Dr. Henry M. Morris, Father of Scientific Creationism

One courageous man doing the difficult thing can at times be enough to change the entire momentum of a battle.  Dr. Henry Morris, the father of the Scientific Creation movement, was just such a man. Christian culture in America had long been losing its battle against the secular humanist worldview, but with the publication of The Genesis Flood1, Dr. Morris changed the momentum, and put acolytes of Darwinist evolution on the defense.
For an entire century, academic life in America had been dominated by “evolution”, the idea that that life spontaneously generated out of non-life by sheer chance over billions of years of earth history.  According to this model, which is the scientific undergirding for secular humanism, a single living cell had somehow arisen, and through a gradual process of reproduction, mutation and survival of the fittest, had given rise to increasingly complex multicellular organisms, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and finally mammals, including man.  Despite the Bible’s unequivocal teaching of a supernatural Creation and a worldwide Flood in the days of Noah, even divinity schools finally submitted, and crafted such theological tricks as the “day-age creation theory”, the “gap theory”, and “local flood” theories to accommodate the old earth evolutionary consensus.
No longer able to scientifically defend the first eleven chapters or so of the Bible without being ridiculed, Christians were on the retreat.  And because the entire Bible, including the teachings of Jesus Christ, is closely interwoven with the Creation and Flood accounts, the loss of the first half of Genesis led some to question what part of the Bible could be trusted.  Many parents—including my own grandparents2—decided not to buck “science”, and allowed their children to decide for themselves whether or not to accept the Bible as truth.  At the same time, popular fictional novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan) and H.G. Wells (War of the Worlds) brought the acceptance of evolution and an old earth into the mainstream of society.  The Bible was increasingly marginalized.  Though the worldview of a culture is not easily changed, the public worldview eventually shifted to become explicitly Secular Humanist3.  This led to the removal of the Bible and prayer from schools (1962), the legalization of abortion (1973), the acceptance of physician-assisted suicide (1997), and even redefining marriage to include homosexuality (2015).  The dominant political correctness movement today is bold enough to suppress Christianity altogether, even denying the obvious truth that Christianity is the foundation of Western civilization, something Noah Webster, “America’s Schoolmaster” made quite clear:
“[O]ur citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion.”4
[T]he Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children under a free government ought to be instructed. No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”5

By 1961, Dr. Morris had already had a long and distinguished career in hydraulic engineering.  After earning his Ph.D. in 1950, he had been professor and chair of civil engineering at the University of Louisiana, a professor at Southern Illinois University, had published many professional papers, and was currently serving as department chair of civil engineering at Virginia Polytechnic.  With the ample salary and generous benefits associated with a university, as well as a growing family, Dr. Morris must have considered that openly opposing the orthodoxy would carry a price.  However, when Dr. John C. Whitcomb, a brilliant paleontologist and theologian who had read his short book entitled That You Might Believe (1946) contacted him, he agreed to take a scientific look at the geologic record from a scriptural viewpoint.  Entering into the project wholeheartedly, Dr. Morris became the major co-author, contributing more than twice as much material as his collaborator.6

In the Genesis Flood (1961), and in some 60 subsequent books, including Scientific Creationism (1974), The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (1984), and Some Call it Science (2006), Dr. Morris pointed out a number of things that might seem obvious today.  At the time, however, the educational and scientific establishment was blindsided, for they had long successfully suppressed these observations. To begin with, Dr. Morris pointed out that the catastrophic biblical Flood could not be reconciled in any way with the local flood theories proposed by some theologians, or with the old earth uniformitarian theory required by evolution.  He observed that there was simply too much sedimentary rock!  Vast amounts of sediment had been carried over great distances by water, something consistent with a worldwide flood, and the layers had been laid down quickly, without signs of biologic perturbation.  Second, the fossil record did not support the evolution of species from common ancestors: gaps between major groups of animals and plants were the rule, not the exception.  Third, the laws of thermodynamics did not permit increasing the order in any system, as required by evolution, but rather the reverse.  The second law of thermodynamics (increasing entropy: disorder) predicted extinction rather than development of increasingly complex organisms--and that is exactly what the fossil record revealed.  The great deposits of fossils were a record of death, not new life.  He also discussed the inherent presuppositions and weaknesses of radiologic dating methods, the statistical impossibility for even the simplest proteins to have arisen by chance, and the irreducible complexity of living systems, a concept later elaborated in Darwin’s Black Box (Michael Behe, 1996).

Although it was initially difficult to find a publisher, The Genesis Flood struck a chord among Christians.  Hundreds of thousands of copies were sold, and its observations were discussed everywhere, greatly heartening those who felt drawn to the truth of the Bible, but discouraged that every scientist in the world seemed to have accepted godless evolution as a proven fact.  As expected, the scientific community either ignored it, or attacked it viciously. By the late 1970’s, however, public debates of Creation versus Evolution had become popular, and Dr. Morris personally took part in over a hundred debates.  I personally witnessed one evolution debate in the Chicago area in 1980, in which Dr. Duane Gish, a close colleague of Dr. Morris, presented the Creation viewpoint.  The debate was not even close.  The shallow reasons to accept evolution were overwhelmed by the preponderance of evidence for biblical creation. I left feeling almost cheated.  Was there really so little evidence for evolution?  That evening I asked myself, “Suppose the Bible were true, after all?”
After the publication of The Genesis Flood, Dr. Morris was swamped with invitations, and he became a popular speaker. Not everyone was pleased: his liberal Southern Baptist pastor even asked him to leave the church.6 The university became upset with his notoriety, as well, and when he finally resigned in 1969, faculty members held a cocktail party to celebrate.7
After leaving the university, Dr. Morris became president of the Creation Research Society, an institution he founded in 1963 with nine other young earth creationists.  When he founded the Institute for Creation Research in 1970, he served as its president until officially retiring in 1996.  Even then, he continued to work diligently in research and writing until he died in 2006 at the age of 87, having led a full and productive life as a scientist devoted to the defense of the gospel.8
Today, some 56 years after the publication of The Genesis Flood, his battle against the scientific orthodoxy continues.  Now, however, the doctrine of evolution, and the secular humanist worldview that relies upon it, are both in retreat.  The Christian worldview, now on a much stronger scientific footing, again has the momentum.  The Institute for Creation Research has grown, and been joined by many similar organizations.  Significant research conducted by outstanding creation scientists is increasingly published, and hundreds of creationist books are being produced annually.  The Creation Museum and Ark Encounter (developed by Ken Ham, a prominent creationist author) has become a popular holiday destination in Kentucky, and other Ark museums around the world see thousands of visitors annually.  Evolutionists today largely refuse to debate, but instead concentrate their efforts on suppressing the voices of the growing number of creation scientists.  While Biblical Creation advocates have not yet discovered an Edgar Rice Burroughs or a H.G. Wells to popularize the Christian worldview in the same way, Noah’s Boys in the City of Mother Earth is a step in that direction, and I would like to think that Dr. Henry Morris would be pleased.
G. M. Horning
1.      Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, The Genesis Flood, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1961.
2.      Personal communication
3.      Paul Kurtz, editor, Humanist Manifestos I and II, Prometheus Books, 1973.
4.      Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1832), p. 6.
5.      Noah Webster, A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary, and Moral Subjects (New York: Webster and Clark, 1843), p. 291, from his “Reply to a Letter of David McClure on the Subject of the Proper Course of Study in the Girard College, Philadelphia. New Haven, October 25, 1836.”
6.      Ronald Numbers, The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition, Harvard University Press, 2006.
7.      John D. Morris, cited in Acts and Facts (a publication of the Institute for Creation Research) February 2011

8.      Christine Dao, Man of Science, Man of God: Henry M. Morris.  Acts and Facts 2009; 38 (2): 20.


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