[Originally published as Appendix D – Converts from Evolutionism to Creationism]
What makes the creation versus evolution debate such a hot topic is that it continues to make great differences in peoples’ views and lives. I have collected dozens of accounts of converts: people who are happy to have left evolutionism and become creationists, and especially young-Earth creationists. As some of them testified, it was possible for an evolutionist to be unaware that any intelligent, educated person believed in Creation. Today, everyone should be aware that there are people with solid science degrees and careers in science who doubt evolution, and some of them believe the world was Divinely created thousands of years ago, not billions.
However, it seems there are some who still believe that evolution-doubting scientists (let alone YEC scientists) exist only because they were heavily indoctrinated in religious beliefs from a young age. There are already at least two full books showing that this is not true at all, In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists choose to believe in Creation by John F. Ashton (Editor), and Persuaded by the Evidence, compiled and edited by Doug Sharp and Dr. Jerry Bergman, who have also produced a related book, Transformed by the Evidence.
These books have a number of full accounts of people who simply find that the facts of the way the world works do not support the faith that everything came about by natural forces and processes alone. Some of them were strong believers in evolutionism, educated and teaching or researching in science, but came to reject evolutionism through careful investigation of the scientific facts – and only after that came to accept Divine creation and experience a religious conversion. Several of the stories in Persuaded by the Evidence are particularly uplifting in the testimonies of the blessings of having become Young-Earth Creationists, and I highly recommend it.
Let’s start with the starting positions of these converts.
It’s true that many had regular religious exposure as children, and some never did stop going to church, but all of the several dozen I personally have on file were strongly convinced of the truth of evolutionism for years. I can’t say which is more impressive: the stories by people who were raised atheists, those who turned their backs on believing in God, or those who were satisfied from a young age that stories of billions of years of natural evolution were perfectly compatible with their faith in God and the Bible.
The first were clearly not exposed to religious indoctrination during their impressionable youths, the second had experienced religious upbringing but rejected it (sometimes very strongly), while the third group shows that even when people have reconciled evolutionism with belief in God, or peaceably separated beliefs in both, they can come to see that YEC is the best position on scientific as well as religious grounds.
When I say that some of them were atheists, I’m not talking about people who merely doubt the existence of God. True, a few described themselves as only agnostic or practically atheist, but several emphasized that they were strong atheists. Several emphasized that they were actively anti-Christian, mockers of God and of Christians, and not interested in any compromise position.
The former atheists also emphasized the connection between their atheism and their belief in evolution, or the strength of their belief and/or training in evolution and science in general. One was raised as a Communist atheist evolutionist, and had an advanced degree in geology before even seriously thinking about God and creation. Another had left a cult and became very active in atheist circles, rubbing elbows with Madalyn Murray O’Hair and the rest, and he also had an advanced science degree before becoming a creationist.
Likewise, several of those who described themselves as having left their religious beliefs made it clear they hadn’t merely backslid for a while as adults.
No, these people generally lost faith entirely while still teens or younger.
Again, in several cases evolution is cited as a key reason that they stopped believing in God – it was taught to them and presented in science magazines, books, TV shows and movies as a fact which explained away any reason to believe in the Creator. One became an atheist while studying theology, another who lost faith at a young age went on to teach evolution in high school biology, yet another remained a materialist for over 42 years.
These are people who had most decidedly turned their backs on belief in Creation, and yet when they took another look at the “facts” which had convinced them, they realized that they had been deceived by illusions – statements of faith without any true scientific foundation.
I should note that in a number of cases, the subject of religious belief (or lack thereof) was hardly mentioned, at least not until after the point when doubting Evolution or accepting Creation led to a spiritual crisis or conversion. It seems that these are the ones who most strongly emphasized how strong their belief in evolutionism and how advanced or relevant to evolutionism their training in science was, before they started to doubt it.
Several taught evolution, a couple of them at the college level, and one who mentioned being a theistic evolutionist was a geneticist with impressive credentials. Those who did not have advanced training in evolution or some area of science still emphasized the strength and clarity of their belief in evolution rather than creation. They make it clear that whatever their religious beliefs, they had no doubt that evolutionism was the truth, and Creation was nothing more than myth. One claimed to have been “totally indoctrinated into the cult of evolution.” Others say they thought that belief in Creation was crazy, or that they actively argued against creationists.
It’s in the group who emphasized that they had reconciled their religious beliefs with evolution (or vice-versa) that I found the most who indicated that their belief in evolution had not been very strong. Yet even in this group there were those who made it clear that they had been convinced that evolution was a fact and the first chapters of Genesis were merely instructional myths without basis in history or physical reality. In some cases, their belief in evolution was strong and it was their religious belief that was weak or questionable.
One was satisfied with a theistic view of evolution for about forty years. Some whom I would include in this group were not really religious at all, but mere deists, not having any clear or strong belief in God but not considering themselves atheists. What seems most significant to me is that the people in this group were generally satisfied with believing in evolutionism and had no problems with it from either the scientific or religious perspective.
Why They Were Evolutionists
In looking at why people stopped being evolutionists, it also becomes apparent why they were evolutionists in the first place. Most of them, to put it a bit harshly perhaps, were evolutionists out of ignorance. Not ignorance of science or religion, but of the underlying philosophy and unstated assumptions of evolutionism, and of the true arguments and attitudes of creationists. In some cases, the evolutionist didn’t even know there were scientists who believed in Creation, or even that anybody intelligent and educated seriously believed in Divine Creation.
The greatest factor, however, was public education.
Our schools, paid for with everyone’s taxes, have so strongly presented evolutionism and scientism as unquestionably answering all the questions about the world, that untold numbers of impressionable children have been forced to conclude that evolutionism is The Truth (and by implication, that religion has little if anything to say about the physical world, which is all that exists). If public education wasn’t enough, there was also popular media: magazines, TV, books, even movies all presented evolutionism as if it were demonstrated scientific fact. As unfortunate as this mass propaganda is, a number of people were shocked into converting when they finally discovered how biased their education had been and how much all the evidence for Evolution lost its significance without the philosophical bias.
Why They Changed
So, what induced certifiably intelligent people, who were at the very minimum as familiar with science and evolution as most people, to doubt the flood of presentations of evolutionism, and even become Young Earth Creationists? In contrast to most of the stories I’ve encountered of people becoming evolutionists, in which generally poorly-prepared young creationists are shocked and overwhelmed by teachers and professors in high-school or college,
most of these cases are people who were older and began to study the subject on their own.
As I studied the reports, I noted that while there were a number of different ways, with various lengths of time and transitional periods (ranging from joining cults to holding a Theistic Evolution position), the important influences seemed to fall into three categories. Often, all three categories would appear in a single case, but they would show different patterns in their order and degree of overlap.
As evolutionists have been taught to expect, one area of influence was religion. Don’t forget that religious influences (positive and negative) can lead people to accept evolutionism at first. And on the other hand, hardly anybody indicated that exposure to religious teachings alone induced them to stop believing in evolutionism.
In the cases without significant intermediate stages, the first or broadest category of influence was sometimes triggered by a personal event or philosophical insight. In those cases, the period of re-evaluating the scientific facts would sometimes take years, but once someone was motivated to study evolution with a critical eye and an open mind, it led eventually to a complete rejection of evolution. The intermediate positions generally came about with the perception of an incompatibility between evolutionism and the Bible or some aspect of nature/science, but with little or no knowledge of the unified biblical-scientific YEC position.
The religious or philosophical first steps might be rather insignificant or indirect, such as practicing meditation, attending church as a formality, or learning that scientists can be religious. It might be a specific event such as hearing the testimony or challenge of friends, a student, or complete strangers. Not surprisingly, hearing the Gospel for the first time or reading the Bible with a serious, open mind was a major factor for a number of people. The latter was especially true of those who held intermediate positions such as Theistic Evolution, but had begun to sense the instability of this position.
The specific points cited concerning this incompatibility include: The common, massive presence of death in animals and even humans in any form of evolutionism is not consistent with a creation described as “very good,” but it does fit a creation ruined by sin. Also, the idea that death was part of the original creation doesn’t fit with the need for a Gospel with its message of salvation and victory over death.
The style of passages describing the creation is historical and not consistent with deliberate fiction or a conglomeration of ancient myths, at least not for anyone willing to stop long enough to consider that God would want us to have one reliable account. For those who claimed to believe in God and the Bible, it was very telling that passages in the New Testament, especially the words of Jesus Christ, clearly indicate the first chapter of Genesis was meant to be taken at face value.
The second major category I noticed was personal observations and study. A large percentage of my collection of cases began with or relied heavily on the individual’s own observations of nature or self-guided study of science. Several of these personal research programs began with one observation that triggered or encouraged a process of philosophical re-evaluation of the issues. One began to open his mind when he was told by a professor that most college science instruction is unreliable. Others simply began to see for themselves that evidence they had been trusting was inaccurate, or was based on circular reasoning and hidden assumptions.
One or two were shocked to discover this while trying to find solid facts to refute creationists!
Even mathematical considerations and research figured into a couple of cases.
David Attenborough’s nature films were cited in one case, especially because they showed the incompatibility between true evolutionism and the Bible. Another case brought out that by actually reading Darwin and some popular works promoting evolution it is easy to see a striking contrast to what is known as “hard” science.
Evolutionists are always making mountains out of molehills (“constant hyperbole” as one convert described it), without seeming to be in the least aware that they are presenting things as virtual proof of evolution, when by the standards used in other areas of science they’d hardly count as valid data points.
When evolutionists present their ideas to the general public, this effect only gets worse. In one case, doubts began when seeing the use of “morphing” to illustrate evolution on the PBS TV series Cosmos. This sort of vague imaginative “recreation” of supposed past events which are merely assumed should have no place in any area or presentation of science.
Here’s a list of fraudulent or badly misrepresented “evidences for evolution” which, on close study, encouraged these people to leave evolutionism:
- Haeckel’s falsified images of embryonic development (and similar, later presentations)
- the “evolution” of peppered moths
- the Darwinian “tree of life” diagrams
- “Darwin’s finches” on the Galapagos islands
- the supposed ancestors of humans (especially past examples, which include “Piltdown Man,” “Nebraska Man,” and “Nutcracker Man”)
- “Absolute” methods for dating rocks
- the “evolutionary series” of fossil horses
- and “successes” in reproducing the process of “chemical evolution” or abiogenesis
All of these can be described as showing a pattern of evolutionary theories and “facts” not being developed or built upon so much as discarded and replaced with new “facts.”
Perhaps the largest factor in these personal programs, however, was
simply seeing problems and inconsistencies between theory and the way the world actually works.
- The rates and effects of erosion, and observed formation of layers in sediments, don’t match the appearance of vast layers of sediment in the geological record.
- Observations of geologic movements and stalactite formation don’t fit the story that caves formed over millions of years.
- Vast numbers of fossils are virtually the same or very little changed in all the layers they are found in, and many in layers supposedly very old look very much like living forms.
- Mutations are overwhelmingly harmful, and natural selection merely weeds out the worst cases and shifts the average measurements within an existing range, while mildly harmful mutations accumulate and lead toward extinction.
- Beneficial mutations (on the rare occasions they are observed) are degenerative (for example, loss of eyes in cave fish) or appear to be options in a fixed set of variations.
- Living things show far more systematically organized, dynamic complexity than anything known to have been designed by humans, and nothing non-living comes close to showing such complexity.
- Living things can do things beyond the capabilities of the most advanced human inventions.
- The information content in the DNA of a tiny bacteria is amazing.
- There’s no evidence that shows that even one molecule of biologically useful DNA would ever form by chance under any natural conditions.
- Life is a constant struggle against degeneration, and anything not alive can’t struggle against, or maintain a balance between, the universal tendencies toward disintegrating chaos and falling into an inert minimum energy state.
- Evolutionism proposes an increase in complexity and information content from nothing to humans and all other living things, exactly the opposite of what is actually observed.
The Witness of Creation Scientists
Finally, as noted earlier, one factor that came up in these personal research programs was finding out that there were intelligent creationists, and in fact hundreds of trained and practicing scientists who believe that the Earth was Divinely created thousands of years ago. This brings us to the final category of influences that I noted, Creationist/ID literature and arguments. These were almost always separate from the personal observations and self-study programs, or were taken up after observations of nature or study of evolutionary textbooks led to a desire for information from a different viewpoint.
As far as the specifics go, there is no difference between them and what the individuals found in their own study of nature and evolutionary texts! The lectures, debates, and literature with information from creationists only provided more details, in areas that the individuals hadn’t researched for themselves, or confirmed what they had researched.
One thing that this exposure did add was revealing that creationists, even YECs, are not just a bunch of ignorant religious fanatics. The seekers found that these creationists were as intelligent as the evolutionists, trained and knowledgeable in science, and humble and reasonable in their arguments.