Carl Wieland chats with environmental biologist Douglas Oliver
First posted on homepage: 7 April 2014 (GMT+10)
Re-posted on homepage: 12 January 2022 (GMT+10)
Dr J. Douglas Oliver earned his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees from the University of Toronto, and his Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Georgia. He has worked for the Ontario, Canada government, as well as for the Florida Dept.of Environmental Protection. He has also taught at Florida A & M University. He is currently a Professor of Biology at Liberty University, where he is also the Associate Director of the Center for Creation Studies.
Dr Doug Oliver was raised in a ‘liberal Christian’ home and church. He says, “I thought that being ‘good’ and believing in a vague, traditional God was probably good enough to get me into Heaven.” His adoptive mother had even lived with an occultist for some time, yet despite this, she thought that people being descended from apelike creatures was ‘stupid’.
This may have been one reason why in 8th grade, when his theistic evolutionist teacher held a class creation/evolution debate, he was the only student who decided to take the side labelled as ‘fundamentalist’ (i.e., in favour of biblical creation). He says, “In some vague way, I wanted to be good and to support God the Creator. However, this was before a lot of the modern creation revival, so I did not have much information to back up my position.”
Years later, when about to go to university to become a scientist, he had basically only heard the case for broad-scale evolution and billions of years. So, he just accepted these concepts, like “everyone else”. Gradually, he says, “the evolution-supporting and liberal influences at the secular university I attended, plus the attitudes of my friends, led me to join them in premarital sex, drugs, and general non-Christian living. However in my senior year, Jesus intercepted my life through a very kind, Bible-believing pre-med guy in my secular dorm, who led me into personal repentance and I received Jesus the Creator for salvation.”
Challenged to rethink
In spite of this, he says, “It was not until I was doing my Master of Science in biology that a very biblical pastor and teacher challenged my theistic evolutionary thinking and got me to read a couple of Dr Henry Morris’s books on the subject.” This convinced Doug of biblical creation, and since then, he has done talks, debates, and articles on the scientific case for creation.
Dr Oliver is well aware of the powerful biblical evidence for creation, too. As he says, “Jesus, the Bible, and traditional Christianity and Judaism, clearly support a direct, six-day Creation. For example, the scriptural chronology of all history from ‘the beginning’ is given from the first six evening-and-morning days of all Creation, including creation of the first human, Adam, who was made directly from dirt, not from animals; then through only about 6,000 years of biblical history, until now. Furthermore, according to other passages, the holy, loving God is not the author of this world’s sickness and death; therefore, upward evolution, which supposedly uses such negative influences to produce all life, cannot have been the true means of creating the original, ‘very good’, pre-Fall-of-man world” (cf. Genesis 1:31).
Life by chance impossible
He has always been a science buff, even before receiving his qualifications, and Dr Oliver says that he prefers to use biological and other scientific arguments for creation in talking to people, many of whom would not listen to what they perceived as ‘just religion’. He points out how, for example, “the probability of accidentally producing even a small nucleic acid, a molecule necessary to produce even the simplest conceivable living thing, is vanishingly small. Furthermore, the simultaneous presence of hundreds of precise proteins and many other molecules, at appropriate concentrations, would also have been necessary at one place and time—yet even this still would not have been sufficient.”1
From the perspective of his own teaching and research area of ecology and the environment, he says, “Christians should respect the world that Jesus has created and that He now upholds, and how its various living parts work together. But we have been given ‘dominion’ over the earth in Scripture (Genesis 1:28). Clearly, humans are supposed to use the animals, plants, minerals, petroleum, etc. as a bounty to help our fellow human beings. Wise dominion is particularly important because in our current world, the original perfect garden has been cursed following man’s Fall, and it needs informed but productive trimming, harvesting for people, etc. This can provide increased food for needy, hungry people.”
Caring for people first
“In essence, I think we need to properly prioritize the crown of God’s creation, namely people, but not be unkind or uncaring to other creatures, especially those that assist us in our tasks, such as cattle and plant pollinators. We need to be good stewards of our plant resources, e.g. clover that adds nitrogen to the soil,2 a broad range of fishes, etc. It seems as if the devil is instead ‘educating’ us, especially the young, into prioritizing protection of many weedy plants and pest animals, possibly to try to reverse man’s taking dominion over the earth and to try to slow progress toward Christ’s (spiritual and physical) ultimate kingdom.” What about the ‘hot’ issue of global warming? He thinks there is a reasonable case that some warming may be happening, but that it may well not be likely to cause large-scale problems, now or in the future.3 He said, “This is largely because the Creator has built numerous self-correcting ecosystem properties into our environment.” As one example, he referred to how a warmer atmosphere would increase evaporation of underlying water, thus would produce more clouds to reflect heat back into space.
Another example was how the rare accidental release of petroleum into seawater, such as in the recent Gulf of Mexico spill, was followed by natural bacterial digestion of a lot of the oil. He says, “I think we need to (carefully) continue to find and use our world’s abundant energy-producing materials, like coal, oil, and natural gas— themselves probably largely a result of plants and animals that died in the God created ‘environmental disturbance’ of the Genesis Flood.”
Dr Oliver says that, in his view, “continued large-scale carbon use is important in order to continue to provide energy and chemicals for agriculture, roads, medicines, electricity, vehicles, evangelism, education, housing, etc.,—and especially for helping the poor.”
Doug was positive about the many publications and internet material put out by CMI, which he says have been very helpful to him in his work and outreach. He teaches Creation Studies, Introductory Biology labs and an Environmental Biology course at Liberty University, a Christian institution where he has been working for about nine years. He says, “Liberty is a rare creation-supporting oasis in a sea of evolutionist colleges and universities. Even many Christian colleges today support evolution and/or the unbiblical idea of the supposed billions of years of past history. Unfortunately these old-earth concepts have typically been the start of the growth of other liberal and unbiblical teachings at such colleges, so that most universities that started biblically are no longer even Christian.”
“The perceived need for accreditation,” he went on to say, “may have tended to push some colleges toward abandoning biblical timeframes and other politically incorrect concepts. However, it is still possible to maintain such foundations and obtain accreditation, too. I think an important key to maintaining biblical views is the careful interviewing of potential faculty and others on their beliefs re the age of the earth, no death before sin, etc. and not hiring any who are unbiblical about such things.”
Doug says that he has certainly experienced discrimination and pressure due to his views on creation. In fact, he says, “It started during my Ph.D. program in Georgia, in my first class, and did not cease until I graduated, years later. Some Christians said I should not even mention creation or the age of the earth in classes, etc., but through prayer and in conscience, I realized I wanted to be a witness to these important concepts for both non-Christians and Christians. This resulted in me having to do years more work and effort, but it was worth it. The early Christians even endured torture and death for their Scripture-supporting testimonies, so why should believers today be less forthright, in order to avoid a little rejection?”
“During that Ph.D. program, incidentally, my first major professor4 was a well known and likeable evolutionist biologist. However he dumped me as his Ph.D. student after I noticed him staring wide-eyed at my Jesus bumper sticker (even before he found out I was a creationist)! My second (and ultimate final) major professor, also a convinced evolutionist, somehow put up with my creationism, and I initially wondered why. Years later, I heard from this professor that his own brother was, in his words, a ‘well known, successful petroleum geologist who somehow could incorporate his young-earth creationist worldview into his very successful geological career’. In retrospect, Jesus was protecting me, even through my less-than-godly, creation-disliking prof!”
A huge source of joy for Doug and his wife, Nancy, is their daughter from China, Jayden (see photo right), whose adoption was the result of years of hopeful prayer. He says, “Nan and I have both been blessed to see a number of miraculous answers to prayer in our lives, and Jayden is surely one of them. We pray that He may use our adoption situation to remind our Christian brothers and sisters around the world to persevere in prayer. If you believe something is God’s will—never give up!”
References and notes
- For more information, see creation.com/origin and creation.com/probabilities. Return to text.
- Thanks to a finely designed enzyme that can split the strongly bonded nitrogen molecule. See Demick, D., The molecular sledgehammer, Creation 24(2):52–53, 2002; creation.com/sledge. Return to text.
- See also Wieland, C., Global warming (or climate change): what is the creationist view ? creation.com/warming, 3 January 2007. Return to text.
- This refers to the particular professor overseeing the major subject of the Ph.D. program. Return to text.