Eighteen boards. Eighteen handshakes. Eighteen moves.
Monday’s chess challenge started simply enough for Jonathan Sarfati, former New Zealand national chess champion (1987-1988). He made his way around the U-shaped area in the K-State Union, playing 24 members of the K-State Chess Club simultaneously, one move at a time.
Within the first 30 minutes, he had beaten two players and started facing two more who replaced them. By the end of the two-plus hour challenge, Sarfati won 21 games, picked up two draws and a single loss.
Mory Mort, the man who beat him, said it was a tight game. “I never played against anybody that good,” he said.
Charles Tannehill was one of the 21 men not as fortunate as Mort. “We’re never going to hear the end of it at the club now,” he said.
The chess club members, who have been meeting Wednesday evenings at the K-State Union since 1997, accepted Sarfati’s challenge to play simultaneous matches on the opening day of the school year.
Tannehill came away impressed with Sarfati’s chess skills. “It requires a lot more concentration,” he said. “You got all these different variations. When he gets to you, he has to make a decision right then.”
Sarfati also came to the campus to speak on behalf of Creation Ministries International, a ministry that promotes the concept of Biblical creationism.
The chess champion, who has a doctoral degree in chemistry, said he came at the invitation of the K-State Creation Club, but he mostly visits audiences at churches. “Then, those guys from the churches go to campuses and schools,” he said. “We find that’s more productive than directly teaching at the universities.”
The chess club distanced itself from that portion of Sarfati’s visit, not listing the chess challenge as an official club event. While Sarfati’s chess abilities impressed Tannehill, his lecture topic was decidedly “not my cup of tea.”
“Not everybody in the club subscribes to his beliefs,” Tannehill said.
The creation versus evolution debate can often be contentious. Kansas became a part of the national discussion in 2005 when the Kansas Board of Education approved changes to the science standards that included teaching evolution as a theory rather than a fact and allowing intelligent design to be presented as an alternative explanation. The board later overturned the standards in 2007 after changes to the board.
Sarfati said he would like teachers to be free to teach creation. He said the issue is the lack of separation between school and state, which causes a lack of choice in styles of education.
“As long as the government is in control, there’s only one size fits all,” he said. “That’s why we have these big fights over this.”
For Sarfati, the only answer is creation by God, and there’s no room for evolution being a part of that. “There are certain people who try to combine God and evolution, but it’s an inconsistent position,” he said. “God using a process by which God is excluded. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Sarfati said issues come when people try to adapt their interpretation of the Bible based on evolution. “The reason we have death in the world is because of sin,” he said. “But if you have evolution over million of years, you’re putting death before sin. It undercuts the big picture of the Bible.”
He said he recognizes that he recognizes that his views are a minority among today’s scientists.
Sarfati said evolution doesn’t hold up because the idea behind natural selection reduces the amount of genetic information rather than increase it as needed for evolution to work.
During his lecture, Sarfati reasoned that the Earth is thousands of years old rather than billions of years old.
He said the current rate of movement and change doesn’t mean that’s the way it has always been. “You don’t need a lot of time with the right conditions,” he said.
Sarfati said modern science can be attributed to a Christian worldview, arguing against the notion that being a Christian means being anti-science or lacking intelligence.
“Then, you’d have to say Sir Isaac Newton was not intelligent because he was definitely a believer in Biblical creation as were many of the founders of modern science,” he said.