Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Death of Henry Morris

As many of you no doubt know by now, Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research and the man most responsible for the revival of creationism in America, has died at age 87. By all accounts of those who met him, he was a gentleman of unfailing civility and good will. Sadly, he was also the purveyor of a great many lies and distortions foisted on a credulous group of followers. It was Morris who popularized such ridiculous claims as the famous “moon dust” argument, the Paluxy “man tracks” and much more. Perhaps more than any other, he mastered the art of the deceitful out of context quotation, his magnum opus being the utterly dishonest use of a USGS paper regarding the Lewis Overthrust.

None of this, of course, will stop his followers from declaring him a giant. Douglas Phillips, for example, calls him the “greatest defender of the doctrine of Creation in church history” and says, “the world will never be the same again.” But here’s the passage that jumped out at me from his obituary of Morris and it shows the lengths creationists will go to in giving the impression that they were converted against evolution by the evidence alone:

Once upon a time, I was a committed theistic evolutionist trusting in my own works to merit salvation. I saw no conflict between Christianity and the evolutionary propaganda dispensed by my government school teachers. I weaned myself on the wrong kinds of speculative evolutionary writings and dreamed of becoming an evolutionary astronomer when I grew up.

Then something happened.

God worked in my life through the boldness of several men to bring me the words of life that would ultimately lead to my salvation. One of them was my father who announced, “The Bible is true in every detail. God created the world in six twenty-four-hour days, exactly as it says in the book of Genesis.” Another man (who would become my pastor and mentor) challenged me by opening Scripture and handing me a book entitled The Genesis Flood. By the age of thirteen, I had learned to love the Lord of Creation. Since that time, I have viewed Dr. Henry Morris as a mentor and spiritual father.

So he was once a “committed theistic evolutionist”, but by the age of thirteen he had been convinced otherwise. For crying out loud, no one 12 years or younger is capable of being a “committed theistic evolutionist”. This is every bit as silly as Jonathan Wells’ claim that he was an evolutionist who was convinced while in grad school, solely by the evidence, that evolution was wrong – the truth, by his own admission, is that he was sent to grad school by the Rev. Moon intent on “destroying Darwinism”.


  1. #1 Steve Reuland
    March 2, 2006

    What the heck is an evolutionary astronomer?

  2. #2 J-Dog
    March 2, 2006

    I must say that I was more positively impacted by the life of Morris The Cat than Henry Morris, and will not mourn the passing of either.

  3. #3 Pieter B
    March 2, 2006

    I’m having a hard time here, Ed; my first thought upon reading of Morris’s demise was “I wish I believed in Hell.” The fact that he was polite, civil and sincere does not alter my opinion that he has done great evil. “A gentleman of unfailing civility and good will” = a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    The obit I just read is a classic example of what’s wrong with journalism today — the lack of critical thinking and a pathological fear of being labeled “liberal.” It’s on Newsday’s site, credited to the Washington Post.

    His 1961 book, “The Genesis Flood,” written with John C. Whitcomb, was the first significant attempt in the 20th century to offer a systematic scientific explanation for creationism and remains in print to this day. Even a longtime opponent, the late Stephen Jay Gould, acknowledged it as “the founding document of the creationist movement.”

    Supporters and foes alike regarded Morris as the “father of modern creation science” or sometimes, more waggishly, as the “Darwin of the creationist movement.”

    “He had an enormous influence,” Edward J. Larson, author of “Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory,” said in a telephone interview. “He literally set the terms of the debate for the second half of the 20th century.”

    Why would an opponent deny that Morris was the “father of ‘creation science'”? One might as well deny the ssunrise. It seems the writer is trying to suggest some sort of grudging admiration on the part of us godless evolutionists. Good riddance, says I. May his colleagues join him soon.

  4. #4 Jim Anderson
    March 2, 2006

    The “greatest defender of the doctrine of Creation in church history?” Ah, if only he’d studied Augustine before his adolescent epiphany.

  5. #5 Jim Anderson
    March 2, 2006

    (For clarity’s sake, that “he” is “Douglas W. Phillips, Esq.”)

  6. #6 Jeff Hebert
    March 2, 2006

    Steve Reuland said:

    What the heck is an evolutionary astronomer?

    That was my first question too. I think the problem is that when they say “Darwinist” or “Evolutionist”, what they really mean is anyone who believes that the scientific method can in any way lead to a conclusion that contradicts a literal interpretation of the Bible in any way. We hear “evolution” as just “The question of how life evolved from one or few species on Earth to the present diversity”, but to them it’s any scientific pursuit at all. Astonomy, geology, history, psychology, sociology, chemistry, it’s all the same thing to them — anti-Bible and thus anti-God.

    We’re speaking the same language with the same words and meaning two entirely different things.

  7. #7 Dave S.
    March 2, 2006

    Steve Reuland said:

    What the heck is an evolutionary astronomer?

    One who uses any number larger than “10,000” before the unit “light years”, and who still accepts c as a constant.

    Plus, what Jeff said.

  8. #8 Sean Foley
    March 2, 2006

    What the heck is an evolutionary astronomer?

    I think it comes out of the creationist listing of the “six basic concepts of evolution”:

    cosmic evolution – Big Bang makes hydrogen
    chemical evolution – higher elements evolve
    evolution of stars and planets from gas
    organic evolution – life from rocks
    macro-evolution – changes between kinds of plants and animals
    micro-evolution – changes within kinds

    (Quoted from Jack Chick’s seminal Big Daddy?)

    This is a point that crops up pretty regularly in YEC literature. John N. Moore’s How to Teach Origins (Without ACLU Interference), a YEC teaching guide from 1983, discusses it in the context of the pyramid “diagram of total evolution,” which places “Stellar Evolution” at the base of the pyramid. I think Gish employs a similar listing, but I don’t have any of his books handy to check. It’s not quite what Jeff suggests, where “evolution” is a synonym for science that contradicts the Bible, but it is used as a blanket term for any sort of material change over time. It also doesn’t necessarily imply rejection of the data or concept presented – I don’t recall reading any creationist literature that denied the occurance of “chemical evolution” through fusion in the Sun.

    But as to Steve’s question, I think what he means by “evolutionary astronomer” is what normal people call a cosmologist.

  9. #9 KeithB
    March 2, 2006

    When I read the Genesis Flood there were three arguments that I thought had some merit. One was the Lewis Overthrust. (I don’t recall the other two.) When I saw the misquote from the USGS paper, that pretty much killed any belief I had that the Flood *might* be true.

  10. #10 Pieter B
    March 2, 2006

    A couple of months ago I agreed to debate evolution on a message board, and the first question out of the creationist’s keyboard was “Do you subscribe to the Big Bang theory?” To most of them, all science is suspect, and it’s all part of the Darwinist plot to deny the Word Of Godô.

    At the end of the “debate,” he posited that polygraphs were proof of the existence of god. I am not making this up.

  11. #11 Ed Darrell
    March 2, 2006

    No, polygraphs are proof of the existence of David Raskin, who championed them for years, and retired to Homer, Alaska.

    Or, was that fellow suggesting David might be God? His wife will find that entertaining.

  12. #12 Matthew
    March 2, 2006

    Well at 12 I liked dinosaurs, and their full of evolutionary goodness, so maybe that’s what he means by being a committed evolutionist…?

  13. #13 Pieter B
    March 3, 2006

    The fellow’s point was that discomfort at being untruthful was hard-wired by god, and the fact that polygraphs (which as we know are not particularly accurate) are used by a lot of police departments is proof of the deity’s existence.

  14. #14 Bartholomew
    March 3, 2006

    Bizarrely, Dembski says he thinks Morris was wrong about his YEC, but that he should be praised anyway for “maintaining pressure on this pseudoscience [i.e. evoutionary biology] when so much of the Western world.” He also sees himself as taking on Morris’s mantle: “May the work of dismantling Darwinian materialism that Morris began come to completion soon.”

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