Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Creation Watch - Richard Fangrad in Oxford - Creation Ministries International

This report from BCSE supporter Luke Bristow:

Richard Fangrad’s ‘Flood of Evidence’ Talk

I recently attended a Creationist talk entitled ‘Flood of Evidence’ conducted by Richard Fangrad from The Creation Ministries. The talk took place at an Evangelical Church in Oxford after the regular Sunday service. Once the sermon was completed Richard took to the stage to commence his talk. He began by engaging the church community about a recent trip to Israel taken by a number of the congregation. After this he began an introduction about the Creation Ministries, his role in it and what the focus of the group is (attempting to convince people they should accept the Genesis story as, ahem, gospel). He took this opportunity to mention that a number of the people involved within the ministry are PhD scientists. Unfortunately we’re not informed which subjects the PhDs were taken in. We’re left to assume that simply because they have PhDs that immediately qualifies them to comment on the Genesis account of creation.  He then directs us to the Creation Ministries website and suggests that there is a rich source of information there that can answer many of the questions that naturally arise when someone believes in tales of men made of dust, women made from spare ribs, talking snakes and immortal vegetarian T-Rex’s etc.

Some valid questions are then posed such as ‘how did the kangaroos get back to Australia after Noah’s flood?’ and ‘where did all the different skin tones come from?’ I’m keen to hear how the kangaroos managed to hop that, mainly ocean bound, seven and a half thousand mile journey home but instead we’re told to visit the website for answers.  He also mentions that you can subscribe to a mailing list which sends out regular emails countering newsworthy scientific discoveries with alternative creationist explanations. As clipboards are passed around to harvest email addresses we’re asked the question ‘Do you ever hear in the popular media a new dinosaur discovery written up as good evidence for biblical creation?’ Surprisingly the congregation seem to unanimously react as if they don’t often hear new dinosaur discoveries chalked up as evidence of creationism. He assures people that the emails provide such information. I begin to wonder why these explanations of dinosaur discoveries supporting creationism, being newsworthy themselves, don’t make it into the news.

With his Power Point presentation in full flow he begins to show pictures of some soft tissue found in dinosaur fossils. He implies that this would be impossible if they were millions of years old. We’re left to take his word on this as he declines to furnish us with any evidence to support this claim.

We’re then subjected to an explanation about why it is important for Christians to understand the conflict between the Scientific Community and the Bible. Although it’s worth noting that he doesn’t actually use the term ‘Scientific Community’ he uses the word ‘World’. My impression is that this is all part of building towards the idea that there isn’t actually a conflict between Science and Religion. He then explains that as a Christian child grows up they are surrounded by the vast Himalayan-like Mountain range of evidence that completely undermines creationism. This leads to questions arising about their faith. These questions, left unanswered, cause conflict and if they aren’t countered with creationist ‘arguments’ the child will grow up and abandon their faith. He then presents some rather reassuring statistics about the number of Christian children leaving their religion in the US. He then reassures the audience (well, not all of us) that these issues can be answered scientifically using evidence.

Next comes a game of linguistics as the conflict is framed as a ‘Battle of Histories’.  He states that it can’t simply be a Religion v Science issue as the early Scientists were YEC Christians and science came out of a Christian Worldview. I didn’t quite grasp the next point he attempted to make but he said ‘If Zeus and his gang were in charge, or some of these religious systems with the Gods warring amongst themselves, why would you expect the laws that govern their creation to remain fixed? Gravity pulls this direction one day (he illustrates this point by walking to one side) and that direction the next day (continuing with the visual assistance he walks in the other direction)’. This is one of many moments when I’m at a loss to understand what the hell he’s talking about. He then proceeds to explain that it cannot be a conflict between Science and Religion because there are different kinds of science. I start to wonder how the different disciplines of Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Geology etc. interplay with this conflict and I become confused further when he defines the different types of science as ‘Operational Science’ and ‘Historical Science’.  Two phrases which I’ve never heard before. ‘Historical Science’ is loosely defined as being about things that can’t be observed. Apparently ‘Operational Science’ is a different Science but I fail to grasp what it’s supposed to be.

He then begins to explain that when fossils are found we have to imagine what happened in the past in order to explain how the fossil got there. Because we weren’t there we can’t know how the animal was buried. He then explains that when we see it today we ‘make up a story’ about how it got there and this can lead to different stories. Realising that he has such a poor grasp of evidence I begin to hope that if I’m ever accused of murder and all the evidence blatantly absolves me Richard isn’t on the jury.
I then chuckle to myself as he informs us that fossils do not come with a nice little label on them saying ‘I am 75 million years old’. This is the first of numerous times when the phrase ‘radiometric dating’ is screamingly missing from the talk.

He then returns to his point about it being a battle of histories and asserts that both histories are believed only as a matter of faith. We’re provided with no reasoning for this argument and are left to accept it too, on faith. He then attempts to encourage his audience that they have an advantage in this ‘Battle of Histories’ because they have ‘the history book of the universe’, aka: the Bible (although as far as I’m aware the Bible’s details about the goings on in other parts of the Universe are a little sketchy. I can only assume that this was God’s gift to astrophysicists so that they have something to do.)

He then continues on about how important it is to believe in Genesis. We’re reminded that if it wasn’t for the original sin of Adam and Eve’s apple scrumping there would have been no need for Jesus to come down and cleanse our sins by being nailed to a cross and dying in agonising pain. As a consequence there would be no grounds for Christianity. I ponder the irony of Jesus spending so much time teaching his followers forgiveness when his sole purpose for existing was to be brutally murdered as atonement for a several millennia earlier charge of apple theft. The Lord moves in mysterious ways I suppose.
At this point we’re about halfway through the talk and we’ve had no real arguments or evidence against evolution. I’m starting to feel disappointed.

Richard claims that atheists know Genesis has to be true in order for Christianity to be true and that’s the reason we attack it. I nod in agreement. Personally my only grievance with a talking snake convincing a woman made from a spare rib to eat an apple, the spare rib woman then convincing a man made from dust to do the same, and this being the reason that death exists is simply because I know how important it is to Christianity. Other than that it’s a perfectly legitimate explanation.

We’re then promised that we’re about to see some science supporting Genesis, I wait with baited breath.

He states that no one has ever seen evolution and therefore it’s all down to interpretation. If I ever find myself infected by that newly evolved anti-biotic resistant MRSA superbug I’ll take great comfort in these words. He then explains that because fossils are of dead animals they must have been fossilised after the Garden of Eden because at that point death hadn’t been invented yet. If that wasn’t true and that fossils were older than the garden of Eden then in his own words ‘with that comes tumbling down to the central teachings of Christianity’ so ‘therefore we need to show fossils aren’t old’. He then says that evolution states that fossils are millions of years old. I’m enlightened as I never realised that evolution offers opinions on such topics. He then suggests that we have lots of fossils that aren’t millions of years old. Next comes my favourite part (drum roll) he shows a picture of a ‘fossilised hat’. My fellow sceptic companion will later explain that he was starting to fall asleep until these words woke him up again. Richard then shows a picture of a bag of petrified flour. Upon later investigation my assumptions are confirmed when I find out that the hat was turned to calcium carbonate. It was a miner’s hat that had been left in a mine for decades and soaked in mineral rich water which had built up around it. The bag of flour was also petrified. For some reason Richard didn’t explain to his audience that this is a completely different process to the fossilisation of dinosaur bones. If I didn’t know better I’d say that he was being dishonest.

He then gave another so called argument by mentioning the famous femur of a T-Rex found in Montana by a team headed by palaeontologist Mary H. Schweitzer. Due to the difficulties of removing the fossil from its remote location it was broken into two pieces small enough for a helicopter to carry. Much to everyone’s surprise remains of soft tissue were found inside the bone, amazingly this even included blood vessels. Richard then implies that therefore this couldn’t possibly be millions of years old. Once again no evidence is provided in support of this premise. He then utters quite frankly a brilliant quote ‘Here’s an observation. It’s still a matter of we have a fact, we have these two interpretations, one interpretation is that that animal died 70 million years ago, another interpretation is that the Bible’s history is a little more accurate, the condensed history that we have in the Bible there. One of the interpretations makes a whole lot more sense. Do I need to say that? Kind of like a no-brainer when you see things like this.’ I wholeheartedly agree with him on this point although I fear our views probably diverge on some of the finer details. He then claims that the Grand Canyon is ‘exhibit A for millions of years to evolutionists’ but fails to explain which orifice he’d just pulled that statement from.  He talks about the Mt St. Helen’s eruption which deposited rock over a large area. We’re then shown a picture of a gorge called the little Grand Canyon that was carved by a subsequent mudslide. He considers the fact that this happened quickly to be some form of proof that the same thing happened at the Grand Canyon. Much to my surprise he fails to explain how the neatly layered bands of different rock types that make up the Grand Canyon could have been deposited by a single volcanic eruption. Richard then suggests that the Canyon itself was created by Noah’s Flood but once again fails to provide any reason to ignore all the evidence to the contrary. It turns out that he himself has gone on a boat trip down the Grand Canyon with some creationist geologists. They were looking for evidence of quick deposition. He assures us that they came to the conclusion that it couldn’t possibly have happened slowly but declines to mention how they came to this conclusion. He then claims that Noah’s Flood created the perfect conditions for fossilisation. But again doesn’t explain why. Perhaps it caused lots of hats to be washed into mine shafts? I don’t know. He reiterates his earlier point that it’s a great time to be a Christian because of all the evidence. I continue my patient vigil waiting for this evidence. He repeats that evolutionists take the idea of millions of years on faith. I decide to myself that I would concede the point that I have faith in evidence and the scientific method.

He then begins to explain that there is a moral need for belief in the Bible. For some reason we’re not reminded of all the various World Health Organisation and UN statistics that clearly show a correlation between secular nations and low crime rates, murder rates, infant mortality etc. He then asks the question: if you don’t believe then who sets the rules? We’re provided with a quote from an evolutionists discussing morality in relation to evolution, the basic premise being that evolution does not provide us with an inherent morality. He then poses the corollary question of what would happen if someone took that view literally. But thankfully we’re not burdened with the task of pondering this for very long; he answers it himself using a quote from the cannibal serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The quote can be summarised as Dahmer saying that if evolution is true then you can do what you want. At this point I have to be fair and add that Richard was gracious enough to admit that not every evolutionist will end up a serial killer. I suppose the implication is merely that some will. Or perhaps many will, or maybe even most. It’s hard to say exactly what his insinuation was. Meanwhile I wait for a quote from one of the Christians who kill abortion performing doctors in order for balance. No such balance is given. He states that Dahmer was consistent with the view that comes out of evolution and claims that if evolution is true you cannot say Dahmer was wrong, which is surprising because evolution is true and yet I say Dahmer was wrong.

As a final summary we’re reminded that there are two belief systems and apparently they both require faith. He claims that there isn’t a single fact or observation that evolution has made that he disagrees with, a contradiction to his earlier statement that evolution states that fossils are millions of years old. But, we can forgive him for this on the basis of it not being true anyway. It’s fascinating that he can get this far without even once mentioning radiometric dating or even simply considering why it is people believe fossils are millions of years old. Next we’re told that Science supports biblical history and that dinosaur bones obviously do not support millions of years, probably one of the most blatant of the lies during the talk.

The talk finishes with seven minutes of encouraging people to buy various magazines, books and DVDs and also to visit the website. Much to my disappointment I never did find out how the kangaroos got home.

To summarise the talk wasn’t as good as I hoped. It came across mainly as a sales pitch for the Creation Ministries. There was quite a bit of talk about why you need to believe in Genesis. This was followed by the promise that all the inherent problems with believing such nonsense can be answered in the magazines, books and DVDs on sale. In between was a light sprinkle a few half-baked ‘arguments’ any of which could be easily undermined by five minutes on Google.  But at the same time I have to mention that Richard came across a decent, amiable and sincere chap, even if somewhat deluded.

3 comments:

  1. If you google a bit more there is tons or evidence to refute the evolutionary stuff you found after 5 minutes? Micah@micahgallant.com

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    Replies
    1. Try google scholar. You will find it very hard to find a single paper that supports a creationist interpretation. Regular google will just dredge up tons of creationist propaganda that does not qualify as science.

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    2. Whew! Glad to hear google only dredges up tons of creationist propaganda. Hate to think evolutionists would do such a thing. How did sarcasm evolve anyway?

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