Dismantling the Straw Man: My Review of ICR’s “Adam or Apes”

Bubbles. Orbits. Echo chambers.

Cozy little spots where we find ourselves swaddled in the warmth of groupthink. 

Tucked away, it’s easy to think that everyone agrees and disagrees along the same lines. It’s easy to think that our bubble’s opinion is the majority opinion, and of course, it is the correct one. 

It’s also easy to shoot down a position you disagree with if you never consider the position from the actual position-holders themselves. We build a big-ole straw man out of what we think the opposition believes, tear it down, and congratulate ourselves on a job well done.

In the spirit of hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth, I reserved a ticket to the premier of “Adam or Apes”, a brand-new film from the Institute for Creation Research. The Dallas-based ICR has new and beautiful facilities and produces loads of professional media. ICR’s Discovery Center hosts lots of field trips from church groups, private schools, and home schools. 

The Institute for Creation Research’s foundational principles are a young earth (less than 10,000 years), instantaneous creation, and rejection of biological evolution. ICR is a predominant source of young earth creationism spokespersons and media.

The intersection of science, faith, and culture is my passion. It distresses me to see people of faith reject science evidence for religious reasons. 

So, on a clear December night a week before Christmas 2022, I sat in a crowd of about 200 to hear – firsthand, from a premier source – why rejection of evolution and an ancient earth are both scientific and the only reasonable positions for people of faith. 

I took copious notes, but I’ve condensed it all to three takeaways from the “Adam or Apes” film and the follow-up discussion by a panel composed of the producer/host of the film and the current president of ICR. 

Takeaway #1: Evolution was all part of Darwin’s nefarious plan, according to the panel: Darwin “came up with it” (evolution) to act as a “substitute creator.” 

Furthermore, those who accept the evidence for evolution only do so because they want to live life by their own rules. It’s not the science evidence that convinces people, it’s the seduction of a “do as I please” approach to life. And – according to the panelists, this seduction equally applies to people of faith, who like me, who accept the evidence for evolution.

After the presentation, a nice ICR staffer recognized me from Facebook asked what I thought about the film. He invited me to debate or discuss with ICR staff in person or on a podcast. I thanked him politely and left it at that.

As a by-default faith-rebel in the estimation of ICR, I can’t image I’d get a fair hearing.

Takeaway #2: My goal in attending the screening was to hear the best arguments from the young earth, evolution-rejecting precinct of Christianity. Instead, I heard two hours of refuting arguments about evolution that no one is making. In 2023, ICR’s argument is still about “Piltdown Man”, a fraud exposed more than seventy years ago – and by the way – exposed by secular scientists. 

Instead of presenting peer-reviewed evidence for a young earth or special creation, a straw man built of bogus evolution arguments was dismantled.

Takeaway #3: At the end of the presentation, the panelists asked the audience to pray for ICR. Specifically, the panelists requested prayers (1) for the experiments being done by ICR researchers, (2) for results that confirm the Bible, and (3) for just one result that would catch the attention of those outside young earth creationism. 

Two hours of claiming that there is absolutely no evidence for evolution or an old earth. Claims that every bit of evidence pointing to evolution can be debunked. Claims that science actually supports a young earth and an instantaneous special creation.

Yet, the evening ended with prayers for “just one” definitive experiment.

I was there to listen and learn, so I didn’t ask a question during the Q&A time. But if I had, this would be it: If all science evidence truly supports a young earth and an instant, special creation, why are there no non-religious young earth creationists?

Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple Pie and . . . Young Earth Creationism

Jeans.  Coca-Cola. Dental floss.

Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

All are American inventions, or at least, so quintessentially American we claim credit. 

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to see my first book, Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark? The Bible and Modern Science and the Trouble of Making It All Fit reviewed by an Australian magazine (link below). 

Those baby dinos made it all the way to the land down under!

It was a great review, but right out of the chute, the reviewer reminded his readers of a uniquely American export, birthed right here in the U.S.A.:

Young earth creationism. 

Although creationism isn’t litigated in courtrooms and school boards like it is in America, Australians have America to thank for the faith/science angst felt in many of their churches.

Prior to the twentieth century, belief in a six-day special creation and a literal global flood was by no means ubiquitous in Christian belief. Since the early church fathers, there have been diverse interpretations of the first few chapters of Genesis. 

Early discoveries of fossils and extinctions and the evidence for an ancient earth were disconcerting to many Christians to be sure, but overall, they simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “I guess that’s how God did it.”

Enter Ellen G. White.

White founded the Seventh Day Adventist Church in upstate New York in the mid 1800s. White reported seeing thousands of visions sent by God, including the doctrine of the Adventist Church.

In one vision, claimed White, God brought her back in time and allowed her to witness the six-day creation of the world. 

The Genesis Flood, a book published in 1961, expanded on White’s teachings and entrenched a global flood as fact and as necessary evidence for a literal 6-day creation week – including dinosaurs living with humans. 

And . . . that’s how we got baby dinosaurs on the ark.

The Genesis Flood is credited with launching the modern version of young earth creationism. 

The cause was taken up by the growing evangelical movement in America and was exported by fundamentalists, primarily to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

A few years ago, I met a long-time Oxford professor of science and history who is also a man of deep Christian faith. I told him that I was writing a book about the rejection of evolution science by Christians. 

His response?

“Y’all are still talking about THAT?”

(Well, he’s an Oxford professor and a Brit so he didn’t say ya’ll, but ya’ll get the point). 

Oh, it’s not that Britain doesn’t have a science-faith controversy. It’s that the controversy in Britain is not “can a real Christian accept science?”

That’s an American question.

In Britain and across most of Europe, the question is flipped: “can a respectable scientist be a person of faith?”

My friend, the Oxford professor, was once mocked after lecturing at a high-powered British science conference for wearing a small cross pin on his lapel.

And although we Americans exported the “can’t be a Christian and accept evolution” mentality, attitudes can travel both ways.

The Story Collider is a popular podcast featuring speakers with real-life science stories to tell. Recently, a pediatric oncologist threw this out as an aside in his introduction:

“I was raised deeply religious, but twenty-four years of education beat it out of me.”

Research tells us that the church’s “antagonism toward science” is one of the primary reasons given by young adults who leave their faith behind. 

When forced to choose faith or science, they aren’t picking faith. 

Evolution is no longer simply a science topic in creationist quarters. Evolution is now part of a bigger battle. 

For decades, American evangelicals included opposition to evolution as a front in the culture wars, and the fallout is massive. 

A generation is choosing science and jettisoning faith, robbing the world of faith-infused perspectives on some of the most important science issues of our time.