Professor Norman Nevin OBE (President, Centre for Intelligent Design)
Professor Norman Nevin, now retired, is one of the best known scientist in Northern Ireland. His is a medical geneticist and worked for many years at Queen's University Belfast.
Nevin resolutely rejects both evolutionary biology and geology. He' been an advocate of Answers in Genesis's position on flood geology, openly accepting Tas Walker's “work” on the matter. He openly believes that the Noah's Ark storey is an historical event. He believes that the Book of Genesis is historically and literally true, lock, stock and barrel. (Tas Walker is yet another Queenslander pushing young earth creationism. He works for Creation Ministries International. Many of the leaders of the young earth creationist movement come from Queensland.)
BCSE has done a considerable amount of research on Professor Nevin's position on creationism; it suggests that he is basically a hard line Biblical literalist. We've presented the evidence on our bog at http://bcseweb.blogspot.com/search/label/Nevin. It also suggests that he has some severe shortcomings in his knowledge of the science he seems to use to back up his creationist position.
Professor Nevin is an elder in the largest Brethren church in Northern Ireland (the Crescent Church in Belfast - see http://www.iguidez.com/Belfast/crescent_church/). It's large by any British standards and is believed to have a capacity of some 2,000 people. The church is located in Belfast's university district and has been a fairly regular venue for creationists visiting the province. These have included Monty White, then of Answers in Genesis.
They key issue is that Northern Ireland is an exceedingly fertile ground for creationism of any sort. (see http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/PaisleysPartyBacksCreationismInSchools). The main Protestant party, the DUP, openly pushes creationism.
Nevin is editor of a book, "Should Christians Embrace Evolution", which was an open attack on Dr Denis Alexander (a practising Christian and a scientist) for suggesting that science and religion are compatible (see Denis Alexander's “Creation or Evolution: do we have to choose?”). The list of contributor to the book includes some of the most hardline young earth creationists in Britain. It's clear that the creationists involved really had it in for Alexander as their criticisms repeatedly appear elsewhere.
Dr Alexander is a Cambridge don (speciality molecular biology) and a director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion af St Edmund's College. He believes that Intelligent Design is not science and teaching it is unchristian ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/dec/03/intelligent-design-creation-christian
Nevin concludes in his book that "No coherent, cohesive theology has yet been offered that would allow Christians to embrace evolution with integrity." There you have it. Any Christian who accepts evolutionary biology has "no integrity". This statement is an affront to mainstream Christians in general, and (given the Vatican's position) to Catholics in particular; no small matter in a Northern Ireland context.
Let's have a look who Professor Nevin has associated himself with in his book. Of the 14 contributors, six are known to be hardline young earth creationists who think the world is no more than 6,000 years old because they are Bible believing literalists. Two of these are activists in Truth in Science and one in the Creation Science Movement. Only one of these six is a scientist. Eight appear to be ordained ministers of some sort. One is a sociologist/philosopher.. Only four appear to be “scientists” and I'm being generous in describing an engineer as such.
Of the 14, assistant pastor (he sometimes calls himself a missionary) David Anderson? is particular well known to the BCSE, He's an obsessive, particularly obnoxious and notable for attempting to run a dirty tricks smear campaign against the BCSE very soon after Truth in Science launched. He's been described as “ultra-evangelical”.
Who has Contributed to Nevin' Creationist Book?
I've marked with an * those I know to be YECers:
Foreword - Wayne Grudem (American theology professor, charismatic, old earth creationist)
Preface: A twenty-first-century challenge - Phil Hills (Elim Pentecostal pastor)
1. Evolution and the Church - Alistair Donald (pastor, Church of Scotland)
2. The language of Genesis - Alistair McKitterick (theology lecturer, Moorlands College)
3. Adam and Eve - Michael Reeves (pastor, UCCF advisor)
4. The fall and death - Greg Haslam * (pastor, Westminster Chapel)
5. Creation, redemption and eschatology - David Anderson " (assistant pastor, Grace Baptist Church)
6. The nature and character of God - Andrew Sibley * (weather forecaster)
7. Faith and creation - R. T. Kendall (pastor, ex Westminster Chapel)
8. Towards a science worthy of creatures in imago Dei - Steve Fullersociologist/philosopher)
9. Interpretation of scientific evidence
A. Homology - Norman Nevin (geneticist, medical sciences)
B. The nature of the fossil record - Norman Nevin (geneticist, medical sciences)
C. Chromosomal fusion and common ancestry - Geoff Barnard * (biochemist)
D. Information and thermodynamics - Andy McIntosh * (Aeronautical engineer)
10. Does the genome provide evidence for common ancestry? - Geoff Barnard * (biochemist)
11. The origin of life: scientists play dice - John Walton (chemist)
Conclusion: Should Christians embrace evolution? - Phil Hills and Norman Nevin
Nevin was also a signatory of an open letter to the Prime Minister in January 2007, in favour of allowing the teaching of creationism in schools. The list of signatories is given below:
I've marked with an * those that are known to be YECers. None disclosed which creationist organisation they were leaders of. Of the ten names signing the letter, at least six are young earth creationists. Surprise, surprise, three are involved in Truth in Science.
Norman Nevin (head signatory) *
Andy McIntosh *
Stuart Burgess *
Anthony Flew (known to have been at less than his peak, mentally, at the time).
David Back, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool *
Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at Warwick University
Mart de Groot, Director, Retired, Armagh Astronomical Observatory *
Terry Hamblin, Professor of Immunohaematology, University of Southampton
Colin Reeves, Professor of Operational Research at Coventry University *
John Walton, Professor of Chemistry, St Andrews University
I would add that both Reeves and Burgess are now working for the Discovery Institute's Biologic Institute.
Norman Nevin - God and the Cosmos
This is an analysis of a sermon given by Professor Norman Nevin. It seems to very strongly suggest that he's an unreconstructed creationist and that outside of his core expertise in medical genetics and biology, he simply isn't very knowledgable about science. As the sermon was a church, it would be inappropriate (and outside of our capabilities and remit) to analyse anything other than the scientific claims made, so we haven’t.
On the other hand we are sure that Professor Nevin would not claim any lower standard of care or respect for the truth in a church compared to a classroom. We would certainly agree that truthfulness and accuracy are vital when talking about science whether your audience are sitting in a church or a classroom. So let’s look at the scientific claims he makes and see if they hold any water.
BTW you can download the mp3 of the sermon for yourself, if you have 45 mins to spare, from http://www.bethanychurch.org.uk/podcast?page=3.
Alternatively our transcription of the sermon (a little rough and ready in places) is at http://bcseweb.blogspot.com/2010/10/norman-nevin-sermon-transcript-god-and.html and takes perhaps 5 mins to read.
OK let’s start with a deep breath and an open mind. Let’s simply asses the scientific claims on their own merit. Quotations from Nevin are in italics.
"The questions that Napoleon Bonaparte asked of Laplace “When I think of Isaac Newton and his thesis, he made great play of God as the creator, I have read through your thesis and there is no mention of God.” Laplace’s famous reply was sad, “I have no need of that hypothesis”.
OK this isn’t a biggy but there is a basic fact error here; there is, in fact, no mention of Newton in the quotes we could find for this. We are not really sure why he would add it in either. Perhaps he didn’t expect anyone to fact check him?
"You see the battle that is taking place at the moment is a battle between the veracity, the truthfulness of the word of god and that of science."
If that isn’t anti-science I don’t know what is. This kind of language and the position it describes does not agree with the position of most churches on this topic
The Catechism of the Catholic Church asserts: "Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things the of the faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are".
From the CofE web site; "Good religion needs to work constructively with good science – and I dare to suggest that the opposite may be true as well."
"Last year was the 400th (SIC) anniversary of the birth of Darwin and there were many celebrations, and the voices of many atheist and theistic evolutions were heard very frequently on the media and the sad thing today is that many christians are also turning away from the word of god and saying that what we see in fact is the consequence of natural selection and Darwinism."
Basic fact error; Last year was the 150th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species” and 200 years from Darwin’s birth.
"And I sat down and I was thinking about why do I believe the first eleven chapters of Genesis as the word of god and as historical fact."
So we have a six day creationist - Genesis is historical fact, a Biblical literalist.
Let’s first of all look at the reasons he gives for this position:
"First of all Genesis is the foundation of God’s word and I believe that it is crucial to our understanding of the rest of scripture."
He is building the position that if Genesis is not literally true then he can’t believe the rest of the Bible. Such a position is widely criticised as bad theology by most mainstream churches (the Talk Origins web site at http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/search.html pretty well demolishes Nevin's position.)
On Genesis again:
"If it were a book of myths , if it were a book of legends, would indeed New Testament writers make historical reference to that book and those particular sections?"
"Indeed the eleven chapters, the first eleven chapter of the Book of Genesis, are referred to in the new testament. So the Book of Genesis is foundational to the word of god. It indeed is referred [SIC] by many writers in support of arguments that they put forward. But for me, more importantly is the Lord Jesus Christ, his attitude to those first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis, at least on six different occasions, the Lord Jesus Christ refers to one of the first seven chapters of the Book of Genesis. I’ll just highlight some of those, for example, when he talks about marriage and divorce he makes reference to Adam and Eve, not as mythical figures but as historical realities."...
"So the Lord Jesus Christ looked upon Adam and Eve, he looked upon Able and Cain as historical figures, not as mythical legends that we are supposed to believe, and when he discuss the flood and Noah, when he discusses the question of him returning again he paints the picture that just as society was degenerate in Noah's day and had turned their backs upon God, so that before he comes, society will suffer a similar change. So the Lord Jesus Christ looked upon these early chapters as historical fact, so over the next 4 weeks we are going to look at some of those aspects those first 11 chapters."
Yet no mention of any of this on the Centre for Intelligent Design web site. What a coincidence that the other members of the C4ID share these views? Could this really happen just by random chance or is there the mind of a designer behind this?
OK Astronomy, it’s your turn:
"I just want to look at two groups of stars because to me it conveys something of the accuracy of the world of god. We read in Job chapter 38, and I have put it down in 3 translations because it is important, “can’ts though bind the sweet cluster of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion”, remember that word bind. These two words occurred in the new King James version; bind Pleiades and loose Orion, and again in the NIV version, bind Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion. Now what was Job trying to convey? Now I find this absolutely amazing, on the right hand side of the screen you see Pleiades a cluster of stars, now that cluster of stars is so overcome with gravity that the stars can’t expand, they can’t break the bonds, they are bound by gravity. Bind beautiful Pleiades, and when we look at Orion which you can see in the sky, and you will recognise the belt of orion the three stars there in a line, what is happening to them, they are steadily expanding, they are being loosed. So what a confirmation of, and what a wonderful display of accuracy of God's word."
From Wikipedia on the Pleiades: Also, like most open clusters, the Pleiades will not stay gravitationally bound forever, as some component stars will be ejected after close encounters and others will be stripped by tidal gravitational fields. Calculations suggest that the cluster will take about 250 million years to disperse, with gravitational interactions with giant molecular clouds and the spiral arms of our galaxy also hastening its demise.
So dead wrong there then. What about Orion?
From Wikipedia on Orion’s Belt; The Belt of Orion is an astronomical asterism in the constellation Orion. It consists of the three bright stars ζ Ori (Alnitak), ε Ori (Alnilam), and δ Ori (Mintaka). Alnitak is approximately 800 light years away from earth and considering ultraviolet radiation, which human eye can not see, Alnitak is 100,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Alnilam is approximately 1340 light years away from earth and shines with magnitude 1.70. Considering ultraviolet light Alnilam is 375,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Mintaka is 915 light years away and shines with magnitude 2.21.
. . .
Like constellations, asterisms are in most cases composed of stars which, while they are visible in the same general direction, are not physically related, often being at significantly different distances from Earth.
So dead wrong again.
Two scientific "facts" given, both totally inaccurate.
The next bit of Astronomy is also bogus;
"Now earth is in the right galaxy, it's in a spiral galaxy and only 5% of all of the galaxies indeed are spiral. Not only is it in the right galaxy but it has got the right star, the sun and this is about one hundred and fifty million km from the sun now that distance is important because if it were closer to the sun, life could not exist, if it were further away from the sun, life could not exist, it is just in the right position within a fraction of a percentage, and if it were to move either way, life would not exist."
Ok here we have some straight forward and unambiguous scientific claims. And they are false. As this video at http://www.youtube.com/user/Thunderf00t#p/u/199/BS5vid4GkEY shows. (It's an extract from Thunderfoot’s video “Why do people laugh at creationists part 1.)
Why spiral Galaxies are a crucial issue is seriously puzzling. They are as common as muck. There are hundreds of millions of them, each containing gadzillions of stars. We simpy don't yet know if that means there are gadzillions of planets which support or could support life. There is no evidence to conclude that only the planet earth is the only place that can support life. We still don't know whether there is or has been life on Mars and we're just there talking about only our own solar system.
If, of course, Nevin is suggesting that the planet earth is, somehow, fine tuned for life, the evidence overwhelmingly points to the exact opposite - life is fine tuned to earth.
Surprise, surprise we are now on quite a run, a run of consistently false and/or inaccurate scientific claims. You would think Nevin might get the odd scientific claim right now and again, just by accident wouldn’t you?
Now think about that for a moment.
Yes the nature of his actions actually seems to imply he is doing this on purpose. And he wants to gain recognition of ID as a science? The C4ID has already confirmed that it will be speaking in Scottish schools as quoted in the Herald;
“We are definitely not targeting schools, but that doesn’t mean to say we may not produce resources that go to schools,” Dr Noble said, adding that he had already been asked to speak in Scottish schools, and agreed to do so.
Anyway back to the scientific claims from Nevin.
"If in fact we were closer to the moon than we are, earth would be flooded, if we were further away then the earth again would degenerate simply because of the cleansing effect that the moon has on the earth."
I’m not going to waste your time digging into these here, they are simply garbage, the moon was closer to the earth, it is receding slowly due to the way gravity works. I have no idea what this cleansing effect of the moon is that he talks about. How would the earth be flooded? There is a finite amount of water on the earth and in its atmosphere and there is simply not enough to flood most land areas.
"We’ve got the right planets near us because we are very near to the meteor belt and if we didn’t have the right planet such as Jupiter between the meteor belt and ourselves the life could not exist because it would be destroyed by meteors."
Presumably when he is talking about the meteor belt (there is no such thing), he means asteroid belt. Fine, except Jupiter is not in-between the earth and the "meteor" belt. It is the other way around. There is also the little problem that life on earth almost certainly has been nearly totally destroyed by meteors and/or comets in the past. It's simply not a very safe planet. That's why the dinosaurs went extinct.
"The earth is the only place in this universe that indeed life could exist."
Wow, I wonder how he knows this? We don’t know how he knows it and he doesn’t give us any evidence. Such a claim isn’t scientific unless he backs it up with evidence. In fact the jury is out on this one. As we now know, there are billions of galaxies and gadzillions of solar systems and we are now identifying planets outside of our solar system.
Next he quote Hugh Ross as an “astrophysicist”, but he doesn’t mention that Ross is a creationist (albeit an old earth creationist that other creationists such as Jonathan Sarfati hate). Why would he not want to admit that?
OK next up, he claims that the fact that the moon is 400 times further from the earth and is also 400 times smaller than the sun can’t be a coincidence. Why?
He is entitled to think what he likes and he is particularly free to say anything he likes, especially in church, but he would not be entitled to make such claims in science classes because this isn’t science. For what it is worth, this stuff comes from a book by Gonzalez and Richards called The Privileged Planet, later made into a video by Illustra Media. Both Gonzales and Richards are senior fellows at the Discovery Institute. Both book and film have been completly panned by mainstream scientists. (See the National Center for Science Education review at http://ncse.com/rncse/25/1-2/review-privileged-planet.)
Nevin is entitled to his own opinions how the moon got where it was but what he is claiming is well outside of his professional expertise (by a long margin) and he isn't even technically right. The moon is not "400 times smaller than the Sun" - it's diamter is approximately 400 times less than that of the sun. The Privileged Plant is pseudoscience, creationism by another name. See, for example, Creationism by Any Other Name, the film review by by Charles Lambdin at http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/06-01-09.
"Let me give you one or two quotes from scientists who are not christians."
OK fire away.
Paul Davies - OK fine but he's not a creationist either so how he backs Nevin's claims isn't entirely clear.
Next a quote from Bernard Carr, who happens to believe in Psychic powers and that they can bridge the gap between science and religion;
Next we have Roy Peacock, who is very much a Christian (see http://www.adventistinfo.org.uk/creation/index.php). He's also (arguably) not a scientist but, like Andy McIntosh, an aeonautical engineer.
Next up we have the foundational theoretical (used in the scientific sense of the word) framework of Cosmology and Astronomy, the Big Bang. I wonder what he thinks of that?
"I know that many Christians say yes there must have been a point when God created and that's the point at which the big bang occurred. I just want you to pause because there are a number of reasons why I think this theory is totally flawed, first of all it cannot explain how matter came to be, it says that at a point in time matter became so compressed that it exploded, they can’t answer the question, what is the origin of the matter. Where did it come from , how did it arise. I think if you ask your science teachers these questions I think that you will get a stony silence."
Well there is plenty to look at here. The Big Bang wasn't an explosion as there was nothing to explode into. It was an expansion of space-time (this is something most people don't grasp - the big bang was not like a bomb going off). The Big Bang does explain the origin of matter - it explains how matter condenses from the energy present at the moment of the big bang, it even explains how long after the “bang” this happens. Where does the energy come from? Well science isn’t sure, but one explanation being investigated is that the total energy in the universe is actually zero so it didn’t have to come from anywhere. Another is that colliding higher dimensional universes can explain it, but as I said none of these explanations are well supported enough to be counted as theories (in the scientific use of the term, again). Either way, making the false representation that science doesn’t have a clue and suggesting that science teachers might be embarrassed or annoyed by such questions is plainly seriously wrong.
Of course, what isn't clear is precisely what Nevin's alternative explanation is to the Big Bang theory. He seems to be suggesting that the universe came into eistance pretty well in its current form. How and when he thinks this hapened isn't clear but what he does not appear to accept is the mainstream religious position of theistic evolution.
"It can’t explain why stars are born and why stars are decaying."
So? No one claims that it could or does. That's simply nothing to do with our understanding of the big bang. However physics explains the formation and decay of stars.
OK this next bit is straight out of the creationist's playbook;
"So there’s a scientist who actually arguing against the current theory of the big bang, he says it is astounding that the big bang hypothesis is the only cosmological model that physicists take seriously."
Debate and discussion is normal and essential in science (and every other subject if you bother to think about it). It is done with evidence and logic. It is part of how science progresses. There's a huge amount of debate, discussion and dissent amongst scientists about our understanding of the origins of the universe. Simply quoting such debates as evidence that science is wrong is not even disingenuous; it's outright dishonest. (Such discussions are also the very essence of Nevin's own profession, medical genetics.) Taking this a step further to imply that, “therefore creationism must be true”, is simply unsupportable.
Next we get a gross misrepresentation of the privately funded project SETI;
"SETI, fifty years, millions of pounds spent on this project and what they are doing is they have sent out messages into space and they are still waiting for message sot come back."
Well no, that isn’t what SETI does actually. They just watch and listen. It's a volunteers' project which funds itself.
To summarise: There are a lot of mistakes show here in just a single sermon. One wonders why the congregation didn't object, time and time again. Creationism is an exceedingly divisive issue (even amongst the religious as Nevin has so well demonstrated) and a matter very much in the public domain and the media. Do you want the nonsense he is promoting as “science” taught in your school to your kids?
Navigate your way around this report through the following links:
First Page: Centre for Intelligent Design Executive Summary
Introduction to the Centre for Intelligent Design
How Many People are Behind the Centre for Intelligent Design?
Timing of the Centre for Intelligent Design
Previous Page: Who Runs and Organises the Centre for Intelligent Design?
This page: Professor Norman Nevin OBE (President, Centre for Intelligent Design)
Next Page: Dr Alastair Noble
Dr David Galloway
John Langlois OBE, Centre for ID Guernsey
Centre for Intelligent Design Strategy
The Channel Islands Connection
Centre for Intelligent Design's Headquarters
Supporting the Show – Messrs Michael Behe, Steve Fuller and Geoff Barnard