The Battle of Chang-Sha
Gary Bates talks to plant scientist Chang-Sha Fang
Chang-Sha Fang B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc., is a scientist who is also a dedicated supporter of creation ministry, but it wasn’t always that way. He was born in a small Malaysian village called Kampong Koh. His great-grandfather (a Methodist Pastor) pioneered this village by moving all of his parishioners and his own family from mainland China as settlers.
Even Chang-Sha’s own name was given to him by his grandfather to commemorate the ‘Battle of Chang-Sha,’ a famous battle of the Sino-Japanese war (just prior to World War II) in which the Chinese halted the Japanese advance.1
Despite having this strong Christian heritage (his own father was also a pastor), Chang-Sha was to face his own battle in years to come.
Believing God and His Word was not an issue when growing up in the Fang household. He explains, ‘Bible stories and verses were read all the time and the entirety of God’s Word was believed. No one ever challenged the validity of the Bible and we had never concerned ourselves with the theory of evolution, as it wasn’t emphasized in school science classes back then.’
Chang-Sha eventually encountered the theory of evolution ‘full on’ when at 19 years of age he left for Australia to study zoology and biology at Perth’s University of Western Australia (UWA). He remembers that when the subject of creation was raised it was always regarded as religion. But evolution was taught as fact.
‘Being from an Asian background where we hold teachers in great respect, I felt too intimidated to challenge their authority,’ he says. ‘Because they were teachers, you believed they must be right. Remarkably, no one else ever questioned what was being taught, either.’
Without the support of his family and Christian fellowship, and with the constant indoctrination of evolution being taught as fact by his lecturers, Chang-Sha says, ‘I graduated out of Uni. with barely any faith left, wondering—how could my family have been wrong for all of these years? Perhaps they were just naïve and didn’t know the truth?’ The final straw came when he asked a research colleague, a Christian, about Noah’s Flood. He answered that he didn’t know but just believed by faith. ‘He didn’t have any evidence or any answers for me and even suggested that Adam and Eve were just stories.’
Chang-Sha can understand that for some, their parents’ foundation may be enough. But he says, ‘I had an enquiring mind, and, like a “doubting Thomas”? (John 20:24–29), I required evidence to counter my disbelief.’
After Chang-Sha married, his wife Barbara became a Christian. Having no difficulties with the Creation account in Genesis, she would often show him snippets of information and creationist articles that she came across.
The turning point came during a visit by his mother from Singapore, when one night after dinner Chang-Sha told her that he was not attending church anymore. A large debate ensued. ‘I told her that the Bible was a collection of stories and that Jesus was just a good teacher and philosopher,’ he says. ‘I knew my mother’s heart must have been stabbed to the core.’
His godly mother, devastated by her son’s departure from faith, arranged for groups of friends and family to pray around the clock for her son’s salvation.
He says, ‘God was so merciful and gracious, because he met me where I was at! My research was not going well at the time and I was also frustrated due to the internal conflict I was going through. Unable to counter me with scientific arguments, my wife and mother gave me a book of sermons to read. After reading how Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20–22), God spoke to me through one of the sermons and said, clearly, “I am the Creator and I can deliver you from your frustration. Just reach out to me.”? I was convicted of my need of God and my sin of denying Him. I broke down and cried like a child.’
God is so good—shortly after, Ken Ham and Dr Gary Parker visited Perth and Chang-Sha attended the meetings, where they spoke about the complexity in created things—design and the relevance of Creation to the Gospel of Christ. Chang-Sha says, ‘After listening to them, I realized that I had been totally deceived by the false science of evolution, which had caused me to become spiritually blind.
‘I bought so many books and devoured them one after the other. At the same time God provided me with a good teacher in the Scriptures. Now I was so excited at all of this new information from the Bible and Answers in Genesis, but at the same time I also felt angry, because for so many years I had been brainwashed to believe the lie of evolution and deny my Creator and Saviour.’
As a scientist, trained in plant pathology, he comments that he can now see in his work the awe-inspiring beauty and design of the Creator, but laments that during his many years spent researching and studying, he was blind to the Maker’s handprint. ‘I feel I was deprived at not having been able to do my work wearing Biblical glasses,’ he says.
He is at the time of writing employed as the Collections Manager at the Western Australian Herbarium of the Department of Conservation and Land Management in Perth. The Herbarium collects and catalogues all plants and plant matter found in Western Australia. Its database of over 550,000 plant specimens (one of only two complete plant databases in Australia) acts as a complete resource for taxonomic and conservation research for over 12,500 species of Western Australian plants.
Chang-Sha often uses the incredible design features of plants in his witnessing. However, he also explains how the selective breeding of some plant species to enhance particular characteristics of interest (such as taste or colour) has resulted in a loss of genetic information in the selected variety.
He points out that this sort of ‘downhill’ trend is an inevitable consequence of selection, artificial or natural. In a population with lots of variety, those individuals which do not get to pass on their genes have some characteristics which are then lost to that population. As a result, one can get very ‘specialized’ organisms, such as the highly-bred dog varieties, but they carry only a fraction of the total information that was in the original population.
Although selection can cause great changes (always within a created ‘kind’), even to the extent of new species2 (speciation), it can easily be shown, he says, that this sort of change is not related to the sort of process that would have been necessary to turn a microbe into a man over millions of years.
Chang-Sha is aware that evolution, as commonly understood (‘goo-to-you’), must supposedly have been capable of generating lots of new genetic information that was nowhere in the world previously. He also knows from his own field of science that selection can only ‘choose’ from the genetic information that is already there in that population. This is so, whether selection is done artificially, through selective breeding, or occurs in nature by differential survival/reproduction (‘survival of the fittest’). It cannot create any new information. Mutations, genetic copying mistakes, are supposed to do so, but so far no one has seen even one of the many information-adding mutations that should be present. Even those few which give a survival benefit turn out to be losses of information.3
The case of the domestication of the lupin plant, Lupinus angustifolius, is used by Chang-Sha to illustrate how selection loses information. The full domestication of this species, combining the sweetness gene with the non-shattering pod, was one of the success stories of plant breeders in Western Australia. As this species was especially adapted to sandy soils, sweet cultivars of lupin soon became a very popular alternative grain crop for farmers. Unfortunately, the new cultivars were found to be susceptible to anthracnose4 disease. In selecting attributes for sweetness, non-shattering of pods and other yield attributes, the resistance for anthracnose disease was lost.
Similarly, blackleg5 disease of oilseed rape (canola) devastated the industry in Australia in the early 1970s. To obtain the genes for resistance to this disease, which genes had been lost in the process of selecting for other attributes, plant breeders in Australia had to return to the ‘original population’ from which the resistance had been lost—oilseed rape stocks in Europe.
By ‘back-crossing’ with these European plants, genes conferring resistance to blackleg were transferred to our Australian cultivars. ‘It seems obvious,’ says Chang-Sha, ‘that selection gets rid of information; it doesn’t create any, and so is the opposite of what is supposed to have happened in microbe-to-man evolution. But many people think that once you have an example of something adapting by selection, you have an example of evolution. So, it almost can’t be pointed out often enough.’
Chang-Sha is at the time of writing the leader of CMI’s Perth-based West Australian Support Group [Editor’s note June 2014: now called Friends of CMI]. He says, ‘It’s my own past experiences that continue to motivate my involvement in this way. Because it’s not good enough when Christians or their pastors say they don’t know how it happened or that this is a technical issue. Today, we can provide answers and ensure that the message gets out there. People need never be brainwashed by the lie of evolution. There’s no excuse!’
References and notes
- This 1939 battle is not to be confused with the 1942 battle, also at Chang Sha (Mao Zedong’s home town), hailed as the first major allied victory of WWII. Return to text.
- By the usual definition of species, namely reproductive isolation. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Beetle bloopers, Creation 19(3):30, 1997. Return to text.
- Anthracnose disease is caused by a fungus. Symptoms include bending of stems, lesions and death of leaves and stems above these lesions. Return to text.
- Blackleg disease is caused by a fungus that affects the roots, causing stunted growth and possible death of the plant. Return to text.