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Wonderful conference in Montana

Wonderful conference in Montana


Few creationist conferences can boast the line up of eminent scientists that we saw at Bozeman, Montana, April 20-22, 2007. The speakers included John Baumgardner and Russell Humphreys, scientists who spent the major part of their careers at National Laboratories in the US; Andrew Snelling and Larry Vardiman, two other scientists eminent in their fields; Duane Gish, probably the best known creation apologist and winner of debates with evolutionists; and Henry Morris II, eldest son of Henry Morris (founder of Institute for Creation Research).

The event attracted a huge crowd of varied ages, indeed the auditorium in Grace Bible Church, a brand new facility, was filled to capacity with more than one thousand present. This was most impressive for a small city, but also a number of people traveled great distances to attend. The event was well worth the effort. The objective of the conference was to communicate the results and significance of the RATE project to Christians and also to the academic community. Thus the bulk of the sessions were provided free of charge in the church, but also two sessions were repeated on the campus of Montana State University (a campus where a lot of geological research is carried out.)

Whether one is familiar with an issue or not, there is nothing like hearing a scientist discuss his work in person. Details which might have seemed obscure in written accounts, finally become clear. During the question period, the camaraderie of these scientists became apparent as well. We learned more than just plain scientific data and conclusions. We also learned the significance of this work, the unanswered questions which must yet be tackled and the importance of one’s starting position (a priori assumptions or faith position) when approaching any kind of research project.

Dr. Morris spoke first. He paced across the platform with a broad smile on his face. He never glanced at the screen which projected his power point slides, or at any notes, but he provided an extremely interesting introduction to world views and one’s handling of the Bible. Dr. Gish followed with a brief overview of the geologic column and sudden appearances of organisms in the fossil record. Age and retirement have had little impact on this amazing gentleman.

Saturday morning Dr. Vardiman introduced the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) project. Dr. Humphreys followed with the topic “Helium diffusion dates rocks at 6000 years.” Next Dr. Snelling followed with “Rocks contain evidence for accelerated decay” and lastly Dr. Baumgardner finished off the morning with carbon 14 evidence in coal and diamonds. Just as everyone’s head was ready to burst from information overload, the church served pizza (two huge pieces each), fruit, home made cookies and beverages to the assembled throng.

After lunch Dr. Vardiman discussed the impact and issues connected with the RATE project. After that Dr. Morris discussed the authority of God’s word. Next a panel discussion entertained written questions from the floor. The afternoon concluded with two more lectures, one on cosmology by Dr. Humphreys and one on Mount St. Helens by Dr. Snelling (based on work by Dr. Steven Austin.)

In the evening my husband and I attended the session at University of Montana. My husband initially read the program incorrectly and would have had us there at 7 in the morning for these sessions! There Dr. Humphreys presented his work on helium diffusion. The audience of about 80, included some faculty and students from the university as well as a few familiar faces from the conference. Following the presentation, Drs. Baumgardner, Snelling and Humphreys answered questions.

The first question was from an irate faculty member. He questioned the integrity of these scientists whose names were included among the authors of science publications which cited long age estimates. Dr. Baumgardner explained that his model for plate tectonics can be applied in terms of fast processes or slow, so ages derived depend on input to the model. Anyone using his model however would usually put the designer of the model among the list of authors. The other panel members cited similar circumstances.

Two faculty members objected to the fact that more than a million dollars was raised from sympathizers to pay for the research. The questioners suggested that this was “lining the pockets” of these scientists rather than paying for expensive laboratory analyses. The questioners did not seem to feel that creationists should be allowed to raise money for research. Nobody discussed the helium diffusion project which had been presented. One man however wanted to know if it was appropriate to draw a supernatural conclusion from the study. The panel replied that as the questions asked in the project, and the predictions made, were based on this premise, and as there is no natural explanation, such a conclusion could scarcely be avoided.

Michael Oard, one of the organizers later told us that some in the audience stayed long after the official session was concluded, so there was extensive dialogue between the ICR scientists and members of the university community. On Sunday morning Pastor Bryan Hughes preached on Genesis chapter one. Later we heard Dr. Baumgardner discuss the status of natural selection as an explanation and mechanism for evolution. His lecture was largely based on the work of John Sanford (see review of Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome.) Altogether we had heard wonderful lectures on a wide variety of topics. Congratulations to all involved with this first rate RATE conference!

Margaret Helder
July 2007

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