Debates Generate Vigorous Response | The Institute for Creation Research

Debates Generate Vigorous Response

The creation-evolution debates on the University of Tennessee campus on January 14 (Acts and Facts, February 1975) and on the campus of Texas Tech on February 9 (Acts and Facts, March 1975), not only generated considerable excitement on these campuses, but also inspired a series of totally insupportable and false charges against Dr. Morris and Dr. Gish, particularly Dr. Gish, by their opponents and other faculty members on these campuses. The creationists have been accused of misquoting sources, quoting out of context, distorting evidence, mislabeling slides, and other questionable tactics. Dr. Morris and Dr. Gish, on the other hand, have always assumed that their opponents were men of integrity and sincerity. ICR scientists have never publicly accused their opponents of dishonesty or of deliberately distorting evidence. Perhaps these attacks on the creationists have been inspired by the poor showing the evolutionists have made in these debates.

To give our readers an insight into the impression these debates have left on some of those present and to acquaint our readers with the nature of the charges against the ICR scientists, as well as their defense, we are publishing in this issue some newspaper stories about the debates on the University of Tennessee and Texas Tech campuses, as well as a series of letters published in the Knoxville Courier-Times and in the campus paper of Texas Tech. Publication of these letters and articles in their entirety will not only give our readers a full report, but also will protect ICR from further charges of quoting out of context. Other articles and letters may have been published concerning these debates, but these are the only ones which have become available to ICR.

The debate at the University of Tennessee was between Drs. Morris and Gish and evolutionists Drs. George Schweitzer and Arthur Jones, both members of the UT faculty. Neither Schweitzer nor Jones made any accusations against the ICR scientists, but Dr. R. E. McLaughlin, UT Professor and paleobotanist, apparently enraged by the debate, made a series of charges against Dr. Gish on the evening of the debate and later in a letter to the editor of the Knoxville Courier-Times. The following include the newspaper articles and the exchange of letters inspired by this debate.


By Lois Thomas, Staff Writer
The Knoxville News-Sentinel,
Knoxville, Tennessee
January 15, 1975

The oozers debated the zappers at UT Tuesday night, and although no winners were officially acclaimed, it was quite obvious the large audience was very heavily pro-zapper.

"Zapper" was the name used by Dr. George K. Schweitzer, UT chemistry professor and a debater, to describe those who believe the creation theory of life.

"They just say 'Zap!' It all was created, just like that," he explained.

Back Evolution

The zappers in the debate entitled "The Textbook Controversy - Evolution or Religion?" were Dr. Henry Morris and Dr. Duane Gish, director and associate director, respectively, of the Institute for Creation Research in California. They debated against the hypothesis that had been set for discussion: "Evolution is a more satisfactory scientific explanation of life than is creation."

Dr. Schweitzer and Dr. Arthur Jones, UT zoology professor and former president of the Tennessee Academy of Science, were oozers, or at least they debated for the evolutional theory.

Dr. Schweitzer said, actually, he is more of an oozer-jumper. "Jumpers," he described as those who believed things came about through little spurts, or jumps, rather than oozing or zapping.

Emphasizes View

He described another category (and there are still others that could have been mentioned, he said) as "five-second-agoers."

"There are people who say that everything came about five seconds ago," he explained.

Dr. Schweitzer used his terms to emphasize his view that there are many ways to look at the way the world came about, and that persons should not shut their minds to any views.

It was quite obvious that many in the almost full Alumni Gym did not share his views. They very obviously believed the creation theory and showed it with cheers, applause, and some hoots and hissing at times appropriate to them.

Cites Evidence

Dr. Gish was well received for his presentation based generally on discrediting scientist's theories or findings regarding fossils. He said there has not been a single instance of a fossil that is a transition form between major species. He said this proves that each species was created separately. He also cited some evidences of scientific errors in theories regarding early mankind. However, he said students received these theories as truths in textbooks.

He received considerable applause for his view that "creation is unbelievable to an atheist. But it is believable for those who believe in God."

Dr. Morris maintained that the creation theory does not receive fair treatment in today's educational institutions. He said evolution is taught almost exclusively.

"We want to have a hearing granted equally for creation," he said.

Doesn't Mean Rejection

Dr. Jones joined Dr. Schweitzer in arguing that scientific research to date shows that more than likely man evolved from a lower form. They both admitted there are errors in science, but urged that an open mind be maintained.

Dr. Schweitzer maintained that believing in evolution does not mean rejection of God.

"We must not base our religion on whether a scientific theory is true or not," he said, urging that the difference be realized between mechanism and meaning. "Regardless of which theory you hold, you are still free to interpret it to fit your religion," he said.

The debate was sponsored by the UT ISSUES lecture committee.


By J. G. Williams, Minister and
Larry Barnickle, MTSU Graduate Student
Rutherford Courier, Tennessee
January 30, 1975

On the evening of January 14th the campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville was the occasion of a momentous event. On that night, for almost four hours, four scientists debated the theory of organic evolution. To our knowledge this is the first time in the history of Tennessee that evolution has been publicly debated between scientists.

The Alumni Gymnasium was crowded with over 2,500 people, the large majority of whom were U.T. students.

Dr. Arthur Jones and Dr. George Schweitzer of the University of Tennessee defended the theory of evolution, while Dr. Duane Gish and Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, California, defended the creation viewpoint.

We, along with two other men, attended the debate anticipating a thorough discussion of the scientific evidences, however, we were sadly mistaken. During over 11/2 hours of discourse between them the two U.T. professors failed to present one single argument favoring the evolution theory. Mind you, they introduced not one affirmative argument which defended evolution! It was thoroughly disappointing! One would expect, as we did, that men with Ph.D. degrees and supposed specialists in their fields, could give at least some defense of the theory.

However, their speeches abounded with broad generalizations completely evading the real issue. They constantly strayed into philosophical and religious areas, when the debate was supposed to be centered around scientific information. In fact, they made fun of conservative Biblical interpretation and tried to cast reflection on anyone not believing in evolution. Yet, the whole time they offered no scientific material to support their opinionated speeches. They repeatedly said they believed evolution to be a better explanation of life than creation, but were utterly destitute of reasons WHY they felt this way!

Dr. Schweitzer's part of the debate was spotted with funny stories and "cute" sayings, all of which were calculated to cloud the evidences presented by his opponents. He also made an emotional plea to the effect that evolutionists were being persecuted for their views much like Galileo and others were persecuted for saying the earth was round and revolved about the sun, all of which was completely off the subject.

Both evolutionists implied that only specialists had the right to voice opinions on evolution and that all others should simply "trust" their judgment¾ which concept leaves a lot to be desired!

And not only did the two U.T. professors fail to present affirmative arguments defending evolution, but they failed to respond to the arguments offered by their opponents, a fact evident to all present! It was clear to us that their knowledge of evolution was lacking or else they had failed to do their "homework!"

On the other side Drs. Gish and Morris, both widely recognized in their respective fields, did a masterful job in dealing with the scientific material. They presented argument after argument refuting the theory of evolution.

Among other things Dr. Morris pointed to the 2nd law of thermodynamics explaining how the essential nature of evolution contradicts this law. Dr. Gish gave an in-depth discussion of the fossil record showing first that complex fossils appear abruptly at the Cambrian period denying the evolution time table, and second that there are absolutely no intermediate fossils linking the major groups of animals or plants. In responding to this Dr. Jones admitted that we have "not very much hope" of filling these gaps.

Dr. Gish made a comparison of the geological evidence with "models" of both the evolution and creation views. He candidly showed that while the creation "model" paralleled the evidence, the evolution "model" stood in direct opposition to it!

Drs. Morris and Gish were very informative and appealed to the intelligence of the audience. As for the evolutionists, the same cannot be said. About all we learned from their remarks was how to avoid the issue! We felt that after having driven almost 200 miles, we deserved to hear something constructive on their part! Instead, their showmanship was an insult to one's intelligence. We felt we had been cheated! And to think ¾ these are supposed to be leaders in their fields; men of science and opened to serious investigation!

The debate (if it could truly be called a debate) was a one-sided affair. The creationists won hands down.


By Demas Brubacher
Bible Baptist Reminder,
Clarksville, Tennessee
February, 1975

On January 14 four of the faculty members of Clarksville Baptist College had the privilege to attend a debate with its issue: "RESOLVED THAT EVOLUTION IS A MORE SATISFACTORY SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION OF THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF LIFE THAN IS CREATION."

A crowd of 2,200 crowded into the Alumni Gym on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Over half were UT students. On the side of evolution were Drs. Schweitzer and Jones of the University while on the side of creation were Drs. Morris and Gish of the Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, California. All four men are highly recognized scientists and specialists in their fields.

It was exciting to see the creationists beat the evolutionists on their own territory without using one single Bible verse. This irritated the evolutionists and in the final rebuttal, Dr. Schweitzer played foul and violated the rules of the debate by accusing them of believing creationism only because of their religious convictions. Even the audience resented this tactic.

The irritation was further observed at the end of the debate when the voice of one of the scientists from the paleontology department was heard on the floor angrily calling out to Dr. Gish that he was "falsely misrepresenting the facts." He then challenged Dr. Gish for the written proof concerning the finding of a new problem for the evolutionists, namely, a highly complex fish fossilized with simple-celled animals. Dr. Gish calmly showed the written evidence for all to see but the hot-headed professor cried it was a forgery!

It was shocking to see the unscientific attitude of the evolutionists towards the problems of "gaps" and fossil frustrations. Their answer time and time again was that they didn't "worry" about them. Never was a serious attempt made to answer any charge that evolution was unscientific.

For the serious seeker in the crowd I must say he was exposed to more truth concerning creation than about the teachings of the theory of evolution. No doubt many went away wondering about the so-called facts they have been fed of evolution.


Letter to the Editor
from R. E. McLaughlin
The News-Sentinel
January 26, 1975

These comments have been prompted by the review by Lois Thomas of the debate on evolution and creation theory held at UT on Tuesday night, Jan. 14. This writer is particularly concerned by the front page exposure in The News-Sentinel the following day given especially to the performance of Dr. Duane Gish from the Institute for Creation Research in California.

Even the most casual observer would have detected that the majority of the audience was an organized body selected by design to respond favorably to the presentation of Dr. Gish. The cheers, whistles, applause and other demonstrations of approval were registered at appropriate points as if rehearsed. Indeed, at least one member of the audience was observed to have memorized in advance parts of Dr. Gish's presumed extemporaneous remarks.

It is unfortunate that your reporter chose to judge the merits of the points made during the debate on the basis of audience response. Reporter Thomas apparently missed all of the irrelevant but crowd-pleasing asides and innuendoes interjected by Dr. Gish as part of his stagecraft. It is to be hoped that she does not share his view concerning the relationship between the length of a scientist's hair and his scientific credibility, to cite one example. She also failed to note that the loudest cheers and boos were for the Tennessee and Alabama football teams, respectively, when mentioned by that debater.

This writer's own characterization of most of the debate audience is that of a fundamentalist pep rally with Drs. Gish and Morris serving as cheerleaders. It was within such an atmosphere that Drs. George Schweitzer and Arthur Jones were asked to participate. This writer was embarrassed for them and for the University of Tennessee as the site of the event.

Quite properly, both Dr. Schweitzer and Dr. Jones directed their major efforts toward the more serious affront to both scientific and societal order represented by the expressed views and published writings of the Morris-Gish team. The peregrinations of these self-appointed experts have left a wake of discord and bitterness from coast to coast.

Very little space was given by your reporter to Dr. Jones' reply to some of Dr. Gish's alleged "evidence" used by him to discredit (your reporter's term) the fossil record of gradual and long-term evolution of life on earth. Dr. Gish repeated many times over the allegation that no transitional forms had ever been found. He then proceeded to illustrate with a lantern slide one of the best examples of such a form in the fossil record. This discrepancy was missed, ignored, or misunderstood by the majority of the audience and your reporter.

Another lantern slide alleged to show the sudden emergence of multicellular life in the Cambrian Period actually was a scene from the Silurian Period some 120 million years later. Again, this was missed by most of the audience. It was readily apparent from his remarks that Dr. Gish has little familiarity with the recent scientific literature on the subject wherein logical and documented explanations for gaps and bursts in the fossil record abound.

Dr. Gish glibly drops the names of eminent paleontologists whose writings he suggests support his point of view. On closer examination it can be shown that these references are variously out of date, out of context, misquoted, misunderstood or deliberately falsified. This writer intends to alert those paleontologists in the group cited by Dr. Gish, who are respected colleagues and personal acquaintances, to the use of their names in this manner. It can be anticipated that their reactions will be explosive.

It is clear to anyone knowledgeable in such matters that Dr. Gish's expertise in regard to the fossil record, evolutionary theory, or the operation of the evolutionary process is minimal. The most serious gaps in the fossil record constantly alluded to by this speaker were information or comprehension gaps in his own knowledge of the subject.

Only the large contrived portion of the audience at the Alumni Gym would have given him the enthusiastic reception noted by your reporter. Dr. Gish won no debate on the merits of his case. The organizers and directors of the debate chose to exclude any challenge to the examples of so-called fossil evidence presented by Dr. Gish in true demagogic style. Questions from the audience sent to Dr. Gish concerning his examples were either destroyed before they reached him or were ignored.

It should be pointed out that Dr. Gish's writings have been thoroughly discredited by the scientific community where he has no standing whatsoever, either by training or research, in the field of paleontology — the study of the fossil record on which he poses as an expert. An invitation (about which he boasts) to address an audience of geologists, including paleontologists, was a lampoon-type social affair in Washington and Dr. Gish's role was that of an invited clown.

Your readers should know also that, by accident or design, attempts to arrange a discussion of his views with knowledgeable students of paleontology and other geological subjects at UT were thwarted during the day of the debate. One can only conclude that it was feared that exposure to the lamp of knowledge might have some destructive effect upon the "evidence" which Dr. Gish disseminates unchallenged elsewhere.


Letter to the Editor
from Robert W. Glenn
Dept. of Speech and Theatre
at the University of Tennessee
The News-Sentinel

Arthur Koestler says in his study of Dr. Paul Kammerer, the Austrian experimental biologist, that "In the heat of a controversy ... scientists are apt to behave as if they were wearing blinkers, just as ordinary mortals." Kammerer was a Lamarckian, and was pursued to his suicide by William Bateson and other Neo-Darwinists who denied that acquired characteristics could be inherited. As the letter of a contemporary Neo-Darwinist, Professor R. E. McLaughlin (News-Sentinel, Jan. 26) shows the subject of the development of life still produces heated controversy and limited vision.

My first impulse on reading Dr. McLaughlin's letter was to answer ironically, confirming his impression of a conspiracy that involved the UT Issues committee, the Usher Corps, New Life, several hundred members of the audience, the debate's moderator and at least two of the four debaters, and that controlled both audience responses and the treatment of issues and evidence during the debate. The notion of an evening that thoroughly planned and coordinated would amuse Drs. Jones and Schweitzer and the students who organized the debate, but a more direct sort of education is needed here. For I am convinced that Professor McLaughlin does not know what he was listening to.

The Jan. 14 Issues presentation at UT was advertised as "A Formal Debate," that is, as a clash of evidence and arguments bearing upon a set topic, conducted by trained advocates within an agreed format. The theory in debate as in the law court is that through the combat of adversaries the truth will prevail. Dr. McLaughlin fails, in several respects, to comprehend this principle.

First, Dr. McLaughlin is distressed that a discrepancy in Dr. Gish's account of the fossil record "was missed, ignored or misunderstood by the majority of the audience and your reporter," and that the misdating of some slides "was missed by most of the audience." But it was the duty of the affirmative advocates, Drs. Schweitzer and Jones, to alert the audience to any discrepancies or inaccuracies in the negative presentations.

Second, Dr. McLaughlin commends the affirmative debaters for directing "their major efforts toward the more serious affront to both scientific and societal order represented by the expressed views and published writings of the Morris-Gish team." But is the commendation deserved? The agreed topic for the debate was whether evolution or creation provides the better scientific explanation of the origin and development of life. Even if Dr. McLaughlin is correct, and the negative debaters drew unwarranted conclusions from misrepresented evidence, it must be conceded that Drs. Morris and Gish did generally confine their remarks to the scientific evidence.

Third, Dr. McLaughlin reports that one listener "was observed" by someone "to have memorized in advance parts of Dr. Gish's presumed extemporaneous remarks." The implication is that the audience did not witness a spontaneous debate but a totally rehearsed performance. It is unthinkable, of course, that Drs. Jones and Schweitzer would be parties to such an arrangement, but more to the point Dr. McLaughlin misunderstands the nature of a debate. Each side was given 50 minutes of speaking time for prepared speeches and 20 minutes for replies to their opponents. The former were explicitly identified as "constructive" speeches, the latter as "rebuttal" speeches. All four of the constructive speeches were thoroughly prepared in advance; all four of the rebuttal speeches were spontaneous, extemporaneous, directed to issues raised by the constructive presentations.

Fourth, Dr. McLaughlin writes of "the large contrived portion of the audience," of "the majority of the audience" being "an organized body selected by design to respond favorably to the presentation of Dr. Gish." To be sure, the audience was one-sided; Dr. Schweitzer said at the outset that he felt like a lion in a den of Daniels. But do we need a conspiracy to explain the fact? Must we invent contrivers, organizers, selectors, designers? Or can we not proceed, after the manner of science, to seek the most economical explanation? Is it not more likely that the debate topic was more salient for a special creationist listener, who would initially agree with Drs. Morris and Gish, than for an evolutionist listener, who would initially agree with Drs. Jones, Schweitzer, and McLaughlin, and that therefore more of the former chose to attend?

And fifth, Dr. McLaughlin impugns the motives of the "organizers and directors of the debate," who "chose to exclude any challenge to the examples of so-called fossil evidence presented by Dr. Gish in true demagogic style. Questions from the audience sent to Dr. Gish concerning his examples were either destroyed before they reached him or were ignored." As the moderator of the debate, I must take exception to each charge. No question was ignored; each card on which a question was written was read by me and by one of two students who assisted me. No card was destroyed; all were saved until the end of the debate for the four participants to examine. Obviously not all questions could be asked; of about 250 questions received, there was time to put only eight to the debaters. But of these eight at least two involved the very question that Dr. McLaughlin asserts we conspired to suppress, viz., the validity of Dr. Gish's account of the fossil record.

To write, as Dr. McLaughlin does, of an audience that is "contrived," "organized," "selected by design," of a debate being managed "in true demagogic style" because Dr. McLaughlin did not hear his question asked, of Drs. Morris and Gish being "cheerleaders," "self-appointed experts," of Dr. Gish being "an invited clown" — this is the language of passion, not of reason, of paranoia, not of understanding. If embarrassment is in order for Drs. Jones and Schweitzer and for the University of Tennessee, its cause must be the tone of something other than the Jan. 14 debate.


Letter to the Editor
from Duane T. Gish
Associate Director
Institute for Creation Research
The News-Sentinel
March 4, 1975

Recently my attention has been called to the letter by Dr. R. E. McLaughlin of the University of Tennessee Department of Geological Sciences published in The News-Sentinel on Jan. 26. This was in reference to the debate at UT on Jan. 14 in which Dr. Henry Morris and I debated as creationists against Dr. George Schweitzer and Dr. Arthur Jones as evolutionists. Dr. Robert Glenn of the UT Department of Speech and Theatre, the moderator, in his letter published in The News-Sentinel, has already answered many of the intemperate charges by Dr. McLaughlin. I wish to address myself to errors in facts contained in Dr. McLaughlin's letter.

McLaughlin claimed that a slide I used to illustrate the nature of living things found in the so-called Cambrian Period (and thus the kind of very complex creatures that suddenly appear in fossil record for which no evolutionary ancestors can be found) was actually a slide showing a scene from the Silurian Period, which is supposed to be 120 million years later. It is regrettable that a professor charged with teaching students at UT does not have a better knowledge of the fossil record than he displays. The slide I showed was from The American Museum of Natural History, New York City, and was their slide No. K-10273 (of their Earth History set) entitled Cambrian Diorama.

McLaughlin stated that he hoped your reporter did not share my view concerning "the relationship between the length of a scientist's hair and his scientific credibility." The only time I mentioned the length of hair was in reference to Neanderthal Man and the fact that he would not have to be given a haircut to conform to today's hair styles.

During the debate I mentioned that spores and fragments of vascular (woody) plants have been found in the Cambrian. McLaughlin shouted out from the audience, "That's a lie!" and after the debate he came upon the platform and demanded that I document that fact (he did apologize for his intemperate outburst). I immediately did so by referring him to articles by S. Leclerq ("Evidence of Vascular Plants in the Cambrian," "Evolution," Vol. 10, p. 109, June 1956) and by Daniel Axelrod ("Evolution of the Psilophyte Paleoflora," "Evolution," Vol. 13, p. 264, June, 1959). He was silent concerning Axelrod's article, but charged that Leclercq’s article contained mistranslations of Russian to French to English, and this is the statement he is circulating at UT.

My statements were not based on a mistranslation, but can be abundantly documented. The significance of this evidence is that it is now known that complex plants existed in the Cambrian Period which, on the evolutionary time-scale, is 200 million years or so before even simple land plants are supposed to have evolved! The latter theory is apparently what McLaughlin still believes and is teaching his students, even though evidence invalidating it was published by other evolutionists 15 years ago.

The case for creation that Dr. Morris and I presented was based strictly on carefully documented scientific evidence. We neither misquoted, quoted out of context or distorted the facts in any way. The fact that we always quote facts published in articles by evolutionists to support the case for creation and to point out contradictions to evolution theory infuriates McLaughlin. But the fact that creationists can use articles published by evolutionists to establish the nature of the real factual evidence strengthens their case immensely. Creationists do not differ with evolutionists on the nature of the facts, but do differ as to the interpretation to be placed on those facts. As we creationists have repeatedly pointed out, evolutionists must attempt to somehow explain away the contradictions between predictions based on evolution theory and what we actually find in the fossil record. On the other hand, this evidence does not have to be explained by creationists, for it is remarkably in accord with predictions based on creation.

McLaughlin charges that attempts to arrange a discussion during the day of the debate of my views with knowledgeable students of paleontology and other geological subjects at UT were thwarted. McLaughlin charges that responsibility for this rests with creationists and was due to our fear of having our case exposed to the "lamp of knowledge." As a matter of fact, the UT students who attempted to arrange a meeting for us at UT on the day of the debate reported that McLaughlin refused to allow such a meeting to be held anywhere near the Department of Geological Sciences. These students felt that this was an attempt to suppress the meetings and discourage attendance by those students who needed to be reached. These students, on their own, then decided that nothing further could be accomplished by attempting to arrange such a meeting. The onus for the failure to arrange this meeting rests on McLaughlin, not the creationists.

The rational, scientific, well-documented case presented by Dr. Morris and myself during the debate which so powerfully strengthens the case for creation while exposing fatal weaknesses in evolution theory apparently left McLaughlin in a rage. The laws of thermodynamics, the laws of probability, the operation of natural processes and the facts of the fossil record all attest to the fact that not only did evolution not occur but that it could not have occurred. This highly ordered universe and the incredibly complex living things found on planet Earth demanded a Creator.

NOTE: In order to abbreviate Dr. Gish's letter, the reply by Dr. Gish concerning McLaughlin's allegation that Morris and Gish were merely invited as clowns by the Pick and Hammer Club of the U.S. Geological Survey Office of Menlo Park was deleted. This portion read as follows:

McLaughlin stated that I boasted about an address before a group of geologists, which he charged was actually a "lampoon-type social affair in Washington and Dr. Gish's role was that of an invited clown." As a matter of fact I do not boast of an address before an audience of any kind. In our conversation after the debate, McLaughlin asked me if Dr. Morris and I had ever spoken before a group of professional geologists, and it was only then that I mentioned that we had jointly addressed a regular meeting of the Pick and Hammer Club of the U.S. Geological Survey Office at Menlo Park, California (not Washington, D.C., as McLaughlin reports). McLaughlin then, with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of the facts, interjected his "lampoon" and "clown" theory.
Since neither Dr. Morris nor I have a direct pipeline to the brain of Dr. Tor H. Nilsen, the U.S.G.S. geologist who invited us (as McLaughlin apparently has), we cannot know his motivation for inviting us. We do know that no one was smiling as we addressed this group of professional geologists and no one was joking or smiling during the discussion period that followed. To give the final lie to McLaughlin's allegation, Dr. Nilsen has recently sponsored Dr. Morris’ membership in the Geological Society of America (Dr. Morris also holds membership in numerous other professional societies). Perhaps McLaughlin would like to charge that membership in the Geological Society of America is reserved for clowns!


Letter to the Editor from John Waddey
The News-Sentinel
February 3, 1975

Last Sunday Dr. R. E. McLaughlin of UT wrote a lengthy tirade ridiculing Dr. Duane Gish and his part in the recent debate on Creation and Evolution. As one who attended the debate, I would like to make some observations on the learned scientist's very unscientific letter.

1. Does Dr. McLaughlin feel that his respected colleagues of the university did not do an adequate job of championing the evolutionary dogma? He tries hard in his letter to do what they seemed helpless to do. If they were as successful as he implies, there should have been no doubt as to their overwhelming victory.

2. Would the doctor have written so hotly if The News-Sentinel's front page story had, in a similar vein, declared the team of Schweitzer and Jones winners?

3. In paragraph two, he asserts without proof or evidence that " ... the majority of the audience was an organized body selected by design to respond favorably to the presentation of Dr. Gish." Being present, I saw no evidence of this. The debate was held on campus, in a public building, was sponsored by a campus group, and was widely advertised and well attended. I challenge his assertion and call for proof.

4. I did not feel that reporter Thomas based her remarks about the debate on mere audience response. Remember doctor, that she gave most all of Dr. Schweitzer's first speech, namely his "Zap, ooze and Chitty Bang Bang analysis of origins." Also Dr. McLaughlin asserts that Dr. Gish offered mainly, "crowd-pleasing asides and innuendoes¼ as stagecraft." Would he be so kind as to give us another letter listing these?

5. The doctor accuses Gish of judging a scientist's credibility by the length of his hair. Sorry again, but Dr. Gish said that the only difference between Neanderthal man and modern man was the dirt on his face and the length of his hair. It was Dr. Schweitzer who made the joke about his own long hair.

6. Dr. McLaughlin was embarrassed for Drs. Schweitzer and Jones and for UT. I do not blame him for this. In fact if those two scientists with their multiple doctoral degrees are the best UT has to represent the case of evolution, then either the university or the theory is in serious trouble.

7. It was interesting to note that Dr. Schweitzer, who had both the first and last speeches in the debate, broke one of the basic rules of public controversy by introducing a host of new material in his last speech, knowing full-well that his opponents would have no chance to reply.

8. In his fifth paragraph he accuses the creation scientists (who by the way hold earned doctorates from the University of Minnesota and the University of California at Berkeley) of leaving a wake of discord across the land. Both of those scientists showed a fine, pleasant attitude. It is Dr. McLaughlin who is bitter and is sowing discord by his caustic letter!

9. Would our writer do us a favor and bring forth the "documentary evidence" either from the fossil record or in present day life of the transitional forms that bridge the evolutionary gaps? Your fellow scientists from UT both agreed that the gaps were there and the transitional forms were missing.

10. Again he accuses Drs. Gish and Morris of misquoting, falsifying and taking out of context the statements of evolutionary scientists that admit the flaws and failures of their theory of origins. If one will review the tape recordings of the debate, it will be most obvious just who has misquoted, falsified and taken out of context.

11. It is regretted that the professor even accuses the organizers and directors of the debate and the moderator of "excluding any challenge" to the creation contentions. But the height of his folly was daring to suggest that questions directed to Dr. Gish were "either destroyed or ignored." Strangely my question to Dr. Schweitzer was not answered either. However, I do not accuse him of dishonesty or cowardice because the moderator did not read my question out of the hundreds received.

12. He labels Dr. Gish as a "clown," rather than a competent scientist. Are Berkeley PhD's of no value these days? Really, sir, the clown of the night was the distinguished Dr. George Schweitzer with his "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" song and dance and his vaudeville show in his first speech. Do you not remember all those jokes and the audience laughter in his speech?

13. Dr. McLaughlin closes his letter by suggesting "That by accident or design" Dr. Gish refused to discuss the subject of evolution "with knowledgeable students of paleontology ... " on the day of the debate, thus he surmises that Gish must be afraid that the lamp of knowledge "might prove destructive to his position." Sir: He confronted two notable scientists, professors and authors of your institution; were these two not able to give an adequate apology for your view? Could you have done better?

I believe that Dr. Gish could be prevailed upon to return to Knoxville to meet Dr. McLaughlin in a debate on the merits of evolution if the respected professor of geology will agree to represent his side of the question. After your powerful letter, we would expect your ready acceptance of an opportunity to refute Dr. Gish face to face and to chasten all of those who hold the creation point of view. I personally will contact Dr. Gish for you.

The readership may want to hear the debate for themselves. A copy is on file in the Undergraduate Library. They may secure copies of the tapes from Robert Glenn of UT. His phone is 974-4186.


Letter to the Editor from M. H. Tucker
The News-Sentinel
February 2, 1975

I attended the recent debate on evolution and creation at UT. I also read Lois Thomas' review. Furthermore, I read Dr. McLaughlin's letter of criticism of the review. I offer the following observations on his letter.

First, I did not find the review slanted as suggested by Professor McLaughlin. In fact, I detected a studied effort on her part to remain neutral in her reporting.

Second, though I was among the majority which favored the creationists’ view, I was not aware of "an organized body selected by design to respond favorably" to Dr. Gish. I assumed the audience was made up of those who, like myself, had an interest in this subject and had read announcements on the debate. Unless the professor has proof of an audience "selected by design," it seems out of keeping with the high standards of UT for one to make such a charge. Science is not the only field where facts and proof are desirable.

My third observation is that Dr. McLaughlin was not pleased with Drs. Jones and Schweitzer's defense of evolution. I also noted their weak defense. Perhaps one weakness was revealed when Dr. Jones said, "We are following a game plan." Being restricted to their game plan they could not be expected to respond to their opponents with any force. Perhaps Dr. McLaughlin could have succeeded where his colleagues failed. Perhaps arrangements can be made for him to demonstrate his expertise in paleontology. I am sure the professor has not forgotten his encounter with a creationist by the name of Basil Overton in 1965 at Tyson Jr. High School. I wonder if he has forgotten the offer to arrange a discussion with his "knowledgeable students of paleontology." This offer was made to him in a conversation on the parking lot of Tyson Junior High in my presence. He said, "No!" To use Dr. McLaughlin's words, "One can only conclude that it was feared that exposure to the lamp of knowledge might have some destructive effect upon" the evolutionary evidence which Dr. McLaughlin disseminates from his classroom.

Finally, Tennessee taxpayers should raise their voices against the practice of using their tax dollars to pay salaries and buy textbooks which present the view of evolution but refuse to present to the student the view of creation. Yet, Dr. Jones stated during the debate evolutionists "make no effort to withhold information."


On the afternoon of February 9, 1975, on the campus of Texas Tech, Lubbock, Texas, Drs. Morris and Gish debated Drs. Rae L. Harris and R. J. Baker, evolutionists and members of the faculty. The debate was witnessed by almost 2,700 in an audience composed mainly of students.

During the debate Dr. Gish called attention to the fact that fossil cuttlefish had been discovered in so-called Early Cambrian strata. Cuttlefish are highly complex invertebrate predators which, previous to this, had been reported from strata no earlier than Jurassic, which, according to evolutionary geologists, are 400 million years younger than Early Cambrian strata. Dr. Gish pointed out that this find had added another highly complex animal to the already diverse and complex Cambrian fauna for which no ancestors can be found. He also suggested that since no fossils of cuttlefish had as yet been found in strata allegedly laid down between the Cambrian and the Jurassic, perhaps there was no real time span between these two geological "periods," but that the difference between the fossil record of each could be attributed to differences in ecological zonation and other effects of the Flood.

Although the scientific article and the numerous newspaper articles describing this important find had been published in November, 1974, Dr. Harris, although a geologist, was unaware of this report. This apparently was as embarrassing to Dr. Harris personally as the facts were embarrassing to the case for evolution. Dr. Harris tried to detract from the importance of the find and to conceal the damage to evolution theory by publishing a series of false charges against Dr. Gish in local newspapers. The articles by Dr. Harris and Dr. Gish's published defense are presented here in their entirety.


Letter to the Editor
from Rae L. Harris, Jr.,
Prof. of Geoscience,
Texas Tech University
The University Daily, Lubbock Texas
February 12, 1975

I was extremely disappointed to learn upon reading the article in the Journal of Paleontology referred to by Dr. Gish during the debate, that a man in his position connected with theology and "science," would misquote by error or design the report and conclusions of another so that an apparent "win" might be achieved in a scholarly debate.

During his presentation, Dr. Gish made the statement that a recent investigator had found "fossil cuttlefish" in the Cambrian rocks. Dr. Gish then expounded along the line that because fossil cuttlefish had only previously been known from Jurassic and younger rocks, this find was proof that the geological fossil record was in error. The argument being, if cuttlefish lived in Cambrian time, and no fossils of this animal were found in intervening rocks nor had been assigned to the geological time units between Cambrian and Jurassic (nearly 300 million years), geologists were ignoring the record and had falsely and capriciously built up an incorrect order in the record of life to support the theory of Evolution.

I now find, having had to check the cited reference because I do not carry such journals with me, that the article cited does not report the data claimed by Dr. Gish, and the article's conclusions are not the conclusions attributed to it by Dr. Gish. The authors of the paper conclude "If correctly assigned to the Class, this find extends the range of the Cephalopoda from the Late into very Early Cambrian." To outline what his paper reports, it will be necessary to break down the groupings of the Mollusca type animals into their paleontological classifications. Phylum-Mollusca, Class-Cephalopoda (plus 4 others) Subclass-Coleoidea (plus 2 others), Order-Sepeoidea (plus 2 others). Squid and cuttlefish belong to the Sepeoidea Order and are still only reported from Jurassic and younger rocks, as of today.

The animal written up in the cited article was not claimed by the authors to be a cuttlefish. On the contrary, the statement was even made that the find "does not necessarily signify an ancestor-descendant relationship but alternatively may indicate that the radular denticles of the Sepia as well as those of Campitius (the new find) are little evolved from those of the ancestral mollusc and that Campitius may represent a previously unrecognized group of molluscs."

The conclusion and data of the article are thus completely different from that reported and cited by Dr. Gish. The authors did not even suggest (they actually state it might be a new group of molluscs) they had found a "fossil cuttlefish" in Cambrian rocks. Perhaps in the future some investigator might find fossil cuttlefish in earlier rocks then now known, and if they do the record of life will be improved, but, the geological record is based on what is known, not on what we would like it to be. I can not help but resent on a personal and moral basis being made to publicly say that I have never heard of such an important paleontological find, when in fact the find had not occurred. The above statements were checked with one of the authors.


By Duane T. Gish,
Institute for Creation Research
The University Daily
February 26, 1975

I wish to reply to the letter by Dr. Rae L. Harris which appeared in The University Daily on Feb. 12 concerning the debate on creation vs. evolution between Dr. Henry Morris and myself, representing the creationists, and Drs. Harris and Baker as the evolutionists.

As we have occasion to debate this subject, it is always our hope that such a debate will be conducted in the spirit of "Come, let us reason together." However we may differ with our opponents in philosophy or in the interpretation of the scientific evidence related to origins, Dr. Morris and I always assume that our opponents are honest men of goodwill, and we have never publicly charged an opponent with lack of integrity or of deliberately misinterpreting important evidence. Furthermore, Dr. Harris failed to have the courtesy of sending me a copy of his letter, and I would not have had the opportunity to answer his charges had not a copy of the letter been sent to me by a resident of Lubbock. Regrettably, Dr. Harris has thus tried to accomplish in this manner what he could not accomplish in our debate where each party was present to hear all the arguments and to offer rebuttal. While Dr. Harris has pulled the shroud of self-righteousness comfortably about himself, may I suggest his halo may be slightly askew? His letter was actually an attempt to divert attention from the fact that he and his colleague had failed to defend evolution theory against its fatal weaknesses.

During the debate I stated that a paleontologist had recently found evidence for the existence of fossil cuttlefish in Early Cambrian strata. I stated that cuttlefish are highly complex invertebrate predators which had been previously found only in rocks of the Jurassic (or younger rocks). The Jurassic is dated by evolutionary geologists at about 150 million years, while they date Early Cambrian at about 600 my. I stated that this pushed the existence of cuttlefish back 400 my. in the geological column and that if the evolutionary time scale is really valid, evolutionists must then explain how the cuttlefish could have been in existence for 400 my (from Early Cambrian to the Jurassic) without leaving any fossils.

Dr. Harris quoted the article which I used for documentation (see Firby and Durham, J. of Paleontology, Nov., 1974, p. 1109) as stating that this find extended the range of Cephalopoda from the Late Cambrian to Early Cambrian. This is a difference of only about 80 my. at the most, in contrast to the 400 my. between the Jurassic and Early Cambrian. The significant point here, which Dr. Harris attempts to conceal, is that while some members of the class Cephalopoda had been found in Late Cambrian, the highly complex cuttlefish had not. Would Dr. Harris say that finding human skeletons in the Jurassic would not be a highly significant paleontological find simply because it extended the range of mammals from Cretaceous to the Jurassic? The discovery of such a creature as the cuttlefish in Early Cambrian rocks was so startling it was given prominent display in newspapers all over the U.S.

Dr. Harris further attempts to establish that I falsely represented this creature as a cuttlefish. If I have done so, then I am the victim of misrepresentation, as were the Associated Press and United Press International whose reports of this find represented it as undoubtedly that of a cuttlefish. For example, the UPI report (San Jose, California, Mercury, Nov. 29, 1974) stated "The ancient squid-like cuttlefish had teeth and used them to prey on other sea creatures . . . " Later in the article it was stated with reference to statements made by Firby and Durham, "Further studies concluded the teeth 'denticles' were from prehistoric cuttlefish, they said." There seems to be no doubt, then, that Firby and Durham, in talking to reporters, repeatedly referred to their find as a cuttlefish.
In the article referred to earlier, Firby and Durham state (p. 1109) "Bands of denticles morphologically similar to but larger than the medial teeth of the radula of the living cuttlefish (Sepia) occur in the lowest trilobite-bearing Lower Cambrian of California." Later on (p. 1118) they state "Morphologically the denticles compare closely, except for their larger size and slightly less expanded base, to the simple medial teeth of the radula of the Cuttlefish Sepia." Theres eems to be no doubt that this find could have been placed within the genus Sepia and that Firby and Durham, in designating the new genus Campitius, were merely following the tendency of most paleontologists to assign distinctive names to their finds. It is therefore altogether honest and correct, as Firby and Durham, themselves have done, to refer to this creature as a cuttlefish.
Dr. Harris stated in his letter that "I cannot help but resent on a personal and moral basis being made to publicly say that I have never heard of such an important paleontological find, when in fact the find had not occurred," I regret Dr. Harris' embarrassment, but the fact remains that a very important paleontological find, just as I represented it, had been made of which he was not aware until it was called to his attention during the debate at Tech.
Dr. Harris' letter was an attempt to confuse and to divert attention from scientific evidence that provides such powerful support for creation and is so extremely damaging to evolution theory, namely, the abrupt appearance of highly complex animals in great variety ¾ trilobites, brachiopods, jellyfish, worms, sponges, swimming crustaceans, etc. ¾ in rocks designated as Cambrian, and failure to find a single, unquestionable multicellular fossil in earlier, or Precambrian rocks (see Cloud, Geology, Nov. 1973, p. 123). The discovery of cuttlefish (or Campitius if you wish) in the lowest Early Cambrian merely adds another complex creature to the record for which no evolutionary ancestor can be found. This abrupt appearance (on geological timescale) of complex animals without ancestors, and the systematic absence of transitional forms between higher categories (phyla, classes, orders, families) revealed by the fossil record is exactly the evidence predicted on the basis of creation but contradicts predictions based on evolution theory. The laws of thermodynamics, the laws of probability, the operation of natural processes, and the fossil record thus all attest to the fact that not only did evolution (particles-to-people) not occur but it could not have occurred. This highly ordered universe and our planet earth with its population of incredibly complex living things demand a Creator.
Letter to the Editor from Rae L. Harris
The University Daily
February 27, 1975
At this point, all I wish to do in reply to Dr. Gish's letter of Feb. 26 is to quote the authors of the paper in question, from both the article itself and from direct telephone conversation.
"Because of the morphological similarity of the denticles to those of Sepia AND OTHER CEPHALOPODS, the taxon is assigned to the Phylum Mollusca and PROVISIONALLY to the Class Cephalopoda."
"IF CORRECTLY assigned to the Class, this find extends the range of the Cephalopoda from the Late into very Early Cambrian."
Systematic Description "Phylum Mollusca, Class Cephalopoda?, Family Incertae Sedis, Campitius n. gen."
"The teeth of the GONIATITE Eoasianites, and the AMMONITE Arnioceras, but not those of the ammonite Eoasianites are likewise GROSSLY SIMILAR to those of Campitius."
"However, it should also be noted that the close similarity of the denticles of Campitius to those of Sepia does not necessarily signify an ANCESTOR-DESCENDANT relationship but alternatively may indicate that the radular denticles of Sepia as well as those of Campitius are little evolved from those of ancestral molluscs and that campitius MAY REPRESENT A PREVIOUSLY UNRECOGNIZED GROUP OF MOLLUSCS."
From telephone conversation of Monday Feb. 10, Dr. Durham (co-author of the article in question) stated: "Yes, you can quote me that we did not write we had found fossil cuttlefish in the Cambrian rocks."
Further Dr. Durham said: "The importance of the find is that we looked for and found evidence of powerful predators in the Early Cambrian which we reasoned must have existed because of the abundance of other animals to feed upon."
Telephone call of Feb. 26: Dr. Durham again stated that he had not claimed to have found a fossil cuttlefish. He stated: "In detail, the denticle material found is not like that of cuttlefish in the absence of the lateral more specialized radulae. You can say that this was not a cuttlefish, but an ancient ancestor type that may or may not be on the cuttlefish's family tree."
In conclusion, my first letter appears to remain correct. Dr. Gish had, and has, a copy of Dr. Durham's article. He can not then quote newspaper accounts as source material for his statements. Dr. Durham in discussing this point stated that the first reports published in Los Angeles were rather amazing, in that he was reported to have found fossil fish teeth. If direct quotes of the author of a paper are not accepted in regard to what he wrote and said I do not know what to suggest as correct. I will note in closing that authors writing in another language many years ago are having their translations quoted as literally true.
Letter to the Editor
from Duane T. Gish
The University Daily
March, 1975
I think it would be most appropriate that I make a few final remarks in reply to Dr. Harris' original charges (The University Daily, Feb. 12) and to his rebuttal (The Daily, Feb. 27) to my reply (The Daily, Feb. 26).
In Harris' rebuttal he quotes Dr. Durham as saying "Yes, you can quote me that I did not write we had found fossil cuttlefish in the Cambrian rocks." It is true that in the journal article (J. of Paleontology, November, 1974) Firby and Durham did not write that they had found cuttlefish in the Cambrian rocks. From the limited amount of fossil material they had recovered, they were commendably cautious in what they published in a scientific journal. On the other hand, as I conclusively documented in my letter of Feb. 26, in talking with reporters about their discovery, they repeatedly referred to it as a cuttlefish. That is why, in talking to Harris, they were merely able to authorize him to say that they did not "write" that they had found a cuttlefish, but were not able to authorize him to say that they had not told reporters that they had found a cuttlefish. The reference to the fact that one Los Angeles newspaper account reported that they had found fossil teeth of fish was merely a smokescreen designed to conceal the above facts. We received several newspaper clippings from around the country based on the Firby and Durham news conference, and none of them referred to a fossil fish, but each one of them correctly quoted Firby and Durham as referring to their find as a cuttlefish.
Finally, whether this was in fact a true cuttlefish or was more correctly a cuttlefishlike creature does not in any way alter the false nature of Harris' charges against me nor diminish in the slightest the significance of the finding of this fossil in Early Cambrian strata. In calling this creature a cuttlefish in the debate with Harris and Baker, I was applying exactly the same evaluation of this creature as was made by Firby and Durham in relating their findings to reporters and thus to the lay public. To accuse me of dishonesty or of distorting evidence is slanderously false.
I finally wish to emphasize again that the discovery of either a cuttlefish or a cuttlefishlike fossil in Early Cambrian strata was a highly significant, even astounding, paleontological discovery. Most evolutionary paleontologists would have denied the remotest possibility of finding such a highly complex predator in Early Cambrian rocks. According to evolutionists, the Early Cambrian supposedly represents a time before even corals and starfishes had evolved, let alone a very highly complex predator in Early Cambrian rocks. If fossils of Neanderthal Man were found in Cretaceous rocks, supposedly laid down more than 70 million years ago, it would be silly to deny that this was an astounding discovery on the basis of whether Neanderthal Man was true human, Homo sapiens, or whether he was merely a human-like creature, Homo neanderthalensis (he was in fact, Homo sapiens). In fact, as one geologist stated, if something like this ever did come to pass, all historical geologists would give up their profession and take up truck driving.
Editor's note: During the decade after this exchange, secular paleontologists reassigned the enigmatic fossil Campitius to other, non-cuttlefish-related groups, including the little-known Agmata. The fossils left too little information for easy identification. However, this confusion does not appear to diminish the general argument, proved repeatedly during the four decades since this article’s exchange first occurred, that fossil forms once thought to represent only one rock system and thus a moment  of evolution pop up unexpectedly in other rock systems. For examples, see articles under Also, even if Campitius was unrelated to cephalopods, many locations in China have since revealed dozens of different Cambrian cephalopod genera that confirm Dr. Gish’s central contention that highly complex predators in Cambrian fauna force an evolutionary rewrite. See Jun-yuan, C. and C. Teichert. 1983. Cambrian cephalopods. Geology. 11 (11): 647-650.
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