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Russell Humphreys answers
Thompson, Schimmrich, et al.

(a response by Humphreys to certain anti-creationists whose “scholarship”
amounted to relying on errors to “discredit” his work)

© 1998 D. Russell Humphreys.  All Rights Reserved. 

NOTE:  This article’s original sub-title (“The Acts of the Apostates”) has been removed at the request of the author, who asked that the following apology by publicly posted:

I apologize for including Glen Morton by name among the apostates I mentioned in my article “The Acts of the Apostates.”  “Apostasy” is too potent a word to describe the errors I was talking about, and I didn’t have Mr. Morton foremost in my mind when I used it.

Courteously in Christ,
Russ Humphreys

I normally try to pay as little attention as possible to the more rabid anticreationist corners of the Internet. They are generally not very accurate, rational, or honest, and I find that spending much time on them does not help me do the kind of creative scientific thinking I want to do. The acid in that kind of environment tends to corrode the mental machinery of saner folk.

Recently, however, an incident occurred which was hard to ignore. The details of this incident are in the e-mail below, but I’ll summarize it here. An anticreationist named Tim Thompson read one of my ICR Impact papers on the earth’s magnetic field and looked up one of my references, a six-page section in a well-known geomagnetism textbook. Thompson saw a figure near the beginning of that section which roughly resembled a mirror image of my Impact article figures.

Thompson immediately jumped to a wrong conclusion; he thought I had either stupidly or dishonestly reversed the time axis of the text’s figure to get my figure, and he hastily rushed to judgement upon me in his website. If he had bothered to look up some of my other, more technical references, he would have seen that I used data from a different part of the section in the textbook. The technical references are harder to get, but they spell out exactly how I made my figure. A critic is morally obligated to look up all references before rushing to accuse. At the very least, Thompson might have asked me about it first. He did not follow any of those normal procedures of good scholarship. As far as I know, he still hasn’t, despite my informing him of the above. He justly deserves any embarrassment he may get from this incident.

The response of other anticreationists to Thompson’s piece of poor scholarship is instructive. Glen Morton, a former young-earth creationist, immediately believed Thompson. Without checking with me --- or the copies of my technical papers he has in his possession --- he immediately began spreading his “good news” around the darker corners of the Internet. I corresponded privately with him after my response to Thompson was posted. Although Morton says he is still a Christian, he apparently feels no obligation to retract his inaccurate information.

Then an assistant professor of geology named Steve Schimmrich at Calvin College grabbed the ball and began to run with it. He posted a caustic note in various places, including the Calvin college net, accusing me and creationists in general of being dishonest. Calvin college (in Grand Rapids, Michigan) has been a center of anticreationism for several decades, being the home territory of such worthies as Howard Van Til, Davis A. Young, and Clarence Menninga. Though still nominally a Christian college, many of its faculty seem to have slid very far down and away from its original principles. However, I decided to give Dr. Schimmrich the benefit of the doubt. I sent him the following e-mail privately, asking him to retract his piece of misinformation. As an experiment, I appealed to Christian ethics.

His response? He ignored my request and challenged me to debate him on other technical issues. He showed not a shred of shame about relaying bad scholarship and wrongly accusing creationists of dishonesty. I wrote back that I was not at all interested in debating him, because I was so disgusted with his hypocrisy that I didn’t want anything more to do with him.

This descent into the anticreationist underworld shows several things about their level of scholarship:

(1) They swallow criticisms of creationism whole without checking them.

(2) They do not admit to errors on their part.

(3) They are quick to argue and slow to think.

Once they establish that type of reputation, why should more reasonable people listen to them? My counterchallenge to such critics is:

“Publish your criticisms in the same sort of place my technical papers appeared --- peer-reviewed scientific publications.”

That is my way of separating the men from the boys. If any of them manage it, I will be happy to answer them in the same sort of publication. Until then, I intend to let them corrode in their own acid without any response from me.

Humphreys’ 10/3/98 e-mail to Schimmrich:


To Steve Schimmrich
Subject: Do the right thing!

Dear Professor Schimmrich:

Yesterday (October 2, 1998) I became aware of Tim Thompson’s criticism [posted at www.carm.org/wwwboard3/messages/36821.html] of my Institute for Creation Research (ICR) Impact article, number 242, August 1993, “The Earth’s Magnetic Field” [downloadable from the ICR website at www.icr.org]. Yesterday was also when I first became aware of Glen Morton’s relaying of the critique to you, and your comments supporting the critique posted on the Calvin college “evolution” address.

As you know, Mr. Thompson assumed that I drew Figure 1 of my article from Figure 4.5 (on page 102) of the well-known text, The Earth’s Magnetic Field by R. T. Merrill and M. W. McElhenney (Academic Press, 1983). He then assumed that I had drawn it with the time axis backward.

Well, Mr. Thompson was dead wrong! Here’s why:

I drew my figure from the global 500-year average dipole moment data of Table 4.2 and Figure 4.7 on page 105 of Merrill & McElhenny, plus much other archaeomagnetic data I didn’t cite. I processed that data as I described on page 120 of my 1986 article in the Proceedings of the First International Conference on Creationism (ICC), Volume 2. In particular, that amounted to a rightward compression of the timescale to compensate for a common error in carbon-14 dating due to ignorance of the effects of the Genesis flood. Table 3 of my ICC article specifies the corrected timescale, and Figure 5 (beside it) shows the resulting graph of magnetic moments. As is usual, Merril and McElhenny analyzed their data interms of an assumed pure dipole field, so their data really reflects paleomagnetic intensities (B-fields) at locations far from the earth’s poles. As I comment on page 120, I think the Merrill and McIlhenny data need to be completely re-analyzed due to the evidence (both in my paper and in the secular literature) for much stronger non-dipole components in the past, particularly in the first millennium after the Genesis flood.

Figure 6 of my ICC article shows my qualitative (note absence of any number except zero on the vertical axis) reconstruction of the history of the earth’s magnetic field. I made the ICR article figure (Fig. 1), even more qualitative, completely eliminating numbers, even from the time scale, and widening for clarity the period of reversals during the Genesis flood and rapid fluctuations just afterward. It should be clear to everybody that I meant the figure to illustrate general features, not to give precise data.

Mr. Thompson, however, did not look up my technical papers and therefore jumped to a wrong conclusion. That’s a bit like the people who read Einstein’s layman-level book on relativity and then criticize his theory --- without reading his technical articles!

What I find most interesting about this is the level of scholarship reflected by anticreationists and theistic evolutionists. Mr. Thompson fails to do his homework or to consult me on the matter. Then Glen Morton relays the poor research, apparently without careful investigation, even though he was at the 1986 ICC and probably still has the proceedings which would clarify the issue. Finally, Professor Schimmrich, you not only swallow the poor scholarship whole, but then you accuse me of dishonesty:

“Doesn’t Humphreys appear to be deliberately misrepresenting scientific data in this, rather clearcut, example? Is this a way for a Christian scientist (Humphreys has a Ph.D. in physics and can not claim ignorance) to behave?”

Well, Prof. Schimmrich, I ask you: Are you a Christian? Are you a scientist? Is the above the right way for you to behave? (1) If you agree that you have erred, then the best way to prove that you are a Christian man of integrity is to tell Glen Morton (I don’t have his address) and immediately publish a retraction to all people involved. An apology would be nice, too. (2) If you do not agree that you have erred, please explain your position to me.

I have not sent anyone else a copy of this, in order to give you room to do the right thing. In the name of Jesus Christ, I urge you to do so.

Sincerely in Christ,

Russ Humphreys
 


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