Four items appear bellow:

1 From Atheism to Theism,                            Jerry Bergman
2 Bergman Encouraging and Convincing,    Eric Bruton
3 Bergman's "Believerism",                           John H. Williams
4 Regarding John H. Williams,                      Jerry Bergman



From Atheism to Theism

Jerry Bergman

(Investigator 91, 2003 July)


As far back as I can remember, I have always had a strong interest in science. My father, a electrical engineer graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit, often brought home a variety of scientific instruments that he used in conjunction with his scientific research work and outside projects. Our basement was cluttered with books, chemicals, machinery, and general scientific paraphernalia, and my father would often show me the purpose of an instrument or the theory behind its use.  He designed a variety of science teaching tools, one of which, an 8 by 10 foot silk-screened periodic table, was for years in general use at Wayne State University and many other universities around the country.

When in the sixth grade, I took a great interest in astronomy, space travel, and related topics. As a result of this interest I formed an "astronomy club." My teacher, Mrs. Flickinger, was very supportive of my science interest and allowed me to make several presentations to other classes on astronomy and space travel.  One of the teachers was so pleased with our astronomy club activities that she called our local paper, the Royal Oak Tribune, to feature an article about the club, of which I was then president. The Tribune ran the article and, as a result, I was privileged to make a presentation before the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and answer their many questions about astronomy and space science. From this experience I decided I wanted to be a science professor.  I continued to have a great interest in science throughout high school and college. 

Because in the eighth grade we were on half days, I was able to come in early for two or three hours each morning to work in the junior high school science lab with my science teacher, Mr. Courtney. This experience proved of great benefit, and earned me several recognition awards for science extra curricular activities.  My interest began to widen out somewhat in high school and I joined the yearbook and school paper staff, doing some writing, layout work and a great deal of photography. 

I was eventually appointed chief photographer and, also at this time, started doing some freelance photography for the local newspapers and general portraiture and weddings.  Also, while still in high school, I started working at a small Royal Oak hospital called Oakland Center Hospital.  Work at this hospital alerted me to the enormous sufferings that humans are obliged to undergo, and it is here that I developed an interest in medicine. I started out teaching at the elementary level, then in a high school and, eventually, the community college level and, finally, at a university at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Most of my teaching was in science, from a high school science teacher and, later, a college biology professor (I have taught at the college level for over 30 years now).


Enter Religion
   
I was an active Jehovah's Witness for over 20 years of my life, from around age 10 to age 30. One of my aunts became a Witness in the 1940s and, later, my mother converted in the middle 1950s, and, last, my other aunt became a Witness. As a result most of my immediate family became Witnesses. I was for this reason raised around this faith, and soon become very involved. I was eventually appointed a servant (a book study conductor and ministerial school servant) a position later called "elders"). I even did some writing and research for the Watchtower writing department. My study of the Watchtower, first undertaken to defend them, eventually caused me to doubt the truth of Watchtower teachings. Then came a crisis of conscience. When I left the Watchtower (another long story) I was totally disillusioned with all religion, the Bible, and God. I became very involved in atheist groups, and even became the faculty adviser to University atheists.

When leaving the Witnesses, I found out so many things that I "knew" with confidence were true were, in fact, not true. Thus, in building a world-view that was based on reality (and not myth or the ideas of people), I had to begin somewhere. All too many ideas I learned from bitter experience were nothing more than wishful thinking, such as many of those that were part of Watchtower theology.   

Like the famous philosopher Rene Descartes, I was forced to make a fresh start—to doubt virtually everything. Everything my textbooks and teachers told me, and all my cherished beliefs. Descartes concluded that the only things he did not need to doubt was that he himself existed ("I think, therefore I am"), that the external world exists, and that God existed. These were the starting points of Descartes's famous philosophy. In contrast, I began only with I and the external world existed, and then endeavored to build up from this point. Descartes then taught that to prove anything, one must start, not with faith, but with doubt.  As happened with Descartes, I too, in my thirty-year quest, reached orthodox Christian theological conclusions. 

Like Descartes, I too began with the idea that the entire world behaved mechanically and could be understood only by the laws of science (or at least this was for me a viable beginning point). The period of doubt, though, would be for me also a period of growth.  I no longer would accept what I was told as a young man, but would research and question each basic assumption that I held. I began researching the foundational belief, whether God exists. There were only two basic explanations for the existence of the created world and life; that these things were created by an outside intelligence or they were not.  Since I concluded that the external world exists, the only other possibility was that they created themselves (i.e. naturalistic evolution). 

This starting point, consequently, was naturalism versus theism, the great question that all else hinges on when building a world view. My interest in creationism stemmed from my interest in science. If evolutionism (often called Darwinism or neoDarwinism) was true, my question was answered. There is no need for God and, thus, he probably does not exist (and if he does, he is irrelevant in the affairs of humans). Thus began my quest to determine whether or not evolutionism was true. I realized this was an enormous subject that would take a lifetime of study, but I optimistically concluded that it could be answered (or at least I would try to answer the question). This was an assumption, but I had to begin somewhere.

Since I had become disillusioned with the Watchtower, and found them to be anything but honest, I distrusted any and all religious literature (even on the topic of creation/evolution).  I had read some of this material before, but most all of my reading and studying for college was material that had been written by evolutionists. I even wanted to name my son after Ashley Montague, the famous anthropologist who had written many books that I had read (my wife did not like that name, and so we went with her choice, the biblical Aaron which we spelled Aeron).

I began with the most basic evidence for evolution, that found in standard college biology textbooks in the chapters on evolution (I used the textbook that I had used in college).  I assumed that the author had carefully studied the subject and had outlined in his textbook the most powerful (and most well supported) proofs of evolutionism.  I also consulted other textbooks and found the same set of proofs were common to most all of them. I also reviewed many books on evolution, and from them outlined the chief evidence for evolution. This evidence included vestigial organs, homology, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, beneficial mutations, evidence of poor design, the fossil record, atavisms, nascent organs, the argument from imperfection, natural selection, microevolution versus macroevolution, the so-called flaws in design, shared genetic errors, the backward retina, junk DNA, and other topics. 

In determining if evolutionism was true, it soon became apparent that some questions were more difficult to answer than others.  Of the set of proofs that I encountered, I concluded that the easiest one to answer would be "do vestigial organs exist?"  At one time it was claimed that over 130 vestigial organs existed in humans, and I knew that the list had been shortened since then. I selected the examples I commonly found and began the library research using only secular academic literature (which I wrongly concluded then was unbiased) to determine whether or not these structures were, in fact, vestigial. I reasoned that this would be an easy question to answer because all I had to do is find out if these organs have a clear and important function, or if they were useless, serving no function what-so-ever (or served functions that were important in an evolutionary ancestor, but were unnecessary, or worse deleterious, today in humans).
   
One by one, I found clear, important, functions for most all of the putative vestigial organs commonly listed in humans—loss of some were actually life threatening, such as the thymus and pineal gland. I found the claims that many examples were vestigial was due to poor scholarship and lack of awareness of the relevant medical or biological literature, such as the plica semi similunaris. This research eventually resulted in a paper that I presented at an American Scientific Affiliation conference. This research later resulted in several published papers and, eventually, a full-length book.  After several years of research, my list dwindled to nothing (at least for humans) and so I began working on animals, and largely found the same thing (although much less is known about animal structures, and thus less research is available, consequently, some of these areas cannot be answered yet).

I then selected the next topic and again delved into the secular literature, producing several articles, monographs, or book chapters on my findings.  Slowly, but surely, I was able to eliminate all of the main arguments used to support evolutionism by researching secular literature only (and I am still working on further refining my research). This is why the reviewers noted in my early papers on creationism that I did not cite any creationist sources (and often had to add them after the paper was accepted "to acknowledge creationist research in this area").  At some point I crossed the line, realizing the case against evolutionism was overwhelming and, conversely, the case in favor of the alternative, creationism, was likewise overwhelming. My research eventually caused me to reject the macroevolution scenario based on mutations as the ultimate source of the original genetic information from which natural selection selected. 

If this is the case, why are there so many evolutionists? It is my conclusion that the reason is because many are true believers, just as the Witnesses are (Hoffer, 1951). I had vividly experienced this mind set in the Watchtower: when I presented a concern to the brothers, they would rationalize the concern away (or argue that it was of no importance). When I would show them documentation in the literature (such as the many changes in Watchtower teaching) they would rationalize it as the light getting "brighter and brighter" as the end of this old world (and the start of the new) comes closer. When I showed them that the changes were often back and forth, they would dismiss this concern by such rationalizations as "Jehovah's organization is teaching untruths in order to test the loyalty of his people!" Although many Witnesses became disillusioned and left (most all of my friends and all of my family eventually left), there is a core set of true believers for whom no amount of information will dissuade them from their beliefs. Despite the devastating case against the Watchtower, they still have around ten million adherents. 

Likewise, many evolutionists are true believers in the full sense of the word, most of whom have heard only one side in college or from the mass media (and very few of whom are aware of the weight of the evidence on the other side). Unfortunately, few people have the time or inclination to carefully investigate the case against Darwinism. Many people have, though. I have in my library over 5,000 books and monographs written by people critical of Darwinism—many were written by Ph.D. level scientists who are not creationists (or even Christians). And, unfortunately, the mainline churches tend to uncritically accept social convention, which today is evolutionism (a conformity that gets them in much trouble when fads change or when a fad proves wrong).  In Nazi Germany very few churches (and very few "Christians") openly spoke out against Naziism and the Holocaust, as has now been well documented (see Zahn, 1964 and 1962). Likewise, today the administration of most mainline churches openly support the naturalistic atheistic world view preached by Darwinists and oppose the overwhelming scientific case for an active creator theism (Johnson, 1995). 

Another factor that moved me to the creationist side was the under handed, often totally unethical, techniques that evolutionists typically used to suppress dissonant ideas, primarily creationism (Bergman, 1996). Rarely did they carefully and objectively examine the facts, but usually focused on suppression of creationists, denial of their degrees, denial of their tenure, ad hominem attacks, and, in general, irrational attacks against their person.  In short, their response in general was totally unscientific and one that reeks of intolerance, even hatred.

My review of the anti-creationist literature has forced me to conclude that it is, in general, appalling, not only because few anti-creationist writers understand the creation movement, but because most try to prove their point by using rhetorical techniques much as a debater would merely to win arguments. This method is very limited in helping a person determine what is, in fact, true, and is too much like the arguments that I rejected when I left the Witnesses. I actually found much similarity between evolution true believers and the Witness true believers. Only by letting the facts speak can reality be determined. True believerism, whether displayed by Witnesses or Darwinists, prevents the facts from speaking for themselves and, ultimately, prevents understanding reality.


References

Bergman, Jerry. 1984. The Criterion; Religious Discrimination in America.  Richfield, MN: Onesimus Publishing.
______________. 2002. "Religion and Medicine: The Christian Science Holocaust."  Humanist in Canada, 140:12-17, Spring.
Gruss, Edmond C.  2002.  Jehovah's Witnesses: Their Claims, Doctrinal Changes and Prophetic Speculation.  What Does the Record Show?  Fairfax, VA: Xulon Press.
Hoffer, Eric. 1951. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.  New York: Harper and Row.
Johnson, Phillip E.  1995.  Reason in the Balance; The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law & Education.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Zahn, Gordon.  1962.  German Catholics and Hitler's Wars; A Study in Social Control.  New York: Sheed and Ward.
___________    1968.  In Solitary Witness; The Life and Death of Franz Jaegerstaetter.  Boston, MA: Beacon Press (paperback edition).        


 




BERGMAN—ENCOURAGING AND CONVINCING

Eric Bruton

(Investigator 92, 2003 September)


I found Jerry Bergman's article "From Atheism to theism" (No. 91, July issue) very encouraging, particularly regarding experiences with Jehovah's Witnesses (J.W.) and the creation/evolution debate.

Not that I have personally been a member of the J.W. organisation, but as a Christian in the mainstream tradition, I have had many discussions with them, mainly about their claim to be the "only true religion". They are indeed "true believers", closing their minds when presented with facts demonstrating the errors their organization has propagated – e.g. their many false predictions about the "end of the world". Bergman makes an interesting comparison with J.W. and evolutionary "true believers".

I once held to a "theistic evolutionary" position – mainly by default. I simply had not had any other position honestly and fairly presented to me throughout my education. I can still remember first hearing the term "creationist" – long after leaving school. My reaction was… "how can anyone be a creationist?? Hasn't evolution been proven by scientific facts??"

Upon investigating this issue, I am now appalled by the way evolution is presented as the "only scientific explanation" for the origins of life. Evolution is not science; it is belief, just as much as creationism is. I also share Bergman's concern with the way this naturalistic belief is so propagated by the mainstream churches. Well we may criticize the Jehovah's Witnesses for their false teachings – the traditional churches are just as guilty with their (our?) support for this unproven theory.

Bergman mentions many scientific objections to evolution – they are plentiful and convincing. It is simply not good enough for evolutionists to try to dismiss creationism as "unscientific" while claiming that their view is consistent with science. They are indeed "true believers" – and as such, should be challenged to open their minds to other views.

 



BERGMAN'S  "BELIEVERISM"

John H. Williams

(Investigator 93, 2003 November)


Regarding Jerry Bergman's latest (Investigator #91), I express my strong disagreement with his most provocative views. It will surprise no-one that I am infuriated at his continued policy of broadly generalized criticism of "appalling" evolutionists without spelling out, despite repeatedly ignored requests from me, 'chapter and verse' on his version of creationism, known as Intelligent Design (ID). In his penultimate sentence he tells us that  "reality can be determined" only by "letting the facts speak": for the nth and last time, would he please tell us his version of "the facts"?!

I'm forced to conclude that he hasn't read my criticisms, or, if he has, he's ignored them, and just kept sending our editor new or old bits from his voluminous writings. I'm trying to be as critical and as provocative as possible in the forlorn hope that he will stop 'teasing' us, and tell us precisely how it all happened, over what length of time, accompanied by supporting evidence.

Having read a great deal, via Kotwall and Stett, of the Witnesses, one can't help feeling sympathetic towards someone who endured twenty years as a JW. That Bergman has flirted with atheism does not give him any special prescience in comparing creationism with evolutionary ideas. It seems that he's regressed to a previous state, in which it's necessary to summon-up a deity. I think that he would have been more comfortable in seventeenth century 'Italy', writing long dissertations to Pope Urban about how Galileo's scientific 'brinkmanship' was contrary to this bit or that bit of the Bible.  (Galileo was forced to write about Copernican ideas as if it weren't so that the Earth orbited the Sun, that it was a theory only. Galileo's Daughter, by Dava Sobel, Fourth Estate, London, 1999)                                                          
 
Most skeptheists travel the other way, from 'belief' (or some version of accepting/absorbing initial enculturation) to non-belief which can be passive (non-attendance, not saying prayers, not ensuring that their children have a church/religious upbringing), or more active, viz many of the Investigator's contributors and those who write letters to our print media arguing against the supernatural, the silly and the speculative.

In my piece, Denizens of Unintelligent Design-Land (# 89), I referred to those who were "able, literate and influential", such as Dr Bergman.

As I've said before, he can't be held responsible for the weird attempts to denigrate and misrepresent the scientific process. I have an excellent example of this called "Big Daddy", produced by Chick Publications of California (http://chick.com). Unsurprisingly, it contains the crudest stereotypes and the most scientifically illiterate 'arguments': "appalling" stuff! It portrays a 'debate' between a 'teacher' who name-calls angrily, threatens, rants while berating a polite young student who challenges evolutionary ideas. Its last page has a discussion between four students, one of whom (Person B ) has just 'seen off' the teacher:

Person A: Then man killed the Creator, if Jesus is God in the flesh.
Person B: Right! Jesus came to earth to shed his blood and die on the cross for you, to wash away your sins, so you could have eternal life with Him.
Person C: Then we didn't evolve! The system has been feeding us THE BIG LIE! We really do have a soul!
Person D: What happens if I die without believing this?
Person B: Then you die in your sins – and be eternally lost.

This booklet is available world-wide, and is designed for young people in the hope of reinforcing their creationism, or causing them to doubt what they're learning in Science. I ask Dr Bergman directly, would he be a supporter of such crass pseudoscience, or not? Is it so that this kind of 'pulp fiction' is yet another case of the means justifying the ends?

I take exception, as someone who is very strongly persuaded by evolutionary ideas, to being compared to Witnesses!

In Australia, 'True Believers' were those who were committed to the ethos and ideals of the Australian Labor Party, and thus were unable to see their party's flaws and errors, becoming political dinosaurs with little to cling to but their fierce and unyielding pride in a just and noble cause. I would argue that this "believerism" is rampant in the ranks of those espousing creationism and that it's not typical of many evolutionary thinkers. We don't need to use "rhetorical techniques" to make our point: we can use evidence as I do routinely as a teacher of Geology. It's quite late in my career, so maybe someone can explain, with empirical evidence, how I've been 'misleading' my students in matters palaeontological/stratigraphical? No biblical passages, please.

I'm content to let other Earthlings believe what they may, but when certain beliefs find their way into material designed for children, I'll develop an anti-creationist stance: because of the use of lies and pseudoscience. I, like scientists and teachers world-wide, have become increasingly active in countering their nonsense.

Instead of the sweeping generalities of Dr Bergman's previous pieces referring to creationism, could we have his critiques of the work of, for example, Richard Dawkins and Steven Gould? Is it at all possible that Dr Bergman deal in specifics, and, if not, what are the reasons why he can't or won't? On his previous 'form', I think we're in for a long wait!

 



REGARDING JOHN H. WILLIAMS

Jerry Bergman

(Investigator 94, 2004 January)


I wish to respond to John Williams (#93) but want to deal with one concern at a time so I can adequately document my position. I thought I would start with his comments about Galileo.

I will respond to the key issues only, and ignore silly comic books such as the Big Daddy example (which I do not support but no one has bought millions of my books as they have from Chick so I may be in the minority here).


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