How Many Creationists Does It Take to Refute Evolution?

Recently, I came across a post on my old church’s website that a few months back, they hosted a presentation by a creationist on “The Best Evidence Against Evolution.” You may know that a while ago, I wrote a series for this blog trying to discover the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod‘s official stance on evolution. In the end, it seemed that they decisively hold to young earth creationism, although the church still has no definitive stance on whether evolution is actually true.

At Grove City College, my alma mater, neither students nor faculty are required to sign a statement of faith, but it is clear when attending there that the entire college experience is geared only for Christians, and if you don’t share those views, you’re SOL. I’m reminded of this when I see how the LCMS teaches members why evolution is not true; without any official doctrine on the theory, believers in evolution could theoretically be accepted in the church, but feel isolated when they are reminded that their views are taboo within the denomination.

In the post announcing that this presentation had occurred, the speaker was described as “Noted professor and author Dr. Bergman” but it never gave his whole name or any more details on who or what he is. After a bit of Googling, I discovered that the speaker was creationist Jerry Bergman, a professor at a community college with a handful of degrees, mostly in psychology. Feel free to see more detailed information on Bergman here on RationalWiki. He’s quite the character.

Ideally, I would have loved to see a recording of Bergman’s presentation at my old church, but I was unable to find one. Instead, I found what I believe to be the closest equivalent that YouTube has to offer: a presentation Bergman gave, presumably around 2008, on a program called Origins TV. (You can follow along with his slides here.) It was, in some ways, a follow-up to a book that he had recently written called Persuaded by the Evidence, about former evolutionists who changed their minds on the matter and became creationists.

Bergman starts off the episode by showing his great persecution complex; he said that his career as a creationist activist began in 1979 when he was fired from being a professor at Bowling Green State University solely because he rejected evolution (even though he’s also claimed elsewhere that the college engaged in “reverse racial discrimination” against him, but the college claims that it was because he had no real credentials in psychology)(source).

As a result of this chicanery, Bergman wrote Persuaded by the Evidence, which is a collection of the creationism conversion stories of scientists. Bergman showed the list to the Origins host, who oo’ed and aah’ed over how many of the 3,000 people on the list had PhD’s—except, he said, for whoever had a “DDS, whatever that means.” (It’s a Doctor of Dental Surgery.)

It seems that the reason for Bergman’s book is to disprove a statement that Ernst Mayr made in Scientific American in 2000: “No educated person any longer questions the validity of evolution, which we now know to be a simple fact.” Bergman’s response is essentially, “Yeah, well, lots of people with PhD’s don’t believe in evolution. So there. Checkmate, atheists!”

After showing more of his persecution complex because of how creationists can’t get tenure, Bergman and the host of the show spend a bit of time making known their stance that Christianity and evolution really are not compatible. It’s not by giving reasons that the Genesis account is not historically consistent with evolution, but Bergman tells us that when he used to be an atheist, he would call theistic evolutionists “useful idiots,” and now as a creationist, he laughs at them. Basically, he’s always thought they were dumb and he always will. What a great way to show love to your fellow Christians!

You can probably tell by now that keeping up with this man and his Gish gallop can be dizzying. After making the patronizing statement that “‘the evidence’ for creationism is hard to convey to ‘the common people’ so I wrote this to speak to them,” he claims that “it takes more faith to be an atheist.” His source? Norman Geisler’s book by that name. If something is the title of a book, then it must be true, right? Ah, but then what would Bergman do about Jerry Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True? He would have to change his entire worldview.

This begin’s Bergman’s short rant on atheism. The central reason he disagrees with atheism—so, I guess that means that this is the main reason he believes in God at all?—is that “you can’t get something from nothing.” No elaboration. No sources. He just moves onto how he became disillusioned with atheism because of how “the claims about Galileo and Bruno and the claims that the church executed many scientists because of their science” are “just not true.” I’m sure there was some point he was trying to make, but he only remembered bits and pieces like the names of Giordano Bruno and Galileo. Bruno was, by the way, burned at the stake for heresy, and Galileo spent the end of his life on house arrest before dying of a fever and heart palpitations.

After some mumbling about DNA and how, in regards to junk DNA, we should be skeptical about what it really does rather than just accept that it is useless (*cough* irony *cough*), Bergman lists some of the famous scientists from his book who are creationists. These include Henry Morris, who worked in hydraulic engineering, Raymond Damadian, who invented the MRI machine, Warner von Braun, who is the father of the American Space Program, Everett C. Koop, a former Surgeon General, and Mortimer Adler, the founder of the Great Books collection (which included works from Darwin). These are all great feats, but what do they all have in common? They have nothing to do with biology. You don’t have to believe in evolution to work in the American Space Program.

Lastly in the list, Bergman includes C.S. Lewis as a great mind who didn’t believe in evolution. He greatly encourages viewers to check out Lewis’ little-known book The Great Myth. So I looked. And I looked. And I found out that this book doesn’t even exist. Rather, Lewis wrote an essay called “The Funeral of a Great Myth” which was included in a volume called Christian Reflections. It seems that Bergman spit out anything that he can remember of any given thought and hope that his viewers will automatically know what he is talking about.

Bergman spends essentially the rest of the episode explaining his odd and feeble understanding of Michael Behe’s widely discredited idea of irreducible complexity, which creationists love to use as “evidence” for intelligent design. As I watched, I thought, “Doesn’t he know that this entire idea has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers?”

Indeed, Bergman gave this exact quote from the court case Kitzmiller v. Dover, where the judge also adds that irreducible complexity “has been rejected by the scientific community at large” and that “there are no peer reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe’s argument that certain complex molecular structures are ‘irreducibly complex.'” How did Bergman respond to this? By calling it ludicrous, considering that he just showed that the cell is complex and that he doesn’t know how it came to be that way. He also pointed out that there are different kinds of carbon, and the idea of IC has been around since Aristotle’s time. He also drew a 4 and explained that we didn’t know it was a 4 until it had all three lines present. Yes, but before it was a 4, it functioned perfectly well as a 1, and then as a + sign. His argument is self-refuting.

The great finale of this 42-minute-long video was a slide which Bergman titled “From the Net.” He said that he was showing us a quote from an Amazon review of “a book.” This book is, predictably, Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, but Bergman is too scatterbrained to include this detail. The review had said that Behe “started out with his conclusion and then set out to reinforce it,” to which Bergman interrupts, “Okay, well, that may be true,” before reading the rest: “This explains why you get unsupported assertions such as ‘irreducible complexity’.” Bergman then brags (?) that if you Google “irreducible complexity false”, you get 293,000 hits. (Just now, I got 438,000 hits.) His response is, again, just that that’s ludicrous. And then it just ends.

I don’t want to be mean for the sake of being mean, but I really think that this man is either knowingly lying to people, or his train of thought can’t stay on track enough to make a coherent statement. It is obvious, however, that he doesn’t know how science works and he likes to brag about it for sympathy and to validate to himself that God must have done it. It would have been fascinating, I’m sure, to meet him in person, but I feel sad for those who saw his presentation and believed that his seemingly valid credentials meant that you could take his points at face value.

16 Replies to “How Many Creationists Does It Take to Refute Evolution?”

  1. Rebekah:

    Hi.

    Thanks for being there, and congratulations on two years of blogging.

    Common Belief &: The Illusion Of Explanatory Depth

    “If you asked 100 people on the street if they understood how a refrigerator works, most would say yes. But ask them to produce a detailed, step-by-step explanation of exactly how, and you’d likely hear silence or stammering. This powerful but inaccurate feeling of knowing is what Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil In 2002 termed the illusion of explanatory depth . . .”

    Adam Waytz: Psychologist; Associate Professor,
    Kellogg School Of Management, Northwestern University.
    In: Ed. John Brockman’s, 2018.
    This idea is brilliant: Lost, overlooked,
    and under appreciated scientific concepts everyone should know.
    New York, NY: HarperColins e-books.

    I am 67, retired, and now read mostly science, and science related non-fiction. And the idea of “the illusion of explanatory depth,” is probably the most important idea to come across my path in over 10 years. I bring the IOED to your attention because it is probably the most charitable* explanation for ‘your description of’ Jerry Bergman’s presentation as rambling, and poorly, and in places incorrectly documented.

    In using the phrase ‘your description of’ I am trying to make a point. And it is not a defense of Jerry Bergman, or a question about your analysis of the Bergman presentation. It is an example of one of the chief causes for “the illusion of explanatory depth.” I do not know from reading your blog that the Bergman presentation is ‘rambling, and poorly, and in places incorrectly documented.’ All I actually know is that Rebekah, in The Curious Atheist blog, said that it was.

    Now listen: I have been subscribed to your blog for about a month. I like the way you write, and specially that you try to substantiate the claims you make. So all things being equal your word is good enough for me. But if anything of actual consequence, for me, was resting on the validity and veracity of Mr. Bergman’s presentation, then I would have to review the presentation myself to determine its weight. And this is a hard thing to internalize: Knowing is a first person phenomena. We cannot know what someone else knows because they say it. And the result, I fear, is that most of what we claim we know, we cannot substantiated by a clear, structured, and coherent set of claims. So they are ‘common beliefs’ in the sense that, they are being accepted for reasons other then personal investigation, or a personal analysis of what is being asserted.

    And my point here is that there are at least 20 things I can think of right off of the top of my head, that are probably more important to people then ‘how a refrigerator works’ : ) But for which, when asked, a clear, structured, and coherent set of claims, seem to be perpetually absent.

    Anyway Rebekah, thanks again for being there, for thinking about the important things, and getting some of us to do the same.

    ) EverettCMarm

    *) The Principal Of Charity.
    Fisher, Alec, (1988)
    The logic of real arguments.
    Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 17.

    Like

  2. I just ran into this discussion on Darwinism. I’ll post it here. I haven’t sorted out what they’re getting at, but what I get from it is they say Darwin’s theory is mathematically impossible. Shrug??? Pretty good discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. anyone who thinks C.S. Lewis is someone to be admired hasn’t read his sad little attempt to convince Christians to never tell a maybeChristian about the constant dissension in the Christian ranks. Creationists are liars, and they can’t even convince each other.

    My brother and his family live in Grove City. I grew up in western PA. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gotta love them Creationists eh? Back in high school before I knew any better, I used to believe in Creationism. Our biology teacher also believed that and would critique it every chance he got. One day he got us to do an essay on Evolution vs Creationism. After doing some research I ended up doubting the whole Creationism theory. Not what he wanted I guess lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really think that this man is either knowingly lying to people, or his train of thought can’t stay on track enough to make a coherent statement.

    Probably both. Before I go any further, thank you, Rebekah, for the excellent post. Well thought out response to a someone who doesn’t think things through to any logical conclusion–Jerry Bergman.

    I’ve noticed that most preachers, at least here in the south, follow a similar pattern of presentation. For instance, what preacher would ever stand up in the pulpit and declare God to be a hypocrite? Even though we see God writing the sixth commandment: Thou shalt not kill. Only to read a few pages over the infamous and unambiguous Godly command: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. No preacher that I know of will stand in front of a congregation and say: “This is absolutely wrong and leads me to believe that the Bible is not the inerrant word of anybody, much less God, and hence, we need to rethink our belief system!”

    Why doesn’t he say that? Because his paycheck comes from those folk sitting out there who, he well knows, haven’t read much of the Bible, if any, and it’s his job to cherry-pick passages that can scare them enough to keep giving money but also assuage any fears they may have of burning for eternity in a hell mostly reserved for liberal democrats anyway.

    “Disciplined thought,” something I’ll readily admit, I’m still working on at age 70, comes from reading across disciplines, listening to intelligent and thoughtful persons, admitting you are wrong when you are wrong, and sitting still, dammit, and thinking through an idea. Few Christians will do that, because it inevitably leads to a loss of faith that was based on a lot of crap handed down from preacher to preacher.

    I’ll end with the observation that you are a person that I admire because you do present well-wrought arguments that push others, myself included, to think. Undoubtedly, the ability to question the logic of a faith-based system is something that its adherents fear to do because it simply will not hold up under close scrutiny. Hence the “hard question” coming from a Christian might be something like “Are you following God’s plan?” It’s a “hard” question because nobody knows what the damn plan is. And “thinking” about the logic of the “hard” question reveals it to be, well, ridiculous.

    Thanks again for the great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Creationists have such a tiny god. They can allow their god to magically poof a species into existence. But they cannot allow a grand god who could create a brilliant system such as evolution to maintain the biosphere.

    It seems that their real objection is to the idea that they might have evolved from monkeys. They want to be special, so they have invented a god that will see them as special.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. You didn’t say much to counter the 3,000 scientists statistic, which may mislead some people, so I thought I’d add a couple of points:

    According to the Pew Research Center, “Nearly all scientists (97%) say humans and other living things have evolved over time – 87% say evolution is due to natural processes, such as natural selection.”

    https://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-5-evolution-climate-change-and-other-issues/

    Project Steve has demonstrated that there are at least 1,439 scientists with the name Steve alone who accept evolution. That’s about half of the 3,000 statistic among scientists with the name Steve alone!

    https://ncse.com/list-of-steves

    I assume this is common knowledge for most people, but you can never be too sure.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. You are too kind In your final paragraph. As one who was one of his ‘useful idiots’ back in the day (ad homonym), I welcome your well written and researched skewering of this clown. I see no reason to be respectful to those who are not.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. FYI (Trivial) Re “Warner von Braun” … it is Werner von Braun, a prominent Nazi scientist scooped up after WW2 to help us develop our rocket programs. While not a biologist, he could serve as a character witness??

    Liked by 3 people

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