Tennessee Again in the Creation/Evolution Spotlight 80 years After Scopes

by Dr. Tommy Mitchell on December 6, 2005

Tennessean published an article criticizing US Senator (and medical doctor) Dr. Bill Frist (the US Senate Majority Leader) for his support of the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

A few weeks ago, I found myself caught up in a small firestorm in Tennessee USA, the state where the famous “trial of the century”-the Scopes trial-occurred in 1925. It surrounded an opinion article written in The Tennessean, a major state newspaper based in Nashville. An old medical school professor of mine had written an opinion article criticizing US Senator (and medical doctor) Dr. Bill Frist (the US Senate Majority Leader) for his support of the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.

The article by my former professor contained many of the usual “evidences” for evolution: millions of years, the meteorite that supposedly caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, genetic mutations leading to more complex organisms and the mantra of the mainstream scientific community: “Evolution is now the fundamental principle of modern biology.”

I felt the need to respond, and, somewhat to my surprise, the newspaper published my letter. My intent was not to promote the concept of intelligent design as such; I fully support the AiG position regarding intelligent design. (See ID and President Bush-the deeper issues.) My purpose was to rebut many of the “evidences” for evolution set forth in the original opinion piece.

Little did I realize how much email this newspaper debate would generate. In order to give you some insight into what many people understand (or fail to understand) about the creation/evolution issue, I would like to share a few excerpts from some of the responses I received:

“Dr. Mitchell’s distress … suggests that he has been out of school for a very long time … long before undergraduates learned about quantum mechanics or chaos or the sciences of complexity … I am distressed that your newspaper is willing to give space to this theological attack on rationality and science.”

This was typical of many responses, where I was accused of not being properly trained and that I was not a “real scientist.” Actually I thought that a Doctorate in Medicine and three years of post-doctoral training qualified me as a scientist. And since Darwinian evolution cannot be tested in the laboratory, belief in evolution would be more properly termed “religion” or “philosophy” than science.

“Simply put, ID raises philosophical questions, not scientific ones. Where is the ‘evidence’ for ID, like the fossil record for evolution. Physical, real evidence?? That is why so many folks embrace evolution. Even though it has gaps and flaws, there is some physical proof. Proof like the iguanas on the Galapagos Islands.”

Actually, the fossil record speaks of a catastrophic event, namely the Flood of Noah’s day. It’s the same real, physical evidence, but a person holding a biblical worldview interprets it differently!

The fossil record was held as evidence for evolution by many who wrote to me, in spite of its shortcomings in an evolutionary framework (see Argument: the fossil record supports evolution). There was no explanation of how the iguanas on the Galapagos Islands were proof of evolution.

“Why do we have vestigial tailbones? Why are whale’s flippers powered by hand-like bones while those of fishes aren’t-why in that case are there two designs? Evolution has an intelligent explanation. Creationism has only, ‘Well, that’s the way God did it and we’ll know when we die.’”

Well, the answer is simple: the tailbone is a necessary structure, not a vestigial organ. It helps provide support for the muscles in the floor of the pelvis. I was a bit puzzled about the flipper example as there are indeed two designs. Would one not expect the structures in a mammal to be different from those found in a fish?

“Where does information come from? Nature. There is no debate.”

There was no example provided to support this rather incredible statement. Actually, one of the central issues in the entire intelligent design debate is the origin of information. There is no process in nature to account for the spontaneous generation of information.

“Evolution can be observed everyday. It’s why we can’t cure influenza. It’s why there are so many dog breeds.”

Neither of these things are evidence for “molecules-to-man” evolution. Medical science still has very little to offer with regard to curing illness caused by viruses. This has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution. The dog-breed argument also doesn’t prove evolution because they are still dogs! These dogs are not evolving into new types of creatures. The creationist can easily account for the many dog breeds that would result from speciation from the original dog “kind.”

Here is an observation that is right, but for the wrong reason:

“The problem, of course, is that many people toss Christianity once they realize that the Bible is not a scientific document. Europe has done it wholesale. The U.S. will do it too, although it may take a few more decades-and in the meantime, the Christianity that exists here isn’t very impressive to an outsider looking in.”

The United States is becoming less Christian every day, but not because evolution is being proven correct. It’s because the Church by and large is not preaching and teaching the foundational truths in the Bible. Church members are being taught that Genesis 1-11, the foundational chapters of the Bible, are not to be taken as written. They are told that it’s okay to accept millions of years of death and suffering before Adam’s sin. They have been convinced that they can take man’s fallible opinion and impose it on God’s Word. Without faith that Genesis can be trusted, the foundation of the basic doctrines of Christianity crumbles. What is lost is recognition of God’s authority. Christianity without God as ultimate authority isn’t “very impressive.”

They are told that the Bible is “not a science textbook.” That is true, but it is God’s instruction book for us … and much more, for as the history book of the universe, when the Bible deals with matters of science, it can be trusted.

AiG exists to proclaim that God’s Word can indeed be trusted from the very first verse!

I encourage you to participate in this debate when the opportunity arises. You may have occasion to write your own guest column or letter to the editor in the days and weeks ahead.* As you might have gathered from the quotes above, you can expect some rather heated replies, but don’t let this discourage you. Prepare diligently as you consider writing letters or opinion articles. Enter into this arena prayerfully. Make use of all the great resources from Answers in Genesis, including the extensive library of information available on the AiG website.

Dr. Mitchell, personally mentored by AiG-USA president Ken Ham, is an excellent speaker on the relevance of Genesis, and has many fascinating and well-illustrated talks in his repertoire. Dr. Mitchell can effectively give non-technical talks and communicate to ages 12 and up. To inquire about his speaking availability (especially in Tennessee and its several neighboring states), go to our Request an event page.

* AiG is often asked by supporters to write letters to the editor in order to rebut news articles or guest columns written by evolutionists that have appeared in their local newspapers. Actually, it is much better for readers of the paper (even if they don’t have science credentials) to respond themselves rather than AiG, for these reasons:

  1. The paper is much more likely to print a letter from a local reader than one submitted by an out-of-town organization.
  2. AiG has its own deadlines for writing projects and cannot guarantee a quick turnaround (the quicker a rebuttal letter gets submitted to the paper, the better the chance it has being printed-time is of the essence, and thus something sent in even three days after the pro-evolution article appears is usually too late).

Many letter-writers have told us how they have used this website to help them write a rebuttal letter (or even a guest column). Using the site’s powerful search engine, you have access to 5,000 free articles on topics that evolutionists frequently use to provide their evidence for evolution (e.g., bacterial resistance to antibiotics, whale evolution, Archaeopteryx as a transitional form between birds and reptiles, “Lucy” as a “missing link,” etc.).

Here are some additional helpful hints that will give your letter or column a better chance of being accepted:

  1. Observe the word limits imposed by publications, as well as their other requirements (e.g., they usually ask for your full address and a day telephone number); your piece could be rejected quite easily if you don’t follow the paper’s requirements.
  2. Be firm yet polite; avoid sarcasm, and ask God to help you write something that will be honoring to His Word.
  3. Mention the AiG website in your letter so that readers can know where to get more information on creation/evolution.
  4. Have another person read your letter or article (for typos, grammar, etc.), but don’t delay-submit your piece within 1-2 days of the article you are responding to.

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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.