The following article appeared in issue XXIX of _Creation/Evolution_, vol. 11, no. 2 (Win
The following article appeared in issue XXIX of
_Creation/Evolution_, vol. 11, no. 2 (Winter 1991-1992),
pp. 9-21 and is copyright (c) 1991 by the National Center
for Science Education.
How Not To Argue With Creationists
The scientific method involves a disinterested search for truth.
Ideally, scientists apply empirical methods and follow the results
wherever they might lead. In reality, however, science is
practiced by human beings committed to particular theories. When
commitment to a particular theory is greater than commitment to
scientific methods, the scientist becomes a "true believer" who
falls back upon irrational modes of defense. This analysis is
frequently applied to creationists, but unfortunately there are
times when it applies to the opponents of creationism as well.
This is particularly unfortunate since, as readers of this journal
know, scientific methods are completely adequate to the task of
refuting the empirical claims of creationism.
It is with regret that I write this article, but certain
opponents of creationism in Australia have engaged in tactics that
have led to public apologies to creationists by radio and print
media, criticism by other creationism opponents, and even legal
action. These events have, until now, gone unnoted in anti-
creationist circles. It is my hope that this article will
discourage these sorts of tactics in the future, as well as
setting an example of self-criticism that creationists would do
well to follow. There are legal issues involved, but it is not my
intent to judge or evaluate them. Rather, my intent is to
advocate a more careful style of debate and dispute.
Australian Debate: Plimer vs. Gish
On March 18, 1988, Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation
Research (ICR) took on Ian Plimer, professor of geology at the
University of Newcastle (and now chair of the department of
geology at the University of Melbourne). Plimer, rather than
treating the event as an academic debate, used the occasion to
abuse and ridicule Gish--at one point even offering Gish a chance
to electrocute himself on bare wires to demonstrate that
electricity is "mere theory."(1) The mostly creationist audience
was not amused.(2) The ICR (_Acts & Facts_ 1988) characterized
Plimer's behavior as "by far the worst behavior ever encountered
by Dr. Gish."
Plimer's opening volley was that "'Creation science' is a
contradiction in terms. I've accused the leaders of fraud,
perversity, heresy, fabricating their evidence, and lying about
the scientific evidence." He gave as his first example Michael
Denton's book, _Evolution: A Theory in Crisis_, which Gish had
already mentioned in his own opening statement. "What we were not
told," said Plimer, "was that Michael Denton, at this university
[the University of New South Wales] last year, said and admitted
he was wrong. That was published. He also said that he was
unaware of the fossil record when he wrote it."
Plimer explicitly states that Denton was unaware of the
fossil record and implies that Denton has retracted his entire
book.(3) Neither is the case. Denton's book contains a chapter
entitled "The Fossil Record," and what he _has_ conceded is only
that "the discontinuities in the order of nature might not be as
biologically significant" as he implied in his book. His view is
that "an objective interpretation of the gaps [is] impossible
given the current state of biological knowledge. They could be
basically only 'sampling errors' and biologically trivial, [or]
they could be determined by fundamental restrictions on what is
possible in the realm of organic design and hence of deep
significance" (personal communication, October 1, 1991).
Gish, who had lunch with Denton the previous day, responded
to Plimer's statement in the debate by saying that "Dr. Denton did
not deny or go back on anything he put in his book. This is what
he did say: that if he were going to write a book on this subject
that he'd take a different approach. The evidence that he
discussed in here he said is subjective. ...But from the
perspective now in genetic research he believes that possibly it's
possible to objectively establish that [sic] if evolution is
possible or not. And certainly from his present state of
knowledge he believes it can be objectively proven that it's
impossible."(4) Here Gish exaggerates as well--according to
Denton, Gish's quote is vague but reasonably accurate except for
the last statement, about which he says "I am practically certain
I didn't make that statement. It's not true (probably never will
be) and I have never made such a claim." (personal communication,
October 1, 1991). The truth is that Denton has neither retracted
his entire book nor remained entirely unswayed by his critics
(though the latter is closer to the truth than the former--he
still believes that the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution is "a
theory in crisis").
Analysis: Plimer, like Gish, is guilty of exaggeration in his
remarks about Denton. His statements about Denton's position were
inaccurate and misleading. Plimer is at least partially to blame
for the spread of the legend of Denton's "conversion" in the
Fossil Gold Chains _Ex Nihilo_
In an article in the _Australian Geologist_, Plimer (1986, pp. 6-
7) criticizes Andrew Snelling, a creationist geologist of the
Australian Creation Science Foundation (CSF). Plimer writes that
"Other enlightened new data by Snelling are reports in the CSF
literature of the occurrence of fossil gold chains and iron
anchors in Australian coal seams." In his debate with Gish,
Plimer said, "A year ago I challenged someone to give me a gold
chain from a coal seam in this country. I offered $20,000. ... I
haven't dropped a penny yet." (The publicized offer was $20,000
to charity and $5,000 to the finder; see Plimer 1987b, where he
says "the CSF alleges that fossilised gold chains are found within
the coal seams in the Newcastle area." This challenge, in _The
Newcastle Herald_, followed Plimer's (1987a) earlier claim in the
same newspaper that "the creationist literature reports fossil
gold chains and iron anchors in coal seams at Newcastle" and that
"creationists call this science and wish to teach this as part of
the school syllabus.")
But Snelling (1988, p. 18) denied ever making such a claim,
anywhere, and challenged Plimer to produce evidence of it. David
Malcolm (1987) also challenged Plimer to show just where such
claims are made in the creationist literature. Plimer has not
done so. In correspondence with me (personal communication, April
8, 1991), Plimer stated that claims about fossil gold chains
appeared in the CSF's _Ex Nihilo Technical Journal_, which is
_edited_ by Snelling: "it is this editorial responsibility I
refer to," writes Plimer. In the first five volumes of the _Ex
Nihilo Technical Journal_, published between 1984 and 1991, there
appears only one article dealing with coal (Snelling & Mackay
1984). This article contains no mention of fossil gold chains or
iron anchors in coal seams.
The only thing published by the CSF remotely resembling
Plimer's "fossil gold chains and iron anchors" in coal is this
sentence: "When Dr. Andrew Snelling and John Mackay were
researching the Newcastle coal measures recently, they came across
a fossilised bolt from an old shipwreck." (Mackay 1986, p. 10)
This article, which was neither authored by Snelling nor in a
publication edited by Snelling, makes it clear that the bolt was
not found in coal. The CSF maintains that Plimer has simply
fabricated the claim.
In the Gish debate, Plimer spoke of "some marvelous
revelations [by creationists] ... one of them is that we find
fossilized iron bolts and fossilized gold chains ... within the
fossil record," suggesting that this article is indeed the
"enlightened new data" he is referring to.
Analysis: Plimer somehow managed to turn a claimed fossilized
iron bolt into "fossil gold chains and iron anchors," put them
into coal seams, and attribute the whole claim to Andrew Snelling.
He then made a challenge to the creationists to come up with
evidence to support what is in fact a straw man of his own
creation. He also used the bogus "gold chains in coal seams"
claim in his debate with Gish: since gold was brought to
Australia in 1788 and coal discovered there in 1791, if these coal
seams were created by the biblical flood, the flood must have
occurred between those years. Q.E.D., _reductio ad absurdum_. A
solid counterargument to a claim that wasn't made.
Barry Price and _The Creation Science Controversy_
Another Australian creationism opponent is science teacher and
former Religious Education Officer for Sydney's Catholic Education
Office (CEO), Barry Price. Price is the author of the ironically
titled _The Creation Science Controversy_ (Price 1990), which he
produced by revising and expanding an earlier booklet, _The
Bumbling, Stumbling, Crumbling Theory of Creation Science_.
According to Price, this booklet, published by the CEO, was pulled
from publication some two months after its release in response to
threat of legal action (Price 1990, p. viii)(5)
It looks like a similar fate may be in store for _The
Creation Science Controversy_, as he and his publisher are
presently in court, charged with defamation (more on this below).
The book is polemical--light on science and heavy on _ad hominem_
argument. Its goals are apparently more political than
scientific; it is written not for the scientist or seasoned
creationist observer, but to persuade the layman that creationism
is a hoax and a fraud. Its most powerful arguments against
creationism may be found elsewhere in more detail and greater
The book has prompted a response from the CSF (1991), titled
_A Response to Deception_, now in its third revised edition. The
creationist response correctly notes that "Price's attack is
largely not concerned with the realm of science" and goes on to
say that the book is "full of error, distortion and worse." In a
mostly positive review of Price's book, Australian Skeptic Martin
Bridgstock (1990) wrote that Price's book "is clear and punchy,
occasionally veering into stridency" and is "peppered with
errors." (He goes on to say that these errors are "minor--none
approaching creationist whoppers.")
While many of _A Response to Deception_'s criticisms are
quite minor (e.g., typographical errors), others are more serious.
For example, Price parrots Ian Plimer's fossil gold chains
argument (Price 1990, pp. 39-40). But he insists that there are
no major errors in his book (Price 1991) and has enumerated the
CSF charges as follows: 15 typographical errors, 63 differences
of opinion, and no serious errors (personal communication,
February 11, 1991). An errata sheet has been issued for the book,
correcting 34 mistakes.
Analysis: Barry Price has not exercised proper care in
authenticating the evidence he presents in his book (more evidence
of this will be presented below). In the case of Ian Plimer's
"fossil gold chains" claim, Price should have been aware that
every time Plimer published the claim, a rebuttal has been issued
in the same publication (Malcolm 1987; Snelling 1988). Yet Price
never mentions these rebuttals and appears to have made no attempt
to find the claim in the creationist literature.(6)
Loss of Funds by the CSF
Both Price and Plimer have accused the creationists of financial
wrongdoing. In 1986, the Australian Skeptics discovered that the
CSF's financial reports listed a loss of $92,363 (Bridgstock 1986,
pp. 70-71). Plimer described this loss in his debate with Gish:
"So when we look at the Creation Science Foundation in this
country, it is a closed shop. Seven people who control it, have
their hand in the till, whatever you want to call it. And there's
a not insubstantial amount of money, $92,358 [sic], which is
unaccounted for. It just disappeared. So you can't trust these
people with your children,(7) you can't trust them with your
money." Plimer (1989) also wrote of this loss of funds in his
article about the Gish debate in the magazine _Media Information
Australia_ using the term "financial fraud" (p. 11 and p. 12).
Barry Price (1990, pp. 186-191) uses several pages of his
book to describe this loss of funds. He notes (p. 187) that the
CSF's director and secretary at the time of the loss, John
Thallon, was director of a company, Tralil Pty. Ltd., with which
the CSF contracted for "management consultancy services" for the
period September 1, 1984 to June 30, 1985. Price writes that
"This contract with Tralil is presumably a result of investment
losses noted in the _Statement of Income and Expenditure for the
year ended 31st March 1985_, which records 'Extraordinary Item
Loss of Investments, 1984, $47,939 and 1985, $44,424.'" It is
difficult to see how this contract could be a _result_ of the
losses, given that it was made before the losses occurred. This
contract was, in fact, for accountancy services from Thallon, who
had requested that the CSF hire him as an employee of Tralil, his
family trust company--a type of arrangement which has since been
legislated against by the Australian government. (An
investigation of this arrangement, unrelated to the lost
investment, by the Australian Taxation Office, found no
impropriety. The CSF's section 23(e) tax exemption was renewed
Neither Plimer nor Price has given details on just how the
investment loss took place. The lost funds were interest-free
loans from CSF members which had been invested in a company on the
advice of CSF director Thallon, who also invested a great deal of
his own money. This company in turn invested in yet another
company, which ended up defrauding its investors, causing losses
for both the CSF and Thallon. Since Thallon had recommended this
investment, he felt responsible for the loss and resigned from the
CSF. The CSF notified its "closest supporters" of the loss, who
contributed funds to pay off the interest-free loans (Robert
Doolan, personal communication, February 8, 1991). The CSF
supporters as a whole, however, were not informed of the loss
until it was made public by the Australian Skeptics, after which
the CSF circulated an explanation (Rendle-Short 1988).
Barry Price (1990, pp. 187-188) writes of other CSF
directors' resignations in the context of this investment loss:
David John Denner, Robert Stephen Gustafson, John Mackay, and Ken
Ham. Denner resigned because of health problems but is still a
member of the CSF, Steve Gustafson continues as a legal adviser to
the CSF, John Mackay resigned and formed his own creationist
organization because of a personal conflict with another member of
the CSF staff, and Ken Ham did not in fact ever resign (Robert
Doolan, personal communication, February 18, 1991).
Analysis: Plimer and Price have insinuated that the loss of funds
was due to untrustworthiness of (or, in Plimer's argument, fraud
by) the CSF, when in fact the causes of the loss were criminal
actions which victimized the CSF. Those responsible for the fraud
have been convicted, and there is some possibility that some of
the lost funds may yet be recovered. The CSF should have informed
all of its supporters of the loss immediately, instead of waiting
until the Australian Skeptics discovered it, but their reluctance
to do so is understandable. Plimer's published remarks led to an
apology to the CSF and Duane Gish by _Media Information Australia_
Price has also wrongly implied that the resignations of a
number of CSF directors was a result of the loss of funds and
falsely claimed that Ken Ham resigned.
Gustafson v Price
In Barry Price's summary of the finances of the CSF (Price 1990,
p. 191), he states that Robert Stephen Gustafson's name
"disappeared without explanation from company records after a
payment of $8,719 was made by the board of directors to a company
in which he had an interest." He writes this immediately after
stating that the CSF is not accountable to its supporters and
bringing up the loss of funds again. But Price's statement is
false. On November 30, 1990, Gustafson filed suit against Price,
Millenium Books Pty. Ltd., Price's publisher, and Chertsey Fifty-
Nine Pty. Ltd., the printer, for making a false and defamatory
allegation about Gustafson. Price failed to file a defense within
the six weeks allotted, but did file a late defense. (Such
tardiness usually requires the defendant to pay the legal costs of
the action up to the date the defense is filed.) By August of
1991, Price's lawyers had offered an apology and pulping of all
remaining copies of the book as a settlement, which Gustafson
rejected. [_Ed: The book has been withdrawn by the publisher,
nevertheless, and is now unavailable in the U.S., at least._]
Analysis: Price made an erroneous remark, in a context which
implied that the payment was somehow related to the loss of funds.
In fact, the payment was not only unrelated to the loss of funds,
the payment was not to Gustafson or to a company in which he had
an interest. The payment in question, which was $8,118.75 not
$8,719, was payment to Tralil Pty. Ltd. for the accountancy
services of John Thallon.
Alleged Missing Financial Reports
On an Australian national radio broadcast on Robyn Williams'
"Ockham's Razor" show of January 8, 1989, Ian Plimer stated that
the CSF "submitted no annual report for 1988, no annual report for
1987, and no annual report for 1986" to the Corporate Affairs
Commission. Barry Price (1990, p. 190) writes that "Reports for
1986 and 1987 do not seem to be available. Presumably extensions
have been granted by the Corporate Affairs Commission because of
In fact, the CSF has filed returns for each of these years,
all of which were available at the time Plimer spoke on the radio
and by the time Price's book was published. A letter dated March
7, 1989 from J. Kral of the Office of the Commissioner for
Corporate Affairs to Carl Wieland, managing director of the CSF,
states that "You are advised that all the Annual Returns mentioned
in your letter have been lodged with this office." The letter
goes on to give the dates on which the returns for 1986, 1987, and
1988 were filed: August 8, 1986, December 4, 1987, and December
5, 1988, respectively. This evidence was supplied to the
Australian Broadcasting Company, which on June 4, 1989 apologized
for Plimer's remarks.
Analysis: Plimer and Price both made false statements which they
could have easily checked out but didn't. Plimer (personal
communication, January 9, 1991) offers no explanation for his
remarks, but maintains that the ABC "caved in" by apologizing
against his recommendation. He has neither apologized nor
admitted any error, and claims that the CSF is using the apologies
from ABC and _Media Information Australia_ as part of a
"propaganda campaign" against him.
The Mysterious Book Vandalism
Price (1990, pp. 165-166) and Plimer (1989, pp. 10-11; 1991, p. 5)
both quote a passage from an article by Ray E. Martin in
_Christian School Builder_ (April 1983, pp. 205-207) titled
"Reviewing and Correcting Encyclopedias," citing Marty (1983),
which reprints a section of the Martin article. Plimer (1989, p.
10) writes that "creationists have been instructed to 'review and
correct encyclopedias'" by the article, which advocates removing
sections on evolution from encyclopedias by using a razor blade or
by glueing pages together. Both Plimer and Price follow up their
description of this article by reporting that examples of exactly
this sort of vandalism were found in the library of the University
of Newcastle: "every reference to evolution had been cut out from
books in the paleontology section of the university library,"
writes Price (1990, p. 166). Plimer (1991) concludes, "At least
the Nazis had the common decency to burn books in public!"
But the article does not advocate vandalism at all: it
advocates censorship of books in Christian schools by the
administrators. This is only slightly less offensive, but, unlike
vandalism, is perfectly legal. The CSF condemns not only the
vandalism, but book censorship by Christian school administrators
(Robert Doolan, personal communication, February 8, 1991).
Price and Plimer both imply that the University of Newcastle
vandalism was performed by creationists, inspired by the Martin
article. But the vandalism occurred in 1988 while the article,
which does not advocate vandalism, was published a full five years
earlier in periodicals not carried by the University of
Newcastle's Auchmuty Library. Neither Price nor Plimer point out
that this incident is the only one of its kind known to have
occurred and was discovered only after the Martin and Marty
articles were brought to the attention of the university librarian
by Ian Plimer. Plimer (personal communication, April 8, 1991)
states that he has heard of four other cases of book vandalism at
other institutions, but does not know if those were directed at
articles on evolution or were simply "'normal' vandalism." He
also reports that the Newcastle vandalism was brought to his
attention by an unnamed paleontology professor. (Neither Plimer
nor the University of Newcastle librarian has responded to my
further inquiries on this subject.)
Analysis: Plimer and Price misrepresent the content of the Ray
Martin article in order to argue that creationists were
responsible for a specific incident of vandalism at the University
of Newcastle. It may never be known who was responsible for the
damage, but it is unlikely that it was done by creationists
inspired by the Martin article; certainly there is no evidence to
support the claim.
A Smear Letter
Shortly after the Gish-Plimer debate in Sydney, Ian Plimer
responded to a letter from a creationist. Plimer's response, on
University of Newcastle letterhead, stated that
In a forthcoming book, further proof will be given with
regard to the financial activities of Gish (and two others)
in the San Diego-based Institute of Creation Research [sic]
and a US-based publishing house which operates essentially as
a money laundering organisation for the personal enrichment
of the leaders of the creationist movement. Furthermore, if
you were at the debates in Sydney (18.3.88) or Brisbane
(30.3.88), you would surely have noticed an entourage of
young people (principally boys) accompanying Gish and who
continually touched him. This is commensurate with testimony
from elsewhere which throws enlightenment on Gish's personal
life and which makes Jimmy Swaggart look like a moral
guardian of the faith.
I have a copy of this letter, which Plimer (personal
communication, January 9, 1991) acknowledges writing. The letter
appears to be a form letter: although it is typed, the name in
the salutation is written in. After a description of various
correspondence Plimer has received following the debate, the
sentence "Your letter falls into the _____ category" has the blank
space filled in with the handwritten word "third."
Plimer claims that no sexual implication is intended by the
quoted passage. According to Plimer, the "testimony from
elsewhere which throws enlightenment on Gish's personal life"
refers to Gish's membership in "a pro-nuclear lobbying group."
Price's book (1990, p. 66) points out that Gish is the chairman of
the science and technology section of the Coalition on Revival,
which Price describes as a group which "supports increased
military spending and proclaims that all of science must be based
on the Bible." (The Coalition on Revival is part of the Christian
Reconstructionist movement. For details, see Hakeem (1991),
McIver (1988), Porteous (1991), and Tucker (1989).) While this is
an interesting political point about religious right
interconnections, it is a different issue entirely.
Plimer further maintains that the letter was intentionally
written to be ambiguous and _to look like_ a form letter, but was
only sent to a single person, in order to "find out how far
creationist tentacles extended." Plimer makes much of the fact
that the creationists have been disseminating this statement about
Gish through such publications as the CSF's _A Response to
Duane Gish (personal communication, August 5, 1991) calls
these statements "outrageous slanderous falsehood" and challenges
Plimer "to produce one iota of evidence" to support his
accusations. He states that the money laundering claim is "an
outright lie" and that he was accompanied to the Australian debate
only by his wife, his host, and his host's wife. (Gish granted
permission to publish these scandalous charges against him on the
condition that his emphatic denial be included.)
Analysis: Plimer's letter, on university letterhead, is a serious
ethical lapse. The statements are unsupported _ad hominem_
innuendo, whether Plimer sent the letter to one person or to a
Ray Hyman (1987), professor of psychology and executive council
member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims
of the Paranormal (CSICOP), has constructed a list of suggestions
for proper criticism of paranormal and fringe science claims which
should also be taken to heart by critics of creationism. His
eight suggestions are:
1. Be prepared.
2. Clarify your objectives.
3. Do your homework.
4. Do not go beyond your level of competence.
5. Let the facts speak for themselves.
6. Be precise.
7. Use the principle of charity.
8. Avoid loaded words and sensationalism.
My criticisms of Price and Plimer have primarily been based
on their violations of 3, 5, 7, and 8. What I would like to focus
on briefly in my final remarks is number 2, the issue of clear
In correspondence with me, Ian Plimer and others have
defended his style on the grounds that creationism is a political
rather than scientific movement. It is my impression that they
think it must be stopped at any cost, by almost any means
available. This view is not only short-sighted, it doesn't seem
to justify the means I've been criticizing. While the heavy-
handed style might convince some people that creationism is
ridiculous and not worth serious consideration by scientists,
misrepresentations are bound to come to light (as they have).
When they do, all of the short-term gains and more are lost.
We must not lose sight of the fact that no matter how silly
creationism looks from an informed perspective, those who adhere
to it are human beings. Most creationists are sincere believers,
even if some of the leaders of creationist organizations are not.
There is probably no hope of convincing an insincere leader, so
why argue rationally with one? Why not just ridicule and abuse
such a person? Because sincere people are watching. Ridicule and
abuse simply confirm their suspicions about evil conspiratorial
evolutionists who are out to suppress the creationist viewpoint.
(This does not require us to forego humor or sarcasm which are not
abusive and counterproductive.)
It is possible to deal with creationists effectively yet
politely--Philip Kitcher's 1985 debate and Ken Saladin's 1988
debate, each with Gish, are prime examples.(8) Presentations like
these are probably more likely to persuade people than those like
Plimer's. Price and Plimer have engaged in the same sort of
tactics we complain about creationists using. The only result of
such tactics can be the loss of credibility.
The creation versus evolution debate is already one which
tends to generate more heat than light. To attempt to gain
converts by means other than reasoned argument supported by
evidence is to engage in a war of propaganda, in which the first
casualty is truth. It is my hope that this criticism will serve
to discourage such counterproductive battles in the future.
Thanks to Robert Doolan of the Creation Science Foundation, who
responded to my every question and provided me with copies of all
documents which I requested, to Ian Plimer and Barry Price for
their cooperation in the early stages of the preparation of this
article, to Erika Mitnik for reviewing early drafts of this
article, and to the editor of this journal and this article's
reviewers, who provided numerous helpful comments on style and
1. All debate quotations have been transcribed by the author from
videotape. Plimer's attacks on Gish included: "They are telling
lies for mammon. Here is Satan [gestures towards Gish]. He wants
God's blessing for the devil's work." (Plimer 1989, p. 12, also
2. It wasn't just the creationists who were unamused. In the
Australian Skeptics' summary of the debate (Roberts and Mendham
1988, p. 13), it is reported that "The adjudicator summed up by
saying that, rather than a debate, the evening was more like a
presentation by Dr. Gish and a series of derogatory replies by Dr.
Plimer. He would award poor marks to both speakers, neither of
whom had properly expounded his point of view as a science." The
same page of the summary states that "Dr. Plimer's style of
speaking excited comments and polarised the passions of quite a
few people. Many Skeptics have said they were disappointed in his
manner of presentation and his handling of the topic, preferring
that he had presented purely the scientific evidence supporting
evolution in a sombre and more scientifically respectable manner."
3. A possible source of Plimer's remark (or perhaps they share a
common source) is Stan Weinberg's (1986, p. 22) report in the
_Creation/Evolution Newsletter_ that "According to [paleontologist
Michael] Archer, Denton acknowledged that before he wrote his book
he had never heard of the mammal-like reptiles. He added that had
he known of them beforehand, he would have written his book
differently. But there are no indications that a corrected
edition is forthcoming." Denton (personal communication, October
1, 1991) says that this is a misrepresentation--his book discusses
mammal-like reptiles on pages 180 and 181 (U.S. edition). What he
did concede to Archer is what I have noted in this article about
the significance of gaps in the fossil record.
4. This remark from Gish was garbled in transcription by
Australian Skeptic Steve Roberts, who wrote in his summary of the
debate that Gish had agreed with Plimer that Denton had recanted
his views on evolution and considered it "possibly now a provable
reality." (Roberts and Mendham 1988, p. 12) This error made its
way into the _Creation/Evolution Newsletter_ (July/August 1988, p.
17) and was recently corrected by me in _NCSE Reports_ (Summer
1991, p. 19). The Australian Skeptics have yet to print a
correction of this and other errors in their debate summary,
though they have admitted them in private correspondence.
It should be pointed out that the Summer 1991 _NCSE Reports_
correction contained a mistake introduced by the editor--that of
referring to Denton as a creationist. He is not. As he wrote to
me (personal communication, October 1, 1991), "I am sure that the
cause of evolution will turn out to be perfectly natural even
though as yet we have no satisfactory naturalistic explanation.
However, I am inclined to the view that when the natural
explanations are elucidated they will represent deeply embedded
laws or tendences in the nature of things which will largely
restrict life forms to designs similar to those actually manifest
on earth or in other words that life's design is not contingent as
Gould claims but directed in large measure by physics in the most
general sense of the term."
5. The CSF says it did not threaten legal action, though CSF
managing director Carl Wieland did write a letter to the Catholic
hierarchy in Sydney, New South Wales expressing concern about
allegedly defamatory statements in the booklet (Robert Doolan,
personal communication, April 10, 1991).
6. Snelling (1988, p. 18) points out that Wysong (1976, p. 370)
reports a gold chain found in U.S. coal. Wysong describes the
June 9, 1891 discovery of a gold chain in coal by a Mrs. S.W. Culp
of Morrisonville, Illinois, citing the _Morrisonville Times_ of
June 11, 1891 as his only source. Walter Brown's 1989 book, _In
the Beginning..._, also reports a gold chain found in coal, for
which he cites three sources: Noorbergen (1977), pp. 41-42 of
which describe and cite the _Morrisonville Times_ article; an
article in the January 1979 _Bible-Science Newsletter_ which I
have not obtained; and a letter in the June 1976 _Creation
Research Society Quarterly_ which is about a spoon allegedly found
in coal and says nothing about gold chains. A list of "fossilized
technology" claims and their sources, including some involving
coal (but no gold chains) may be found in Corliss (1978, pp. 651-
7. This is a reference to the 1980 case of Emma C. Smith
Elementary School in Livermore, Calif., where teacher Ray Baird
used materials from the ICR to indoctrinate students with
creationism and apparently succeeded in converting some of them to
atheism. Plimer had discussed this case earlier in the debate.
Price's book gives a good summary (Price 1990, pp. 143-158).
8. I chose these examples not because they are the only ones
available but because they are the best ones I am familiar with,
having viewed the videotape of the Kitcher debate several times
and read a transcript of the Saladin debate.
_Acts & Facts_ 1988. "Evolutionist Debater Descends to All-Time
Low." (June) 17:3,5.
Bridgstock, Martin 1986. "What is the Creation Science Foundation
Ltd.?" In Bridgstock and Smith (1986), pp. 66-71.
---- 1990. "The Creation Science Controversy." (book review)
_Search_ (July/August) 21:172-173.
Bridgstock, Martin and Smith, Ken (editors) 1986. _Creationism: An
Australian Perspective_. Melbourne: Australian Skeptics.
Corliss, William R. 1978. _Ancient Man: A Handbook of Puzzling
Artifacts_. Glen Arm, Md.: The Sourcebook Project.
Creation Science Foundation 1991. _A Response to Deception: An
Expose' of Barry Price's Book *The Creation Science
Controversy*_. Third edition. Sunnybank, Australia:
Creation Science Foundation, Ltd.
Hakeem, Michael 1991. "The Proposed Killing of Freethinkers."
_Freethought Today_ (August) 8:6-7.
Hyman, Ray 1987. "Proper Criticism." _Skeptical Briefs_ (May) 3:4-
5. Reprinted in Hyman (1989), pp. 437-441.
---- 1989. _The Elusive Quarry: A Scientific Appraisal of
Psychical Research_. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.
Mackay, John 1986. "Fossil Bolts and Fossil Hats." _Creation Ex
Malcolm, David 1987. "Creation Debate." _The Newcastle Herald_,
Marty, Martin E. 1983. "Burdened Schoolmasters." _Christian
Century_ (28 September) 100:863.
McIver, Tom 1988. "Christian Reconstructionism, Post-millenialism,
and Creationism." _Creation/Evolution Newsletter_
(January/February) 8:10-11, 14-17.
_Media Information Australia_ 1990. "Apology to Creation Science
Foundation Ltd." (February) #55:64.
Noorbergen, Rene 1977. _Secrets of the Lost Races: New Discoveries
of Advanced Technology in Ancient Civilizations_.
Plimer, Ian 1986. "Creation Science--The Work of the Devil." _The
Australian Geologist_ (20 December) #61:3-7.
---- 1987a. "Creation Debate." _The Newcastle Herald_, March 16.
---- 1987b. "Challenge to Creation 'Scientists'." _The Newcastle
Herald_, April 22.
---- 1989. "Communication with Fanatical Fundamentalists." _Media
Information Australia_ (February) #51:10-12.
---- 1991. "The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance." _Alumni
Papers_ (University of New South Wales), March/April/May, pp.
Porteous, Skipp 1991. "Reconstructive Criticism." _Free Inquiry_
Price, Barry 1990. _The Creation Science Controversy_. Sydney,
Australia: Millenium Books.
---- 1991. "A Matrix of Malice." _Alumni Papers_ (University of
New South Wales), March/April/May, p. 4.
Rendle-Short, J. 1988. "Creation Science Foundation Ltd. Statement
Re: The Allegedly 'Missing' $92,363." Single page statement
dated July 19.
Roberts, Steve, and Mendham, Tim 1988. "News Report: Gish/Plimer
Debate." _The Skeptic_ (Australian) (Winter) 7:10-13.
Snelling, Andrew 1988 "Creation Science: A Response to Professor
Plimer." _Australian Geologist_ (20 September) #68:16-21.
Snelling, Andrew and Mackay, John 1984. "Coal, Volcanism and
Noah's Flood." _Ex Nihilo Technical Journal_ 1:11-29.
Tucker, Jeffrey 1989. "Puritanism Comes Full Circle." _Liberty_
Weinberg, Stan 1986. "Creation-Evolution Literature from
Australia." _Creation/Evolution Newsletter_
Wysong, R.L. 1976. _The Creation-Evolution Controversy: Toward a
Rational Solution_. East Lansing, Mich.: Inquiry Press.
Subject: Re: Creationism and its debunking in Australia
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (James J. Lippard)
Date: 18 Aug 1992 09:14 MST
References: <1992Aug17.email@example.com> <1992Aug18.firstname.lastname@example.org> <17AUG199220460545@skyblu.ccit.arizona.edu>
Organization: University of Arizona
In article <17AUG199220460545@skyblu.ccit.arizona.edu>, email@example.com (James J. Lippard) writes...
>I can elaborate. The article in _Creation/Evolution_ criticizing Plimer's
>tactics was "How Not to Argue with Creationists," which I authored. I will
>be happy to send copies through email to anyone interested.
I should add to this that the latest issue of _Creation/Evolution_ (issue
30, which I just received yesterday) contains the following letter to the
How Not to Argue with Evolutionists?
"How Not to Argue with Creationists" by Jim Lippard (Issue 29, pp. 9-21,
1992) is strongly critical of two Australian anticreationists, Ian
Plimer and Barry Price. [Editor] John Cole defends Lippard as showing
"our openness to self-criticism" [in his introduction]. But Lippard
is not criticizing himself, he is criticizing somebody else. Furthermore,
there is no need for Lippard's article; the Australian Creation Science
Foundation has attacked Plimer and Price at length in its publication,
"Response to Deception," referenced and quoted by Lippard. Why should
Creation/Evolution join forces with creationists? Duane Gish, who is
defended by Lippard, is an expert at taking care of himself (Jukes,
Nature 305:398, 1984).
Lippard seems insensitive to the problem of "cultural imperialism,"
meaning the tendency to take on the uninvited role of passing judgment
on disputes in other countries. As a former resident of Canada, I
know how strongly interference by the USA is resented by Canadians.
I consider Lippard's intrusion into the Australian scene to belabor
Plimer and Price to be an embarrassment. Inconsistently, Lippard is
supportive of Michael Denton, an Australian anti-evolutionist whose
book Evolution, A Theory in Crisis, a favorite of creationists, is of
low quality. Denton can't even construct phylogenetic trees (Jukes,
Basis 10:1, 1991, Bay Area Skeptics).
Lippard's article was ill-advised and divisive.
Thomas H. Jukes
Dept. of Integrative Biology
University of California-Berkeley
Jukes and I hashed out all of these same points in correspondence
shortly after my article was published, but my letters to him seem to
have had no effect. There are a few misrepresentations above. I do
not support Denton, except against misrepresentation of his views by
both Plimer and Gish. Likewise I do not defend Gish except against
gross misrepresentations of his statements and unsubstantiated accusations
of sexual impropriety.
It is true that the creationists have already made most of the same
points I did in my article, but I take that as all the more reason that
anti-creationists should be aware of them. There is certainly the danger
that my article will be used by creationists to bash their opponents, but
historically so is everything published on evolution (e.g., everything
Stephen Jay Gould writes about punctuated equilibrium). I don't think
that danger is sufficient to preclude criticism of the misrepresentations
of Plimer and Price.
I think Jukes' "self-criticism" argument is disingenuous. His "cultural
imperialism" argument has a flip-side, cultural relativism, which I reject.
I do not think the mere fact that Plimer and Price reside in a country
different from my own disqualifies me from offering criticism of their
actions. In order for Jukes' argument to work, he should provide some
specific reasons based on specific cultural differences as to why my
criticisms are inappropriate.
Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU
Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank