Friday, February 16, 2007

Australian creationist letter

I became aware of a letter in the Sidney Herald by Dave Purkey. The letter is about the teaching of evolution and creationism, and Purkey (who is a creationist) makes the usual lies about the issue at hand. I'll try to take the letter paragraph by paragraph.

First of all, allow me to thank you for being willing to print these letters to the editor. You are providing a valuable service to our community. I am thankful to be living in a society that allows public debate over issues that have eternal implications. I suggest you might consider setting aside a column specifically to allow persons on both sides of this issue to air their comments weekly.

While most of us are for open debates, I hope that the Sidney Herald doesn't follow his suggestion, and set aside a column for this purpose. This would allow the creationists to create an illusion of there being a legitimate debate. The Sidney Herald should rather set aside a column for science or for educating people without knowledge of the area.

Response to Backes: While I appreciate Mr. Backes’ responding to my letter of a few weeks back, I would like to point out that it isn’t necessary in a public forum to insult the intelligence of one who opposes your viewpoint or attack the veracity of individuals used as a source. In a perfect world, I suppose one would find it unusual that anyone has financial problems. If it were even relevant, I would point out the many errors made by Mr. Backes when he attacked both my intelligence and Dr. Hovind’s credentials and veracity.

I haven't found the original letter, but I expect that "financial problems" refers to Kent Hovind's problems with the IRS, caused to a large degree by his association with Glenn Stoll. If that's the case, "financial problems" doesn't cover it - it would be more appropriate to say tax evation and fraud.
Attacking Purkey's intelligence is not very nice, but it might not be entirely misguided, given that he lumps them together with Hovind's "credentials and veracity". Hovind's use of false credentials tells us everything we need to know about his veracity.
And notice that he doesn't actually point out what those errors were.

All one has to do is go to Dr. Hovind’s Web site,, and judge for himself if his presentation is credible. If one chooses to visit the radical left wing atheists’ Web sites that spend all their time ranting and raving about the ignorance of anyone who opposes their incredibly inept presentations in an utterly vain attempt to justify the unsupportable theory of evolution, a theory that is filled with presuppositions and innuendoes used to explain the existence of mankind under the pretense of being scientific, that is their right. As a citizen of this great country, and as one of God’s creatures, we all have the right to choose whom we will serve.

Oh my, where to start.
Ok, let's start with the credibility of his presentation - better people than me has looked at it, and they are not impressed. Heck, even Hovind's allies think his arguments aren't credible.
I guess that "the radical left wing atheists’ Web sites" refers to places like TalkOrigins. However, notice how Purkey fails to explain how the theory of evolution is "unsupportable" or is "filled with presuppositions and innuendoes". Do we sense a pattern? Oh, and of course notice the incorrect understanding of the word theory.

I kept a copy of my letter and have reread it several times. I have not been able to understand how Mr. Backes got the idea I am promoting my religious beliefs in the classroom. While I don’t hesitate to confirm that I am a born-again, Bible toting, sold out follower of Jesus, in the classroom, I am a public school teacher. As an educator I spend many hours each month listening to and reading materials from both evolutionists and creationists. I’m not promoting Kent Hovind. I am promoting his presentation of the opposition to evolution scientists. I rejected the theory of evolution before I became a Christian because it simply had too many holes in it that no one could fill.

So you tell the children about your religious beliefs, claims that evolution is wrong because of religious arguments (that's all Hovind's arguments amounts to), but you are not promoting your religious beliefs. Riiight. Let me clearly state that if Purkey is in any way involved in teaching biology, he should be fired - not for his religious beliefs, but because he obviously lacks the basic understanding required for teaching the subject.

If one really does his homework he will discover the latest Supreme Court decision simply states that no state or local board can mandate the teaching of either evolution or creation theories. Teachers can, however, teach both side by side and allow students to decide which they believe is more credible. That’s exactly what I am doing. It isn’t necessary in the history class to go into a great deal of detail about either. That is left to the science classes. I find it offensive, however, when historians presume that everyone believes the earth is 20 billion years old, that there was a universal ice age, and that there was a 20 billion year gap between Genesis 1:1, the creation of the world and Genesis 1:2, the creation of everything else. There isn’t enough time or space to argue the critical points of the gap theory here. However, perhaps the following excerpt will help us all understand how it came about.

Ok, seems like he is teaching history, or perhaps not - hard to say. However he doesn't seem to know much about history either; it's commonly accepted that the world is 4.5 billion years old, not 20 billion years. And historians tend to assume that people "believe" in historical facts as shown through geology, archaeology etc.

Gap Theory: Its Background: The Gap Theory was first proposed in 1814 by a Scottish minister named Chaulmers. It was during this period scientists were beginning to teach that the earth was billions of years in age. As a response to the scientific community, Chaulmers theorized a “gap” in time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. His motive was probably well intentioned, but there is no scriptural reason to infer or imply that such a gap ever existed (

Funny enough, I don't think that historians assume that this is what people believe. Religious people, not blinded by ignorance, tend to believe that the creation was a gradual process, and that "days" shouldn't be taken literately.

It is enough to point out this theory was an attempt of early church fathers, who knew nothing of science, to reconcile creation with what atheistic geologists claimed was irrefutable evidence that the earth was billions of years old.

There is many ways that the evidence could be refuted, and all geologists worth their salt know this, so it's highly doubtful that they would say it's "irrefutable evidence". And the estimated age of the world was not billions of years back in 1814, rather it was millions of years - I recently read a book from 1913 where they estimated the age of the world to be tens of millions, but certainly not hundred of millions of years.
In other words, given new evidence, scientists change their estimates, and reevaluate their theories - something Chaulmers tried to do to his religion - this made him quite a bit more scientific than people like Hovind and Purkey.

There is no irrefutable evidence the world is billions of years old. There is a great deal of refutable evidence; just as there is a great deal of refutable evidence for creation. In the final analysis, it comes down to what you choose to believe. If the Lord is God, follow Him. If evolution is your god follow it to its natural resting place. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Well, he is right, there is a lot of "refutable evidence", the problem is just that no one has refuted it yet, so the estimate stands. As to the "refutable evidence" for creation - if he speaks of a literate creation as defined in the bible, then yes, there is plenty such, and all of it has been refuted by the evidence - the evidence that among other things, supports the current estimate of Earth.

I find it frightening that such a man is involved in teaching children.

Edit: I think Purkey is a good example of the arrogance that PZ Myers talked about here, though PZ's post focused more on the neo-Creationists (or ID crowd if you prefer).

Edit II: Oops. As was pointed out in the comments, the Sidney Herald is located in Sidney, Montana. That was a bit of a blunder from my side (especially considering Sydney in Australia is spelled differently). The rest of the arguments still stand though

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

this Sidney is in Montana,
not Australia. I can only hope his teaching is more reasonable than his letter.

February 19, 2007 3:41 AM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

How did I miss that? Thanks.

Post headline corrected to reflect this piece of news.

February 19, 2007 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone interested or know of these people? Timothy S. Wickstrom, Marnie McGregor-Wickstrom and Steven Hardebeck. Tim is CEO of "Changing Lives Ministries", a corporation sole, in Maple Valley, Washington.

February 20, 2007 6:44 AM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Doesn't ring a bell. Should we know them? And is there a particular reason why they should be of interest?

Are the Wickstroms realted to James Wickstrom, of the Posse Comitatus/Aryan Nations?

February 20, 2007 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim wickstrom is a client of Glenn Stoll. Currently he is being investgated by the FBI,DOJand local law enforcement for Tax evasion,Theft, Fraud and forgery among many county and state violations.

May 08, 2007 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tim Wickstrom Maple Valley, Washington:

He CLAIMS Glen Stoll is the owner of CB Supply. WHATEVER. My mother has been telling me that since he calls himself a Christian that we are not to judge him - he will meet his maker in the end. Looks like he's about to meet his maker.

May 19, 2007 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God may forgive Tim but myself and many others whos lives he has effected Family, Freinds, Business partners, ect.. never will. Hope his cell mate is gentle with him :)

May 22, 2007 8:45 PM  

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