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During debates, Morgan often produces a "magic wand" and waves it around whenever a pro-evolution speaker says that evolution occurs over time. Many atheists, Morgan points out, have faith in the idea that the bacteria you find on shower curtain are distant cousins of Homo sapiens—in other words, they have faith in time. Intelligent and unbiased observers, he insists, realize that the likelihood of such an occurrence is infinitesimally small. "One hundred percent certain," he says, "that we do not have bacterial ancestors."
To Morgan, the most scientifically consistent explanation is Young Earth creationism: Life began "several thousand" years ago, created by God, in one great creation event, by creating two adult forms for every animal, one of each gender. He believes that many micro-evolutionary mechanisms work—speciation, for example. However, he rejects macro-evolution, stating, "Whales make whales, and bacteria make bacteria."
While evolutionary biologists such as Ayala scoff at Morgan's beliefs, they're in the minority among the American public. In May, Gallup took a poll of 1,012 adults living in all 50 states; 46 percent of respondents said they believed that God created humans in present form, while 32 percent believed that God guided human evolution. A mere 15 percent said that humans evolving without any involvement from God most accurately described their beliefs. The numbers have remained remarkably static since 1982, when Gallup began polling on the topic.
The poll numbers aren't an accident. In fact, creationism's enduring popularity is helped by an underground network of activists spread across the United States. Far from the halls of academia, activists teach creationism in homes, churches, the streets—even college campuses, where they can occasionally be found arguing with a student or professor.
Locally, after steadily building his reputation over the past 20 years, Morgan is the go-to creationist guru. He writes a prolific amount of pamphlets, tracts and comics, all self-published, all featuring correspondence with a few Ph.D.s sympathetic to creationism that give his literature the sheen of science, with titles such as "219 Reasons to Believe in God and Design," "The Flood of Noah: Ridiculous Myth or Scientifically Accurate?" and "How Long Ago Did Adam and Eve Live?" They circulate through Orange County Christendom and beyond. Much of Morgan's writing is compiled on his website, FishDontWalk.com, on which his 500-slide PowerPoint presentation defending creationism and attacking evolution is freely available to anyone who wants it. He has been a featured speaker at hundreds of churches—even some mosques—nationwide. Pick any city in Orange County, and odds are that Morgan has spoken there.
Before becoming a dad, Morgan taught two or three creationist classes per week. He claims to want to lessen his speaking schedule to spend more time with his three kids—but Morgan recently gave four creationism lessons in just one week. He's also a frequent speaker at religious conferences, from youth organizations to homeschooling groups, and speaks on behalf of Santa Ana-based Logos Research Associates, a group of Christian scientists that investigate biblical questions from a scientific perspective. Morgan thrives on debate, saying he is "willing and able to debate anyone" on radio programs and podcasts, in lecture halls and church meeting rooms—if there's a platform for him, hostile or sympathetic, the fiftysomething man will take it.
He lives in a quaint Orange County neighborhood of 1960s-era one-story homes, with well-cut, well-watered grass. About half of the houses on his street have an American flag hanging above the porch, Morgan's included. The extremely comfortable, worn-down, black couch in his living room was the same one he became a creationist on in 1987, two years before he decided to become a Christian again.
Morgan grew up in a stable, upper-middle-class home in Buffalo, New York. Every Sunday until he was 14, Bill attended the local Presbyterian church that his grandparents co-founded because "if I was bored to death for an hour, I thought I would be entitled to go to heaven." After learning about the theory of evolution in his freshman-year, high-school biology class, Morgan decided he no longer believed in God and stopped attending church services. Shortly after losing his faith, his mother, without any explanation, stopped attending church, too. "I never really thought about it," he says. "It was just something that we stopped doing."
After graduating from the University of Buffalo with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, Morgan moved to California because of the weather; on his first night in the state, he made out with a girl and broke someone's nose. Morgan's early twenties proceeded to follow what he called the "sinful life": working at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on nuclear submarines, playing beach volleyball, drinking every weekend, trying to get laid and occasionally smoking pot.
One day in 1987, his roommate showed him a short Christian comic that explained creationism. Morgan was "stunned" the comic's author, the late Dr. Bolton Davidheiser, had a Ph.D. in zoology from Johns Hopkins. He spent several months reading creationist literature, as well as textbooks about evolution, eventually concluding "how awful the fossil evidence was for ape-man to man evolution." Academics were betraying the truth, he felt, which partially inspired him to become more of an activist than a silent believer. On June 12, 1989, Bill Morgan decided he was a Christian and was going to start living like one—almost two years after becoming a creationist.