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How Not to Respond to Criticism

Barry Price Compounds His Errors

Copyright © 1993-1997

In the Winter 1990-91 issue of Creation/Evolution appeared an article I authored titled "How Not to Argue with Creationists." In that article, I strongly criticized Australian skeptics Ian Plimer and Barry Price for their tactics in combating creationism. Specifically, my major criticisms were that: (1) Plimer behaved poorly in a debate with Duane Gish in 1988; (2) Plimer misrepresented the views of Michael Denton, author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, in that debate, falsely claiming that Denton had "admitted he was wrong" (apparently with respect to his entire book) and that "he was unaware of the fossil record when he wrote it"; (3) Plimer issued a challenge to creationists in 1986 and 1987 (which Price quoted in his book) to produce evidence for their claims that fossil gold chains had been found in Australian coal seams, when in fact the creationists made no such claim; (4) Barry Price's book, The Creation Science Controversy, contains numerous errors and ad hominems; (5) Both Plimer and Price have made unsupported (and false) claims about alleged financial fraud involving the Australian Creation Science Foundation, which led to an apology for Plimer's remarks by the magazine Media Information Australia; (6) One error in Price's book has led to a defamation suit by former CSF director Robert Stephen Gustafson, and Price's book has been withdrawn by the publisher; (7) Plimer falsely claimed on an Australian national radio broadcast in 1989 that the CSF had not submitted financial reports for 1986, 1987, or 1988, a claim which led to an apology by the Australian Broadcasting Company; Price claimed in his book that the 1986 and 1987 reports "do not seem to be available"; (8) Price and Plimer have both quoted from an article in a Christian school magazine on "Reviewing and Correcting Encyclopedias" about how to remove sections on evolution, followed by reporting that book vandalism discovered at the University of Newcastle--implying that the vandalism was performed by creationists inspired by the article; (9) Plimer wrote a letter to a creationist following the debate with Gish in which he offered unsupported sexual innuendo about Gish.

In April 1992, an unsigned sixteen-page article titled "Response to Lippard" was faxed to John Cole, editor of Creation/Evolution. This was later revised and edited down into Barry Price's "A Response to James Lippard" published in the Winter 1992 Creation/Evolution. At the end of the published article, it is stated that "A comprehensive, referenced version of this paper which refutes every charge made by Lippard was submitted to Cole. The full length paper is obtainable from Professor Ian Plimer, Head of the School of Earth Science, University of Melbourne, Vic. 3052, Australia." (Plimer's involvement in the production of this response is indicated by Creation/Evolution, issue 31, p. 58, which says that Plimer "assisted with Price's reply article.") What follows is a response to the full-length, unpublished paper of April 1992.

Some Further Background

"How Not to Argue with Creationists" is not the first article I wrote about poor quality criticisms of creationists in Australia. In the January 1990 issue of The Arizona Skeptic appeared an article I wrote titled "Some Failures of Organized Skepticism." In that article, I took the Australian Skeptics to task for their publication of an article summarizing the 1988 Ian Plimer/Duane Gish debate. The Australian Skeptics' summary misquoted Gish several times, completely reversing the meaning of his statements on more than one occasion. This led to an erroneous story in the Creation/Evolution Newsletter about Michael Denton recanting his views on evolution (for more details see footnote 4 of "How Not to Argue with Creationists"). [Note added January 26, 1994: This error was corrected by Rob Day in the Creation/Evolution Newsletter, vol. 8, no. 5, September-October 1988, pp. 2-3.] I obtained a copy of Ian Plimer's videotape of the debate and observed the discrepancies, publishing the results in "Some Failures of Organized Skepticism" and in a letter in the Summer 1991 issue of NCSE Reports. The Arizona Skeptic article led to a one-page news article in the Australian creationist magazine Creation Ex Nihilo titled "U.S. Skeptic says Aussie Skeptics misrepresented Gish" (July 1990) which the creationists used against the Australian Skeptics. I wrote a letter to the Australian Skeptics' magazine, The Skeptic, pointing out that my criticism was of a single article in what I considered to be a high-quality publication, but this letter was never printed and The Skeptic never retracted the false statements from its debate summary. Instead, Australian Skeptics president Barry Williams falsely claimed (in the pages of The Skeptic, Spring 1990) that corrections had already been published, while the president of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Skeptics, Mark Plummer, asked me a series of irrelevant questions about my article as part of an "investigation" of its allegations. (A chronology of these events, with references, is "Postscript to 'Some Failures of Organized Skepticism'" in the November/December 1991 issue of The Arizona Skeptic.)

On September 28, 1990, I wrote to Creation Ex Nihilo about a completely unrelated issue--a quotation of Phoenix-based creationist Walter Brown (whom I had been debating in the pages of Creation/Evolution) supporting the speed-of-light-decay theory of Australian Barry Setterfield. Brown had disclaimed the quote in his debate with me, but refused to ask Creation Ex Nihilo to print a retraction. So I did it for him. Robert Doolan, the editor of Creation Ex Nihilo, rejected my letter (he later accepted and published an edited version in vol. 13, no. 2, March- May 1991) and sent me a copy of the second (October 1990) edition of a booklet titled A Response to Deception, published by the Creation Science Foundation. This booklet was an attack on Barry Price's book, The Creation Science Controversy, which had been published earlier in the year. The booklet contained the criticisms I later made in "How Not to Argue with Creationists," and many others. My response was to send letters to Ian Plimer and Barry Price asking them about the charges in this booklet, as well as to ask the Creation Science Foundation for documentation to support their claims. The CSF came through with evidence, while Plimer and Price did not--despite repeated requests. This led to a draft of "How Not to Argue with Creationists" which I sent on March 20, 1991 to Plimer and Price for their comments. Neither of them rebutted any of the above nine major criticisms. On August 20, 1991, I submitted my article to Creation/Evolution and after some revision (including the deletion of several sections) it was accepted for publication in November 1991.

Some General Remarks on Price's Reply

Although it is billed as containing refutations of every charge I make, this is untrue. Several of my criticisms (1, 2, parts of 7, and 9) are not really addressed at all, and I believe that every single one of them still stands unrefuted. The only ones which Price challenges with any seriousness are 5 and 6. Price's article is filled with unsubstantiated charges, errors, and ad hominems. At one point (footnote 5 on page 16), Price accuses me of having collaborated in the writing of the first edition (September 1990) of A Response to Deception. Since I had no contact with the CSF until my September 28, 1990 letter about Walter Brown reached them and never heard of A Response to Deception until a copy of the second (October 1990) edition reached me in late October 1990, this charge is absurd. (I have still never seen the first edition of A Response to Deception.) I will discuss the errors in Price's reasoning to this conclusion below.

Price uses a large portion of his article criticizing me for things I did not address in my article. I agree with Price that there are things to criticize in the CSF's A Response to Deception, but that was simply not the focus of my article. (While Price claims on the first page of his reply that I "chose to ignore the dozens of lies, distortions, misquotes and defamation in Response to Deception," he doesn't point out that I asked him on more than one occasion for specific examples and he did not reply.) My basic point was that opponents of creationism should not use the same tactics that creationists often use; they should be careful, honest, and accurate. I also agree that there are things of value in Price's book, such as his description of the events at the Emma C. Smith school in Livermore, California, where creationist materials were used in a public school classroom. (I cited Price's book as a good summary of these events in footnote 7 of "How Not to Argue with Creationists.")

My position on the creation/evolution controversy is misrepresented by Price when he writes on the first page of his article that "Lippard told me that he believed in neither evolution nor creationism, but leaned towards one. Occupying the infinitetesmally [sic] small point between two contradictions?" I never told Price any such thing--I do believe in evolution and disbelieve in creationism. What I did tell him was that my disbelief in creationism could not be translated into certainty of belief in contemporary theories of evolution (i.e., regarding the mechanisms of evolution, over which debate continues in the scientific community). I also stated that I supported truth and accuracy over simply giving unquestioning support to someone on the same "side" (evolution) as me.

I wrote my article in good faith, attempting to be fair and objective. I queried the principals involved and attempted to get complete information from them. Unfortunately, my attempts were largely unsuccessful. Plimer gave fairly straightforward answers to my questions, but they did not rebut the charges made against him. He seemed more concerned to convince me that the creation/evolution debate is entirely political. Price, on the other hand, did not answer direct questions but instead went off on tangents--criticizing my youthful idealism, telling me to read the first chapter of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil (saying that if I did so I would be "thanking [him] for the rest of [my] life"--which was not the result), asking me whether I have a "God image," and so forth. (Price's reply characterizes our exchange of letters as "what seemed an interminable correspondence." It might have been shorter had he simply answered my questions. I sent him six letters between December 31, 1990 and May 28, 1991; he sent me five letters in the same period and two more in February 1992 (one being an empty envelope) after my article was published. In Price's last letter, he stated that my article contained "more than sufficient falsehood ... to justify a defamation suit," but he never replied to my March 23, 1992 letter asking for specifics and offering to publicly correct my mistakes.)

Price's reply, on the other hand, was written without any input from me. I did not see a copy of his reply until it was published in Creation/Evolution. I wrote to Ian Plimer on February 10, 1993 to ask for a copy of the most up-to-date version of the longer, unpublished Price reply, but have yet to receive a copy from him. (On March 5, 1993, I received electronic mail from Plimer, signed by "Professor Plimer's Office," stating that he "is unavailable until mid April, and he will reply then." I sent electronic mail to Plimer on April 12, 1993, reminding him of my request for the long Price reply, but have received no response to date.) I obtained my copy of the April 1992 full-length version of Price's reply from John Cole.

Charge (1): Plimer behaved poorly in a debate with Duane Gish in 1988. Pages 3-6 of Price's reply discuss the Plimer/Gish debate by quoting from newspaper accounts which praise Plimer for his "20 blistering minutes" in which he "mocked, ridiculed, and challenged every tenet the movement holds dear, and made a string of blunt personal allegations about some of its more prominent members." He criticizes Gish as a propagandist for pseudoscience, a criticism I agree with. He maintains that Plimer's debate was a political, not scientific, action, and that it was successful because the Institute for Creation Research has not debated in Australia since.

Price does not take issue with my description of Plimer's behavior; instead, he argues that the end justifies the means. I have three complaints with this response. First, I am frankly skeptical that the long-term effects of Plimer's tactics will be quite so rosy. Robert Doolan of the CSF (personal communication, May 12, 1993) informs me that the circulation of their publications is significantly higher than it was at the time of the Gish/Plimer debate. Second, I am skeptical that even the short-term results are as Price says. Price claims (p. 3) that "Before the debate there was a procession from the U.S. of ICR debaters to Australia. Since, there has been none." While it is true that no one from the ICR has debated in Australia since Gish, the only one to do so prior to this was Gary Parker. Carl Wieland of the CSF did debate at the tenth annual convention of the Australian Skeptics, at which he brought up misrepresentations by skeptics. No ICR visits or scheduled debates have been cancelled or postponed. Third, I question the view that the most desirable end for skeptics and critics of creationism is the eradication of opposing views rather than the promotion of critical thinking and reasoning.

I should also point out a misrepresentation by Price on page 3 of his reply, where he states that "the moderator [of the Gish/Plimer debate], a Christian barrister, chosen by the creationists, agreed with me that Gish was shown up as a fraud." The moderator of this debate was Rod Skiller, who stated in a letter to Warwick Armstrong dated April 30, 1993 that

I would like to confirm in writing that, at no time did I refer to Dr. Gish as a fraud, fraudulent, or by any similar description, during the debate which I adjudicated some 4 years ago at NSW University. I do recall saying words to the effect of 'I consider neither side has persuaded me more than the other to accept its position.'

As I pointed out in my original article (footnote 2, page 18), the Australian Skeptics' report on the debate states that "The adjudicator summed up by saying that, rather than a debate, the evening was more like a presentation by Dr. Gish and a series of derogatory replies by Dr. Plimer. He would award poor marks to both speakers, neither of whom had properly expounded his point of view as a science."

Charge (2): Plimer misrepresented the views of Michael Denton, author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, in that debate, falsely claiming that Denton had "admitted he was wrong" (apparently with respect to his entire book) and that "he was unaware of the fossil record when he wrote it." All Price has to say about this is on pages 3 and 5: "Of the 600 words in this section [about the debate] Lippard chooses to write about 500 words on his own opinions as to whether or not, or how much, Michael Denton has changed his views on evolution. ... Again, Lippard is selective. His account comprises creationist quotes plus a sounding board for his own revelations about Denton."

Price is mistaken to state that my remarks about Denton are my own opinions--I asked Denton what his own views are. I quoted his answers in my article. The fact is that Plimer misrepresented Denton's views, according to Denton himself. (I should point out that I do not agree with Denton; I simply think he should be allowed to speak for himself about what he believes.)

Charge (3): Plimer issued a challenge to creationists in 1986 and 1987 (which Price quoted in his book) to produce evidence for their claims that fossil gold chains had been found in Australian coal seams, when in fact the creationists made no such claim. Plimer claimed that Creation Science Foundation geologist Andrew Snelling had claimed to find fossil gold chains in Australian coal seams, first in the Australian Geologist and then in a newspaper challenge. Snelling and others denied making any such claim, and asked Plimer to produce evidence. When I asked Plimer about this, he told me that the article in question was in the Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, and that Snelling was the editor, not the author. This led to my statement in "How Not to Argue with Creationists" that there is no such article in the five volumes of that journal published between 1984 and 1991.

Price's response, on page 2 of his reply, in its entirety, is as follows:

Fossil Gold Chains, Ex Nihilo C/E 10 Lippard claims to have searched five years of the Creation Science Foundation's Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, implying Plimer was lying about Snelling editing an article where gold chains were found in coal seams. Lippard was searching in the wrong place.

In the 1988 Creation Science Foundation Quarterly Creation ex Nihilo page 4 Vol 10 No 4 (Sept.Dec.) there is an article detailing the finding of a gold chain, an iron pot, a steel drill kit, coins et al in coal seams. Snelling at the time was technical director, as well as a member of the editorial board and presumably refereed the paper.

Nor does Lippard bother to state that Creation Science Controversy, addendum 1, accompanied the errata sheet. It clearly states that Snelling "vigorously denied" Plimer's claim that he (Snelling) had found "gold chains and anchors in seams". The reference is given. Through Lippard's paper there are similar deletions.

Price is right that this article exists, but the article was published after Plimer's public challenges. I wrote the following in my last (March 23, 1992) letter to Barry Price:

You may have seen some of my recent correspondence with Thomas Jukes. If so, you will note that while rereading some of our correspondence, I noticed that I had overlooked the fact that your letter of April 29, 1991 gave a reference for the "fossil gold chains in coal seams" claim. You gave the reference as "Creation Ex Nihilo 10, 4, p. 1 (1988) ... Andrew Snelling was on the editorial board and technical director of the journal at the time." I regret not having obtained the article you cite (which is actually on p. 41) before publishing my article, but it does not affect the truth of anything I wrote. The article in question is by Ron Calais, and its only reference to a gold chain (singular) is the same 1891 gold chain from Morrisonville, Illinois which I referred to in footnote six of "How Not to Argue with Creationists." This reference does clearly show that the CSF has endorsed the claim that fossil gold chains have been found in coal in their literature. What it does not show is that Ian Plimer's challenge and criticism of Andrew Snelling was sound. The article in question was published in September 1988. Up to that time, I am aware of no claims of fossil gold chains in the CSF literature. But Ian Plimer's criticism was published in the December 20, 1986 issue of The Australian Geologist, where he wrote (p. 6) that "Other enlightened new data by Snelling are reports in the CSF literature of the occurrence of fossil gold chains and iron anchors in Australian coal seams supporting the CSF concept that coal seams are young, were destroyed by catastrophic volcanic explosions and formed instantaneously" (emphases added). The article you cite cannot be what Plimer was here referring to, since it is a report of an old claim (from 1891) in an article by Ron Calais (not Snelling) about a gold chain in U.S. coal (not Australian) and was not published until nearly two years after Plimer's statement.

I think this article is worth bringing up in regard to my criticisms, but it does not answer them.

I stand behind these March 23, 1992 remarks, and wonder why Price's reply does not take them into consideration. (I should add that Andrew Snelling, on page 29 of "Where Are All the Human Fossils?" Creation Ex Nihilo vol. 14, no. 1, December 1991- February 1992, pp. 28-33, questions the Illinois gold chain in coal claim.)

The third paragraph of Price's response does point out a genuine mistake on my part, though not one in pages 10-11 of my article where I discuss Plimer and the fossil gold chains. My mistake is on page 12, where I wrote:

In the case of Ian Plimer's "fossil gold chains" claim, Price should have been aware that every time Plimer published the claim, a rebuttal has been issued in the same publication (Malcolm, 1987; Snelling, 1988). Yet Price never mentions these rebuttals and appears to have made no attempt to find the claim in the creationist literature.

As Price correctly points out in his reply, the addendum on the errata sheet to his book does refer to the Snelling rebuttal. It does not, however, give any reference to the source of the "gold chains" claim.

Charge (4): Barry Price's book, The Creation Science Controversy, contains numerous errors and ad hominems. Pages 10-14 of Price's reply (more than a fourth) are devoted to answering this charge, as are pages 44-46 of his published article (three-fourths of it). I consider his effort disproportionate to the seriousness of the charge. He spends most of his reply to this charge addressing a single phrase of my article: my description of his book as "polemical, light on science, and heavy on ad hominem argument." He agrees that it is polemical ("Unashamedly and deliberately so"), but says that more than half of the book is about science and quotes from various positive reviews of his book as evidence that it is not heavy on ad hominem. (One review he doesn't quote is one I quoted in my article, by his fellow Australian skeptic Martin Bridgstock, who wrote in the July/August 1990 issue of Search that Price's book "is clear and punchy, occasionally veering into stridency" and is "peppered with errors.")

A Response to Deception's third (January 1991) edition contains 28 pages of criticisms of Price's book. While I agree with Price that many of these criticisms are weak or minor (typographical errors, for instance), others are more serious-- such as the ones I brought up in "How Not to Argue with Creationists" and am discussing in this very response to Price.

I should point out that I take the side of Price and Alex Ritchie (the latter of whom discusses this issue in the March 1991 issue of The Australian Biologist) with regard to Duane Gish's alleged quotation from Marcellin Boule's 1937 L'Anthropologie article on p. 129 of Evolution: The Fossils Say No! Gish cited Boule, but quoted the translation of Boule from pp. 119-120 of Patrick O'Connell's Science of Today and the Problems of Genesis, a book which Gish cites elsewhere in his book. Unfortunately for Gish, O'Connell's translation is somewhat inaccurate, implying that Boule thought Peking Man to be "monkey- like." (An accurate translation of Boule is found in Boule and Henri Vallois's 1957 book, Fossil Men, which Gish also quotes in his book but ignored in this particular instance.) The CSF maintains in A Response to Deception that the O'Connell translation is accurate, though in private correspondence, Robert Doolan stated that perhaps it was slightly misleading. A Response to Deception points out that Price has performed exactly the same sort of second-hand quotation (while citing the primary source) that Gish did--Price's quotation from Gish's book repeats the same typographical errors found in Frank Zindler's March 1986 American Atheist article which first pointed out the mistranslation in Gish's Evolution: The Fossils Say No! (Zindler did not discover that O'Connell was the source of Gish's translation; that was discovered by the CSF and then publicized by Price and Ritchie.) [Note added July 5, 1993: Zindler did, in fact, discover this, and noted it in the transcript of his January 11, 1990 debate with Gish (p. 24). Gish said in that debate that "I deleted [the Boule quotation in Evolution: The Fossils Say No! when it was revised as Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record] because I quoted a secondary source." (The Zindler/Gish transcript is available from the National Center for Science Education.)]

Charge (5): Both Plimer and Price have made unsupported (and apparently false) claims about alleged financial fraud involving the Australian Creation Science Foundation, which led to an apology for Plimer's remarks by the magazine Media Information Australia.

Price addresses this charge on pages 6-8 of his reply. He begins by writing:

Bridgstock, whom Lippard quotes but apparently has not read beyond the first paragraph, gives the Creation Science Foundation marked down losses as $92538 of which $83370.24 is a loss in Goldmark. The Foundation has refused to name their "investment agents" or where the discrepant $9K was invested.

Price made a similar statement to me in his letter of February 13, 1992 and in a letter to Thomas Jukes of February 21, 1991 which he asked Jukes to forward to me. In his letter to Jukes, he writes to request that I demand from the CSF "details of the $9K difference between CSF $92K total losses and the $83K in Goldstock." (This was the first I heard from Price that he thought there was a discrepancy, despite my having repeatedly asked him what financial impropriety he was alleging.)

Price has his facts wrong. First, he has managed to get the name of the company wrong twice. "Goldmark" is apparently a chain of discount jewelry stores in Australia. I don't know where "Goldstock" comes from. The name of the company in which the CSF invested its funds was Goldcom. Goldcom in turn invested money in International Commodity Traders Association (ICTA), which was responsible for the loss, which wiped out Goldcom. The CSF had also invested a smaller amount of money directly in ICTA. Second, Price's numbers are wrong. The CSF lost a total of $92,360.14, all of which was lost due to ICTA's embezzlement. Of this amount, $85,370.24 ($74,000 capital and $11,370.24 in interest) was invested through Goldcom and $6,989.90 ($5,000 capital and $1,989.90 in interest) directly in ICTA. (In my original article, I report the loss as $92,363 (p. 13, quoting Bridgstock) and $92,358 (p. 13, quoting Plimer). The source of these discrepancies has not been tracked down, but it is at most a $5 discrepancy, not the $9,000 discrepancy Price is claiming.) Price's $9,000 appears to be the approximately $7,000 lost from direct investment in ICTA combined with a $2,000 error regarding the amount lost through Goldcom.

Price claims I have not read Martin Bridgstock's article on this loss; that is incorrect. Bridgstock says that there were two companies involved in the loss but names only ICTA. The other company he was referring to was Goldcom. Price's remarks suggest that he thinks there is yet another company responsible for $9,000 of the loss, but there is nothing in Bridgstock's article to suggest this.

Price also writes regarding the loss that "By 1986 it was known that no one would receive one cent back on their investments." In fact, the CSF received about twenty percent of the amount it lost which was invested directly in ICTA, and is expected to receive a smaller percentage of what was invested through Goldcom.

Price states that he "will walk from Sydney to Darwin on [his] hands and knees" (p. 9) if I can obtain two pieces of information from the CSF: (i) the identity of the "investment agents" mentioned in the CSF's 1984 return and (ii) an explanation for the "discrepant $9K." I have received both pieces of information from Robert Doolan. The 1984 return's reference to "failure of the company's investment agents" refers to Goldcom, which failed as a result of its investment in ICTA. There is no "discrepant $9K," as I have already explained. I hope that Mr. Price enjoys his walk.

Price claims that my description of payment to CSF director John Andrew Thallon through his investment company, Tralil Pty. Ltd., is incorrect. According to Price, the losses were known on September 1, 1984, and thus my statement in my original article (p. 13) that the contract with Thallon was made before, not after the losses, is incorrect. Price is right on this count--in fact, the losses were first known on July 11, 1984. The loss was, in fact, part of the reason for the contract with Thallon. In January 1984, Thallon had resigned from a paying job in order to devote more time to the CSF as a full-time volunteer. When the losses took place, he personally lost more money than the CSF did (Price gives the amount lost by Tralil, Thallon's investment company, as $97,000 on p. 6 of his reply). Thallon could thus no longer afford to work for the CSF on a volunteer basis, and he was contracted to provide his services on an hourly basis, to be paid weekly. According to the CSF, Thallon frequently worked more than 40 hours a week for the CSF, yet never charged for more than 40 hours per week. Price appears to assume that the $8,118.75 paid to Thallon was made in one lump sum; this is not the case according to the CSF.

Price claims that "Thallon was required by law and also by the Foundation's Articles of Association to declare his interest in Tralil two years earlier." Price gives no evidence for this claim. According to the CSF, Thallon was only legally required to declare his interest in Tralil upon entering into a contract with the CSF, and this was done. Before this time, Thallon did not receive any payment from the CSF, despite his having done much work for them.

Price states, in response to my claim that the CSF funds which were lost were interest-free loans, that "This would be embezzlement." That would only be the case if the loans were not repaid, which they were. Some percentage of the funds the CSF had invested was money which had been loaned free of interest to the CSF for the purpose of investment. The CSF sent out a letter to supporters after the loss; those supporters donated money which was used to repay all of these loans. These donations are the "accumulated surpluses" referred to in the CSF returns.

Price's second footnote (p. 15) is rather confused when it says that "Prior disclosure means that the annual returns of a company are accessible to the public." This is incorrect. "Prior disclosure" refers to the requirement that a company provide information about its financial situation to investors. The CSF's Section 23(e) tax exemption does not exempt it from prior disclosure. Those who inquire about making interest-free loans to the CSF are sent a prior disclosure document as required by Corporate Affairs. The difference between non-profit, tax-exempt companies and others is the amount of detail required in such a document. As for the CSF's financial returns, they have always been public.

Price distinguishes investigations by the Australian Tax Office, the Australian Securities Commission, and the Fraud Squad, stating that the former only checks whether or not the tax exemption privilege is being abused, while the latter two investigate for financial improprieties. He takes issue with my pointing out that the CSF has received a clean bill of health from the Australian Tax Office, stating that "A clean bill of health by one does not prove a clean bill of health by the other. To imply that it does is disinformation." Price suggests that the CSF would not receive a clean bill of health from the Australian Securities Commission or the Fraud Squad. He writes that "The above is as much as I am prepared to say on the Creation Science Foundation's finances but there is more to come, possibly by the time this paper is published." Price is no doubt referring to an investigation by the Queensland Police Service Fraud and Corporate Crime Squad, which investigated the CSF and its financial loss as a result of a complaint from Mark Plummer, president of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Skeptics. The "more to come" has arrived. The following quotation from a November 10, 1992 letter from Detective Superintendent C.J. Crawford to Carl Wieland reveals the result of that investigation:

Inquiries made into the conduct of the Creation Science Foundation Limited concerning these investments and other matters raised by a Mr Barry PRICE of Sydney, have failed to substantiate any evidence that an offence has been committed with respect to the statute law of Queensland.

This matter, as concerns the Queensland Police Service has been finalised.

The Australian Securities Commission has apparently not investigated the CSF, despite being urged to do so. This is because they will not investigate without a prima facie reason for doing so, and they have not been given such a reason. Given the results of the Queensland Fraud Squad's investigation, this is not likely to change.

Regarding the resignations of CSF directors, Price admits he was mistaken to claim that Ken Ham resigned from his position as a CSF director. He suggests that other resignations are related to the financial loss, but declines to say so explicitly. This is because, with the exception of Thallon's resignation, which Thallon offered on June 19, 1986 because of his own feelings of responsibility for having suggested the investment which led to the loss, there are other reasons for the resignations, some of which I gave in my article. Thallon's resignation was accepted "with regret" on July 16, 1986.

Price wrongly lists David Bardsley as a CSF director who was "replaced." Bardsley was company secretary for a short time, but was never a director nor member of the CSF Board.

Charge (6): One error in Price's book has led to a defamation suit by former CSF director Robert Stephen Gustafson, and Price's book has been withdrawn by the publisher. Price admits that this was an error in his book, describing a payment which was made to John Thallon as being a payment to Gustafson, but maintains that it was a trivial error--the substitution of Gustafson's name for Thallon's. There is little question that such a substitution error occurred. What Price wrote on page 191 of his book was that "the name of one of their directors, Robert Stephen Gustafson, who was also secretary, disappeared without explanation from company records after a payment of $8719 was made by the board of directors to a company in which he had an interest." Gustafson was not secretary of the CSF; Thallon was. The next sentence of Price's book, however, says "He still serves as attorney to the company." This accurately describes Gustafson rather than Thallon, and was probably added after the substitution mistake. But there is more wrong here than the substitution. If Thallon's name is replaced in the first sentence and the second sentence is deleted, the resulting claim seems to be that a lump-sum payment of $8719 was made to Thallon's company, and then his name disappeared from company records "without explanation." Neither is the case, as I have already pointed out regarding charge (5), above. (Price also appears to have been suggesting in his reply that this payment to Thallon was somehow related to the nonexistent "$9K discrepancy," but, as Price himself admits as a possibility in his first footnote on p. 15 of his reply, he has gotten the amount of the payment to Thallon wrong. As I pointed out in both my original article and above, Thallon was paid $8,118.75, not $8,719.)

Price writes of the change of CSF auditors in March 1985, questioning the CSF claim that they had "an offer from a Christian firm to do the audit for a far cheaper price" by pointing out that while KPMG Peat Marwick (then Peat Marwick Mitchell) had charged $1,200 for the 1984 returns, the new auditor, C.L. Lunt, charged $3,000. What Price doesn't realize is that KPMG Peat Marwick had reviewed the CSF account and determined that they would need to charge more for their services. (This is according to a letter I received from D.L. Russell, Partner in KPMG Peat Marwick, April 2, 1992.)

Charge (7): Plimer falsely claimed on an Australian national radio broadcast in 1989 that the CSF had not submitted financial reports for 1986, 1987, or 1988, a claim which led to an apology by the Australian Broadcasting Company; Price claimed in his book that the 1986 and 1987 reports "do not seem to be available." Price writes on page 9 of his reply that:

I have in front of me as I write an A.S.C. receipt for $10 dated 22 May 1991, reference no. 47231/1. It is for Creation Science Foundation returns 1980-1990 on microfiche. 1987 is missing. I applied again pointing out on this second application form that 1987 was missing. A recent conversation with the Australian Securities Commission informed me that this was not an uncommon occurrence and that there is difficulty even now in obtaining documents prior to the changeover from Corporate Affairs, which are stored in another building.

I have the second receipt, reference 571518/1, dated 26 June 1991, for another set of microfiche. 1987 is still missing. Response to Deception 20, n88 calls this "unscrupulous, contemptible, false and defamatory," rather a mouthful. Lippard tones it down to "false statement." In the circumstances, both Lippard and the Creation Science Foundation leave themselves open to defamation charges.

Plimer stated that no returns were submitted for the years 1986, 1987, and 1988, when in fact returns were submitted for each of those years, as I documented in "How Not to Argue with Creationists." Price said that the returns for 1986 and 1987 "do not seem to be available," but he implies above that he has microfiche with all of the returns from 1980-1990 except for 1987. If he has the 1986 returns, then his statement that neither the 1986 or 1987 returns seem to be available is a false statement. The fact that the Australian Securities Commission says that "this was not an uncommon occurrence" (i.e., that they can't find the returns) is a fact which Price does not mention in his book, despite its obvious relevance. The very next sentence of his book indicates that Price thinks the reports were not filed (a claim Plimer made explicitly): "Presumably extensions have been granted by the Corporate Affairs Commission because of extenuating circumstances." That implication is incorrect, for both the 1986 and 1987 returns, and it is that implication which was criticized by both myself and the CSF.

Charge (8): Price and Plimer have both quoted from an article in a Christian school magazine on "Reviewing and Correcting Encyclopedias" about how to remove sections on evolution, followed by reporting that book vandalism discovered at the University of Newcastle--implying that the vandalism was performed by creationists inspired by the article.

Price's response to this is relegated to a footnote, number 5 on page 16, where he writes:

Lippard states "Price and Plimer both imply (sic) that the University of Newcastle vandalism (removing references to evolution in the palaeontology sections of the library) was performed by creationists, inspired by the Martin article." Even by Lippard's standards this is utter nonsense. The Creation Science Controversy 166 states

After receiving a copy of this quote, the librarian at the University of Newcastle checked through some books... (emphasis mine)

While Lippard has admitted to me he gave assistance to the Creation Science Foundation by obtaining for them the M.E. Marty quote, a comparison of what he has written in C/E with page 17, n185-186, Sept. 90 edition of Response to Deception indicates conclusively he assisted in the writing of it. This was four to five months before he contacted me.

Of the three versions Creation Science Controversy is the only one not to make the "distinction" that vandalising should be confined to librarians at Christian schools. As a final note, the Martin article seems a bit too pat. One wonders whether the article, published on April 9, was actually scheduled for April 1st?

I do not understand why Price emphasizes the word "After" in the quotation from his book, and his placing "sic" after the word "imply" when he quotes my article suggests that he doesn't understand the difference between "imply" and "infer." I also fail to understand why he calls my statement "utter nonsense." Both Price and Plimer quote an article by Ray E. Martin from Christian School Builder magazine about excising references to evolution from textbooks and encyclopedias in Christian schools. Both of them quote this source second-hand, citing an article by Martin E. Marty in the Christian Century. Both of them follow this quotation with a report on the vandalism at the University of Newcastle; the clear implication is that the Martin article inspired the vandalism, and that it was done by creationists. But from reading the entire Marty article, it is clear that what is advocated is not vandalizing books on evolution in places like public school libraries, but only censoring textbooks owned by private Christian schools (still bad, as I pointed out in "How Not to Argue with Creationists"). Neither Price nor Plimer make this clear in what they quote.

Price fails to address what I find very curious about the University of Newcastle vandalism: that it only came to light after Plimer provided a copy of the quote from the Ray Martin article to the university librarian, and that similar vandalism has apparently not been found anywhere else. Instead, he accuses me of collusion with the CSF in the authorship of A Response to Deception from the very beginning (the first, September 1990 edition), and thinks he has "conclusive" evidence of this falsehood.

Price is very confused. As I pointed out above, my first contact with the Creation Science Foundation was after both the first and second editions of A Response to Deception had been published, and I have never seen the first edition. It is true that I provided the CSF with a copy of the Martin E. Marty article, which they did not possess until I sent it to them. How, then, is it the case that all editions of A Response to Deception (and my article) recognize the distinction between vandalism and a Christian school censoring its own books? It just isn't so. The second edition (October 1990) does not recognize this distinction, but relies entirely upon what Price and Plimer have written. It says that "Apparently, Mr Martin advocates slashing pages out of books dealing with evolution, with a razor blade." It is only the third edition (January 1991) that makes the distinction: "Apparently he has written in a Christian school magazine in USA that Christian schools cut or paste pages dealing with evolution in encyclopaedias in their own school libraries" (emphasis in original).

The third edition makes the distinction because by this time the Marty article was in the CSF's possession. Robert Doolan of the CSF asked me for a copy of the article on December 7, 1990; I obtained and sent a copy on December 13, 1990, and mentioned that I had done so in my December 31, 1990 letters to Price and Plimer.

The only words in any edition of A Response to Deception authored by me are quotations from my "Some Failures of Organized Skepticism" article. My role in the writing, editing, and publishing of the CSF booklet is considerably smaller than that of either Price or Plimer, whose words and actions instigated its production.

Charge (9): Plimer wrote a letter to a creationist following the debate with Gish in which he offered unsupported sexual innuendo about Gish.

Price writes on page 2 of his reply:

Under Australian law the publisher of a defamatory letter is guilty of defamation, not the writer. Otherwise half the world's population would be guilty of defamation at one time or another. Plimer has a clear cut case against the Creation Science Foundation which he could proceed with at any time if he thought it worthwhile. The only thing lower than Creation Science Foundation's publishing the letter is Lippard's repeating it. If people do start to wonder about Gish's sexual preferences it will be the fault of the Creation Science Foundation and Lippard, not Plimer. Lippard's actions are a very serious ethical lapse. An attempt to smear Plimer, no more and no less.

I find this response mind-boggling. Price actually maintains that quoting Plimer's own words is "an attempt to smear Plimer" and that Plimer has grounds for defamation. In fact, Australian law is not as absurd as Price seems to be suggesting here. Writers may be liable for defamation as well as publishers, as is illustrated by the fact that Price, as well as his publisher, have been sued for defamation by Gustafson. In the case of a letter, the writer is in effect also the publisher. According to Geoffrey Sawer's A Guide to Australian Law for Journalists, Authors, Printers and Publishers (third edition, section 67, paragraph iv), the following are the grounds for criminal prosecution in a defamation action:

In Victoria and South Australia, publication to person defamed is sufficient; elsewhere (as with civil defamation in all States and Territories) publication must be to some person other than the one defamed.

Since Plimer and the recipient of the letter in question were both located in New South Wales, there would be a case only if the letter were sent to someone other than the person defamed. Since the letter's recipient was not Duane Gish, the conditions described in the above quotation were met, and Plimer would be liable for any defamatory statements about Gish. The CSF and Creation/Evolution did also publish the quotation in question, but did so in such a way as to preclude the plausibility (if not possibility) of any action by Gish against them.

Since Plimer's name is not even mentioned in the quoted passage from his letter, it is extremely difficult to see how he can claim to have been defamed by its publication.


In short, I stand behind everything I wrote in "How Not to Argue with Creationists" with the exception of the minor errors which I have corrected in this article. Price's reply is weak, misleading, and filled with errors, which serves only to confirm the importance of my advice about "proper skepticism" in the conclusion of my original article. If this is all that Price and Plimer have to say in their defense, then it is in the interest of everyone who comes in contact with them to scrutinize carefully any claims they make about creationism and creationists.

I welcome inquiries and comments on this subject.


I am grateful for the comments and suggestions of Robert Doolan and of Mike Norton regarding an earlier draft of this article.

Jim Lippard
Department of Philosophy
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721

May 17, 1993

Appendix: A Reply to Stanley Weinberg

In the same issue of Creation/Evolution which printed the short version of Barry Price's response to "How Not to Argue with Creationists" appeared the following letter from Stanley L. Weinberg (p. 58):

In C/E 29 (Winter 1991-'92) Jim Lippard refers to a disagreement in Australia between Ian Plimer and Duane Gish over Michael Denton's book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Lippard criticizes Plimer's "remarks" and tentatively attributes them to me: "A possible source of Plimer's remarks (or perhaps they share a common source) is Stan Weinberg's (1985[sic]:22) report in the Creation/Evolution Newsletter" (Weinberg, 1986, "Creation-Evolution Literature from Australia," Creation/Evolution Newsletter 6(6):20-22).

Lippard's attribution is without foundation. I had no communication with Plimer while he was having discussions with Gish and Denton or while I was writing my article. My information came from Michael Archer, who knew Denton quite well.

I have recently talked with Plimer [Summer 1992]. He also bases his evaluations on Denton's book and on face-to- face interviews with [Denton]. Plimer tells me that he never said Denton "knows nothing" of fossils or mammal-like reptiles. Plimer did sense--and say--that Denton's knowledge in these areas seems to be recently-acquired and very weak. Plimer also reaffirmed, quite emphatically, Denton's statement that he knew very little about these areas when he began his writing, and he would have written his book quite differently had he been better informed.

As you already know, Plimer feels the Lippard article is a shoddy job, poorly written and edited, and weak in research. I concur; Creation/Evolution deserves better.

I sent the following letter to Weinberg via Creation/Evolution editor John Cole on February 9, 1993:

Dear Stan:

I received my copy of Creation/Evolution number 31 today, and read your letter on page 58. In your letter, you "concur" with Ian Plimer that my article, "How Not to Argue with Creationists," is "a shoddy job, poorly written and edited, and weak in research." You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I would be interested in hearing from you why you think that this quotation accurately describes my work. In particular, I would like you to tell me where my research is weak.

I am especially curious in light of the fact that the only criticisms you bring against my article are unfounded, and appear to be based in part on a misreading of my article. You write that I have attributed remarks by Plimer to you in my statement that "A possible source of Plimer's remarks (or perhaps they share a common source) is Stan Weinberg's (1985 [sic]:22) report in the Creation/Evolution Newsletter." You disclaim this by writing "Lippard's attribution is without foundation. I had no communication with Plimer while he was having discussions with Gish or Denton or while I was writing my article. My information came from Michael Archer, who knew Denton quite well."

I am quite aware that the source of your information was Michael Archer (whom I refer to as the possible "common source" above), and in fact I explicitly stated this in the footnote you have quoted from. Your statement that you had no communication with Plimer is simply not to the point. Plimer made a statement in a debate in 1988 which bore a striking resemblance to statements made in your 1986 article. All I was saying in my footnote was that Plimer possibly read your article or had himself spoken with Michael Archer. Nowhere did I state or imply that you and Plimer had any personal communication which led to his statement in his debate with Gish.

You write that "Plimer tells me that he never said Denton 'knows nothing' of fossils or mammal-like reptiles." But Plimer did say exactly what I said he did in my article (I have it on tape): He held up Denton's book and said "What we were not told was that Michael Denton, at this university last year, said and admitted he was wrong. That was published. He also said that he was unaware of the fossil record when he wrote it." In your article, which I cited and quoted accurately in my footnote, you wrote that "According to Archer, Denton acknowledged that before he wrote his book he had never heard of the mammal-like reptiles. He added that had he known of them beforehand, he would have written his book differently. But there are no indications that a corrected edition is forthcoming." Your statements and Plimer's are quite similar in that they both claim that Denton lacked knowledge of (aspects of) the fossil record when he wrote his book and that he would have written his book differently had he been better informed. According to Denton, both you and Plimer have incorrectly described what it was he lacked knowledge of and how he would have written his book differently. Plimer was certainly incorrect in his implication that Denton has retracted his book, as can be clearly seen by examining the blurb from Denton on the cover of Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial. (The fact that Denton thinks so highly of Johnson, by the way, is evidence that he really is poorly informed about the evidence for evolution--at least in my own humble opinion.)

On another subject, I am curious about your letter in the Spring/Summer 1991 issue of Origins Research, which I commented on in the 1992 issue. Was my interpretation of your remarks correct, or was OR's? I suspect they were right and I was wrong, in which case I agree with Mims and OR that your position is unreasonable. [This last paragraph refers to a statement by Weinberg regarding the controversy over Scientific American's refusal to publish amateur scientist columns by Forrest Mims because of his creationism. Weinberg wrote that "Should Scientific American publish an occasional article by an outside contributor who is clearly identified as a creationist, the magazine would not be compromised" (OR vol. 14, no. 1, p. 12). Mims and OR interpreted Weinberg's suggestion to mean that contributions by creationists published by Scientific American would be "clearly identified" as such, via some kind of labeling procedure. I wrote, in Weinberg's defense, that I read his sentence to mean "clearly identified" as in "well-known"--that is, that it would be acceptable for Scientific American to publish contributions from outside contributors who are well known as creationists, but not to have well-known creationists on the magazine's regular staff of contributors (OR vol. 14, no. 2, p. 9).]

To date, I have not heard a word from Weinberg.

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