Recently, I came across a post on my old church’s website that a few months back, they hosted a presentation by a creationist on “The Best Evidence Against Evolution.” You may know that a while ago, I wrote a series for this blog trying to discover the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s official stance on evolution. In the end, it seemed that they decisively hold to young earth creationism, although the church still has no definitive stance on whether evolution is actually true.
At Grove City College, my alma mater, neither students nor faculty are required to sign a statement of faith, but it is clear when attending there that the entire college experience is geared only for Christians, and if you don’t share those views, you’re SOL. I’m reminded of this when I see how the LCMS teaches members why evolution is not true; without any official doctrine on the theory, believers in evolution could theoretically be accepted in the church, but feel isolated when they are reminded that their views are taboo within the denomination.
In the post announcing that this presentation had occurred, the speaker was described as “Noted professor and author Dr. Bergman” but it never gave his whole name or any more details on who or what he is. After a bit of Googling, I discovered that the speaker was creationist Jerry Bergman, a professor at a community college with a handful of degrees, mostly in psychology. Feel free to see more detailed information on Bergman here on RationalWiki. He’s quite the character.
Ideally, I would have loved to see a recording of Bergman’s presentation at my old church, but I was unable to find one. Instead, I found what I believe to be the closest equivalent that YouTube has to offer: a presentation Bergman gave, presumably around 2008, on a program called Origins TV. (You can follow along with his slides here.) It was, in some ways, a follow-up to a book that he had recently written called Persuaded by the Evidence, about former evolutionists who changed their minds on the matter and became creationists.
Bergman starts off the episode by showing his great persecution complex; he said that his career as a creationist activist began in 1979 when he was fired from being a professor at Bowling Green State University solely because he rejected evolution (even though he’s also claimed elsewhere that the college engaged in “reverse racial discrimination” against him, but the college claims that it was because he had no real credentials in psychology)(source).
As a result of this chicanery, Bergman wrote Persuaded by the Evidence, which is a collection of the creationism conversion stories of scientists. Bergman showed the list to the Origins host, who oo’ed and aah’ed over how many of the 3,000 people on the list had PhD’s—except, he said, for whoever had a “DDS, whatever that means.” (It’s a Doctor of Dental Surgery.)
It seems that the reason for Bergman’s book is to disprove a statement that Ernst Mayr made in Scientific American in 2000: “No educated person any longer questions the validity of evolution, which we now know to be a simple fact.” Bergman’s response is essentially, “Yeah, well, lots of people with PhD’s don’t believe in evolution. So there. Checkmate, atheists!”
After showing more of his persecution complex because of how creationists can’t get tenure, Bergman and the host of the show spend a bit of time making known their stance that Christianity and evolution really are not compatible. It’s not by giving reasons that the Genesis account is not historically consistent with evolution, but Bergman tells us that when he used to be an atheist, he would call theistic evolutionists “useful idiots,” and now as a creationist, he laughs at them. Basically, he’s always thought they were dumb and he always will. What a great way to show love to your fellow Christians!
You can probably tell by now that keeping up with this man and his Gish gallop can be dizzying. After making the patronizing statement that “‘the evidence’ for creationism is hard to convey to ‘the common people’ so I wrote this to speak to them,” he claims that “it takes more faith to be an atheist.” His source? Norman Geisler’s book by that name. If something is the title of a book, then it must be true, right? Ah, but then what would Bergman do about Jerry Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True? He would have to change his entire worldview.
This begin’s Bergman’s short rant on atheism. The central reason he disagrees with atheism—so, I guess that means that this is the main reason he believes in God at all?—is that “you can’t get something from nothing.” No elaboration. No sources. He just moves onto how he became disillusioned with atheism because of how “the claims about Galileo and Bruno and the claims that the church executed many scientists because of their science” are “just not true.” I’m sure there was some point he was trying to make, but he only remembered bits and pieces like the names of Giordano Bruno and Galileo. Bruno was, by the way, burned at the stake for heresy, and Galileo spent the end of his life on house arrest before dying of a fever and heart palpitations.
After some mumbling about DNA and how, in regards to junk DNA, we should be skeptical about what it really does rather than just accept that it is useless (*cough* irony *cough*), Bergman lists some of the famous scientists from his book who are creationists. These include Henry Morris, who worked in hydraulic engineering, Raymond Damadian, who invented the MRI machine, Warner von Braun, who is the father of the American Space Program, Everett C. Koop, a former Surgeon General, and Mortimer Adler, the founder of the Great Books collection (which included works from Darwin). These are all great feats, but what do they all have in common? They have nothing to do with biology. You don’t have to believe in evolution to work in the American Space Program.
Lastly in the list, Bergman includes C.S. Lewis as a great mind who didn’t believe in evolution. He greatly encourages viewers to check out Lewis’ little-known book The Great Myth. So I looked. And I looked. And I found out that this book doesn’t even exist. Rather, Lewis wrote an essay called “The Funeral of a Great Myth” which was included in a volume called Christian Reflections. It seems that Bergman spit out anything that he can remember of any given thought and hope that his viewers will automatically know what he is talking about.
Bergman spends essentially the rest of the episode explaining his odd and feeble understanding of Michael Behe’s widely discredited idea of irreducible complexity, which creationists love to use as “evidence” for intelligent design. As I watched, I thought, “Doesn’t he know that this entire idea has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers?”
Indeed, Bergman gave this exact quote from the court case Kitzmiller v. Dover, where the judge also adds that irreducible complexity “has been rejected by the scientific community at large” and that “there are no peer reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe’s argument that certain complex molecular structures are ‘irreducibly complex.'” How did Bergman respond to this? By calling it ludicrous, considering that he just showed that the cell is complex and that he doesn’t know how it came to be that way. He also pointed out that there are different kinds of carbon, and the idea of IC has been around since Aristotle’s time. He also drew a 4 and explained that we didn’t know it was a 4 until it had all three lines present. Yes, but before it was a 4, it functioned perfectly well as a 1, and then as a + sign. His argument is self-refuting.
The great finale of this 42-minute-long video was a slide which Bergman titled “From the Net.” He said that he was showing us a quote from an Amazon review of “a book.” This book is, predictably, Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, but Bergman is too scatterbrained to include this detail. The review had said that Behe “started out with his conclusion and then set out to reinforce it,” to which Bergman interrupts, “Okay, well, that may be true,” before reading the rest: “This explains why you get unsupported assertions such as ‘irreducible complexity’.” Bergman then brags (?) that if you Google “irreducible complexity false”, you get 293,000 hits. (Just now, I got 438,000 hits.) His response is, again, just that that’s ludicrous. And then it just ends.
I don’t want to be mean for the sake of being mean, but I really think that this man is either knowingly lying to people, or his train of thought can’t stay on track enough to make a coherent statement. It is obvious, however, that he doesn’t know how science works and he likes to brag about it for sympathy and to validate to himself that God must have done it. It would have been fascinating, I’m sure, to meet him in person, but I feel sad for those who saw his presentation and believed that his seemingly valid credentials meant that you could take his points at face value.