From Oxford Atheist to Leading Creationist

Professor Arthur E. Wilder-Smith

A.E. Wilder-Smith F.R.S.C., Ph.D was a Countess Lisburne Memorial Fellow in cancer research for London University and a member of the British Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the New York Academy of Science. He held the Chair of Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where he was elected 'Best Teacher' four times and won the 'Golden Apple' award three times.

Born in England in 1915, Arthur Wilder-Smith grew up as the eldest son in a well-to-do farming family. An inquisitive child, he went to Oxford University in 1933 to study botany, zoology and chemistry under Professors de Beer, Ford, Robinson, Chattaway and others. There his atheism became firmly entrenched, much to the grief of his devoutly Christian mother.

In 1936, at the age of 21, Wilder-Smith's life took an unexpected turn. A series of events conspired to radically challenge his atheistic worldview. In his own words:

"At this time, a young English General moved into our part of Berkshire. He was the youngest General in the British-Indian army and had been stationed for some years on the North West frontier between India and Afghanistan. He was a genuine soldier: straight, fearless, intelligent and utterly honest. After his conversion to Christ at the age of 45, he decided without delay that he would use the rest of his life in service for his new 'King'. He took early retirement and bought a house on the Thames. There he built a small chapel on the lawn, there being no active congregation nearby, and gave evangelistic sermons every Sunday. Everywhere he went, he held services – in churches, chapels and community halls.

"My dear mother was invited to hear him. She went and, being suitably impressed, invited her sister, Aunt Addie, to accompany her, who promptly became a believer along with a cousin of mine. Then my mother extended an invitation to me. I told her politely but firmly that an Oxford University student does not go to evangelical meetings, not even if a General is speaking! My mother poured out her frustration with me to the General personally, who said cryptically, 'When Mohammed will not come to the mountain, then the mountain must go to Mohammed!' He invited me to a high tea at his home. Now in polite English society, when a General invites a person to high tea, he has no option but to go. To refuse is socially unacceptable.

"So, on a lovely afternoon, I drove to 'Watersmeet' and received a friendly welcome. We played tennis, rowed a boat on the Thames and had tea with the family. The General and I retired to his study to talk privately. He asked me if I was a Christian. I answered that I was a committed atheist, even though I had been baptized and confirmed. He said that he was a committed Christian and believed that Christ had died for his sins and risen again. I laughed at his naivety and asked him how such an educated man as he could believe in the fairy tales of the Bible. Christ is recorded in the gospels as believing in Adam and Eve, Jonah and the whale, and the worldwide flood of Noah. No educated person today could believe in such nonsense. Christ clearly did not know the difference between history and myth. On that basis alone he could not possibly be the 'Son of God'.

"During the course of the conversation, I told him that Darwin's theories were nothing more or less than the hard facts of history and natural science. The world as we know it had come about through chance and natural selection. The idea of an intelligent creator was the ultimate in unscientific thought; and anyway, the theologians of today no longer believed in creation. There was no proof of the existence of God: Feuerbach and others had long since proven that. The General's religion was uneducated fantasy and imagination.

"The honourable General, who actually was not at all uneducated, looked at me with sadness. He admitted that he knew next to nothing about natural sciences and that he had not made much progress with me. Around 11.00pm I said good night. I was sure I had well and truly beaten him. His dear wife, Mrs. Frost (a true lady), later told me that she had found me unbearably conceited and had advised her husband to give up on me. I was absolutely and hopelessly 'unconvertible'. However, the General had a weapon of which I knew nothing. He understood the power of intensive prayer. So, for three weeks, he prayed for me after which he again invited me to tea. This time I had no reservations about the visit. The house on the Thames was beautiful, I enjoyed rowing on the river and the tennis court was good fun. If need be, I could easily dispense with the General and his arguments. My education had instilled in me an attitude of arrogance. I am ashamed to say that I did not at the time appreciate how unwise, rude and even naive my actions and thoughts were.

"Late in the evening we again retired to his study to converse. His experience as a General had made him a man with obvious strength of character and authority – a man with a gift for command. This time he used a fresh strategy with me. He began, not with natural science, but with personal character and self-discipline. Little did he know how close to the bone he was. I was a frustrated young man. I lacked motivation, was often despairing, not to mention bad-tempered. It was plain to me that the General was a gracious man whose whole life was reflected in his manner. His serenity and strength shone in his eyes. His whole demeanour and bearing had an effect on me as he spoke. His words made a deep impression on me, each one being underlined by his character. I felt hollow in the light of his solidity, shallow in the face of his depth.

"Make no mistake. The evening was no emotional trick. The General did not mince his words. He made it clear to me with great evangelical solemnity that my sins, my violation of the eternal law of God, had ruined me. I could have taken offence but for the fact that I knew what he was saying was true and I was keenly aware of his genuine, loving interest in my eternal welfare.

"After a long conversation, he asked me directly if I felt my need of forgiveness and the transforming power of God in my life. My answer was: "Yes. A thousand times, yes." He then suggested we both kneel down. I heard him pray out loud for me. When it was my turn, not a word would come to my lips. I was speechless! While still on our knees, the General asked whether I believed that the Lord Jesus Christ lived in his own heart. That I could not deny. Did I desire above everything else to have the same Spirit in my heart? To that again, I resolutely answered yes. Do not think the General tried to manipulate me like so many evangelists do today who only wish to achieve results and statistics for their mission societies. He spoke man to man. I felt a sense of ease when I was with him. His method was one of cogent, wise and Biblical encouragement – not emotional pressure. That day God enabled me to call out to Him for the forgiveness of my many sins. I understood that Christ had died for me and on the basis of His finished work on the cross accepted forgiveness by faith. When I stood up again the sceptical General asked me if I was ready to confess Christ to others. "How would it be, if you go into the kitchen now and tell my wife and children what has just transpired here? "

"I hesitated because his children were either older than me or were my own age and because I had noticed that Mrs. Frost, though a perfect lady, held me at somewhat of a distance. Yet I did not want to be a coward in front of such a General – especially not in front of his family! So, I briefly related my conversion to them and by thus overcoming my own inhibitions, pride and fear, joy flooded my soul. Mrs. Frost was simply overjoyed. "The days of miracles are not yet passed after all!." she exclaimed, and cordially shook my hand.

"Though now a Christian, my intellectual difficulties about Adam and Eve, evolution/creation and the miracles in the Bible were not totally cast off. I regularly discussed these problems with the good General but he could not really help me. He felt I must 'just believe' and everything would be all right. However, one comment he made did help me. He remarked that often when we trust the Lord and His Word even when we do not understand, God sends people across our path who are in a position to answer our questions more satisfactorily."

After his conversion, Wilder-Smith earned a PhD in organic chemistry at Reading University, followed by another doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Geneva and one in biology and natural sciences from E.T.H. in Zurich. Ultimately it was through his own scientific investigation, rather than discussions with Christians, that he came to reject Darwin's theory of evolution and began to promote creationism. He eventually became the Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and his work led him all over the world, speaking about creation and other issues in hundreds of lectures in many famous universities. Fluent in German, he was particularly effective in reaching many thousands of German POWs during and after the Second World War. He was also a big hit with students who appreciated his boundless patience when they barraged him with questions.

"Today in Europe and the USA, the teaching of evolution in the schools and universities is a great problem," he said. "It is taken today as an incontrovertible fact of science that Darwin has made the idea of a divine Creator superfluous for the educated person. If God is scientifically superfluous to creation, then Christ who called Himself One with the Creator God, automatically becomes superfluous too. Thus, since Darwin, the preaching of Christ, particularly in academic circles, has become increasingly lacking in urgency."

Wilder-Smith authored many books on biogenesis, his particular field of expertise. (A list of his books can be seen at In The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution he exposed the idea that life arose spontaneously from the ocean:

" ... if excess water is present in the reacting mixture, peptide synthesis does not take place, equilibrium remains on the side of the initial reagents, the amino acids, which are the building blocks of life. This phenomenon is covered by the law of mass action: it is valid for all reversible reactions. Briefly said: in reactions of this type, synthesis of polypeptides from amino acids does not take place in the presence of excess water. The consequence of this well-known fact of organic chemistry is important: concentrations of amino acids will combine only in minute amounts, if they combine at all in a primeval ocean providing excess water, to form polypeptides. Any amounts of polypeptide which might be formed will be broken down into their initial components (amino acids) by the excess of water. The ocean is thus practically the last place on this or any other planet where the proteins of life could be formed spontaneously from amino acids. Yet nearly all text-books of biology teach this nonsense to support evolutionary theory and spontaneous biogenesis ... Has materialistic Neo-Darwinian philosophy overwhelmed us to such an extent that we forget or overlook the well-known facts of science and of chemistry in order to support this philosophy?

"Approximately twenty amino acids comprise the basic building blocks of life from a material point of view. Without these, life as we know it today could neither originate nor exist. Some of these amino acids can, under certain circumstances, be formed in the primeval atmosphere through chance lightning, as we have already discovered. But to state, as many experts do, that these amino acids which are formed by chance can be used to build living protoplasm is certainly grossly erroneous in principle, for they are for such purposes, in fact, entirely useless. Without exception all Miller's amino acids are completely unsuitable for any type of spontaneous biogenesis. And the same applies to all and any randomly formed substances and amino acids which form racemates. This statement is categorical and absolute and cannot be affected by special conditions."

In his book God: To Be or Not to Be? he wrote about DNA:

"Once we have reached the arrangements of matter of complexity such as DNA molecules the sailing is fairly plain. But we have no known way of accounting for the original order of life residing on DNA or the enzyme systems producing it, which must have come from some source apparently outside matter and able to convert energy into codes and sequences ... Why should it be anathema to Monod and the materialistic scientists to deny a priori any source of information/energy conversion outside matter?

"May not thought itself be the source of material order, sequences and codes with which life is inextricably interwoven? Jeans thought so. For thought consists of concepts embedded in sequences and codes which are, in our experience, imposable on to matter in the form of voice, printed text, poems, song or even memory macromolecules. The matter the poems ride on (paper) is not part of the poem or even the thought behind it. It is merely the medium on which the poem code is simulated and nothing else. We come then to the suggestion that thought, which is in itself not material, but which can ride on matter (paper, grey matter, magnetic tapes, etc.) imposed itself onto amino acid units and their sequences as a 'written code' which bears life and its meaning ... Why should it be unscientific, then, to suggest that something similar to human thought, which is a converter of energy into sequences and codes, produced primeval life? Since life's order is not, as far as we can see, present on matter endogenously today, it certainly could not have been resident in or on matter at the beginning (for in the beginning matter was by definition identical with present-day matter.) Thus the primeval orderer must have resided outside matter. Which is merely a polite way of saying that we are forced to conclude that the primeval source of order must have been metaphysical and have resided extra-materially."

In 1985 Professor Wilder-Smith was invited to present the scientific case for creation at England's foremost debating society, the Oxford Union, under the auspices of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The debate took place on 14th February 1986, as a kind of re-run of the 1860 Wilberforce-Huxley debate. Professor Wilder-Smith and Professor Andrews (University of London) were selected to debate the evolutionary professors Richard Dawkins and John Maynard-Smith. In his part in the debate Professor Wilder-Smith deliberately gave only scientific evidence as to why Darwinism cannot answer the origin of life puzzle, and why the evidence points firmly in the direction of an outside designer using information to order matter. In a direct reply to Wilder-Smith's speech, Professor Maynard-Smith acknowledged that while Darwin had not answered the problem of the origin of life, any creationist pinning their hopes on the riddle of the origin of life as proof that there must be a God would be 'crazy' because, "Before you're very much older it's going to be solved. I mean, really, you'd be mad to say 'I believe' because scientists can't explain the origin of life. Things are moving very fast in that field."

As of this present time, well over 20 years since the debate, evolutionary scientists are further away than ever from answering not only the question of the origin of life, but also the origin of consciousness and indeed, the origin of the universe itself. Wilder-Smith's arguments have stood the test of time and the case for an intelligent designer is stronger than ever.