Lying for Jesus

Lying for Jesus. Dishonesty in creationist arguments is among the most powerful arguments there is for the accuracy of the theory of evolution.

I do not believe that creationists in general are compulsive liars. I believe that most of them are not only sincere Christians, but even avid about their faith.

Kent Hovind mug shotKent Hovind's mug shot. When you misrepresent the evidence on who has to pay taxes, there are other judges besides the general public. No lying for Jesus on that subject!

But I'm about to show you that they lie (for Jesus) on a regular basis.

Why would they do that?

The best reason I can come up with is that they don't have real evidence against evolution.

Thus, lying for Jesus becomes strong evidence for evolution by being evidence that creationists have no or few solid arguments. Only those without a case have to resort to lying to support their case, and that is especially true when we're talking about Christian men with good reason to both try to be and try to appear honest.

Are They Really Liars for Jesus?

All these men, I'm certain, would love to be speaking honestly. Further, they're trying to be honest. But the desire to win the argument—to be right about evolution and to "defend the faith"—compels them to grasp at whatever arguments they can find.

And all they can find are manufactured ones.

I don't want to call these men liars. I don't believe they're trying to lie. I think they feel like their misquotes and selective overlooking of important facts are a real defense of the faith.

My favorite creation debate: Ben Waggoner does an excellent job of creating an environment where both Kent Hovind and the audience have to look at the facts.

I understand the temptation to lie for Jesus. Anyone who has argued for anything has felt the temptation to be "selective" in their presentation of evidence.

But we have to resist that temptation.

But those who are perpetrating these falsehoods need to call it lying for Jesus. They need to use harsh words with themselves so that they can see that they are not defending the faith; they are not presenting evidence; they are lying, deceiving, and slandering.

When you find out you are lying for Jesus, deceiving, and slandering, you are a lot more likely to feel the need for repentance than when you're just "leaving something out," or "making selective use of evidence" or "bending the truth a bit."

A lot of these lies for Jesus are accusations that scientists are lying, they also amount to slander and hypocrisy.

Let's be real, folks. This is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ we're talking about. Are we really doing Jesus a favor by lying and slandering while claiming to be his representatives?

Examples of Lying for Jesus

Lying for Jesus comes in many forms:

  • Quote Mining: Quote mining is citing quotes out of context to make the author or speaker seem to be saying something different than what he was saying. Creationists often "quote mine" evolutionists to make them appear to be saying that there's no evidence for evolution.
  • Misrepresenting the Evidence
  • Slander: Accusing scientists of purposely altering the facts when there's no evidence it happened (and lots of reasons to believe it can't).

Quote Mining

The example I ran across this morning was this quote from Allan Feduccia, Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina. It's cited by Answers in Genesis among their 99 Quotable Quotes.

Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur, but it ís not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of "paleobabble" is going to change that.

Archaeopteryx, one of many specimens; this one found at SolenhoferCreative Commons, by H. Raab (User:Vesta)

Answers in Genesis is trying to suggest that Archaepteryx is not intermediate between birds and reptiles. They believe it's a full-fledged bird:

This is a problem for evolution because Archaeopteryx is now generally recognized to be a true bird. (AiG references an Indiana University Press book called Feathered Dragons as the source for their contention; I haven't read it.)

The problem is that despite what AiG believes and despite the AiG quote mine, Allan Feduccia believes that Archaeopteryx is intermediate between birds and reptiles. I have access to Science articles, and AiG is quoting a Feb. 1993 issue of Science when they quote Feduccia.

The quote is accurate enough, but the context gives the quote a very different meaning than AiG implies. Thus this misrepresentation is an example of lying for Jesus.

The Science article explain that there are "two opposing views of avian evolution.":

  • "Birds are directly descended from dinosaurs."
  • "Both birds and dinosaurs share an earlier, crocodile-like ancestor."

In 1973, a paleontologist from Yale named John Ostrom argued that Archaeopteryx flew very little, if at all. He argued—rather successfully—that Archaeopteryx was barely more than a feathered dinosaur, making it seem like the first of those views is true. Birds came straight from dinosaurs.

Archaeopteryx lithographica parisfrom Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Allan Feduccia argues, later in the same issue of Science, that Archaeopteryx lived in trees and flew regularly. Thus, Archaeopteryx qualifies as a bird, making the second of those propositions more likely. Birds and dinosaurs descended from a crocodile-like ancestor.

Allan Feduccia, like all other ornithologists, believes that Archaeopteryx has many reptilian features that modern birds don't have.

In fact, one of the differences between anti-evolutionists and real scientists is that scientists keep asking questions until they know the truth. Anti-evolutionists, like Answers in Genesis, ask only enough questions to create a cloud of doubt—usually only 1 or 2—and then they quit asking questions.

So when I hear a quote like the one from Allan Feduccia, I look up the context in Science. AiG should at least have done that. Another fellow, though, who runs a web site called AiG Busted!, went even further. He actually wrote Allan Feduccia. His response?

Yes, of course this is preposterous. I was the person who coined the phrase in 1980 that, "Archaeopteryx is a Rosetta Stone of evolution!"

Hmm. Little different picture than AiG paints, isn't it? This is the sort of thing that lead to them being called liars for Jesus.

I wrote that one out for you as an example. Here are some other versions of lying for Jesus in much shorter form.

  • One of the more famous on the internet is A Tale of Two Cites. Carl Wieland and a creationist organization in Australia quoted Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, out of context. When someone wrote Dr. Patterson to ask if he was being quote mined by the anti-evolutionists, he replied, "Your interpretation ... is correct, and the creationists' is false."

     Unfortunately, he also wrote, "The specific quote ... is accurate as far as it goes." Rather than pull their quote mine, the creationist organization quote mined again and added just Dr. Patterson's statement that their quote—at least the wording—was accurate to their next book of quotes!!!

  • Perhaps the most famous quote mine of all is a constantly quoted line from Charles Darwin's book On the Origin of Species. In chapter 6, he wrote, "To suppose that the eye ... could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.

     Darwin, of course, goes on in the same chapter to explain that no matter how absurd it might seem, there is real evidence that the eye evolved.

  • A quick search of AiG's 99 quotes produced another quote mine (#81). In a Discover article from May, 1992, the author says that confusion over an ancient specimen called Hallucigenia concerns "two radically different--indeed, inverted--views of the history of life on earth."

     Feel free to read the article yourself. I linked it. The two views of life on earth are only "radically different" if you're a paleontologist. To the creation-evolution debate, those two views are irrelevant. To the average person, they're of very little interest. Were there phyla that went extinct after the Cambrian emplosion, or did all or almost all the phyla survive until today? That's the only question addressed in that quote.

Finally, TalkOrigins.org has a list of creationist misquotes.

Someone once pointed out that creationists misquote so often that it is best to assume any quotes they provide are doctored or fabricated unless proven otherwise. That has definitely been my experience as you see above.

Misrepresenting the Evidence

My first experience of misrepresentation of evidence was a list of inaccuracies in The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris. I saw these inaccuracies in 1995, 35 years after the book was published. It had been through four printings, but despite the public nature of these inaccuracies, none had been corrected.

Charles Lyell, public domain, from Sarah Bolton's book _Famous Men of Science_Charles Lyell
From Sarah Bolton's book Famous Men of Science, 1889

Unfortunately, I don't have that list, and I only remember two of them. One was a picture of a strata line that was not a picture of the strata line being discussed. The other was a claim in the preface that Charles Lyell, the famous geologist and friend of Charles Darwin, was a lawyer, not a geologist.

As it turns out, it is true that Charles Lyell originally went to college to be a lawyer. He graduated and began a law practice in 1820 at the age of 22. By 1823, at the age of 25, he was in full-time geology and was joint secretary of the Geological Society. He wrote books and received awards in geology for the next 50 years.

It is hardly realistic to say he wasn't a geologist.

I should point out that Henry Morris, who was not a geologist by education, only makes this claim to defend his own right to author a book on geology, not to deprecate anything Charles Lyell had said.

Other examples of lying for Jesus by misrepresenting evidence are:

  • One of Kent Hovind's primary claims ("Dr. Dino") is that the entire geologic column is not found anywhere in the world except in school textbooks. Not true; it's found 26 places in the world.
  • The ridiculous, often-repeated claim that there are no transitional fossils.
  • The Cambrian explosion—the "sudden" expansion of multicellular life between 600 and 550 million years ago—is often cited as a problem for evolution. The argument itself is bizarre because if the Cambrian explosion is admitted, then the earth is old and evolution happened. But it becomes a lying for Jesus problem when anti-evolutionists claim that all the phyla (the classification just below kingdom) were present in the Cambrian explosion.

     The claim itself is almost true. A UC Berkeley web site says that only one phylum has appeared after the Cambrian. But that hardly means that the Cambrian explosion is instantaneous creation! Our phylum, Chordata, is represented by things like sea squirts (see picture below). They now think there may have been a couple very primitive fish, but no amphibians, no reptiles, no birds, and no mammals. Hardly the Garden of Eden!

Sea squirt or tunicate, from Wikimedia Commons, photo by Nick HobgoodSea Squirt
Wikimedia Commons, photo by Nick Hobgood

Slandering Scientists

My very first experience with lying for Jesus was when Dr. Robert Gentry said on a creationist television show in 1994 that Dr. Donald Johanson, who discovered the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton, nicknamed Lucy, concealed the fact that he found the first A. afarensis knee joint over a mile away and several meters lower in the earth.

Donald JohansonDonald Johanson
from Wikimedia Commons, user: Gerbil

I was stunned to find out that Dr. Johanson had released the details of the discovery in a book in 1980 some 6 years before creationists even started accusing him of a cover-up. Dr. Gentry's slander didn't occur until 1994, 14 years after Dr. Johanson's book came out.

That was my first experience with Christian anti-evolutionist slander, and I was naive enough to be shocked. It took my breath away.

Unfortunately, I've found it to be so common over the last 17 years that lying for Jesus is simply what I expect.

I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a scientist like Dr. Gentry, who has been published in both Science and Nature, to check to see if a fellow scientist actually did anything wrong before he publicly slanders him. I believe failing to do so qualifies as lying for Jesus, and it harms the testimony of Christ and Christians; it certainly doesn't benefit it.

More Examples of Lying for Jesus

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There is something outrageous about such a huge body of evidence being put together, then being confirmed in all kinds of other scientific disciplines, particularly genetics, and having other people just sort of deny it for reasons that have nothing to do with truth.
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Great home school video with reenactments of the Dover trial on Intelligent Design.