Unanswered Questions of the Plimer/Roberts Court Case

© Cameron Horn, 1997.

Adapted with permission

On June 2nd 1997 at 2:30 pm, Ian Plimer called a press conference at the Australian Museum, College Street Sydney. Much of the pro-Plimer point of view which was put forward at that press conference was dutifully picked up by the press and given a public hearing. One incident from the press conference which was dutifully ignored, yet provided the only colour to an otherwise dull meeting, was an exchange between Ian Plimer and journalist Cameron Horn of Macquarie Network Sydney Radio 2GB).

The transcript of this exchange follows and the reader will note that when confronted with specific allegations of impropriety, Ian Plimer retreats behind a barrage of name calling.

Transcript of press conference excerpt:

Plimer: I would ask you, how many of you have been able to have an objective interview with creationists? How many of them have allowed themselves to be exposed to scrutiny? Not one creationist organisation in this country has allowed itself to be interviewed during the course of this litigation, even though they were not parties to the litigation. So what it really is showing us, is that we are dealing with the forces of darkness who, when they are questioned, retreat…

Horn: Mr Plimer, how do you respond to people who are continually saying that you in fact have plagiarized most of your book. I’m talking about people like Dr William Grey who says that you engage in falsehood, misrepresentations and distortions, as we’ve just seen today, as you have just said that no person from creation science was interviewed by the media, which is in fact untrue. They were in fact, interviewed with you on 2GB during the course of this litigation. In fact, I’m sorry, on the day before this litigation started. How do you respond to the allegations that you in fact, are a plagiarist?

Plimer: I’m sorry, I’ve never done an interview with a creation scientist on 2GB.

Horn: It was with Brian Carlton, the Sunday morning, the day before you appeared and then Carl Wieland appeared after you.

Plimer: I did not do an interview on 2GB with Carl Wieland.

Horn: But you just said that no creationist has been interviewed by the media.

Plimer: No. No creationist has been exposed to an objective scrutiny in the media. Many many television groups have been trying to get a comment by the Creation Science Foundation [now ministering as Creation Ministries International — Ed.]. They have not been able to ask the Creation Science Foundation all sorts of questions.

Horn: I’ve never had any trouble talking to them. How do you respond to the allegations of plagiarisation in your book?

Plimer: Which book?

Horn: You know which book Telling Lies for God.

Plimer: Who am I talking to?

Horn: Cameron Horn, Macquarie Network.

Plimer: Cameron Horn!

Horn: Yes, you remember me? I’m the person whose questions you never answer.

Plimer: Yes, our resident creationist broadcaster, who happened to want to ask me for an hour long interview with a Bible next to me, my book next to me and creationist literature.

Horn: I have sent you reams of questions that you will not answer. I asked you for an interview and you turned up completely unprepared.

Barry Williams (President, Australian Skeptics): And you appear not to know what the meaning of plagiarism is, sir.

Horn: The meaning of plagiarism is to take someone else’s work and claim it as your own.

Barry Williams: That’s correct. That’s not your question though is it?

Horn: This has happened repeatedly in your book. How do you respond to that allegation, which is not coming from me, but coming from people like Jeffrey Shallit, who is a Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo in Canada; and also the allegations of distortion, unfairness and misrepresentation, which come from your skeptic colleague Dr William Grey?

Plimer: I’m quite happy to have a book like Telling Lies for God ruffle a few feathers amongst the cranial imbalanced people in the community, like the creationists, like the fundamentalists. I’m quite happy and proud as a scientist to stand up in public and to make strong comments and have shots fired at me. I think that is my job.

Horn: But these shots are being fired by your own colleagues, sir.

Plimer: I’m quite happy to have my own colleagues, scientific colleagues and others, discuss matters of opinion with me. That is the nature of science. That is the nature of being a public citizen. What I’m not happy with is creationists who are wanting to peddle their poppycock to schoolchildren …

Horn: Can you give me one example where creationism is taught in school? In your book you said there is no direct evidence.

Plimer: I think we have another question over here.

Horn: Fair enough. As you see, he does not answer the questions.

This exchange is part of a concerted attempt by journalist Horn to have certain questions answered by Plimer. Documentary evidence shows that Cameron Horn has sent at least 7 requests for interview by fax to Ian Plimer. One of these faxes, contained 14 questions, sent on the 13th October 1995, with a request that Plimer answer them at his leisure. They remain unanswered. This fax is included below. A similar fax of questions was sent to Plimer via his publisher, Matthew Kelly of Random House Sydney, on October 20th 1997. These too, remain unanswered.

Ian Plimer is usually so zealous for media attention why the deafening silence in this instance?

Just who is really hiding from ‘the bright light of media scrutiny’?

Questions to Ian Plimer

  1. Do you concede that your ‘heaven hotter than hell’ analysis on page 21 of Telling Lies … is completely without foundation for the following reasons?
    • Your pivotal Scripture Is. 30:26 makes no reference to heaven or the lights of heaven as you have maintained. Neither does a literal reading of any Scripture from Is. 29, 30 or 31.
    • You give no definitive Scripture for ‘brimstone in hell’, preferring to rely on an errant tradition resultant from a historical caricature of Scripture rather than Scripture itself.
    • The only Scriptures mentioning sulphur (theyos) in hell refer to a ‘lake’ of fire and sulphur and clearly indicate ‘brimstone’ in liquid form.

    [Ed. Notes:

    • As Plimer’s fellow anti-creationist Jeffrey Shallit documented, Plimer’s supposedly serious argument was plagiarized from a tongue-in-cheek article: Anonymous, ‘Heaven is hotter than hell’, Applied Optics 11(8):A14, August, 1972, reprinted in R. L. Weber (compiler) and E. Mendoza (editor), A Random Walk in Science, Institute of Physics (London) and Crane, Russak & Co. (New York), 1973, p. 106. Shallit’s article is http://www.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~shallit/plimer.html
    • Plimer confused the melting point and boiling point of sulfur, which doesn’t say much for his scientific competence. See Plimer’s Bloopers for more crass examples.

  2. Do you concede that your analysis of 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chron. 4:2 as having pi incorrect, as reported on pages 18 and 19 of Telling Lies … are completely without foundation for the following reasons [see also Does the Bible say pi equals 3.0?]?
    • The full description of the circular font in question, runs from 1 Kings 7:23 to 1 Kings 7:26 and you have chosen to ignore several key points in this description, namely:
      • The outwardly fanned lip described in verse 26, which would alter the size of the diameter without altering the size of the circumference measured at a different height.
      • The ornate additions to the outer wall of the font which would alter the measurement of the circumference, thus distorting the ratio between diameter and circumference.
  3. In our first chat, you made the point that ‘it’s been 6 months since the release of Telling Lies for God’…..why haven’t I received a threatening letter from (CSF’s) lawyers?’

    You claim on page 46 of Listener magazine July 1 1995 (New Zealand) ‘there are 213 places in the book which are actionable … I was hoping that creationists would sue me.’ Your desire to get into court with creationists is well documented both in skeptic and creationist circles. Having read the CSF’s notes I counted 334 actionable statements.

    Given the vast sums of money at your disposal through the Australian Skeptics Science and Education Foundation, Australian Skeptics Inc and the more than one million dollars donated to these groups by the late David Whalley and, given his desire to ‘oppose the teaching of creation science’ through his bequest, as well as the expressed aims of the Australian Skeptics Science and Education Foundation being that ‘this bequest … be put to the best use in countering creation science’, is there some circumstance to explain your failure to instigate legal proceedings yourself a full 4½ months since the release of the CSF’s notes debunking your book?

  4. Clarrie Briese and his committee have virtually called you a liar, in so much as they stated your book contains ‘grave allegations and/or innuendo against the ethics of CSF and its Directors [which] are not supported by the evidence’ and that your book is guilty of misrepresentation of the evidence [see Conclusion of prominent inquiry committee]. So will you be instituting legal proceedings against Mr Briese, the former chief magistrate of New South Wales?

    I concede that you may well have better things to do.

    I concede that the law and justice are often two different things, as exemplified by the acquittal of those responsible for the death of Dr Malcolm Goodall recently a case that I’m sure you’re familiar with.

    If these are valid excuses for you to dismiss court action as a waste of time, (you being so zealous for court action as exemplified by your ‘Section 52 of the Trade Practices Act’ threat in our last conversation and your similar action against Anor and Roberts) are these not also valid excuses for CSF to similarly dismiss court action against you?

  5. In our last conversation and indeed in your book, you talked about ‘10 years of duplicity’ from Dr Andrew Snelling. When I asked you to fax the evidence of this ‘ten years of duplicity’ you sent me but one page hardly ten years worth! Furthermore, upon closer examination of the two references to ‘Millions of years’ on this page, it turns out that Snelling is summarising the work of at least three other geologists, Needham, Stuart-Smith and Hegge et al.

    It then transpires that in order for this document to be published in the journal Geology of the Mineral Deposits of Australia and Papua New Guinea it had to be refereed by one of the original authors, Needham! You obviously sent me this particular page because it was the strongest evidence of Snelling’s alleged ‘duplicity’, other cited articles being mostly co-written by Snelling and thus subject to a second author’s opinion. Considering that no-one in Australian academic circles has any doubt as to Snelling’s stance on creation geology and the mitigating circumstances surrounding the single example you sent me and those other examples where Snelling has significantly co-authored, do you concede that it is demonstrable overkill to accuse Snelling of ‘scientific fraud’ through ‘duplicity’ when the sum total of the accusations against him amount to the use of familiar language in one article in one scientific journal while summarising someone else’s work?

    Do you also concede that your research into this matter is either faulty or incompletely stated, in that on page 248 of Telling Lies … you have incorrectly identified Noranda Canada and CSF itself as the only possible employers who may have requested Snelling to write the 1990 paper, when Snelling was in fact acting as a consultant for Denison Australia Ltd?

    Do you also concede that had Snelling inserted his own opinion into the text and thus had the paper rejected, you would then be calling Snelling ‘scientifically moribund’?

  6. On page 31 of Good Weekend Aug. 15, 1995 you state that the Akyayla ark site is a ‘syncline’ based on your own surveys of the desert around Western New South Wales. [Ed. Note: Plimer was also recently shown on a typically pro-evolution biased ABC (Australia) program claiming that the Akyayla ark site is a ‘syncline’ during one of his speeches at a lecture by Dr Allen Roberts]

    In contrast, in the September 1992 edition of Creation Ex Nihilo, Snelling takes 3½ columns of close type to describe the site as a large block transported by mud flow, uplifted by earthquake, then covered and surrounded by the continued flow of the unstable mud based mostly on the first hand on-site data collected by Bayraktutan, Dr John Baumgardner, and Fenner at Akyayla itself. See ‘Noah’s Ark Exposé’.

    Would you concede that, even back in 1992, it would seem that Snelling was taking a far more scientific approach to drawing conclusions concerning Akyayla?

    Let us move forward to September 1994, when copies of the first printing of Telling Lies … circulate and on page 101 you describe the Akyayla site again, as a ‘syncline.’

    However, in the first reprint of Telling Lies … page 101 has been changed to describe the Akyayla site as an ‘allochthonous block’ thus concurring with Snelling’s 1992 article that it is a transported block. In your own words from page 255 of Telling Lies … ‘this concept of priority is very important in science.’ Do you concede that in this case, the concept of priority does not exactly fall in your favour?

    Do you concede that your lambasting of Snelling’s article, with which you finally concur, is unwarranted?

    Do you concede that your statement from page 255 of Telling Lies… that ‘Snelling’s article did not disagree with any of these prior refutations by genuine scientists’ is demonstrably wrong as it is shown that at that time, not only did your separate conclusions differ, but also that Snelling’s article does in fact refer to your conclusion as erroneous on page 34 of Creation Ex Nihilo September 1992?

    Do you concede that your research of Snelling’s article is flawed to the extent that you even get Dr William Shea’s name wrong (Telling Lies … p. 254)? Will this error be corrected for future printings of Telling Lies…?

    Do you concede that, contrary to your assertion on page 254 that Snelling gave no address for Shea, Snelling has given a perfectly legitimate contact point for Shea on page 38 of the above cited Creation magazine?

    Do you concede that it is the height of irony to lambast Snelling for alleged ‘sloppiness’ in one example of referencing (again page 254 of Telling Lies …) when your own book is absolutely riddled with completely untraceable references? For example:

    • Page 265 Snelling ‘Cyclone Tracy’ quote.
    • Page 271 attitudinal statements from Henry Morris.
    • Page 227 disclaimer from Paul Taylor.
    • Page 41–42 Smith 1986, bibliography lists ‘Smith, Ken 1991.’
    • Page 276: reference to the Sun Telegraph no such paper. No such article in the Sunday Telegraph of same date!

    To name but a few!

    You claimed on Gordon Moyes’ program that everything was properly referenced. Will these and numerous other unreferenced quotes be properly referenced in future printings of Telling Lies…?

  7. Do you concede that your statement on page 163 of Telling Lies… that ‘not once has Creation Ex Nihilo published a letter critical of an article in the creationist literature’ is a demonstrable exaggeration considering the letters from Colin Groves (Creation Ex Nihilo 12(3):8-9), Mike Shermer (Creation Ex Nihilo 17(1):5) and edited highlights from Barry Williams (also Creation Ex Nihilo 12(3):9) as well as discussion of a news article from Richard Dawkins (Creation Ex Nihilo 13(2):7) all of which take up considerable space in the correspondence pages of the respective editions?
  8. Regarding the allegations of financial impropriety, these allegations have only been stirred to the surface by either Australian Skeptics or people closely associated with that group. Since the allegations have been repeatedly cleared by the Queensland Fraud Squad, Clarrie Briese, Jim Lippard [a felllow anti-creationist], the Australian Tax Department as well as resulting in the removal from public sale of two Barry Price books (The Bumbling, Stumbling, Crumbling … etc. and The Creation Science Controversy) exactly what has to transpire before Ian Plimer and other skeptics, accept the umpire’s decision(s) on this?
  9. In our May 25 1995 interview you claimed that creationists of the 19th century, being ignorant of the structure of DNA and molecular biology, were therefore ignorant of the evidence which ‘underpins’ evolution. This begs two questions.
    • First, does this not also imply that such people as Huxley, Haeckel and Darwin himself, were also equally ignorant and thus, were equally popularising their belief while flying just as blindly as Pasteur et al? It was during these years that the theory of evolution made its great leaps in popularity demonstrably on ignorance as you have so perceptively pointed out! Does this not bear out the criticism that evolutionary scientists have popularised Darwinism based on just as much blind faith as creationists promulgating creation?
    • Secondly, and more importantly, does not the structure of DNA and the evidence of molecular biology pose just as many mysteries for evolutionists as for creationists, if not more? For example, notwithstanding your page 290 imaginings regarding RNA etc, how, exactly, did the first DNA strand synthesise from its individually non-replicating constituents? Since a DNA molecule derives only from a like DNA molecule, how did the first DNA molecule arise? If you have a definitive answer to this mystery might I suggest you waste no time in writing immediately to the likes of Richard Dawkins who, when asked this very same question on the ABC’s [Australia] Lateline program of 7th September 1995, replied honestly, ‘We don’t know.’ Equally, the mystery of random production of cellular life from non-life has never been adequately explained.

    Similarly, please demonstrate by way of empirical experimentation (as opposed to educated guessing) exactly how viruses can be an intermediary between non-life and cellular life, when a virus requires the existence of the replicating cell in order to replicate itself.

    These are but a few evolutionary mysteries that arise from those studies that you claim have clarified the evolutionists position. Do you concede that the studies of DNA and microscopic biology present equal challenges to both creationism and evolutionism? [Ed. note: the information content and thermodynamic constraints actually pose a far greater problem for evolutionists]

  10. Do you concede that you have made it virtually impossible for interested readers to check the authenticity of the Fred Nile quote of page 242 by not giving the correct name of the newspaper?

    A check of a similarly named newspaper, the Sunday Telegraph of the given date, (6 Sept. 1992 page 31) reveals that you have quoted the journalist Sue Quinn saying ‘Mr Nile said that if necessary he would introduce legislation to allow the teaching of the theory that God, not evolution, was responsible for life’ in order to claim on page 242 of your book that Nile wishes to ban evolution from our schools.

    However this is completely contradicted by the actual direct quote from Nile in the same Sunday Telegraph article which states, ‘What we are trying to do is get a formula so that wherever evolution is taught, it would be legal for teachers to say that there are other views including the creationism view.’

    Furthermore, a check of Hansard from 16 October 1990 as well as a Sun Herald article from 20 November 1994 all clearly show that Mr Nile’s intent has never been to outlaw the teaching of evolution in New South Wales " at least not in the past 4 years. Will future printings of Telling Lies… be therefore corrected, where on page 242 you state that ‘Mr Nile only wants dogmatic quasi-religious ‘science’ taught. He does not even acknowledge that, in his democracy, an allegedly balanced creation/evolution course would have a place.’ Do you concede that this is not backed up by the various public quotes from Mr Nile on this subject?

  11. Do you concede that your assertion on page 270 that ‘much of the organisation [of CSF] in Australia is through….the Festival of Light’ is directly contradicted by the Sunday Telegraph article of 13 Sept 1992, which states ‘Dr Carl Wieland said…..The Foundation had no direct links with the Festival of Light’?

    This article further states ‘Dr Wieland said the Foundation did not advocate legislation making it compulsory for creationism to be taught in schools.’ Does this not make the whole thrust of your book a complete non-issue?

  12. Skeptics are repeatedly saying in public, that Christian schools such as Christian Community Schools in New South Wales, only teach creationism and don’t teach evolution. For example Colin Groves, page 42 of the Sydney Telegraph Mirror September 5 1995. However, the NSW state secretary of CCS, Max Warren has written in a letter appearing in appendix 9 of my essay the following:

    ‘My understanding would be that most CCS’s if not all, would teach the theory of evolution …This is necessary for two reasons:

    1. To fulfil Board requirements from certain syllabi, eg. senior biology.
    2. So that our students are fully informed of evolutionary arguments……it would be less than intellectually honest not to teach the theory of evolution.’

    Since it is in fact illegal for a school to fail to teach evolution and since a Christian school runs the grave risk of losing badly needed funding should they be found to not teach according to Department guidelines, will the individual members of the Australian skeptics, who have made the erroneous declaration that Christian schools are flouting such department guidelines, either correct their statements or forthwith desist from making such assertions, which in fact imply that Christian schools contradict their own policies and mission statement as well as Departmental policy?

  13. Perhaps my favourite quote from Telling Lies… comes from page 15 where you state ‘Any really omnipotent god would have created evolution and would not need to resort to the facile illogical scientifically-incorrect creationism.’

    Mr Plimer, do you seriously pretend to know exactly what any really omnipotent god would or would not do? Do you claim to know precisely what any really omnipotent god decides is the best way to do whatever it is he does? Please Mr Plimer, let the rest of humanity in on this universe-shaking knowledge!

  14. In our previous interview, you stated that Telling Lies… was in its fifth printing. Furthermore an advertisement on the back page of The Skeptic Winter 1995 again states this as does Jim Wallaby on page 13 of the same newsletter. A simple check with Matthew Kelly of Random House however reveals that Telling Lies… is yet to see even a third printing! Is this an example of skeptic exaggeration or does this mean that skeptics attend the Monty Python school of arithmetic? (Refer ‘the holy hand grenade of Antioch’ scene from ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’) Clearly, Robin Williams’ [atheistic TV science journalist of ABC ed.] influence within Australian skeptic circles is getting out of hand!!
Published: 24 February 2006