Your pastor attended a debate on February 22, 2001 at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. The participants were Dr. Duane Gish for Creation and Dr. Edward Max for Evolution. Both men are noted speakers and renowned in their respective fields. Dr. Gish, a UCLA graduate, represented the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego. Dr. Max is a Harvard and U. of Pennsylvania graduate in the field of molecular genetics at the National Institutes for Health (NIH). Both men have many “letters” after their names and have written numerous books and pamphlets in their respective fields.
I had attended Creation Seminars in the past, but never a debate. The debaters had agreed beforehand to address four different subjects: I. Thermodynamics; II. Probability, Random Mutations, Selection; III. Homology; IV. Fossils. Each speaker was given thirteen minutes to set forth his case, and an additional five minutes to react or respond to his opponent. With opening and closing remarks and an intermission, the debate lasted over three hours. There was also time for a post-debate question-and-answer period.
The debate was most interesting, and even enlightening in its own way. Dr. Gish and Dr. Max had debated each other on four other occasions. Above we called them “opponents.” It soon became clear the two men would not mince words. I suppose we could be accused of prejudice, but our distinct impression was that Dr. Max used far more personal “ad hominem” attacks (“ad hominem” is Latin for “attacking one’s opponent rather than dealing with the subject under discussion” [Webster]). In one segment Dr. Max intentionally addressed Dr. Gish repeatedly as “Dr. Gosh” and, referring to Gish’s tendency to use hand gestures, criticized Gish’s “hand waving” as well as his “vague claims.”
Dr. Max also launched repeated verbal jabs at the scholarship and/or “professionalism” of his opponent (as well as at those in the audience who might happen to agree with the creationist position). Included in my handwritten notes are comments from Dr. Max such as these:
Those who endorse the creationist position “do not meet minimum standards for scholarship”; creationists use “bogus, non-professional science”; a “live audience is too naive” so Dr. Gish thinks he can get away with his arguments; “Non-professional audiences can be fooled” by Gish’s arguments; Gish should “use numbers and equations, not vague statements”; Gish “ignores real science . . . (which is why) he must direct his arguments to non-professionals only”; Gish “uses outdated views (which is) evidence of his poor scholarship.”
One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to deduce that if you happened to agree with Dr. Gish’s creationist position and comments, you were a naive person easily duped by bogus, non-professional science.
Without doubt Dr. Max gave evidence of his own evolutionary “scholarship.” With many overheads he showed the “numbers and equations” arguments which, he opined, supported the doctrine of evolution (Gish stressed that indeed evolution is just that, a theory or a doctrine; one Gish quote in my notes: “Evolution is no more scientific than creation, and is just as religious”). I confess that I was too untrained to follow some of the rambling “scientific” arguments Dr. Max made in his presentation. However, it was heartening to note Dr. Gish’s proficiency at shooting holes in his opponent’s theoretical assertions.
From my handwritten notes, here are a few quotes from Dr. Gish with which I–and judging from the applause, most of the rest of the audience of over 2000 people–agreed. Gish quoted an evolutionist who admits that evolution is “a secular religion–a full-fledged alternative to Christianity”; another evolutionist states that “you are an animal and share a common heritage with earthworms” (“Isn’t that encouraging?” Gish asked); according to evolutionists, commented Gish, “you and I are the result of countless (genetic) mistakes”; each debater had his catchy lines; Gish said that it is “unbelieveable what an unbeliever must believe in order to be an unbeliever”; he quoted an evolutionist who said: “I believe that one day the Darwinian myth will be ranked the greatest deceit in the history of science”; with regard to the Second Law of Thermodyamics, Gish pointed out that “everything is going in the wrong direction for evolution to take place; natural laws . . . are destroying everything–how could those same laws create everything?!”
Max had his “scientific” overheads, Gish did also. While Max may have used more “numbers and equations” to illustrate his evolutionary arguments, Gish was well prepared and used many pictures and graphs to illustrate creationist points.
Prior to the debate it had been agreed that arguments by either debater would not be based on “religion” but purely on “science.” Yet there was no mistaking the fact (underscored by Gish more than once) that it is impossible to discuss the matter of origins without reference to “God” as a special designer of the universe in general and man and other creatures in particular.
We came away thanking God that He, in His grace and mercy, has given us a child-like (naive?), Bible-based, Christian faith (see Matthew 11:25ff, 1 Corinthians 1:26ff). We thank God that through His Spirit He has brought us to confess with Luther in the First Article: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth . . . I believe that God made me and every creature and that he gave me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my mind and all my abilities. . . .”
The Creation/Evolution debate has raged and will continue to be waged as long as the world stands. As far as Bible believers are concerned, when all is said and done, the Bible beginning with its very first chapter has the final answer: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3). “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
–Pastor Paul Fleischer
Grace, Sleepy Eye, Minn.