(Sorry, A-Goin’—In the Wrong Direction)

The atmosphere in the crowded lecture theatre foyer was alive with curious anticipation. It was the late 1970s, the heady early days of the creation movement in South Australia. The creation/evolution debate I was about to take part in, before some 40 science teachers and involving a prominent academic evolutionist, was a first for the region.

As the words of an animated conversation drifted across to me, I realized that my opponent-to-be was only a few metres to my left. A senior lecturer (associate professor in US terms) in population biology, he was holding forth to a small group of supporters, clearly unaware that his creationist protagonist was within earshot.

‘This is really frustrating’, I heard him say. ‘I feel like an astronaut who’s come back from the moon, seen the spherical Earth, and now he’s supposed to debate with someone who tries to tell people it’s flat. In my job we see evolution happening in front of our eyes.’

Back then, before creationist arguments had had a good airing, it was understandable for him to think like that. Biology teachers could perhaps be excused for perpetuating such a naïve belief. They simply assumed that the easily observable genetic changes in many types of living populations were an obvious demonstration that evolution from microbes to man was fact. Just give it enough time, and voilá , such ‘micro’ changes would accumulate, continually filtered and guided by natural selection. It seemed obvious and logical to expect these ‘little steps’ to keep adding up so as to lead to the ‘macro’ changes—the really big jumps, frog-to-prince, fish-to-philosopher, that type of thing. (As we will show later in this article, though, the very opposite is true.)….

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