Lobster Man

From a strip-mall office on the Twin Cities fringe, a lab researcher-turned-Bible radio star lectures the nation

To him, it's the most compelling evidence that evolution is hogwash: "The ape has a bacculum, a bone in the penis. Man does not. If we really evolved from apes, that bone had to become a pneumatic device that worked right the first time--because you have to produce another generation."

Monkey genitalia isn't a topic a man of God can discuss at too great a length, so Ian Taylor closes the subject with a dismissive wave of the hand--"This is just an example that appeals to man's imagination"--and moves on to more pressing matters. Like the recent creationist victory in Kansas, where the state Board of Education voted in August to remove evolution from the state's recommended science curriculum; the decision, two months later, by the Kentucky Education Department to erase the word "evolution" from its guidelines in favor of "change over time;" and the move by a suburban Detroit school board to order library books that cast evolution in an unfavorable light. It's "an exciting time for us," Taylor concludes.

"Us" is Creation Moments Inc., which calls itself the oldest creationist organization in North America. Founded in 1964 as the Bible-Science Association by a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor named Walter Lang, the group is headquartered an hour northwest of the Twin Cities in the tiny town of Zimmerman. To Christian-radio listeners around the nation, it is known as the originator of Creation Moments, a daily two-minute show heard in the Twin Cities at 8:20 p.m. on WCTS (1030 AM). Taylor is the show's vaguely leprechaunish voice, and the driving force behind Creation Moments Inc.

Todd Mitchell

When the British native and naturalized Canadian citizen joined the organization in 1996, the show was being carried by only a few hundred stations. Today--thanks in part to his reputation as an author--the number is up to 1123. In creation circles, Taylor is known as the author of In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order. First published in 1984, the book is now in its seventh printing, with more than 20,000 copies sold.

For a time Taylor worked out of the Zimmerman offices, located in a small strip mall between a real estate agency and a hair salon. But in 1997 immigration regulations forced him to relocate to Toronto. "When Ian left, it was devastating," says Luann Strombeck, the office's manager and only full-time staffer. "We have no one else but him." But with the help of phone, e-mail, fax, and monthly CD pressings, Taylor was able to continue hosting Creation Moments and serve as the group's director. He still visits frequently; recently he combined a trip to Zimmerman with a speaking engagement at the convention of the Association of Christian Schools International, held at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center.

Taylor is a thin man with wavy white hair and eyebrows that slope precipitously toward his nose when at rest and seem to take on a life of their own when in motion. He's an animated talker whose mode of speaking is perfectly suited to a two-minute daily show; he darts from topic to topic at brief intervals, often with no noticeable transition.

First, of course, there's evolution, which Taylor calls "today's reigning paradigm," with the emphasis on "today's": He does not believe the theory will hold up much longer. It should not be taught in schools, he explains, because "it's really a religion based on faith, with its own book--Darwin's Origin of Species, and apostles like [writers and scientists] Stephen Jay Gould and Stephen Hawking."

In his radio show, Taylor relishes opportunities to point out Darwinism's weak spots--problems identified, he notes, by evolution scientists themselves. His preferred theory is called "irreducible complexity," a term popularized by Lehigh University professor Michael Behe's 1996 book Darwin's Black Box.

According to the theory, complex natural structures such as DNA, the human ear, or (a Taylor favorite) lobsters, are too intricate to have come about by accident: They must have been put together purposefully by an "intelligent designer," a.k.a. God. Taylor's radio show (with scriptwriting assistance from Minneapolis minister Paul Bartz) is based almost exclusively on Behe's postulates, notes Dr. Henry Morris, president emeritus of the San Diego-based Institute for Creation Research, the nation's largest creationist organization. "The program is primarily [about] evidence of complex design in various plants and animals."

A typical show poses the question "Are Giraffes Clothed in Anti-Gravity Suits?" and continues with a paean to the specific blood-vessel structure that allows the creatures to bend their necks without having blood back up in their heads. It sounds like a miniature National Geographic special--until the punch line: "If life owes its very existence to chance and genetic mistakes, why, there would be no giraffes today. What a wonder of God's design these stately creatures really are." Then a deeper voice announces the phone number of the Zimmerman office--(800) 42-BIBLE--and a brass fanfare concludes the show.

In his public talks, Taylor takes on topics such as "Can You Trust Your Textbook?," "Those Fascinating Dinosaurs," and "The Baconian Method of Science." The last is a history lecture that traces the evolution of science from the days when Renaissance-era English philosopher Francis Bacon first outlined a method of research--"a real swindle," interjects Taylor--that relied on observation and excluded preconceptions such as religious belief.

"A little background," Taylor announces at this point, then embarks on a favorite tangent--Freemason infiltration in religion and science. "Look at Bacon's bookplate," he announces as the slide projector brings up the image of a woodcut. "It's loaded with Masonic symbols." Taylor points out obelisks, water--"looks like the ocean, but it's the Masonic Sea of Learning," and an owl: "It's the symbol of wisdom, not God's wisdom, by the way--human wisdom. The Lord takes a dim view of that." The Earle Brown audience, some 50 evangelical teachers, is riveted.

Throughout the session Taylor will talk about science in the tone of a university professor, frequently citing the observations of Behe and other researchers. But each account of a scientific argument is accompanied by a footnote on faith: "He was a Christian, this chap, knew the Bible by heart" (about Lord Macaulay, a philosopher who challenged Bacon). "Not a religious man" (on science philosopher Karl Popper). Geologists come in for special ridicule because, Taylor explains, "they claim that carbon dating and fossil layers can prove their points. But they don't. In the real fossil record, horses and dinosaurs and man are all together. Men and dinosaurs walked the earth together--they were created together by God." That most scientists reject this interpretation of the fossil record doesn't bother him much: After all, he claims, these are the same scientists who have suppressed evidence that dinosaurs may still exist in the depths of the oceans and remote parts of Africa.

If scientists are only as good as their Christian pedigree, Taylor's background is less than immaculate: He was a nonbelieving metallurgist until 1974, the year he developed a stomach ulcer and got curious about the healing evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman. At a Kuhlman service in Pittsburgh, he recalls, "I sat in the front row and saw miracles that I would have never believed had I not seen them. Two blind middle-aged women received their sight and I saw the tears of joy. They had never seen each other before." He stepped forward to accept God right then and there, and his ulcer soon disappeared.

Twenty-five years later, Taylor is considered a stalwart of the creationist cause. Morris calls him "a fine scientist, fine gentleman, good writer, good thinker." He's also among the top exponents of a national movement that, according to its supporters, is about to reclaim creationism's rightful place in public education. Only this time, Taylor and others say, the theory will not be taught as religion: It will come buttressed by scientific argument.

Ironically, says Molleen Matsumura, network project director for the El Cerrito, California-based National Center for Science Education, it was a Supreme Court opinion in favor of evolution that brought about the change. In its 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, the high court struck down a 1981 Louisiana law requiring that public schools teach both creationism and evolution. The opinion cited the constitutional separation of church and state and noted that the law advanced a "religious doctrine." But--and here's what creationists found encouraging--the justices went on to say that instruction in "a variety of scientific theories about the origins of mankind might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction."

Morris, of the Institute for Creation Research, knows the decision well--and it's fine by him. "They said that you cannot teach Biblical creation in public schools," he explains. "At the Institute for Creation Research, the push has always been to teach scientific evidence behind creation and evolution and let the student make up his own mind. The evolutionists are afraid of that."

Matsumura doesn't buy it. "The key word is scientific," she says, adding that Taylor's pet theory, for example, fails the test: "If you take irreducible complexity, the whole point of it is, 'We don't have an explanation here--it's too complicated.' It's the opposite of scientific theory."

In Minnesota, the current poster child for the creation-science cause is a Faribault schoolteacher named Rodney LeVake. After teaching a curriculum that included evidence against evolution, he was reassigned last year from biology to freshman science, where neither theory is discussed. In June LeVake filed suit in Rice County District Court for more than $50,000 in damages, charging discrimination based on religion. A trial in the case is scheduled for June 2000. LeVake's case is backed by the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal-defense organization based in Virginia. Frank Manion, senior regional counsel for the group's Midwest office, says there's "an awful lot of interest in it, some of it related to the [creationist victory in] Kansas."

At Creation Moments' Zimmerman office, public interest in creationism sometimes threatens to overwhelm Luann Strombeck. The heaviest user of the local post office, she spent a recent day preparing to mail out some 4,500 catalogs offering videos, pamphlets, and books with titles like Someone's Making a Monkey Out of You. But the envelope-stuffing keeps getting interrupted by phone calls, mostly from people who've heard Taylor's show and want to know more. Strombeck, a self-taught research librarian, zips through the rows of metal file cabinets containing the group's files to answer most of the questions herself; only the toughest ones get passed on to Taylor, she says.

Today one caller is interested in the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 and a recent Creation Moments installment, "Feathered Pilots," that compared a Boeing 767 with a bird in flight. Strombeck digs up the relevant script, which describes how young birds follow the same landing sequences as a Boeing jet. "The principles of flight [were] refined by over 80 years of man's experience," it concludes, "[but] simply taught to the birds by our loving Creator."

Before leaving the Twin Cities on just such a jet, Strombeck's boss offers a parting caution on the excommunication of Galileo. Sure, he notes, the hierarchy that condemned his discoveries was Roman Catholic, not nondenominational like Creation Moments. Still, Taylor muses, "Galileo is a warning to the church not to be dogmatic about things they know nothing about. What is theory today could be dogma tomorrow.

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