Stott Conference Letter

Joel Duff (
Fri, 25 Apr 1997 04:07:37 GMT


Several people have expressed interest learning more about Philip Stott
and will be encountering him in the next couple of weeks around the country.
I went to a conference last weekend at which he was the primary speaker. He
was involved in a debate, slide show, and gave the Sunday morning sermon.
The recent calls by many here to be more active in writing letters helped to
prompt me to the following action. I have written a letter to those
reponsible for putting together the conference at Christian Liberty Academy
(a large school and homeschool organization as well as publisher of a large
number of homeschool books and pamphlets) outlining some of the concernes I
had both with how they chose their speaker and the content of the conference
itself. I thought I would pass it along both for comment, if there is
something that I have missed, and also for those interested in some of
Philip Stott's background.
Please let me know if there are any important oversights that I have made so
that I might make the appropriate retractions if needed.


23 April 1997

Dr. Lindstrom and session of the Church of Christian Liberty,

It is with much regret that I send you the following letter. I wish to
address a few concerns that I have concerning the conference last weekend.
I found myself quite disturbed by what I heard. I did not wish to disrupt
the proceedings or our time of fellowship together but I did want to make it
known that not everyone who attended the conference found the arguments

First I wish to say that I found Fred Heeren's argumentation completely
unappealing and it was rightly criticized. Although I agree in general with
Heeren's position about the age of the earth I did not at all agree with the
way he argued his position. I thought he made grievous errors in his
approach especially with comments such as "I've put my feet in the shoes of
the skeptic, trying to find out what it would be like to come without any
presuppositions." and later "we are starting with the evidence not
presuppositions." His appeal to others that believe in "long days" such as
Scholfield was unconvincing and showed a lack of knowledge of his audience.
Overall, it seemed he was very much trying to play science as a neutral
field which, when objectively looked at, will prove the existence of God's
design (thus his book: "Show Me God").

While I disagreed with Mr. Heeren's argumentation I did feel he was
accurate in the information he presented even if one argues that that data
could have been interpreted in another way. Unfortunately I cannot say the
same for Mr.Stott. While I do not doubt his sincerity and convictions for
one moment, I have serious doubts about his competency and ability to
discuss the issues for which he was claimed to be an expert. Several issues
he raised in the debate, his Sunday School presentation, and his writings
(that I have bought and read) greatly concerned me along with some other
event of the weekend. Some of these are as follows (in no particular order
of importance):

1) Philip Stott was introduced several times as Dr. Stott. Not only can I
find no evidence that he has earned a doctoral degree but his other
qualifications were much less than impressive considering the types of
statements and comments he made in many subject areas. It appears that he
has never actually been involved in a research project. His degrees and
work are in the field of applied engineering and do not require the type of
scientific process he talked about so much. Even so, many people I heard
talking were very impressed by his background and expertise. I am not
saying that someone cannot be competent and talk about issues outside of his
field, but unfortunately the impression was given that he is someone who has
studied on all of these issues and so can be trusted to inform us. I am not
fully aware of the circumstances that initiated his coming to CLA although I
have heard that he came by recommendation of Geoff Donnan and Peter Hammond.
While I have met both of these men and respect them I don't believe that
either would be able to effectively judge Stott's knowledge as a scientist.
Clearly he is accomplished in public speaking and is a sincere Christian. I
worry that Christians are far too eager to accept the words without question
of those whom they think have similar presuppositions/beliefs. The
congregation rightly expects the session to have carefully examined those
who come before them to present the Word of God. It is especially troubling
to me when it appears that we are willing to listen to anyone who seems to
espouse the "Christian position" without scrutinizing his background. I
suspect that the Church would apply a lot more scrutiny to a speaker if the
subject material of the conference had been on eschatology or apologetics
for example.

2) Related to the first, I have read his book and corresponded with Stott
over the past several months and it is apparent to me that he has done
little more than read other creationists works and synthesize their results
along with adding a geocentric viewpoint. It seems apparent to me that he
has only a rudimentary knowledge of many of the concepts of geology,
biology, and astronomy derived not from the primary literature but from
secondary sources. Nearly all the references in his book are to other
scientific creationists and what they have said rather than to original
research articles. Of those references not to other scientific creationists
literature many if not most are to articles written before 1980. Also, two
of the five reference I looked up this afternoon exhibited poor attention to
detail on his part. One had the pages wrong so that I had to search for
the right place. One reference (and I see many more like this) just said
Science Vol 210. Well, volume 210 has over 1000 pages and 12 issues in it.
It took me a considerable amount of time to find the appropriate article.

There were many things that he said and has written in his book for which
there are no references given. Many of these are extreme statements which
if true certainly would have great importance. For example, on pg. 29 of
his book he says "But it happens that foraminfera are found in the wrong
layers, they are sometimes found in layers which are assigned ages different
to those for which they are supposed to be indicators." How can he say this
without a reference! On the next page he refers to a rock containing
"coalified" remains of a hammer handle. Worse yet he refers to the
footprints of man and dinosaurs at the Paluxy river but gives no refs to
"latest findings strongly suggest that some of the impressions are those of
a man walking squarely in the tracks of a dinosaur." (pg. 20). This case is
well known and so maybe a reference isn't absolutely necessary but then he
says, "Russian scientists have also found man and dinosaur tracks." (pg.20)
The Paluxy river case is especially interesting because as long ago as 1989
scientific creationists have admitted that the evidence for man's footprints
with dinosaur's at this site should be downplayed as evidence for young
earth (reference at the end of this letter). I believe that even Carl
Baugh's video on these tracks is no longer being pushed by the ICR for

The use of evidences from Carl Baugh is very troubling because Baugh has
shown himself to be a very unreliable source of information himself and even
many scientific creationists are skittish about talking about his reported
"significant finds." I have included a copy of a disclaimer I found on the
Creation Science Foundation web site (they have since removed it) about Carl
Baugh. Note especially what they say about Setterfields theory on slowing
light which Stott talked about (he didn't mention Setterfield directly but
did mention his work and mentions him first in the acknowledgments of his
book). Toward the end of this note on Baugh it says:

"Some Christians will try to use Baugh's 'evidences' in witnessing and get
'shot down' by someone who is scientifically literate. The ones witnessed
to will there after be wary of all creation evidences and even more inclined
to dismiss Christians as nut cases not worth listening to."

I am afraid this may be all to true with respect to mubh of the 'evidence'
that Stott puts forward in his slide presentations and book. Stott seems to
have used Baugh as a source for several 'evidences' in his book (especially
pgs 30-31) even though he doesn't site him in his bibliography.

In the debate, the slide show, and his book Stott used quotes from an issue
of Geotimes from 1978. As he said, Geotimes is a respected journal but when
I looked up the article I found it was just a review of what happened at a
conference rather than an actual research paper. Why does he not go to the
technical papers by those involved rather than relying on what someone said
that people said during their talks? Also, a tremendous amount has been
learned since 1978 about the topics involved yet he makes little mention of
what has happened since that time. To derive so much from a conference
report suggests to me that he has not taken the time to read original
research. I suspect that he may not have even looked up some of the
references that I did as most of his references come directly from other
scientific creationists books. Maybe he assumes that they know more than he
and is just trusting their information but this isn't how good investigation
is to be done.

Everything that he said in the debate was nearly a quote from his book. He
showed no ability to think about new problems based on his knowledge of the
literature. During the period of questions he didn't actually add new
information but used the questions to say things that he had already said.
I have seen nothing in what he has said or written to suggest that he knows
anything more than what he has read in the scientific creationists
literature. If this is the case he is not an expert in this field and not
an independent thinker whatsoever but just a user of selectively collected
information. His acceptance of some creationists evidences of a young
earth that even many scientific creationists have abandoned is troubling
because it suggests that he isn't even up on the latest literature among
scientific creationists. If he isn't up on their literature I seriously
doubt he keeps up on the "secular" literature.

Some of these may seem like insignificant details but I think they do speak
very much to the poor quality of the research that has gone into Stott's
book and I think renders much of its content very dubious. I do
acknowledge that his book isn't necessarily meant to be an intensely
scientific treatise of the subject material but when one makes so many bold
claims it is disconcerting that there is little to back up what he is saying
beyond his words.

3) I looked up the reference he made during the Sunday School slide show
with respect to the Blue Star with a temperature of 12000 degrees suddenly
becoming a Yellow star with a temperature of only 5000 degrees. This drew
quite a response from the audience as if this was some incredible fact that
has proved stellar evolutionary theory wrong. Although Stott portrayed this
as being absolutely inconsistent with stellar evolutionary theory and thus a
tremendous anomaly, he certainly couldn't have gotten that impression by
actually reading the article. It would seem that the star could be
considered unusual compared to other stars, but then again a binary star
system is unusual compared to other stars but it doesn't defy the theory.
Interestingly he used this example right after talking about the tremendous
amount of time it takes for light to travel from place to place, for stars
to form from dust etc.. all giving the impression of great time needed for
anything to occur in the universe (and most things do require a lot of
time). This was a shrewd tactic to get a big response, yet the stars
activity is not at all a conundrum. The paper admits that this star had
puzzled astronomers up to 1943 but that the brightness "increase is no
longer mysterious: now that we know that the star's colour has been
changing, we know that the total luminosity was not itself changing; what
was changing was the wavelength where the star was emitting the most
energy." (New Scientist, 14 September 1991 pg. 36 - not 28 as in Stott's
book). Even in 1955 when the star was blue it was getting cooler as data
showed. In the early 60's the star became white and then in the 70s yellow.
The changing color is due to the rapid cooling of the surface. The surface
is cooling because the size of the star is greatly increasing. It went from
being 10 times bigger than the sun to approximately 60 times the size of the
sun and as it expands it rapidly cools just as one would expect (especially
since we are only seeing the light coming from the outer layers of the
star). Nothing in the article even hints that this star is doing something
that defies any modern theories whatsoever. Since Stott seems to only have
gotten his information on these subjects from other sources rather than
original literature I doubt that he has any knowledge of the theories
himself, at least not enough to evaluate the data himself and to draw other
conclusions. This also illustrates a problem with much of the scientific
creationists literature; it references itself so often that where the
original data came from is lost and only the perception of what that data
had said is left. Lastly, Stott vastly oversimplified his model of stellar
evolution (slide show and book) so that it certainly would appear that the
examples he gave would contradict what would be expected.

I found that most of the other examples he gave fall into the same category
of being backed up by very dubious references and science. I am not an
expert in many of these fields by any means but even I could, without
looking up the references, pick out many very basic flaws in many of his
examples. You might say that this is because I am coming from a different
point of view or have a bias but I am only saying that he has obviously not
informed himself on many of these issues and would not have said much of
what he said had he done more research (literature searches). If these were
the best examples he could come up with then I am afraid that the evidence
for a recent creation must be slim indeed. Unfortunately I am sure that few
people in the room would have had any way of evaluating what they had just
heard. His presentation, I would imagine, sounded just wonderful and would
be very reassuring to someone who may have had doubts. How can I be
reassured about a position that is only defended by those who don't appear
to really understand the subject material they are dealing with? To me the
scientific evidence presented by Stott certainly did not demonstrate the
earth is young.

I can see that a lay person will have no difficulty believing Mr. Stott.
His stance on the Bible was excellent and I agreed with nearly everything he
said but unfortunately he seemed to use his Biblical position as an excuse
to say whatever he wanted about the data. I agree with a presuppositional
outlook (unlike Heeren) but just because Stott proceeds with the knowledge
that he already knows the truth, this does not give him the right to
misrepresent information and not to present it fairly (I don't mean to say
that he has done this intentionally but has done so unintentionally by not
preparing himself through studying these issues further). His whole Sunday
School presentation was emotionally based rather than informative. It
served only to cut off any real discussion. How can anyone possibly object
when they have just heard that if you don't believe what the speaker has
just said you are deluded and your thoughts are the handiwork of the devil!
I have very serious reservations about Stott's background and understanding
of science and his presentation of the evidence. Just because someone
believes in the inerrency of Scripture does not make his presentation of
science, even from a "Christian" perspective, immune from criticism.

Though not by design I am sure (I realize the focus of the material was
somewhat out of your control), it seems to me that if we were to strip away
all of the scientific evidence that we heard we would have been left with
very very little about what the Bible says on the issue at the conference.
Aside from a very short and, I thought unproductive, discussion of the use
of the word "day" in the Bible, there was virtually no Biblical exposition
to support either side. Even during Sunday School we did not hear much in
the way of Biblical exposition to justify the conclusions drawn by the
speaker. It seemed that most of the verses quoted were used to suggest that
anyone not believing what the speaker is saying is anti-Christian. One may
feel this way but the use of such versed does not act positively to help
anone to "learn how to defend their Biblical position" as the conference
announcment stated. There may be plenty of Biblical reasons and even other
scientific evidences not presented that would support a young earth, but I
don't feel that anyone should feel reassured in their position from just
what they heard Saturday and Sunday.

I have been too hard on Philip Stott, I apologize. It is difficult to
criticize a man who is obviously so sincere. Unfortunately, history is
filled with sincere people that have lead others astray. While I don't
believe Stott is leading Christians in the Church away from the faith, I do
believe that he is helping to create an atmosphere in the Church that makes
discussion difficult and leaves those with real questions very few answers.

In Christ,

Joel Duff

Morris, John 1986. The Paluxy Mystery. Impact No 151 in Acts and Facts Vol
15 no. 1

Burrows, William D. 1986. The end of the Paluxy Footprint Story? North
American Creation Movement Newsletter. Victoria, B.C. Canada, March No 36
p. 3-5.

Continued Research on the Paluxy Tracks. Acts and Facts Vol. 17 No. 12
(Originally written anonymously by John Morris).

Addendum: Just to hit on another subject of interest even though this
wasn't part of my initial reason for writing, the geocentricity aspect of
all this has been very intriguing. I find it very interesting that when old
age and evolution are being talked about the discussion centers around
presuppositions and the Biblical evidence but when geocentricity is brought
up (like at the dinner table) suddenly the majority of the discussion
centers around what is wrong with it scientifically. The same people
(speaking generically now) who don't trust science about origins issues
suddenly think they can come up with scientific reasons that geocentricity
is wrong. I think that Stott has been very consistent in his hermeneutic
and does what scientific creationists say needs to be done: He takes what
the Bible says first and conforms the world around him to fit that reality.
In many ways I see his geocentric views as a natural (although maybe not
necessary) outcome to applying the type of literal interpretation that
scientific creationists apply to the Bible. Certainly if the world can be
as wrong about evolution and the age of the earth it can be wrong about the
position of the earth. The philosophical reasoning behind his argument is
the same as for the rejection of old-age and this is something that other
scientific creationists have not come to grips with yet. I myself believe
that there are Biblical arguments for heliocentricity and both James Jordan
and Gary North have made excellent refutations of Geocentricity on Biblical

Burke Shade,
and portions to:

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Dpt. Plant Biology, SIU

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