Racine Debate


The 1000-seat Memorial Hall on the shore of Lake Michigan in downtown Racine, Wisconsin, was filled to capacity on Monday, May 1st, for the creation-evolution debate between Dr. Duane Gish and Dr. Vincent T. D’Orazio. Dr. D’Orazio, who earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Michigan State University, is an industrial chemist in Racine and has been in active opposition to the teaching of the creation model along with the evolution model in the Racine Public Schools. Dr. Francis (Frank) Chapman, an industrial chemist with the Johnson's Wax Company, served as moderator of the debate.

The event was one of the highlights of the Fifth Midwest Creation Week, April 28 to May 7, in the greater Chicago-Wheaton area, featuring almost 100 programs in churches, Christian and public schools, colleges and universities, including radio and television programs and interviews. Paul M. MacKinney, President of the I.C.R. Midwest Center was the organizer of this week of creation emphasis.

The Racine debate marked at least the 90th debate that Dr. Gish and/or Dr. Henry Morris have had since 1972—most of them on university campuses—involving at least 140 evolutionary scientists. Although this reviewer is familiar with almost all of these debates, it is difficult to remember one in which less positive evidence for evolution, was presented than was presented by Dr. D'Orazio. Instead, he devoted almost all of his time to challenging the credentials and the integrity of creationist scientists as well as the quality of their work. Not only did Gish comment on the obvious lack of scientific evidence presented by D'Orazio, but also one of the questions from the audience during the question period was directed to D'Orazio asking him why he chose to handle his portion of the debate in that fashion.

It is a well-known axiom in debate that if you feel that you have a strong case, you should build it; if you feel your case is weak, it is better to attack the opposition relentlessly while ignoring your own position. One thus hopes to gain victory by revealing the weaknesses of the opposing position rather than by systematically building a positive case for your own position. Since the question to be debated was: "Does scientific evidence adequately support the theory of evolution?," D'Orazio's reason for using this technique remains a mystery. Yet, his failure to present rigorous evidence for his position did not go unnoticed by the audience.

Gish began his initial presentation by stating that evolution contradicts well-established natural laws, whereas these laws are in accord with the concepts of Special Creation. He defined the evolution model and the creation model and cited the logical expectations or predictions based upon each one. The evolution model would predict that the matter/energy of the universe would be conserved, but also that it would be integrated into more complex forms as time progresses. The creation model would likewise predict the conservation of the matter/energy of the universe. However, since creation implies a Creator, and this Creator would have created the universe in a perfect condition, any change in the initial condition would be a degenerative or downward change rather than an integrative change. Thus, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is strongly supportive of the creation position.

Since mutations are random and, according to probability theory, cannot account for the complexity we see in the universe, Gish then pointed out that natural selection is raised to the status of a deity by evolutionists. For, according to current concepts of evolution, it is natural selection which takes the raw material of mutations and utilizes them in creating all of the design and order and complexity we see in the biological world. Since natural selection does all that the Scriptures state that the God of creation did, natural selection thus becomes the god of evolution. It literally takes that which is impossible and makes it certain. Evolution is thus not without its own miracles of faith. In this sense it is fully as religious as is creation.

Gish's third area of emphasis was the fossil record. He demonstrated that the history of life gives no evidence that the transformation from one kind of plant or animal to another kind of plant or animal of higher complexity has taken place. Instead, complex living things appear abruptly without ancestors or transitions.

After giving a very brief statement as to how science operates, Dr. D'Orazio used almost the entire time in his initial presentation to challenge the work of creationist scientists. Citing recent articles in the I.C.R. "Impact Series," he claimed that Henry Morris had misquoted thermodynamicist Ilya Prigogine and that Gish had misquoted geologists Stephen Jay Gould and Steven M. Stanley. D'Orazio cited letters from each of these men to the effect that they had been misquoted. This was a rather unusual procedure, for it is hardly necessary to write to a man to ask him if a written statement of his had been taken out of context. All one need do is to study the original work cited and then make a determination as to whether the quotation taken from it is used accurately or not. Nor is it surprising that evolutionists would claim to be misquoted when their statements are turned, by creationists, against their own position. In all of this, D'Orazio did not actually demonstrate that these men had indeed been misquoted.

Using as his source an article by Gish ("A Decade of Creationist Research," Creation Research Society Journal, Vol. 12, June 1975), D'Orazio then questioned the quality of work done by geologist Clifford Burdick regarding the Grand Canyon pollen fossils, the work of physicist Thomas Barnes regarding the decay of the earth's magnetic field, and the matter of human footprints found in situ with dinosaur footprints in the Cretaceous deposits of the Paluxy River, Glen Rose, Texas. He further challenged the accuracy of the film, "Footprints in Stone," produced by Stanley Taylor. Creationists who are familiar with these research projects detected many errors in D'Orazio's statements. D'Orazio claimed that he had spent time with Dr. Aureal T. Cross, a distinguished palynologist from Michigan State University. Going over Burdick's work, Cross concluded that the fossil pollen grains of gymnosperms (conifers) and angiosperms (flowering plants) that were found in the Precambrian Hakatai shale of the Grand Canyon were actually contamination from present day plants, that the work was very sloppy, and that many of them were mislabeled. However, anyone who is really familiar with Burdick's work knows that all of the pollen grains found in the rocks at the very bottom of the Grand Canyon were of extinct species—which would rule out entirely the possibility of contamination by present day forms and might also account for Cross's thinking that many of them were mislabeled. D'Orazio did not mention that similar finds have been discovered elsewhere by evolutionists since the 1950's and reported in—of all places—the journal, Evolution.

D’Orazio made many references to the work of Prigogine, claiming that Prigogine had been awarded the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for having solved the problem of how evolution can take place in spite of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. At one point, he held up a thick file which he said contained Prigogine's articles on the subject. Yet, in all of this, D'Orazio never did explain what Prigogine actually proposed or how the contradiction between the Second Law and evolution had been resolved. One had the haunting feeling that D'Orazio, himself, did not really understand it and that his continued references to Prigogine were more rhetoric than substance. Later on, Gish clarified the fact that Prigogine was not awarded the Nobel Prize for solving the problem of evolution vs. the Second Law but just for working on the problem, and that he was given the Nobel Prize for " ... his contributions to nonequilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures" (Science 198:716).

It was only at the very end of his hour-long statement that D'Orazio introduced some positive "evidence" for evolution. He attempted to deal with the gaps in the fossil record which most evolutionists themselves recognize as very real. He cited the famous horse series and then referred to transitions between reptiles and man, especially dealing with the jaw hinge and the palate. In this sense he abused the term "transitional form," for neither evolutionists nor creationists use the term to span such a wide gap as that between reptiles and man. His illustrations were theoretical rather than actual. He closed his presentation by claiming that Archaeopteryx was actually a feathered reptile. Evolutionists have often used Archaeopteryx as an illustration of a transitional form between reptiles and birds. Most authorities have admitted, however, that Archaeopteryx was a bird because of the clear imprint of feathers in the fossil remains. The zoological definition of a bird is: "A vertebrate with feathers." Recently, Dr. James Jensen, paleontologist at Brigham Young University, discovered in western Colorado the fossil remains of a bird thought to be as old as Archaeopteryx but much more modern in form. This would seem to give the death-knell to any possible use of Archaeopteryx by evolutionists as a transitional form. Apparently, what D'Orazio was attempting to do in making Archaeopteryx a feathered dinosaur was to claim that both dinosaurs and birds had feathers and in this way establish an evolutionary link between the two. Of course, there is not a shred of fossil evidence to support this contention.

In the rebuttal period, after defending the credibility of creationist scientists and his own use of quotations, Gish dealt with the work of Prigogine and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Gish put it out that Prigogine's solution was strictly a theoretical, mathematical model that could not and did not work in the real world. It was in essence a "bull in a China shop" proposition where Prigogine suggested that if a system had enough disorder and was far enough away from equilibrium, there was the possibility of some order emerging. However, this explanation has yet to be demonstrated in the real world and could in no wise explain the origin of life from non-life.

D'Orazio, in his first rebuttal, chided creationists for not publishing their findings in established scientific journals. D'Orazio exhibited a very naive attitude toward the scientific community when he said that one could literally get anything published if one had the facts to support his conclusions—even that the moon was made of green cheese. Creationists know that there is a massive evolutionary establishment that would seek to suppress all creationist research and publication. Gish gave several illustrations of this in response to D'Orazio's claim that if creationist research were respectable, the scientific journals would publish it. He then concluded his first rebuttal by asking Gish if Gish would accept evolution if the facts, without equivocation, supported it. Gish replied that as a scientist he would accept the facts and follow them where they led.

Gish, in his second rebuttal, directed a question to the audience. Since D'Orazio had been so opposed to the teaching of the creation model in addition to the evolution model in the Racine Public Schools, Gish asked the audience how many would like to continue the practice of having only the evolution model taught in the public schools. Approximately 12 people out of an audience of 1,000 raised their hands. Gish then asked the audience how many of them would like to have both the evolution model and the creation model taught with full discussion such as was being demonstrated in the debate that evening. Virtually everyone raised their hands. The effect was clearly impressed upon Dr. D'Orazio. Gish then turned to D'Orazio and issued a challenge to him. He said, "Dr. D'Orazio, if you have read Prigogine's works and if you understand it, and if you feel he has solved the problem of evolution versus the Second Law, would you please explain to this audience exactly what Prigogine has proposed?" D'Orazio evaded the issue, repeating that Gish's time was up and that it was necessary for him (D'Orazio) to make a concluding statement. Gish then offered D'Orazio as much time as he needed. D'Orazio continued to evade, saying that Gish was merely trying to keep him from making a concluding statement. Gish then responded by saying, "I am prepared to explain Prigogine's work in five minutes—are you?" D'Orazio persisted in saying that he had to make a concluding statement but that he would explain Prigogine's work later. The "later" never came. Whether D'Orazio was able to explain Prigogine's work we will never know. The effect on the audience, however, was that D'Orazio did not really understand as much about the Second Law of Thermodynamics and Prigogine's alleged solution as he claimed that he did. From a strategic point of view, it would have been far better had D’Orazio at least attempted to answer Gish's challenge.

D'Orazio concluded his second rebuttal by stating that he was against creation being taught in the public schools only because creationism was very poor science. He then went on to state that there was no problem in discerning scientific truth. All one had to do was to consult the experts in any given field and they would give one that truth. The session concluded with Gish asking D'Orazio if he believed that the universe was an isolated system. D'Orazio responded that he did. Gish then asked him if he believed that this isolated system was ordered without God and contrary to the Second Law. D'Orazio refused to answer the question on the grounds that they had previously agreed to rule out anything religious from the debate. Gish responded that when one deals with origins one is outside of science and is in the area of religion. The evening closed with a brief question-answer session open to the audience.

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* Editorial Note: The report of this debate, written by Rev. Lubenow, is being offered as an Impact article in order that readers may compare the approach taken in creation-evolution debates by ICR staff members and the approach taken at times by their evolutionist opponents. Cassette tapes of this debate may be obtained by writing to the ICR Midwest Center, Box 75, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.
** Marvin Lubenow is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Ft. Collins, Colorado. He received the master of theology from Dallas Seminary and the master of science from Michigan State University.

Cite this article: Marvin L. Lubenow, M.S., Th.M. 1978. Racine Debate. Acts & Facts. 7 (7).