Harvesting real fruit
Creation magazine talks to plant scientist Don Batten
Dr Don Batten was for over 17 years a research scientist (plant physiology) with the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales, Australia. He was responsible for researching many aspects of new fruit crops for the region, including lychee, mango, custard apple, guava, papaya, longan and subtropical peaches and nectarines. His research (and publications in secular journals) involved environmental adaptation, breeding, mineral nutrition, post-harvest physiology and floral biology. He is now working full-time for Creation Ministries International in Brisbane, Australia.
Creation [CM]: Dr Batten, some prominent evolutionists claim that science would be virtually impossible without evolution. What do you say to that?
Dr Batten [DB]: Actually, the opposite seems true. I don’t know anything of practical value in science that has come out of evolutionary thinking. In fact, evolutionary daydreaming has given rise to many dead ends. Examples include ideas such as embryonic recapitulation (leading to belief in ‘gill slits’ in human embryos, for example) and the inappropriate treatment of back pain (trying to make our backs more like those of our supposed ape ancestors actually makes back problems worse).1 Then there are the false notions that some organs are useless leftovers of evolution, or that DNA that we don’t understand is ‘junk’ (see p. 26 this issue). Such ideas impede scientific progress, as they influence scientists not to bother investigating their function.
Then there are the many frauds inspired by evolution: Haeckel’s embryo drawings, Piltdown Man, the peppered moths story, the ‘feathered dinosaur’ Archaeoraptor, etc.2
Prediction after prediction of evolutionary theory has been falsified. For instance, following Richard Dawkins’ ‘selfish gene’ idea, sociologists predicted that adoptive parents would be less caring of their children than would biological parents. Not so.3
CM: Evolutionary belief demands that mutations (accidental copying mistakes in genes) create new functional genetic information. Is there any evidence for this?
DB: None. Lots of ‘mutation breeding’ has been carried out, originally on the evolutionary premise that life is completely plastic and that mutations can create completely new features (such as feathers on reptiles). While mutation breeding has been useful in creating such things as dwarf plants and seedless fruit, the useful traits that have arisen have not been due to the creation of new genetic information, but rather destruction of existing information.
Why are so many scientists evolutionists?
I think there are three main reasons: 1) They haven’t carefully considered the evidence against the evolutionary doctrine. 2) They’re philosophically locked into materialism, so evolution ‘is a fact.’ The only alternative, creation, becomes unthinkable—perhaps because it would mean being accountable to their Creator. 3) They’re locked into a paradigm, a way of thinking, and everything they look at is interpreted to fit this paradigm; things that don’t fit are explained away. Peer group pressure and job security overarch all this.
You experienced the power of a false paradigm in your own research, didn’t you?
Yes. All the literature on the flowering of lychees and mangoes said that it happened in response to a period of bud ‘dormancy’ induced by cool4 weather. So, when the trees failed to flower, it was blamed on the lack of sufficient cold to induce this dormancy, or on excessive vigour in the trees. Every experiment carried out to induce stronger dormancy failed to encourage flowering, but the scientists, including me, always found a reason to question the experiments; never the paradigm.
Evolution is like that—observations that do not fit are explained away; the paradigm is not questioned. I got so frustrated with so many failed experiments that I was about to give up. Dejected, and sitting under a tree one day, I started to wonder if there was something wrong with the whole way of thinking about the problem.
Then I noticed something that I had seen before but I had not realized its significance; something that totally contradicted the idea that flower initiation occurred in ‘dormant’ buds. I saw that flowers must be initiated in buds as they begin to grow during cool weather, not in dormant buds. We then carried out experiments that demonstrated this,5 which overturned the wrong thinking (although some scientists resisted the new concept initially).
Did you always believe in God the Creator?
In the 1950s, over 80% of children had frequent contact with church.6 I was one of them—my parents sent me to Sunday School. In the 1990s, 31% had ‘frequent contact.’7 Now it is undoubtedly even fewer. In the little country town where I grew up, I had a godly Sunday School teacher who taught from the Bible. I heard a street preacher when I was about 10 years old, and there repented of my sin, asked for God’s forgiveness and resolved to follow Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I never questioned that there was a Creator—few children do, unless they are taught this by adults.8
How did you cope with evolutionary education?
In high school I was hit with a new, thoroughly evolutionized curriculum. No pastor or youth leader had a satisfying answer to the evolutionary ideas being thrown at us. They often proposed some sort of gap theory, but I could never see a gap between the first two verses of Genesis. Anyway, it didn’t solve the problem. It relegated all the fossils to an imaginary cataclysmic pre-Adamic flood to which the Bible makes no reference. And anyway, we were taught that fossils formed over millions of years, not quickly as in this gap idea. Also, it put all the death and suffering visible in fossil creatures before the Fall (Genesis 3), undermining the Gospel.
Others said, ‘Just believe the Bible.’ While I admired that in one sense, they didn’t help much.9 A few suggested that the days could be long periods of time. But that still had death and suffering pre-Fall. And how could numbered days, with evenings and mornings, the basis of our 7-day week in Exodus 20:8–11, possibly be understood as long time periods? In the end I just pigeonholed the issue and tried not to think about it.
Obviously that changed?
Yes. It started during my first year at the University of Sydney. The Professor10 of Biology, Charles Birch, said something in a lecture that rocked me. He said, ‘Some of you are worried about this evolution stuff. Don’t worry too much about it. I don’t know whether I believe it myself.’11 He used a word that I thought hard about: ‘believe.’ I had this naïve view that ‘science’ was ‘facts’. You could accept or reject the ‘facts’ of ‘science,’ but ‘believe’? That applied more appropriately to church/faith/religion, I thought.
Like many before and since, I had created two mental boxes—one for my faith and the other for all my university studies. I never let the two interact. I later learnt that this dichotomy was proposed hundreds of years ago by Immanel Kant, a rationalist philosopher. Kant formalized the idea that ‘faith’ had nothing to do with ‘reality.’12 Originally, faith (in God, and trust in His Word) had undergirded science. But science was eventually cast adrift to pretend that it did not rest on any ‘faith,’ but ‘reason.’ Faith in ‘reason’ replaced faith in God.
So you discovered that there are beliefs involved in doing science?
Yes, assumptions held by faith underlie all knowledge, including scientific knowledge. Later, I came to understand that these presuppositions are particularly important in the historical sciences, which is where the disagreement with the Bible comes from. Here, we have evidence in the present upon which the geologist or paleontologist makes up a story about the past. You cannot do experiments on the past, so these stories always remain stories. People today are confused because evolutionists pass these stories off as ‘science’ and we all know how science leads to wonderful cures for disease, technological innovation, etc. But the latter come from empirical science—that is, investigation of the operation of today’s world through repeatable experiments—like my experiments with the lychees and mangoes. This is very different to speculating about what might have happened in the distant past.
Dr Duane Gish spoke at the university during my post-graduate studies. That was the first time I had heard anyone give cogent arguments against the evolutionary view. It blew me away. I read The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris. The two boxes, faith and reason, were now open together. Jesus’ summary of the Law challenged me: that we should love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). With my mind in a different box to my faith, I certainly was not worshipping God with everything. Then I was challenged to actually believe the Bible as God’s Word. It came down to ‘Am I going to believe God or man?,’ and I realized I had to believe God. My life changed radically as confidence replaced doubt. When we trust God, we are no longer ‘tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine’ (Ephesians 4:14). And the world makes real sense.
Thanks, Don. We know your work with CMI is now reaping much fruit (of a different sort). All the best.
References and notes
- Standing upright for Creation—Jonathan Sarfati chats with spine expert Richard Porter, Creation 25(1):25–27, 2002. Return to text.
- For more information on these use the search engine. Return to text.
- Golombok, S. et al., Child Development, City University, London, April 1995. Return to text.
- This is relative coolness, as in subtropical environments, not ice and snow. Return to text.
- Batten, D.J. and McConchie, C.A., Floral induction in growing buds of lychee (Litchi chinensis Sonn.) and mango (Mangifera indica L.), Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 22(5):783–791, 1995. Return to text.
- Bellamy, J., Black, A., Castle, K., Huges, P. and Kaldor, P., Why people don’t go to church, National Church Life Survey and Open Book Publishers, Adelaide, Australia, pp. 22–23, 30, 2002. Return to text.
- Ref. 6. This figure is almost certainly inflated because it comes from a survey of parents, who are probably inclined to state what ought to be regarding their children’s religious education, rather than what actually is. Return to text.
- It’s only logical—children know that things don’t make themselves; intuitively, they know that everything that has a beginning has a cause (a creator). See also the study of Japanese children cited in Creation 22(2):7, 2000. Return to text.
- Their piety was deficient, though, in the light of 1 Peter 3:15, which commands us to be ready to give reasons for the hope we have. Return to text.
- This is the highest rank in the Australian/British university system. Return to text.
- Birch says he is a ‘Christian,’ but denies just about everything that Christians believe. He has hardened his attitude about evolution in recent years, but in 1969 the fledgling creation movement held little threat to evolutionism. Birch, with Paul Ehrlich, wrote, in 1967, ‘Our theory of evolution has become, as Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus “outside of empirical science but not necessarily false”. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training’ (Nature 214:352, 1967). Return to text.
- More recently, Marxist evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould pushed the same logically incoherent ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ (NOMA). Although of course Gould himself never stooped so low as to need ‘religious’ views, he adopted NOMA to appease his churchian allies. Return to text.