My Experience with Answers in Genesis

Contents


Introduction

In around January 2005 I got directed to Answers in Genesis' "Who Created God?" Article. I wrote a quick rebuttal to Gordan Hewitt who sent me the URL and He suggested I approach Answers in Genesis themselves about the article if I was so sure it was flawed. What follows is the rebuttal I submitted to AiG along with the details of the discussions I had with them in attempting to get some kind of answer out of them.

My original submission and following emails are included unaltered. My phone discussion at the end is a summary since I didn't have any way of recording it. What I have here should speak for itself, but I've added notes to clarify where my point of view may not be clear.

If you're interested just in my refutation of the above page, just read My Submission. If you're interested in AiG's lack of interest in debating the validity of their central arguments then read further.


My Submission to AiG

Originally I tried to send my submission via their web form. I didn't save a copy of it and I never got a response. Gordan Hewitt was concerned about this and contacted Jonathan Sarfati himself via a phone call to clear it up. He told me Mr Sarfati said he hadn't received my submission and Mr Sarfati had suggested I should try emailing my submission to admin@answersingenesis.com instead. Here is that first email containing my rebuttal to the above page

From: Robert Marlow <(email suppressed)>
To: admin@answersingenesis.com
Subject: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005 22:39:20 +0800

Hello

I messaged using your web form earlier regarding the article http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp but apparently my message was lost. I'm emailing this address instead as I was told it would be reliable.

I've found some problems with this article. I'll use wikipedia as a reference since it's readily available to us both and usually pretty reliable:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermodynamics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics

Firstly your reasoning to prove your second premise (The universe has a beginning) is flawed largely due to your misrepresentation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics:

In the first law you state that "The total amount of mass-energy in the universe is constant." The first law of thermodynamics actually states that energy must be conserved so your phrasing is correct but a bit misleading. When extrapolating the first law of thermodynamics to the Universe there's two possible conclusions depending on your meaning of "Universe":

  1. If by "Universe" you mean the Observable Universe then its irrelevant for your purposes; It's unlikely the Universe stops beyond our field of observation. So it's not impossible that our Observable Universe is being fed energy and mass from the remainder of the Universe. That is our Observable Universe possibly does not have constant mass or energy since it can't be assumed to be an isolated system. This probably isn't what you're talking about when you say God made the Universe, but the Observable Universe is the only one meaningful when trying to formulate theories since it's the only Universe within range of any tests including any on theories about Cosmological beginnings or endings. The Big Bang theory necessarily only speaks of the Observable Universe. Even if our Observable Universe had a beginning it would be irrelevant; it was quite possibly just a typical cosmological event of the Universe as a whole like the birth of a star.
  2. If by "Universe" you mean the universe in it's entirity including that which is outside our field of observation then indeed its mass and energy must be constant if the laws of physics as we know it remain true throughout the remainder of the Universe. But there's no evidence to say that the universe is finite (it's probably impossible to know since we can only test the Observable Universe). If the Universe is open/infinite (which is quite likely) then the "constant" mass and energy of the Universe is infinite. Which brings me to your stating of the second law of thermodynamics.

In the second law of thermodynamics you stated "The amount of energy available for work is running out, or entropy is increasing to a maximum." This is a horrific butchering of the second law. The second law of thermodynamics does indeed state that with each process the amount of available work decreases (ie energy degrades to the lower quality, unusable form of heat) but it says nothing about the Universe's usable energy running out. To make any statement about the Universe's non-heat energy running out it would have to be known before-hand that the Universe is finite since an infinite Universe would have an infinite amount of non-heat energy which would of course never run out. However as said before this is not known. In other words your phrasing of the second law is misleading and begs the question - it assumes the Universe is finite in order to make a statement which essentially says that the Universe is finite.

Lastly your first premise "Everything which has a beginning has a cause." is basically the Cosmological Argument and like the Cosmological Argument is taking the Law of Causality (a debated law to begin with) out of its context. The Law of Causality is an observation about our Universe and how it functions. It is a property of the Universe itself which is verified by the fact that causal relationships require spacio-temporal priority which is only possible within the context of the Universe. Extrapolating observations about our Universe to "outside" our Universe is nonsense or at very least unfounded. It would mean the Law of Causality transcends our Universe which contradicts its nature. This is akin to saying "before time" or talking about being physically outside of space or, a simpler example, speaking about sound in a vacuum.

I should clarify that Sarfati's mention of entropy in the universe running out isn't a particularly unscientific notion. The idea is called the theory of the heat death of the universe. The problem is that, just like the Big Bang theory, the theory of heat death is a scientific theory which is only speaking about the observable universe. I probably should have been more clear about that in my submission but by then I was speaking in the context that I understood Mr Sarfati was talking about the entire universe, not simply the observable universe.

To clarify on the problem of causality, as I said causality requires "spacio-temporal priority". That's just a fancy way of saying something can only be the cause of an effect if it happened somewhere in the vicinity yet outside of the effect (spacio priority), and only if it happened before the effect (temporal priority). "The Universe" in the theological sense essentially is all space and time. It's nonsense to talk about "before the universe" because it's the same as saying "before time" which is a meaningless statement. It's also nonsense to talk about "outside the universe" because it's the same as saying "outside space" which is also a meaningless statement. Since cause requires spacio-temporal priority, talking about the universe requiring a cause is combining both the absurdity of before time with the absurdity of outside space. So the Cosmological Argument is a load of nonsense. That's not to say that there is definitely no god, but it does mean that causality can say nothing about the origins of the universe.

Actually, I might have messed the terminoligy a bit. I think the original philosopher who argued this point was David Hume and he talked about Temporal Priority (Happened before) and Spacio-Temporal Contiguity (Happened in close proximity in space-time. Hume was a clever guy. Many arguments for the existance of God still in use today were demolished centuries ago by Hume.


AiG's First Reply

From: AndrewLamb <(Address Suppressed)>
To: (Address Suppressed)
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 16:26:42 +1000 (14:26 WST)

Dear Mr Marlow

Thank you for your email of 26 January.

I invite you to resubmit your comments via our web form, taking note of our 'Feedback Rules' listed at the right http://www.AnswersinGenesis.org/feedback/sendmail.aspx?TopicID=WebFeedback.

May I ask who it was that told you that the email address you used would be reliable?


My First Reply

From:Robert Marlow <(Address Suppressed)>
To: AndrewLamb <(Address Suppressed)>
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 16:14:19 +0800

Hi

I've submitted a previous version via the web form once already. I didn't get a response. My friend (Gordon Hewitt) who is a regular reader of your organisation's works told me he called Jonathan Sarfati to follow up on it and was told he hadn't received my message and that emailing admin@answersingenesis.com would be more reliable.

I'm not particularly interested in trying the web-based submission again. Partly because you clearly already have my message and also because I don't agree with the clause which says my work will become your property. If copyright is the issue, you have my express permission to reproduce my work on your website or any of your other works so long as it's not edited and my name is credited. Dividing my work with responses is fine so long as the work is as readable as it's original form and it's clear which parts are mine and which parts are not.
Thanks.

Noticing that not letting them remove my introduction part from the submission was unfair and unnecessary I then sent them the following ammendment to this email

From:Robert Marlow <(Address Suppressed)>
To: AndrewLamb <(Address Suppressed)>
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 16:51:55 +0800

Hello

A small adjustment to my previous email. If it is a problem for you, you may remove any or all of the following section:

I messaged using your web form earlier regarding the article http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp but apparently my message was lost. I'm emailing this address instead as I was told it would be reliable.

I've found some problems with this article. I'll use wikipedia as a reference since it's readily available to us both and usually pretty reliable:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermodynamics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics

This is where the problem began really. Their submission criteria for their submission form says (or did at the time of this writing):

Submissions become the property of Answers in Genesis.

(Screenshot of submission form at time of this writing)

Perhaps I'm being over-protective or over-paranoid or whatever, but I spent quite a lot of time writing my rebuttal of their article. I wanted to make sure what I said was correct and not open to trivial straw-man attacks. I'm not comfortable with just giving them ownership of my work for nothing. In particular, I'm still not sure whether I'd continue to have any legal say over them or anyone else failing to credit my work, or altering my work and falsely crediting the changes to me. It's not that I'd truly think they'd do such a thing but there's the principle of the matter and the uncertainty that they'd defend my work against others who might. If all they want is to have exclusive rights to reproduce my work, all they need is my word that I'll not give it to anyone else and that I've granted them rights to copy it. Once they have that in writing, which I freely gave them, I can't stop them from copying and publishing it.

I actually have a good friend who's a lawyer. I've asked for his feedback on this so I could find out whether I'd retain the legal rights I'm interested in if I submit via their form. Unfortunately he hasn't gotten back to me since he's far too busy. I've given up now and have lost the ability to give AiG an exclusive publishing of my submission by publishing it here. Nevertheless, if anyone knows what legal situation I'd be in (under Australian law) I'd be interested to hear. Feel free to fill me in using my blog related to this article at the bottom of this page.


AiG's Second Reply

From:AndrewLamb <(Address Suppressed)>
To: Robert Marlow <(Address Suppressed)<
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 14:44:20 +1000 (12:44 WST)

Dear Mr Marlow

Our rules are explicit --- AiG retains copyright. Unless you are willing to accept this and the other standard conditions (none of which are onerous) that our numerous other feedback correspondents readily accept, we cannot justify allocating further resources (staff time, etc.) to your emails.


My Second Reply

From:Robert Marlow <(Address Suppressed)>
To: AndrewLamb <(Address Suppressed)>
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 15:01:31 +0800

This insistence on ownership is extremely suspect. I've already offered you the right to copy my submission and there's no further right you'd need unless you wanted to do something underhanded. I'm sure AiG isn't that low. If there's something else you may want to do with my work other than publish it let me know and I'll consider granting the rights in writing. It's not that big a deal.

Jonathan Sarfati requested I email my submission to admin. The least you could do is forward it to him and let him decide what is to be done with it. It's not as if my submission was abusive or threatening.


AiG's Third Reply

From:AndrewLamb <(Address Suppressed)>
To: Robert Marlow <(Address Suppressed)>
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2005 17:00:45 +1000 (15:00 WST)

Dear Mr Marlow

As our volume of publishing, translating, etc. has grown, we have found it more and more imperative to adopt standardized permissions / copyright etc. formalities. There is nothing very unusual about our conditions - some publishers will only deal with materials for which they themselves hold the copyright.

Consider the following two hypothetical scenarios:

1) We decide to produce a CD version of our website

2) A Russian millionaire sponsors a complete translation of our website into Russian

In either of these cases, not holding copyright to items on our website could potentially create prohibitive difficulties for us.

Our feedback conditions are no more malicious or sinister than is the standard disclaimer that appears at the end of our outgoing emails, to which you have not objected. And yet at least one antagonistic correspondent has perceived sinister intent in our email disclaimer. Attached are the relevant excerpts from the email exchange. I trust you will agree that their complaint was a bit hysterical, and their fears unwarranted.

Attached is the text of another email, from several years ago, which may also help make clear that our feedback conditions are merely a necessary formality, that, as a large and growing publisher dealing in multiple languages and media, we consider it prudent to adopt.

Many organizations that receive submissions from the public stipulate that the submissions become the property of the organization. Think of breakfast cereal competitions, for example.

Other contributors of feedback, including negative feedback, have not complained about our conditions, and none of our contributors have had difficulties arise from our ownership / copyright condition. If you wish to have us address the points you raised in your substantive email of 26 January, please accept our conditions.

I have no idea why Mr Lamb sent me those two emails. They're completely irrelevant. The first email was some guy ranting about the "if you're not the intended recipient of this email..." disclaimer at the bottom of AiG emails (pretty common, despite being useless and annoying, among large organisations these days). The second email was one of Mr Wieland agreeing to participate in a forum debate so long as AiG is permitted to publish the results. So what? I've already said they can publish my work. In fact I *wanted* them to.

I haven't included those emails because they're a completely irrelevant tangent and I don't see any merit in flaunting emails belonging to third parties without their consent. I have no idea what possessed Mr Lamb to think it was a good idea to start sending out other peoples' emails in such a manner.


My Third Reply

From: Robert Marlow [(Address Suppressed)]
Sent: Tuesday 1 February 2005 5:59 PM
To: AndrewLamb
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp

Hello again

To clarify, I've said that, as the owner of the previous submission, I freely give you permission to copy my submission and use it in whatever publication you choose so long as it remains recognisable and true to it's original form as I've described in my previous emails. For copying purposes my wish to retain ownership in no way hinders your publications rights since I've written an express permit for you to publish. I won't complain if you publish my submission in a recognisable manner and I legally can't since I've formally given you permission. You even have at least one other witness in Gordon Hewitt.

My wish to retain ownership is merely to ensure I retain credit for what I've written and to ensure that I retain modification rights. I don't see what you'd gain taking that from me unless you wanted to do something underhanded such as plagiarise or missquote (which I doubt is your objective).

Since I've given you publication/copying rights (as well as some modification rights) both your examples 1 and 2 should be no problem to you. Please understand I'm not trying to restrict your freedom to use my submission in publication, I'm merely trying to retain ownership of what I've worked on. Even in your second attachment all you ask of the group is publishing rights which I've already granted you in anticipation. If copying and publication rights are all you're interested in, I urge you to consider changing your submission criteria to something such as a declaration of granting freedom to publish with each submission. That would be much less foreboding to people wanting to submit who want to keep control of their submission while ensuring you have only the rights you need for publication.

I'm sure we can come to an agreement where we both get what we want here. As I've said, I've granted you publishing/copying rights as well as some limited modification rights. If there's any other rights at all you feel you need in order to be comfortable, just ask and I'll consider it; I'm willing to negotiate. I really would like to have my submission read and responded to.

Though I've removed it from the headers because it's largely irrelevant, all these emails were Cc'd to Gordan Hewitt. Hence him being a witness.


AiG's Fourth Reply

From:AndrewLamb <(Address Suppressed)>
To: Robert Marlow <(Address Suppressed)>
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2005 11:39:10 +1000 (09:39 WST)

Mr Marlow

We process massive volumes of correspondence and have neither the resources nor the inclination to indulge in arranging special individualized conditions just for you. A clause transferring ownership/copyright to the publisher is standard on submission forms to academic journals. And at the lay level, hundreds of competitions are run all the time by magazines, manufacturers, etc., and those involving creative input invariably have a clause of the type 'all entries become the property of the company'.

For us to make any special conditions for you would be tantamount to concurring that the insulting, outrageous and baseless suspicions you have put forward have merit, whereas they do not. And since you apparently consider us so dishonest, it is highly incongruous that you should want us to read and respond to a submission from you.

We do not and have not done "something underhanded such as plagiarise or misquote". These suspicions of yours are entirely a product of your own mind, and/or your willingness to believe slander from unethical sources, and have no basis in reality. If you wish to persist in such self-delusion, that is your problem.

Mr Marlow you have already wasted an unjustifiably large share of our time, and I will not be able to pander to you with further direct correspondence. Any further direct emails you send will not be processed.

If you really want to have your submission read and responded to, you may submit it in the standard way via our web feedback form <http://www.AnswersinGenesis.org/feedback/sendmail.aspx?TopicID=WebFeedback>. Please note that due to the volume of emails we receive, we can not guarantee a quick reply to submissions. Some replies may take as long as several months.


My Fourth Reply

From:Robert Marlow <(Address Suppressed)>
To: AndrewLamb <(Address Suppressed)>
Subject: RE: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/197.asp
Date: Wed, 02 Feb 2005 10:03:10 +0800

Maybe you need to read my email again, Andrew. I wasn't accusing you of anything. Indeed I said I *doubt* those underhanded activities are your intention which is why I couldn't understand the submission requirements. I know you have to put up with a lot of nasty emails from people but try to see I'm not being nasty to you and your reaction is unwarranted. In any case, you've made it clear you will be adamant in this so I suppose that ends our exchange. Try not to get too stressed out over there, k? :)

And that's the last I heard from Andrew Lamb.


Phone Call Attempt

Having failed miserably at getting any cooperation from AiG via their email portal (namely Andrew Lamb), Gordan Hewitt insisted I try calling Jonathan Sarfati myself in order to clear the mess up since he would supposedly be much more accommodating. I did this but had no recording equipment to record my conversation and generate a transcript here. However I wrote down what I could remember and emailed it to Mr Hewitt as evidence that I'd tried. Here is the relevant section of that email

I contacted Jonathan Sarfati on the number you gave me. I explained that I wanted to send him my article but my previous attempts had been intercepted at the admin address by Andrew Lamb. He said that I nevertheless have to send through that channel and he wouldn't give me a direct email address. I explained that Andrew Lamb wouldn't forward my email because I wouldn't pass ownership of my article. I explained I'd given copyright permission and Jonathan even agreed that that was all they needed. He still insisted I needed to go through admin@answersingenesis. I asked that since I had been unsuccessful sending my message through that channel previously was there another way. He said no. I suggested that I put my article up on a temporary web page, give him the web address and immediately take the page down once he'd received it ensuring he didn't have to give me his email address and ensuring that the article hasn't been "previously published elsewhere" in any meaningful way. The first time I suggested it he changed the subject and the second time he said that wasn't an option but refused to explain why. At that point I gave up, said my polite goodbyes and hung up.


Conclusion

Perhaps I'm missing something from AiG's perspective but to me it seems AiG is completely uninterested in cooperating in rational debate about their ideas. They made no effort to accommodate me in responding to my objections. Frankly, to me it just looks like they're avoiding the more difficult objections. Especially after hearing how casually Mr Sarfati himself dismissed me.

Admittedly this problem *may* have been avoided had I just given in and handed them full rights over my work. I don't know. I suspect they still wouldn't have responded but I guess now I'll never know. Given Mr Sarfati agreed with me that I'd given them all they needed and still wouldn't allow me to send him my submission I doubt our disagreement over rights had much to do with anything at all.

I truly don't see what problem Andrew Lamb had with accepting my submission. I'd explicitly said I'll give them copyright and any other reasonable right upon request. I just wasn't willing to say "this is now your work and I retain no hold over it". It still seems to me that there was no benefit to them in insisting that they have full ownership of my work other than the freedom to potentially misrepresent my work or simply to use our disagreement as an excuse to shrug off my objections.


Contact

If you want to contact me about this page, I've mentioned it in my blog. To contact me Visit the blog entry and leave a comment.