NOTE ON THE TITLE (added 15 May 1996): The "obscure corner of the world" is meant to refer to my own location (cf. Plimer's closing remark that "Lippard returns to obscurity, from whence he came") and is not intended as a slam on Australia. My apologies to anyone who interpreted it in that way.

Another review of Plimer's book, by Jeffrey Shallit, may be found at

And more can be found here, and the Creation Science Foundation's response is here.

A copy of this was emailed to Ian Plimer on November 30, 1994.

Criticisms from an Obscure Corner of the World

Jim Lippard

The following is from Ian Plimer's book, Telling Lies for God, 1994, Random House Australia, pp. 197-201. The passages here are nothing less than a dishonest hatchet job. Plimer ignores the content of both the article he purportedly is responding to, "How Not to Argue with Creationists," and its sequel whose existence he never mentions, "How Not to Respond to Criticism," despite the fact that he was sent copies of both long before his book was published. (In fact, both Plimer and Barry Price were contacted repeatedly before "How Not to Argue with Creationists" was published and were sent draft copies for comment. Neither Price nor Plimer did the same with their responses.)

My comments appear below in brackets. Copies of "How Not to Argue with Creationists" and "How Not to Respond to Criticism: Barry Price Compounds His Errors" may be obtained via anonymous FTP from or in the directory /pub/lippard. [Added 12/21/02: Now on my web site at and]

The Creation Science Foundation are mischievous. They massage a naive person in a university and then use them as a stooge. One would expect them to aim high and use a professor, however, their stooge was a philosophy student at the University of Arizona (James Lippard). Lippard apparently has taken it upon himself to become an expert in pseudoscience. In an article entitled 'How Not to Argue with Creationists', Lippard demonstrates a naivety rarely seen since it was discovered that Santa Claus does not really exist.

His article is based on the premise that the controversy between creation 'science' and science can be solved by rational debate and the use of the scientific method. There has never been a demonstration that creationists engage in science, use rational argument or logic and the literature is full of examples of their misinformation. The matter is simple grubby gutter politics. The creationists use every method to gain exposure to every school child in order to convert them to the creationist cult. Lippard's premise was naive, unsophisticated and wrong.

[My article was based on the premise that it is wrong to use falsehoods and distortions to combat falsehoods and distortions, nothing more. [added 12/5/94: I do think that science and rational argument is sufficient to resolve the question of which is right.]]
Although it is touching that Lippard wants to avoid the reality of life, he was so easy to set up by the Creation Science Foundation. His article, from one who does not engage in battling the creationist cult and from one who is not concerned with the cultural values of education, is very judgemental of those who are not fooled by the cult leaders and treat them for what they are: frauds. One is reminded of the Oscar Wilde quote 'In America, the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the benefit of their inexperience'.
[Contrary to Plimer's claim, I am quite active in "battling the creationist cult." I am the Arizona liaison for the National Center for Science Education, the major organization combating creationism in the United States. [15 Jul 2009: I was liaison at the time, but now am just a supporter.] I have published articles and book reviews criticizing creationism in the NCSE's Creation/Evolution, in Skeptic magazine, in The Arizona Skeptic, and in Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith. I am an active participant (less so recently) in the Usenet newsgroup.]
Lippard's lack of knowledge of the creationist literature is broadly advertised (e.g. Ex Nihilo and ridiculous articles about the finding of fossilised modern metal items in coal seams) and his comments on the
[Actually, I exhaustively document the creationist literature on "fossil gold chains" in coal seams in my two articles, and point out that Plimer's claim that "Other enlightened new data by Snelling are reports in the CSF literature of the occurrence of fossil gold chains and iron anchors in Australian coal seams" is not supported by evidence. I am still unaware of any article in the CSF--or any other creationist literature--which makes such claims, despite having repeatedly asked Plimer and Price to document the claim. (They have given me references for sources which make claims about American coal seams and about items other than gold chains and iron anchors, but the reference which comes closest to supporting Plimer's claim post-dates his statement which I quoted above.)]
defamation and taxation laws are incredible. Is our student of philosophy so culturally insulated to believe that the taxation and defamation laws in the USA would be exactly the same as in Australia?
[Of course not. I document everything I say about Australian taxation and defamation laws. Here's one example from "How Not to Respond to Criticism":
According to Geoffrey Sawer's A Guide to Australian Law for Journalists, Authors, Printers and Publishers (third edition, section 67, paragraph iv), the following are the grounds for criminal prosecution in a defamation action:
In Victoria and South Australia, publication to person defamed is sufficient; elsewhere (as with civil defamation in all States and Territories) publication must be to some person other than the one defamed.
Even in the most starry-eyed moments of naivety, does Lippard really believe that a debate in Australia against Gish would be exactly the same as a debate against Gish in the USA?
[Exactly the same? No. But I consider falsehoods and distortions out of place in either country. And here are some other Australian opinions on Plimer's debate with Gish (footnote 2 of "How Not to Argue with Creationists"):
It wasn't just the creationists who were unamused. In the Australian Skeptics' summary of the debate (Roberts and Mendham 1988, p. 13), it is reported that "The adjudicator summed up by saying that, rather than a debate, the evening was more like a presentation by Dr. Gish and a series of derogatory replies by Dr. Plimer. He would award poor marks to both speakers, neither of whom had properly expounded his point of view as a science." The same page of the summary states that "Dr. Plimer's style of speaking excited comments and polarised the passions of quite a few people. Many Skeptics have said they were disappointed in his manner of presentation and his handling of the topic, preferring that he had presented purely the scientific evidence supporting evolution in a sombre and more scientifically respectable manner."
Lippard's selective use of creationist documents, his massive dose of quoting out of context, and the lack of his use of letters from numerous anti-creationists who are familiar with the situation in Australia suggest that he was not in the search of truth but attempting to sensationalise himself. Furthermore, the fact that neither Lippard
[I welcome Plimer to provide a single example of each of these alleged failings in my article.]
nor the Creation Science Foundation have made one muted comment about Price's exposure of the devastating effect of teaching creationism in a 'balanced' creation/evolution course (Smith School, Livermore, California) strongly suggests that both are not at all interested in
[Plimer should read more carefully. Footnote 7 of "How Not to Argue with Creationists" reads:
This is a reference to the 1980 case of Emma C. Smith Elementary School in Livermore, Calif., where teacher Ray Baird used materials from the ICR to indoctrinate students with creationism and apparently succeeded in converting some of them to atheism. Plimer had discussed this case earlier in the debate. Price's book gives a good summary (Price 1990, pp. 143-158).
the welfare of children. Although more than half of Price's book was devoted to science, Lippard claims that there was no science in the book!
[Plimer is putting words in my mouth. I never made any such claim. What I did write is this (in "How Not to Argue with Creationists"):
The book is polemical--light on science and heavy on ad hominem argument. Its goals are apparently more political than scientific; it is written not for the scientist or seasoned creationist observer, but to persuade the layman that creationism is a hoax and a fraud. Its most powerful arguments against creationism may be found elsewhere in more detail and greater precision.
What is incomprehensible is that Lippard actually accepted and published information from the Creation Science Foundation which is contrary to their own published annual returns. If Lippard was serious about researching creationism, he could have obtained these public record documents or read the two main published sources of this information. The writer of this great work on 'How Not To Argue With
[Plimer gives no examples. Where there are discrepancies in the CSF's records, I note them in my articles. I also cite and have read the Australian Skeptics' article on the CSF's finances, and my article has been favorably reviewed by the author of that article, Martin Bridgstock.]
Creationists' writes that he believes in neither evolution nor creationism but leaned towards one. For one who professes to be a philosopher, he should really try to think about what a ridiculous position he places himself in by occupying the infinitesimally small point between two contradictions!
[This is a misinterpretation of something I wrote in a letter to Barry Price--and also lifts word-for-word from the unpublished version of Barry Price's article of response to "How Not to Argue with Creationists." Here is how I commented on Price's remarks in "How Not to Respond to Criticism":
My position on the creation/evolution controversy is misrepresented by Price when he writes on the first page of his article that "Lippard told me that he believed in neither evolution nor creationism, but leaned towards one. Occupying the infinitetesmally [sic] small point between two contradictions?" I never told Price any such thing--I do believe in evolution and disbelieve in creationism. What I did tell him was that my disbelief in creationism could not be translated into certainty of belief in contemporary theories of evolution (i.e., regarding the mechanisms of evolution, over which debate continues in the scientific community). I also stated that I supported truth and accuracy over simply giving unquestioning support to someone on the same "side" (evolution) as me.
The principal object of the Lippard article was to provide an objection to Price's book, The Creation Science Controversy, from an allegedly impartial source. Price's book had been so damaging to the creationist cult and they could not escape from his exposure of such blatant fraud. The comments and book reviews by those involved in science, education and religion in Australia speak far louder than someone so gullible as Lippard. A selection of the comments are:
'This book exposes the cult for its pretence at being a science, while using the religious significance of the literal interpretation of the Bible as the cornerstone of its belief...'
Journal NSW Independent Teachers' Association, 21, 1990
'I see it as a valuable book for parents and for Christian primary teachers, and as a useful handbook for discussion groups of concerned people.'
Christian Book Newsletter, 9 November 1990
'If you seek a simple exposition of the facts about evolution which creationists do not like, or an orderly evaluation of the Biblical myths on which Western creationism is based, you can find them in Barry Price's book. Price exposes the deceit and trickery of both the Institute of Creation Research in USA and the Creation Science Foundation in Australia.'
Australian Biologist, March 1991
'Anyone flirting with creationism would do well to read this book.'
The Catholic Leader, 13 May 1990
'A final message to outraged creationists: read the book. If you still want to ring or write, my mind remains closed to creationism, permanently. Inside, evolution rules. For the undecided, read: The Creation Science Controversy by Barry Price.'
The Age, 28 April 1990
[Like Price's response, Plimer ignores contrary data points. As I pointed out in both of my articles (quotation is from "How Not to Argue with Creationists"):
In a mostly positive review of Price's book, Australian Skeptic Martin Bridgstock (1990) wrote that Price's book "is clear and punchy, occasionally veering into stridency" and is "peppered with errors." (He goes on to say that these errors are "minor--none approaching creationist whoppers.")
Lippard's criticism of the Price book is diametrically opposed to those scientific, religious and media groups who are cognisant with creationism in Australia. It is interesting to note that Lippard's criticism is little different from another review, this time from the Creation Science Foundation.
A national prayer campaign is called for. From August till the end of October. Readers are asked to 'pray as often as you can but especially on Monday and Friday'. Readers are urged to 'pray for the author of the book and his main publicity agent and co-vilifier Ian because 'we wrestle not against flesh and blood but...against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places'. (Prayer News, August 1990)
Lippard returns to obscurity, from whence he came. He did not use his fifteen seconds of glory very well.
[Plimer continues to demonstrate that he is an unreliable source of information. As usual, I am happy to accept comments or criticisms on any of the above and may be reached as .]

Some assorted other comments on Plimer's book

Overall, it's not such a bad book--in fact, it contains lots of valuable information, especially about Duane Gish's dishonesty. The "paper in rock" hoax against creationist Andrew Snelling was also wonderful and quite revealing. But the book really is riddled with errors and omissions of crucial facts. Some examples, found via skimming: