Evolutionary Geologist Daniel Phelps: Teaching Creation Is Harmful to Children?

Part 1

by Dr. Terry Mortenson on February 21, 2014

In a radio interview prior to the Ham-Nye debate, Dr. Terry Mortenson engaged the question “Is teaching creation to children harmful to them and to our society?”

On the Thursday before the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye on February 4, I participated by phone in a radio interview with host John Hingsbergen on WEKU public radio, which is affiliated with Eastern Kentucky University. The other participant (in the studio) was Daniel Phelps, one of Kentucky’s most vocal critics of AiG and the Creation Museum. With a BS and MS in geology, he is founder and president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, an amateur paleontological organization, and he also teaches at a community college. At the end of the interview I challenged Mr. Phelps to a public debate, which he refused—but more about that later.

Teaching Creation Is Harmful to Children?

As a lead-up to the Ham-Nye debate, the radio discussion encompassed the question “Is teaching creation to children harmful to them and to our society?”

Of course, Mr. Phelps answered with a strong “yes!” saying that kids who are taught creation won’t be able to think correctly about science and to contribute to technological advances needed in our society. But in fact, according to recent polls, about 45 percent of Americans say they believe in creation.1 Most of them are very productive contributors to society and many of those 45 percent are scientists in such fields as chemistry, physics, engineering, medicine, etc.

But what is harmful to kids and to society is to brainwash children with evolution by allowing them to hear only the arguments and “evidence” supposedly proving the theory of evolution and never the scientific evidence and arguments against it. It is harmful to kids and society because evolution teaches kids that they are just animals in a world controlled by the principle of “survival of the fittest.” That means that there is no purpose or meaning to life and no moral absolutes.

Prominent atheist professor of the history of biology at Cornell University, William Provine, puts it this way:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear. . . . There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.2

The world’s most famous atheist evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, couldn’t be more clear when he says the following:

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.3

We are seeing today the moral catastrophe that evolutionary thinking has produced in America, Great Britain, and Western Europe that once were so powerfully and positively influenced by biblical Christianity. But not only has the teaching of evolution produced a morally bankrupt culture. It has also become a weapon against the Christian faith. As documented in the book Already Gone, the teaching of evolution and millions of years coupled with Christian parents and churches failing to equip kids with biblically grounded scientific answers to the evolutionary myth is a major reason that kids raised in Christian homes are walking away from the faith in their early twenties.

Even though evolutionists have controlled science education in America for decades, American students have been scoring increasingly lower in science exams compared to students in many other countries.4 Why? There are no doubt many reasons, but it is certainly not because of the teaching of creation in the schools, for the simple fact that all creationist objections to evolutionary arguments and “evidence” have been excluded from the textbooks and the classroom.

Surveys show that 85–90 percent of kids in church-going families go to public school where they are getting evolution pounded into their heads. But those kids who attend Christian schools or homeschool are still taught evolution through the TV science programs, the media, natural history museums, and the state and national parks they visit with their families on vacation. When kids are taught solid creation science arguments in Christian schools or at home (which happens in only a minority of Christian homes), they learn to think critically, which is good for their intellectual and academic development, and which produces good scientists and creative, industrious, morally upright workers in other sectors of the economy and culture as well.

Creation Scientists Aren’t Real Scientists?

This is a totally bogus and ad hominem argument.

During the radio interview Mr. Phelps made the typical evolutionist accusation that creation scientists are not real scientists who do real science because they don’t publish in the secular peer-reviewed literature. This is a totally bogus and ad hominem argument. On radio I mentioned a number of creation geologists who demonstrate that this evolutionist claim is false.

Andrew Snelling (PhD in geology, University of Sydney, Australia) has done geological research on four continents. He worked for six years in the mining industry, and was part of international research projects for ten years while involved in full-time creation research and ministry. He has published numerous technical papers in his field in secular peer-reviewed journals. Steve Austin (PhD in geology, Penn State University) has done considerable geological research in Grand Canyon, at Mount St. Helens and in Israel and taught geology for many years in the Institute for Creation Research’s graduate school.

John Baumgardner (PhD in geophysics and space physics, UCLA) worked as a researcher for Los Alamos National (U.S. government) Laboratory for over 20 years studying planetary mantle dynamics and developing a highly complex computer program that is used by secular geologists and the German government’s weather service. Marcus Ross (PhD in geosciences, University of Rhode Island) teaches origins, earth science, and vertebrate paleontology at Liberty University, focusing his research on marine reptile fossils. Kurt Wise (PhD in geology, Harvard University) specializes in invertebrate paleontology and teaches science at Truett-McConnell College.

I could also have mentioned AiG staff (in addition to Dr. Snelling): Georgia Purdom (PhD in molecular genetics, Ohio State University), Danny Faulkner (PhD in astronomy, Indiana University), and David Menton (PhD in cell biology, Brown University). All of them previously taught in their fields at the university level. Dr. Purdom taught at a Nazarene university dominated by theistic evolutionists. Dr. Faulkner was professor of physics and astronomy for 26 years at University of South Carolina, Lancaster and is now distinguished professor emeritus. Dr. Menton is associate professor emeritus of anatomy after 34 years of teaching at Washington Medical School in St. Louis. Drs. Tommy and Elizabeth Mitchell both have MD degrees and practiced medicine for many years before joining AiG.

Consider, too, John Sanford (PhD in plant genetics, University of Wisconsin-Madison) who was a plant researcher at Cornell University for 18 years with over 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 32 patented, scientific inventions.

Russell Humphreys (PhD in physics, Louisiana State University) worked for 22 years as a research physicist at Sandia National Laboratories (a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration). In 1984 he predicted, on the basis of his young-earth creationist worldview, the strength of the magnetic field of the planet Uranus, a prediction that was confirmed by the Voyager 2 space probe in 1986, and which serves as evidence of a recent creation.

There are many other Creation Scientistscreation scientists" %} with post-graduate degrees. The Creation Research Society has over 700 members with an MS or PhD in the hard sciences and working in their fields. Many of them have also published in peer-reviewed secular scientific journals, so they are certainly well qualified in their fields. But they don’t publish their research containing clear creationist implications in such journals because they will be rejected out of hand by the editors simply because they are creationists. There is a strong bias (even persecution) in the scientific community (universities, journals, scientific organizations) against anyone who rejects or even questions the evolutionist dogma, especially the idea of millions of years. This bias and discrimination against evolution-doubters is well documented in the DVD Expelled and the book Slaughter of the Dissidents.

But What About Publishing in Peer-Reviewed Scientific Journals?

Consider this statement (which I quoted on the radio program) by the world famous British astrophysicist, Sir Fred Hoyle (who rejected the idea of the big bang theory on scientific grounds):

Science today is locked into paradigms. Every avenue is blocked by beliefs that are wrong, and if you try to get anything published by a journal today, you will run up against a paradigm, and the editors will turn it down.5

Halton Arp, another world-renowned astrophysicist who also rejects the big bang theory, says,

Scientists, particularly at the most prestigious institutions, regularly suppress and ridicule findings which contradict their current theories and assumptions. . . . [A]stronomers now feel compelled to fit the observations to the theory and not vice versa.6

He adds the following:

Refereeing, or “peer review” as it is rather pompously called, is now unworkable. It has increasingly shown that it lets in the bad papers and excludes the good ones, exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to do. Just in abstract principle, science is supposed to be a competition of ideas and indeed, as we have seen, it is very competitive. Is it reasonable then to send your ideas and data to an anonymous competitor who can with impunity often steal, suppress or ridicule them? . . . As a result more and more important observational results are simply not being published in the journals in which one would habitually look for such results. The referees themselves, with the aid of compliant editors, have turned what was originally a helpful system into a chaotic and mostly unprincipled form of censorship.7

Similar complaints about the censorship of opposing views can be seen in a one-page article rejecting the big bang theory, which was published in the evolutionist-oriented New Scientist magazine in 2004 and simultaneously posted on the Internet.8 It was initially signed by 34 scientists from a number of prominent universities and other science institutions in 10 countries. Since then more than 400 scientists from over 50 countries have signed the document in support. In that article the author (a plasma physicist who has done work for NASA) says the following:

In cosmology today doubt and dissent are not tolerated, and young scientists learn to remain silent if they have something negative to say about the standard big bang model. Those who doubt the big bang fear that saying so will cost them their funding.

If this is happening to secular (non-Christian) scientists who reject the big bang, then just imagine what happens to creation scientists.

But what these astronomers and physicists say is also a valid criticism of the biological and geological sciences. Until his death in 1993, Derrick Ager was a leading geologist in Great Britain, professor at University College Swansea in Wales, and one-time president of the British Geologists’ Association. On the basis of geological research in 57 countries he wrote four geology textbooks and over 200 technical papers. In his book on the nature of the geological record, he wrote the following:

My excuse for this lengthy and amateur digression into history is that I have been trying to show how I think geology got into the hands of the theoreticians [in context Ager is referring to the early 19th century uniformitarians] who were conditioned by the social and political history of their day more than by observations in the field. So it was—as Steve Gould put it—that Charles Lyell “managed to convince future generations of geologists that their science had begun with him.” In other words, we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into avoiding any interpretation of the past that involves extreme and what might be termed “catastrophic” processes.9

In his last book published just after he died, Ager wrote,

Just as politicians rewrite human history, so geologists rewrite earth history. For a century and a half the geological world has been dominated, one might even say brainwashed, by the gradualistic uniformitarianism of Charles Lyell. Any suggestion of “catastrophic” events has been rejected as old-fashioned, unscientific and even laughable.10

Ager and most other geologists are still brainwashed so as to never see, much less accept, the geological evidence for a global, catastrophic, year-long Flood at the time of Noah (about 2350 BC), which is staring them in the face all over the earth. We find billions of dead plants and animals buried in rock layers (often hundreds of feet thick and covering tens of thousands of square miles) that are made of sand, silt, clay and mud clearly deposited by water all over the earth. Dr. Andrew Snelling summarizes some of the overwhelming geological evidence in this illustrated lecture. And to understand where the millions of years idea came from (it was not from the rocks and fossils), see this lecture or this article based on my PhD research.11

Contrary to what Mr. Phelps said in the radio “debate,” prominent historians of science are in agreement that Charles Lyell was most definitely not a Christian—he was likely a deist or Unitarian.12 And as his own writings reveal, he had a very anti-biblical agenda in his uniformitarian doctrine. Lyell wrote to a fellow uniformitarian geologist that he wanted to “free the science [of geology] from Moses.”13 In other words, Lyell was consciously rejecting the eyewitness testimony of God about the Flood and the age of the earth, which God used Moses to record in Genesis. And that rejection of the Bible’s eyewitness testimony completely distorted Lyell’s interpretation of the geological record, thereby deceiving most of the world, including Charles Darwin. But that is a point, along with Mr. Phelps’ refusal to debate me, which I will discuss further in the second part of this article.


  1. E.g., Jahnabi Barooah, “46% Americans Believe In Creationism According To Latest Gallup Poll”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/americans-believe-in-creationism_n_1571127.html (accessed February 3, 2014).
  2. William Provine, Origins Research 16, no. 1/2 (1994): 9; quoted in Technical Journal 10, no. 1 (1996): 22.
  3. Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1995), 133.
  4. Motoko Rich, “U.S. Students Still Lag Globally in Math and Science, Tests Show,” The New York Times, December 12, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/11/education/us-students-still-lag-globally-in-math-and-science-tests-show.html (accessed February 3, 2014).
  5. Quoted in J. Horgan, “Profile: Fred Hoyle,” Scientific American 272, no. 3 (1995): 24–25.
  6. Halton Arp, Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science (Montreal: Apeiron, 1999), 12.
  7. Ibid., 270–271.
  8. Eric Lerner, “Bucking the Big Bang,” New Scientist 182, no. 2448 (May 22, 2004): 20. See also www.cosmologystatement.org. For other recent criticisms of the idea of the big bang by a leading physicist at Princeton University, see Paul J. Steinhardt, “The Inflation Debate,” Scientific American 304, no. 4 (April 2011): 36–43, where he discusses the question, “Is the theory at the heart of modern cosmology deeply flawed?”
  9. Derek Ager, The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record (London, UK: Macmillan, 1981), 46–47.
  10. Derek Ager, The New Catastrophism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993), xi.
  11. A shortened version of my PhD thesis is The Great Turning Point: the Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Geology—before Darwin.
  12. E.g., Martin Rudwick, “Poulett Scrope on the volcanoes of Auvergne: Lyellian Time and Political Economy,” The British Journal for the History of Science 7, no. 27 (1974): 226–227; Colin A. Russell, Cross-Currents: Interactions Between Science and Faith (Leicester, UK: IVPress, 1985), 136; and John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 250–251.
  13. Charles Lyell, quoted in Katherine Lyell, Life, Letters and Journals of Sir Charles Lyell, Bart. (London: John Murray, 1881), 1:268. Further evidence of this hostility against the Bible can be seen in long quotes from Lyell’s letters in Terry Mortenson, The Great Turning Point, 225–227.

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.