I won a scholarship in 1981 to attend a special Christian journalism training in Singapore. About 40 sponsored candidates were brought from all over the world to attend this training.
Each person was supposed to send much in advance the outline, plus the first chapter in full, of a proposed book in one’s area of interest. I sent in the outline of a book “Evolution And Empirical Proofs”. In the book I tried to argue that while nobody can deny the right of people to propagate the idea of evolution, it was wrong on their part to claim that evolution was an empirically established fact.
My journalism mentor-teacher happened to be a lady from Australia, and she was very much impressed by my outline as well as by the first chapter and made a note on the corrected manuscript that she would like to have a copy if the proposed book ever gets published.
Finally I joined the distinguished group for three weeks of on-the-spot training in Singapore in 1981. The best Christian journalism teachers from around the world were there and this training became a turning point in my life. There was practically no free time, and we studied, wrote, critiqued, did more writing, and so on from early morning till late at night.
Each day two or three of the participants presented the outline of their book plus the first chapter. On the fourth or the fifth day a scientist presented his manuscript on theistic evolution. It was more evolution and less theism. Two days after that came my turn. I presented not only the outline and the first chapter, but the summary of the entire book. People were simply galvanized by the presentation.
I was still on the path of discovery from agnosticism to creationism, and wanted to know if anyone could dismantle any of my arguments. Thus I invited questions at the end of my presentation. But what happened after that was not expected by anyone. Before anyone could ask any question, the scientist jumped up and started shouting at me. He said “you are a stupid young man, you do not know anything about science. I am a scientist. I attend conferences. I know what is truth. Your whole presentation is nothing except rubbish”.
For me, having come from one of the pioneer physics departments in India where open inquiry with humility was always encouraged, this was a most shocking experience. In our department, even the top men (DAAD scholars, Van Hambolt Scholars, pioneers in quantum-nuclear physics) always spoke with respect to their juniors even in the face of strong disagreement. The age of a person did not matter. They made it a point to inquire first, and disagree after.
Remembering that training, I politely asked the scientist for a systematic refutation of my arguments. This only seemed to anger him more. When I asked him what he thought about the current references I had furnished from journals, he went into the third fit of anger. Everyone was uneasy.
Finally one of the older participants (a retired college professor) stood up and said, “Johnson presented his case well. What is more, he presented it so clearly that we enjoyed listening to him. What you did is no way to speak to a fellow participant. Please speak to him in a sober manner”. Meanwhile the Academic Dean, who had gone out for a few minutes, had returned to witness the last few minutes of the outrage. An active scientist at that time with NATO, he said “This is improper behavior. If you have any academic disagreements, please present it in a manner that suits academicians”. With that he prayed and closed the meeting.
Meanwhile, my presentation had lit a fire in their hearts and it continued to be the point of person to person discussion till the very end of the program. People would simply elbow their way to the seat next to me during tea, lunch or dinner and then we would go into extended discussion. I will never forget the satisfaction of having advanced much on my evolution-creation quest because of this intense interaction and interrogation.
However, one question keeps coming back to me: when a theist presents his side in a rational manner, why do many theistic-evolutionists and atheists lose temper and self-control. More so when the theist seems to have captured the mind of his listeners/readers.
[Dr. Johnson C. Philip is a physicist, with expertise inter alia in Quantum-nuclear Physics, and has worked extensively on the inner quark-structure of Protons and Neutrons. He has also specialized in Christian Apologetics, Biblical Archeology, Journalism, Alternative Medicines, and several other fields]