Appeal for donations to the Professor I.R. Plimer Fighting Fund

Prof. Ian Plimer, Head of the School of Earth Sciences in the University of Melbourne, Australia, is one of the most outstanding members of our Society. Over the past twelve years, he has, in addition to his manifold duties as researcher and teacher, been involved in an increasingly difficult, expensive and unpleasant battle against the creationists. In the course of many years of litigation, considerable legal expenses have accumulated. Prof. Plimer had to sell first his assets and then his house. He now lives in a small rented cottage on the outskirts of Melbourne. In acknowledgement of his courageous stand against creationism, our Society elected Prof. Plimer as Honorary Member at its Council Meeting in Turku in August 1997. It was also decided to take steps to enable  members of the geological community to contribute towards offsetting the costs which Prof. Plimer has incurred over the years, not on behalf of himself but on behalf of the entire geological community world-wide. At the time of the Turku meeting, we were not  aware of the fact that the Prof. I.R. Plimer Fighting Fund had already been set-up in the well-known mining town of Broken Hill, New South Wales, and it is to this address that contributions should be directed. Details are given at the end of this article.
Let us, however briefly recount the relevant steps in Prof. Plimer's fight against creationism.
Creationism is a fundamentalist movement which claims to be a religion; it also claims that the bible is the only correct source of information regarding the evolution of our planet. The earth was, therefore, created 6,000 years ago, and partly devastated by the great flood about 2,000 years later. In Australia, fundamentalists have been trying to establish a creationist evolutionary theory as a subject to be taught in schools. Indeed, the Minister of culture for Queensland has agreed to this proposal.
Creationists' efforts are directed mainly at the school system and at children. It all started in 1985, when Prof. Plimer was Head of the department of geology in the University of Newcastle, NSW, and a certain Dr.A.A. Snelling submitted a paper on "The Great Flood" to a symposium on "Advances in the Study of the Sydney Basin". This was part of the attempts of the fundamentalist sect to highjack the education system.
Prof. Plimer comments: "As I was privileged in holding one of the chairs in Geology in Australia, was committed to education and had a fascination for the evolution of our planet, it was clear that I had to take a public stand against creationism."

I. R. Plimer

His activities started with public lectures and articles in geological magazines, and soon he was attacked by the creationist movement. He was accused of being guilty of "a tragic misuse of his authority and influence" (Prayer News, August 1987).
In 1988 Prof. Plimer engaged in a dispute with the American guru of "Scientific Creationism", Dr. Duane Gish of San Diego,  and the results were legal action, hate-mail, and an organised campaign by creationists to have Prof. Plimer dismissed from his chair.
His public lectures then, as he put it, assumed Orwellian dimensions". Defamatory pamphlets, audio- and video-taping of every word he said, stacked audiences who chanted when he spoke, more hate mail, ("Dear sir, Drop dead") followed. Prof. Plimer continued his anti-creationist activities with radio and TV exposure, publication of more articles and debates - concurrently  with administration, teaching, research and his move to the Headship of the Department of Earth Sciences in the University of Melbourne. As a result of these activities, creationists described him as "atheist, Godhater, agent of Satan, amoral evolutionist to be compared with the Nazis." At this time, Prof. Plimer received strong support from theologians who stated that "creationism is anti-Christian. Creationist activities increased, videos and literature were distributed to public and private schools in Australia - and used by some.
In 1992, the controversy took on a new aspect. A "Dr." Alan Roberts, who held a mail order doctorate from a Florida university, gave a series of lectures on his supposed discovery of Noah's ark in Eastern Turkey. Prof. Plimer knew the area from extensive field work and also knew that the supposed ark, was actually the outcrop of a synclinal structure. At Roberts' lectures, Plimer tried to ask questions but was forcibly ejected by "thought police". Subsequently, he underwent ejection at a university meeting, this time by police, and again at a third meeting by hired security guards, using batons.
Finally, Prof. Plimer received a supreme court writ for "Defamation of the Creationists". Mismanagement of his case by different law-firms led to the loss of almost $A 400,000. Finally an efficient law-firm was found but bankruptcy was imminent. Having sold his assets and his house, Prof. Plimer now lives in a small miner's cottage. While all this was taking place, Prof. Plimer was maintaining a heavy undergraduate teaching programme, research and Ph.D.-student supervision. 80 public lectures were given per year. He had his own weekly radio programme and made some TV appearances. During these years he also wrote his book "Telling Lies for God" (Random House, Australia, 1994) with a foreword by the Anglican Arch-bishop of Brisbane.
Litigations then continued in the Federal Court of Australia and judgement was handed down in summer 1997.
Prof. Plimer found he had lost a major part of the case. He is now likely to face a cost order of $A 400,000. However, he has decided to appeal and further results of the proceedings cannot be expected before Christmas. This heroic and unselfish battle against creationism has attracted worldwide public interest, from the BBC to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. However, this has not assisted Prof. Plimer with his financial problems. He has been elected an Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society in London in appreciation of his stand against creationism; he was the 1994 Humanist of the Year and received the Eureka Prize for the Promotion of Science. Our Society has also made him an Honorary Member. However, he and his family still face acute economic problems, including the fact that he still owes a years salary  in legal costs, quite apart from those expenses with which he may still be confronted.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, a decision was taken at the August 1997 council meeting of our Society, to assist Prof. Plimer and his family in their present economic plight. At that date, it was not known that a similar plan was afoot in Australia and indeed there now exists "The Prof. I.R. Plimer Fighting Fund" in Broken Hill. It is administered by the mayor of Broken Hill, Mr. Peter Black, and the Reverend Brian Nicholls of the Uniting Church of Australia. Our Counicl feels that administrative costs should be kept to the minimum, and donations sent direct to the fund at the Broken Hill Community Credit Union Ltd (Bank no. 802377), account no. 56679.
It is seen that through the relentless and heroic efforts of our colleague, the creationist campaign in Australia has been seriously dented and its power significantly reduced. However, the battle is not yet over. The international geological community, on whose behalf this fight is being waged, now has a chance to express its appreciation, and I would urge you most sincerely to contribute to the Plimer Fighting Fund.

President, SGA

"The Prof. I.R. Plimer Fighting Fund"
Broken Hill Community Credit Union Ltd (Bank no. 802377), account no. 56679
Broken Hill, NSW, Australia