Bill Morgan Is Captain Creationist

The activist is waging a war against evolution, one lecture at a time

Bill Morgan Is Captain Creationist

In April 26, 2007, Chapman University hosted the W.M. Keck Foundation Student Research Day, a gathering of the school's various science departments, so students could showcase their research and the public could nerd out. The keynote speaker that day was a titan in Orange County's scientific community: Francisco Ayala, a professor at UC Irvine and one of the most respected evolutionary biologists in the world.

Ayala's email signature reminds recipients he is a 2001 National Medal of Science Laureate and received the prestigious 2010 Templeton Prize, an international scientific award awarded for his "public role in defending science practice and religious faith"—but he's selling himself short. UCI's largest library is named after him. He has published more than 1,000 papers and 35 books, both popular and academic. According to the UC Irvine Faculty Directory, Ayala is actually three professors in one: university professor and Donald Bren professor of biological sciences, ecology & evolutionary biology; professor of philosophy; and professor of logic and the philosophy of science. He also has a badass accent, a vestige from his youth in Spain, which grants him even more elder-scientist gravitas.

The New York Times has described Ayala as a professor "always on the road," often speaking at churches "in defense of the theory of evolution and against the arguments of creationism."

Bill Morgan in action
Kenneth M. Ruggiano
Bill Morgan in action
Morgan at a Calvary Chapel before the room fills up
Kenneth M. Ruggiano
Morgan at a Calvary Chapel before the room fills up

But none of Ayala's qualifications are important to Bill Morgan, perhaps Orange County's most influential creationist. To him, the esteemed professor is a jerk.

During the W.M. Keck lecture titled "Darwin and Intelligent Design," Morgan claims, Ayala described a classic empirical example of natural selection: peppered moth evolution. During the Industrial Revolution, England's trees became darker after being covered in pollutants for years. The lighter peppered moths, which were originally the most populous, began to die off because their camouflage was rendered less effective. Simultaneously, the darker peppered moths became more prevalent, since they were able to better hide on the newly darkened trees.

Morgan says he attended the lecture with his then-9-year-old daughter. Afterward, she wrote Ayala a letter: "Peppered moth population changes are an example of natural selection, which all creationists believe is true," she wrote. "But you began with moths and ended with moths. . . . There were no new animals."

Ayala's response, according to Morgan? Ayala smugly told her that when she takes college-level biology, she'll understand—and that was that.

The story was odd. It ran counter to the professor's carefully constructed public image as an intellectual who welcomes all debates about evolution. Morgan didn't save either letter. Ayala's executive secretary, however, did, and Ayala forwarded both to the Weekly.

"My daddy heard your talk at Chapman," the letter began, with the rest of it proceeding as Morgan earlier describes, with his daughter critiquing Ayala's points and asking how moths got "feet" and "eyes." She also suggested Ayala read her father's comic books, which are a collection of creationist talking points accompanied by relevant Clipart photos.

But Ayala's actual response differed from Morgan's description—characteristically terse, but not rude or dismissive. "I did not use moths to prove evolution, but to show how natural selection works in a simple case. When you study biology, you will be able to understand how evolution works," he wrote to the young girl, adding, "Thank you for your letter."

In an interview with the Weekly, Ayala calls Morgan a "liar" and says that he was "sad to see someone distort the facts in the name of religion," particularly given that science and religion should not be seen as mutually exclusive. Ayala added that it was "difficult to comprehend people who make false accusations and lie for the sake of God."

Before the letter confusion, I tried to arrange a meeting between Ayala and Morgan so the two could discuss their philosophical and scientific differences, with the hopes of finding some common ground. The history between them—along with Ayala's stellar reputation for respecting the religious and reaching out to the public—made the professor seem the perfect candidate to partake in a healthy, casual discussion about the state of the debate with his ideological opposite.

Ayala thanked me, but he declined; he doesn't think "such debates or discussions are worthwhile."

Pressed for an explanation, he says that the circumstances of debates or an interview are such that people can't explore in depth any of the scientific evidence. Instead, they just turn into rhetorical exchanges that don't accomplish anything. "Look, the evidence for biological evolution is stronger and more abundant than the evidence for other scientific theories, such as the atomic theory, the heliocentric theory or the expansion of the galaxies," Ayala says. "What is needed is better scientific education, not debate."

After unearthing the exchange between him and Morgan's daughter, he wrote, "You may understand why I do not want to have public discussions . . . with the likes of Mr. Morgan."

The problem for evolution, though, is that there are more Bill Morgans than there are Francisco Ayalas.

* * *

Morgan has developed an impressive rhetorical gymnastics routine to define his opponent's beliefs. As they see it, life won the Mega Millions several times over. Billions of years ago, stardust mixed with energy derived from an unknown source. Such energy and matter, coming from nowhere and thus violating the First Law of Thermodynamics, somehow perfectly rearranged itself to create life from non-life, thus violating Pasteur's Law of Biogenesis. Those simple life forms—bacterial organisms, essentially—then spent billions of years magically evolving into the millions of forms of life we see today.

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40 comments
itchy
itchy

also jesus really does look like a surferdude 

itchy
itchy

the flintstones were a real family....god told me so

oldorange
oldorange

Certainly Adam O'Neal is qualified to say what is truly scientific and what is merely "scientific sheen". Just as he is well qualified to say who is a Christian and who has merely decided that they are one.  We should all do well and listen to him.

billyjack1
billyjack1

My daughter said: "imagine you are an atheist, you really can't make any arguments, all you can do is attack the other person.

 

So wise for an eleven year old.

 

She is study the human muscular system right now,

Gary_Hurd
Gary_Hurd

I am going fishing very early Friday morning. So, I will not be "here" until sometime on Saturday.

 

Just for fun, the creationists should try to find one of Bill Morgan's phony claims not debunked in the "Index of Creationist Claims." http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/index.html

 

If you find one, I'll debunk it over the weekend.

BruceFromHB
BruceFromHB

"There must be a Designer." Okay. He gave us mile and miles of blood vessels, neat. He also gave the ability to drop a man to his knees with a swift knee to the crotch. "The Designer" got it right for fish, reptiles, birds and a few mammals. But for some "intelligent" reason "The Designer" couldn't put testicles inside the body of a man. He got it right with giraffes by making the lower neck bones larger and able to support more weight. But he missed it with the human spine which has equal sized vertebra and the corresponding lower back pain. It probably wasn't the greatest idea to have the food and breathing tubes intersect in the throat. Nothing like sending food down the wrong pipe. Curiously, "The Designer" got it for ocean dwelling mammals. I could go on but yo get the point. There is no designer and least not an intelligent one.

moonbandito
moonbandito

Faith isn't science, as Galileo famously discovered.

Gary_Hurd
Gary_Hurd

I am taking another break from productive work. The opportunity presents itself to add a few more facts to the discussion. As Mr. O'Neal wrote, "there are more Bill Morgans than there are Francisco Ayalas." There are in fact very few men like Professor Ayala. We have met, and while we have a very different sense of humor, I have a deep respect for his achievements. And even one "Bill Morgan" is too many.

 

A better comparison would be the signatories of the creationist Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwin" and the "Project Steve" list hosted by the National Center for Science Education. The "Steves" are limited to real scientists named Steve in fields relevant to evolution, or possessing a Nobel Prize. All Nobelists named Steve have joined the list.

 

http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve

 

67Original
67Original

Quote: "There must be a Designer." - Bill Morgan ... Sounds a lot like the "Engineers" of Prometheus in an odd way. Isn't Bill Morgan an Engineer (self projecting perhaps?)

moonbandito
moonbandito

One see's a repeating pattern and calls it 'divine design'. As an M.D. once said to me, "Anyone that believes in intelligent design has never done heart surgery" . Another M.D. saide "Why is it possible for a fertilized egg to implant into the fallopian tube, cervix or ovary rather than the uterus causing an ectopic pregnancy and the death of both mother and child"? How about the existence of various vestigial body parts, like the femur and pelvis in whales (evolution says the ancestor of whales lived on land) or the third molar - or 'wisdom teeth' - in humans (whereas some other primates with differing jaw shapes make use of the third molar. As a third grader once said, "You can bring a horse to water, but why?"

picklemomma
picklemomma

Dr. Ayala is a sell out to his own peers in academia...such a shame; though I guess cowardice is the norm when it comes to those circles. He refuses to debate Mr. Morgan because deep down he knows it is utter foolishness and his "scientific" explanations are nothing but tautology; all taken at face value. One does not need a freaking' degree to ask and wonder why your mouth isn't right next to your a**hole...it's called Design.  There is no design without intelligence. There is no evidence for macro evolution. Bill will debate any Atheist at any time, funny how few takers there actually are.

 

cheko7
cheko7

captain dumb ass: keep the faith!

 

inside your church...

Gary_Hurd
Gary_Hurd

Dr. Ayala has published two books debunking creationist nonsense; "Darwin and Intelligent Design" (2006 Fortress Press), "Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion" (2007 National Academies Press).

 

There is really no point in "debates" with men like Mr. Morgan. They always use a method known as the "Gish Gallop," named after creationist Duane Gish. The technique is to tell so many lies in just a few minutes that their scientist opponent is dumbfounded and not sure where to even begin untangling them.

steveg1961
steveg1961

I'm one of those kids. I was a young earth creationist. I'd been given all sorts of rhetorical arguments and misinformation about science to use, by young earth creationist promoters. This was many years ago so I was cutting my teeth on books by Henry Morris, Duane Gish, Richard Bliss, Walter Lammerts, Bert Thompson, and so on. It wasn't until I took an astronomy class in college (to fulfill a requirement for elective credits in science) and dealt with some of the details of the science personally that I really realized how completely and utterly wrong young earth creationism is. The universe has been around for billions of years, and there's no other possible explanation for what we see in astronomy, not even remotely. And it was in becoming clearly aware of some of these scientific details that made me realize how deceitful young earth creationist promoters like Bill Morgan really are. Young earth creationists have made charlatanism into an art form.

 
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