Challenging Darwin

These 40 books show a great intellectual ferment among critics of evolution

“WORLD normally reviews individual books rather than movements, but readers have sent letters asking for coverage of whole fields such as poverty-fighting, religious liberty, and others—and the most requests have been for an overall look at what’s going on in the creation/evolution battle.”

 

Despite decades of urging, most Americans still do not believe Darwinist explanations. Four big groups are putting out fascinating books as they compete for the lead role in critiquing evolution—and sometimes they don’t get along.

It seems an uneven match. On one side sits a science Goliath, using evidence for proven evolution (animals getting bigger or changing color) to sell the unproven doctrine of macroevolution (one kind of animal turning into another). On the other side roam Davids skeptical about such claims. Prestigious groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science attack them for exposing what the AAAS dubs “so-called ‘flaws’ in the theory of evolution or ‘disagreements’ within the scientific community.”

The debate seems even more uneven this summer, as the scientific establishment turns up the heat. One example: Fueled by $9 million from the Templeton Foundation, the AAAS this summer is inviting seminary professors to “faculty enrichment retreats” at historic seaside inns and mountain lodges. For example, from July 18 to 21 “evangelical/conservative Protestant” professors will have “positive dialogue” on evolution at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, where they can enjoy “deluxe accommodations. … Ranger-led walk on Mt. Hood (easy trail). Guided stargazing and astronomy tour. Stellar dining. … Hot tub. …”

Meanwhile, judging from press coverage, the only significant response from “evolution deniers” is a 510-foot-long replica of Noah’s Ark to be unveiled in Williamstown, Ky., on July 7. The popular Wonkette website earlier this year complained about this product of a purportedly “meth-addled creationist lame brain … literal interpretation of the Noah’s Ark Bible.” Americans would never know from the press generally that a great intellectual ferment among creationists and intelligent design proponents is under way, one that is producing many challenging books.

WORLD normally reviews individual books rather than movements, but readers have sent letters asking for coverage of whole fields such as poverty-fighting, religious liberty, and others—and the most requests have been for an overall look at what’s going on in the creation/evolution battle. So here goes: Over the next six pages I’ll take you on a tour of 40 books, most of them recently published and produced by scholars associated with the four leading groups—Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and Answers in Genesis (AIG) on the young-earth/six-day creation side, and Reasons to Believe (RTB) explicitly and Discovery Institute essentially in the old-earth sector with the Bible’s “days” interpreted as “eons.”

Orthodox Bible scholars disagree on which interpretations are valid. Some note that the Bible itself says that one of God’s days is like a thousand years, but others say the particular “there was evening, there was morning” phrasing in Chapter 1 of Genesis indicates days of about 24 hours. That discussion is worth many articles in itself, but here I’ll just deal with the clashing scientific understandings.

ICR’S CREATION BASICS & BEYOND: An In-Depth Look at Science, Origins, and Evolution (ICR, 2013) presents 10 authors questioning radioisotope dating methods, the speed of distant starlight, fossil forensics, and much besides. They say an old Earth would have produced more salt and sediment in the oceans, more erosion of the continents, more helium in the atmosphere and in rocks, and so forth. They argue that an understanding of mutations shows humans to have been around for thousands rather 2.5 million years: “Such a vast time would have produced about 125,000 generations and many thousands of mutations. Where are all the expected human SNVs [single-nucleotide variant mutations]?”

That book points to a key contention of those who believe the universe is thousands rather than billions of years old: If we assume a uniformity of natural processes over time, some of our measurements are way off. For example, The Book of Beginnings (ICR, 2012), two volumes by ICR President Henry Morris III, takes issue with conventional dating. He writes that “spiral galaxies should not exist if they are billions of years old. The stars near their centers rotate around the galactic cores faster than stars at the perimeters. If a cosmology based on long ages is correct, they should have blended into disk-shaped galaxies by now.”

Six-day creationists tell us we should not assume uniformity because the Bible itself tells us not to. For example, two of the first four rivers mentioned in the Bible no longer exist. The Bible records pre-flood humans living for hundreds of years, but the maximum over recent millennia as 120, with 70 years most common. Noah’s flood transformed the continents. (This year is the 55th anniversary of a book that rekindled young-earth creationism: The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications, by Henry M. Morris and John Whitcomb, which P&R republished in 2011.)

Another ICR researcher, Tim Clarey, forthrightly acknowledges that claims by some creationists to have found human footprints alongside dinosaur footprints along the Paluxy River in Texas don’t have a leg to stand on. Clarey’s Dinosaurs (Master Books, 2015) takes issue with Darwinians who argue that birds are descended from dinosaurs. (I heard a tour guide at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City asking his group, “Did you see a dinosaur fly this morning?”) Clarey flatly declares, “Dinosaurs are not birds,” as he critiques the evidence for Archaeopteryx as the missing link between dinosaurs and birds: Clarey points out that no dinosaur skin imprint over the past 150 years has shown any feathery projections.

ANSWERS IN GENESIS IS THE CREATOR of the new Noah’s Ark, but AIG also publishes scholarly research. Like ICR, it argues that both the earth’s magnetic field and its biological material are decaying too fast to have been around for eons. Both diamonds and deep geologic strata have too much carbon-14. Minerals have too much helium. The sea doesn’t have enough salt, and the seafloor doesn’t have enough mud. Natural radioactivity, mutations, and decay degrade DNA.

The two-volume Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation & the Flood (Master Books and AIG, 2014) is a comprehensive attack on uniformitarian contentions that geological and other processes proceeded in the past at the same pace they now do. Geologist Andrew Snelling argues that during creation week “convective circulation in the mantle, partial melting, and magna generation would have occurred at rates many orders of magnitude faster than the rates of similar processes observed today. … Within three literal 24-hour days of the Creation Week, Earth’s crustal rocks would have ‘aged’ by billions of years, according to the radioisotope ‘clocks’ if measured at today’s decay rates.”

Snelling provides details about sedimentation and fossilization and writes that fossil graveyards, including coal beds, “show convincing evidence of rapid and catastrophic deposition of sediments on an enormous scale. … Coalification is a quick process that does not require long periods of time.” He states that “God would have creatively used accelerated geologic and other processes to form and shape” what became dry land. He argues that because of rates of carbon-14 formation, the amount of carbon-14 contained in artifacts and specimens from early post-flood dates would make them seem much older than their real-time ages.

Snelling also argues that the number of supernova remnants astronomers observe is consistent with a galaxy created 6,000-7,000 years ago but not with one billions of years old. He says comets are short-lived, so based on their observed age, the maximum age of the solar system should be about 10,000 years. AIG’s latest attack on uniformitarianism comes in Grappling with the Chronology of the Genesis Flood, edited by Snelling and Steven Boyd (Master Books, 2014): They scrutinize the biblical text and the geological, geophysical, and paleontological issues it raises.

Terry Mortenson’s The Great Turning Point (Master Books, 2004) shows that pre-Darwin theologians who broke with previous biblical interpretation tilled the ground on which old-earth understandings could quickly take root. Later, various scientific methods of dating backed up old-earth claims, but (as Snelling argues) they assumed uniform rates of change: If decay rates measured by radioactive dating have been constant for millions and billions of years, the earth must be old; but we have no evidence for that assumption.

And Snelling refers to one other intriguing notion: the “appearance of age” argument originally developed by Philip Henry Gosse in his 1857 book Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot, which is newly published online. Gosse argued that God thousands (not billions) of years ago made soil, plants, and mature fruit trees, along with animals with the appearance of age. God also created Adam and Eve as adults, and Jesus turned water into wine that had the appearance of age: no deception, because the Bible tells us what God was doing.

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