakers do). One young man rushed to the front of the queue that was already forming. Like a machine gun in full flight he started firing questions at me, one after another. Most of these were what we often call Creation Answers Book type questions, that is, the most-asked questions we receive on the creation/evolution subject. So I was able to provide answers to the volleys being served up. It soon became obvious, though, that this young man had a huge list of pre-prepared questions that were more important to him than the answers. I tried to be very patient but no one else was getting a turn. So, I respectfully pointed out the many people waiting and suggested he come and see me at the end of the next session when I would be happy to answer more of his questions. He did, but once again attempted to monopolize the time, and his attitude became increasingly agitated as I again provided answers to his questions. Eventually, he did not even bother to listen to the answers before immediately jumping to the next question.
This type of thing regularly happens to our speakers and generally reveals the motives of the person asking the questions. They are not seeking answers, but are only there to try and “stump the creationist”—to try to show that we don’t have any answers to “true science”. On this second occasion I pointed out that I believed I had been gracious and patient with him, but that it became clear that he wasn’t really interested in the answers. In particular, he tried to refute my comments about historical science—that is, that past events are presumed and interpreted in the light of one’s worldview or belief system. He claimed that the “facts” prove evolution. I realized that if he refused to listen due to his entrenched belief system then I needed to challenge him about the foundations of that system. I said that I would only be prepared to answer any more of his questions if he could answer one of mine. So I asked him to tell me of the one piece of “evidence” that unequivocally proves evolution or even ages of millions of years. He ignored me and tried to engage me once more, so I reminded him of my offer once again, then answered the questions of others who were waiting. He went and sat down.
At the end of the final session he appeared once again and interjected with his questions, so I asked him if he had an answer to my question. He then stated that he personally didn’t know of any evidence that could prove his position but he said that he knew of scientists who could. I then asked who these scientists were and what was the evidence these alleged scientists knew of. He was eventually forced to admit that he didn’t know that either.
It was certainly not my intention to embarrass him, but for the onlookers (and hopefully to him) it was a clear example of misplaced trust in the hierarchy of the established evolutionary community and their own belief system. I could only do this by asking him questions in return. I pointed out that not only did he need to have faith in his evolutionary worldview, but worse still, he was also placing his faith in people who had faith in their evolutionary worldview. And, I reminded him, “Where’s the evidence that is so convincing?”
The episode with this young man reminds me of a comment by CMI scientist Dr Russell Humphreys in a recent CMI newsletter article:
“There is a little-known irony in the controversy between creationists and evolutionists about the age of the world. The majority of scientists—the evolutionists—rely on a minority of the relevant data. Yet a minority of scientists—the creationists—use the majority of the relevant data.3 Adding to the irony is the public’s wrong impression that it is the other way around. Therefore, many ask: ‘If the evidence is so strongly for a young earth, why do most scientists believe otherwise?’ The answer is simple: Most scientists believe the earth is old because they believe most other scientists believe the earth is old!”
Church, don’t fall for it!
Immediately this young man changed tack and started asking me personal questions about my credentials. “Are you are a scientist” he asked. “I don’t need to be a scientist to prove my point about belief systems, which I just did,” I replied. He was employing a tactic to discredit the information-giver rather than the information they give. In sporting parlance it’s commonly known as “Playing the man, instead of the ball.”
A few days later I was forwarded a link to a website run by this young man. It revealed that he was well-known as the local university’s prominent skeptic and anticreationist. As I read his blog entry it became evident that he had totally misrepresented our discussion and started to ridicule my background and work history. (I am not a scientist but I have been involved with this ministry in one form or another for almost 20 years now). He claimed to have been offended and virtually accused me of being ‘unchristian’.4 No doubt this was because he did not like being challenged as to his views—but of course it was OK for him to challenge mine. In fact, if I had challenged him in the manner that he’d challenged me then he might actually have cause for complaint! But here’s the kicker, as they say. When the comments on this man’s blog reached the church, they contacted our local CMI office to voice their concern that our speakers needed to be more careful because this young man “has a point!” The church had fallen for it hook, line and sinker! Challenging such views, especially if done without any disrespect to the person, is utterly scriptural (see shortly). They failed to understand that this young man had already preplanned to do what he did, which was to disrupt the meeting and ridicule the speaker. His complaints were a cynical attempt to turn Christians against each other.
This church has rightly been very successful in using the stumbling block of the creation/evolution debate to reach people, so much so, that thousands have attended such lectures in just the past few years. But not long after the aforementioned episode, the very same tactic was used against them when the skeptics engaged prominent local “Christian” scientists to appear in a national newspaper, where they complained that this particular church’s understanding of Scripture was wrong and not in keeping with mainstream Christianity (and therefore “unchristian”). So what should we do? Retreat to our corner for fear of upsetting our opponents?
Similarly, a few years ago, prominent Australian anticreationist Professor Ian Plimer claimed that he was receiving death threats from Christians. This is the same man who personally launched legal action against Christians because of their beliefs, and who once wrote a book called Telling Lies for God in which he accused the Australian branch of this ministry of financial fraud and other similar ethical slurs based on his own fabrications (the tactic was apparently “throw enough mud and hope some of it sticks”). We believe that this was an effort to get the church to distance itself from us (which many of them did—buying into deceit once again5). In response, we were forced to expend funds, time and effort in defending ourselves by asking a committee of prominent Christians to form, headed by Australia’s most well-known anticorruption fighter, former Chief Magistrate of NSW, Clarrie Briese, who investigated the allegations. Their findings concluded that Plimer’s allegations were baseless and unsupported by the facts.
It’s sad that many also misunderstand the nature of this battle. Evolution is a pervasive theory that has spread its tentacles into every aspect of our culture. It’s the prevailing worldview and it underpins the (lack of) moral values of most people today. And we can see the effects of this all around us. Its proponents are often militantly hostile to Christianity. Yet, the Scriptures tell us to be prepared to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15), and that’s what creation ministries do. If the espousers of evolutionary doctrine are prepared to put their views into the public domain, then the information is fair game and it must be challenged. Scripture encourages this and tells us to ‘ … demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5). Of course, we should only play the ball, and not the man too, not resorting to the same tactics that are often employed against Christians. And taking comfort that God is the Creator and is ultimately sovereign in all things.
- Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God, guardian.co.uk, 29 January 2009. Return to text.
- Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God, richarddawkins.net, 29 January 2009. Return to text.
- Humphreys, D.R., Evidence for a young world, ICR Impact 384, June 2005. Return to text.
- When a non-Christian unjustly accuses a Christian of acting like a ‘non-Christian’ it might be prudent to ask them “How would you know if you are not a Christian yourself?” This is just one way of turning the argument back on to the questioner/accuser and opening up the discussion. I.e. Christians are called to follow Christ’s example so how would they know what that is if they’ve never read the Bible? Return to text.
- God’s Word of course instructs that “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16), but as a protection against those that do, counsels that “No-one is to be convicted on the testimony of only one witness” (Deuteronomy 19:15), and points out, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” Proverbs 18:17). If believers today kept biblical counsel in mind whenever “dissension among brothers” (Proverbs 6:19) arises (as, regrettably, it so often does), it would surely make for a healthier church. Return to text.
We cop these young fellas in the mall from time to time, doing the same thing. Sometimes they get very hot under the collar and, on two occasions I’ve been threatened with being punched. When their world view / faith has been threatened, it becomes personal for them. One night last year in the mall, I walked up to a bunch of young emos/goths.
They recognised me as part of the street preaching team and almost immediately one of them hurled obscenities at me. I engaged in a discussion with one of the young guys and we chatted for about 30 minutes. Evolution came up early and as we talked, this guy got angrier. He got stuck on the loving God allowing death & suffering and demanded to know from me why one of his friends was murdered recently. Forbes (one of the street preachers) stepped in and spoke with him, using the Law and God’s justice. It was a little scary.
After Forbes spoke, a Christian guy playing guitar nearby came up and told my “friend” that he was wasting his time / the intellectual conversation was a wasteful argument. “Just believe Jesus.” My friend was confused with this and objected saying the conversation (although much anger and shouting from him) was stimulating and logical.
So even if people get emotive — a situation that much of the church evidently thinks is unprofitable — logical evangelism / discussion will garner respect and in many encounters carry conversation much further.
[Indeed so. See Pastor Wallace’s article Street preacher says creation ‘is the issue’: It’s time for the church to stop avoiding the questions people want answers to, the articles Why use apologetics for evangelism?and The ‘Indoctrinator’ ; and the testimonies of ‘Sonia’, ‘Joel Galvin’ and ‘Lita’ that obliterate the “Creation is just a side issue” canard. — Ed.]
I am surprised to read that you are not a scientist. You argue as well as any scientist would. Thanks for the info. about Attenborough. It is in the paper and Radio Times.
Great article, very precise and reveals the philisophical foundations of the real argument, which Christians and non-Christians alike need to comprehend.
Thank you so much for your article; well done! DBW
I’ve noticed a funny thing. I don’t have to even talk about Christianity or creation to some antitheist people I have just met. They appear to take one look at me and somehow seem to discern that I am an enemy, or a bug to be squashed. I can never quite work this out. Apparently I must look like a Christian :-)
When I was doing an education degree, and doing pracs in schools with a certain Qld Government department, I was universally disliked toward the middle and end of my degree, both by the faculty and by the department, and I had not once even breathed a mention of God or Jesus or creation to anyone.
Needless to say, I am now not a teacher. Even in my other work I occasionally meet people who seem to strongly dislike me for no good reason, again nothing to do with me talking of God or creation.
I suspect that humanity has quite a capacity for spiritual discernment, no matter what side of the fence they are on. I hope this warfare between the two sides relaxes somewhat. It is getting difficult to earn a quid these days.
Thank you so much for this article. Believe it or not, this is a very important subject, the subject of alleged threats and hate mail from Christians to atheists and evolutionists.
Since I have an unbelieving friend, I have discovered some interesting things in the evolutionary world. I have mentioned in a previous feedback that P.Z. Myers’ blog Pharyngula, is very popular among atheists. I have for different reasons visit it more than once, and being on this point, I want to recommend that you add Doug Wilson’s’ Letter from a Christian Citizen on the end of this article together with all the other books, as he deals with this topic in an interesting yet powerful way [now added below — Ed.]. But to come back to my original point that I want to make: He (P.Z. Myers) constantly publishes threatening letters which supposedly come from Christians in general and creationists in particular. I sometimes wonder whether they are real as they are truly ridiculous. One in particular supposedly came from a Ken Ham-supporter which were written in such a way that one wonders whether this person (if he/she exists) had a proper High School education. It also ended with words such as “may you truly burn in hell” etc. He also loves to publish letters from Christians and then ridicule them making them look stupid and uneducated sometimes. Another one was actually in a very friendly tone coming from a woman who is a professing creationist. She ended her letter in a proper way with good wishes and blessings, but P.Z. ridiculed it. So I was wondering what he wants. If he receives hostile letters, he complains, and if he receives friendly letters, he is still not happy. [Ed. note: see E. van Niekerk’s later comments about P.Z. Myers’ gutter atheopathic site, and how even some fellow atheists have been repulsed by the vitriol.
Another important point can be made. He sometimes publish pictures and cartoons resorting to ridicule, and with every ‘creationist’ letter, he has got a picture next to it of a little man looking stupid. So my point is this: Why do they (atheists and evolutionists) have to resort to ridicule all the time when dealing with creationists and Christians? Why can they not just refute our arguments in a formal academic way (and my I add without misrepresenting us most of the time)? Is it perhaps because their science or rather philosophy is weak? One thing I can say is this, one of the top Christian websites I go to (this one) does not have to ridicule atheists and evolutionists in order to refute their arguments. We can actually come right to the point (playing the ball instead of the man, as Mr. Bates has pointed out so well) without making such personal attacks or having pictures of stupidity next to feedback from hostile readers.
I do not know whether the letters from the supposed Christians are real or not, but what I do know is that the general integrity of this website is just so much higher towards those who do not share our views on God and origins than the integrity and attitude that they have towards us.
This alone speaks loud enough for itself.
Love in Christ
E. van Niekerk
A Godly day to you. I was blessed by the article that I just read. It lead me to wonder if you have some kind of questionnaire that can be used to make some degree of assessment whether a person or congregation has the evolution mindset. If so, can you please share it with me? I wish to assess this kind of thinking in my church and the material would be very helpful as a start in correcting a skewed belief.
Thanks for considering.
When Attenborough, Pilmer and Dawkins and others make these false allegations against Christians’ alleged viciousness and sending death threats, do they ever produce any hard evidence, i.e. letters, emails etc. or is it just their word?
I can’t imagine any Creationist Christian engaging in such tactics. It seems pretty parallel to the slurs used against pro lifers who allegedly want to go on killing sprees of abortionists and burn down abortion factories. It is just that ridiculous! [Indeed, pro-life organizations universally condemn these extremely rare incidents — Ed.]
The churches that are so weak in the defence of their faith and the upholding of the authority of the Word of God are easily duped by this strong stand-over tactic. They are not prepared to stand for anything and hence fall for everything. It is really so sad. Often it reminds me of the words of Our Lord, when He comes again will He find faith on the earth?
Also I was unable to stay for the last day of the Super Camp and wondered if someone could kindly write a review of the Q and A session on the Friday ? Many thanks for the wonderful job you all do in this vital ministry. God bless you and your families and I am quite literally eternally grateful.
Re: the Q and A at the SuperCamp. I wouldn’t want to give you a false impression but it is unlikely that we would write an article on such a thing. We tend to write our articles based on global appeal, and I think we’d struggle to get enough interesting bits out of the representation of a Q and A for such as mass audience. Reading it might be a bit like watching paint dry unless one was actually there. Also, the majority of questions we constantly receive are already in the Q and A section of our website.
Sorry if that is a bit disappointing to you. It’s always a judgment as to the amount of effort for the anticipated results. We hope though that the DVDs from the camp will be available within the next few months.
It was really nice to know how you mangaged to keep your cool through all this and not blurt out in anger and frustration at the church that did not support you. But as is always the case, the support for a good cause rarely comes from the people who need to support it but from someone else. This reminds us that God is our support and our refuge. When things go wrong, he takes care.
God bless you in your work. Continue your work steadfastly and do not get discouraged, for trials will come to those who are truly in God’s will. It is one sure way to know that the devil doesn’t like your work one bit and wil try every last dirty tactic to stop you. So keep going!
Thank you for such a balanced view, clear explanation of the underhand techniques used against God and God’s people who choose to follow His commands to the best of their abilities. Our challenge is to have the answers and questions plus patience to deal with these attacks.
My first response to hearing of the hate mail against Sir DA was frustration and surprise.
I am still waiting for the evidence of actual evolution. It is so sad to see and hear so many people taken in by the outright lie of the theory of evolution. I was for many years until a near death illness and recovery after Doctors gave me up lead me to seek a answer to why I lived and other died. I now know I would have died and be in a dark hot place, where as, now I know I will be loved in a better place for eternity.
There is no question in my mind that these hate filled emails are the products of the Atheist mind.
I spend a bit of time debating on Youtube with Atheist/Evolutionists and the debate always turns into personal attacks and the worst blasphemy you could imagine.
The abuse is almost always from the atheists’ side.
It has made me wonder about the ‘hate emails’ that Dawkins and others claim to receive from Christians. I have come to the conclusion they are likely other Atheists helping the cause of discrediting Christianity by sending the emails and saying they are Christians.
What would stop them from doing so? Do they have a special moral code that says they shouldn’t misrepresent or lie? Or is their hatred of Christianity sufficient to justify such behaviour.
One of Dawkins emails supposedly said ‘I hope you get hit by a church van’….who has church vans? this made me think that someone who knows very little about Christianity said this.
‘May you burn in hell’ seems to be a common quote too. How many Christians believe that this is God’s will for Atheists?
The whole thing reeks of a set up.
It’s interesting how atheists demand scientific proof of everything pertaining to God but accept every word that comes out of the mouths of Dawkins, Hitchens & the other militant atheists.
Thanks for your good work in upholding the faith guys.
God Bless Andrew
Whatever you say, whatever you do, you can’t please these people. Many of them are filled and driven by hate. Facts and reason won’t convince them. They don’t want to know. Once anyone has a certain belief system, it is very hard to move them. In general, people are in love with what they believe and hate anything contrary to their beliefs. It’s like trying to make peace between Israel and the Arabs-don’t waste your energy and resources, it’s not going to happen.
I agree with everything said here. I’ve found myself pushed into a corner by atheists and even self-professing agnostics on many occasions. Years ago, after going through some really tough things in life, I really stopped trying to convince the world about God and Jesus unless I felt someone really wanted honest answers from me, and even then, I’m very, very careful. I know the Word. I know the arguments… but I have no desire to argue or convince.
Even so, I cannot tell you how often people seem to be able to “smell” the fact that I’m a Believer. It amazes me how many of them actually try to “proselytize” me and get down right personally insulting. I have one friend, in particular who would be happy if all “Christians” and “Republicans” were thrown into a rocket and shot into space. I do not understand why he’s chosen me as a friend, or how he can be so angry and hateful about it. He attacks, I sidestep and change the subject. I don’t get it! I have no problem with his disagreeing with me, yet he persists! His arguments are circular and totally and completely illogical. The fact is, he has “faith”, and is being incredibly unreasonable and inconsistent–not to mention closed-minded and judgmental. I can’t tell him these things, and remain respectful in spite of attacks.
Whatever you say, whatever you do, you can’t please these people. Many of them are filled and driven by hate. Facts and reason won’t convince them. They don’t want to know. Once anyone has a certain belief system, it is very hard to move them. In general, people are in love with what they believe and hate anything contrary to their beliefs. It’s like trying to make peace between Israel and the Arabs—don’t waste your energy and resources, it’s not going to happen.