Sarfati Stumped! Does his silence indicate agreement
or is he finally lost for words?
Yet another unpublished letter to Answers in Genesis
From: Roger Scott [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, 17 June 2000 12:26 AM
Subject: reply to Jonathan Sarfati's comments
Greetings to all the YECs at AiG.
Fancy seeing the whole of my letter published, even if it was in pieces! The next step is to clear up some of the fudging and occasional misinformation in JSs replies.
RS1 I am of course referring to yourselves, the largely self-uneducated group of intellectual cave dwellers called young-earth creationists.
JS Actually, many of us have far superior scientific qualifications to R.S.s see Creationist scientists or DR John Ashtons book In Six Days Why 50 [Ph.D.] Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation.
RS2 Scientific qualifications are one thing. How you use them also counts. What if your actions after obtaining them show that you really do not have much regard for them? What if you actively campaign against some of the major scientific concepts which have near universal acceptance among the most distinguished workers in the discipline and just about everyone else? It could be justifiably stated that you have gone thru a process of uneducation. Young-earth creationists (YECs) have done this themselves. Hence the well-merited comment of YECs being a "largely self-uneducated group". As for "cave dwellers", caves were lodgings sometimes used by people of yesteryear and they generally have no windows to admit any light or fresh air. So the metaphor qualifies thrice. YECism is a cave of the mind in which you have chosen to dwell.
Clearly you are aware that I am but a humble high school science teacher, with a mere two Bachelor degrees, from two reputable universities incidentally. Let us put these 50 Ph.Ds into some perspective. So far the score is 0:50 in favour of YECs.
The YECs at AiG should be aware that hundreds of reputable universities teach evolution and not young-earth creationism, nor any other strand of creationism. They would/should also know that almost one hundred percent of Nobel Prize winners in science have been evolutionists. Moreover, they would/should be aware that literally dozens, nay scores of academic and professional bodies have condemned creationism. The Geological Society of Australia, the professional body of geologists in Australia, is one such organisation. It has formally opposed creationism as unscientific. Some YECs at AiG may also be aware that a recent Nobel laureate in Medicine, Dr Peter Doherty, went further and on Australian national television described himself as a strong supporter of Darwin and described creationism as an "absolute scam". The score is now 1000s:50. (Actually, tens of thousands to fifty plus something or other; there are some hydrologists, engineers, metallurgists and the like who have accepted one or other of the various versions of creationist dogma.)
RS1 Your site is liberally sprinkled with absurdities, scientific and moral.
JS My my, all these to choose from and R.S. couldnt even document one Focusing on alleged moral absurdities, I wonder why R.S. should worry, if we are really just rearranged pond scum, as he believes.
RS2 The notion that a change in the diet of the alleged original humans initiated a world-wide wave of sustained carnivorous activity on the part of many animals, terrestrial, aquatic and marine, is a scientific absurdity of the highest degree. There are others of course in AiGs site. YECism is itself an absurdity. (I suppose JS will now say that I attempted to point to only one and of course was wrong in doing so on that occasion. Who said it was difficult to predict the future?)
As for morals, if you think they derive from somewhere other than the human mind and human experience, I think you are misinterpreting Christian history, human history and displaying ignorance of the Bible. All thru history, people have fashioned their own moral codes and laws, adopting some, adapting some and rejecting others.
At http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/1173.asp we find this quote: "If you remove the biblical foundation for morality you no longer have a convincing reason for being moral. And that's what is happening. Why? Largely because belief in evolution has undermined the authority of the Bible." Let us do a bit of checking on the alleged moral authority of the Bible.
Here is one moral message which I trust no one at AiG endorses: in war, soldiers should kill all the enemy men and all the women who have had sex, but keep the virgins for themselves.
What is the provenance of this absolutely abominable idea? You will find it in the "good book" - Numbers 31, verses 1 to 18 to be precise. This sort of thing might have been acceptable to Moses, one of the more fanatical ayatollahs of his day, but we no longer accept this as representing anything approaching civilised behaviour. Our civilisation has evaluated it and has scrapped it. A similar process has been followed ever since human populations developed a sense of right and wrong whether they had access to the Bible or not.
Recently there have been soldiers sentenced to long prison terms by a judicial tribunal in The Hague for war crimes. Many Australians are aware that during the Boer War, such behaviour would have resulted in court martial and on conviction, execution by firing squad. The records show that men were tried and put to death for far less in that particular conflict.
Today, it would thankfully be against the law to follow the criminally immoral message in Numbers 31. Was there ever a time when any society wholly adopted biblical principles? Of course not. So just why do the folk at AiG yearn for it? They should stop making up fairy stories that the Bible presents a consistent moral message. Those who have critically read the Bible realise that it is sometimes its own worst enemy.
RS1 I have noted that your feedback is heavily censored.
JS Very interesting assertion (again without support).
RS2 A few weeks ago there were a number of contributors to the NAG website who stated that they had sent multiple letters to AiG which had not been posted. One stated that five e-mails attacking creationism were sent and not posted. I see no reason why they would misrepresent on this point. This gives the appearance that AiG is very careful and selective with the posting of pro-evolution, anti-creation responses. This looks like a form of censorship to me. See dear_aig.htm for a letter sent to AiG but not published by them. As it says - Another Unpublished Letter to Answers in Genesis. Only AiG knows how many pro-evolution letters they knock back, and I doubt if they will ever tell. However, equally improbable things have happened.
JS But R.S. presumably has no problem with the entrenched discrimination and censorship against creationists in establishment educational and scientific journals.
RS2 If creationists could come up with scientifically plausible arguments on matters astronomical, geological, biological and so on, few would have a problem with these arguments being printed in the scientific press. The problem creationists have is that their core stance is not scientific. They want to bend some observations to preconceived ideas and ignore a colossal number of contrary observations. These preconceived ideas have just not stood the test of time. While not good at proving concepts, science is very good at disproving them. The creationist idea was disproved in the 19th century.
The activities of modern creationists are not scientific. They fall far short of the standards of the creationist scientists of the early 19th century. It was of course these scientists whose observations laid the groundwork for the eventual overthrow of creationism as a serious proposition.
Recently AiG posted a "technical paper" by the YEC Dr Andrew Snelling on the age of the Hawkesbury Sandstone, a body of rock underlying and around Sydney, Australia.
Snelling paid some attention to the Hawkesbury Sandstone's cross or current bedded sandy sediments and its muddy sediments. The cross bedding to which he referred in the article is linked by mainstream geology (no pun intended) with shallow water environments such as river estuaries, off-shore sand bars and so on. All of the rock sequence characteristics to which he referred can be attributed to depositional environments such as provided by Moreton Bay, a bay near where I live (and of course many similar bodies of water). "(R)aging water" as invoked by Snelling is not necessary and would in fact produce rather characteristic deposits that are lacking in the Hawkesbury Sandstone. Raging waters produce a jumble of different grain sizes. There are no laterally extensive, thick very coarse poorly sorted beds of breccia as required by Snelling's scenario. Fine grained interbeds and lenses of shale would be rather unexpected in Snelling's concept. Well sorted sandstones would also not be expected yet are present in the Hawkesbury Sandstone.
Snelling uses carbon-14 dating to suggest that this rock formation is much younger than geologists think it is. This is simply extraordinary. Here we have a creationist sanctioning the results of a method which has no application in samples older than about fifty thousand years and which creationists have for years attacked as invalid. The article is appallingly light on details no maps, no geological sections, no location of the single sample - it is worth repeating, single sample - on which the entire article is based. In the paper there is one photograph of a rock that has something resembling an artificial sun behind it and the name of one of the two laboratories with which he claims to have dealt. Only one laboratory produced a radiocarbon date. There was no peer review. The chances of a reputable scientific journal publishing this are nil.
As I mentioned to Dr Batten some years ago, creationists have a huge credibility problem. It shows no signs of going away.
RS1 PS: Ken Ham may remember me from circa 1979. I was the teacher at the back left of the room who pointed out that his use of the second law of thermodynamics was scientifically invalid. The cheers from the students who had been forced to listen to him have never left me.
JS Of course, this is hearsay, and I must wonder about the accuracy of R.S.s recollections after so many years. Mr Ham says that the second law of thermodynamics is not part of his talks, and Ive certainly never heard him mention it in any of his videos or talks.
RS2 I note JS said "is not". No reference to Hams past activities was made. My memory of some parts of this talk remains clear. It was the first time I had heard any person of mature years support creationism. (This was over 20 years ago.) As a basically shy person, it was with some trepidation that I responded to Ham's scientific misuse of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. In the tension of the moment, as a new teacher in a double room filled with the entire Year 12 cohort, my throat tightened and my vocalisations were even less clear than normal. Apparently the message was received however. The students' cheers were genuine enough. Ham could only reply that my statement was my interpretation only. (Mine and numerous others far more expert in thermodynamics than I am of course.) Also genuine was my chat about 15 minutes earlier with a student who wanted to walkout, so irritated was he by Ham's talk. I was not irritated so much as intrigued and amazed.
By the way, Ham must have developed the witty style praised in recent creationist advertising some time after I heard him speak.
JS Also, its not just Mr Ham who might remember R.S., but other creationist scientists too, like Drs Andrew Snelling and Don Batten. DR Batten informs me that R.S.'s tactic has been to invite a creationist to speak to his class, then behind his back criticize his talk when the creationist is no longer around to defend his position.
RS2 Behind his back, eh? Although I no longer remember clearly how the first invitation came to be made, I have had a number of creationist speakers over the years. I was told in clear terms on the very first occasion that the talk was to be THEIRS. The reason for this was that I had the students for the whole year and they had a mere hour or so. This talk set a pattern from which I have tried not to stray and have been largely successful. I said nothing when the speed of light decay was introduced, in spite of nearly falling off my chair. (Later on I confess to pointing out to the students that some of the supporting data was from the 17th century when clock technology was just a little limited.) I said nothing when a photo of sediments in a Tasmanian sea cliff was given as evidence for Noahs Flood. I said nothing when a film featuring one Dr Wilder-Smith, who was touted as a scientific expert on why creationism made more sense than evolution, proceeded to give no evidence at all for creationism other than that the Bible mandated it. Perhaps I am guilty of being overly self-assured here, maybe even arrogant, but I think I could well have mauled the film's core message.
I only very vaguely recall Dr Battens single talk. I think he had a video showing graded beds in the American west which were supposed to support the Flood. I do remember briefly commenting in class while Batten held the floor. I cannot remember any longer what it was but remember being amazed at some interpretation of data. I also felt that I had temporarily failed as a host.
The accusation that I work behind the backs of creationists is rather unfortunate. I would be quite willing to debate creationists in class but as already stated it was made clear from the outset that this was not wanted. This is the bed made by creationists themselves. They should sleep in it or announce that they want to proceed differently. What did they think a science teacher would do after YECs parade a stream of non-scientific and anti-scientific statements, all the while masquerading as scientists? Thank them? Well, they did receive the thanks of the class every time. Congratulate them? Hardly. Ignore the statements? Wrong. Some of the claims made by YECs depart so dramatically from scientific principles that I would be pleased to discuss scientific concepts with them in class. Can it be assumed that they will not object if I come prepared with some stuff to support the other side of this debate? Or do they still want the whole time for themselves? They can have it either way but not both. It is not impressive when they ask for one particular way, receive it and subsequently complain.
JS Dr Battens presentation apparently left the class stunned with such overwhelming evidence for recent geological catastrophism, consistent with the biblical Flood.
RS2 I beg to differ. My memory of the class was that they just sat there listening. I detected no wave of fresh insight nor of intellectual excitement. Now that is something I WOULD remember!
JS So much that R.S. couldnt restrain himself from abandoning his usual strategy, and injecting his views on the spot (before he apparently remembered his strategy and regained his composure). For some reason, he has not had a creationist presentation since. Perhaps he had difficulty in countering the creationist arguments.
RS2 I have answered the accusation in the first sentence already. It reflects an unfortunate situation of creationists own making. As for "difficulty in countering the creationist arguments", JS must be joking. But then again, maybe he isn't. After all, it is mainly people who have received a thorough indoctrination in fundamentalist dogma who cannot see the overwhelming arguments in favour of evolution and against creationism.
There are two reasons why I have not had a creationist speaker for a few years. There has been a syllabus revision and therefore a workbook reorganisation. Chiefly, however, it is because, even though I usually booked creationist speakers well in advance, they were unreliable. Once I could not get a speaker at the time required to fit the program. On another occasion after a completely wasted 20 minutes or so - the scheduled speaker (whom I can name if required) was discovered to be still in the head office "having coffee". As this was on the other side of town, it was not possible to give the talk. Head office was embarrassed enough to mail two rather expensive books in lieu. (I am grateful for one of these works in particular.)
Next year historical geology comes around again. I will ask the class if they would like to hear from a creationist speaker. If they would, and they probably will, I will take my courage in hand, try to make a booking and hope for the best. Will there be approval for a guest lecturer vs host teacher session, with an audience of adolescents fascinated and transfixed by the spectacle of adults advancing totally opposing views? Time will tell.
Invitations are well received in creationist circles. They become news of a sort. Once there was a phone call from a very concerned geologist asking why creationists were talking to my science class. He was in possession of a creationist newsletter mentioning that talks had been given at my school. Did I not know that these people - actually he named just one YEC - said one thing when pushing (my word) creationism and quite another in their purely scientific publications? What was going on? No, I replied, I was unaware of this inconsistency. (Since then, Dr Alex Ritchie has written informatively on just this issue, which is of course one of a host of embarrassments for creationism. See NAG at realsnelling.htm) The caller's concerns quickly evaporated. It was clear that a scientifically-based course was being taught, while at the same time I was attempting to show a quaint aspect of contemporary human belief.
And it is quaint. It is also weird, bizarre, astonishing and in this day and age, almost unbelievable. YECs support a story in a book they hold to be infallible without any sound evidence that it actually is infallible. They support a story in the first chapter of a book which is contradicted in the second chapter.
Even more astounding is that we have a group of people who flaunt their scientific credentials but at the same time reject one of science's greatest discoveries. If they have a degree in geology or biology from a reputable university, they will have studied under professors, lecturers and tutors who do not support creationism. In other words, YECs hold their views not because of their tertiary studies but in spite of them. YECs are prisoners of their religious indoctrination. In reality they regard their degrees as no more than tinsel on a Christmas tree, useful in impressing their scientifically uneducated faithful.
Would AiG be interested in some personal information about an atheist and alleged "vociferous opponent of Christianity" (ie me)? I was fortunate enough not to be indoctrinated with religious propaganda in my early years. However for some reason I read most of the Bible before leaving primary school. While accepting few of its main historical claims as fact, I would have unhesitatingly answered Church of England to anyone who asked my religion. This situation persisted into my early 20s.
Those years in the field as a geologist did not help. Is it possible that geologists tend to come from those walks of life where religious dogma is not only not proselytised but is regarded with some skepticism? Or does the job do that to the majority of them? When I began teaching, I was no more than a Christian fellow-traveller, not a believer in god but someone who basically supported the notion of a Christian-oriented society. Even today I subscribe to some of the more human-oriented aspects of Christian belief, but experienced a series of attitude-changing events while a still slightly-young teacher. Without doubt the first was Ken Ham's talk. What an eye opener! Later came two holidays in a Christian camp and further visits by YEC lecturers. What a barrage of baloney! What I heard was clearly at variance with reality. Another look at Bertrand Russell's "Why I Am Not A Christian" more or less completed the makeover. Shortly after my father died it dawned on me that I had not prayed even once for his recovery during his illness. I realised I had become an atheist, in both the emotional and intellectual senses.
My secular humanist stance has remained stable for many years now. Has this resulted in my pulling the wings off birds and butterflies? No. My life is fairly staid and conformist actually. The local Blood Bank thinks I am sufficiently kosher to have accepted over 40 donations. There have been a few American televangelists they would not touch with a 10-foot pole. Compared with those lads, my life is positively colorless. I have been married to the same fantastic girl for nearly 29 years and have three great kids, all of whom are a credit to themselves and the community. I do not smoke, have never even seen marijuana let alone used it, drink very little alcohol, like a cup of tea and spurn the gambling associated with horse racing and casinos. I jogged for many years until my knees gave out. I like classical music to the point of needing to hear it. (Even church music is stirring, but not if written after about 1916; anything post-dating that is likely to have been written by someone whose thinking I do not respect much.) While a non-committed voter, I am something of a political conservative, but only by the rather liberal standards of Australia; I would hesitate in supporting a politician who tried to drum up support at places such as Bob Jones University. I support the legalisation of prostitution, regard many opponents of non-violent erotica as either misinformed, hypocrites or fools, support euthanasia and the decriminalisation of some drugs, although I have no intention of using them. Church organisations should pay local taxes like the rest of us.
So, there it is. And congratulations, YECs, you helped make me what I am today. One can but wonder how many others share my views and have seen thru your simplistic, utterly superficial, pseudoscientific dross. It isnt difficult.
One more comment. Dare I hope for a second miracle of the publishing kind?