RNCSE 26 (5)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2006
Date: 
September–October
Articles available online are listed below.
Click "Print Edition Contents" for list of articles in the print edition.
Please note also special downloadable pdf article.

Print Edition Contents: 26 (5)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Contents
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2006
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
2

News

  1. Evolution and the Elections
    Glenn Branch and Eric Meikle
    Win some, lose some, as the expression goes. Evolution education and whether to teach so-called alternatives were a part of a number of political campaigns in 2006.
  2. Devolution and Dinosaurs: The Anti-Evolution Seminar in the European Parliament
    Ulrich Kutschera
    A member of the European Parliament sponsored a "seminar" on "intelligent design"; some familiar faces showed up to tell the same old stories.
  3. Turkish Creationist Movement Tours American College Campuses
    Pat Shipman
    Active in Turkey for over a decade, the followers of Harun Yahya have begun to spread their message across North America using tactics and arguments familiar to those who follow "intelligent design" proponents and biblical creationists — but with an Islamic twist.
  4. Updates
    News from Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee, and France.

MEMBERS' PAGES

  1. Knowing the Age of the Earth
    The geological sciences speak out.
  2. Books: Rock of Ages; Ages of Rock
    Books that examine the earth and its history.
  3. NCSE On the Road
    An NCSE speaker may be coming to your neighborhood. Check the calendar here.

ARTICLES

  1. Time to Accumulate Chloride Ions in the World's Oceans — More than 3.6 Billion Years: Creationism's Young Earth Not Supported
    Lorence G Collins
    Chloride ions make up one of the basic components of ocean salt, among other important compounds. Geologists studying the natural processes by which chloride ions accumulate in the ocean waters (mostly as salt) and in other geologic formations can estimate the age of the earth's oceans.
  2. Evolution: Dollars and Sense — A View Beyond the Gas Station
    Paul Caton
    The ultimate challenge for Flood creationists is to locate productive, economically viable petroleum preserves using only their young-earth models of Flood-derived fossil and hydrocarbon deposits.

FEATURES

  1. How Does the Sun Shine?
    Joseph Lazio
    Although "intelligent design" is usually argued on the basis of biological processes on earth, the argument is really about the nature and process of scientific inquiry. This historical example about explaining the basis of the sun's energy reminds us that modern scientific inquiry is valued because it works!
  2. Will the Real ID Please Stand Up?
    Duane Jeffery
    If it is enough for "intelligent design" to generate discussion, then this conference was a success for the movement. However, even scholars predisposed to be sympathetic find ID lacking as science.
  3. "Intelligent Design": A Lamb in Wolf's Clothing
    Geoffrey Dobson
    "Intelligent design" pretends to be hard-hitting, cutting-edge science, but in reality it offers little more than simulacra of explanations with no scientific power.
  4. Hymn of Praise to the Intelligent Designer
    Philip Appleman
    A response to "intelligent design" in verse.

BOOK REVIEWS

  1. Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/Evolution Wars by Hugh Ross
    Reviewed by Timothy H Heaton
  2. Who Was Adam? A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross
    Reviewed by Jeffrey K McKee
  3. Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey
    Reviewed by Neil Wells

Devolution and Dinosaurs

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Devolution and Dinosaurs: The Anti-Evolution Seminar in the European Parliament
Author(s): 
Ulrich Kutschera
Institute of Biology, University of Kassel
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2006
Date: 
September-October
Page(s): 
10–11
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In January 2006, BBC News published an article entitled "Britons unconvinced on evolution", reporting that only 48% of those questioned accept the theory of evolution. About 17% chose "intelligent design" (ID), 22% opted for creationism, and the rest did not know (http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk). Several months later, an anti-evolution seminar was scheduled for members of the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels. The meeting took place on October 11, 2006, and was announced under the following title: "Teaching evolutionary theory in Europe. Is your child being indoctrinated in the classroom?"

The presentation was translated into four languages and publicized by the Catholic Kolbe Centre for the Study of Creation (see its press release "Evolutionary theory dismissed at European Parliament seminar"; available on-line via http://www.kolbecenter.org) and other creationist groups. Much of the tone of the seminar was conveyed by an anti-evolution letter written by a Polish member of the EP, Maciej Giertych (Nature 2006; 444: 265). In this letter, the author claimed that his arguments are entirely scientific and denied any religious motivation.

The series of three public lectures at the EP was introduced and moderated by Giertych, who was announced as "Population Geneticist, MA, Oxford University; PhD, University of Toronto". Giertych indeed holds a PhD in tree physiology; he is also an honorary member of the UK-based Catholic creationist organization Daylight Origins Society. At the meeting, Giertych explained his views on what he called the falsified hypothesis of macroevolution (the emergence of new body plans as documented in the fossil record). According to this EP member, genetics research provides no evidence of, but "only disproof" for, the concept of common ancestry of life. Moreover, Giertych questioned the value of teaching such "wrong theories" in public schools. His arguments were reinforced by the aerospace physiologist Joseph Mastropaolo, who came from the United States to Brussels; he claimed that the theory of evolution "consists merely of interpretational evidence" and that "the biological sciences offer no empirical proof of macroevolution, just insurmountable problems".

In response to my published statement that "evolution is a fact that has been explained by a modern theory" (dpa news service, 2006 Oct 30), Mastropaolo offered me a considerable amount of money for evidence for evolution that must be "scientific, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated" (see RNCSE 2005 Sep–Oct; 25 [5–6]: 33–4). In a letter, Mastropaolo contended that "the entire universe is devolving, the exact opposite and excluder of evolution" … and that "evolution is anti-science, because it is based entirely on frauds and forgeries". He sent me his paper presented at the public EP hearing, entitled "Life devolves", and summarized the general conclusions of this seminar as follows: "All of the evidence proved evolution is non-existent, whereas the entire universe has always devolved." In his EP presentation, Mastropaolo revealed his religious conviction that "life … is dynamically engineered with vast disciplined originality" and referred to his papers published in the creationist literature. In one of these papers, Mastropaolo wrote that "the human muscle was meticulously nanoengineered by a designer of unimaginable intelligence using mathematics and creative power" ("The maximum-power stimulus theory for muscle", Creation Research Society Quarterly 2001; 37 [4]: 213–20).

At the EP meeting, the civil engineer Hans-Joachim Zillmer, a well-known anti-evolutionist in Germany, claimed that the fossil record does not provide evidence for the emergence of novel body plans (macroevolution). Zillmer, who was announced as an "expert for paleontology and evolution" and a "member of the New York Academy of Sciences", has not published a single paper in the international peer-reviewed literature. A young-earth catastrophist, Zillmer is the author of best-selling popular books with titles such as Darwins Irrtum (Darwin's Mistake) (Munich: Langen/Müller, 2006 [8th ed]) and Die Evolutionslüge (The Evolution Lie) (Munich: Langen/Müller 2005). These books, written in German and translated into several languages, are full of factual errors and unsupported claims. In Darwins Irrtum, Zillmer asserts that he has found human and dinosaur footprints in fossil-bearing sediments in a riverbed in Texas and concludes that these organisms lived together. Even most creationists have admitted long ago that these supposed "human prints" are fraudulent carvings or artifacts. However, in one respect Zillmer is right: between 1960 and 1966, humans and dinosaurs co-existed — in the animated television series The Flintstones.

In his sequel Die Evolutionslüge, Zillmer argues that marine trilobites, which he confuses with crustaceans, may have co-existed with humans in the Cambrian. Referring to the 5th edition of the book of the German "basic types" creationists Reinhard Junker and Siegfried Scherer (Evolution — Ein Kritischer Lehrbuch [Evolution — A Critical Textbook], Giessen [Germany]: Weyel, 2001; see RNCSE 2006 Jul/Aug; 26 [4]: 31–6 for discussion), Zillmer claims that mutations are always harmful and cannot add information to the genome. In essence, he argues that evolutionary biologists, geoscientists, and the editors of leading scientific journals are incompetent ideologists: these dogmatic Darwinists believe in macroevolution — a modern fairy tale that is unsupported by any evidence. Zillmer and Mastropaolo assert that the scientific establishment actively prevents the publication of the truth — that evolution is a fiction. Zillmer is an advocate of the "young-earth catastrophe" view, which suggests that our planet was struck by a global catastrophe (deluge) about 6 000 years ago. Zillmer believes that either the God of the Bible (which he considers more likely) or an extraterrestrial intelligence (alien life forms) created all forms of life on earth. It should be noted that Zillmer is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He uses this prestigious membership to promote his esoteric pseudoscience among the general public of Europe.

At the end of the meeting, the French Catholic creationist Guy Berthault informed the audience about the results of his empirical research programs concerning the deposition of sediments. According to Berthault, sediments "did not form slowly over millions of years", but "have been laid down within very short time periods". Hence, "fossils can not be dated by the strata that they are found in, nor the rocks dated by the type of fossils found in them."

The public anti-evolution seminar was co-organized by Dominique Tassot, the director of Centre d'Etude et de Prospectives sur la Science (CEP). This is an association of 700 French-speaking Catholic intellectuals that was founded in 1997 by the transformation of a pre-existing informal group. CEP members, who include some active researchers such as Berthault, do not accept macroevolution because it is in conflict with their specific reading of the Bible.

Giertych's bizarre letter to Nature was based on the religiously motivated lectures presented at his seminar. The meeting was part of a novel intelligently designed strategy to distribute and popularize anti-evolutionism in Europe. It is obvious that the reputation of the European Parliament was misused for this purpose. A few weeks later, the journal Nature published Giertych's letter on its Correspondence page. This provocative anti-Darwin letter sparked many angry reactions among the readers of this prestigious scientific journal (see Nature 2006; 444: 679–80).

About the Author(s): 
Ulrich Kutschera
Institut für Biologie, University of Kassel
Heinrich-Plett-Strasse 40
D-34109 Kassel
Germany

Turkish Creationist Movement Tours American College Campuses

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Turkish Creationist Movement Tours American College Campuses
Author(s): 
Pat Shipman
Pennsylvania State University
Volume: 
26
Issue: 
5
Year: 
2006
Date: 
September-October
Page(s): 
11–14
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The first I heard of it was when I got an e-mail from a Turkish colleague, Cengiz Camci, in aerospace engineering, who had read an article of mine in American Scientist about the threat that "intelligent design" poses in the US. Cengiz told me that representatives from the Turkish Harun Yahya movement were coming to our campus (Penn State) to speak. He asked me to attend to support a small group of faculty and students who were opposed to the Harun Yahya sect and wanted to counter their presentation with pertinent questions and rebuttals.

Cengiz succinctly called the upcoming event "a great example of totally useless 'intelligent design' propaganda." The talk, "The Collapse of Darwinism and the Fact of Creation", was given by Dr Oktar Babuna — an acknowledged student of Harun Yahya — with a very professional-looking presentation (see the websites http://www.harunyahya.com/ or http://www.harunyahyaimpact.com/biyografi.php). Harun Yahya is claimed to be the pen name of a single man, Adnan Oktar or Adnan Hoca, to whom hundreds of books, articles, pamphlets, videos, and PowerPoint presentations are credited (see RNCSE 1999 Nov/Dec; 19 [6]: 15–17; 18–20, 25–9; 30–5). Reportedly, Adnan Oktar was formerly a prisoner and inmate in a Turkish mental asylum, which he sees as a political imprisonment. The enormous output of Harun Yahya and the affiliated Science Research Foundation (known as BAV after its Turkish acronym) suggests that the name is used by a number of people in collaboration.

Harun Yahya espouses a strongly creationist view and is blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist, and anti-Freemasonry. Though Turkey's population is predominantly Muslim, the country has long been officially a secular state. Its excellent education system stands out among those of similar countries for the unusually high percentage of women who receive university educations. Harun Yahya is working hard to remove evolutionary theory from the education system and replace it with creationist doctrine. In 2006, hundreds of free copies of a very glossy text featuring numerous color photographs — entitled the Atlas of Creation — were sent to schools all over Turkey in an attempt to promote adoptions. The same book, in French translation, was sent to educators all over France early in 2007 (see "Updates", p 14–15).

In 2007, representatives of Harun Yahya have been contacting Muslim student associations in colleges, universities, and community centers offering to give presentations. In Pennsylvania alone, I was able to track recent talks by the same group, under identical or near-identical titles, at the University of Pittsburgh, Lehigh University, Villanova University, and Temple University. A similar talk was held at the University of Buffalo on January 29 and at Albany University on February 1, 2007.

I expected a slick and well-orchestrated presentation, and I was not disappointed. What did surprise me was the lack of advance publicity. As late as the day before the event, there was no posting on the Muslims Students' Association (MSA) website or on that of Dialog Forum, an interfaith group that cosponsored the presentation. I could not find an announcement of the event on any campus calendar, nor were there posters on campus. I was eventually able to confirm the identity of the sponsors by calling the registrar's office, which books campus rooms for events. On the day of the event, an announcement appeared on the MSA website. I sent e-mail notices to the departments of Earth Sciences, Anthropology, and Biology, and to the Life Sciences Consortium, in order to alert interested parties. My message apparently sparked a notice on the post-doctoral list-serve as well. The turnout was good for a bitterly cold Thursday night in January: about 50 people. I do not know how many were Muslims who normally attend MSA meetings and how many were attendees with scientific backgrounds.

Babuna is a neurosurgeon from Turkey educated both in Turkey and the United States. He and his colleague, Ali Sadun, were elegantly dressed in ties, white shirts, and pin-striped suits with handkerchiefs in their breast pockets. The PowerPoint presentation that Babuna gave was very professionally produced.

Babuna's triple threat

His talk naturally divided into three parts. The first section attempted to link evolutionary theory with evil and social injustice; the second presented calculations intended to show that the proteins and cells of living organisms were irreducibly complex and could not have arisen "by coincidence"; and the third attacked the fossil evidence that should support evolution as either absent or intentionally deceptive.

He began the first part by connecting Darwinism to the ruthless strategies of political figures such as Karl Marx, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, and Friedrich Engels. He provided images of each political leader coupled with quotations in which materialism — that is, evolutionary theory — provided scientific justification for the murder or gross maltreatment of thousands. With each image, he solemnly intoned the numbers of people who had been murdered. (He did not, of course, mention the numbers of victims of any religious movement or inter-faith conflict.) He openly blamed Darwinism for terrorism and racism. He posed a strictly dichotomous choice to the audience: either you are for Darwinism and these evil deeds, or you believe that Allah created the world and all of the life-forms in it. "There is no other choice," he said repeatedly.

The second portion of his talk was billed as an objective examination of the evidence for the creationist or the Darwinist approaches. His evaluation was based on three questions: 1) How did the first cell originate? 2) What are the mechanisms of evolution? 3) Is there abundant fossil evidence showing evidence of evolution?

To answer the first question, he gave some calculations to show the enormous complexity of living organisms, such as the number of amino acids that must be correctly assembled in a particular sequence to form a protein and the number of proteins produced by a single cell. He asserted that a change in a single component rendered the whole (DNA or RNA molecule, or protein) ineffectual and nonfunctional.

"There is no trial and error mechanism in nature," he declared, "because if you change one single amino acid or one single protein, nothing functions any more." Such irreducible complexity could not have arisen by coincidence — "and evolution works by coincidence, Darwin tells us" — and must have been deliberately created, perfect and whole in a single, sudden step.

"You see, the whole theory of evolution collapses at the level of a single protein," he concluded.

Babuna chose the (human) eye as an example of an organ that could not possibly have been created by "coincidence". I found this choice fascinating, since a good deal of work has been done on the evolution of the eye. Among other studies, mathematical modeling has shown that a three-layered tissue — with light-sensitive tissue in the middle layer — can be easily transformed into a camera-type eye with a lens and retina by the action of natural selection.

Having declared the evolution of such irreducible complexity to be statistically impossible, Babuna moved to his second question concerning the mechanisms of evolution. He claimed there was not a single piece of evidence that natural selection had ever produced novelty, illustrating his point with a photograph of a cheetah chasing an antelope. "Natural selection may make the deer" — as he called it — "run faster to escape the cheetah, but it does not turn the deer into a horse. Natural selection produces no novelty, nothing new, no transformations into other species," Babuna said.

Babuna also argued that mutations, the second major mechanism proposed by evolutionary theory, were inevitably deleterious and usually resulted in death. Mutations are only harmful, he said: "Sixty years of genetic studies on fruitflies has yet to produce a single advantageous mutation." He also showed a video clip of Richard Dawkins being asked by an interviewer to name a mutation that had been shown to be clearly advantageous. Dawkins thought for some seconds without answering before the clip ended, a bit of clever editing that made this foremost evolutionary biologist look foolish.

The third segment of Babuna's talk concerned fossils. He cited the well-known quote from Charles Darwin regretting the lack of transitional forms, and declared that "there is not a single transitional fossil known." Fossils reveal the history of life, he conceded, but new forms appear suddenly and in their perfect, complex, and fully functional state, "which is very good evidence for creation, not evolution."

One tactic was to show photographs of various fossils which appeared to be identical to their modern form, such as dragonflies and horseshoe crabs. He presented these as evidence that evolution did not occur.

Babuna also attacked the practice of making reconstructions based on fossils as intentionally deceptive. He showed several images of the noted artist John Gurche making full-flesh sculptures of fossil hominins. "These are fakes," he said emphatically as the word FAKE was stamped across each image. "You can tell nothing about the ears, the lips, the hair, or the skin of a fossil from a few bits of skull. There is nothing here but the imagination of the artist." He repeated the demonstration several times, emphasizing the word FAKE.

To emphasize this point, he brought up the case of Ernst Haeckel, a renowned 19th-century biologist who was charged with drawing embryos of various species incorrectly to heighten their resemblance to human embryos. Babuna showed a quote from Haeckel saying that he had done nothing that other scientists did not do, implying that this was an admission of deliberately misleading the public. A more knowledgeable assessment of Haeckel's words would be that he felt he was justifiably generalizing from individual specimens and leaving out unimportant details to make his point clearer.

As a final strategy, Babuna cited various fossils that had at one time been claimed to be human ancestors that were then re-assessed. These including Hesperopithecus (a single pig tooth found in Kansas that was briefly thought to be a hominin tooth), the forged Piltdown skull, Ramapithecus, and Zinjanthropus (now called Australopithecus boisei). With each example, he would quote a scientist claiming the fossil was a human ancestor, and then the date of its revision, saying sarcastically, "Then they apologized" for the discredited claim.

In the case of several fossils (including Zinjanthropus), Babuna incorrectly implied that they are no longer considered to be hominins. In fact, Zinjanthropus or Australopithecus boisei and others are clearly hominins but are no longer thought to be direct ancestors of modern humans.

The audience responds

A very lively, sometimes heated question-and-answer session followed the presentation, and the questions were as far-ranging as Babuna's talk.

One member of the audience, George Chaplin, challenged Babuna "You say God created perfect and complete organisms," he argued. "If God created me, then I am perfect." A silence fell over the room as Babuna confronted this challenge.

"I didn't say perfect," Babuna replied. When the audience reminded him that he had used that very word repeatedly, Babuna said, "I didn't mean perfect perfect."

Asked what his definition of evolution was, Babuna replied "the definition of evolution is that living things come into being by coincidence." A biologist challenged this, saying it was not a suitable definition of evolution, nor was it one that was used by scholars in the field. "Since you don't define evolution in a way that any evolutionary biologist I know of defines evolution, your disproof of evolution isn't very convincing," she said.

When I cited Archaeopteryx as an excellent example of a transitional form, Babuna — who admitted he had never seen a fossil — disagreed. I told the audience about the teeth, wings, tail, brain, claws, tail, and sternum of Archaeopteryx, not to mention the many species of feathered dinosaurs now known from fossils. Babuna countered that there is a bird in South America with claws on its wings, which he suggested refuted all the evidence I had cited.

I also pointed out that his diagram of an eyeball was as "fake" as Haeckel's embryo diagrams or Gurche's hominin reconstructions. "Does an eyeball look like this?" I asked, pointing to his image. "I've dissected them and never seen those things like piano keys that you say are retinal cells. And what about that yellow stuff filling the eyeball? I've never seen that either, or those green arrows. This is as much a fake as the other illustrations you labeled fakes."

"No," Babuna answered. "This is just a diagram from a medical textbook."

A question of credibility

My friend Cengiz asked from the back of the room what had happened to the 80 000 blood samples and all the donated funds that had been raised in Turkey for Babuna's leukemia cure. When asked how that pertained to Babuna's talk, he replied, "It is relevant to his credibility."

Cengiz referred to a massive movement in Turkey started by Babuna and his family in 1999, when Babuna had been diagnosed with leukemia and needed a marrow transplant to save his life. According to Turkish newspaper reports, as many as 160 000 people, attracted by the promise of a large reward if they were suitable donors for Babuna, contributed blood and marrow samples. A great deal of money was also raised to test and process the samples, but both the funds and the samples remain unaccounted for. Turkish legal authorities are investigating.

Babuna has not been entirely open about this matter. In October of 1999, he told the Turkish newspaper he had cured himself of leukemia by prayer (Turkish Daily News, 1999 Oct 3; available on-line at http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/archives.php?id=14352.) However, Babuna does not mention in public that he also received treatment and transplants at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and later at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (http://www.seattlecca.org/patientsandfamilies/international/OktarsStory.htm).

Babuna promised after his cure to "go into politics" and it would seem that he has.

About the Author(s): 
Pat Shipman
c/o NCSE
PO Box 9477
Berkeley CA 94709-0477
pls10@psu.edu

Review: Creation as Science

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
5
Date: 
September-October
Page(s): 
35–37
Reviewer: 
Timothy H Heaton,
University of South Dakota
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation-Evolution Wars
Author(s): 
Hugh Ross
Colorado Springs (CO): NavPress, 2006. 291 pages
Those familiar with Hugh Ross and his Reasons to Believe (RTB) ministry will find many familiar themes in Creation as Science. Ross is an old-earth creationist with a background in astronomy who believes that science and the Bible tell the same history. Ross seeks to prove that the universe has been fine-tuned for human civilization by the biblical God and could not have come about by chance. The point of this book is to challenge others, creationists and non-creationists alike, to compare their models of earth history with his, using scientific data as a test.

The "fine-tuning" of the universe is a theme that runs through all Ross's books, but in Creation as Science he takes the concept to even greater extremes: "The Bible says that God works continuously throughout cosmic history to ensure that everything in the universe maintains the just-right conditions for support of human life" (p 72). According to Ross, some of God's purposes in creating the universe were to:
Supply resources for the rapid development of civilization and technology and the achievement of global occupation.

Provide humanity with the best possible viewing conditions for discovering, through a careful examination of the cosmos, His existence and attributes.

Set up the optimal physical theater — including an optimal human life span — for conquering sin and the evil it produces. (p 68)
God's mechanisms for achieving his purposes, according to Ross's model, involve a puzzling blend of naturalistic and supernatural processes. For example, Ross believes that God initiated the Big Bang under a precise set of conditions so that, over 13 billion years later, a planet would form on which God could create humans and where they could survive. Ross never explains why God did not create the universe and the earth in the same sudden and miraculous way that he created humans. Here is an example from the fossil record:
… the Creator worked efficiently and effectively to prepare a home for humanity. A huge array of highly diverse, complex plants and animals living in optimized ecological relationships and densely packing the earth for more than a half billion years perfectly suits what humanity needs. These life systems loaded earth's crust with sufficient fossil fuels and other biodeposits to catapult the human race toward technologically advanced civilization. (p 140)
Here we see Ross's astounding double standard. When it comes to astronomy and geology, Ross believes in an old universe, so he seeks reasons why God needed so much time. But when it comes to biology, Ross invokes a miracle at every turn:
From a biblical perspective, one reason so many apparent transitions appear in the fossil record for whales and horses is that Creation had a particular time, place, and purpose for each one in the ecosystem. Because these kinds of species go extinct so rapidly, the fossil record shows frequent replacements, or "transitions," for them. It seems God frequently created new species to replace those that went extinct. … The biblical creation accounts describe God as continually involved and active in creating new species until he created human beings. (p 143–4)
The irony is this: the direct formation of fossil fuels would require far less creative effort than creating thousands of new species over millions of years. In a similar manner, Ross proposes that God compensated for changes in solar luminosity (apparently outside divine control) with a host of geological and biological miracles on earth and then concludes: "The number of just-right outcomes converging at the just-right times to compensate for the decreasing brightness of the youthful sun seriously strains naturalistic models" (p 132–3).

In astronomy, events follow natural laws, while in biology, every detail is due to a deliberate act by the Creator. If male nipples and human sex drive need special explanations, as Ross suggests (p 160, 170), and so does every individual species that ever lived, then why not the billions of galaxies and the many types of stars that played no role in earth's formation? Why would a powerful God choose to create every individual species by a special act but leave the formation of a solar system (a much simpler structure) to gravity and eons of time? While Ross proposes types, frequencies, and economy for God's miracles (p 70–2), his choice of when to invoke these miracles seems arbitrary. It is difficult to understand what proof and attributes Ross expects us to find for God in such a capricious universe.

Ross's double standard starts to make sense in light of the twofold purpose of Creation as Science. First Ross offers his own reconciliation between science and religion, which he calls the RTB creation model. "This book outlines a model that strives to uphold both scientific and biblical integrity as it attempts to reconcile the goals of the scientific community with the goals of the Christian community" (p 52). Second, Ross invites creationists and evolutionists to engage him in testing competing models to see which one is right. Ross proposes his test with confidence and appeals to humility on the part of the other players "in assigning credit where it is due" (p 202). So what is this game, and why does Ross think he can win?

As I see it, Ross consciously attempts to align himself with what he regards as the strongest positions of scientists and creationists. In particular:

1) Wherever Ross feels that scientists have thoroughly established a conclusion, he accepts that conclusion. Examples include the Big Bang model for the origin of the universe, radiometric dating, and the history of life on earth as documented in the fossil record. Then he uses this scientific evidence to criticize the young-earth creationists for their unscientific views, and he makes predictions for where future research will lead in these areas as a further test of his model. It should be noted, however, that Ross does not apply scientific conclusions uniformly. Due to his training in astronomy and the quantitative elegance of models in physics, he accepts historical conclusions in these areas more readily than in scientific disciplines such as biology and archaeology. For example, Ross does not regard morphologic and genetic similarities between species as proof of common ancestry, but as "shared designs" in progressive creation by God (p 80).

2) Where there are gaps in scientific knowledge, Ross invokes the biblical God. This aligns him with both the young-earth creationists and "intelligent design" advocates. Examples include the initiation of the Big Bang, the origin of life on earth, major gaps in the fossil record, and the peculiar intelligence of humans. Here Ross criticizes mainstream scientists for having weak explanations, whereas the powerful biblical God can fill these gaps with ease. He predicts that future research will continue to have trouble filling these gaps, and that this will be a confirmation of his model. Ross defends the "God-of-the-gaps" concept, saying "if the gap becomes wider and more problematic from a naturalistic stance as scientists learn more, then a supernatural explanation seems in order" (p 34–5).

3) Ross seeks out biblical verses that appear to support his view. For example, he argues that "thousands of years previous to any scientific speculation or research into big bang cosmology, the Bible predicted all of the fundamental attributes of a big bang universe" (p 75). Most of Ross's citations are brief phrases from books like Isaiah and Psalms where the context is either mysterious or constantly shifting. Ross's mental gymnastics become even more pronounced where the narratives of Genesis conflict with his views. He argues that the creation "days" of Genesis 1 are "six creation epochs" during which most fossils were formed and that God's "'day of rest' is ongoing in the context of this universe" (p 72), thus advocating the Day–Age theory. Ross accepts that the Flood of Noah killed all humans and their associated "soulish animals" outside the ark but not that the flood was global: "In fact, careful analysis of the relevant biblical texts shows that Noah's Flood was geographically limited" and "because of its relatively brief duration, would not have left any significant geological or archaeological evidence" (p 79, 224). These interpretations put Ross completely at odds with the young-earth creationists, but he never suggests that Bible scholarship should decide the issues.

4) Ross frequently cites evidence that the emergence of humans is so unlikely that it requires a God: "According to recent studies, for the universe to produce the kinds of galaxies, stars, planets, and chemical elements essential for physical life, the cosmic mass density must be fine-tuned to at least one part in 1060. The cosmic dark energy … must be fine-tuned to at least one part in 10120 [and] even if the universe contains as many planets as it does stars, the possibility for the existence of just one planet or moon with the required conditions for advanced life falls below 1 in 10282" (p 94, 97; footnotes indicate that these studies were conducted by Ross himself).

The book is filled with these sorts of statements. It appears from the footnotes (and from his other books) that Ross spends a lot of time scanning the scientific literature for any suggestion that conditions for life represent an unlikelihood and then accepts these claims as the final word on the subject. He enjoys reducing these probabilities to numbers and then multiplying them together to derive astronomical improbabilities for life appearing on its own — all to prove that the biblical God had to be involved. This line of reasoning is common to creationists, but Ross takes it to a whole new level.

Ross's attempt to find as many cases of "fine-tuning" as possible has led him into serious errors outside his specialty of astronomy. For example, in trying to explain the need for ice ages, he claims that "large, fast-moving glaciers predominant during ice ages contributed to the formation of many of earth's richest ore deposits" (p 173). Actually, glacial ice is exceptionally poor at sorting minerals by density and thus does not concentrate valuable minerals into ore deposits. Another of Ross's claims involves weather phenomena:
If earth's rotation rate slowed to 26 hours per day, no hurricanes or tornados would ever occur. … [Earlier in earth history] 21-hour days spawned enormously more destructive hurricanes and tornados. Placing humanity on earth when the rotation rate had slowed to 24 hours meant that the Creator timed the human era to correspond with the ideal hurricane and tornado era in geologic history — another piece of evidence that the timing of humanity's advent was planned rather than accidental. (p 171)
Earth's rotation is not the main driving force for these storms — solar radiation is. If solar luminosity increased during the history of terrestrial life, as Ross contends, then intensity of storms could have increased. Slowing of earth's rotation would tend to reduce wind speeds, but hurricanes and tornados would not cease if the rotation slowed to 26 hours per day. Since primitive trees and land animals survived during 21-hour days, then there is no reason to doubt that humans could have also. Many other examples of Ross's dubious science could be cited.

Ross devotes 25 pages at the end of the book to proposing, in tabular form, 89 "predictive tests" that should help settle the creationism/evolution debate: 22 for "simple sciences" (mostly astronomy), 52 for "complex sciences" (mostly biology), and 15 for "theology/philosophy". For each of the 89 "tests" he includes a prediction for the RTB Model as well as for three of its rivals: Naturalism, Young-Earth Creationism, and Theistic Evolution. Here is one typical example from each category:

Predictive Test 6 under Simple Sciences

RTB Model and Theistic Evolution:
Evidences [sic] for an actual beginning of space and time will grow stronger and more numerous. These evidences [sic] will continue to place the beginning of space and time at about 14 billion years ago.

Naturalism:
Evidences for an actual beginning of space and time will become weaker and less numerous.

Young-Earth:
New discoveries will prove that the beginning of space and time took place less than about 10 000 years ago.

Predictive Test 37 under Complex Sciences

RTB Model:
Continuing DNA analysis increasingly will establish that humans could not have naturally descended from previously existing hominins or primates.

Naturalism:
Continuing DNA analysis increasingly will establish that humans did naturally descend from previously existing hominins or primates.

Young-Earth:
Continuing DNA analysis increasingly will establish that Neanderthals, archaic Homo sapiens, and Homo erectus are fully human.

Theistic Evolution:
No majority position yet developed.

Predictive Test 9 under Theology/Philosophy

RTB Model and Young-Earth:
As philosophers continue to research the nature of birds and mammals, they will find increasing philosophical evidence that they possess many features that could not possibly be derived or inherited from lower animals.

Naturalism and Theistic Evolution:
As philosophers continue to research the nature of birds and mammals, they will discover increasing philosophical evidence that they possess no features that could not possibly be derived or inherited from lower animals.

I believe that the above predictions illustrate why Ross believes he can win using this strategy. In the realm of astronomy, he knows where the science is headed, and he has done his best to align his model with that science while distancing competing models from it. In the areas of biology, theology, and philosophy, he has made predictions that are so subjective that he can continue to filter the evidence selectively and cite the opinions of authorities that agree with him. He has already dismissed evidence for evolution in favor of numerous ad hoc miracles, so there is no reason to suspect that he will be objective with future discoveries.

While this strategy will undoubtedly strengthen Ross's own faith, it is unlikely to have any impact on those of other perspectives. Philosophical naturalists and theistic evolutionists will continue to find Ross's model biased, arbitrary, and only consistent with selective evidence. Young-earth creationists will continue to insist that Ross is out of harmony with the Bible, which is their primary authority. Even if some of Ross's "predictive tests" fall in his favor, this is unlikely to sway others because his model is internally inconsistent and deliberately constructed to accommodate the data he hopes will vindicate it.

Creation as Science does not live up to its title. While Ross proposes a scientific-style test to resolve a longstanding controversy, in reality it represents an entrenchment on the part of its author into an incoherent model with little hope for widespread appeal.

About the Author(s): 
Timothy H Heaton
Department of Earth Sciences
University of South Dakota
Vermillion SD 57069
theaton@usd.edu

Review: Who Was Adam?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
26
Year: 
2006
Issue: 
5
Date: 
September-October
Page(s): 
37–38
Reviewer: 
Jeffrey K McKee
The Ohio State University
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Who Was Adam? A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man
Author(s): 
Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross
Colorado Springs (CO): NavPress, 2005. 299 pages.
Among the creationist books that adorn my shelves, Who was Adam? is noteworthy for its fine style and rare candor. Even the introductory section recounting scientific knowledge of human evolution is remarkably well-written, yet nuanced enough to allow a modicum of doubt. And although the authors are irritatingly repetitive as they pound their point home, one can sense their genuine enthusiasm for the subject and their fervent belief in their conclusions. Well-written, however, is not the same as logically sound.

The book revolves around what the authors call the "RTB model." They repeat this term so many times that one easily forgets that RTB means "Reasons To Believe," a Christian apologetics organization of which the authors are president and vice-president. But throughout the book one gets the impression that it could also stand for "Return to Bible," as the authors often do. To wit, "But that's what the Bible says happened" (p 111).

In a sense this is quite refreshing. They do not try to cloak their creationism with the scientific-sounding, yet meaningless, trappings of "intelligent design". They proudly state what others try to hide — that their "science" is strictly guided by the ultimate truths in scripture. Never mind that historical geologists tried to do the same thing until the 1830s, when an embarrassment of riches in fossil discoveries brought an end to William Paley's approach of natural theology, or what we like to call "Paley-ontology".

In reality, Rana and Ross are trying to shoehorn science into the Bible, and vice versa. On the positive side they give science the nod when it comes to the age of the earth. They disagree with the "self-described biblical literalists" (p 24) in favor of "other theologically credible interpretations of Genesis 1" (p 42). That breath of fresh air quickly gives way to the familiarly foul stench of standard creationist arguments, blown by the harsh winds of supposedly "testable" creationism.

For purposes of this review I will focus on my own field of paleoanthropology and dissect the authors' diatribe on human evolution. Most of their approach is to disparage the "notoriously" incomplete fossil record. They are not as harsh on my colleagues and me: "Paleoanthropologists are dedicated and talented scientists who must not be disparaged because their discipline lacks robust data" (p 152). Gosh, thanks, guys. Nevertheless, they use the same fossil record to test the RTB creation model, and amazingly … all of the data fit.

Among the RTB model's predictions are that humanity can be traced back to one woman (Eve) and one man (Noah), with the former having arisen in the Garden of Eden. This fits well with the genetic data that trace human origins to a "mitochondrial Eve" and with the "Out of Africa" hypothesis held in many corners of paleoanthropology. How do they get around the fossil and genetic evidence that point to African origins of Homo sapiens, while acknowledging that most scholars place the Garden of Eden in Mesopotamia? They argue that the boundaries of Mesopotamia may have extended into northern and eastern Africa, particularly Ethiopia — where there are some early Homo sapiens fossils. How convenient!

The authors argue that all other hominin fossil species, such as the Neanderthals or Homo erectus, were not created in God's image because they did not behave as we do. Illustrating a pattern of denial that pervades the whole book, Rana and Ross go to great lengths to distinguish the Neanderthals' tool kit as being very unsophisticated and to deny the existence of intentional burials. Being such primitive brutes, Neanderthals "behaved more like animals than like humans" (p 196). It is true that subsequent peoples had more sophisticated stone tools and art. But by logical extension of the Rana/Ross argument, early Homo sapiens also must not have been made in God's image — they lacked agriculture and permanent shelters, let along MP3 players and nuclear weapons, so they also did not behave like modern humans.

Among the most egregious errors in the book is an argument dealing with the evolution of human brain size. I am not sure whether the authors did not understand statistics or were knowingly deceptive. Nevertheless, they boldly state: "For each hominid species, brain size remains relatively constant through the time it existed" (p 164). They refer to a tidy graph of the average relative brain size for four groups to show the "general pattern of discontinuous leaps." This is curious, because in the same paragraph they document a substantial range of brain sizes within each group, and ignore the fact that later Homo erectus had a larger brain size than early H erectus. Even more perplexing is that they lump three or four different species, with successively greater brain sizes, into Australopithecus, giving one low average brain size over a 3.5–million-year period. My suspicions in this case go with intentional deception.

There are many other gems of illogic, such as an entire chapter devoted to how humans arose at the perfect moment of geological time in terms of the sun's brightness, length of earth days, best solar eclipses, fewest earthquakes, optimal climate, and more. It is enough to tax the credulity of even the most ardent creationists, and give them reason not to believe.

In short, Who was Adam? constitutes a classic case study in the differences between rationality and rationalization. It becomes abundantly clear that rationalizing preconceived ideas is no match for rational science through the testing of legitimate hypotheses.

About the Author(s): 
Jeffrey K McKee
Department of Anthropology
The Ohio State University
Columbus OH 43210-1316
mckee.95@osu.edu