Exchanges between Dr. Hugh Ross and Dr. Russell Humphreys
In response to repeated inquiries about public statements made by Dr. Russell Humphreys concerning his desire to debate Dr. Hugh Ross about differences between young-earth vs. old-earth cosmic creation models, Dr. Ross posted a general statement about the necessary parameters for such a debate in August of 2002.
Why won’t Hugh Ross debate Russell Humphreys?
I have interacted with Russell Humphreys in the past, both on radio and in print. I have also spent time with him in private and in front of his apologetics group at Los Alamos. I know several other astronomers who have tried to engage him in dialogue. From our perspective, his response is always the same. He ignores the main points we raise and deals instead with side issues. He looks for every opportunity to attack our credentials, character, and competency. Is it really rational to believe that all of Dr. Humphreys’s critics are incompetent and lacking in integrity and Christian principles? For these reasons I have informed Dr. Humphreys and his associates that I will engage in future debates or dialogues with him only in the presence of physicists and astronomers. I have already offered to dialogue with him in front of the physics and astronomy departments at the University of Texas and at Arizona State. Both faculties include Christian scholars.
Unfortunately, Dr. Humphreys has rejected my offer and conditions. Instead, he insists on debating me in a room filled with lay-people or non-specialists who are ill-equipped to grasp the fine details of Dr. Humphreys’s highly complex model and to spot what I believe are its glaring scientific problems. Only in a responsible, academic environment can our two models be put to the test to see which one is adequately supported by the record of nature and the words of the Bible.
We are planning in the future to have Webcast dialogues with young-earth creationist leaders. We are looking for individuals who, like John Mark Reynolds, will enter such dialogues in a spirit of Christian liberty and civility and will refrain from name-calling. Our intent is not to debate but to let these leaders say what they believe, where they agree with us, where they disagree with us, and why. That’s the kind of information people need and want to hear.
This statement was intended to be a brief answer to a common question received by our Correspondence Department, not a personal or “open letter” to Dr. Humphreys.
Monday, June 23, 2003
On Monday, June 23, 2003, a constituent drew a staff member’s attention to a post on the web site of the Institute for Creation Research by Dr. Russell Humphreys, entitled, “Hugh Ross Avoids Debating Russ Humphreys … Again.”
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Then, on Tuesday, June 24, 2003, during the Creation Update broadcast, we discussed a critique of Humphreys cosmological model by another young-earth creationist, and also made a few brief, clarifying comments about the parameters under which a debate between Drs. Ross and Humphreys could occur. After the broadcast ended, Dr. Ross and another RTB staff member revised the original statement on the RTB web site in order to clarify the conditions under which Dr. Ross would engage in a debate with Dr. Humphreys. Our intent was to augment the statement and make the parameters more clear.
Hugh Ross proposes a debate with Russell Humphreys
I have interacted with Russell Humphreys in the past, both on radio and in print. I have also spent time with him in private and in front of his apologetics group at Los Alamos. I know several other astronomers who have tried to engage him in dialogue. From their perspective and mine, his response is always the same: He ignores the main points we raise and deals instead with side issues. He looks for every opportunity to attack our credentials, character, and competency. (Is it really rational to believe that all Dr. Humphreys’ critics are incompetent and lacking in integrity and Christian principles?)
Given this experience, I have informed Dr. Humphreys and his associates that I will engage in future debates or dialogues with him only in a responsible, academic environment where our two models can be put to the test to see which one is best supported by the observational data. This venue will also help ensure that the audience can grasp the fine details of Dr. Humphreys’s highly complex model.
I would welcome an academic debate with Dr. Humphreys under these specific – and reasonable – conditions:
- It must be a private, closed-door colloquium (not open to the general public) with at least 15 physicists and astronomers (Ph.D.s) present and prepared to ask rigorous questions about each model.
- The colloquium must be held at a university that has a reputable astronomy department, or at a government facility whose primary research objective is astronomy. Examples include these: University of Washington, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of Texas, Rice University, University of Florida, UCLA, UCSB, UC Berkley, UC Irvine, University of Wisconsin, Caltech, MIT, Harvard, University of Maryland, Goddard – Greenbelt, NRAO, and NOAO.
- Each presenter would have 45 minutes to present his model, followed by 1 to 2 hours of questions from each participant on the scholar panel.
It is my hope that Dr. Humphreys would enter a responsible academic debate in a spirit of Christian liberty and civility. By putting our interpretations of Scripture and nature to the test, I hope we can promote greater unity in the Body of Christ.
August 2002, rev. June 24, 2003
Thursday, June 26, 2003
On Thursday, June 26, Dr. Humphreys posted a response to our Web cast and revised debate statement, entitled, “Make a Reasonable Offer, Dr. Ross!”
In response to Dr. Humphreys June 26 post, Dr. Ross attempted to again clarify his position.
Hugh Ross Proposes a Debate with Russell Humphreys
Response to Dr. Russell Humphreys’ Open Letter of June 26, 2003
Dear Dr. Humphreys:
Please allow me to clear up some misunderstandings about (and in) the public exchange between us. First, the Web posting from last August (“Why won’t Hugh Ross debate Russ Humphreys?”) does not represent my public response to your private letter of March 2002. Rather, that posting was a response to several public charges and complaints against me for my supposed unwillingness (or “fear”) to debate you. It seemed (and still seems) reasonable to conclude that such charges arose from public comment. And they did not, to my knowledge, come from anything I said or wrote.
To be honest, I see no good reason for you “to demonstrate the deficiencies of ‘progressive creationism’ to [my] supporters and to make a good case for young-earth creationism,” as you propose. You clearly can and do present to the world your views on progressive creation (which are not exactly my views, by the way) and your case for a 144-hour creation. You are free to critique any creation model you wish, including mine and including the big bang, wherever and however you choose. You do not need a verbal competition with me to do so. My supporters, as well as yours, have access to your views and mine.
Second, I still disagree with you that the conditions I set on a debate are unreasonable and that yours are reasonable. To describe academic institutions as my “home turf” because they accept the big bang misses a significant point: You describe astronomers, in particular, as “economically and religiously” committed to the big bang when, ironically, they have been pushed—by the preponderance of evidence—to accept it. For decades they fought against it, especially for its implications about the Creator. Billions of dollars have been invested in studying it—mainly for the sake of finding an escape from it! And each effort to find a loophole has served to tighten the case for it—which presents problems for those who dislike its consistency with biblical cosmology.
The reason I want Ph.D. astronomers and only Ph.D. astronomers present at any discussion between us is this: your model depends on theoretical assumptions that the astronomical observations contradict. I fully respect your right to develop such a theory, one that describes a “possible world,” as long as people understand that such a world does not comport with the real world. The conflict with observations must be clarified so that everyone has a sound basis for evaluation. Incidentally, I am willing to engage in this discussion at Los Alamos Labs or any other government or private institution, provided the audience is limited to research astronomers (about 15 or more with Ph.D.s would seem a good number).
Personally, I see no biblical reason to posit “possible” young-earth scenarios. Scripture stands as the inerrant word of God whether or not one interprets the days as long epochs. A few-billion-years-old Earth is woefully too young to sustain any plausible naturalistic theory, and the Bible is not proved “untrue” if the days are long or if the big bang is an accurate depiction of God’s transcendent moment of creation.
Yes, I do care what the audience thinks. I want people to know what I believe, not what you tell them I believe. I want people to understand that I reject your creation model because the observations do not support it, not because it disagrees with mine. I want people to understand that scientists reject your model for scientific reasons, not because you’re a Christian. Many of those who reject it ARE Christians who embrace the truth of Scripture. And the same is true of those who accept it, of course.
I appreciate your assurances that you would treat me “politely,” but politeness isn’t really what I ask. Respect is, and I have no basis for believing you would treat me with respect. Consider your past comments and implications, especially your suggestion that I could be telling a “deliberate, blatant, self-serving lie” about my reasons for declining your offers to debate on the terms you proposed.
Sincerely in Christ,
August 2002, rev. July 2, 2003
Sunday, July 6, 2003
Dr. Humphreys responded to Dr. Ross with another “open letter” dated Sunday, July 6, 2003 on the ICR web site, entitled, “You’re getting closer, Dr. Ross!”
Tuesday, July 8, 2003
Now it seems that Dr. Humphreys wants to widen the debate from addressing one topic, namely differences between cosmological models, to a variety of other topics. Dr. Ross is open to addressing other issues in separate debates at a later time, but firmly believes that the first debate between them should concern the differences in their cosmological models under the conditions he has previously described. Debates on the other matters that Dr. Humphreys is suggesting should be done in an orderly way, one issue at a time, in front of scholars holding Ph.D.s in the respective relevant discipline.
Furthermore, in the two most recent “open letters” Dr. Humphreys concludes by saying that he is sending a copy of his letter privately, in addition to posting it on the ICR web site. However, as of 07-08-2003, after thoroughly rechecking our email databases and the pieces of U.S. Mail received within the last 30 days, we have yet to receive ANY mail of any kind from Dr. Humphreys. The only communication we have received from Dr. Humphreys within the last 30 days is through his public postings on the ICR web site.
Wednesday, July 9, 2003
On Friday, June 27, 2003 at 5:11 PM, Dr. Humphreys emailed a volunteer from our Seattle chapter a copy of his “open letter” to Dr. Ross dated Thursday, June 26, 2003. This communication was forwarded to us and received in the main office in Glendora, CA on Tuesday, July 8, 2003 at 4:55 PM. The delay between these two events was caused by the fact that the recipient of the email in Seattle was under a doctor’s supervision due to coronary problems.
On Monday, July 7, 2003 at 6:47 PM, Dr. Humphreys emailed our Denver, Seattle, Spokane and Huntsville chapters a copy of another “open letter” to Dr. Ross dated Sunday, July 6, 2003. This communication was forwarded to us and received in the main office in Glendora, CA on Tuesday, July 8, 2003 at 5:12 PM.
We are unsure as to why Dr. Humphreys decided to communicate through our volunteers around the country rather than through the usual channels, such as the email or U.S. Mail addresses posted on our web site.
Even though Dr. Humphreys criticized Dr. Ross in his June 26 letter for not communicating with him privately, Dr. Humphreys did not send his letters to our chapter offices until AFTER his “open letters” had already been posted on the ICR web site.
Sunday, September 7, 2003
On Sunday, September 7 at 12:59 PM, Dr. Humphreys emailed our Seattle chapter the following letter.
Dear Seattle Ross office:
How does Dr. Ross respond to the RATE project's startling new scientific evidence for a young earth? See http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2003/0821rate.as and the papers it references. If the earth is young, then how could the Big Bang theory (which demands an old earth) be true? If the Big Bang theory is not valid, then doesn't that invalidate Dr. Ross's entire theology?
I'm asking you because the Reasons to Believe website does not seem to have an e-mail address to which I can send such questions. Did I miss it?
D. R. Humphreys
This communication was forwarded to the main office in Glendora, CA on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 at 6:14 PM.
On Monday, September 15, 2003 at 2:42 PM, Dr. Fuz Rana replied to Dr. Humphreys with the following letter.
Dear Dr. Humphreys,
I just received your email sent to us via our Seattle, WA Chapter of volunteers. It appears that you are having difficulty figuring out how to contact us directly at our offices:
For the future, here are some options:
You can email me directly and I will pass your correspondence to Dr. Ross. Even though you and I have corresponded by email in the past here is my email address: [deleted for privacy].
You can also email us at Feedback@reasons.org. You seem to have had problems finding this address. I was concerned that maybe this email address was not easy to find on our web site. So I tried looking for it. Its quite straight forward, click on the “contact us” button on the top of our home page, and there it is! For your reference: http://www.reasons.org/forms/index.shtml (2009 new website link is http://www.reasons.org/contact-us)
As to the RATE study, we will address this on our next Creation Update Primetime program, broadcast live Thursday, September 18, 2003 from 6:00-8:00 pm PST. You can access the program via our web site. Please feel free to call in live during the program. In case you can’t find the phone number for the web cast, it’s 1-866-782-7234.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
On Thursday, September 18, we devoted an entire 2 hour live webcast to the topic of radiometric dating and invited any young-earth creationists who were listening to call with their questions for Dr. Ross, Dr. Rana or our guest, geochemist, Roger Wiens. This broadcast can be listened to in its entirety through the Creation Update archives.
Neither Dr. Humphreys nor any other critic of radiometric dating called during this broadcast.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
On Tuesday, September 23 at 12:59 PM, Dr. Humphreys emailed Fuz Rana the following letter. He also sent carbon copies of this letter to each of our chapters.
Late last night the Institute for Creation Research website posted a news note of mine about an article in the September 30 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): http://www.icr.org/headlines/whiteholecosmology.html. The PNAS article advocates a "white-hole" cosmology whose fundamental features are the same as the one I described in 1994 in my book <Starlight and Time>, and in subsequent journal articles. In the last paragraph of my news note, I mention Dr. Ross as having attacked that cosmology for many years. I'd certainly be interested in comments from you or him about the matter.
I'm sending a copy of this to all of RTB's regional offices to keep them informed.
Sincerely in Christ,
Later that day, Fuz Rana replied to Dr. Humphreys with the following letter.
Dear Dr. Humphreys,
Thanks for the update. We responded to the PNAS paper and your news commentary on it during our Creation Update program today (9/23/03).
As to sending items to our regional offices: Thanks for your concern that they stay informed. However, it really isn’t necessary, since we employ a number of means to keep them updated.