The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Cretinism or Evilution? No. 2
Edited by E.T. Babinski
Excerpts from Zindler




Report from the Center of the Universe
by Frank R. Zindler

As I drove from Columbus to Cleveland that Wednesday evening I had no idea just how important I was. Little did I realize that the sun, moon, stars -- yea, verily, the farthest reaches of the heavens -- were revolving about li'l ol' me! Once a day, even.

It was only after arriving at the National Bible-Science Conference, convening at the Brookside Baptist Church in Seven Hills Ohio, that I discovered that the Pope's timing (but not, of course, his rhythm) had been all wrong. John Paul II had hardly finished "forgiving" Galileo -- indeed, the ink was hardly dry on the pardon -- when a gaggle of "creation scientists" assembled at the navel of the world for the purpose of recondemning not only Darwin but Galileo and Copernicus as well.

As this most unusual of "scientific" conferences amen-ed and hallelujah-ed its way through morning, afternoon, and evening sessions of the first day, it became apparent that the most dazzling star in the geocentricity constellation of the creationist firmament was one Dr. Gerardus D. Bouw, an astronomy Ph.D. from Case Institute of Technology, now teaching mathematics and computer science at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio. Although creationists generally reject Einsteinian physics (relativity in any form leads straight to moral laxity, you know), Bouw made adroit use of Einsteinian principles to "prove" the adequacy of the earth-centered universe. However, only four wicked evolutionists in the audience seemed to notice this moral defect in Bouw's non-Euclidean geometry.

But of course, the calculus was mostly there to confound the mentally sluggish. The real proofs were biblical After explaining that the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church had taught geocentricity in its astronomy texts right up into the 20's of the 20th Century, he quoted Joshua X.13:

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day."

After a virtuoso mixing of scientific sounding phrases and scholastic theological arguments, he clinched his case: "... if God cannot be taken literally when He writes of the rising of the sun, then how can one insist that He be taken literally when writing of the rising of the Son?"

How many of the creationists present were geocentrists, I do not know One Rev. Walter Lang, a Missouri-Synod Lutheran and Executive Director of the Bible Science Association (headquartered in Minneapolis) was quite sympathetic, and I was led to conclude that the Missouri Lutherans are bringing back the geocentric doctrine.

According to science-writer Robert Schadewald (along with Prof. Emmanuel Sillman, a zoologist from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Prof. John Patterson, a thermodynamicist from Iowa State University, and me, one of four heathens in the pews), five of the 18 speakers were known geocentrists. Just how fast "this old-time astronomy" is spreading among believers in that "old-time religion" I cannot guess But not a single creationist spoke against it, not even Duane T. Gish, the creationists' Lochinvar of the debate circuit. Although he had a lot of quibbles with the thesis of one Dr. Kaufmann (who thought Christians should be more exercise-conscious), Gish found nothing to complain of when geocentrists were speaking.

The silence of all creationists when goof centrists were speaking is quite puzzling. Does silence mean tacit acceptance? Embarrassment? Or is it a case of honor among thieves: if you don't expose me, I won't expose you.

Whatever the answer may be for the most of the Ptolemaic talks, I can say with assurance that embarrassment was the cause of everyone's silence when Marshall and Sandra Hall (authors of the widely distributed book, The Truth: God or Evolution?) got up together to give one talk. As the discourse bounced back and forth between husband and wife every minute or so, things began to unravel.

Clearly enough, they had explained that the heliocentric theory was a "Satanic counterfeit," and they told of traveling to the biblical plain of Gideon (where Joshua had commanded the sun and the moon to stand still) and receiving a revelation that the moon is the clue to it all.

Without telling us how long they played twenty-questions with god after receiving this clue, the Halls proceeded to prove that the sun goes around the earth Marshall had hardly launched into his "proof" before his train of thought became derailed He groped for words and stalled. He couldn't find a way to pass the ball to Sanka Soon he was weeping openly, announcing that god "any minute now" was going to give him the right words.

God not getting involved quickly enough, however, Sandra got back into the show and told that they had watched an eclipse of the sun in which the moon's "shadow" had moved the wrong way! (She never made it clear when she was talking about the moon's blackened image viewed against the sun, and when she was talking of the eclipse shadow moving across the earth's surface.)

Hope springing up eternal, she took two Styrofoam cups and tried to model the motions of the sun and moon during the eclipse. Marshall stopped crying and gave encouragement.

But alas! Within another minute both were hopelessly befuddled by the Satanic counterfeit. Not only could they not realize that when facing the sun their left hands had faced east, but that when fuming their backs to the sun (and the audience) their left hands were pointing west, they also seemed to be unaware that the pinhole cameras commonly used to view eclipses also reverse left and right. When their time ran out, they could only announce that they had given everybody the key with which to unlock the treasure chest of astronomical knowledge, and they implored those with the experience in the subject to go for it. But not even the Ph.D astronomer tried to bail them out. Not one of the Christian scientists present offered to "throw out the lifeline" to save the sinking savants. Not one of the Christian scientists present offered to "throw out the lifeline" to save the sinking savants.


[This page is from another article by Frank Zindler, "Turtles All the Way Down," and tells of a debate that took place between creationists at the 1985 National Bible Science Convention.]

The Great Debate
by Frank Zindler

Throughout the three-day conference, one had a sense that everything was being drawn toward a point of final consummation: the great debate which was to be the grand finale of the whole BS-shebang. The purpose of the debate was to decide an issue which had never been debated by a major scientific society: Does the universe actually revolve around the earth, or does it only appear to do so? The actual thesis being debated was the following:

The geocentric model of the universe is a better model because (1) it is more faithful to the scriptures and (2) it better explains the observations.

The debate was actually a double-barreled affair: on each side was a theologian to debate the biblical aspects of the question and a scientist to deal with the less important aspect-reality. Serve as theologian for the geocentrists was Or. Gerardus Bouw, who holds a Ph.D. in astronomy (really!) from Case-Western Reserve University. The would-be heliocentrist theologian was a dour fellow, Prof. Richard Niessen from Christian Heritage College, who described himself as "loosely associated" with the Institute for Creation Research. As far as I could establish, Niessen was the only Gish-ite at the meeting, and he had come to challenge the BS Association in the relatively safe area of biblical one-upmanship.

Niessen tried valiantly to prove that the Bible allows the earth to move, but it was an impossible task. Bouw had little difficulty in proving that the Bible is geocentrist. Joshua, after all, had made the sun -- not the earth -- stand still. Since the Bible is also predicated upon the earth being flat, science writer Robert Schadewald tries to get a three-way debate going (both he and I were willing to defend the biblical position on the flat-earth question), but the creationists wouldn't bite. To say that the sun revolves around the earth is one thing, but to say the earth is flat is embarrassing even to many creationists!

The assembly was shocked by Niessen's call for creationists to devote more time to darkness research. It was his view that darkness is a thing in itself-not just the absence of light. In Genesis, after all, god is depicted separating the light from the dark-a prow case resembling the straining of black eyed peas out of tapioca pudding. Ergo, darkness is itself a thing. When I asked the two theologians about the "firmament," Niessen went against the Hebrew etymology of the term (a smithing term meaning something hammered out into thin sheets, as of copper) and claimed it means "an expanse." Bouw, however, believing the King James Version as well as "the autographs" to be totally inerrant, agreed that the firmament was firm. When asked about the supposed windows in the firmament, he thought they might be "hyperspace tubes."

Although the geocentrists won the theology debate, this was not true of the scientific debate. It seems that in all of creationdom there was not a single "creation scientist" capable of defending the double motion of the earth. Thus it fell to my fellow heretic, Prof. Emmanuel Sillman of Duquesne University, to recruit a theistic evolutionist (an ex-Roman Catholic turned Greek Orthodox, a University of Pittsburgh Astronomy Department doctoral candidate reamed Francis Graham) to exorcise the ghost of Ptolemy. Graham had never debates before in his life, but he was highly motivated to defend the honor of his science. What he may have lacked in experience, he makes up for in intelligence. Graham was bright.

The ghost of Ptolemy that Friday was residing in the body of James Hanson, a professor of computer science at Cleveland State University. His presentations were full of impressive claims ("I can easily derive an equation to show that . . ."), but precious little proof. Graham was ready. After rapidly restating the classical proofs of the motions of the earth, he tossed off -- almost as an afterthought -- the brilliant argument which was to receive no rebuttal from Hanson.

Graham crumbled Hanson's cracker with the observation that earthquakes sometimes cause a variation in the length of the day. In heliocentric terms, this means that the earthquake has altered the rate of the earth's rotation. In the geocentric model, however, it would be "the heavens" -- supposedly revolving around the earth -- which are speeded up or slowed down by the quake. "How does the information get from the earthquake all the way out to the distant galaxies . . . then back to the earth, much faster than the speed of light?" he asked. He never got an answer.

Graham proceeded to analyze the techniques of geocentrists (and creationists) in trying to prop up their "theories" with endless numbers of ad hoc hypotheses. In a clever variation on Wayne Frair's joke about "turtles all the way down," Graham quipped, "What holds up the theories of geocentrists? It's ad hoc hypotheses all the way down!"


About the author

Formerly a professor of biology and geology, Frank R. Zindler is now a science writer. A member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, and the American Schools of Oriental Research, he is also co-chairperson of the Committee of Correspondence on Evolution Education and Director of the Central Ohio Chapter of American Atheists.

For information on how to obtain copies of Zindler's many other writings, including his articles and books, contact: Society of Separationists, P.O. Box 8457, Columbus, Ohio 43201-0457.




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