This article is from
Creation 24(2):6, March 2002

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Herd rule

Standing for truth can be painful in a world in rebellion against its Maker



In my first university year, the lecturer told us of a fascinating piece of psychological research. Twelve people were shown, simultaneously, two fleeting images (A and B), each a straight line. Then the group was asked, one at a time, which was the longer line.

In reality, only one of the 12 was a genuine research subject (guinea pig might be a better word!). The other 11 were carefully briefed ‘plants’. The arrangement was that the subject, observed by hidden cameras, would be asked last. Now, despite the brevity of the exposure, no-one reasonably trusting their senses should have been in any doubt that ‘A’ was the longer of the two. As questioning commenced, the subject looked accordingly relaxed and confident in his impending choice.

The first plant, however, answered ‘B’ as the longer line, as all 11 had been instructed to do. Our subject registered only mild surprise, but as the second, then the third, also said ‘B’, one could see his composure crumble. As the ‘B’ answers continued to roll in confidently and relentlessly, the stress visibly mounted, then seemed to relax as his turn drew closer. Finally, he confidently proclaimed the answer to be ‘B’.

Reruns showed this to be a near-universal phenomenon, with only the rare individual able, with great difficulty and struggle, to stand against such ‘peer pressure’. (‘After all, can they all be wrong? Must be me.’)

This tendency, to abandon commonsense, experience, and ultimately reality itself in the face of the overwhelming social pressure of the ‘herd’ has a lot to do with the sad state of the Christian church in the West today. I can think of a number of formerly sound Bible colleges here in Australia/NZ which have succumbed to it in various forms.

It usually starts with the desire to gain ‘academic respectability’, in order to grant accredited degrees. Whether looking to Caesar for funds or ‘accreditation’, there is always a price to pay, namely capitulation to Caesar’s ‘standards’. And these are invariably determined by the current ‘herd’ mentality. Degrees in theology (theoretically about ‘knowing God’—Gk theos = God, logos = word or knowledge) become degrees in how not to know or understand the true, living God, who has revealed Himself in the Bible. God tells us that the herd is mostly in active rebellion against His truth, so, not surprisingly, the herd dictates that the Bible is not to be seen as a book of true history (cf. Matthew 7:14). The Bible college dutifully bends in that direction.

The herd says Genesis is to be taken as myth or allegory. So, regardless of the reality of Hebrew grammar, the rules of sound exegesis, even the very words of Jesus Christ Himself,1 the herd rules. Standing against the herd offers pain, stress and controversy, a price the ‘guinea pig’ in our story was not prepared to pay. The herd offers the safety and security of peer approval.

Secular academia itself is riddled with the phenomenon. Universities are supposed to be bastions of academic freedom. But the subtle commercial pressure of funding demands is so intense that, according to a recent Australian National University report, academics are increasingly reluctant to take on research which is in any way controversial. A Visiting Fellow said, ‘Universities are supposed to stand for the truth … researching and publishing without fear or favour.’ Yet, he claimed, many researchers ‘believe that new research that challenges or threatens established ideas is unlikely to be funded so they do not even bother to put in an application.’2 And he wasn’t talking about anything nearly as controversial or threatening as Biblical creation-based challenges to the modern materialist orthodoxy!

Of course, the herd is not always wrong. Some people get their ‘kicks’ from opposing the herd, regardless, which is not a good motive as far as Creation Ministries International is concerned. But when truth and reality, as defined by the One who said, ‘I am the Truth’, are threatened by herd rule, that’s a great reason to stand up and be counted. Creation magazine helps you do that with confidence.


  1. Matthew 19:3–6, Mark 10:6, Luke 17:26–27. Return to text.
  2. Rising fears for academic freedom, ANU Reporter 32(7), 11 May 2001. Return to text.