Logical Illiterates and Scientific Simpletons
On Thursday evening, May 23, 1985, I participated in a debate with renowned evolutionist/humanist Delos McKown. The setting was the Tracey Larkin show on Alabama Public Television. The audience was composed of the people of Alabama. The show aired at 6:30 p.m.
I had received a telephone call the day prior to the television show, asking if I might be willing to meet Dr. McKown in order to discuss the proposition: “Scientific creationism should be taught in public schools in America.” I gladly accepted the invitation. Dr. McKown, of course, was no stranger to me. He is well known in evolutionist/humanist circles. At the time, he was the chairman of the department of philosophy at Auburn University, and wrote often for anti-creationist publications such as the humanist journal Creation/Evolution. In fact, he had just released his novel, With Faith & Fury (1985), published by the humanist publishing company, Prometheus Press of Buffalo, New York, in which a “fundamentalist preacher” tangles with an evolutionist, and, of course, loses. Actually, Dr. McKown is no stranger to “fundamentalism,” as he once was a minister for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For reasons known only to him, he gave up his belief in God and opted for belief in evolutionary humanism, which he now promotes with a vengeance. The students who come from his classes at Auburn are quick to speak of his anti-God stance.
In this article, I would like to mention a few of the items that were discussed in the debate. But prior to that, I would like to explain the title of this article, and the reason for its publication. In the last 60 seconds of the debate, the host, Mr. Larkin, was concluding the evening’s discussion when he remarked to Dr. McKown that the creationists seemed to be making a good bit of progress in their efforts to set forth the scientific evidence for creation. Dr. McKown exploded in a burst of inflamed rhetoric and stated in no uncertain terms that indeed, creationists were making a good deal of headway—but due only to the fact that our nation is filled with (and this is a direct quote) “logical illiterates and scientific simpletons.”
I was stunned, to say the least, that a man of the supposed caliber of Dr. McKown would resort to name-calling of the worst sort in a feeble attempt to try to substantiate his position. But more than that, I was shocked and insulted (as were a number of others with whom I have spoken who watched the debate). I was shocked, in that it seemed incredulous to me that a man who is in every sense of the word a public servant (a professor at a state-supported university), and whose salary is paid by my taxes, could go on public television and verbally insult the people of the state that he purportedly serves. I was insulted, in that I knew quite well that the epithet Dr. McKown used to label all of the good people of the United States did not fit and was, in fact, a slap in the face to every educated person in this country.
I would like to examine Dr. McKown’s false and baseless assertion that creationists are making progress in having the scientific evidence for creation taught in public schools simply because our nation is composed of “logical illiterates and scientific simpletons.”
As the debate opened that Thursday evening on May 23rd, Dr. McKown fired a salvo intended to leave the audience with the impression that “all” scientists of any repute are evolutionists. He quoted from a booklet published by the National Academy of Sciences that sought to present evolution as a scientific fact and creation as “strictly religious.” He suggested that this material was accepted by “all scientists” as representative of the case. You can imagine his surprise (and it was physically evident during the debate as he stuttered and stammered in an attempt to respond) when I reminded him that the National Academy of Sciences had been slapped with a multimillion dollar lawsuit because of the publication of that very booklet, which was not representative of all of its membership, and which was published without prior knowledge of most of its members.
I hastened to remind Dr. McKown that “all” scientists are not now, nor have they ever been, evolutionists. In fact, a quick look at great scientists of both past and present generations will quickly defuse such an erroneous idea. Such scientists as Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Robert Boyle, Lord Kelvin, Louis Pasteur, Matthew F. Maury, Michael Faraday, Clerk Maxwell, John Ray, Carolus Linnaeus, Werhner Von Braun, Walter Lammerts, and others were (or are) creationists. And the list could be extended greatly (see Morris, 1982). Further, what difference would it make even if every scientist were an evolutionist? Truth is not determined by popular opinion or majority vote! And anyone even vaguely familiar with the history of science can offer instance after instance where “the majority” of the scientific community had “voted,” as it were, on a particular issue, only to be proved wrong soon thereafter. The scientific community told British medical doctor Edward Jenner that his smallpox vaccine would not work. But it did. The scientific community told Austrian medical doctor Ignaz Semmelweis that it was fruitless to worry about “germs” as a cause of mortality among medical patients. But it wasn’t. And so on, and so on. “All” the scientists were wrong. Popularity does not guarantee correctness!
Dr. McKown then tried to suggest to the viewing audience that the only view that should be presented in public schools was the evolutionary scenario. I quickly reminded him, however, that he had put himself at odds with his mentor, Charles Darwin, as well as the great defender of evolution, Clarence Darrow. Darwin stated in the “Introduction” of his 1859 publication, The Origin of Species:
I am well aware that there is scarcely a single point discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result could be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question (1956, p. 18, emp. added).
It was Clarence Darrow who stated in the famous 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” that it was “bigotry” to teach only one theory of origins. [Of course, Darrow was referring to the teaching of only creation, but his statement is true nonetheless!] I asked Dr. McKown what would be wrong with allowing students to have all the evidences, so that they then could make up their own minds? He recoiled in shock at such a suggestion, and stated that teaching evidences for creation would be like putting astrology back into astronomy, or the stork back into obstetrics, etc. He stated that if we put the “so-called evidences” (to use his term) for creation into the public schools, our students quickly would see that they had been sold a bill of goods.”
I hastened to mention to Dr. McKown that our students in public schools already have been “sold a bill of goods,” in that they are being given only one side of a two-sided issue. My point was this: creationists have an impressive arsenal of evidence that establishes the conclusion that the creation model fits the available scientific facts far better than the evolution model. The one-sided indoctrination of students in this materialistic philosophy in the tax-supported schools in our pluralistic, democratic society is a violation of academic and religious freedoms. Furthermore, it is poor science and poor education. To remedy this intolerable situation, creation scientists simply ask that, excluding the use of the Bible or any other religious literature, only the scientific evidence that can be adduced in favor of creation and evolution be presented thoroughly and fairly in public schools. After students have had an opportunity to weigh all the data, consider each alternative, and examine the implications and consequences of each position, then they should be challenged to decide for themselves which one is more credible or rational. That is good education, and good science. But, as Norman Macbeth, the Harvard-trained lawyer, stated in his book, Darwin Retried, evolutionists (and this certainly describes Dr. McKown) are almost irrationally fearful of creationists today, and are determined to stop them from presenting creationism at all costs. Furthermore, Macbeth observed, the evolutionists “are not revealing all the dirt under the rug in their approach to the public. There is a feeling that they ought to keep back the worst so that their public reputation would not suffer and the Creationists wouldn’t get any ammunition” (1982, 2:22). Here is a good example. I pressed Dr. McKown with this point:
If evolution is scientific, then by definition it must be falsifiable, since one of the criteria of a good scientific theory is that it potentially can be falsified (i.e., it must be possible to devise an experiment or set of studies, the failure of which would disprove the theory). My question to Dr. McKown was this: Is evolution falsifiable? Dr. McKown knew exactly where my question was leading, and he had no choice, if he wanted to retain the “scientific” nature of evolution, but to say “yes.” Indeed, he said that evolution was falsifiable. But once again he put himself at odds with the mainstream of evolutionary thought. Evolutionists Ehrlich and Birch wrote, for example:
Our theory of evolution has become…one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus “outside of empirical science” but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training (1967, p. 352).
Sir Karl Popper, the eminent philosopher of science, stated in his autobiography, Unended Quest: “I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme.... It is therefore important to show that Darwinism is not a scientific theory, but metaphysical” (1976). H.S. Lipson, the renowned British physicist, noted: “In fact, evolution became in a sense a scientific religion; almost all scientists have accepted it and many are prepared to ‘bend’ their observations to fit in with it” (1980, 31:138).
These statements are a far cry from those of Dr. McKown. He wishes us to believe that evolution is scientific and therefore falsifiable. His own evolutionary colleagues, however, are not so quick with their answers, and in fact, strongly disagree with him. Numerous other statements made by Dr. McKown could be examined and refuted, but I would like to examine here his statement that creationists are making great strides in having the scientific evidence for creation taught because people are “logical illiterates and scientific simpletons.” Such a statement not only is untrue, but also is unbecoming a man of the supposed intellectual stature of Delos McKown.
First, creationists are making great strides in this battle. Consider, for example, the following. In a center-column, front-page article in the June 15, 1979 issue of the Wall Street Journal, there appeared an article by one of the Journal’s staff writers commenting on how creationists, when engaging in debates with evolutionists, “tend to win” the debates, and that creationism was “making progress.” In 1979, Gallup pollsters conducted a random survey, inquiring about belief in creation versus evolution. The poll had been commissioned by Christianity Today magazine, and was reported in its December 21, 1979 issue. This poll found that 51% of Americans believe in the special creation of a literal Adam and Eve as the starting place of human life. In the March 1980 issue of the American School Board Journal (p. 52), it was reported that 67% of its readers (most of whom were school board members and school administrators) favored the teaching of the scientific evidence for creation in public schools. Glamour magazine conducted a poll of its own and reported the results in its August 1982 issue (p. 28). The magazine found that 74% of its readers favored teaching the scientific evidence for creation in public schools. One of the most authoritative polls was conducted in October 1981 by the Associated Press/NBC News polling organization. The results were as follows:
“Only evolution should be taught” 8%
“Only creation should be taught” 10%
“Both creation and evolution should be taught” 76%
“Not sure which should be taught” 6%
Thus, nationwide no less than 86% of the people in the United States believe that creation should be taught in public schools. In August 1982, another Gallup poll was conducted, and found that 44% of those interviewed believed not only in creation, but in a recent creation of less than 10,000 years ago. Only 9% of the people polled believed in atheistic evolution.
On November 28, 1991 results were released from yet another Gallup poll regarding the biblical account of origins. The results may be summarized as follows. On origins: 47% believed God created man within the last 10,000 years (up 3% from the 1982 poll mentioned above); 40% believed man evolved over millions of years, but that God guided the process; 9% believed man evolved over millions of years without God; 4% were “other/don’t know.” On the Bible: 32% believed the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and that it should be taken literally; 49% believed the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, but that it should not always be taken literally; 16% believed the Bible to be entirely the product of men; 3% were “other/don’t know” (see Major, 1991, 11:48; John Morris, 1992, p. d). Two years later, a Gallup poll carried out in 1993 produced almost the same results. Of those responding, 47% stated that they believed in a recent creation of man; 11% expressed their belief in a strictly naturalistic form of evolution (see Newport, 1993, p. A-22). Four years after that poll, a 1997 Gallup survey found that 44% of Americans (including 31% who were college graduates) subscribed to a fairly literal reading of the Genesis account of creation, while another 39% (53% of whom were college graduates) believed God played at least some part in creating the Universe. Only 10% (17% college graduates) embraced a purely naturalistic, evolutionary view (see Bishop, 1998, pp. 39-48; Sheler, 1999, pp. 48-49). The results of a Gallup poll released in August 1999 were practically identical: 47% stated that they believed in a recent creation of man; 9% expressed belief in strictly naturalistic evolution (see Moore, 1999).
In its March 11, 2000 issue, the New York Times ran a story titled “Survey Finds Support is Strong for Teaching 2 Origin Theories,” which reported on a poll commissioned by the liberal civil rights group, People for the American Way, and conducted by the prestigious polling/public research firm, DYG, of Danbury, Connecticut. According to the report, 79% of the people polled felt that the scientific evidence for creation should be included in the curriculum of public schools (see Glanz, 2000, p. A-1).
The amazing thing about all of this, of course, is that these results are being achieved after more than a century of evolutionary indoctrination.
Second, this is the case, not because the majority of people are “logical illiterates or scientific simpletons,” but because the majority of people recognize what Dr. McKown and a few of his humanistic colleagues refuse to recognize—viz., the evidences from every field of science in support of creation are overwhelming. For example, when I reminded Dr. McKown that the fundamental, foundation cornerstone of all of biology is the law of biogenesis (which states that all life comes from preceding life of its kind), and that we know no known exception to it in nature, he replied, “That’s not right.” I asked, “Can you disprove it, or give me an example that violates it? Evolution, of course, violates it hundreds, thousands, or millions of times.” Of course, he was completely unable to provide any such an example. That is no surprise. The law of biogenesis is a scientific law; his evolutionary scenario is an imaginary philosophy that he is trying to pass off as “science.” When measured against true science, it pales into insignificance.
I also reminded Dr. McKown of the laws of genetics that ensure basic “kinds” remain within their own groups. And I reminded him of the laws of probability, which absolutely exclude the possibility of spontaneous generation and/or chemical evolution. I find it of special interest that Dr. McKown attempted to use the common evolutionist ploy that says, “But you creationists have a miracle in the camp, while we evolutionists use only that which is based in nature and is therefore scientific.” Amazing, is it not? The evolutionist asks us to believe that: (a) inorganic gave rise to organic; (b) Nonliving gave rise to living; (c) amoral gave rise to moral; and (d) unconscious gave rise to conscious. Yet creationists are the ones with the miracle!? And while we were on the subject, I also reminded Dr. McKown that science is not defined as “naturalism” in the first place. “Science” comes from the Latin word scientia, which means “knowledge.” To assume that knowledge can be acquired solely on the basis of naturalism is the height of intellectual snobbery, and more important, is wrong. Of all people, a philosopher of the stature of Dr. McKown should know that!
Likewise, I mentioned to Dr. McKown the two most fundamental laws of science, the first and second laws of thermodynamics. The first law, which states in simplified form that neither matter nor energy may be created or destroyed, strictly forbids the Universe having created itself. And the second, which states in simplified form that all things are “running down,” strictly forbids the evolutionary process on a universal scale from occurring; things are running down, not building up.
Piece by piece, this type of evidence was presented to Dr. McKown. And as the program came to an end, I suggested to him that it was not because people were “illiterates and simpletons” that creationists were making such inroads into the evolutionary establishment, but because sane, rational people can use a little common sense and a lot of good science and quickly come to the conclusion that evolution is both bad science and bad philosophy.
Why do evolutionists continually refuse a hearing for the scientific evidences for creation? There may exist two possibilities. First, it may be that evolutionists consider that students are too ignorant, too illiterate to be exposed to these competing ideas of origins. They must be “protected from error” and carefully indoctrinated in “correct” ideas by those who consider themselves to be the intellectually elite, the sole possessors and guardians of truth. Second, having engendered this fragile tower of hypotheses piled upon hypotheses, where fact and fiction intermingle in an inextricable confusion, it may be that evolutionists are aware of the fact that the notion of evolution will fare badly if exposed to an open and determined challenge from creation scientists and that if this is done, the majority of our students will accept creation as the better of the two concepts of origins. Whatever may be the case, it is urgent that inquiring students be exposed to all of the evidence and all of the arguments on each side of the question, so that these two alternative concepts of origins can compete freely in the marketplace of ideas!
Bishop, George (1998), “The Religious Worldview and American Beliefs about Human Origins,” The Public Perspective, pp. 39-48, August/September.
Darwin, Charles (1956 edition), The Origin of Species (London: J.M. Dent & Sons).
Ehrlich, Paul R., and L. C. Birch, (1967), “Evolutionary History and Population Biology,” Nature, 214:349-352, April 22.
Glanz, James (2000), “Survey Finds Support is Strong for Teaching 2 Origin Theories,” The New York Times, p. A-1, March 11.
Lipson, H.S. (1980), “A Physicist Looks at Evolution,” Physics Bulletin, 31:138, May.
Macbeth, Norman (1982), “Darwinism: A Time For Funerals,” Towards, 2:22, Spring.
Major, Trevor J. (1991), “In the News—National Beliefs Polled,” Reason & Revelation, 11:48, December.
McKown, Delos (1985), With Faith and Fury (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus).
Moore, David W. (1999), “Americans Support Teaching Creationism as Well as Evolution in Public Schools,” [On-line], URL http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr990830.asp (Princeton, NJ: Gallup News Service).
Morris, Henry M. (1982), Men of Science: Men of God (San Diego, CA: Creation-Life Publishers).
Morris, John D. (1992), “Do Americans Believe in Creation?,” Acts and Facts, p. d, February.
Newport, Frank (1993), “God Created Humankind, Most Believe,” Sunday Oklahoman, A-22.
Popper, Karl (1976), Unended Quest (Glasgow, Scotland: Fontana Books).
Sheler, Jeffery L. (1999), Is the Bible True? (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins).