Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Dec11, 2003

Good Faith 

Like the bullet that first passed through JFK and then through Texas Governor Connolly I shot two victims with my last column. My intended target was Jim Fetzer.  My Governor Connolly was an innocent bystander, Bill Wells.

Ironically, my target, Dr. Fetzer, called me up after reading my column and heartily laughed it off. Jim loved it. Like all sensible attention seekers (and I say this as one of them) Jim understands that critical press is much better than no press.

Bill Wells, however, didn’t enjoy being Jim Fetzer’s collateral damage. Although unnamed in the column Bill strongly disagreed with my characterization of the evolution vs. creationism debate. If the Debate was tilted in favor of creationism, as I implied, it was not Mr. Wells’ fault.

Bill Wells contacted teachers at UMD looking for the best possible spokesman to defend evolution. Jim Fetzer came highly recommended. Next Bill arranged for Dr, Walt Brown, an expert on “creation science,” to speak for “Creationism.” (Website: www.creationscience.com)

A neutral location was found and advertisements went out to the general public. Bill wasn’t interested in sacrificing an evolutionist to Christian lions.  He simply had faith that his side would prevail.

While I suspect that most of the audience was composed of Creation leaning folks I have no reason to believe they weren’t open minded at the outset of the debate. If Jim Fetzer performance bolstered some people’s creationist preconceptions then Bill Wells’ faith was rewarded.

My quarrel was not with Bill but with Drs. Brown and Fetzer. Brown wrote the rules of the debate and Fetzer agreed to them. The rules seemed innocuous but rules are only as good as their application. The rules stripped away Jim Fetzer’s rebuttal time. My recollection is that Fetzer was docked because he said the word “God.” This was not only stupid, it was unnecessary. Dr. Brown’s rule made the debate seem rigged and by taking away Fetzer’s rebuttal time elevated him from a foil to a martyr.

Bill is a creationist. He wants a level playing field in public funded science classes. He says that this should not be a religious question. He believes that a six day creation has been verified scientifically. He feels the evidence underpinning evolution is bad science. He believes that people who believe in evolution are in effect practitioners of a new religious “faith” and that by teaching evolution the government has taken sides favoring one religious view point over another. If, as Bill maintains, evolution has been debunked then he has a serious point. I think Bill has a very tough argument to make.

Creationism has lost a lot of its punch. I can’t recall a single parent complaint about the teaching of evolution in the Duluth Schools in my two terms on the School Board. There are several reasons for this. First, home schooling has taken a lot of religious conservatives out of the public schools. Second, the Duluth School District sold the old Lowell School building to a conservative Christian Academy which presumably teaches creationism. There just aren’t as many people to complain about having evolution force fed to their children. But for Bill a more disconcerting revolution is taking place within his own creationist ranks.

Science has marched on relentlessly in the eight years since his debate. Advancements in astronomy, physics, paleontology and genetics have confounded creationists. For instance, eight years ago cosmologists argued about whether the universe was 10 or 20 billion years old. As long as this issue was unresolved creationists could use the scientists’ arguments to discredit the idea of an ancient universe. Since that time the Hubble Space Telescope seems to have settled the argument. As a result many creationists have beaten a hasty retreat from the six day creation. They have instead adopted “intelligent design” to explain evolution. These creationists have conceded that the Earth is ancient and no longer dispute its fossil record. Instead the proponents of Intelligent Design challenge Charles Darwin’s theory of “natural selection.” These new creationists insist that God not random chance explains the fossil record.

Bill Wells is annoyed with this retreat from Genesis because he agrees with Bishop Usher (1581-1656) who toted up all the lifetimes of all the Biblical characters and calculated that creation took place in the year 4004 BC.

Bill has faith that science backs this date up. I suspect, however, that behind Bill’s faith lies the doctrine of “biblical inerrancy.” Believers in this doctrine hold that the Bible, as the word of God, is absolutely true. A single error undermines the entire document. If creationists can’t trust that the world was built in six days then nothing in the Bible can be trusted. This is faith at its most vulnerable. No wonder science is viewed with such ardent skepticism.

I tend to agree with Bill that a belief in evolution is a faith of sorts. For my part I have faith that the scientific community has worked very hard to find the truth. Charles Darwin himself was drawn to his study of nature by a deep faith and love of God’s creation. He set out to document everything he could about God’s handiwork. How ironic that his good faith should be so demonized.

Although he is clearly an honorable man, in my estimation, Bill Wells has bent over backward to explain away scientific evidence that he finds disagreeable. Ironically, I think the same thing could be said about Professor Fetzer.

My last column was meant to show how evidence can, by careful manipulation, be bent to make almost anything seem possible. In my estimation Professor Fetzer has used Bill Wells’ scientific analysis to demonstrate that half a dozen men representing as many agencies killed JFK.

Yeah, and the world was created in six days.

Harry Welty is a lame duck politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com