Ever since ICR's founding in 1970, the creation/evolution debates have played an important role. At first evolutionists readily accepted the challenge leading to numerous large debates. However, word soon got out that the ICR scientists, primarily Drs. Duane Gish and Henry Morris, were well-prepared and convincing. The debates began to taper off but much of ICR's early growth can be attributed to those who attended these debates and were convinced by the evidence.
Most often the creationist's evidence presented was from the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record, the ubiquitous trend of thermodynamics' second law which negates the possibility of evolutionary development, and the exquisite design and order in the universe, particularly in the living cell, far beyond the reach of mere random mutation and natural selection. The evolutionists usually countered with ad hominem attacks, the appeal to authority, and perceived difficulties in the Bible. When evolution evidence was presented, it was inevitably limited to minor variations "within the kind," not addressing the origin of basic types at all.
The ICR debaters could tell some interesting stories, such as the time when the evolutionist imitated an ape behind the creationist speaker, or when an evolutionist challenged Dr. Gish to grab exposed electrical wires, or when a photo of fossil specimens were presented (supposedly showing transitional forms) which were not to scale, not in the geologic order found, and augmented with hypothetical drawings. In all cases, the creationists responded with dignity and scientific decorum, sticking to the scientific subject. Often it was this Christian attitude and respectful answers which carried the day. Response forms following many debates invariably affirmed that the creationists had the better arguments. This has led some evolutionists, including Dr. Eugenie Scott and the late Drs. Steven Gould and Carl Sagan to refuse to debate, and recommend that others refuse also. Already in total control of education, they have nothing to gain and much to lose by exposing an audience to the creationist position.
Recently, the debates have picked up again. Several evolutionists have developed styles which they feel allows them to improve the odds, often enhanced by slides and arguments provided by the anti-creationist advocacy group, the National Center for Science Education. Dr. Gish has participated in several debates recently, as have his two protégés, Dr. Randy Guliuzza and Dr. Mark Eastman.
The most recent debate was on June 5, in Camarillo, California, with over 300 present, following a Case for Creation Seminar there (see page 6). Dr. Eastman faced off against Mr. William Westmiller, prompting some to refer to it as an East vs. West confrontation. The question to be resolved: "Is Evolution True?"
Mr. Westmiller, associated with the Ventura County Freethinkers Society, (well represented at the debate) chose to base his case on the authority of evolutionary proponents. An ex-Catholic, he dwelled on the fact that the Pope has spoken in defense of evolution, as have many leading scientists. Evolution is simply true, and all educated people know it.
Dr. Eastman, on the other hand, stuck to the scientific facts, from the fossil record to the precise arrangement of cellular components. He often quoted recognized authorities, and illustrated his points with photographs and charts. There was no hint of the superior, condescending tone of his opponent.
That Eastman "won" the debate was borne out by the response card "vote," which was tallied in his favor by 173 to 20. Approximately twenty-one people wanted to be contacted for more information on the truth of creation. Even the President of the Free Thinkers Society voted for him. He still believed in evolution, but felt the creationist did a better job.
It is not known if anyone changed their mind at the debate. Probably the majority were creationists at the start. They and the group of Free Thinkers maintained civility throughout the debate, although conversations afterward were more animated.
The main effect was among the Christians present. They not only saw the evidence for creation outshine evolution, they had seen wrong thinking up close. They had heard from those who openly scoff at their Lord and His Word, and they will never be the same. Perhaps this is the most lasting result of a debate.