The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Creationist Whoppers
Various Authors

This is a small sampler of creationist whoppers, gleaned from in recent months. When I wrote that I had sent an unnamed creationist a small sampler of ICR whoppers, many people wrote and asked for a copy. I have much more distributed throughout my file system, and in books and on paper at home, but have not yet had a chance to gather them together. [plus my @#$! mailer seems to be broken. Sorry to those who wrote me and got no reply...]

So many liars, so little time! Until then, here is what I had sent to the creationist in question..

If you would like to enter your favorite creationist lie, mendacious misquotation or attack of amnesia, please mail them to me here, and much honor and glory will accrue to your name. Well, maybe a little.

Max Webb

From James Lippard (

By the way, it is of interest to compare the debate summaries published in Acts and Facts to the debate summaries published elsewhere. What follows are the summaries of the May 10, 1988 debate between Gish and Ken Saladin which took place at Auburn University which were published, respectively, in the August 1988 issue of Acts and Facts and in the November/December 1988 issue of the Creation/Evolution Newsletter. (A transcript of the entire debate is available for $10 from the National Center for Science Education, P.O. Box 9477, Berkeley, CA 94709-0477. The transcript clearly shows that Gish was trounced.)

Acts and Facts, August 1988, pp. 2, 4:

Dr. Duane Gish's opponent for the debate on the campus of Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, on the evening of May 10, was Dr. Kenneth Saladin, Professor of Biology at Georgia College, Milledgeville, Georgia. The moderator was Dr. Cathy Hennen, Director of Debate and Assistant Professor of Speech and Communication at Auburn University. The debate was jointly sponsored by the Horizons Committee and the Religious Affairs Committee of the Auburn University Program Council. Each debater had 45 minutes for his initial arguments, followed by 15-minute and 5-minute rebuttals. Almost all of the 800 seats in the auditorium were filled.

Saladin, who was the first speaker, listed seven criteria of science, and declared that creation theory failed to meet these criteria. He stated that belief in a deity is unscientific because it is non-falsifiable. He then listed about ten items he claimed were taught in the Bible. He outlined a series of transitions involved in the origin of life, and claimed that much of this has already been demonstrated by evolutionists. He made a caricature of the creationist explanation for the distribution of fossils in sedimentary strata, projecting a slide showing trees walking uphill. He showed a slide which portrayed a series of mammal-like reptiles with no gaps in the series, claiming this proved that reptiles had evolved into mammals.

In his initial argument, Gish began by asserting that the subject of the debate was how the universe and the living things on earth had come into existence (not when). He defined the general theory of evolution, quoting Julian Huxley, and the general theory of creation. Based on these definitions, he then presented the scientific evidence from thermodynamics, probability, and the fossil record. Using a series of slides, he illustrated the metamorphosis of the Monarch butterfly, and challenged Saladin to explain how this process could have evolved by any process of evolution.

In his rebuttal, Saladin claimed that the formation of snowflakes and crystals proves that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is no barrier to evolution. He argued that Dr. Charles Oxnard did not deny that australopithecines were intermediate between apes and humans.

In his rebuttal, Gish, displaying a photocopy of the article from which Saladin had obtained his illustration of the series of mammal-like reptiles, pointed out that two of the creatures were totally hypothetical, others had hypothetical structures drawn on them, they were not arranged in a true time sequence, and they were not drawn to scale.

In refuting Saladin's claim that success had been accomplished in origin-of-life experiments, Gish quoted from an article by John Keosian, an evolutionist who has been working in this field for 30 years, in which he asserted that claims of origin-of-life evolutionists are simply unreal, and that experiments in this field are either irrelevant or lead to a dead end. He pointed out that the formation of snowflakes has no relevance to evolution, since the processes involved go in exactly the opposite direction to that required for the origin of life.

Creation/Evolution Newsletter, November/December 1988, pp. 11, 14:
THE DEBATE CIRCUIT Saladin-Gish Debate
July 10, 1988 at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
Reported by Kenneth S. Saladin
Georgia College, Milledgeville, GA 31060

My second debate with Duane Gish took place before an audience of about 800 last spring at Auburn University. It differed only in detail from out 1984 debate (see C/E N 4(4):11-12), and Gish was utterly predictable.

In my 45-minute opening, I discussed the philosophy of science and contrasting attributes of creationism, age of the cosmos, origin of life, fossil stratigraphy, transitional fossils, and evidentiary examples from embryology and atavisms. I finished with a stern critique of creationist credibility, with slides and quoted passages on Gish's fire-breathing dinosaurs, Morris' non-living plants, a Creation Research Society Quarterly article on the theology of radioactivity, Gish's misquotation of authority, and creationist "arkeology."

My fundamental format and technique were similar to 1984. I change slides about every 40 seconds, but keep my graphics simple. Many were no more than a color photograph of a grizzly bear or a solar flare, for example--something attractive to keep the audience alert and form a visual association with an organism or concept under discussion. I used one of my students as a projectionist so he could change slides at the appropriate moments without my calling for them. In 1984 some audience members commented that this created a notably smooth and effective presentation (one was "almost mystified" at how appropriate pictures kept coming up without my saying anything). My principal improvement in 1988 was probably in speaking style. I was more experienced and comfortable before a large audience and, I felt, gave a smoother presentation.

One new tactic I introduced to this debate was to gig Gish with tape recordings of his statements in previous debates. When the NCSE met in Los Angeles in 1985, Fred Edwords debated Gish on a KABC radio talk show. A caller asked Gish about the quest for Noah's ark, and while Gish denied that any evidence of the ark had been found, he also denied that the ICR sponsors expeditions to look for it. The next evening Karl Fezer and I visited the ICR and were entrusted by a secretary to roam their creationist museum after hours alone. (She asked us to lock up the ICR when we left! See our report of this foray in C/E N 5(3):16-17.) We listened to a sound-slide program on Noah's ark which proudly affirmed that the ICR does sponsor these expeditions. In 1986, Gish debated David Schwimmer at the University of Georgia, and in the Q/A period I confronted Gish with this contradiction. He sarcastically accused me of fabricating it and again denied ICR involvement.

So I entered our debate this year prepared to repay him for his sarcasm, armed with a microcassette onto which I had dubbed the seminal portions of the Gish-Edwords and Gish-Schwimmer debates. I played Gish's twofold denial over the PA system, then showed slides of several Acts & Facts accounts of these expeditions, culminating with an unequivocal affirmation of sponsorship in the November 1986 issue. In his rebuttal, Gish seemed a bit flustered and claimed he couldn't hear the tape I played, but notwithstanding the slides I had just shown, he stood up and denied sponsorship once again. Auburn is a university with a conspicuous contingent of faculty creationists, but perhaps because of statements like this, Gish seemed to enjoy little credibility or support that evening. I was told several of his supporters got up and walked out during his presentation, and with statements like this it was little wonder why.

Another element in my presentation was to reveal, more assiduously than before, Gish's misquotations of the scientific literature. Knowing that Gish rests much of his case on "plausible deniability," I came armed with a veritable library of books and periodicals he commonly cites. Gish cites Romer (Vertebrate Paleontology, p. 338) to the effect that bats appear fully developed in the middle Eocene with no trace of ancestry. I held up Romer's book and read from an earlier chapter (p. 212), where he says that, while bats appear fully developed by the middle Eocene, in the early Eocene and the Paleocene they are virtually impossible to differentiate from their insectivore ancestors. I also attacked Gish's misrepresentation of Gavin de Beer (Homology: An Unsolved Problem). I had this paper with me in the original as well, and read passages diametrically opposed from what Gish avows that de Beer wrote. My concluding slide was the cover cartoon from Creation/Evolution No. XI.

Gish gave his usual fossilized opening statement, but he and his audience partisans struck me as surprisingly subdued compared to other debates of his that I've attended. He discussed the Big Bang and Cosmic Chicken, the hydrogen-to-humans scenario, thermodynamics, the Hoyle- Wickramasinghe statistical argument, fossil transitions, human origins, and the Oxnard-Zuckerman argument. There were only two new features of his presentation: he dwelt at length on the supposed inexplicability of metamorphosis in the monarch butterfly, and he gave a juvenile gloss on Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Apaprently he never read any further than the flap of the dust jacket, and he reminded me of a fifth-grade student trying to fake a report on a book he'd never read.

In 1984, I worked frantically during the intermission to prepare my first rebuttal. This year, I had prepared a rebuttal in advance from Gish's 1984 statement, and a card file to cover anything new. Gish was so true to form I had no need to prepare during the intermission, so while he prepared his notes I went down and mingled with the audience, distributed NCSE literature, and basked in audience adulation.

Rebuttals were quite straightforward, and I especially enjoyed taking apart the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe argument. For this I used a substantive critique of the fallacies in their statistical assumptions, as well as a damaging overview of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's other biological beliefs: insects smarter than humans and not letting on, flu epidemics from outer space, and Wickramasinghe's trial testimony that Gish's views on evolution are "claptrap" and could not be supported by any rational scientist.

In the question/answer period the audience was surprisingly hostile toward Gish. Questions put to me were no more challenging than "Do you think evolution can be harmonized with belief in God?" and "What if they did find Noah's ark?" The only one for which I had no ready answer is why organisms now use only the L-isomer of amino acids. Gish was piqued when the first questioner, Georgia State University biologist Fred Parrish, addressed him as Reverend Gish and questioned his integrity as a Christian. Others attacked his statistic "proof" of the impossibility of things which in fact do happen, his abuse of thermodynamics, and his reliance on popularized rather than refereed scientific literature. In contrast to the 1984 audience, who came in yellow buses and thumped bibles on their knees, this audience impressed me as relatively savvy.

To anticipate and defuse the secular humanist attack, my closing statement focused on anticreationist opinion of clerics ranging from John Paul II to Baptist and Episcopal leaders in Georgia. I described and displayed the compilation in which the Franciscan physician Ed Friedlander has photocopied statements from Gish's literature alongside photocopies of the sources cited by Gish to demonstrate Gish's habit of distortion.

Gish had the last word and retorted, "Sure there's a lot of liberal theologians on the side of evolution. Why wouldn't they be? All these liberal theologians are for ordaining homosexual ministers, for legalized abortion.... Of course they're for evolution!" The debate format did not allow me an opportunity to come back and ask if he had meant to include John Paul II among these "liberal theologians."

Following the debate I was surrounded by well-wishers and chagrined creationist students. They were especially interested in comparing Gish's writing with the Romer and de Beer literature, and seeing Ed Friedlander's paper, which some people subsequently requested from me by mail. The creationists at my table seemed as disappointed in Gish's performance as Democrats reviewing the last Bush-Dukakis debate. The student organizer seemed almost grudgingly to present me with the check for my expenses and honorarium. He had written to me in advance, "We will do our best to publicize to supporters of both sides. However, it must be realized that Auburn is a small town in the Deep South [and will probably have] a bias toward Dr. Gish's theory." As it turned out, I had no complaints about this audience, but I think Gish and the organizers were a bit chagrined by it.

The debate is recorded on a videotape of so-so quality, a pair of good 90-minute cassettes, and a verbatim transcript of 90+ pages. The transcript includes post-debate annotations and research into Gish's literature citations. I will send a four-page, detailed outline of the debate (the table of contents of the transcript) free to anyone who requests it, but I regrettably do not have the time to honor individual requests for copies of the tapes or entire transcript. I expect to have these available for distribution through the NCSE by January, and presumably their availability and price will be announced in this newsletter.

I wish to express my appreciation to Auburn University philosophy professor Delos McKown, who was originally invited to confront Gish and recommended me in his stead; and to my students who helped with literature distribution and recording the debate. If I can extend any wishes to Dr. Gish, they are for good health and a long life, so my colleagues and I will have many more opportunities to publicly reveal the mendacity of America's most capable exponent of "scientific" creationism.

Here's an example of creationist misquoting, from Henry Morris' book, Science, Scripture, and the Young Earth, p. 12:

The catfish range in length from 11 to 24 cm., with a mean of 18 cm. Preservation is excellent. In some specimens, even the skin and other soft parts, including the adipose fin, are well preserved ...

... strongly suggests that the catfish could have been transported to their site of fossilization.(19)

Note 19 refers to an article in the journal Geology by Buccheim and Surdam, which says:

The abundant and widespread occurrence of skeletons of bottom feeders, some with soft fleshy skin intact, strongly suggests that the catfish were a resident population. It is highly improbable that the catfish could have been transported to their site of fossilization. Experiments and observations made on various species of fish have shown that fish decompose and disarticulate after only very short distances of transport (Shafer, 1972).

Karl Fezer discovered this, and wrote a critique, which he sent to Morris for comment. This resulted in the following "correction" in Acts & Facts (vol. 12, no. 11, p. 6):

CORRECTION: Readers who may have purchased the booklet, Science, Scripture, and the Young Earth, announced in the August issue of Acts & Facts, should make the following correction: on page 12, delete lines 18 and 19. A section which was inadvertently omitted in this quotation (from an article in Geology by Buccheim and Surdam) inverts the authors' intended meaning. However, the argument being advanced in this section by the booklet's author, Dr. Henry Morris, is not affected by this correction. ICR writers always try diligently to quote accurately and in context, knowing that evolutionists are carefully watching their writings to ferret out any examples of misquoting which may occur, but this one got by. If the authors of the quoted paper were embarrassed in any way by our lapse in this case, we apologize.

Gish has been caught on numerous occasions spouting lies, yet he never offers retractions and his own religion tells him that he should be honest.

One example is Gish's "bullfrog proteins." In 1983, in a PBS show on creationism, Gish claimed that while humans and chimpanzees have many proteins which are identical or differ by only a few amino acids, there are also human proteins which are more similar to a bullfrog or a chicken than to chimpanzees. Gish was repeatedly pressed to produce his evidence. Two years later, Philip Kitcher challenged Gish to produce his evidence or retract his claim in a debate at the University of Minnesota. Gish refused to respond. Kevin Wirth of Students for Origins Research (a pro-creationist organization) begged Gish to respond in the pages of Origins Research regarding the claim. He refused. (See Robert Schadewald, "Scientific Creationism and Error," Creation/Evolution XVII (vol. 6, no. 1, 1986).)

Another example involving numerous creationists is the claim that Donald Johanson discovered "Lucy's" knee joint 2 km away from the rest of the skeleton. This claim was first made in the Bible-Science Newsletter by Tom Willis in 1987, and has since been repeated by Walter Brown, John Morris, Paul Taylor, Russell Arndts, and Michael Girouard. But it's false, apparently based on a misunderstanding at a Q&A session at the University of Missouri attended by Willis. Johanson did find a knee joint 2 km away from "Lucy," but he never claimed that this knee joint was "Lucy"'s. I gave a copy of a letter from Johanson describing the facts of the matter to Girouard in person at an ICR seminar, and he claimed he would read it carefully and respond to any letters I wrote him. I wrote him in December of 1989 and never received a reply. Brown was also informed of the facts of the matter, in both the pages of Creation/Evolution and of Origins Research. In both cases he responded with new claims about "Lucy" which had nothing to do with the knee joint--he just ignored the issue at hand. (Origins Research didn't print my followup.) My letter to Tom Willis received no reply. My letter to the Bible-Science Newsletter (in response to Arndts' more recent repetition of the false claim) went unpublished and I received no reply...

From Dan Ford:

Recently there has been a claim (by Jim Loucks) that evolution writers misquote creationists much more often than the reverse. Jim of course has so far failed to substantiate that claim with any evidence, while in the mean time there have been several articles posted documenting creationist misquoting of evolutionary authors (for example the Eldredge and Gould case).

Below is yet another example of creationist misquoting due to not checking sources. It seems that a common tactic is to scan "friendly" papers for quotes from "hostile" authors which contain quotes that appear to support your position ([sarcasm on] certainly another creationist would never misrepresent another author right? [sarcasm off]).

The article in this case is titled Some Philosophical Implications of the Theory of Evolution from the Seventh-Day Adventist publication Origins Vol. 3, 1976, page 39. The author is John D. Clark. Mr. Roy should take notice of this one (I believe that John Clark is the son of an Adventist biologist who has written several books on creationism that are used in Adventist schools). This paper gives an excellent example of how creationists love to quote each other in a round-robin fashion without ever checking their sources. Let me quote from John Clark a section that includes a quote from Charles Darwin's autobiography.

Charles Darwin in his autobiography understood evolution's serious implications for man. This understanding took the form of the "horrid doubt". He states:
"But then arises the doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? [The grand conclusion in this context is the evolutionary hypothesis itself]."
At the basis of this evolutionary idea was the theory of natural selection...

I would like to point out that the editorial comment in the square brackets about the grand conclusion was put there by John Clark but in the same type and density and inside the quote attributed to Darwin. Now I have read Darwin's autobiography, and I didn't remember any references to "horrid doubts" (which Clark refers to in quotes at least 4 times in his paper) or even significant doubts about the "evolutionary hypothesis" as Clark calls it. Since I have his autobiography, I decided to look up the quote, so I turned to the reference provided by Clark to help me find it faster. Much to my surprise, the footnote did not refer to Darwin's autobiography, rather the quote was taken from the Frontispiece to David Lack, 1961 Evolutionary Theory and Christian Belief: the unresolved Conflict. Since I did not have this book it appeared that I would have to search my copy of Darwin's autobiography to find the quote, which I did. Within about 1/2 hour I was able to find it (there were no references for "doubts" or "horrid doubts" in the index). The quote is contained in a chapter entitled "Religious Belief" and had no mention of "horrid doubts" of any kind. Furthermore, this quote is found at the end of a long discussion where he states his inability to believe in the Bible or even the God of the Bible; however he did find reason to believe in some sort of a diety. Let me quote with some real context:

When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of a man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species; and it is since that time that it has very gradually with many fluctuations become weaker. But then arises the doubt--can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? May not these be the result of the connection between cause and effect which strikes us as a necessary one, but probably depends merely on inherited experience? Nor must we overlook the probability of the constant inculcation in a belief in God on the minds of children producing so strong and perhaps an inherited effect on their brains not yet fully developed, that it would be as difficult for them to throw off their belief in God, as for a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.
Nowhere is there a reference to a "horrid doubt", but more importantly, the doubt he is referring to is not about the evolutionary hypothesis, rather he is affirming his belief in evolution while expressing doubt regarding the reliability of humanity's tendency to believe in a god. His doubt is that our tendency to believe in God is suspect, and even a vague belief in a deity may be too much. On the next page he says "...and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic." (I don't want to start a thread on Agnosticism and Atheism, that's not the point. The point is the use of Darwin's words in a creationist paper.) If you want to look it up, be sure to get a recent edition (i.e. > 1960).

Dan Ford

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