Foxes crying foul in the henhouse!

Atheists’ cunning ploys to silence debate about origins

Photo by Grant Zippel Speakers at a CMI SuperCamp answer audience questions
Speakers at a CMI SuperCamp answer audience questions


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!

Photo by Bogdan Bednarczyk Gary Bates answers one to one questions after a meeting
Gary Bates answers one to one questions after a meeting

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.

Asking questions

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?

Nothing new

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.

Playing fair

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.

Published: 5 February 2009


  1. Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God, guardian.co.uk, 29 January 2009. Return to text.
  2. Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God, richarddawkins.net, 29 January 2009. Return to text.
  3. Humphreys, D.R., Evidence for a young world, ICR Impact 384, June 2005. Return to text.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Helpful Resources

Refuting Evolution
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $12.00
Soft cover