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Creation scientist’s life work lost in Bryan College blaze

DAYTON, Tenn. (BP)–The life work of creation scientist Kurt Wise was destroyed in a Feb. 6 blaze that caused more than $10 million in damage to William Jennings Bryan College’s administration building in Dayton, Tenn.

Wise, a Harvard-trained paleontologist, said he lost more than 5,000 photographic slides as well as hundreds of research files in the fire.

“My professional life is up in smoke. Everything is lost,” Wise told The Chattanooga Times.

State fire investigators have not determined a cause for the blaze that nearly destroyed the administration building, which housed 90 percent of the school’s classrooms, administration offices, faculty offices and the library. No one was injured in the fire.

Widely known in the field of creation science, Wise was a chapel speaker last fall at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and a keynote speaker in 1993 for the annual seminar of the SBC’s former Christian Life Commission, now the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Wise’s “young-earth” creationist theory holds that the earth is thousands of years old rather than the millions that evolution scientists believe. He believes the biblical flood, not evolution, created the fossil record.

The private Christian college also lost its Natural Science Museum, one of the largest in the Southeastern United States, which Wise managed.

The administration building also housed historical documents from the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, said Dick Garner, director of the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Squad.

While the Scopes collection was basically intact, college administrators said an early edition of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was lost and many creation professors lost their private collections.

The school is named after orator William Jennings Bryan, who argued in support of Tennessee’s ban on teaching evolution in public schools during the Scopes trial.

(BP) photo to be posted in the BP Photo Library.

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  • Todd Starnes