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Richard Lumsden

1938 - 1997

Sure, there have been Christians who did good science, but that was before Darwin.  Right?  Wrong!  Here is the story of a staunch Darwinian who converted to creationism first, then to Christianity.

You couldn’t claim Dick Lumsden’s faith come from the culture in which he lived, like you might with someone from the 1500s.  If anything, he was a product of the anti-creationist second half of the twentieth century.  Dr. Richard D. Lumsden was fully grounded in Darwinian philosophy, and had no reason or desire to consider Christianity.  Science was his faith: the facts, and only the facts.  But at the apex of his professional career, he had enough integrity to check out the facts, and made a difficult choice to go where the facts led him, against what he had been taught, and against what he himself taught.  His life took a dramatic turnaround, from Darwinist to creationist, and from atheist to Christian.

Dr. Richard Lumsden was professor of parasitology and cell biology at Tulane University.  He served as dean of the graduate school, and published hundreds of scientific papers.  He trained 30 PhDs.  Thoroughly versed in biological sciences, both in knowledge and lab technique, including electron microscopy, he won the highest world award for parasitology.  All through his career he believed Darwinian evolution was an established principle of science, and he took great glee in ridiculing Christian beliefs.  One day, he heard that Louisiana had passed a law requiring equal time for creation with evolution, and he was flabbergasted– how stupid, he thought, and how evil!  He used the opportunity to launch into a tirade against creationism in class, and to give them his best eloquence in support of Darwinism.  Little did he know he had a formidable opponent in class that day.  No, not a silver-tongued orator to engage him in a battle of wits; that would have been too easy.  This time it was a gentle, polite, young female student.

This student went up to him after class and cheerfully exclaimed, “Great lecture, Doc!  Say, I wonder if I could make an appointment with you; I have some questions about what you said, and just want to get my facts straight.”  Dr. Lumsden, flattered with this student’s positive approach, agreed on a time they could meet in his office.  On the appointed day, the student thanked him for his time, and started in.  She did not argue with anything he had said about evolution in class, but just began asking a series of questions: “How did life arise? … Isn’t DNA too complex to form by chance? … Why are there gaps in the fossil record between major kinds? .…What are the missing links between apes and man?”  She didn’t act judgmental or provocative; she just wanted to know.  Lumsden, unabashed, gave the standard evolutionary answers to the questions.  But something about this interchange began making him very uneasy.  He was prepared for a fight, but not for a gentle, honest set of questions.  As he listened to himself spouting the typical evolutionary responses, he thought to himself, This does not make any sense.  What I know about biology is contrary to what I’m saying.  When the time came to go, the student picked up her books and smiled, “Thanks, Doc!” and left.  On the outside, Dr. Lumsden appeared confident; but on the inside, he was devastated.  He knew that everything he had told this student was wrong.

Dr. Lumsden had the integrity to face his new doubts honestly.  He undertook a personal research project to check out the arguments for evolution, and over time, found them wanting.  Based on the scientific evidence alone, he decided he must reject Darwinism, and he became a creationist.  But as morning follows night, he had to face the next question, Who is the Creator?  Shortly thereafter, by coincidence or not, his daughter invited him to church.  It was so out of character for this formerly crusty, self-confident evolutionist to go to church!  Not much earlier, he would have had nothing to do with religion.  But now, he was open to reconsider the identity of the Creator, and whether the claims of the Bible were true.  His atheistic philosophy had also left him helpless to deal with guilt and bad habits in his personal life.  This time he was open, and this time he heard the Good News that God had sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins, and to offer men forgiveness and eternal life.

A tremendous struggle was going on in Dr. Lumsden’s heart as he listened to the sermon.  When the service ended, the pastor gave an invitation to come to the front and decide once and for all, publicly, to receive Christ.  Dr. Lumsden describes the turmoil he was in:  “With flesh protesting every inch of the way, I found myself walking forward, down to the altar.  And there, found God!  Truly, at that moment, I came to know Him, and received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”  There’s room at the cross even for know-it-all science professors, if they are willing to humble themselves and bow before the Creator to whom the scientific evidence points.

Dr. Lumsden rejoiced in his new-found faith, but found out there is a price to pay also.  He was ejected from the science faculty after his dynamic conversion to Christ and creationism.  The Institute for Creation Research invited him to direct their biology department, which he did from 1990 to 1996.  Dr. Henry Morris said of him, “He had a very vibrant testimony of his conversion only a few years ago and of the role that one of his students played in confronting his evolutionism with persistent and penetrating questions.  He became fully convinced of the bankruptcy of his beliefs and realized that the only reasonable alternative was that there must be a Creator.”  Dick Lumsden was also appointed to the science faculty of The Master’s College, and used his intimate knowledge of electron microscopy to help the campus set up an operational instrument for training students.  There was a joy present in his life and manner that made his lectures sparkle, and he loved to demonstrate design in the cell that could not have arisen by Darwinian processes.  In discussions with evolutionists, he knew “just where to get them” (he would say with a smile), having been in their shoes.  His students appreciated the training his depth and breadth of knowledge and experience brought to the class and to the lab.

Richard Lumsden gave his personal testimony on Dr. D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Hour.  In the feature, he re-enacted that day in his office when the student made him rethink his beliefs.  In January 1996, he also spoke to the Bible-Science Association in a response to atheist Richard Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker.  In his talk, called Not So Blind a Watchmaker, he gave several detailed descriptions of organs that could not have formed by Darwinian natural selection.  In the question and answer session, he shared his testimony of how God had saved him from his former life as a bragging evolutionist.  Unfortunately, years of unhealthy habits as an unbeliever, including alcohol and tobacco abuse, took their toll on his body, and he died too soon, at age 59, in 1997.  His students miss him very much.

In September 2001, PBS aired an eight-hour series portraying evolution as fact and as the central theme of biology.  It tried to portray the only opponents to Darwinism as being motivated by religion.  Dr. Richard Lumsden, if he were still with us, might just call up the producers and ask, Say, I wonder if I could make an appointment with you; I have some questions about what you said, and just want to get my facts straight.  It would be an interesting interchange.  Doc would know just where to get them.

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