The director of curriculum development at the Institute for Creation
Research has publicly stated that this book is an embarrassment to
many creationists because of the large number of errors it contains.
Judging from this statement, we might expect it would soon be
withdrawn from the market, thereby rendering any review unnecessary.
It is my understanding, however, that such is not the case, and
attempts are still being made to sell the text to private and public
schools all over the country.
Well, errors or no, the book makes thoughtful reading for anyone
interested in creationism and creationists - and that's where I come
As a practicing scientist I can hardly find fault with the oft stated
purpose of the book - the exploration of alternative "models" to
explain observed phenomena. This is, after all, a basic component of
the scientific method. Too often, biology is presented as a series of
conclusions with little or no attention given as to how those
conclusions were reached. Certainly, the examination of data in the
light of conflicting models would
be an excellent approach for a
I might also compliment the editors with respect to the scope of the
book. They have certainly included a wide range of material beyond the
traditional discipline of biology. Paleontology, anthropology,
radiometric dating, thermodynamics, molecular and population genetics,
origin of life, and philosophy of science all seem to find their
place. It would be difficult, therefore, to fault them for being too
narrow in their coverage.
Unfortunately, the book misses the mark as to what science is all
about. This fundamental misunderstanding is evident in the very first
paragraph of the preface. There co-editor Moore unequivocally states
that "true science" consists of presenting the raw data "as it is
However, if the authors adhered to this ideal, they would present no
models at all, a direct contradiction of their aforementioned purpose.
The real aim of the book seems to be the making of slanderous attacks
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evolution and evolutionists. I've looked in vain for one fair
statement on the nature of evolution theory. Simply stated, the book
is an attempt by the authors to get even for the omission of their
creation theory in modern texts.
Furthermore, I am left with the impression that the authors, because
they fully understand the extreme frailty of their model, have chosen
to discredit evolution rather than make any case for creation.
A beautiful example of their subtle discrediting technique appears in
their treatment of population genetics. This complex subject is
incomprehensibly dispatched in slightly over one page. There is little
chance that any reader not already acquainted with the subject would
ever recognize he had just been treated to a fundamental theorem of
the neo-Darwinian synthesis. It seems likely that any intelligent, but
genetically naive, reader instead would dismiss population genetics as
pseudoscientific double-talk, because that is exactly what page 119
In addition to muddling the facts, the authors make serious errors.
For example, the letter "T" is used for both an allele symbol and an
allele frequency with almost no mention of the midstream shift in
meaning. Then the word "phenotype" is incorrectly used in place of
"genotype." And just in case anyone were still comprehending after all
of this, the derivation of the binomial distribution of genotypes in a
population is erroneously said to be "from the results of a monohybrid
Muddling and errors aside, however, the thing that really stands out
is the fact that the authors rarely miss an opportunity to slander the
intellect and intentions of evolutionists. Chapter 21, "Weaknesses of
Geologic Evidence" seems to represent some sort of nadir in the
employment of this technique, so let's take a look at it.
The mood of the entire chapter is captured exquisitely in the section,
"Difficulties with the geologic timetable," (page 423). First the
geologic sequence is said to be "artificial," and even the word
"sequence" is placed in quotation marks along with the word "time."
Then the reader is told that the order of the "sequence" was derived
entirely by placing fossils in the order of increasing complexity so
they would conform to evolutionary expectation. Nowhere is there a
hint that the order of strata is usually pieced together by finding
layers ABC in one place, BCDE in another, and EFG in still another,
etc. Instead, we are told that the "geological column does not
actually exist, but is an arbitrary system in the minds of
geologists." The fact that no single locality shows all the strata is
supposed, from the authors' view, to show the complete absurdity of
the whole notion of the geological column.
On the following page we are told how index fossils are an example of
circular reasoning. According to the creationists, the oldest strata
are recognized as such because they have the least complicated
fossils, while the youngest deposits are recognized by having the most
complicated forms fossilized in them. The creationist catch-phrase
goes like this: "Fossils date rocks and rocks
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As usual, there are several flaws in the creationist reasoning. So
let's cover them one at a time. First, there is no known way of
assigning a complexity index to any organism. So, if complexity were
used to arrange the strata, the order of the geologic column would be
a source of constant bickering among geologists. Such a method would
have been thrown out as totally unworkable long ago.
Next, it is obvious that the strata could be ordered correctly even if
the index fossils showed no apparent complexity gradient at all. What
one would need to do is find an intact series, such as ABC, and then
find a fossil type which was confined to the B stratum. The fossil
used could have any apparent complexity, yet it would still allow you
to recognize B strata wherever they occurred. The only assumption
would be that the B-type fossil enjoyed wide distribution during one
period of time. I fail to see any circularity in this assumption.
As far as assigning an order to any one sequence, only one more
assumption would be needed. That would be that most deposits are found
right-side-up. Fossil tracks, and burrows of bottom dwellers would
also provide some indication as to whether any particular sequence was
right-side-up. Tracks, for example, are usually pushed into the
substratum, rather than pulled up from it.
At any rate, we see that creationist claims of circular reasoning are
possibly pure subterfuge, or they may indicate an incredible lack of
common sense on the part of the authors.
Of course the foregoing hypotheses are not mutually exclusive.