Lecturer Contests Evolution
In an event predicted to stir controversy, retired Cornell University Professor John Sanford gave a lecture sponsored by the Oberlin Christian Fellowship on Wednesday, Nov. 14 titled “Why Evolution Fails: Life is Degenerating.”
Sanford began his lecture by noting that although he “[sees] things through the eyes of faith,” all scientists have motives of some sort. He listed the motives of advancing one’s career, making the world a better place, discovering what is true and communicating one’s understanding of the natural world. Emphasizing the central nature of worldviews, Sanford said that “changing your worldview is painful” – something he experienced while changing from a naturalistic to a theistic point of view.
He outlined six different worldviews: young earth creationism, old earth creationism, theistic evolution, romantic evolutionist, socio-biological and nihilist, adding that there is a spiritual as well as an intellectual element to all of them. After reviewing some of the core concepts of academic freedom and academic ideals, Sanford asserted that neo-Darwinian theory is a fundamental axiom in university thought. Even this early in the presentation, several students and faculty members present in the packed lecture hall questioned Sanford’s assertions about the academic environment surrounding evolution.
Proposing a major problem with this scientific theory, Sanford discussed the idea of genetic load, which he explained to be the accumulation of deleterious mutations, which lead to genetic decline over time. Calling this concept “genetic entropy,” he noted that scientists from the 1950s onward have proposed problems with genetic mutation.
After explaining his concerns about the principles of mutation and natural selection, Sanford asked, “Can the concept of genetic entropy be validated in a scientifically rigorous manner?” Stating that the only sure solution is a numerical simulation, he demonstrated a program that he helped create, named Mendel’s Accountant. Sanford described Mendel’s Accountant as a state-of-the-art, realistic, user-friendly simulation program.
Using his own model, Sanford posited that all aspects of genetic entropy, which he called the “exact antithesis of evolution,” are validated. He stated that neo-Darwinian theory can thus be rigorously falsified and claimed that no one has yet to defend evolutionary theory against his claims. Closing the lecture portion of the event, Sanford stated that “we should all be willing to rethink everything.”
Through the lecture, faculty members in the audience had their hands up almost continuously; some reacted with barely-concealed hostility, asking pointed questions about factors left out of his mathematical model and the lack of a peer-reviewed publication on the subject. At one point, after Sanford stated that many members of the audience had attended with the desire to disagree with him no matter what was stated. One professor asked, “When did you learn how to read minds?” Most faculty members left before Sanford had finished his lecture.
During the question and answer segment, members of the Oberlin community challenged Sanford on both scientific and philosophical premises. Many professors and students took issue with the accuracy of his model, while others questioned the religious implications that Sanford drew from his objection to evolutionary theory.
Sanford has recently written a book titled Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome, which articulates his arguments against Darwinian evolution.