Donald Johanson gave a remarkable speech October 24, 2014 at the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s 37th annual convention in Los Angeles. Johanson is an internationally known paleoanthropologist whose graduate student discovered the remains of the famous fossil “Lucy” — a small ape. Evolutionists claim Lucy is the ancient ancestor of modern humans, and her remains are supposedly 3.2 million years old.
Johanson is the founding director of the Institute of Human Origins, a so-called “evolution think tank” at Arizona State University. He lives in San Francisco.
We have taken selected portions of his speech in order to engage in “debate” with him. This is a lengthy read, but it is highly beneficial for those who want to understand the nature of the debate between creation and evolution; it will you in your arguments against those on the Left. Johanson’s comments appear as they were made. Our response is identified by our initials TAC:
This has been a very important part of my life, the study of who we are and where we come from. It has immense implications, philosophical and otherwise, everything from medicine to how we look at and treat one another.
As I was saying, it wasn’t necessarily that I was hoping to make this colossal discovery of a creature that has become pretty much an icon in terms of paleontology or paleoanthropology, but it was to understand our place in nature. The book that launched my intrigue about where we’ve come from was a book entitled Man’s Place in Nature by Thomas Henry Huxley, who was a tea-drinking buddy of Charles Darwin.
They often sat and noodled on the question of human evolution. I can see them in Darwin’s garden in Kent while they discussed how they were going to bring this shocker to the Victorian world of Great Britain, that we actually descended from the apes. Darwin, as you well know, was very reluctant to do that because he didn’t want to upset the household, as his wife Emma was very religious.
And he only said that light would be thrown on the origin of man, until 1871 in his Descent of Man, when he articulated a number of scenarios for that. I read Man’s Place in Nature and realized the importance of this subject, for which paleoanthropology wasn’t really a moniker until the late ’50s or so. I realized that we have a remarkable record preserved in Earth’s geological strata that connects us with the past, with each other, and I think very importantly, connects us with the natural world.
We know, every single one of us in this room, who the creator was — Mother Nature. I will have much more to say about that as we get into this discussion.
I’ve also been asked to comment on why I’m an atheist. I’ve always been an atheist. I didn’t have to be converted. … And she [his mother] said, this little uneducated housekeeper from Sweden who immigrated when she was 16, deciding the New World was where everything was happening, “The first thing they’ll do is control you, then they will instill fear in you, and then they will take your money.”
TAC: This is an apt description of today’s public university setting. Students are indoctrinated, with grading held over their heads by autocratic professors.
I began to realize that believing in a creator being — someone I couldn’t see, someone who’s keeping track of me, someone I’d be afraid of — was really not my cup of tea. I was much more of a free thinker, as we say, and as I went through high school, I had a very adequate education at a public high school, which we should all bring back.
TAC: Bring back? That public school you attended never went anywhere. It is still run by people who share your worldview and who will not allow any dissent from the government position of naturalism. And as we’ll see below, you demonize others who disagree with you and refuse to recognize them as “free thinkers.” Why are America’s biology classrooms closed to free thought?
I lived in Berkeley for years, and my favorite bumper sticker said, “If you think education’s expensive, try ignorance.” During my education, I began to really understand that if I were to believe in this mythical creator — you know we only had one choice, right, since the downsizing? If you lived in Greece, we’d have a whole bunch of gods we could have prayed to, but now, with cutbacks and so on, we’re down to one — that I would have to unfortunately totally reject my objectivity and logic and leap into total fantasy. I just couldn’t see the benefit of that.
TAC: The same can be said of evolution and earth worship.
Science is such a rewarding, creative and charming way of looking at the universe. So why do people so resist evolution, the grand unifying theory of biology?
TAC: Softball question. Evolution has no foundation in truth. It is based on sinking sand. Why are America’s biology classrooms closed to free thought?
Yet a retiring Englishman who went off on a five-year boat cruise once figured out the grand unifying theory of biology. The robustness of the “theory” of evolution is that: The same tenets that Darwin suggested and proffered in the middle 1800s are still the core ideas of biology. If Darwin were sitting in the back of the room and I mentioned DNA, he wouldn’t have a clue. He didn’t know things were inherited. He observed and interpreted and understood how important that elusive thing natural selection is, and how powerfully explanatory it is.
TAC: The world has moved well beyond Darwin’s unenlightened time, to DNA and molecular science and a better understanding of the building blocks of life and the reality of how life originated. Darwin interpreted incorrectly, yet men and women of great technological times are still following his disproven theory of pseudo biology.
I suspect most people just don’t think. I don’t want to be too anti-clerical or anti-church; I respect people’s beliefs and I don’t try to destroy them. I understand that if you were born in X culture, you believe in X god, and if you were in Z culture, you believe in Z god, and so on. Before I knew about FFRF, I used to say that we have freedom of religion, but not freedom from religion in America.
TAC: As this debate unfolds, it becomes clear you do not respect the beliefs of people who disagree with you. In fact, those held captive to America’s biology class rooms are not really permitted to engage in free thinking. … And if you were born in the home of an atheist, you’re more likely to be an atheist. The First Amendment allows for free speech and the free exercise of religion — which also allows for the freedom not to worship. You’ve always had freedom from religion. We have freedom from your religion of humanism, but only outside the classrooms of public schools and universities.
Darwin, if he were alive today, would probably be very happy with this poster [“In Reason We Trust”]. I want you to support science and reason. So take God’s name off our money we all worship and replace it with “In Science We Trust.” I don’t think we’ll do that, but we do need to get God’s name off our money. There’s no question.
TAC: You and the evolution industry are not afraid to rake in those dollars bearing God’s name — billions of them fueling your careers. Science and reason are open to free thought and inquiry — outside government classrooms, that is. The pseudo science forced on students today does not meet the definition of science.
The anti-science aspect of religion is what bothers me most intensely. It’s personified in this cartoon: “Welcome to church, you won’t be needing that [your brain] in here.” Just take this brilliant organ out that has evolved over 6 million years of natural selection, that happens to put us at the pinnacle of intelligent life on the planet, in the solar system, and maybe even in the universe, to be so bold.
TAC: Were Kepler, Newton, Galileo, Bacon, and so many others anti-science? They were Christians and scientific pioneers. … Welcome to the biology class room, students of the 21st century. Please check your brain at the door; this class room is closed to science and reason, and your professor has already done your thinking for you.
There’s something very impersonal to most people about natural selection. It isn’t touchy-feely like a god that creates us in his image. Who’d he look like? You? You? You? We created him in our image, obviously, not in his image.
TAC: You have it backwards: God created us in His image.
You often see, and sometimes even television documentaries go at this from the wrong perspective, that Darwin is dead. No argument with that. He is dead, I agree. Evolution is just a theory. Right, you know what? Isaac Newton is dead, too. But gravity ain’t going away, even if his ideas were called the “theory” of gravity.
TAC: It’s a stretch to compare Newton to Darwin. Newton’s theory is verifiable and has stood the test of time. Darwin’s theory has not. Evolution has never been observed. It’s not verifiable. Yet, TLC, the Discovery Channel, the Animal Planet, the History Channel and many other cable channels and documentaries repeatedly refer to evolution — without offering a shred of evidence or citations of proof. They expect us to take it on faith.
I regularly lecture at colleges, universities and museums.
TAC: Lecture or indoctrinate?
It’s always interesting to say, “Raise your hand if you believe in evolution.” And you know, there’s a certain percentage that do. I say, “It may all surprise you that I don’t believe in evolution” — there’s this big sigh of relief — “any more than I believe in gravity.” It doesn’t take belief; this is a fact. If you let something go, it’s going to fall to the ground. You don’t have to believe in gravity, it is a fact.
TAC: You’re right. When speaking of gravity and evolution, gravity is factually evident.
In biology, going back to Darwin, I think it was Dobzhansky, the great geneticist, who said that “In biology, nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Evolution is a fact, it’s not good, it’s not bad, it has no moral compass.
TAC: The great geneticist sells biology short. A reasoning person can very easily lack faith in evolution, its so-called icons, its advocates (many of whom have been proven wrong), and especially the hollow claims of a sl-called supporting fossil record.
We need to cherish that, and we have to understand that this is an exciting opportunity to be alive and not sit around and worry about some omnipotent being keeping score to decide whether we’re going to end up in eternal ecstasy or unending damnation. As I say, how could he have time to keep score on each one of us? He’s so damn busy helping people sink 6-foot putts in Arizona and get extra points in football games. He doesn’t have time to keep track of us.
TAC: You also sell God short. We actually make the decision ourselves whether or not to accept God’s free offer of salvation. We have the free will to decide. And God abides by the decisions we make.
The problem is that people’s prayers don’t get answered. Why? Well, here it was in The New Yorker [cartoon]: “God finds all the prayers of mankind in his spam folder.” We now have an explanation.
TAC: Not all prayers are in alignment with God’s will. We pray for many things we think we need, sometimes we don’t get them answered, and then later we are thankful. We realize God had a better plan for us than what we prayed for. We aimed low, and God had a plan far better than what we envisioned.
One of the things about natural selection, which we all grow up learning, is the survival of the fittest. I was taught by my mentor at age 13 that it’s really the elimination of the unfit. If you think about it, that’s a better way to look at it.
TAC: How did we all grow up learning natural selection if we had to return to that time, as you asserted earlier? It is the worldview which has given us Margaret Sanger and eugenics, forced sterilization, euthanasia, the profit-driven Planned Parenthood and abortion, and genocide. These horrors were orchestrated by those who assumed they had the right to determine who was unfit and undeserving of life. They shared one thing in common: the religion of humanism.
The problem with natural selection is you can’t weigh it, you can’t see it …
TAC: But you better drink the Kool-Aid in biology class, or you might be a “bigot” and a “fool.”
Atheists, and I guess there are a few in this room, get a pretty bad rap, very often. Religious people accuse us of lacking morals, having no family values. Well, unless I’m reading the wrong newspapers, I don’t recall any atheists out there beheading people, stoning women or burning people at the stake.
TAC: Read the papers again. People who shared your humanist religion — Stalin, Hitler, Mao — were all atheists. The current beheading crisis in Islamic countries is the work of those who believe in Mohammed.
Our world is filled with endless moments of inspiration, real inspiration, available to each and every human being endowed with a conscious brain created by evolution. We need not rely on creation myths for inspiration.
TAC: Call creation a myth. But answer this question: how did evolution create so something so extraordinary as a human brain? How did it create the 11 different bodily systems which operate in compatibility to make the miracle of life? How did all 11 evolve at the same time? How would human life have originated if the 11 systems evolved a couple or a few at a time? How did evolution create the complexity of the human jaw with its ligaments and muscles working in coordination? How did evolution wrap a human’s abdominal muscles in such a precise way? How did evolution create the incredibly intricate network of nerves serving our bodies? Was it just plain luck? An accident? Evolution can’t answer any these questions because the complexity of life is light years beyond it … and because evolution does in fact not exist. “Evolution” has created nothing … but a fervent imagination and a worldview needed by people desperate for an alternative to Creator God.
Atheists are accused of not playing fair since we don’t teach creationism in science class.
TAC: It’s a well-earned charge, too. Because atheists control the government schools and use that power to control the curriculum, tilting the playing field, shutting off fair examination of alternative theories of creation, sending children to the principal’s office for disagreeing with evolution. If atheists were so confident of their belief, their worldview, they would welcome a fair playing field allowing free speech, reason, and open debate. But they are opposed to these — in thought, word and deed. Hear this: open America’s biology classrooms to free thinking and honest inquiry.
Well, if you’re going to teach creationism, why don’t we teach astrology with astronomy? In medical school we’d have to teach witchcraft along with medicine, and alchemy with chemistry. Where’s it going to end?
TAC: Since you are already teaching mythology in science classes, why not give students all the relevant theories of life and let them decide? Instead of indoctrinating them? Instead of coercing students, teachers, and professors to believe in the theory of evolution, or to walk the academic plank? You can’t handle the truth and you force-feed the unwilling with something you have never proven to be true.
OK, you American Airlines pilots, today we’re going to discuss the flat Earth. You get on a plane in L.A., you’re hoping to see the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the pilot believes in a flat Earth? You’ll never get there.
TAC: Flat earth is an interesting analogy for those who follow a 19th century dreamer and claim the debate is over because they know they do not have to allow a real debate among captive audiences of children — with the threat of grade reduction held over their young heads. Flat earth appropriately describes the classrooms of humanist schools today.
Our main duty in getting to one of the core issues of what I’m talking about tonight is to reawaken a “reverence” for the natural world and our place in it. [We have a duty] to respect the creativity of the true creator, Mother Nature, to protect her, to take seriously our responsibilities as the most creative, but also the most destructive species that’s ever lived on Earth.
TAC: Re-awaken a reverence for evolution? When you are in full control of the nation’s public school and university science classes and faculties? When the mass media is indoctrinating the public to take evolution on faith, without evidence? When the so-called Learning Channel repeatedly alleges life evolved and offers no supporting evidence? In a nation where earth worshipping is common, due to years of public education indoctrination? You can’t be real.
The future is in our hands, and it is time that we stop turning our back on the natural world and start listening to her and working with her.
TAC: It’s time to stop turning our back on the scientific method, on free speech, reason, freedom of thought and academic rigor.
The Creation Museum [in Petersburg, Ky.] is one of our favorite places. Where else can you witness the science of cavemen cavorting with their favorite pet dinosaur, Skippy, 5,000 years ago? Is this a time warp and we’re back in the Dark Ages or something?
TAC: Time warp? From one who worships at the altar of a 19th century dreamer and one who believes the earth and universe are billions and billions of years old. Talk about darkened ages! LOL!
This is lying, cheating, deceiving, warping and perverting people’s knowledge. To make what? Money. How much money does the Creation Museum make at the same time it destroys young peoples’ opportunities to look at the world through an open mind. That’s what upsets me probably more than anything else about the museum.
TAC: Science teachers beholden to the god of evolution wouldn’t know an open mind if it kicked them in the shins. The study of evolution is a career launcher, and sustainer and golden parachute — with billions of taxpayers’ dollars, courtesy of the National Science Foundation and other government agencies and foundations. Thousands of taxpayer-funded research professors are working with large teams of taxpayer-funded graduate students, on the frivolous study of evolution — and proving nothing. Careers are based on this study; it is very, very profitable — thanks to taxpayers. So you might not want to talk about the Creation Museum charging an admission fee to pay its employees’ salaries.
And one would expect a “free thinker” to welcome various viewpoints and theories on the origins of life and the universe. You mean that trapping young people in government school science classes isn’t destroying their opportunities to look at the world — or freedom to visit the Creation Museum — with an open mind? If evolution is so right, why do you so greatly fear other explanations of life? You’ve got all the public schools, the universities, the mass media, and government. Yet you can’t let one ministry offer another view without condemnation.
Well, part of my mission in life has been to educate people about the fossil evidence for human evolution.
TAC: This empty mission can be completed in the blink of an eye. There is no fossil evidence of evolution. Lucy and her friends were apes, and that’s why their descendants can be seen in zoos. If she had lived a billion years and birthed a billion offspring, none of them would have ever developed the capability to advance to a higher order, much less human.
A born-again, Francis Collins, asked me to give the single most important talk that I’ve given in years, on Darwin’s 200th birthday, at the National Institutes of Health. He’s deeply religious and is the head of the National Institutes of Health. … Collins, whom I knew and had debated, and I had a huge interchange where he said, “Well, there are just some things that science can’t explain.” I said, “Yes, then it’s not science.”
TAC: Just a few years ago, one of the leading scientists at a major research university told me that a satellite sent photos of Saturn to earth rendered all the text books about that planet useless. So I assume the knowledge existing before these transmissions wasn’t science either. And furthermore, much of the so-called “science” posited by evolutionists in earlier times was proven fraudulent. That’s why you won’t want to discuss the Piltdown Man, the discredited experiment of Stanley Miller, or the other hoaxes and unsubstantiated claims of evolutionists. And how about the moths that were nailed to a tree for a photograph by an evolutionist?
Lucy is really the poster child for paleoanthropology and human origins. When you read about new fossil finds, they’re either younger than Lucy, older than Lucy, more complete than Lucy, not as primitive as Lucy, or whatever. So this was a remarkable discovery for me. It launched an incredible 20-year series of expeditions. We now have over 400 specimens of Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis.
TAC: 400 specimens of an ape, with no linkage to humans. Lucy was just another ape. Take it on faith. You won’t want to do that, but that’s what you are telling people to do with your unproven claim that she was an early fore-runner of humans.
And if you go to the Creation Museum, there she is. She’s a four-legged, quadrupedal knuckle-walker. This is because of Dr. Ham. I don’t know what he got his doctorate in, may have been one of those things you get at Sears [Dr. of literature, Liberty University].
There ain’t no way that Lucy was walking on her knuckles and forelegs. A child goes in, sees this and is impressed by it. The child doesn’t know one way or another.
TAC: Were you there to see how this ape walked? If this child attends public school, she has been indoctrinated by evolution-touting teachers. And in response to your insolent remarks about Ken Ham, you and your evolution colleagues are living proof that years and careers spent in academia are not guarantees that academics are truly open to the scientific method, and they are not immune to biases and the dictates of their worldviews. Take the so-called most respected universities in the U.S., (Stanford, Ivy League, et al) and you can’t guarantee that an education at any one of these humanist/evolution indoctrination centers offers a more truth-oriented education than the tiniest Christian college … or a creation museum. While speaking of museums: we have a dinosaur museum in Mesa with signage claiming life ascended through a family tree over eons of time. There are no footnotes or corroboration; we’re supposed to take it on faith. And we don’t.
It’s terribly important that we don’t shut these minds down so early. The longer you have a mind that is shut down the more time there is to develop and reinforce bigotry.
TAC: Truer words were never spoken, but for the opposite reason you intended your statement. Thirteen years of public school, plus four years of college, plus 2-10 years of graduate education is an awful long period of shutting minds down. Open the schools and universities to science, to reason, to genuine debate and an authentic search for truth. Open the door to open inquiry, freedom of thought and speech. Stop firing professors for exploring non-evolutionary theories! End the bigotry now!
Here [in a cartoon] he’s saying, “Look, it’s not personal, it’s religious.” There have been so many sacrifices in religion — burning at the stake, beheading people, stoning people to death or ripping their hearts out and eating a live pumping heart (if you’re an Aztec) — what’s that left us with? A bunch of dead bodies.
TAC: Humanist dictators murdered 100 million innocent people in the 20th century. Sadly, America’s government and education establishment have adopted their religion of secular humanism. It is convenient for you when you want to demonize Christians to lump them in with Muslims, Aztecs, and Canaanites. The God Christians worship says to “choose life.” Who is killing children today? Planned Parenthood. God says: love your neighbor.
Make some real sacrifices, sacrifices to Mother Nature, who will, unlike the false gods to whom we have made sacrifices, reward you.
TAC: This so-called “Mother Earth” had a Creator.
We will be rewarded with what? Healthy clean air with reduced pulmonary disease, and we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. I could go on and on about this, but I think you all get the gist. We live in a beautiful world.
TAC: Created by a majestic God.
We need to stop being Homo egocentricus and start to become a more deeply contemplative species that makes decisions intelligently, not out of fear or self-interest and not because of how much money we’re going to make. Make decisions that will help us regain the balance between ourselves and our creator, Mother Nature.
TAC: Set the example. Give up your stubborn predisposition to evolution and allow students free speech and freedom of thought. Listen to their reason. Give up your self-interest in perpetuating myths. Along with the taxpayer dollars funding your career. Give up your entitlement mentality.
It’s time, really, that as we look back on 4 million years of evolution, 3 million with Lucy. She is a link, not the missing link but one that reminds us of our link to the natural world.
TAC: Glad to hear you admit the so-called evolutionary link is still indeed missing. Game, set, match.
Lucy didn’t know where she was going; we don’t know where we’re going. She didn’t know that her descendants would end up as Homo sapiens, but it’s an interesting perspective to know that we are united by our past, that we have this commonality of beginning, that we undoubtedly will have a common future, and I think a common destiny globally.
TAC: I’m sorry you do not know where you are going. You are not related to Lucy or to any other apes. Your only common destination with apes is visiting jungles and zoos. You were wonderfully made by a Creator, God.
The most important thing from here on forth is to stop acting as if there’s some place else for us to move to. We are destined to be on, as my late friend Carl Sagan said, “this pale blue dot.” Let’s take those responsibilities seriously.
TAC: The late Carl knows so much more now than he did when he made that audacious statement. He has met his Maker and changed his worldview. If he could come back now, he would urge you to do the same.