A learned fool

It seems to be a theme here lately: people with serious credentials in science and medicine who then profess their belief in gods and magic and make public asses of themselves. Next up: Brad Harrub.

Dr Harrub has a Ph.D. in neurobiology and anatomy from the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee. He is a member of the Church of Christ, director and founder of Focus Press, Inc., co-editor of ‘Think’ magazine, and a featured writer in various Christian journals. Books he has co-authored include ‘Diamonds in the Rough: Nuggets of Truth from God’s Word’, ‘Investigating Christian Evidences’, and ‘The Truth About Human Origins’.

Now listen to an interview with him on Radio NZ. He’s a young earth creationist of the most pathetic kind, believing in a literal world wide flood (with dinosaurs on the ark!), that the earth is less than ten thousand years old, that mammals evolved from dinosaurs (therefore the fossils prove evolution false), and a whole succession of silly ideas. The interviewer, Kim Hill, does an excellent job of drawing out all the nonsense from this degreed clown.


  1. mothworm says

    Can we just go ahead and admit that medical doctors are mostly glorified plumbers (no offense meant to plumbers)? There’s apparantly nothing in their training that requires an adequate understanding of the science behind what they do.

  2. Erasmus says

    Hey PZ you are maligning the fair name of the University of Tennessee… Harrub received his degree from UT-Memphis, not Knoxville (which is the University of Tennesse, proper).

    aside, it is amazing to me that anyone who has ever spent any time in the cumberland plateau and the smokies could still believe in a global flood as the source of both fossils and landforms. but then there is one born every minute.

  3. CalGeorge (a.k.a. George) says

    She does a good job.

    “The Bible always makes sense.”

    He has drunk the kool-aid to the dregs. Makes Egnor sound like a frigging genius.

  4. Toivo says

    I don’t have a Ph.D. in neurobiology and anatomy nor in any other subject. Heck, I haven’t even graduated yet. In fact, I’m a 1st year student at Uni, but even I understand enough of how reason and/or science works to say that there is no evidence of God or gods and that their existence is very, very unlikely. The same holds for the pink unicorn, Russell’s teapot and magic. I know education doesn’t necessarily make one smart, it just makes one educated, but especially in fields related to science and in Ph.D. level I would expect people to have good understanding of “how science works” and not be just “trained parrots” or compartmentalizers. I felt horrible after reading about the “Ross incident”, and I read about Dr Harrub, too. Why is something (thinking rationally) that is so easy for me so hard for some people, even science Ph.Ds? Really, how frequent are these sort of people among scientists as a whole? And more importantly, how does one teach “how science works” to students so that they would really understand it and not become compartmentalizers or “trained parrots”?

  5. CalGeorge (a.k.a. George) says

    Q. “Why the blind spot?”

    A. “The eye functions perfectly, as God designed it. At the end of creation, when God pronounced everything very good, everything was very good.”

    And for the blind-spot-free octopus, things were very, very good!

  6. richCares says

    Dr Harrub in mentioning Noah;s story forgot to mention that God issued Noah and his family earplugs. That was so that they couldn’t the screams of all those innocent childern that were being murdered by the flood. Strange that the flood did not affect the Chinese, Egyptians and Sunerians.

  7. jim s. halsey says

    Perhaps we could trade Coulter (I know we would have to pay a lot extra to get NZ to take her but it’s worth a try), Larry King, Hannity, John Gibson, Nancy Grace, Limbaugh, Fox News . . . oh hell, the whole lot of our punditry for Kim Hill. Such a difference between her interview and what passes for one over here. She seemed informed, intelligent, knew what to ask and how to challenge this guy. Very rare indeed. She actually seemed to have read Dawkins.

  8. Ron says

    Anthropology has a couple of centuries of scientific study of religious behavior. Though we have had our share of clowns on the topic (e.g. Frazer), there is also some very excellent, solid work. It is very clear that ‘religion’ involves so much more than ‘creationism’, or even than the Abrahamic God-believers of today’s ‘civilizations’, that it would seem wise to be more careful about the use of the term religion. Taking a long-term view, most religions do not truck in any of those ideas.

    In fact, it would seem to me that creationist clowns making public fools of themselves is more an example of political rather than religious behavior.

  9. says

    HAHAHAHA! I got to see Harrub speak at a local church right after I moved to OKC. Hes a tool. I mean, hes bad even for a Creationist, presenting things in the AiG list of ‘arguments Creationists shouldnt use’.
    The BEST part (ask Dr. Meert) is that hes got this fishing pole that he presents as evidence for Creationism. Its like a reel imbedded in rock that Evilutionists say is too old to contain a reel. Problem is, the temperatures and pressures necessary for the formation of this rock would have crushed/melted the reel, and you can see the drill and saw marks around the reel. Harrub knows that the artifact is a fraud. He admitted it. He removed all references to the reel off of his website. But in the presentation I went to, he knew *everyone* in the audience was a YEC so they wouldnt know that he knew it was a fraud, so he presented the reel to them as an ‘evidence’ for Creationists date of the Earth.

    He is the reason why I dont believe Professional Creationists believe a word they say. They know damn well that theyre snake oil salesman.

  10. says

    It was difficult, but what great refutation. We need more journalists like this woman in America. My kids tried to listen all the way through, and I kept having to skip back because I missed things when they were hooting with laughter. One of my favorite parts was when he was trying to prove that the human eye was perfectly designed, and he pointed to the fact that modern camera and video equipment is being designed like an eye. Imagine that. We design optical recording devices so they work for us rather than for, say, octopi, and that shows that. . .OMG, I can’t even wrap my brain around what he thinks that proves.

  11. 386sx says

    So science just keeps on recycling all the old hoaxes, never correcting itself, forever propagating hoaxes even though, uh, everybody knows they’re hoaxes. One has to wonder if Mr. Harrub is perpetuating his own little hoax. Maybe trying to earn some extra cash or something. :-)

  12. says

    Wow! I’ve never before heard the evolutionist claim that all mammals descended from both trilobites and dinosaurs. Well if that’s what you Darwinists are saying, then I think I’ll just have to become a creationist.

  13. Stevencnz says

    Creationist vs. Companion of the Royal Society on New Zealand. Was there ever any doubt about who would come out on top?

  14. pkiwi says

    Kim Hill is a national treasure. It is a shame there is not a video of this as she does a great raised-eyebrow-quizzical-sardonic-look thing when she has a ‘victim’ talking nonsense. Hope you can inder that up from the audio. What disturbs me is what this Harrub clown has been up to down here. Since reading Phayngula and following the stealth-creationism elsewhere I am on the lookout for it getting more prominent here in NZ. It seems below the radar at the ‘happy-clap’ churches, but there are a few signs (Creationist magazine on sale in one kids science store for example).

  15. Chi says

    Sorry, but I found her interview style grating. A lot of times she would jump in, trying to inflate his claims. This is what is wrong with doing a live interview when the subject has all sorts of caves he can run into.

  16. Steve says

    Actually, I think that Kim Hill missed several opportunities to challenge Harrub’s basic knowledge. She let him get away the with the “mammals came from dinosaurs” and “everything from trilobites” statements. She should have emphatically pointed out that these were clearly factually incorrect statments, thus proving that either Harrub doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground or he’s a bald-faced liar.

  17. says

    If she’d tried to refute all of his factually deficient points, they’d have gotten to about three questions. I liked the way she just skipped over the ones that were the most blatantly asinine. No need to contradict the guy, the ridiculousness of those statements stood out on their own.

  18. KiwiInOz says

    Thanks for the link PZ. I’ve missed listening to Kim since moving to Australia. She has a great reputation as a slaughterer of woo-artists, whether letting them hang themselves on their own nonsense, or going straight for the jugular. She doesn’t suffer fools lightly.

    And that guy was a fool!

  19. Ptaylor says

    Notice that Harrub brought up the subject of Haeckel’s embryos about 15 seconds before the end of the interview. I was listening live, and after the news bulletin that terminated the interview Kim Hill came back on to give a excellent overview of the embryo ‘scandal’, explaining to listeners exactly where Harrub had been coming from in mentioning them. Kim knows her stuff.

  20. Steve says

    Of course Harrub is a fool. But I don’t know that we can count on a general audience knowing what Pharyngulans knows about evolution. Don’t assume too much about the average listener to this show. It doesn’t do much good if the net result of the interview is that only those of us in the know are sniggering. We need to expose this fool to those who may find his slick and confident manner convincing.

    That’s why is more useful to clearly and decisively nail him as either an incompetent or liar on three points than to let him provide laughs for just the cognoscenti on ten points. Without someone explaining his stupidly, the general audience might hear his certainty and ask, “why shouldn’t we teach our children the alternative theories”? I’ve tangled with Harrub before by email, and trust me, he’s a slippery bastard. Hill had him on the record saying idiotic things, and she should have crushed him in such as way that *everyone* could get it.

  21. says

    Sorry, you can’t have Kim. And we’ve got the VERY BIGGEST squid! And an agnostic (the polite word in politics for atheist) Prime Minister… even the conservative leader of the opposition wouldn’t say if he believed in god (he wants the votes), but did say he didn’t believe in “life after death” (close enough!).
    Careful, or WE’ll take PZ!

  22. Buffybot says

    PZ for Kim? That’s a toughie.

    Kicking myself to have missed it – my radio regularly drifts from National Radio to the Christian station. It’s downright sinister.

    I’ve just come out of a biology lecture in which the lecturer mentioned this broadcast – he could barely contain his glee at the way Kim filleted this bozo.

  23. Scott Hatfield says

    Aha! Now it can be told, the full story of MY encounter with Dr. Brad Harrub. The details are revealing.

    Harrub took exception to a piece that I wrote for the Fresno Bee in which I took creationist/cartoonist Johnny Hart to task for a particular misleading B.C. Sunday strip, in which I concluded that one should avoid getting one’s science from the funny papers.

    My piece was forwarded to Dr. Harrub, who wrote a scathing (albeit misleading) reply that for a time (the link may be corrupted now) was available on the Web at:


    Now, I have no problem with being criticized, but here’s where things get interesting. Harrub sent a copy via email of his piece to every email box at my school site, *except* mine! Including administrators. Anyone who has ever worked in public education understands the potential implications of this: quite plainly, he was trying to get me canned behind my back.

    Well, I don’t take stuff like that lying down. I tracked the fellow down and confronted him via email. Well, how about this? He was *entirely* unapologetic. He had troubles, he claimed, sending anything to my particular box so he felt fully justified in sending a ‘shotgun’ response to everyone in my school district. He felt he was justified in taking this tactic on behalf of my students, whose souls he felt I was imperiling.

    I felt, and continue to feel that his conduct was unethical and asked him more than once to consider the possibility that he had not acted as he should toward a fellow Christian. His reply essentially suggested that since he felt I was a ‘theistic evolutionist’ (his term, not mine) that he doubted the sincerity of my faith. In his mind, apparently, he was not obligated to be scrupulous toward someone such as myself.

    I am, therefore, inclined to regard other reports of this fellow’s mendacity as authentic. A serious offer to all: in the event that Harrub is plying his nonsense in your neck of the woods and you would like some assistance in taking him down a peg, feel free to contact me at:


    After all, these unprincipled and dishonest people work to erode trust between the general public and science education. They must be exposed, they must be stopped!

  24. Lago says

    Years ago, I was running a music shop. I had given up on the idea of becoming a biologist when I was a teenager because I became more interested in girls at that time, as many of us have done…

    After a few months of running the store, I started to meet lots of interesting people, including this weird “Christian Metal” movement. One day, a guitar player from a band called “Bloodgood” came in and was looking to replace a Randall head that had broken down on him. I saw he was in the middle of a tour and was knee deep in trouble without gear, so I sold him the head at cost. He was so pleased, he decided to reward me with a favor…

    I was hanging-out with the band and was asked to go to some of their shows, but we first had to stop off at one of the band members families house so they could get cleaned up and get something to eat. This is when I was brought into a room, and the Bible came out. I said, “sorry, not interested”. I told them I had been a Christian earlier ion my life, but I had seen things that made me have extreme doubts. It was at this time, “The Proof” started coming out.

    I mention this here in this thread because, one of the first things said was about how one is told (commanded by God) to wait before circumcision is performed. He turned to me and asked, “Now how could they have possible known that way back then?”. Without missing a beat, and with no biological training at the time, I said, “Um, maybe they tried it both after 8 days as well as before, and a pattern developed?”. I then decided, that “They probably saw this as a sign from God, and wrote it down for further reference under the guise as a rule from God?”

    After that, I pointed out how the South American Indians had developed things like “Curare”, that are not easy to make, and work in such a way that they can stun or kill a prey, but does not harm one that eats the prey item after the fact. I asked how many more steps would be involved in learning about managing such a product as compared to knowing about whether or not a baby will bleed to death if you cut him before or after a certain day. All of this, with no Bible to tell them how. I then pointed out how trial and error gets passed on, and people are able to make connections, as well as remember processes. He had NO answer to what I said, and I was a kid with no biological training.

    I also pointed out that the original reason someone may work with something may be different from what it is later used for. I had to do this because he was implying a sort of irreducible complexity of sorts, and was asking, “How would someone know when they started trying these numerous steps that the end result would be as it was?” To this I responded by pointing out how many cultures drink alcohol. I then pointed out how easy it is to set up food and water storage that will end up in fermentation without the knowledge of the people involved. Once this new result has become apparent, one can easily correlate it to the previous process. Over time, correlations become stacked into more and more complex and branching patterns that are passed down culturally. There is no requirement to know what the end result was going to be. It is a happy accident, as we know many MANY of our modern discoveries are as well.

    In the end, claiming the existence of a divine being based on knowing what will be the different outcome of several different approaches is amazingly stupid, as well as prejudice. I mean really now, we as modern humans are allowed to know as we are making a circuit board that the end result will be a computer that I can use to post my opinions on PZ blog with, but a bunch of people living in sand can’t figure out which day to tip off a penis?