The Slusher Visit

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Originally published in Creation 1, no 2 (October 1978): 16-19.

The highlight of the CSA’s [Editor’s note: Creation Science Association] activities so far has undoubtedly been the visit to Adelaide by Professor Harold S. Slusher, of the Institute for Creation Research. (He is Ass. Professor of Physics at the University of Texas, El Paso, as well as being a visiting Professor at Christian Heritage College and one of the Board of Directors of the Creation Research Society. His academic interests are in astronomy and geophysics, especially in dating methods.)

He had already been invited by others (to visit NSW and Victoria only) until our Association offered to sponsor him over here. His sponsors in the eastern states, the Bible Union, kindly consented to the arrangement.

While in Adelaide he spoke at three venues. On Thursday August 17th he addressed a lunchtime meeting of approximately 90 people on campus at Flinders University. Several people said afterwards how remarkable this attendance was in light of the fact that it was the Uni. “swot vac” and the rest of the campus appeared virtually deserted. Prof. Slusher almost immediately dropped the “bombshell”—that he was convinced that the universe was only a few thousand years old. This, of course, pulls the rug out from under any evolutionary scheme. He described in detail the evidence for a young universe obtained from the breakup of clusters of galaxies, then showed how the observed breakup of short-period comets puts an upper limit on the age of the solar system itself of only a few thousand years. His presentation was brilliant and effective. The audience seemed rather stunned at the finish, and only three questions were asked, almost meekly.

On that same night, we had hired the Festival Theatre and were thrilled to see approximately 1500 people turn up. Although we had at first tried to organize a debate (letters were sent to 125 top-level academics at Adelaide and Flinders Uni., with no takers) it turned out to be a unique opportunity (on this Australian tour) for Prof. Slusher to give such a long and comprehensive presentation as the subject deserves. In some other places, he had been limited to 10 or 20 minutes! The initial address lasted more than 1 hour and 40 minutes, then an interval, then about 60 minutes of question and answer time. The auditorium had been thoroughly “miked up”, so that all the questions came across very clearly, both on the night and on the tape. Prof. Slusher first outlined and contrasted the two positions, followed by a very detailed discussion of the laws of thermodynamics and their relevance to this question. He then gave some arguments for a short timescale, using on this occasion the influx of cosmic dust to the Earth and moon, and Prof. Barnes’ study of the decay in the Earth’s magnetic field. He wound up with a critique of the “geologic column” concept, demonstrating that fossils do not support evolution by going from simple to complex in a genuine time sequence. The feedback after the meeting was extremely favourable. We were personally amazed at the enormous intellectual capacity of this man. He spoke entirely without notes or visual aids yet seemed to have an inexhaustible mental store of detailed references. Although he spoke rapidly and crammed a lot of information into his lecture, he quite obviously held the rapt attention of the vast majority of that huge audience. This is a remarkable feat when one has to present such a subject to a mixed audience of scientists and laymen alike. Many said afterwards that although they had no scientific training, they could understand most of the points he was making and found it stimulating. Others with scientific backgrounds were even more impressed.

The question time was very valuable, as it gave him a platform to give detailed answers to some commonly asked and important questions. Some of the questions were “timewasters” but there were some such as:

  • Aren’t rocks dated by absolute, i.e., radiometric methods?
  • What about radiocarbon dating?
  • What about crystallization and the stable formation of amino acids by electrical discharge—doesn’t that contradict your statements about entropy?
  • How can the universe be young if some stars are millions of light-years away?

The answer given to that one was quite breathtaking, and as he put it, “perhaps the longest answer in history.” We recommend the tapes of this evening very, very highly. They are superb quality reproductions, including the question and answer time. (Not surprising, since the Festival Theatre did the recording.) Also they cover such important arguments in great depth but in an interesting and compelling fashion. We are selling them at $5 set (2 'C90' cassettes) plus $1 postage and handling where applicable, and hope that they will be widely used. Already over 100 have been sold. [Editor’s note: this series is no longer available.]

There was a lot of interest in the books and many were sold; in addition, large numbers of booklists and membership forms were taken. Readers will be interested in a little backstage incident during interval. A man identifying himself as a “Christian geologist” came up to Prof. Slusher and began to verbally attack him in no uncertain terms. Glowing with rage, he demanded that he be allowed to make a statement from the stage refuting these falsehoods which were being put across. Prof. Slusher replied that he was welcome to put a question in the normal manner but there was “no way” in which the evening was going to become a forum for evolutionary views. After saying that the trouble with us creationists is that we have to silence opposing views or some such, (rather amazing since he had heard us say that we had tried hard to get evolutionists to debate) he said that if he couldn’t make a statement he wasn’t going to stay, and apparently he didn’t. It is a pity when people react in such an unscientific way, but it is not really surprising when one considers the essentially religious nature of evolution. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the title “Christian” appears—e.g., “Christian geologist”—the emotional reactions are very similar.

The next day a lunchtime meeting was held at Adelaide University. It had been scheduled for the Barr Smith lawns, but bad weather forced a retreat to the Lady Symon library, a small room which was packed out—well over 100 staff and students. Professor Slusher concentrated on the time question again, using his own studies on the cooling of the Earth (allowing for radioactive heat sources) and the breakup of comets to show that there was an upper time limit on the Earth and solar system of only a few thousand years. No one disputed any of his scientific arguments in these areas, but during the lecture it became obvious that a small group who had placed themselves around the room were impatiently waiting for the lecture to finish so they could start what later turned out to be a barrage of questions on biological issues, completely sidestepping the presentation. Although their questions were properly handled by Prof. Slusher and Dr Wieland, it was obvious that these lads wanted to talk and harass more than listen and reason things out. It was a little annoying to hear them give drawn-out expositions of some very trivial and well-known biological observations as if they were “enlightening” the two creationists with this knowledge, as if expecting them to fall on their knees and immediately recant. General audience reaction was very favorable and the session lasted for 2 ½ hours.

Readers will probably be interested to know something of the meetings in Victoria and NSW. Unfortunately, at the time of this magazine going to print, we had not yet received a detailed report on these meetings. But we had had a number of phone calls from Prof. Slusher himself and have gleaned a number of points from these.

How ironical that creationists are frequently exhorted to be tolerant of evolutionary views, yet it is we who favor a two-model approach, and they who seem to want to suppress all opposing views.

At Macquarie University there were apparently quite a few “theistic evolutionists” out in force (mostly from the geology department) who would preface their attacks with “I’m a Christian . . .” How ironical that creationists are frequently exhorted to be tolerant of evolutionary views, yet it is we who favor a two-model approach, and they who seem to want to suppress all opposing views. Another example of subtle intolerance to creationists was experienced by this writer. I had heard that the following day, Prof. Slusher would be speaking at a large church in Melbourne, but that it would take the form of a symposium entitled “How the World Began”. It was to feature three speakers, each being given ten minutes (!) to present their case before the discussion time. Besides Slusher, the other two were an expert in Hebrew and a physicist from Melbourne University, both known to be theistic evolutionists. This arrangement had apparently been stipulated by the minister of the church, also reputed to be sympathetic to theistic evolution. In an attempt to get (unsuccessfully) a more even debate, I telephoned this minister the night before. I first asked for some more details of the evening , in particular what the view-points on origins of the various speakers were. His reply: “Slusher is what’s commonly known as a creationist, and the other two are open-minded.”

How’s that for an unbiased, tolerant assessment? Apparently there was no need for concern since the evening was an overwhelming success from the creationist point of view. It is a credit to Harold Slusher to have achieved such a result under those circumstances. Going back to the Macquarie University presentation, apparently the “theistic” (and other) evolutionists were rather taken aback when a radioastronomer with some rather prestigious credentials announced that he, too, felt that the evidence indicated a young universe. If any reader knows who this man is and/or how to contact him, we would be very grateful to find out at once.

Prof. Slusher also informed me that his views had upset faculty members at Deakin University, and one professor came up to him privately, saying that he and his colleagues wished that Slusher would lower the quality of his presentation, so they would have more room for argument!

The expense involved in this S.A. visit was quite considerable, and we have currently depleted our funds, in spite of the generosity of a few. The challenge ahead is to maintain the momentum of his visit in the coming year. Several people have urged us to consider bringing him back again within twelve months or so, arguing that it would be a very effective follow-up. We agree in principle, but we would need a much greater level of financial support from concerned people to be able to do this. If we did fly him over again, then we would try to extend his visit to other states as much as possible. We apologize to our members who missed out through living in Tasmania, W.A. and elsewhere. We feel, though, that a less hectic schedule is appropriate and that we should in all cases make the effort in advance to get people together in one or two central venues, like the Festival Theatre, in each state.

All the above speculation presupposes, of course, that the Professor would be able and gracious enough to oblige. We wish to take this opportunity of expressing in print our immense gratitude to—and I say this after much sober thought—what we regard as one of the greatest men of our century, in giving sacrificially of his time and energy to help Australia and serve Christ in this way.

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