Friday, April 04, 2008

“Being an atheist is really scary. ... It was hard to sleep at night." Remembering Dr. Richard Lumsden

“Being an atheist is really scary”

I mentioned in a recent post a comment from Dr. Richard Lumsden that there were no truly "vestigial" organs. It reminded me to share with you more about Dr. Lumsden.

I read in 1997 of the death of Dr. Richard Lumsden, a man I barely knew. In July, 1994, I attended the Third International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At that time Dr. Lumsden was Chairman of the Biology Department at the Institute for Creation Research, where he served from 1991 to 1996. I had heard Dr. Lumsden give a paper on the "paradox" of the cell surface membrane, in which he concluded that "the integrated structural and functional complexity of extant plasma membranes provides yet further evidence of purposeful design."

Dr. Lumsden obtained his post-secondary and graduate education at Tulane, Harvard, and Rice Universities, where he received his doctorate in cell biology with postdoctoral training in medical pathology at the Tulane Medical School. He served more than twenty years on the faculty of Tulane University as a professor and research scientist. He had authored over 100 peer-reviewed research articles, a number of reviews, texts, and technical monographs. He had served on the editorial boards of several international journals and had received numerous professional awards, scholarships, fellowships, and research grants. His appointments had included those of panelist and/or reviewer of research grants and programs to the National Institutes of Health and other agencies.

After I attended Dr. Lumsden's paper presentation, I was hoping for a chance to meet and talk with him. A couple of days later, on July 21, 1994, I found Dr. Lumsden and myself in the conference cafeteria eating at the same table. I was curious about his life and how he wound up at ICR, so I started asking him questions. As he responded, I scribbled notes on napkins (three brown ones and one white one) pulled from the dispenser on the cafeteria table. It got more interesting as we went along.

DU: Dr. Lumsden, have you been a creationist very long?

RL: Oh, no. I was an atheist and evolutionist most of my life. I didn't view creationists very well, and gradualists were anathema to me. I was a professor at Tulane University. But I didn't treat creationists too rudely because, after all, I was raised a southern gentleman and southern gentlemen just don't do that.

DU: So, how did you become a Christian?

RL: One day around 1986 I gave a vainglorious lecture on the origin of life, all about evolution. It was kind of a thing of the times. It was during the Louisiana law business, so it was a topic of interest. I quoted Oparin and Huxley -- you know. The students ate it up. Students like blasphemy. After class, a girl came up to me and said she had some questions. She said she didn't want to argue with me. She just wanted to "get her science straight." After about three hours I had talked myself out of evolution - so I just put it out of my mind. But, you know, the more you try to put something out of your mind, the harder it is. It just keeps coming back - like a bad penny. In one year I found myself on my knees before a saving altar (accepting the Lord Jesus).

DU: What about the student who had spoken to you a year earlier?

RL: I knew she had taken a class in Evolutionary Biology, so I asked the professor in that class about her. He told me she had gotten an "A" in the class, but she had just driven him nuts. She graduated and then went on to complete medical school. I met her again one time. She had heard by the grapevine that I had become a Christian and, after our hugs and hallelujahs, she said, "You know, Dr. Lumsden, I prayed for all my professors, but you got extra time." Last I heard, she was a medical missionary in a jungle somewhere.

DU: What do you see as the key scientific evidence in support of creation?

RL: I think the key point is complexity of design. You know, Darwinism is not intuitively obvious. You have to be taught it. You have to be educated into believing stuff that only a PhD would believe.

DU: Since that time, how has your life changed?

RL: For the better.

DU: How has your science changed?

RL: It makes more sense now. Those (cell wall) membranes make more sense now, I'll tell you that.

DU: And your personal life?

RL: When you know where you are from, you know who you are, you know where you are going, and you know with Whom you are going, it changes life a lot. Being an atheist is really scary. There was a lot of tension that wouldn't go away. It was hard to sleep at night.

Submitted with great respect in memory of Dr. Richard Lumsden, scientist, Christian, and southern gentleman.


At May 07, 2008 2:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, let me say that I am an Atheist and I sleep very well at night.


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