Some Verifiable Instances of Creationist Dishonesty

From the archive

* By Robert Zuber: Creationists Fail to Own up to Mistakes
* By Chris Stassen: The ICR's Dishonesty Exposed
* By Rich Trott: A Creationist's Mystery Citations

Creationists Fail to Own up to Mistakes
By Rob Zuber

A Creationist writes:

We are talking of high caliber scientists, who happen to be Christians and creationists. These people (also myself) have great moral accountability to be honest and guileless. Any Christian who tries to falsify evidence has to face God. Even when no one else is looking, God is.
Perhaps our creationist can comment on the following. It's a bit dated (1986), so maybe our Creationist can call Gish himself.

The following is from the Creation / Evolution journal, Issue XVII (Vol. 6, No. 1) pp. 1-5.

"Scientific Creationism and Error" by Robert Schadewald (1986)


Ironically, creationists make much of scientific errors. The "Nebraska Man" fiasco, where the tooth of an extinct peccary was misidentified as belonging to a primitive human, is ubiquitous in creationist literature and debate presentations. So is the "Piltdown Man" hoax. Indeed, creationist propagandists often present these two scientific errors as characteristic of paleoanthropology. It is significant that these errors were uncovered and corrected from within the scientific community. In contrast, creationists rarely expose their own errors, and they sometimes fail to correct them when others expose them.

Gish's Proteins

Duane Gish, a protein biochemist with a Ph.D. from Berkeley, is vice-president of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and creationism's most well-known spokesperson. A veteran of perhaps 150 public debates and thousands of lectures and sermons on creationism, Gish is revered among creationists as a great scientist and a tireless fighter for the truth. Among noncreationists, however, Gish has a reputation for making erroneous statements and then pugnaciously refusing to acknowledge them. One example is an unfinished epic which might be called the tale of two proteins.

In July 1983, the Public Broadcasting System televised an hour-long program on creationism. One of the scientists interviewed, biochemist Russell Doolittle, discussed the similarities between human proteins and chimpanzee proteins. In many cases, corresponding human and chimpanzee proteins are identical, and, in others, they differ by only a few amino acids. This strongly suggests a common ancestry for humans and apes. Gish was asked to comment. He replied:

"If we look at certain proteins, yes, man then -- it can be assumed that man is more closely related to a chimpanzee than other things. But on the other hand, if you look at certain other proteins, you'll find that man is more closely related to a bullforg than he is to a chimapanzee. If you focus your attention on other proteins, you'll find that man is more closely related to a chicken than he is to a chimpanzee."

I had never heard of such proteins, so I asked a few biochemists. They hadn't either. I wrote to Gish for supporting documentation. He ignored my first letter. In reply to my second, he referred me to Berkeley geochronologist Garniss Curtis. I wrote to Curtis, who replied immediately.

Some years ago, Curtis attended a conference in Austria where he heard that someone had found bullfrog blood proteins very similar to human blood proteins. Curtis offered an explanatory hypothesis: the "frog" which yielded the proteins was, he suggested, an enchanted prince. He then predicted that the research would never be confirmed. He was apparently correct, for nothing has been heard of the proteins since. But Duane Gish once heard Curtis tell his little story.

This bullfrog "documentation" (as Gish now calls it) struck me as a joke, even by creationist standards, and Gish simply ignored his alleged chicken proteins. In contrast, Doolittle backed his televised claims with published protein sequence data. I wrote to Gish again suggesting that he should be able to do the same. He didn't reply. Indeed, he has never since replied to any of my letters.

John W. Patterson and I attended the 1983 National Creation Conference in Roseville, Minnesota. We had several conversations there with Kevin Wirth, research director of Students for Origins Research (SOR). At some point, we told him the protein story and suggested that Gish might have lied on national television. Wirth was confident that Gish could document his claims. He told us that, if we put our charges in the form of a letter, he would do his best to get it published in Origins Research, the SOR tabloid.

Gish also attended the conference, and I asked him about the proteins in the presence of several creationists. Gish tried mightily to evade and to obfuscate, but I was firm. Doolittle provided sequence data for human and chimpanzee proteins; Gish could do the same - if his alleged chicken and bullfrog proteins really exist. Gish insisted that they exist and promised to send me the sequences. Skeptically, I asked him pointblank: "Will that be before hell freezes over?" He assured me that it would. After two-and- one-half years, I still have neither sequence data nor a report of frost in Hades.

Shortly after the conference, Patterson and I submitted a joint letter to Origins Research, briefly recounting the protein story and concluding, "We think Gish lied on national television." We sent Gish a copy of the letter in the same mail. During the next few months, Wirth (and probably others at SOR) practically begged Gish to submit a reply for publication. According to Wirth, someone at ICR, perhaps Gish himself, responded by pressuring SOR not to publish our letter. Unlike Gish, however, Kevin Wirth was as good as his word. The letter appeared in the spring 1984 issue of Origins Research -- with no reply from Gish.

The 1984 National Bible-Science Conference was held in Cleveland, and again Patterson and I attended. Again, I asked Gish for sequence data for his chicken and bullfrog proteins. This time, Gish told me that any further documentation for his proteins is up to Garniss Curtis and me.

I next saw Gish on February, 18, 1985, when he debated philosopher of science Philip Kitcher at the University of Minnesota. Several days earlier, I had heralded Gish's coming (and his mythical proteins) in a guest editorial in the student newspaper, The Minnesota Daily. Kitcher alluded to the proteins early in the debate, and, in his final remarks, he demanded that Gish either produce references or admit that they do not exist. Gish, of course, did neither. His closing remarks were punctuated with sporadic cries of "Bullfrog!" from the audience.

That evening, Duane Gish addressed about two hundred people assembled in a hall at the student union. During the question period, Stan Weinberg, a founder of the Committees of Correspondence on Evolution, stood up. Scientists sometimes make mistakes, said Weinberg, and, when they do, they own up to them. Had Gish ever made a mistake in his writings and presentations? If so, could his chicken and bullfrog proteins have been a mistake? Gish made a remarkable reply.

He has, indeed, made mistakes.....

[example deleted]

Regarding the bullfrog proteins, Gish said that he relied on Garniss Curtis for them. Perhaps Curtis was wrong. As for the chicken proteins, Gish made a convoluted and (to a nonbiochemist) confusing argument about chicken lysozyme. It was essentially the same answer he had given me immediately after his debate with Kitcher, when I went onstage and asked him once again for references. It was also the same answer he gave two nights later......

[bombardier beetle stuff deleted]

About the chicken lysozyme: three times in three days Gish was challenged to produce references for chicken proteins closer to human proteins than the corresponding chimpanzee proteins. Three times he responded with an argument which essentially reduces to this: if human lysozyme and lactalbumin evolved from the same precursor, as scientists claim, then human lysozyme should be closer to human lactalbumin than to chicken lysozyme, but it is not.

Well, although it is true that human lysozyme is not closer to human lactalbumin than to chicken lysozyme, this comes as no shock and does not make a case for creationism. Furthermore, it doesn't at all address the issue that we raised. We were talking about Gish's earlier comparison of human, chimp, and chicken proteins, and Gish changed the subject and started comparing human lysozyme to human lactalbulmin!

Few of his creationist listeners know what lysozyme is, and perhaps none of them knew that human and chimpanzee lysozyme are identical and that chicken lysozyme differs from both by fifty-one out of the 130 amino acids [1]. To one unfamiliar with biochemistry and, especially, Gish's apologetic method's, it sounded like he responded to the question. Whether by design or by some random process, Gish's chicken lysozyme apologetic was admirably suited to deceive listeners.

One who was taken in by it was Crockett Grabbe, a physicist with the University of Iowa. As a result, Grabbe wrongly accused Gish of claiming that chicken lysozyme is closer to human lysozyme than is chimpanzee lysozyme. Gish then counterattacked, playing "blame the victim" and pretending it was Grabbe's own fault that he was deceived [2]. But if the chicken lysozyme apologetic fooled a professional scientist, it is unlikely that many of the creationist listeners saw through it.

Gish's refusal to acknowledge the nonexistence of his chicken protein is characteristic of ICR. Gish's boss, Henry Morris, gave Gish's handling of the matter his tacit approval by what he said (and didn't say) about it in his History of Modern Creationism. Morris refferred to the protein incident and took a swipe at Russell Doolittle (whom he identified as "Richard Doolittle"), but he offered no criticism of Gish's conduct. Instead, he accused PBS of misrepresenting Gish [3]!

Meanwhile, Gish had been obfuscating behind the scenes. The only creationist publication to directly address the protein affair has been Origins Research, which first covered the matter in its spring 1984 issue. Then, in the fall 1985 issue, editor Dennis Wagner revisited the controversy. However, in his article, he (1) wrongly identified Glyn Isaac as the source of Gish's bullfrog and (2) wrongly stated that Gish had sent me a tape of the lecture in which Isaac supposedly made the satement. Wagner's source, it turns out, is a February 27, 1984, letter Gish wrote to Kevin Wirth, in which Gish apparently confused the late Glyn Isaac (an archaeologist and authority on early stone tools) with Garniss Curtis. He also claimed to have a tape and a transcript of the 'Isaac' (presumably Curtis) lecture, and he claimed that he had reviewed them. In the same paragraph, Gish claimed that he had sent me his 'documentation,' and Wagner quite naturally assumed that that meant at least the tape. But Gish sent me neither, nor has he sent copies of said tape or transcript to others who have requested them. As with his chicken proteins, we have only Gish's word for their existence.

For the record, it is no longer important whether Gish's original statements about chicken and bullfrog proteins were deceptions or incredible blunders. It is now going on four years since the PBS broadcast, and Gish has neither retracted his chicken statement nor attempted to justify it. (Obviously, the lysozyme apologetic doesn't count, but it took Gish two-and- one-half years to come up with that!) And if the Curtis story is all he knows about his chimpanzee protein, on what basis did he promise to send me its sequence at the 1983 National Bible-Science Conference? Gish has woven himself into an incredible web of contradictions, and even some creationists now suspect that he has been less than candid.

[rest of article deleted]


[1] Awbrey, Frank T., and Thwaites, William M. Winter 1982. "A Closer Look at Some Biochemical Data That 'Support' Creation," Creation/Evolution, issue VII, p. 15.

[2] Gish, Duane T. August 14, 1985. "Creationism Misassailed." Cedar Rapids Gazette.

[3] Morris, Henry M. 1984. History of Modern Creationism (San Diego: Master Book Publishers), p. 316.

The ICR's Dishonesty Exposed
By Chris Stassen

Regarding science, here is an exercise for anyone who wants to (as Chuck apparently does) claim that creationists have any interest in giving honest information to people:

Call the ICR's publishing house (Master Books) at 619-448-1121. Order catalog item "CRESAM," a sampler of creationism pamphlets, for $2.95 (plus $3 s/h). Read "Have You Been Brainwashed?" -- you will receive four copies, so you can get three friends to participate and split the costs.

In it, you will note claims of human and dinosaur footprints together at the Paluxy River site. Also, note claims that the precambrian is void of fossils. (See below for evidence that Gish, the author of the pamphlet and very influential in the ICR, knew the latter claim to be false as of 1985.)

Call a noted scientific publisher, say, Sinauer or W.H. Freeman. See if you can find a book that uses piltdown or nebraska man to build a case for human evolution. You will fail.

Now, tell me: based on the results of your exercise, which side cares about presenting "facts"? Which side is diligent about refusing to propagate misproven or misleading "information"? Why do you think this is so?

Below is a written transcript that I made from a videotape of the Gish/Plimer debate in 1988. Plimer obtained a copy of the same pamphlet, and hammered Gish for the inaccuracies in it.

These are from the video tape of the March 18, 1988 debate between Ian Plimer and Duane Gish. The debate took place in Australia; the video tape has been converted to American TV format and my own copy is an unknown-number-of-times removed from the original and is of mediocre quality (especially the sound).

When I am not sure of a word, it appears with a question mark following. Editorial remarks are in [square brackets]. All punctuation is my own invention, which I use in an attempt to convey the flow of the talk.

Note that Plimer, in my opinion, was overly aggressive and mean-spirited in this debate. I don't think that he conducted himself well during much of the debate. However, in my opinion he thrashed Gish mainly due to the same pamphlet which is discussed above.

Plimer's statement during his 45-minute debate speech

What I want to now talk about are some of our scientific publications which come from our (?) creationists. The creationists will not allow refutations by scientists. They will not allow a process of improving or correcting. I use the same principle.

[I am not sure what Plimer means by "[using] the same principle." Either he is saying that he won't allow a "process of improving or correcting" either, or he is saying that he is using the same principle of investigating creationist claims as he had been using earlier in his talk.]

And I use our friend's book, or booklet -- it's more like a comic -- which is called "Are You Being Brainwashed?" [Plimer gets the title wrong, I think] I go to page 8. There is a diagram there that says, "precambrian: void of fossils." That is a lie. The precambrian is not void of fossils; the precambrian is extremely rich in fossils. He [Gish] has come to the country where there are many precambrian fossils going back to 3 thousand 3 hundred million years ago.

On the same diagram, he says the "earth's crust" is "void of fossils." That is a lie. Every fossil found on this planet is from the earth's crust. That is from his book, "Are You Being Brainwashed?" page 8. We also see on the same page, the Cambrian; a geological time period some time ago. And I quote, "The billions of fossils found are all of highly complex forms of life." That is a lie. There on one simple diagram we have three lies. That is their scientific publication. [The diagram appears to be unchanged in the current copy.]

We turn now to page 9. And we read, "not a single indisputable multicellular fossil has been found anywhere in the world in a rock supposedly older than Cambrian rocks." That is a lie. But what (?) we see is a repetition of these lies, all the time. "You don't find fossils in old rocks; you don't find fossils in old rocks; you don't find fossils in old rocks." And eventually someone believes them.

So we've read two or three (?) pages and we've got ourselves four lies. And we have an interesting situation here.

[Plimer digresses for a while about Australian creationist Andrew Snelling who claimed that precambrian rocks are rich in fossils. I omit that section because it is not relevant to the pamphlet, other than in showing that some creationists contradict Gish.]

And continuing with page 9, "billions of highly complex animals... just suddenly appear, with no signs of gradual development from lower forms." That is a lie. So we now have 55 words and 5 lies. One lie every 11 words in his publication.

Gish's response during his 10-minute rebuttal period

Now, furthermore, Dr. Plimer quoted from my book, or little "Brainwashed" booklet, written 17 years ago. It's a little, ah, book, you might call it a comic-style book, it's not written in comic terms at all, but it was written 17 years ago.

And at that time, according to Dr. Preston Cloud, one of the world's leading evolutionary geologists, there were no undoubted precambrian fossils. [crowd noise] That's what he said. [More crowd noise] And I quoted, many years ago, Dr. Cloud to that effect. Because he said, first of all, you would not know, you could not establish whether these rocks were precambrian or cambrian... some of these rocks [oops! -CS]. And furthermore there were many pseudo-fossils that had been discovered.

Now, since that time, as I described in my debate, there are many published reports of micro-fossils in precambrian rocks. And furthermore, the Ediacaran which I did describe in my talk, is supposed to be precambrian. I discussed all of them in my book, "Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record," which was published two years ago.

[Note here that Gish is saying that he knows now that there are precambrian fossils, and that he has known it for at least a couple of years.]

Why didn't Dr. Plimer consult this book? [crowd noise] Why didn't he see what I had written that is up to date? To accuse me of lying is terribly, terribly wrong. I stated the facts as I knew them then, as Preston Cloud and others have stated. In this edition [waving book], 1985, 15 years later, I have published what I described in my lecture. Dr. Plimer completely ignored what I said in my lecture, and what I said in my book, to try to accuse me of lying.

Plimer's response during his 10-minute rebuttal period

[crowd noise] This little book seems to have caused a little trouble with our friend. It was written 17 years ago and he refuted it. Why is it I could buy it outside, 20 minutes ago? [crowd noise]

[And the ICR is still selling it without correction or disclaimer. Gish got hammered for distributing the pamphlet in 1988. He admitted that he knew no later than 1985 that some of the claims in it were false. Why is the ICR still selling it?]


The following letter was received by Wesley Elsberry:

Date: Mon Mar 07 1994 09:24:08 From: Larry Sites To: Wesley R. Elsberry

This is, I believe, the file that includes the Gish-Pilmer debate about the lack of truthfullness in Gish's "Brainwashed" comic book. If you can easily contact the appropiate author above, let him know that the ICR has FINALLY updated this booklet. Apparently all the flack about it on the information superfreeway has had an effect. The copy I got at the ICR's 2-25-94 has clarified their position on pre-cambrian fossils and eliminated unambigious claims of dino with man footprints at Paluxy. The new version is undated as near as I can tell, but must have been created within the last 6 months or so as the copy I got at the ICR office then was dated 1986 and still included the claim, "fine clear tracks of dinosaurs and man".

We're making progress! Now if only they would do some science instead of just responding to it.

A Creationist's Mystery Citations
By Rich Trott

[Dan Larhammar, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Cell Biology at University of Uppsala, has noted several unusual points about creationist Dmitri Kuznetsov's article "In vitro studies of interactions between frequent and unique mRNAs and cytoplasmic factors from brain tissue of several species of wild timber voles of Northern Eurasia, Clethrionomys glareolus, Clethrionomys frater and Clethrionomys gapperi: A new criticism to a modern molecular-genetic concept of biological evolution" (Intern. J. Neuroscience, 1989, Vol. 49, pp. 43-59). Dr. Larhammar has written a fuller critique than what I present here. Dr. Larhammar's fuller critique may be found in Intern. J. Neuroscience, 1994, Vol. 77, pp. 199-201. Dr. Larhammar may be reached via email at: Dan.Larhammar@MedFarm.UU.SE

Dr. Kuznetsov's paper cites an article by F. L. Solvarssen and B. Hjerten published in Upsala University Research Reports in 1974. Dr. Larhammar could not find any such publication at Uppsala University (where he has worked since 1980) and he could not locate either of the authors in Uppsala University directories covering 1971-1976.

Dr. Kuznetsov cites an article written by himself and published in Allergologica Acta. Dr. Larhammar could locate no journal by that title. He did find a journal entitled Acta Allergologica, but the volume and year assignments of this journal are different from that given by Dr. Kuznetsov. Furthermore, Dr. Larhammar contacted the journal and was informed that they have not published anything by Dr. Kuznetsov.

In addition, the following five journals were cited by Dr. Kuznetsov, yet none could be located:

Immunochemical and Immunocytological Methods
International Journal of Applied Immunology and Immunochemistry
Biotechnologica Acta
Comparative Biochemistry, Biophysics and Genetics
Methods and Approaches in Clinical chemistry and Immunochemistry

Dr. Larhammar was unable to locate yet another source cited by Dr. Kuznetsov, Scandinavian Archives of Molecular Pathology. Dr. Larhammar contacted the author cited in this instance, Prof. Holger V. Hydén. Prof. Hydén informed Dr. Larhammar that he did not write any such article as that attributed to him by Dr. Kuznetsov and that he has never heard of Scandinavian Archives of Molecular Pathology.

In addition to Dr. Larhammar's report, creationist Paul Nelson has reported that he was unable to find three additional journals not mentioned by Dr. Larhammar. These journals are Biogenesis, Darwin and Darwinism Today, and Studies in Evolutional and Developmental Biology. [Mr. Nelson can be reached at:]

The Creation Science Foundation, Ltd. issued a "public dissociation" from Kuznetsov in light of the events described above as well as "certain financial matters." The public dissociation was printed on page 2 of the May 1995 Prayer News.