Adelaide Chapter

Archive for the ‘Creationism/ID/Evolution’ Category

Amongst Christians, evolutionary theory and the age of the earth are highly divisive issues, and our subscribers and committee members also have different opinions. The differences are quite stark and at least one party must be radically wrong. We have had speakers with various views in the past. On this occasion, Dr Gordon Stanger will present his contribution.

His summary of what he will cover is as follows:

In a North American study, 67% of young people, who had been given a Christian upbringing, had abandoned their faith. The primary reason given was that “science in general, and evolution in particular, disproves the Bible”.

At least a third of global Christianity teaches that:

  • Evolution isn’t true,
  • The Bible and science are incompatible, and
  • One must choose between Darwin and Jesus, and between God and evolution.

This issue is as polarized as vaxxers vs anti-vaxxers; US Republicans vs Democrats, Scientists vs climate deniers; or ‘Young Earth’ vs ‘Old Earth’ Christians.

But can Earth’s amazing panoply of life be generated by the seemingly random processes of evolution, and yet simultaneously be an outcome of God’s creative volition? Creationists emphatically say NO! I emphatically say YES! …..and will explain how this can be true.

In this presentation I will argue that evolution is a reality and that the true core of this issue is more a matter of Biblical interpretation. Do we read scripture from the modern perspective of Biblical literal inerrancy, or do we read it in its original context of multi-faceted visual imagery and a rich complex of early Hebrew linguistic idioms?

Science strongly indicates that a Biblical literalistic interpretation is erroneous, whilst using the original contextual frame of reference is consistent with reality. Science and Christianity are allies, not enemies.

Dr Gordon Stanger is a geologist, hydrologist, water resources specialist, and a climate-change impact analyst. He is semi-retired and is a keen advocate of ‘sensible Christianity’.

Dr Gordon Stanger

Gordon’s talk is available on YouTube.

When Paul arrived in Athens (Acts 17: 16-32), a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him, and they gave Paul the opportunity to speak to the Athenians in the Areopagus. For the previous 450 years, Greek and Roman philosophers had been debating God(s) versus chance in creation, and this debate continued for a further 250 years after Paul’s speech.

The debate began in 400 BC, when Democritus introduced the concepts of atomic atheism, the infinite power of chance, evolution, and determinism. This triggered Socrates to argue for God’s existence based on arguments from design, the power of the mind, and a predictable cosmos. Later, Epicurus invented naturalism as the framework for understanding science. Then the Stoics became the greatest intellectual opponents of atheism for 500 years, inventing systematic arguments for creation until atheism faded from the classical world by 300 AD. Why did atheism fade out?

This 700-year debate only came to light in 2007, so it is all quite a new slant on the classical world. Leonard Long will describe this 700-year debate and its relevance to our times.

Leonard is a retired doctor and has spent much of his retirement studying the historical development of thought and ideologies in Western culture.

Dr Leonard Long

Leonard’s presentation can be viewed on YouTube.

Your DNA is what makes You, You. Irrespective of your world view, the discovery of the inner workings & complexities of life under the microscope should leave anyone with an inquisitive mind in wonderment. Our bodies use, preserve and copy this molecular script in such a way that life and the reproduction of life is made possible.

The goal for this talk is to cover some of the key findings that science has discovered about the structure and expression of DNA, and how this all ties in to what we are. Josh also presents current theories and models that seek to explain how the complexities surrounding DNA has become a reality.

The presentation is on You Tube

Many people conclude that there must be a designer at least to account for the complexity of living things. However, Richard Dawkins contends that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, through natural selection, can explain the rise of complexity by gradual degrees from simple beginnings. In “The Blind Watchmaker”, Richard Dawkins states:

Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker. (p.14)

Dawkins goes on to claim that God is superfluous and highly improbable. Are Dawkins’ argument reasonable?

Christians have responded in quite different ways, ranging from substantial rejection of evolutionary theory, through to acceptance of some form of guided evolution. To the lay person, the divergent claims can be very confusing. So, the following questions often arise:

  • What can I know?
  • Who should I trust?
  • Does the world need a designer?

Kevin Rogers provides an overview and discussion of the arguments presented in “The Blind Watchmaker” and addresses the above questions, including “Does the world in which we live point to a Supernatural Designer?”

View this on You Tube

“Flood Geology”

presentation by Ray Lakeman

Ray addressed a Reasonable Faith Adelaide (South Australia) meeting on the 14th of June 2014 with a Young Earth Creation view of the Biblical Deluge.  A “Flood Geology” video of the talk is on YouTube: The talk is 1 hour, and the group discussion is 50 minutes.  Some people have posted comments on YouTube.  See the video here:

or check all videos from “ReasonableFaithSA” here:

Reasonable Faith Adelaide neither supports nor opposes a Young Earth Creation view, and encourages healthy and respectful argument. You can receive the RFA email by signing up on our website. (more…)

Starlight, Time and the New Physics

by John Hartnett

Christians are divided on the issue of evolution and the age of the earth. During the first half of 2014 we have had a number of meetings that cover aspects of this issue and various speakers have been given the opportunity to present their views. Reasonable Faith Adelaide does not currently endorse any particular view. However, we acknowledge that this is an enormous issue that thinking Christians should not ignore.

On the 20th of February, Dr John Hartnett presented a critique of Big Bang Cosmology. That presentation pointed out various problems with the Big Bang Theory. However, John did not provide and alternate view on that night.

On Thursday the 12th of June Dr John Hartnett spoke on “Starlight, Time and the New Physics” in which he described his cosmological model that he claims is consistent with the observed evidence and a Young Earth Creationist view. Although John is an eminent physicist, his talk is understandable by the general public. The talk was very interesting regardless of whether you agree with a Young Earth view. John is a very competent scientist and a good public speaker. There were plenty of beautiful slides of stars and galaxies. He was also very open about assumptions and limitations of his model. The You Tube recording is at This is well worth watching. For reference, see Starlight, Time and the New Physics – Power Point Slides.


John Hartnett

John Hartnett


Associate Professor John Hartnett is one of the world’s leading advocates for Young Earth Creationism in the area of physics and cosmology and also lives in little old Adelaide. John received both his B.Sc. (hons) and PhD with distinction from the School of Physics at the University of Western Australia. He is currently employed as an ARC Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) Fellow at the University of Adelaide, in the Institute of Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) and the School of Chemistry and Physics. His research interests include ultra-high stability cryogenic microwave oscillators based on pure sapphire resonators, ultra-stable cryogenic optical cavities and tests of fundamental theories of physics and their cosmological implications. He has an interest in the large scale structure of the universe that shows periodic structure1 and in alternate cosmologies that do require dark matter and dark energy.2 He holds to a biblical creationist worldview and has developed and continues to develop cosmogonies that are faithful to biblical text. He authored “Starlight, Time and the New Physics” and “Dismantling the Big Bang: God’s Universe Rediscovered” (co-authored with Alex Williams). He is the 2010 recipient of the IEEE UFFC Society W.G. Cady award. He has published more than 100 papers in scientific journals and book chapters.

1J.G. Hartnett, K. Hirano, “Galaxy redshift abundance periodicity from Fourier analysis of number counts N(z) using SDSS and 2dF GRS galaxy surveys,” Astrophysics and Space Science,  318, 1 & 2, 13-24, 2008.

2J.G. Hartnett, A valid finite bounded expanding Carmelian universe without dark matter, Int. J. Theoretical Physics, 52 (12): 4360-4366,2013.


Radioactive Dating Methods


This is a brief summary of the presentation given to Reasonable Faith Adelaide on Thursday 15th of May by Dr Justin Payne. See our You Tube recording for the complete talk and discussion. See also his Geochronology Power Point Slides.


Justin was a lecturer and researcher within the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide, but is now working for the University of South Australia. His presentation was part of our series on Old earth versus Young Earth Creationism (YEC). Justin presented the conventional scientific view on dating methods, which supports an old earth.

Geochronology is the science of determining the age of rocks, fossils, and sediments, within a degree of uncertainty inherent to the method used. Geochronology is a generic term for dating methods. However, in practice it is closely associated with radioactive dating methods. Justin’s talk concentrated specifically on Uranium/Lead dating using Zircon crystals.

Basics of Radioactive Decay

The nucleus of each atom contains protons and neutrons. Both protons and neutrons are called hadrons. Protons are positively charged and neutrons do not have any charge. An atom contains an outer shell of electrons. If an atom is neutrally charged then the number of electrons equals the number of protons. It is the number of electrons that determines the chemical behaviour of each element. An image of a Helium atom is shown below.

Helium atom


The nucleus of a Helium atom contains 2 protons (red) and 2 neutrons (blue). The nucleus is surrounded by 2 electrons. The atomic number of an element is the number of protons in the nucleus and the atomic weight is the number of hadrons (protons plus neutrons). Thus for a Helium atom the atomic number is 2 and the atomic weight is 4.

Each Uranium atom has 92 protons and so its atomic number is 92. Uranium has several isotopes. The common isotopes are 235U and 238U, where U is the symbol for Uranium and the superscripts indicate the number of hadrons (atomic weight). Uranium isotopes are unstable and undergo radioactive decay. When the elements decay they emit particles or rays and form different elements. When a nucleus decays it emits an:

  • An Alpha particle,
  • Beta particle, and/or
  • Gamma ray.

An alpha particle is a Helium nucleus. Thus when a nucleus emits an alpha particle the nucleus loses 2 protons and 2 neutrons. This means that the atomic number is reduced by 2 and the atomic weight is reduced by 4. A Beta particle is simply a negatively charged electron. When a nucleus emits a beta particle, this means that a neutron is changed into a proton. So the atomic number is increased by 1 and the atomic weight remains the same. A gamma ray is a high energy electromagnetic wave (photon) and does not change the atomic weight or atomic number.

Uranium/Lead decay

Justin focussed on Uranium/Lead decay within Zircon crystals.


Zircon crystals are small crystals that form within rocks, such as granite. In its molten state, Zircon rejects lead. Thus, when Zircon crystals are formed, they will not contain any lead. Thus the age of a Zircon crystal can be dated from the Uranium/Lead ratio.

Uranium exists in 2 isotopes and these have different half lives. 238U decays into 206Pb with a half life of 4.47 billion years and 235U decays into 207Pb with a half life of 0.704 billion years. The age of a Zircon crystal can be calculated from the Lead/Uranium ratio for both isotopes. Both of these calculations are independent and should yield the same answer. This is expressed by the Concordia diagram as shown below.


If all is well then the Lead/Uranium ratios should match each other on the red line. If they do not, then an “event” has occurred in the past, such as loss or gain of either Lead or Uranium. Methods exist for determining how long ago this event occurred.

The age of the crystal can also be estimated from the ratio of the Lead isotopes. If there is a Lead loss then this will apply equally to both Lead isotopes. Thus age estimates from the Lead isotope ratios are unaffected by Lead loss.

Some Zircon crystals have defects that yield false results. However, these defects are detectable and so scientists have a reasonable idea for knowing when to reject test samples.

Justin has been dating Zircon crystals for a considerable time in diverse areas in Western Australia and South Australia. He also does the analysis of the zircon samples in laboratory facilities at the University of Adelaide. Over time the results yielded are generally consistent and affirm confidence in the technique. The claimed accuracy of the technique is better than 1%.

Young Earth Creationists claim that radioactive dating makes the following assumptions:

  1. The decay rate has been constant throughout time.
  2. The isotope abundances in the specimen have not been altered during its history by the addition or removal of either parent or daughter elements.
  3. When the rock was formed it contained a known amount of the daughter material.

The first item is indeed an assumption. However, there is no evidence to the contrary and the decay rates conform with atomic theory.

The second item is not an assumption. Methods do exist for detecting loss or removal of the parent or daughter elements and also for estimating when these events occurred.

The third item is also not an assumption. For Uranium/lead dating, molten Zircon rejects Lead. This can be tested in the laboratory in the here and now. Hence, the initial composition of the Zircon crystal is known.

Justin claims that Young Earth Creationists (YECs) highlight the minor instance where dating methods do not work and do not properly acknowledge the majority of cases where they do. Geochronologists are aware of the assumptions in the method and of possible causes of erroneous readings.

This is a very simplified summary of Justin’s presentation. I suggest that you watch the You Tube recording of his presentation and the subsequent discussion.

Kevin Rogers


Cosmic Mythology

Exposing the Big Bang as Philosophy not Science

1         Big Bang Mythology?

Christians are divided on the issue of evolution and the age of the earth. During the first half of 2014 there will be a number of meetings that will cover aspects of this issue and various speakers will be given the opportunity to present their views. Reasonable Faith Adelaide does not currently endorse any particular view. We are a house divided and are a work in progress. However, we acknowledge that this is an enormous issue that thinking Christians should not ignore. It is also up to you to question, challenge and form your own opinions.

On Thursday, the 20th of February, Dr John Hartnett presented a critique of Big Bang Cosmology. John is an advocate of the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) position and is a frequent contributor to Creation Ministries International (CMI) publications, e.g., the Creation Magazine. He is also an associate professor of Physics at Adelaide University. He is the author of “Starlight, Time and the New Physics” and “Dismantling the Big Bang: God’s Universe Rediscovered”, and has also published numerous papers on physics secular peer reviewed journals.

2         Synopsis

John has provided the following synopsis:

The history of the development of the standard big bang cosmology is described and understood in terms of its philosophical underpinnings. The Cosmological Principle is explained as the major and essential assumption upon which it all depends. Due to this it has been required to invent unknown stuff, such as the expansion of space, Dark Energy, Dark Matter, CMB radiation as afterglow of Big Bang, and Inflation. None of these are experimentally observed in the lab. Yet all of these are needed, else the standard LCDM model utterly fails. Though we hear for the first time those speaking of discarding the standard model, they have built themselves a modern-day tower of Babel, an edifice of a structure that must be supported at all costs, especially since in 2011 the Nobel Prize was awarded for the accelerating universe driven by the unknown stuff of science fiction—Dark Energy. Think about it, all of the evidence for cosmological expansion comes from the cosmos itself. There is no independent method to determine if space is expanding. It cannot be experimentally verified in the local lab. So the evidence must be accepted on faith to some extent, which makes the argument much weaker. Cosmology then is not a science subject to the same experimental rigor that we expect of the repeatable science done in a laboratory today. Look how ludicrous the so-called ‘science’ has become with the invention of ‘unknowns’ to explain the unknowns. Therefore the philosophical nature of the cosmology leads to it being correctly described as, not science at all, but an atheistic belief system.

See John’s Power Point slides on Cosmic Mythology. A video record of his talk and subsequent discussion is provided on You Tube.

3         Biosketch


John Hartnett

John Hartnett

Associate Professor John Hartnett received both his B.Sc. (hons) and PhD with distinction from the School of Physics at the University of Western Australia. He is currently employed as an ARC Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) Fellow at the University of Adelaide, in the Institute of Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) and the School of Chemistry and Physics. His research interests include ultra-high stability cryogenic microwave oscillators based on pure sapphire resonators, ultra-stable cryogenic optical cavities and tests of fundamental theories of physics and their cosmological implications. He has an interest in the large scale structure of the universe that shows periodic structure1 and in alternate cosmologies that do not require dark matter and dark energy.2 He holds to a biblical creationist worldview and has developed and continues to develop cosmogonies that are faithful to biblical text. He authored “Starlight, Time and the New Physics” and “Dismantling the Big Bang: God’s Universe Rediscovered” (co-authored with Alex Williams). He is the 2010 recipient of the IEEE UFFC Society W.G. Cady award. He has published more than 100 papers in scientific journals and book chapters.

1J.G. Hartnett, K. Hirano, “Galaxy redshift abundance periodicity from Fourier analysis of number counts N(z) using SDSS and 2dF GRS galaxy surveys,” Astrophysics and Space Science, 318, 1 & 2, 13-24, 2008.

2J.G. Hartnett, A valid finite bounded expanding Carmelian universe without dark matter, Int. J. Theoretical Physics, 52 (12): 4360-4366, 2013.

Why I Am Not a Creationist

On Thursday the 7th of November Dr Ian Saunders, a CSIRO scientist, spoke on “Why I am not a Creationist”.

Christians are divided on the issue of evolution and the age of the earth. Many of our own members are supporters of Creation Ministries International (CMI), which promotes Young Earth Creationism (YEC). On the other hand, many of our members are not YECs. Ian is one of those.

Ian has been a Christian and a professional scientist for about 40 years. He recently retired from a position as Senior Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO. The publication of his first scientific paper coincided with his conversion to Christianity and he has endeavoured since to keep the two sides of his life thoroughly entwined, each being a part of the search for truth. His talk is summarised briefly as follows:


In his talk he spoke about the development of the scientific method as a response to dissatisfaction with a wholly philosophical view that sought to deduce everything from first principles. As an example of the method, he described the rise and fall of the phlogiston theory of combustion, which initially seemed to explain the facts, but became less and less tenable as more experiments were done until after 70 years it was abandoned. The scientific method seeks to avoid reliance on authority and to take an impartial approach to evaluating theories against observations: “Love your colleagues’ results as your own”.

The danger with accepting prior authority is that it encourages looking for evidence to support a position rather than to discover the truth. So Ian is neither an evolutionist or a creationist in the sense that he squeezes his data to match his preconceptions. He illustrated the way in which modern biological research papers promote an evolutionist position even when there is no need to go beyond the observed phenomena.

However, he does not accept Genesis 1-11 as accurate history. He gave some examples from geology and astronomy that cast severe doubt on a literal interpretation. Instead he sees them as parables teaching spiritual truth about the relationships of God to the Universe and to Mankind and about the existence of evil. He spoke also about evolution, acknowledging that he sees it at the  most likely explanation of a range of phenomena, though without direct evidence one way or the other at this point.

He quoted with approval St Augustine “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture” [De Genesi ad Litteram, I, xviii, 37]

Ian’s view is that the Bible contains unique knowledge about God and his purposes, while science can tell us about what is (or was) but not about meaning or purpose. The fine details of creation are not key to our relationship with God and it is possible to combine a strong faith in Jesus with an acceptance of scientific research. We should avoid placing stumbling blocks in the path to Jesus by insisting on matters of secondary importance. Ultimately, Jesus is the Truth and one day we will see Him face to face.


Ian’s talk may be accessed from the following links:

Did we resolve the issue once and for all to everyone’s satisfaction? Absolutely not! However, (for the most part) we were able to discuss the issues in an open, friendly and respectful manner.

Reasonable Faith Adelaide currently does not officially endorse any particular view, but encourages discussion on the relevant issues so that that people are better informed to develop their own opinion. So, I encourage you to come and hear Ian and participate in the discussion.

During the course of discussion we decided to cover a couple of additional topics in future meetings:

  • Radioactive Dating Methods – What are they, how do they work, how accurate are they, and are they reliable?
  • On the 20th of February 2014, John Hartnett (Associate Professor of physics at Adelaide University) will speak on “Cosmic Mythology: Exposing the Big Bang as Philosophy, not Science

The Creationists

By Ray Lakeman

Presented at a meeting of “Reasonable Faith Adelaide” on 14-March-2013.

Click The Creationists to view the slide show. The video recordings are at History of Creationism Part 1 and Part 2.

My major source is The Creationists – From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design [1992, 2006] can be borrowed from the ISSR library at Tabor Adelaide.  Summary essays from Ronald Numbers can be found at:

I wish to make my own position clear.  I was raised in a family of farmers and market gardeners with limited education, but when I lost my hands at age 5 my father became determined that I should have the education he was denied.  My family were pretty casual about Christianity, but were happy to claim allegiance to Anglican or Methodist churches.  I was sent to Sunday School, and when older attended church.  As a science teacher at age 33 I was confronted by the issues of creation versus evolution and began to investigate.  By age 43 I owned a Young Earth Creation view.  This presentation is about the modern history of creationism.  It is not my intention to teach creationism other than to explain the history, and I will not defend creationism here.  I also wish to make it clear that Reasonable Faith neither endorses nor rejects Young Earth Creation.  However, Reasonable Faith does stand on the Nicene Creed which says, “We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”  I acknowledge the helpful suggestions of Kevin Rogers while I prepared this presentation. It was Kevin who suggested I unpack the significance of the Scopes Trial and the play Inherit the Wind.  In these topics I have used additional sources to flesh out the study that Numbers presents.  The images I present are easy to obtain on the web.  The 2min video extract is from The Magician’s Twin: C.S.Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society by John West,available on YouTube.

As Dr. Ronald Numbers is my main source I shall introduce him. Numbers is a respected historian and was raised in a Seventh Day Adventist home in south-western USA with the standard SDA teaching that creation occurred 6,000 years ago and that Noah’s Flood formed the vast rock deposits and fossil beds of the Earth’s crust.  During his higher education Numbers abandoned the SDA teaching and in his book he makes his position clear: “I no longer believe in creationism of any kind”, he says, and he goes on to declare “I am strongly committed to treating [creationist] advocates with the same respect I might accord to evolutionists”.  Numbers is true to his word, for nowhere in his book does he insult creationists while describing their modern history.  For this reason I commend his book to Reasonable Faith members as a good source of information on an important question for our culture:  How shall our generation interpret the Bible and Science?  History gives the answer thus far, and this book is a good contribution to that history.

Title Slide 1

Creation Science can be described as Biblical Creation stripped of explicit references to Biblical authority, God, Adam and Noah.  Creation Science is a new movement of the twentieth century. It arose as a movement composed of trained scientists and lay Christian supporters from a wide range of Christian churches, and it has grown despite almost universal opposition from both mainstream scientists and the mainstream leaders in churches.

In the early years of the twentieth century the self-described geologist George McCready Price stood virtually alone in insisting on the recent appearance of life and on a global flood catastrophe that massively rearranged the earth’s crust.  Price was well-received by creationists, but made few converts beyond his Seventh Day Adventist Church.

In 1932 the Evolution Protest Movement was formed in London, and is now called the Creation Science Movement, the oldest creationist society on Earth.

C.S.Lewis Slide 2

It is interesting to note that in its early years the Evolution Protest Movement tried to win C.S.Lewis as an advocate and failed.  Lewis excused himself with the statement “When a man has become a popular Apologist he must watch his step”.  However, in 1951 Lewis had changed and wrote to the Evolution Protest Movement, “You might be right in regarding evolution as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives”.  The Creation Science Movement has a prominent website and program of activities to this day.

In 1938 the Deluge Geology Society was formed in Los Angeles with strong roots in Adventism, and in 1944 their member Frank Marsh published “Evolution, Creation and Science” with a trained biologist’s view on Young Earth Creation.  Marsh exchanged letters with Theodosius Dobzhanski, and found that their ideas were far apart.  It is Dobzhanski who said that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”.  In Marsh’s final letter he said to Dobzhanski that he was not a grouch looking to argue with famous biologists, nor was he looking for fame, recognition or livelihood.  Though he disliked being at odds with the academy Marsh was willing to turn a cheek to criticism if he could convince some mainstream scientists to accept special creation.  Later Dobzhanski graciously wrote that Marsh was an intelligent and informed person who did not accept evolution as true.  A rare acknowledgment for those days.

Around 1946 radioisotope dating was providing evidence to challenge the Young Earth view, and this caused internal disputes between Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists and led to the demise of the Deluge Geology Society.

Organised creationism didn’t amount to much until around 1960 when everything changed.  But to understand what happened in 1960 it is helpful to first understand the 1925 Scopes Trial.

John Scopes Slide 3

The Scopes Trial made an enormous impression on America and the world.  Shortly after the Tennessee governor signed an anti-evolution bill into law, the young American Civil Liberties Union in New York began searching for a volunteer to test the Tennessee law in court.  John Scopes was a young teacher who substituted for two weeks in a biology class, and was unsure if he ever used the word “evolution”, but he agreed to be charged for the crime of teaching evolution in order to test the law, and in return he would be paid enough to fund his entry into his planned course of study.

Darrow and Bryan Slide 4,5,6

On the evolution side the ACLU hired an expensive team of experts led by the agnostic big city criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow to defend Scopes, and on the anti-evolution side, the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association hired the popular Presbyterian anti-evolutionist and three-times presidential candidate William Bryan to prosecute Scopes.  The 8-day “Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tennessee was given top headlines across the nation’s newspapers and around the world.  Everyone realized that there was an important question on trial, “Did human beings descend from monkey ancestors?”.  What would the lawyers decide?  And could state science curricula teach evolution and deny the Bible account of creation?

On day 7 of the trial, Darrow put Bryan in the witness stand as a Bible expert and was surprised that Bryan did not accept a literal reading of Genesis 1.  Bryan said the “days” could each be 600 million years!  The ACLU objective was to overthrow the anti-evolution laws and open the door for teaching evolution, but Bryan won the case and Scopes was fined a token $100 for breaking the law.  The trial also made clear that the public were not buying the evolution story, as public sentiment was clearly opposed to monkey ancestors and the teaching of evolution in taxpayer funded schools.

Cartoons and Newspapers, Slides 7-13

Numbers points out that in the years following the trial several historians have claimed that the Scopes Trial was a public relations victory for the evolutionists.  But Numbers counters that the evidence does not support that view.  Journalists did review Bryan’s performance harshly, saying he revealed his ignorance of both religion and science.  Darrow received considerable criticism also for his ignorance of religion and science as well as for disrespecting the judge, being rude to Bryan, and trying to deny the people of Tennessee their democratic rights to determine what should be taught in tax-supported schools.  So poor was Darrow’s performance that the ACLU tried to dump him from the defence team – unsuccessfully.

After the trial the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association were flushed with a sense of victory: “[Bryan] not only won his case in the judgment of the Judge, in the judgment of the Jurors, in the judgment of the Tennessee populace attending; he won it in the judgment of an intelligent world”.

Numbers believes the ACLU and the Scopes trial set back the cause of teaching evolution for at least 30 years, for in this period “American textbook publishers tried to avoid antagonising conservative Christians by saying as little as possible about evolution.  This policy of ‘neutrality based on silence’ began to crumble in the late 1950s …”.  The “space race” was on, and millions of dollars were being spent on science education in order to beat the Russians!  By 1963 the Biological Science Curriculum Study had published three new biology texts and more than 50% of US students were being confidently taught about their ape-like ancestors.  An organised backlash began.  Some of the anti-evolution reaction was from Bible-believing Christians, and some was from people who were insulted by the idea of monkey relatives.  Anyway, the public were far from convinced of the truth of Darwin’s hypothesis and the arrival of this evolutionist textbook galvanised Christians to fight back by joining together in creationist societies.

Inherit the Wind, Slides 14, 15

Numbers shows that the Scopes trial is important in the modern history of creationism, and the play “Inherit the Wind” is also important because it conveys a false view of history into our modern culture.  Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee wrote “Inherit the Wind” as a criticism of McCarthyism and the anti-communist investigations conducted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  Unfortunately the play used Scopes as a safer vehicle from which to comment, and the play blatantly portrays the Scopes trial as a public relations victory for the enlightened forces over the fearful dogmatists, for the authors had no interest in an accurate portrayal of the Scopes Trial.  The play was first performed in 1955 and a note in the opening of the script admits that while the play depicts the Scopes Trial “it is not meant to be a historical account and there are numerous instances where events were substantially altered or invented”.  As well as the play there are three film versions of “Inherit the Wind” from 1960, 1988 and 1999, all of which give the false view of being true history.  I considered showing a clip of Spencer Tracey in the 1960 movie, but it was so completely misleading that I rejected doing so.

David Menton has carefully analysed the play and compared it with the real Scopes Trial and notes that throughout the play Bryan is portrayed as closed-minded, pompous, stupid, intolerant, hypocritical, insincere and gluttonous. The following sample dialogue between Darrow and Bryan appears on page 51 (real names substituted):

DARROW: ‘I don’t suppose you’ve memorized many passages from The Origin of Species?’

BRYAN: ‘I am not the least interested in the pagan hypotheses of that book.’

DARROW: ‘Never read it? ‘

BRYAN: ‘And I never will.’

The truth is quite different, however: Bryan is reported by one of his biographers, Lawrence Levine, to have read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species 20 years before the Scopes trial.  Bryan’s reservations about the theory of evolution were certainly influenced by his religious beliefs, and he had actually written many well–argued articles critical of the evidence used to defend the theory of evolution.

Bryan also carried on a long correspondence on evolution with the famous evolutionist Henry Osborn.  For a layman, Bryan’s knowledge of the scientific evidence for and against evolution was unusually sophisticated.  By comparison, the trial transcript shows that Darrow gave the impression of having a poor grasp of evolution.  Darrow appeared to rest his belief in evolution on scientific authority, which he accepted without question.

If you want a detailed rundown of the inventions in “Inherit the Wind” see

The new 1963 US biology textbooks presented evolution as a fact, and stirred Bible-believers to action.  In 1961 Morris and Whitcombe published “The Genesis Flood”, and in 1963 formed the effective Creation Research Society.  For all Bible-believers Morris’s book and society explained a convenient compression of billions of years of Earth history back to 6,000 years.  This was a consistent and comprehensive answer to all the Biblical interpretation gymnastics.  The creation – evolution question was painted in sharp relief:  Either Bible history for one camp, or Big Bang with Billions of Years and Evolution for the other camp.  Henry Morris was clear:  All the mainstream geologists, biologists and astronomers were wrong.  The Bible made full sense of the world in its straightforward reading, and a full repudiation of the Academy’s story of origins made room for the Bible’s story of Creation, Fall, Judgment by Flood, Redemption by Christ, Final Judgment and Consummation of the Creation.  If you believe Genesis it is easier to believe Revelation and everything in between, said Morris.  Anyone with hope of a miraculous end for this Age finds it easier to believe a miraculous start of this Age.  Ronald Numbers admits that this is an attractive view for a Christian.

I have related only a few episodes in the history that Numbers presents.  For example, Numbers gives interesting accounts of Muslim Creationism, accounts of the Intelligent Design Movement, accounts of the Australian Answers in Genesis organisation and much more.

Summary, Slide 16

Numbers focuses his study of creationism within the modern era and shows it has been a time of radical change.  From p368-372 he gives an interesting summary of this period.  In the early years of the twentieth century there were very few creationists with academic recognition and scientific training.  Creationists were obscure, isolated, ignored and ridiculed.  Bible-believing Christians were often happy to ignore the creation-evolution conflict, and when pressed on the issue, often avoided conflict by using interpretations of Genesis 1 which accommodated the scientist’s story of deep time and evolution.  These explanations were mostly of the “Days of Genesis 1 should be interpreted as Ages” type, or proposed an enormous “Gap” in the Genesis account so evolution could occur.  A Garden of Eden special creation of Adam and Eve was often invoked along with the standard evolution story for the rest of creation.  In the 1920s one man stood out — the Seventh Day Adventist, George McCready Price, who taught and wrote booklets promoting recent Creation and Flood Geology.  Numbers would have us believe Price was the first modern creation scientist, and his view is backed up with much detail.

100 years later, creationists have changed a lot!  Well educated and academically recognised creationists are numbered in the thousands, and new scientific creationist books are published almost every week.  Organised creation societies exist around the world.  Instead of being ignored or dismissed as a bad joke, creationists are the objects of serious criticism and dire concern!  The Young Earth Creation view is being hotly argued on internet forums world-wide.  Public opinion polls have remarkably remained in favour of creation and against evolution.  (For example, a recent New York Times poll found 65% of US citizens want both creation and evolution taught in school science).

Arthur Schopenhauer said newly discovered truth passes through three stages.  First, it is ridiculed, and dismissed as not worthy of consideration.  Second, it is vehemently opposed.  Third, it is accepted as being obviously true and self-evident.  Modern Creation Science is definitely still facing vehement opposition in stage two and it is unclear if there will ever be a stage three.  Creation Science has experienced shocking success since 1960, and although it is still a small force in culture, it is certainly not going away.  Actually, says Dr. Ronald Numbers, one should expect the influence of Creationism to continue growing.

William Lane Craig, Slide 17

William Lane Craig avoids the issues of evolution and young earth in his debating, but when he speaks of evangelistic opportunity he is optimistic, and I think Craig’s optimism is a fitting “last word”:

“It is the broader task of Christian apologetics to create a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can still be heard as a legitimate option for thinking people. People may not come to Christ through the arguments, but the arguments give them permission to believe, as it were – the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved by the preaching of the Gospel and by the Holy Spirit.”

“Now, I believe, we are living at a time in history when huge doors of opportunity stand open before us. We are living at a time when Christian philosophy is undergoing a renaissance, which has revitalized natural theology, and arguments for the existence of God.  We’re living at a time when modern science is more open to the existence of a transcendent Creator and Designer of the universe than at any time in recent memory.  And we’re living at a time when biblical criticism has largely established the credibility of the outlines of the New Testament life of Jesus, so that the Gospels are now regarded once again as serious historical sources for the life of Christ. This is a tremendously exciting time to be alive and working in apologetics. I think that we’re well poised intellectually to regain lost ground and to help reshape our culture in such a way that the Gospel can be heard as a legitimate option for people today.”
(Accessed Feb 2013:

I share Dr. Bill Craig’s optimism, and I am encouraged by the modern history of creationism.  I thoroughly commend The Creationists by Dr. Ronald Numbers to anyone who has ever wondered about the people who believe in Creation.

Modern Cartoon, Slide 18