In August 2013, a church group called Zion Praise Harvest held several lectures in Perth by young earth creationist, John Mackay. This included a few lectures in churches, as well as one at Curtin University and one at the University of Western Australia. Entitled “Exposing Evolution, Confirming Creation”, the lecture at UWA had no substance and presented no evidence.
The lecture was essentially a collection of straw man arguments against examples of evolution that one might find in a high school biology textbook: peppered moths, finches, etc. This attack on science was punctuated by absurd tangents, such as calling former Prime Minister Julia Gillard a “rank atheist feminist”.
After the lecture many of the attendees stayed for a BBQ and to talk to John Mackay. He made various homophobic comments, including using homosexuality as his go-to example of “immorality” in modern society. In a conversation about the Bible after the lecture, a student pointed out that the Bible condones rape in the following passage from Numbers 31:
“17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that has known man by lying with him. 18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”
Mackay argued that this is not rape, because the girls were forced to enter a “legitimate Jewish marriage” first (after having their family murdered by their soon-to-be husbands), and obviously you can’t rape your own wife. Not only is it not rape, but Mackay believes this is apparently not even immoral for God to command this and for the Israelites to carry it out.
After the event, Mackay added three entries to his website, www.askjohnmackay.com, inspired by questions we asked at his lecture. The following is essentially an expanded version of the answer he gave at UWA:
This goes further than an opinion about the Bible. Mackay sincerely believes that even today, rape within marriage is a contradiction, and that forced marriage can be legitimate. The idea that rape is wrong is apparently a recent secular invention.
“The modern atheist mind wants to use modern their [sic] definition of rape as an absolute, such that a woman both before and after marriage is an autonomous being who has rights to resist any man including the man she married, and if he insists on sex, then that is rape and the male is legally guilty of a crime.”
The UWA Atheist and Skeptic Society believes that such an attack on science and human decency has no place at a public university. This is not a free speech issue, as UWA has the right to decide who uses its own lecture theatres. By allowing this event and funding the organisers, UWA and the UWA Guild are giving their implicit support to these anti-scientific and bigoted messages.
The University has been contacted several times by the Humanist Society of Western Australia. The response has been disappointing. Here is the latest letter to the Vice Chancellor from HSWA:
Zion Praise Creationism Lecture UWA to Vice Chancellor