In 1994, NCSE established two special awards: the "Huxley Award" for contributions to evolution education was named after Thomas H. Huxley, who advocated public education as ardently as he supported the theory of evolution; the "Friend of Darwin" award honors NCSE members for outstanding effort to support NCSE and its goals. NCSE's Board of Directors recognized four "Friends of Darwin" in 1998: Barbara Forrest (see RNCSE 17:6), Jere Lipps, Betty McCollister, and Richard Trott.
Jere Lipps, Professor of Integrative Biology and past Director of the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley, is always on the alert for ways to improve the public understanding of science. Under his direction the Museum he directs grew not only as a leading research institution, but as a leader in outreach to science teachers and the public. For example, in 1991, when the Blackhawk Quarry site was donated to the Museum, Lipps helped create a "community project" in which people from the San Francisco Bay Area could participate in the excavation of specimens. The Museum regularly conducts teacher workshops and lecture series for the surrounding community, and has created a World Wide Web site that is a fine resource for teaching about evolution.
Lipps also works hard to assure that the media accurately present science, especially evolution. Among his many activities in this area, he works with the Council for Media Integrity to encourage accountability among both news and entertainment broadcasters, and serves on the Paleontological Society's panel of consultants who make themselves available to provide reporters with background information on paleontology.
Betty McCollister was actively defending evolution education even before the founding of NCSE. Long-time members will recall that NCSE was founded as an umbrella organization by autonomous "Committees of Correspondence" working to oppose antievolution legislation in a number of states. McCollister was a member of the Iowa Committee of Correspondence, serving as President in 1988. At that time she was in the midst of a 3 year effort to collect and edit position statements by educational, scientific, and religious organizations supporting evolution education; thanks to her, a major accomplishment of NCSE's first year was the publication of the first edition of Voices for Evolution.
No task has been too grand or too tedious for Betty, who has participated in countless panel discussions of evolution and evolution-creation controversies, and written on the topic for a variety of publications including USA Weekend and her regular column in the Des Moines Register. In her years as a contributing editor of NCSE Reports, Creation/Evolution, and Reports of NCSE, she has spent hundreds of hours of painstaking proof-reading, and offered countless thoughtful suggestions, conscientiously representing the viewpoint of non-technical readers.
Richard Trott is one of those VIPs who works tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the show goes on. While he has contributed articles to NCSE publications and the Talk.Origins FAQ (http://www.talkorigins.org), he has never hesitated to share informally information he has gained from his research in creationist literature and his attendance at creationist lectures. Like Betty McCollister, Trott has devoted countless hours to proofreading NCSE Reports and Creation/Evolution, the predecessors of Reports of NCSE. (When you heard him exclaim, "Bring on the intravenous coffee!" you knew another issue would appear soon.) A computer scientist, Rich has also helped bring the defense of evolution to cyberspace, taking an active role in organizing the information collected at the Talk.Origins FAQ.
Still an undergraduate at Rutgers University when he joined NCSE, Trott recently moved to California and had hardly arrived when he visited NCSE's office looking for ways to help. He has donated hardware, software, and programming expertise so that we could add Macintosh computers to our office equipment, adding to our flexibility and improving our ability to work with graphic designers and printers on producing Reports of NCSE and other printed materials.
As NCSE Executive Director Eugenie C Scott has said, "NCSE depends heavily on its members for so much of the important work we do that the hard work and imagination contributed by Friends of Darwin are indispensable. This award is just a small part of our thanks."
There are scientific theories, and there are "other theories". Scientific theories are explanatory principles that have been tested and confirmed. Each scientific theory is a structure of ideas, confirmed by preponderant evidence.... [It] explains a body of observations and thus explains some aspect of nature.In the Science Probe books: the writers do not acknowledge any modern interpretation of the fossil record or any genealogical connections among the organisms of different periods. One could easily gain the impression that each period's "characteristic collection of life forms" originated de novo. You may find interesting the reviews on The Textbook League's Web site.
The "other theories" are Bible stories. The expression "other theories" is one of the [euphemisms] that creationists employ when they try to promote the teaching of biblical myths in science classes. They use it in lines like these: "If students learn about the evolution theory, they have to learn about other theories too," or "If schools don't teach other theories about the universe, they shouldn't teach any theories at all."
...Addison-Wesley Biology [is] a book that Addison-Wesley sells for use in high schools. In both the original version (1994) and the later version (1996), evolutionary biology is introduced in chapter 13. And in both versions, the material at the end of chapter 13 includes this "portfolio" exercise:There are opponents to the scientific theory of evolution. Conduct library research on the various beliefs and on the evidence for other theories about the origin of life.For sheer frugality, that's hard to beat. In a single short item, doubtless based on some creationist handout, the Addison-Wesley writers have done 3 of the creationists' favorite routines. They have conflated theories with mere "beliefs", as if those were equivalent. They have promoted one of the creationists' baffle-phrases - "other theories". And in keeping with the creationists' established practice, they have falsely equated "evolution" with "the origin of life".
"This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants, animals and humans.
"No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact.
"The word "evolution" may refer to many types of change. Evolution describes changes that occur within a species. (White moths, for example, may "evolve" into gray moths.) This process is microevolution, which can be observed and described as fact. Evolution may also refer to the change of one living thing to another, such as reptiles into birds. This process, called macroevolution, has never been observed and should be considered a theory. Evolution also refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things."
There are no evolutionary transitions fossilized anywhere, although billions of fossils are there still preserved in the rocks.What first made me suspicious about this was the past tense of the sentence ("had appeared") which Morris quoted. Second, I knew that the implication Morris was gleaning from the quote simply wasn't true, and given my understanding that Robert Carroll is a competent paleontologist, I suspected something might be wrong. So I went to look up the context. The text selected by Morris for quotation is indicated in italics.
"One of the outstanding problems in large-scale evolution has been the origin of major taxa, such as the tetrapods, birds, and whales, that had appeared too suddenly, without any obvious answers, over a comparatively short period of time."
Professor Carroll, an eminent Canadian paleontologist, is well aware of such highly publicized fossils as Archaeopteryx (the alleged half-reptile, half-bird) and the so-called walking whale, but he still has to acknowledge that birds and whales arose suddenly without obvious ancestors(Morris 1999: b).
Is macroevolution conceptually different than microevolution? The main driving forces are the same as at the species level: population growth, genetic variation, and behavioral plasticity. At both time scales, external factors of the biological and physical environment control the rate, scope, and direction of change.So not only does the very next sentence in the paragraph contradict Morris's implication but a few sentences later Carroll specifically refers to the existence of intermediate forms and explicitly states that the evolution of higher taxa did not occur at a different rate than that of groups at lower taxonomic levels. Even if one were to disagree with Carroll about the facts of the matter it is clear from the context that Carroll is saying the very opposite of what Morris implied he was saying.
One of the outstanding problems in large-scale evolution has been the origin of major taxa, such as the tetrapods, birds, and whales, that had appeared to rise suddenly, without any obvious answers, over a comparatively short period of time. Increased knowledge of the fossil record has greatly increased our understanding of these and other transitions, and show that they do not necessarily require processes that differ from those known to occur at much lower taxonomic levels. To Simpson and others of his generation, higher categories were recognized by a combination of factors: morphological and adaptive distinction, a significant number of included taxa, and appreciable longevity. From examples considered in this text, it can be seen that adaptive change, morphological change, and radiation can be decoupled in that each may occur at a different time. We now see that the overall rate of evolution is not greatly faster during the origin of a group than it is within the ancestral or the descendant lineages, and with the discovery of intermediate forms, we see that they are not necessarily any more poorly represented in the fossil record than single lineages might be at other stages of evolution (Carroll 19997: 391).
Despite the enormous gap in anatomy, physiology, and way of life between modern birds and the other long-recognized vertebrate classes, the fossil record provided singularly informative evidence of the origin of birds long before we understood the ancestry of tetrapods, amniotes, or mammals. Historically, the question of the origin of birds has concentrated on a single genus, Archaeopteryx from the Upper Jurassic, which appears as an almost ideal intermediate between "reptiles" (specifically dinosaurs) and birds....until recently little was known of either the ancestry of Archaeopteryx or of animals intermediate between this genus and essentially modern birds of the later Mesozoic. Within the past twenty years, a host of new discoveries have begun to fill both these gaps, outlining the accumulative evolution of avian characters over a period that spans approximately 40 million years, from the obligatory terrestrial dinosaurs to an essentially modern avian anatomy(Carroll 1997: 306-7)And what about whales, which Morris also takes great pains to emphasize as a problem Carroll must admit to?
The transition between mesonychids and primitive but obligatorily aquatic whales is represented by a sequence of intermediate animals from the upper portion of the lower Eocene and the lower half of the middle Eocene of Pakistan, continuing into the later middle and upper Eocene of Egypt and southeastern United States (Fig. 12.20). This sequence extends over a period of 10-12 million years, beginning with riverine sediments, including primarily fossils of terrestrial mammals, through shallow coastal marine, to deep neritic deposits at the edge of the continental shelf. Several genera are recognized, showing the progressive reduction in the size of the appendicular skeleton, freeing the tail for aquatic locomotion, and a succession of modifications in the structure of the middle ear (Carroll 1997: 330).Morris concludes his article saying, "most everything they [evolutionists] say...seems potentially something that can be used against them" (Morris 1999:c). Well, I suppose if one is willing to rip a scientist's words completely out of context and twist them to imply the exact opposite of their original intent, then Morris might be correct.
[In the Jul/Aug 1998 issue of RNCSE Wilfred Elders wrote an extended review essay based on the ideas about the Grand Canyon found in Steven Austin's book, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. In this issue, Austin responds to that review with the following critique. Elders replies below.]
Wilfred Elders' article "Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon" (RNCSE 1998; 18: 8-15) is an 8-page review of my book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe (Austin 1994). This article is the most extensive critical review of Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe to appear in print. "There is perhaps no better place in all the world to appreciate the grandeur of geologic time...," writes Elders (1998: 8), "However, bibliolatry has come to the Grand Canyon." The accusation of "bibliolatry" might suggest a theological discussion of biblical literalism. However, Elders admits that literalism is not the book's thrust. "The book presents a more detailed argument than any previous creationist publication on geology. The crux of the book is a lengthy and detailed, but ultimately failed, attempt to rebut published accounts of the geology, paleontology, and dating of the strata of Grand Canyon and to present re-interpretations consistent with the Genesis story. Such re-interpretations are buttressed by some original creationist research" (Elders 1998:14).
Most unusual is the fact that Elders' book review also promotes the National Center for Science Education's "Creation/Evolution Grand Canyon Raft Trip" scheduled for August 7-14, 1999. The stated purpose of the upcoming raft trip is to rebut the "young-earth creationist" view of Grand Canyon offered by the Institute for Creation Research and promote "critical thinking" (Scott 1998). My response to Elders' book review is directed at helping the NCSE develop a better understanding and appreciation of creationist materials, especially creationist research, so that the upcoming raft trip in August 1999 can better characterize creationist research and interpretations at Grand Canyon. Elders (1998:9) writes, "Austin has taken on the daunting task of using the spectacular geology of the Grand Canyon as an exemplar of a creationist world-view, despite numerous compelling arguments to the contrary." The most pointed criticism from Elders is directed at creationist research (3 pages of the 8-page review). Elders (1998:12) writes, "But what of original creationist research? The appendix of MTC lists 18 'Questions for Discussion and Study'. The last of these reads, 'What are four research projects creationists have conducted on Grand Canyon?' A careful reading of MTC reveals that the author of this question expects students to be diligent. In fact, I was able to find only four examples of creationist research which could be cited, plus one which the authors of MTC admit is dubious."
After Elders assesses the quantity of creationist research, he goes on to trivialize creationist research with what I believe to be the most objectionable statement of the book review. He writes: "However, a case of contamination of pollen samples, 12 oriented nautiloids, the tale of 94 squirrel skins, some experiments with tracks made by newts in an aquarium, and willful misinterpretation of radiometric dates based on five Rb/Sr isotopic ratios scarcely constitute a deluge of new compelling evidence for the flood of Noah." I will respond by noting severe scholarship problems with Elders' assessment of both the quantity and quality of creationist research at Grand Canyon.
What can be said about Elders' assessment of the quantity of creationist research? I was able to find not just 5 creationist research projects described in Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, as asserted by Elders, but at least 8 (I define a research project as involving scientific process of "observation, measuring, interpreting and reporting"). In addition to the 5 examples Elders noticed, I would give "full credit" to a student who offered:
(6) Survey of boulder beds at the base of the Tapeats Sandstone. Austin (1994:47,55) cites and summarizes field work by Arthur V Chadwick (1978), a noteworthy creationist, on the size of boulders and topographic relief within sedimentary deposits just above the Great Unconformity in Grand Canyon. Chadwick (1978) does not mention Grand Canyon in the title of his paper, but anyone consulting this paper would immediately recognize observation, measuring, interpreting, and reporting within a field project concerning the Tapeats Sandstone of Grand Canyon. Obviously, Elders has not read this cited work, and he remains uninformed of the ongoing work by creationists Kennedy, Kablanow, and Chadwick (1996).
(7) Remote sensing search for ancient shorelines. Austin (1994:93,109,110) summarizes research of Edmond W Holroyd, III on ancient shorelines of lakes in the eastern Grand Canyon and central Colorado Plateau. These lakes could have drained catastrophically through the Kaibab and Coconino Plateaus causing significant erosion in Grand Canyon. The cited works of Holroyd (1987, 1990), which are followed by further publication in Holroyd (1994), would satisfy academic standards of research. Elders missed Hoylroyd's significant work even though it is both cited and pictured (Austin 1994:93).
(8) Review of ancient alluvial deposits and erosional features as evidence of the possible path of the ancestral Colorado River. The supposed ancient path of the Colorado River continues to be researched by Emmett Williams and John Meyer, as well as by their creationist coworkers. Austin (1994:109) cited the summary of this work (Williams, Meyer, and Wolfrom 1992a) which is part of a continuing stream of publications (Williams, Meyer, and Wolfrom 1991, 1992a, 1992b; Williams, Goette, and Meyer 1997) containing significant field data and interpretations on the geomorphology of Grand Canyon and vicinity. Elders is oblivious to this work. Is Elders even aware that Meyer and the Creation Research Society have established the "Grand Canyon Experiment Station" in Chino Valley, Arizona? Not a hint is found in his review.
I come back to Elders' research quantity statement, "A careful reading of MTC reveals that the author of this question expects students to be diligent. ..." Is Elders' word "diligent" appropriate for describing his own pursuit of creationist research within the book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe? The word "cursory" seems more appropriate. Only 5 of 28 references are to creationist works beyond the book reviewed. Each of the 5 creationist references cited by Elders had already been cited by Austin. A watchful teacher grading a student's review paper might ask if the student is truly familiar with the sources he has referenced. Had Elders been familiar with these and other creationist sources, he would not have made his noteworthy error of severely minimizing the quantity of creationist research at Grand Canyon.
What can be said about Elders' evaluation of the quality of creationist research in Grand Canyon? Elders is extremely critical in overview, but he is generally nonresponsive to the details. I will give 4 examples of trivializing and nonresponsiveness in the following paragraphs.
What, for example, is Elders' interpretation of the large, abundant, straight-shelled cephalopod fossils called "nautiloids" at Nautiloid Canyon on the Colorado River. How does Elders' interpretation differ from that of a creationist? He criticizes the creationist summary in Austin (1994:27), assuming that only 12 orientations of nautiloids were measured. However, his supposition of only 12 measurements is a big mistake. Another source unknown to Elders reports 71 orientations of nautiloids measured at Nautiloid Canyon (Austin and Wise 1995). Whatever evaluation one may have of the quantity of research and measurements at Nautiloid Canyon, an interpretation of the deposit needs to be offered to the student investigating the creation/evolution issue. Data indicate a sedimentary catastrophe and a nautiloid mass-kill event (Austin and Wise 1995). A critic of quality should portray previous work correctly and promote a better standard.
How does Elders respond to research by creationists concerning the effectiveness of Grand Canyon as a geographic barrier for the distribution of small mammals? Elders (1998:12,14) cites only the study of John R Meyer (1985) on 94 museum specimens of tassel-eared squirrels. This research (publication year cited incorrectly by Elders) was reported in Austin (1994:174-8). The statement, "Animal distribution within Grand Canyon continues to be an important part of creationist studies" (Austin 1994:174) should have alerted Elders to consult the associated reference to further work of Meyer (Meyer and Howe 1988). In their detailed report attempting to quantify the effectiveness of the geographic barrier using field observations at Shiva Temple, Meyer and Howe (1988) record field measurements of air and soil temperature, relative humidity, and plant distributions from a very remote area of the North Rim of Grand Canyon. Elders conveniently overlooks 2 years of field studies by Meyer and Howe, and, instead, implies that the research on geographic isolation concerns only observations on 94 squirrel skins from a museum.
How does Elders respond to peer-reviewed publications by creationist Leonard Brand? Brand's work supports submerged conditions for deposition of the Coconino Sandstone. Elders is strongly opposed in overview to the idea of subaqueous deposition of the Coconino, favoring instead the popular desert environmental model. However, he does not answer the specific evidence cited for the subaqueous model noted by Brand (1978, 1979, 1992, 1996) and Brand and Tang (1991) on the characteristics of fossil footprints as evidence of underwater deposition. He has not responded to the sedimentological argument for water developed by Glen S Visher (Visher and Howard 1974; Freeman and Visher 1975; Visher 1990) as summarized in Austin (1994:32).
Suppose a participant in the NCSE raft trip notices a fossil vertebrate trackway in the Coconino Sandstone (not an uncommon find for Grand Canyon rafters). Also, suppose our hypothetical NCSE participant uses "critical thinking" skills and notices significant dissimilarities between the Coconino vertebrate trackway and a vertebrate trackway from a modern dune above the bank of the Colorado River. Dunes with vertebrate trackways are observed on occasion above the bank of the Colorado River, and these are significantly different than the Coconino examples (see Brand 1996). Then, suppose our participant asks Elders to explain the similarity of the discovered Coconino trackway to trackways made underwater in the fashion of the research conducted by Brand. Is Elders going to respond that the subaqueous idea is unthinkable because somebody once found an extremely rare trackway in the Coconino Sandstone that they proved was made by a scorpion (Elders 1998:13)? Is he going to respond that the trackway makers have been proven to be extinct desert-dwelling reptiles or mammal-like reptiles, but definitely not extinct water-dwelling reptiles or mammal-like reptiles (Elders 1998:13)? If Elders responds in such a fashion to a rafter's discovered Coconino trackway and its relation to a modern trackway, would that be an adequate and scholarly response? Is not the proper response to deal with the interpretation of the empirical evidence at hand? Even the published responses to Brand's work acknowledge the adequacy of Brand's observations. For example, Loope (1992) wrote: "Although I strongly disagree with Brand and Tang's conclusion, I find their experimental approach very useful, and hope to incorporate it in the testing of my own hypothesis." This may explain why the research of Brand (a noteworthy creationist) has withstood scholarly peer-review from 3 evolutionary science journals. Why should Brand's work be dismissed or trivialized outright by Elders?
Elders' review is longest in his response to the critique of radioisotope dating given in Austin (1994:111-31). I suspect that radioisotopes get special consideration because of his position statement concerning Grand Canyon, "There is perhaps no better place in all the world to appreciate the grandeur of geologic time" (Elders 1998:8). If Elders is correct, radioisotope ages of Grand Canyon should be well verified and especially evident to people employing "critical thinking." He is greatly concerned that creationist researchers have performed only 5 rubidium-strontium isotope analyses on Grand Canyon rocks. However, Austin (1992) reports measurements of other radioisotope ratios in Grand Canyon rocks. The work of Austin (1992) is cited in Austin (1994:128, 131) and should not have escaped Elders' "diligent" attention.
Suppose, for example, the NCSE raft trip stops at the extraordinary exposures of Cardenas Basalt (upper Precambrian) at Tanner Rapids. It is the first igneous formation encountered on the raft trip and would naturally come to the attention of the NCSE group. How would Elders respond to the simple question, "Do the different radioisotope methods give concordant ages for Cardenas Basalt?" Would he reply, "In other locations there are tens of thousands of radiometric dates which are consistent with the relative stratigraphic position of the rocks dated" (Elders 1998:13)? Such a response would be incomplete. Scholarship dictates that he summarizes the radioisotope data that is known for Cardenas Basalt.
The publication of Austin and Snelling (1998) concerns the discordance between rubidium-strontium and potassium-argon isochron techniques applied to the Cardenas Basalt and diabase sills within the Precambrian of Grand Canyon. Why are K/Ar "ages" much younger than the accepted Rb/Sr "age" for Cardenas Basalt and diabase sills? Discordance of dates had been previously noted by Austin (1994:120-2) as well as by other researchers. Austin and Snelling (1998) report 13 new K/Ar analyses from Grand Canyon, essentially doubling the number of published K/Ar analyses within the Precambrian of Grand Canyon. Elders can trivialize this creationist work, but he must admit that there are data here needing to be explained.
Elders is convinced very strongly that radioisotopes have successfully dated Grand Canyon rocks at millions or even billions of years. Elders (1998:13) cites 2 kinds of ages he accepts: (1) uranium-lead model ages made on crystals of zircon and monazite from the inner gorge of Grand Canyon, and (2) potassium-argon model ages from lava flows from volcanoes on the rim of Grand Canyon. Suppose, for example, the NCSE raft trip examines some of the monazite-bearing rocks that outcrop within the inner gorge of Grand Canyon. Elders might be asked, "Do monazite crystals in Grand Canyon give concordant U/Pb model ages?" The short answer to this question, I believe, is one word: "Rarely." Hawkins and Bowring (1994) studied 65 monazite grains from the inner gorge of Grand Canyon: "In the absence of physical evidence for inheritance, the range of single grain ages remains problematic. However, the discordant behavior can be explained if single monazite grains comprise complex mixtures of domains which have exhibited open system behavior with respect to U, Th, and Pb, including excess 206Pb, during cooling. Concordant analyses of single grains may represent fortuitous mixtures of these domains." This work generally critical of monazite model-age dating was conducted in conjunction with a PhD dissertation (Hawkins 1996).
Lava Falls Rapids, the largest of the rapids within Grand Canyon, is a routine stop for river boatmen. They stop their boats for safety purposes so they can scout the changing configuration of the torrent before running it. Because the NCSE raft trip is likely to stop at Lava Falls Rapids, participants will see firsthand the most imposing display of basalt within Grand Canyon. Geologists call the lowest part of this erosional remnant "Toroweap Lava Dam". Basalt at the rapids spilled into Grand Canyon as multiple flows from the rim. A sample of this basalt from Toroweap Lava Dam gave a potassium-argon "whole-rock" model age of 1.16 ± 0.18 million years (McKee, Hamblin, and Damon 1968). A NCSE rafter employing "critical thinking" would have opportunity to ask, "Is it possible that the K/Ar age obtained for Toroweap Lava Dam is excessively old because radiogenic argon was incorporated into the basalt as it cooled?" This possibility is admitted by McKee, Hamblin, and Damon (1968:135).
At this point Elders might respond that reliable whole rock K/Ar ages have been obtained from many thousands of rocks outside Grand Canyon (for example, Elders 1998:13), but the question has not been answered. Dalrymple and Hamblin (1998) no longer regard the 1.16 million year age as correct, but they believe the Toroweap Lava Dam is significantly younger. Rugg and Austin (1998) reported "excess argon" from 3 mineral concentrates made from the basalt at Lava Falls. At Toroweap Lava Dam, olivine, a mineral known for very low potassium, possesses significant quantity of argon, giving a K/Ar "age" of 20.7 ± 1.3 million years (Rugg and Austin 1998:478). Again, discordance is discovered with evidence of "excess argon." A NCSE rafter who is familiar with these data and is "thinking critically" might ask the ultimate question, "Has the basalt been accurately dated by the K/Ar method?" Data seem to challenge the "zero-original-argon" assumption made by the popular K/Ar dating method.
Elders offers a significantly flawed critique of both the quantity and quality of creationist research at Grand Canyon. He consistently trivializes creationist research, demonstrating significant ignorance of the data and interpretations that creationists have published. Good scholarship requires that he obtain this proficiency. The book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe reports at least 8 creationist research projects, not just 5 as claimed by Elders. Creationists measured many more than 12 nautiloid fossils at Nautiloid Canyon. Creationist study of Grand Canyon as a geographic barrier to small mammals involves more than study of 94 squirrel skins. Observations of fossil vertebrate trackways by creationists have a prominent place in peer-reviewed literature that cannot be ignored. Creationists have measured many more than 5 radioisotope ratios in Grand Canyon rocks.
Elders needs to come to grips with the fact that creationists have a continuing research program being accomplished at Grand Canyon. Compared to government-subsidized research, creationist research may seem modest. However, that is no reason to trivialize it.
Elders, in his overview, strenuously objects to creationist interpretations of geology at Grand Canyon, but in his specifics, he is reticent to give details. What is his interpretation of Nautiloid Canyon, Grand Canyon's most prominent fossil deposit? How does Elders respond to details concerning the character of fossil vertebrate trackways in the Coconino Sandstone? What is his explanation offered to discordance of ages often encountered in the dating of Grand Canyon rocks? Will Elders gain competence in basic creationist literature? Elders will need to acquire proficiency in responding to questions like these if he is going to play a significant part in the NCSE creation/evolution raft trip this August in Grand Canyon. Participants in the NCSE raft trip will be committing a significant amount of their personal resources to this rafting activity. They should be concerned about getting their money's worth.
Austin SA. Isotope and trace element analysis of hypersthene-normative basalts from the Quaternary of Uinkaret Plateau, western Grand Canyon, Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1992; 24(6):261.
Austin SA. (editor). Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Santee (CA): Institute for Creation Research, 1994.
Austin SA, Wise KP. Nautiloid mass-kill event at a hydrothermal mound within the Redwall Limestone (Mississippian), Grand Canyon, Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1995; 27(6):369.
Austin SA, Snelling AA. Discordant potassium-argon model and isochron "ages" for Cardenas Basalt (Middle Proterozoic) and associated diabase of eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism 1998; 4:35-51.
Brand LR. Footprints in the Grand Canyon. Origins 1978; 5:64-82.
Brand LR. Field and laboratory studies on the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) vertebrate footprints and their paleoecological implications. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 1979; 28:25-38.
Brand LR. Reply (to comments) on "Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: evidence for underwater origin". Geology 1992; 20:668-70.
Brand LR. Variations in salamander trackways resulting from substrate differences. Journal of Paleontology 1996; 70(6):1004-10.
Brand LR, Tang T. Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: evidence for underwater origin. Geology 1991; 19:1201-4.
Chadwick AV. Megabreccias: Evidence for catastrophism. Origins 1978; 5:39-46.
Dalrymple GB, Hamblin WK. K/Ar ages of Pleistocene lava dams in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1998; 95:9744-9.
Elders WA. Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 1998; 18(4):8-15.
Freeman WE, Visher GS. Stratigraphic analysis of the Navajo Sandstone. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 1975; 45:651-68.
Hawkins DP. U/Pb Geochronological Constraints on the Tectonic and Thermal Evolution of Paleoproterozoic Crust in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Cambridge (MA): Massachusetts Institute of Technology, unpublished doctoral thesis, 1996.
Hawkins DP, Bowring SA. Complex U/Pb systematics of Paleoproterozoic monazite from the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. United States Geological Survey Circular 1994; 1107:131.
Holroyd ER, III. Missing talus. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1987; 24:15-6.
Holroyd ER, III. Missing talus on the Colorado Plateau. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism 1990; 2:115-28.
Holroyd ER, III. A remote sensing search for extinct lake shore lines on the Colorado Plateau. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism 1994; 3:243-54.
Kennedy EG, Kablanow R, Chadwick AV. A reassessment of the shallow water depositional model for the Tapeats Sandstone, Grand Canyon, Arizona: evidence for deep water deposition. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1996; 28(7):407.
Loope DB. Comment on "Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: evidence for underwater origin". Geology 1992; 20:667-8.
McKee ED, Hamblin WK, Damon PE. K/Ar age of lava dam in Grand Canyon. Geological Society of America Bulletin 1968; 79:133-6.
Meyer JR. Origin of the Kaibab Squirrel. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1985; 22:68-78.
Meyer JR, Howe GF. The biological isolation of Shiva Temple. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1988; 24:165-72.
Rugg SH, Austin SA. Evidence for rapid formation and failure of Pleistocene "lava dams" of the western Grand Canyon, Arizona. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism 1998; 4:475-86.
Scott EC. NCSE "Creation/evolution" Grand Canyon trip challenge! Reports of the National Center for Science Education 1998; 18(4):25.
Visher GS. Exploration Stratigraphy. Tulsa (OK): Penn Well Publishing, 2nd ed., 1990.
Visher GS, Howard JD. Dynamic relationship between hydraulics and sedimentation in the Altamaha Estuary. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 1974; 44:502-21.
Williams EL, Meyer JR, and Wolfrom GW. Erosion of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River part I - review of antecedent river hypothesis and the postulation of large quantities of rapidly flowing water as the primary agent of erosion. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1991; 28:92-8.
Williams EL, Meyer JR, Wolfrom GW. Erosion of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River part II - review of the river capture, piping and ancestral river hypotheses and the possible formation of vast lakes. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1992a; 28:138-45.
Williams EL, Meyer JR, Wolfrom GW. Erosion of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River part III - review of possible formation of basins and lakes on the Colorado Plateau and different climatic conditions in the past. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1992b; 29:18-24.
Williams EL, Goette RL, Meyer JR. Kanab Canyon, Utah and Arizona: origin speculations. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1997; 34(3):162-72.
Steven A Austin
Chairman, Geology Department
Institute for Creation Research
Santee CA 92071-2833
I thank Dr Steve Austin of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) for his prompt response to my article "Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon" and appreciate this opportunity to reply and extend my remarks about the ICR textbook on the Grand Canyon (Austin 1994). Austin indicates that his aim is to help the NCSE develop a better understanding and appreciation of creationist materials, especially creationist research. Better understanding is sorely needed. However, the outcome may not be what Austin hopes; understanding could lead to less appreciation of creationist research.
Austin is concerned that, in using the term "bibliolatry", I accused his book of biblical literalism. It is true that this was the impression I got from reading it. Austin (1994) is replete with quotations from the King James translation of the Christian Bible, and has an index with 131 citations to that version of scripture. It is clear that Austin reads Powell's "rock-leaved bible of geology" in the Grand Canyon through the distorting lenses of biblical literalism. This appears to be a requirement of Austin's position on the faculty of the Institute for Creation Research. For example, consider the edict of Dr Henry M Morris, the founder and President Emeritus of the ICR, who posits, "...the main reason for insisting on the universal flood as a fact of history and as a primary vehicle for geological interpretation is that God's Word plainly teaches it! No geologic difficulties, real or imagined, can be allowed to take precedence over the clear statements and necessary inferences of Scripture" (Morris 1970).
Austin faithfully follows this injunction. For example, Austin (1994:3) states, "If the evidence of Grand Canyon fits with Noah's Flood, why have not the majority of scientists recognized it? The answer to this can be found in II Peter 3:5,6 where we read, 'For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished'. The Bible teaches that people are willingly ignorant - that is, they deliberately reject the evidence." The irony of using theological bibliolatry to justify geological bibliolatry seems to be lost on Austin.
Austin's opinion is that, because I have not read all of the publications on creationist research related to the Grand Canyon footnoted in Austin (1994) or published since, I have no right to criticize the quantity and quality of that research. On the count of not having read all that creationist literature, I plead guilty as charged. However, I believe that I have read sufficient of it to conclude that this corpus of work falls far short of proving Austin's assertion that Noah's flood formed all Phanerozoic rocks and that the Grand Canyon formed in the aftermath of that deluge.
Certain important concepts are so well established today that they form the bases from which contemporary science proceeds. Examples that come to mind include the periodic table in chemistry, the expanding universe in astronomy, organic evolution in biology, and the geologic time scale in earth sciences. Those seeking to reject these concepts must document startlingly new and convincing observations or experiments to support their iconoclasm. The ICR textbook on the Grand Canyon, in common with other modern creationist effusions, rejects both organic evolution and the geologic time scale.
Today the reaction of most working geologists to such contemporary biblical literalism ranges from indifference to wry amusement. This is despite the fact that bibliolatry had had a respectable history in the western world for 2 millennia. During most of that time biblical literalists also propounded the concepts of the flat earth and the earth-centered universe. In spite of the fact that the intellectual battles against those ideas were fought and won by Magellan's circumnavigation in 1520-22, the publication of the Copernican System in 1540, and Galileo's observations of the heavens by telescope in 1610, flat-earthers and geocentrists persist even today (Scott 1997).
As readers are aware, the story of Noah's flood has been an important icon in the western world (Cohn 1996). However, by the first half of the 19th century the rise of scientific geology played the death knell of the idea that the earth began only in 4004 BCE and that the next most important event in earth history was the worldwide deluge of Noah (Gillispie 1959). More than a hundred years later, the discarded idea of Noah's flood of old suffered a reincarnation with the publication of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris (1964). This "neocreationism" movement attempted to supply a new "scientific" basis for the Noachian flood to justify biblical literalism. Austin (1994) is firmly in that mold. I have only to remind readers of Austin's astounding claim (Austin 1994:147), "[i]t is not clear whether the order of appearance of organisms in Grand Canyon, or anywhere else on earth, for that matter, is necessarily any different than a random order which a flood might produce", to illustrate the biblical blinkers which Austin wears. In one sentence he discounts the whole science of paleontology.
Given the wealth of information available now, the burden of proof is on Austin as he seeks to use the Grand Canyon to re-establish a once-dominant view that has been overturned consistently by an enormous body of scientific evidence during the last two centuries. Today, for creationist publications such as Austin's (1994) to get sufficient attention from mainstream geologists to cause a revolution in their fundamental concepts would require credible documentation of abundant new, dramatic, and multidisciplinary findings and interpretations. Such scientific revolutions do happen, as anyone familiar with the rise of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s is aware (Hallam 1973).
Perhaps an even more relevant example, albeit on a lesser scale, of a revolution in geology is one discussed at length in Austin (1994:46, 94, 104-6) - the flood origin of the Channeled Scabland, a large area near Grand Coulee, in eastern Washington state. Geologists now interpret the dramatic erosional features of that region as having been formed during repeated catastrophic draining of a large periglacial lake, Lake Missoula, in Montana, dammed at the front of the continental ice sheet, during the waning stages of the last Ice Age. However, when Bretz originally proposed the idea in 1923, it was met with skepticism by many geologists (see Bretz 1969). Debate continued for 20 or 30 years until the mounting evidence brought forward by Bretz and his colleagues won the day. The history of this controversy is well documented in Baker (1978).
Austin (1994) uses his discussion of Bretz's work to infer that, because flooding due to catastrophic draining of a large lake caused rapid scouring of the Channeled Scabland, similar catastrophic flooding formed the Grand Canyon during the waning stages of Noah's flood. However, as Heaton (1995) pointed out, Austin fails to take note of the radical differences between the geological formations in the Channeled Scablands and the Grand Canyon. Heaton (1995: 35) states, "The narrow inner gorge of the Grand Canyon and its equilibrium tributaries are the antithesis of the broad flood plain, multiple overflow channels, and gigantic 'ripple marks' of the Channeled Scabland. It would be hard to imagine two canyons more geomorphically dissimilar to one another."
There is a major irony here in using the work of my friend and mentor "Doc" Bretz in support of biblical literalism. It was in discussions with him that I first became interested in the neocreationist movement, shortly after the publication of Whitcomb and Morris (1964). Although the controversy over his work on the Channeled Scabland was protracted, Bretz regarded it as a good example of the self-correcting nature of mainstream science. Creationists subscribing to the views of the President Emeritus of the ICR (Morris 1970) cannot correct the Genesis story, no matter what scientific evidence is produced. Had "Doc" survived to see the publication of Austin (1994) I am sure that his comments would have been pithy and devastating to the creationists' misuse of his work.
Austin's main objection to my article is that I overstate the dearth of such new revolutionary findings by creationists in the Grand Canyon. He alleges that my assessment that the quantity and quality of creationist research at Grand Canyon is poor derives from my unfamiliarity with the literature of creationist geology. I am happy to concede that he knows that literature better than I and am therefore grateful to him for pointing out that Austin (1994) mentions 8 examples of "original creationist research" rather than only the 5 discussed in my review.
Publications on creationist research are easily overlooked by mainstream scientists. Creationists publish relatively little and tend not publish in journals that geologists are likely to read. For example, the library of the University of California, Riverside, has holdings in excess of 1.5 million volumes. However, many of the publications which Austin finds important enough to cite, such as the Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism, Origins, and the Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ) are not included in these holdings. The CRSQ is not even cited in GEOREF, the standard bibliographic search engine for geological literature. Another problem in doing bibliographic searches of the creationist literature is that several leading creationists use aliases. For example, Austin also had published under the name of Stuart E Nevins, Paul Nelson publishes under the name of Peter Gordon, and the real name of John Woodmorappe is Jan Peczkis.
GEOREF has 11 entries for Steven A Austin published since 1971, including his Master's thesis and PhD dissertation. Among the remaining 9, 6 are abstracts presented at meetings of professional geological societies, including Austin and Wise (1995). I chose not to mention that interesting abstract in my review for 2 reasons. First, it makes no mention of Noah's flood and so its relevance to the biblical literalism of Austin (1994) was not explicit. Second, the shelf-life of an abstract is very short. After the passage of almost 4 years since the abstract appeared, it seemed reasonable to assume that either the authors or the journal editors have concluded that the material did not warrant further publication.
What is the message here? Does the fact that creationist science tends to be published only in creationist journals, or as abstracts at meetings, mean that there is a conspiracy by the editors of mainstream science publications to prevent dissemination of new, controversial or revolutionary ideas? I think not. Remember that during the plate tectonic "revolution", the key papers appeared in major international scientific journals (Hallam 1973). Similarly Bretz's controversial work on the Channeled Scablands was published in widely circulated publications (listed in Baker 1978). Good new science, even if controversial, eventually gets published in major journals and, having withstood the rigors of peer-review, thus joins the mainstream. In a similar vein, Austin complains that, "Compared to government-subsidized research programs, creationist research may seem modest". As I made clear, my opinion of creationist geological research is that, in fact, it is modest. However, "government-subsidized" research grants and contracts are awarded in a highly competitive funding milieu. Austin and his associates are as free to enter that competition as I have been. Just as good new science eventually gets published in mainstream journals, good new proposals eventually get supported by mainstream funding agencies.
A notable exception to my generalization that creationists tend to publish only in creationist venues are the experiments of Brand on trackways made by newts in an aquarium (Brand and Tang 1991). Some of the publications on this topic are published in widely disseminated journals. The issue here is not the quality of the experiments but rather their applicability to explaining trackways in the Permian Coconino Sandstone in the region of the Grand Canyon. Brand concludes that his work shows that at least part of the Coconino Sandstone was deposited under water. On the other hand, Lockley and Hunt (1995), Loope (1992), and Middleton and others (1990) conclude that the trackways were formed under subaerial conditions, consistent with the nature of the sandstones in which they are found (McKee 1979). In any case, even if could be proved that these sandstones were partially deposited under water, it is a long (and, in my opinion, invalid) extrapolation from Brand's laboratory aquarium to Noah's flood.
Let us examine the publication history and scientific impact of Chadwick (1978), one of the 3 examples of creationist research related to the Grand Canyon which Austin adds to the 5 discussed in my review. It concerns the boulder beds of Precambrian Shinumo Quartzite, locally developed at the base of the Tapeats Sandstone, immediately above the Great Unconformity in the Grand Canyon. The Tapeats Sandstone is the lowest member of the Tonto Group, a sandstone-shale-limestone sequence of Cambrian age. Middleton and Elliot (1990) devote 4 pages to the depositional setting of this formation and cite more than 10 references in mainstream publications in support of their interpretation. The Tapeats Sandstone was deposited above a Precambrian surface that is extensively weathered and had developed considerable relief. They suggest that the basal conglomerate (the megabreccia of Chadwick 1978) was almost certainly deposited by erosion of cliffs of the Precambrian rocks by storm waves, and that the overlying sandstone was formed as beach and tidal flat deposits.The publication by Chadwick (1978) cited by Austin, on the other hand, interpreted the basal conglomerate in the Tapeats Sandstone as being formed in much deeper water by catastrophic debris flows, consistent with Noah's flood. Evidently this work has had zero impact on mainstream geology as it receives no mention in the extensive review by Middleton and Elliot (1990). If, as Austin (1994:67-70) asserts, the Tapeats Sandstone was formed as the first deposit of Noah's flood, we might expect it to contain a fauna and flora representing the abundant life he claims existed on earth before that deluge. However, except for trace fossils, the Tapeats Sandstone is poorly fossiliferous, but it contains brachiopods and trilobites sufficient to establish it as being of late Early Cambrian age. More recently Chadwick and Kennedy have returned to promoting the theme of Chadwick (1978). They have presented abstracts which essentially repeat the same material in each of the 4 years 1995-98 at scientific meetings. I look forward to evaluating their work, if ever it enters the formal literature. Meanwhile these abstracts can be read at www.tagnet.org/gri/w/ekennedy/geology.htm.
As Austin added 3 more cases of creationist research on the Grand Canyon to my list, I will return the compliment by adding to his. As part of his laudatory reviews of important creationist research since 1965, Austin's colleague at ICR, Dr Duane T Gish (1989) highlighted the research of Waisgerber and others (1987) at the Grand Canyon. For me this work exemplifies the quality of original creationist research; so it is worth examining in detail. These authors studied the supposed contact between the Cambrian Muav Limestone and the overlying Mississippian Redwall Limestone on the North Kaibab trail in the Grand Canyon. (See Figure 1 of Elders 1998 for the stratigraphy of the Canyon). Having decided that these 2 formations are interbedded and grade into each other, the authors concluded that the 200-million-year hiatus between Cambrian and Mississippian strata did not occur at that site and therefore that the whole geologic column is fictitious. This claim, if substantiated, would definitely constitute a revolution in geology and justify numerous publications on the issue. Instead, the next publication on this topic was published 9 years later. It was a letter to the editor of CRSQ severely critical of the work (Moore 1996).
How good are the original observations by Waisgerber and others (1987)? They spent two days examining the outcrop, with the aid of 5-power hand lens. Rather than relying on their own examination of the Canyon's walls, they used a National Park Service sign to identify the location and nature of the supposed unconformity between the Cambrian and Mississippian strata. This sign may, or may not, have been correctly sited by the Park staff. Instead of using macro- or micropaleontology, petrology, geochemistry or geophysics, they relied on the color and texture of the rocks to distinguish between Cambrian and Mississippian strata. The color of the Redwall Limestone is actually quite variable. It has acquired a superficial staining produced by oxides of iron washed down from redbeds in the overlying Supai Group (Beus 1990: 119-20). This creationist research appears not to have considered that they misidentified the Cambrian/Mississippian contact or that Mississippian dolomite could be filling channels or karsts, etched into the surface of the Cambrian dolomite.
Suppose 3 creation scientists heard that a good time to view Jupiter's moons is when Jupiter is visible in the western sky, but when they went out with a pair of low power binoculars on 2 different nights failed to see any of the moons. Suppose too that they went on to publish, in a leading creationist journal, a paper which concluded that, because Galileo was wrong, the Copernican system is wrong and that we should all return to biblical literalism and geocentrism. I would respond by helping them to recognize Jupiter and lending them a telescope at least as good as Galileo's.
The paper by Waisgerber and others (1987), with its stamp of approval by Gish, is at that level. It is a superficial study of a single outcrop, and concerns a minor problem, which they considered entirely outside of its regional or global context. They then proceeded to extrapolate wildly from their observations. Having exposed geology's dirty secret, they offered it as proof that the entire geologic time scale must be rejected, and be replaced by their version of biblical chronology. Although more sophisticated and detailed, Austin (1994) is another failed attempt to achieve the same end.
Austin pays great attention to radioactive dating because it is the Achilles heel of young earth creationists. Although he emphasizes any perceived discrepancies in radiometric ages published by different workers, he provides no satisfactory explanation of his willful misuse of radioactive dating in the Grand Canyon. Although he had earlier admitted that the Rb/Sr isotopic data from the Pleistocene basalts yield a false isochron (Austin 1988), he later used the same approach to publish what he knew to be geologically impossible results (Austin 194: 124-5) and posed the rhetorical question (Austin 1994: 129), "Has any Grand Canyon rock been successfully dated?" Ilg and others (1996) used U/Pb ratios to date the oldest rocks of the Grand Canyon and found that different units had ages ranging from 1750 to 1660 million years. Larson and others (1994) used Rb/Sr data from the Cardenas Basalt to determine an age of 1103 million years. Dalrymple and Hamblin (1998) measured K/Ar ratios to obtain ages in the range 0.684 to 0.443 million years for the Pleistocene basalts. If Dr Austin has credible data which refute the order in which these rocks were formed, or which even change these numbers significantly, I urge him to publish them in full in a major scientific journal. I would be happy to assist him by reviewing the manuscript.
The gulf between Austin's position and mine is irreconcilable. Austin carefully ignores many of the other important issues raised by my review. For example, his use of uniformitarian strawmen, the robustness of the worldwide geologic column and the geologic time scale, the thermal problem if granites were formed on the third day of creation, the order of occurrence and the space problem of fossils, are ignored in Austin's critique.
Austin asserts that I trivialize creationist research in my review, whereas I protest that he seeks to aggrandize it. I thank him for his input and can now amend the list of original creationist research projects on the Grand Canyon from 5 to 8, or even 9, if we include one or 2 which even some creationists might disavow. My response to his complaint that I trivialize creationist research is that I do not need to do so. Creationist research speaks for itself, in a tiny voice which falls far short of causing a revolution in the paradigms of science.
Finally, Austin is concerned that my lack of proficiency in creationist geology will prevent the participants in the NCSE creation/evolution raft trip through Grand Canyon in August 1999 from getting their money's worth. Concerning that trip, perhaps I might be allowed to follow the example of Austin (1994) and use a selective quotation from the King James Bible. Perhaps Daniel (12:4) is appropriate, "...many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased." I am confident that the NCSE rafters will get value for their investment from the grandeur of the Grand Canyon itself, rather than from my words, or those of Austin. The Grand Canyon speaks for itself and in its own voice, a voice of colorful canyon walls, of whitewater rapids, and the awesome nature of geologic time.
Austin SA. (editor). Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Santee (CA): Institute for Creation Research, 1994.
Austin SA. Wise KP. Nautiloid mass-kill event at a hydrothermal mound within the Redwall Limestone (Mississippian), Grand Canyon. Abstracts with Programs -Geological Society of America. 1995; 27(6):369.
Baker VR. The Spokane flood controversy and the Martian outflow channels. Science 1978; 202:1249-56.
Beus SS. Redwall limestone and surprise canyon formation; in Beus SS, Morales M. (editors) Grand Canyon Geology: New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Chapter 8.
Brand LR, Tang T. Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: Evidence for underwater origin. Geology 1991:19 (12): 1201-4.
Bretz JH The Lake Missoula floods and the Channeled Scablands. Journal of Geology 1969: 77 (5): 505-43.
Chadwick AV. Megabreccias: Evidence for catastrophism. Origins 1978; 5:39-46.
Cohn NRC Noah's Flood: the Genesis story in Western thought. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
Dalrymple GB, Hamblin WK. K-Ar ages of Pleistocene lava dams in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 1998:95: 9744-9.
Gillispie CC. Genesis and Geology: a Study in the Relations of Scientific Thought, Natural Theology, and Social Opinion in Great Britain, 1790-1850. New York: Harper Brothers, 1959.
Gish DT. More creationist research. Part 1b: Geological research. Creation Research Society Quarterly. 1989: 25 (4): 161.
Hallam A. A Revolution in the Earth Sciences: from Continental Drift to Plate Tectonics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.
Heaton TH. A young Grand Canyon? Skeptical Inquirer, 1995:19 (3): 33-7.
Ilg BR, Karlstrom KE, Hawkins DP, Williams M L, Tectonic evolution of Paleoproterozoic rocks in the Grand Canyon: Insights into middle-crustal processes: Geological Society of America Bulletin, 1996:108(9): 1149-66.
Larson EE, Patterson PE, Mutschler FE. Lithology, chemistry, age and origin of the Proterozoic Cardenas Basalt, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Precambrian Research 1994 : 65 (1-4): 255-76.
Lockley M, Hunt AP. Dinosaur Tracks. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995:40-5.
Lope DB. Comment and Reply on "Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of Arizona: Evidence for underwater origin". Geology 1992:20, Nr 7, 667-8.
McKee ED. A Study of Global Sand Seas: Ancient Sandstones Considered to be Eolian. US Geological Survey Professional Paper Nr 1052. US Geological Survey, Reston (VA), 1979.
Middleton LT, Elliot DK. Tonto Group; in Beus SS, Morales M. (editors) Grand Canyon Geology: New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; Chapter 6.
Middleton LT, Elliot DK, Morales M. Coconino Sandstone; in Beus SS, Morales M. (editors). Grand Canyon Geology: New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; Chapter 10.
Moore JL. Comment on "Mississippian and Cambrian strata interbedding: 200-million-year hiatus in question." Creation Research Society Quarterly 1996.
Morris HM. Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science. Phillipsburg (NJ): Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1970, p 32-3. (cited by K Harding at accessed 4/2/1999.
Scott EC. Antievolution and creationism. Annual Review of Anthropology, 1997: 26.
Waisgerber W, Howe GF, Williams EL. Mississippian and Cambrian strata interbedding: 200-million-year hiatus in question. Creation Research Society Quarterly, 1987: 23: 160-5.
Whitcomb JC and Morris HM. The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications. Grand Rapids (MI): Baker Book House, 1964.
Wilfred A Elders,
University of California
Department of Earth Sciences
Riverside CA 92521-0423
Evolution-creation controversies contribute their fair share of popular misinformation that spreads all the faster with the help of modern communications. Perhaps the best examples are the Darwin "deathbed conversion" story of Darwin's expressing regret for publishing his ideas on evolution (see review of "The Darwin Legend" by Kevin Padian in NCSE Reports 1996; 16(1):3, 8) and the "Mantracks" claims that fossilized human and dinosaur footprints are found side by side in Glenrose, Texas (see "The Paluxy River Footprint Mystery — Solved", a special edition of Creation/Evolution nr 25; 1985). Even though leading "creation-science" advocates have disavowed these claims, they're still in circulation, making their way from outdated library books to websites, public lectures, and letters to newspaper editors.
Now several members of NCSE have added another legend, this time from the "evolution side". It all began on April 1, 1998, when Mark Boslough e-mailed to several friends a satirical "press release" reporting an Alabama legislator's sponsorship of a bill requiring schools in the state to teach that pi=3. Dave Thomas, NCSE member and also president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR), posted the piece on Talk.Origins , the Internet newsgroup whose participants discuss and debate evolution and "creation science." The story was filled with amusing references to key individuals and events in the struggle to have evolution included in New Mexico's science curriculum. (For example, "Alabama legislator Leonard Lee Lawson" was modeled after NM state senator Leonard Lee Rawson, who argued against evolution by brandishing a stuffed monkey which he declared was "not my uncle".) It also contained several clues that it was in fact a joke, such as a web address of "April/fool/html". Late on the day the spoof was first posted, an explanation was also posted to the same newsgroup.
By then, however, the legend was out of the bag. After 2 weeks had passed, Thomas was able to find hundreds of internet postings of the story, some of them reporting it as a genuine press release — all the easier to believe since the wire service name had mutated.
When 1999 rolled around, the original pranksters decided to try it again, but better. They topped their 1998 performance on April 1, 1999, when they launched www.darwindisproved.com. Complete with photographs of what appeared to be partially unearthed, fossilized bones of a dinosaur swallowing a hominid, the site unfolded a tale of excitement and intrigue. In broken English, "Stefan", a graduate student at the University of Heidelberg, describes coming to New Mexico to work with his American mentor, Prof Heinschvagel (resemblance to "hornswoggle" fully intended). And then...
We found a fossil of a hominid, being eaten by an allosaurus dinosaur. Look at the picture1/4. The dinosaur is apparently trying to eat the cave-man, and then both became killed in some event. Perhaps the allosaurus choked on his food.
Intrigue? Did I mention skullduggery? That's right! A cover-up!
Of course, it is the impossible in Darwin's theory for hominids to have been lived 140 million years ago.... All the evidence of this incredible find has been taken away. Except for a few photos which I managed to keep.... [O]ne of the guards came and made me give him all of the film. He said it would be very bad if I did not cooperate... I was so scared and worried that I forgot about the roll that had the 8 shots. When we returned to Albuquerque, I remembered and hid the films till I returned home. Now my friend has been putting them on the internet so everyone can learn what has happened, and how they are covering it all up.
...They told us not to discuss it with anyone, and that no one would believe us, and that our geology careers would be ruined, but mostly that other scientists would rush to publish it first if word of this find was exposed.... It is all being covered up because the scientists think their [sic] going to lose their jobs if everyone learns evolution wasn't true after all. Only I can tell the story. I can not reveal my true name, but my wonderful American friend is helping me to reveal the Truth to the whole World.
Other photos on the site included "graduate students" ("conspirators" David E Thomas, Kim Johnson, and their children) making casts of the "fossil" and a car labeled "New Mexico State Resources" (same initials as "New Mexicans for Science and Reason", of which Thomas is President.)
The site recorded over 1000 hits in the month before a full explanation was posted, ending with the comment: "Disclaimer: This website was created for the sole purpose of fooling any person who might fall for it."
The "darwindisproved" site drew a lot of email and inspired much speculation. David Thomas reports that, while some of his skeptical email was from creationists, it was only evolutionists who succeeded in tracking down the pranksters. (NCSE member Paul Heinrich traced the domain name to Kim Johnson, and NCSE member Skip Evans contacted Johnson asking for details.) Johnson noted that while many people identified the site as a hoax or — more correctly — as a spoof, they didn't always give the "right" reasons. For example, some commented that the site didn't look like part of the Morrison Formation (where the photos were in fact taken), or that black fossils are improbable (while many fossils in the Morrison formation are dark gray or black).
And yes... somebody bit. Thomas has reported that he received email from well-known creationists who demanded more evidence. But there was one who couldn't wait before (in RNCSE editor Anj Petto's words) taking the bait "hoax, line, and sinker". NCSE members who attended an anti-evolution lecture on May 7 at Philadelphia's Calgary Chapel report that "Dr Dino" (aka Kent Hovind) urged the audience to see the "evidence against evolution" at www.darwindisproved.com.
In an article appearing in the October 1998 First Things, William A Dembski announced the existence of rigorous and reliable means for detecting the action of an intelligent agent. Its description and justification, said Dembski, would be found in the pages of his new book, The Design Inference (TDI). Dembski made a special point of applying a criterion he called complexity-specification to biological phenomena, with the claim that biologists must now admit design into their science.
Dembski's TDI is a slim and scholarly volume, as one expects from a distinguished academic press. Dembski employs clear writing, illustrative examples, and cogent argumentation. The work, though, is motivated and informed by an anti-evolutionary impulse, and its flaws appear to follow from the need to achieve a particular religious aim. The anti-evolutionary bent is not as overt here, though, as it is in other works by Dembski and his colleagues Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, Paul Nelson, and Stephen Meyer at the Discovery Institute Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. The closest that Dembski comes within the pages of TDI to staking out an explicit position on evolutionary issues is in Section 2.3, where a "case study" is made of "the creation-evolution controversy". In it, Dembski accuses evolutionary biologists of rejecting one or more premises of his Design Inference in order to avoid reaching a conclusion of design for biological phenomena. Of course, for "Intelligent Design" creationists, as it was for William Paley, it is not sufficient merely to prove that something was intelligently designed, it is also essential that the agent of design be identified as the God of the Bible. But TDI carefully avoids explicit religious referents, even separating "evidence for design" from "evidence of agency".
In my opinion, Dembski's Design Inference fails to identify reliably phenomena due to design by an intelligent agent because of its logic, and because it fails to consider additional mechanisms (like natural selection) that could produce a designed effect. In the following review, I shall attempt to explain why this is so.
Dembski deploys a large number of specialized terms and phrases in making his argument that design must be recognized as a necessary mode of explanation in science. Fortunately, Dembski generally makes clear what each term means, even when it also has a common or casual usage. Design is one of those terms, and in Dembski's usage it becomes a category defined by the elimination of events that can be attributed to regularity or to chance. Regularity is equivalent to high probability - an event will that "(almost) always happen" (p 36). Chance applies to any event with intermediate or low probability, but for which no specification exists. A specified event conforms to a pattern that is determined in advance or can be given independently of the event.
"Specification" needs further description. Dembski illustrates the meaning of specifications which allow us to reject chance explanations by contrasting them to fabrications which do not. For an archer to hit 100 bull's-eyes is not chance; we would conclude that the archer had great skill. But if the pattern of 100 bull's-eyes was obtained by the archer's shooting the arrows and then drawing targets around them, we would not make the same conclusion. The pattern of 100 arrows and bull's-eyes would be the same in each situation, but because we had specified in advance certain characteristics (like the bull's-eye being on the wall before the arrow was shot), we can eliminate chance in the former situation and attribute the performance to skill.
Complexity-specification describes how the jointly-held attributes of complexity (events of low probability) and specification (previously-determined pattern) reveal the presence of design in an event. And design thus becomes any event with both a low probability and an independently-given pattern. Another way to look at Dembski's Design Inference is that complexity excludes high- and intermediate-probability events, specification excludes chance events, and regularity comprises events marked by high probability. Therefore, complexity-specification yields those events that fall into the exclusionary category of design as Dembski uses the term - events that are of low probability and not due to chance.
For Dembski, the Design Inference is a deductive argument which can lead to the recognition of complexity-specification, and thus design, for a particular event. Since these 3 categories (regularity, chance, and design) embrace all events, and design is established by elimination of the other two categories, design is thus the set-theoretical complement of regularity and chance.
Dembski applies what he calls his "Explanatory Filter" to determine design. Complete with flowchart (p 37), the Explanatory Filter has 3 decision nodes. In step 1, if an event is deemed to have high probability, it is classified as due to a regularity, or rather that the event can be explained through law-like physical processes. An as-yet unclassified event then moves on to the second decision node. If it has intermediate probability, it is classified as due to chance. Thus-far unclassified events (which have low probability) then move on to the third decision node. If the event both has a low probability and also conforms to a specification, it is classified as due to design; if it has low probability and is unspecified, it is classified as due to chance.
It is time to look more closely at Dembski's Design Inference, to find out whether it does allow us to detect design by the elimination of alternative mechanisms. The Design Inference is a deductive argument based on the elimination of alternatives. Such arguments only work if the conclusion is the result of exhausting the available alternatives. Dembski assures us that this is the case by defining design as what is left after regularity and chance have been eliminated. Thus, what "design" means depends upon the way that regularity and chance are eliminated.
Dembski offers 2 somewhat different methods for eliminating regularity. In the first, regularity is recognized if an event has a high probability of occurrence. This is part of his discussion of the Explanatory Filter. The second method identifies an event that conforms to relevant natural laws, but is not constrained by them, and thus is not attributable to those laws. This method is discussed in relation to Dembski's Design Inference (p 53). It is not clear that each of these 2 methods would classify the same set of events as not being due to regularity. This ambiguity increases our uncertainty concerning the residue that is left over to be classified as either chance or design.
Dembski throughout TDI claims that deduction leads ineluctably and conclusively to certain events' being due to design. The catch is that Dembski is using his own definition of design, where design is simply the residue that remains after chance and regularity are eliminated. But there are alternative filters that better fit reality. I will illustrate one such alternative with an example filter of my own.
My alternative Explanatory Filter has 4, not 3 nodes.
My alternative Explanatory Filter differs in several critical ways. First, the ordering of decisions is different. Dembski justifies his choice of order with an explication of explanatory priority (p 38-40). But Dembski's arguments for eliminating regularity before eliminating chance are neither convincing nor reflective of how people ordinarily explain things. Random events conform well to the null hypothesis (that is, that the event is due to chance and not to design or regularity) and should be eliminated first in determination of causation.
Dembski's own example of a pair of loaded dice to show why regularity has explanatory priority over chance demonstrates that his filter has the order reversed. He explains that because the loaded dice yield high probabilities that certain faces will come up, the explanation to be preferred is regularity. However, Dembski ignores the fact that in order to determine that regularity and not chance is at work with the loaded dice, we must compare the rolls of the dice to the expectation for "fair" dice. Only when chance has been eliminated can we then entertain the notion that the results for the particular loaded dice in question are due to a regularity. In point of fact, with sufficient testing and knowledge of the circumstances, the loaded dice example resolves into an instance of design, not regularity. This does not mean that design then has explanatory priority. Rather, it illustrates the superior explanatory power of my alternative filter in which chance must be considered and rejected before either regularity or design can be concluded.
A second advantage to my Explanatory Filter is its additional classification of unknown causation. This alternative recognizes that the set of knowledge used to make a classification can alter the classification. By allowing an event to be classified as having unknown causation, I simultaneously reduce the number of false classifications that will later be overturned by additional information and identify those events whose circumstances require further study in order to identify a causative factor. The use of unknown causation as a category is common in such day-to-day operations of humans looking for design in events, such as in forensics. Forcing final classification of events when knowledge is limited ensures that mistakes in classification will be made when Dembski's Explanatory Filter is employed.
A third advantage to my alternative Explanatory Filter is that the common meaning of "design" is retained as a reliable indicator of "agency". We recognize design in our day-to-day life because of prior experience with objects and events designed or caused by intelligent agents. It is important to recognize that there is a difference between a reliable classifier and a design detector. The goal of such an exercise should be to classify events accurately, not to just single out the designed ones.
Dembski utilizes the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project as an example of detecting design without particular knowledge of a designer. But SETI can only detect signals that possess certain properties known from prior experience of humans communicating via radio wavelengths. SETI works to find events that conform to our prior experience of how intelligent agents use radio wavelengths to communicate. SETI does not support the notion that novel design/designer relationships can be detected. ETI that communicate in ways outside human experience will be invisible to, and undetected by, SETI. The issue of agency, in fact, deserves more attention. Like many "Intelligent Design" creationists, Dembski tries to avoid mentioning the "designer", and in fact, promotes his Explanatory Filter as being superior because it supposedly separates agency from design (TDI p 8, 36, 226-7).
One may wonder what TDI was supposed to accomplish, if design no longer means what Paley meant by it and the attribution of agency no longer necessarily follows from finding design. When he assures the reader that design does not imply agency, Dembski seems to want things both ways: one can detect design without implying agency, though one is justified in inferring agency when one sees design. But is it a secure inference? According to Dembski, because humans identify human agency using reasoning equivalent to the Explanatory Filter, the Explanatory Filter encapsulates our general method for detecting agency. Because TDI is equivalent to the Explanatory Filter, if we conclude design through the TDI, we also must conclude agency.
The apparent, but unstated, logic behind the move from design to agency can be given as follows:
This is an inductive argument. Notice that by the second step, one must eliminate from consideration precisely those biological phenomena which Dembski wishes to categorize. In order to conclude intelligent agency for biological examples, the possibility that intelligent agency is not operative is excluded a priori. This is stacking the deck.An intelligent agent reveals itself by making choices, or in Dembski's terms, directed contingency. An intelligent agent chooses "from a range of competing possibilities" (p 62), and does so by actualizing "one among several competing possibilities", excluding the rest, and specifying (ahead of time) what is to be chosen. Dembski claims this triad of criteria - actualization-exclusion-specification - is sufficient for establishing that an intelligent agent has been at work and finds that design as he defines it is congruent with these criteria.
One large problem is that directed contingency or choice is not an attribute solely of events that result from the intervention of an intelligent agent. Both directed contingency and the triad itself can be explained quite adequately by natural selection as a cause. Actualization occurs as heritable variation arises. Exclusion results as some heritable variations lead to differential reproductive success. Specification occurs as environmental conditions specify which variations are preferred. One might thus conclude that Dembski's argument establishes that natural selection can be recognized as an intelligent agent. By my reading, Dembski's argument supports a position that biologists can embrace a conclusion of design for an event of biological origin and still attribute that event to the agency of natural selection.
It is an error to argue from the casual meanings of regularity, chance, and design when discussing causes for events classified by Dembski's Explanatory Filter or by TDI. Someone might seek to exclude natural selection from consideration as a source of events that meet the criteria of design by claiming that it is either a regularity or chance. But TDI classifies events, not causes. Dembski points this out himself when he says that using the Explanatory Filter may not always lead to a conclusion of design for an event that we know is due to the action of an intelligent agent, because agents can mimic the results of regularity or chance.
The point is more significant than Dembski admits. A causal class cannot be classified into regularity or chance in advance without begging the question. Specifically, one cannot state in advance that natural selection is either regularity or chance because the events which are due to natural selection must be evaluated by their own properties to establish which category best describes those events. Just as intelligent agents can sometimes produce events which appear to be due to regularity or chance rather than design, so too can natural selection be responsible for events in all 3 categories. It is insufficient to show that some examples of natural selection fall into either the "regularity" or "chance" explanatory categories. When arguing that no physical process is the agent producing a designed event, one must show that natural selection is incapable in principle of producing events with the attribute of design. Such a demonstration would have to address the application of natural selection in both biology and computer science, where use of the principle of natural selection has been employed in solving very difficult optimization problems.
In summary, the process of detecting design, as it is done by humans in day-to-day activities, is not accurately captured by Dembski's Explanatory Filter. The order in which classes of causes are eliminated makes a difference. Humans attempting to explain phenomena can and often do find insufficient evidence to make a final determination of either design or any other explanation. And when humans use the word design, they typically mean it to carry a real implication of being due to an agent or designer.
Second, Dembski's Explanatory Filter does not help us to identify the cause or the agent of the "specifications" which it seeks to classify. That there is an agent or that the agent is "intelligent" must be concluded prior to applying the Design Inference. Using Dembski's own criteria, we cannot rule out natural selection as a cause for the design found in the events and organisms around us. Somehow, I doubt that natural selection is what Dembski has in mind for the author of design.
Dembski utilizes the Explanatory Filter and equivalent logical arguments in order to place his criterion of design on a deductive footing. That criterion, complexity-specification, does not help us to identify a cause, or an agent, of an event. Its sole purpose is to detect design as Dembski employs the term. The step from detection of design to inference of an intelligent agent is made by an inductive argument, and shares in the problems of all conclusions drawn from an inductive basis. Dembski argues that a triad of criteria reliably diagnoses the action of an intelligent agent, yet this same triad of criteria fails to exclude natural selection as a possible cause of events that have the attribute of complexity-specification. Again, I doubt that natural selection is what Dembski had in mind for the agent of biological design.
The Design Inference is a work with great significance for those anti-evolutionists who have embraced "intelligent design" as their organizing principle and see that Dembski's TDI is supposed to establish the theoretical foundation for all the rest of the movement (see, for example, comments posted on the web at http://www.discovery.org/fellows/design.html). My judgment is that it fails to lay a solid foundation. There are flaws and cracks that can admit the entry of naturalistic causes into the pool of "designed" events. It is unfortunate that Dembski's focus is the establishment of "intelligent design" as an anti-evolutionary alternative, for his insights into elimination of chance hypotheses would appear to have legitimate application to various outstanding research questions, such as certain issues in animal cognition and intelligence. Despite Dembski's commentary in his First Things article, there appears to be no justification for the claim that biologists must now admit design (in its old, agency-laden sense) into biological explanation.
Dembski WA. Science and design. First Things 1998 Oct; 86:21-2. http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9810/dembski.html. Accessed April 8, 1999.
Dembski WA. The Design Inference. Center for Renewal of Science & Culture Fellows Publications, http://www.discovery.org/fellows/design.html. Accessed May 31, 1999.
Dembski WA. The Explanatory Filter: A three-part filter for understanding how to separate and identify cause from intelligent design. http://www.origins.org/real/ri9602/dembski.html Accessed March 8,1999.
Dembski WA. Intelligent design as a theory of information. Conference on Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise (Austin, Texas). http://www.dla.utexas.edu/depts/philosophy/faculty/koons/ntse/papers/Dembski.html Accessed March 8, 1999.
[Find an expanded version of this review on the web at http://inia.cls.org/~welsberr/zgists/wre/papers/dembski7.html. Thanks to Bob Schadewald and others who gave helpful commentary on drafts of this review.]
[Long-time NCSE member and activist Bill Thwaites carefully monitors regular publications from the Institute for Creation Research. Bill has offered to provide us with a synopsis and critique of the salient features from the ICR's monthly Acts & Facts, which we gladly accepted. Ed.]
I hope that my writing a review of the February 1999 issue of Acts and Facts from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) will help illuminate some of the issues in the evolution/creation discussion. I have long enjoyed interpreting each month's mailing and sharing my findings and speculations with my good friend, the late Frank Awbrey. Recently NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott suggested that I share my thoughts with RNCSE readers.
Not Pleasing Anyone — Poor ICR! For purposes of convincing the scientific community that it is wrong about the age of the earth and the existence of biological evolution, the ICR must appear as secular and scientific as possible. The same appearance is handy in selling "scientific creationism" to the public schools and in maintaining ICR's accreditation as a graduate institute of science. On the other hand, for purposes of garnering financial support, ICR must appear to be as religious and evangelical as the "700 Club."
In the February 1999 issue of Acts and Facts, as well as in the accompanying fund-raising letter from the director John Morris, the emphasis is on evangelism. There is also a not-so-subtle appeal for "liberal" creationists to get back on board with regard to the young age of the earth. It would seem that just about everyone is carping at ICR for one thing or another.
Philosophical Naturalism — Both the elder and the junior Morrises of ICR seem to be impressed by Phillip Johnson's tirades against "philosophical naturalism". Morris the elder (Henry) writes that the evil atheistic cosmologists seem to be bent upon explaining the universe without God. Morris the younger (John) complains that naturalistic evolution falsely leads scientists to suppose that they will be able understand how cells and the genetic code originated.
As a biologist, I hasten to add that I'm gratified to see physical scientists criticized for "naturalism" the way biologists so frequently are. The complaints about cosmology show that creationists are fair-minded when it comes to complaints about "naturalism." They are not out just to get biologists. When the creationists are finished with their crusade, we will have theistic geometry, theistic addition, and so on. And I could happily go along with that if a reliable "theometer" is ever invented.
Taking on the Difficult Questions — We have read previously that ICR and its friends are going to put radioactive dating to rest once and for all. In this issue we learn that ICR is going to take on yet another daunting task — to discover the origin of pathogens (micro-organisms that cause disease). Somehow ICR must show that the diabolical mechanisms used to establish and maintain infections were not preprogrammed by a creator who knew in advance that mankind would fail. At the same time, ICR must also show that the more elaborate mechanisms (for example, the ability of many internal parasites to change "protein coats" to avoid recognition by the immune system) did not evolve.
If they admit to either preprogramming or to subsequent evolution, it would seem to weaken their case. On the one hand, an admission of preprogramming would cast doubt on their particular scriptural interpretation. An evolutionary explanation would also be painful. It would undermine the creationist insistence that nothing elaborate could have evolved. I look forward to seeing how they get out of this one almost as much as I anticipate their disproof of radioactive dating.
Impact #308 — In the February "Impact" article, we read a slightly reworked version of an old creationist claim. It goes something like this: "If evolutionary improvements stem from the selection of good mutations, then we should find many examples of good mutations in a typical species." Then the creationist goes to a list of genetic diseases and shows, wonder of wonders, that all the mutations in the list cause disease.
Of course the "good" mutations that evolution depends on are to be found in the variability that we see in any out-breeding population that has not recently come through a population bottleneck. In our own species, we see this as variations in resistance to infectious diseases, longevity, height, ability to succeed at school, resistance to ultraviolet light, resistance to various forms of cancer, and so on. In only a few cases have we been able to identify specific genes responsible for this variability, but the case for the genetic origin of these variations is well established.
And there is another way of looking at the claim that good mutations never happen — with a simple computer program. At San Diego State University we made a program that produced random letter changes that we scored against a target sentence. Those that were the closest to the target sentence were saved as "parents" for the next round of mutation and selection.
Very high mutation rates did not allow the reaching of the target sentence. Very low mutation rates made the achievement of "perfection" extremely slow. But when "perfection" had been achieved, all subsequent mutations were harmful. To a limited extent, that is what happens with real species. While "perfection" might be a bit of an exaggeration, any species that thrives is close to its "target" (that is, reasonably well adapted to its environment). Once that state is achieved, therefore, all subsequent single gene mutations are much more likely to be "bad" than good — that is, more likely to move the "sentence" farther from instead of closer to its target. A computer program elaborate enough to save alternative sentences that had the same meaning as the target sentence could be used to demonstrate this process of the accumulation of good mutations. As usual, there is an experiment which could resolve this apparent problem for the incorporation of useful mutations which could be done, but won't be — at least not by the ICR.
The human line separated from the chimpanzee line some 5 million years ago or a little more, according to dates derived from molecular "clocks". The earlier members of the human lineage, all of them entirely African, are lumped together as "australopithecines", named for the genus Australopithecus but including other genera too. Later members are placed together in the genus Homo.
Australopithecines have small cranial capacities (about 350 to 550 cc), large faces, jaws and cheek teeth, and the arrangement of the teeth in the jaws (dental arcade) tends to be rectangular. Where the postcranial skeleton is known, the ribcage is funnel-shaped (narrow at the top, expanding downwards), the hipbones a very wide and flaring, and the legs are short (leg:arm ratio intermediate between chimpanzee and human).The feet are basically bipedal and resemble humans, but the phalanges (toe-bones) are more curved. Fossils of the genus Homo have larger cranial capacities (510 cc upward), usually smaller faces, jaws and cheek teeth, and the dental arcades are parabolic. Except in the most primitive members the ribcage, where known, is barrel-shaped, the hipbones do not flare as much and are more curved, the legs are long, and the feet are fully modern.
|A afarensis||A africanus||A garhi||Early Homo|
|Molar & premolar size||moderate||moderate to large||huge||moderate|
|Anterior upper premolar||asymmetrical||more oval||more oval||more oval|
|Tooth enamel thickness||fairly thick||thick||thick||thick|
|Dental arcade shape||rectangular||rectangular||rectangular||parabolic|
|Anterior depth of palate||shallow||varies||shallow||deep|
|Diastema in upper jaw||common||absent||present||rare|
|Anterior pillars on face||no||yes||no||no|
|Supraorbital structure||thin bar||thin bar||thin bar||torus|
|Cranial capacity||343-500||428-ca 515||450||510-752|
As a typical bang-up-to-the-minute biologist, I adopt a cladistic attitude to taxonomy: a family or genus is an evolutionary lineage. I place humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans together in the family Hominidae; so "hominid", a term still all too often used to mean "in the human line", actually refers to other living Great Apes too. At most, humans can be separated from other Great Apes as a tribe, Hominini, so fossils on the human side of the divide are "hominins". Anthropologists as a crew are always about 10 years behind other biologists, so it will probably be quite a while yet before textbooks of human evolution stop using "hominids" in the old sense.
Among the australopithecines, the earliest member is Ardipithecus ramidus, which is about 4.4 million years (ma) old and presents a quite distinct set of traits. The other distinctive clade represents the "robust" or "nutcracker", Paranthropus species, a distinct lineage which can be traced over a million and a half years from 2.5 to about 1 Ma The others are for the moment (for want of a decent cladistic model, really) lumped into the genus Australopithecus, which contains - or did until early this year - at least 4 species:
The indications are that the early hominins were as diverse as any other group of large mammals. Among all the diversity, however, there must have been some actual ancestors and, human nature being what it is, everyone is obsessed with trying to deduce which, if any, of the fossil species might have filled this role. About all we can say so far about the ancestral possibilities of A anamensis is that it is in the right place at the right time and has no specialized bits of anatomy that would exclude it from having been an ancestor. A afarensis seems pretty primitive all around, but of course is more derived in the human direction than A anamensis. So, a plausible sequence begins to emerge. But what of A africanus?
Opinions have been rather divided about Australopithecus africanus. It is later in time than A afarensis and earlier than the first Homo, H habilis, so it fills the time gap; but it has seemed to be in the wrong place. Maybe our ancestors evolved in East Africa, moved south, and then moved back again in time to become Homo (though of course they may have existed in East Africa too but we just haven´t found any yet). But the differences from A afarensis to H habilis seem mostly to be pointing in the wrong direction. On the one hand A africanus had a larger cranial capacity on average, the lower premolars were wider (in A afarensis they were often narrow and fairly apelike), and the dental arcade sometimes tended to be more parabolic. On the other hand it had larger, broader molars and premolars but somewhat smaller front teeth, and a heavily built-up facial skeleton with what one specialist, Yoel Rak, has called "anterior pillars" - prominent bony thickenings alongside the snout and nasal aperture. If A africanus was ancestral to Homo, these last features would have been developed then lost again - a transition we try to avoid in deriving ancestor-descendant lineages.
Well-preserved specimens of Homo appear at around 2 Ma in East Africa, mainly at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), where Homo habilis occurs, and at Koobi Fora (Kenya), where 2 species are present, a habilis-like species and the larger Homo rudolfensis. Both, especially H rudolfensis, have large molars, but the premolars are less expanded than in A africanus. The cranial capacity is 510-680 cc in H habilis and about 750 in H rudolfensis. The postcranial skeleton in H habilis, at least, is every bit as primitive as in australopithecines (it is "well known" that the legs are even relatively shorter than in "Lucy", but Asfaw and others  point out that the evidence actually will not sustain this conclusion; this was shown earlier by Korey ). A couple of hundred thousand years after these 2 early Homo species appeared, the first more modern-looking species, Homo ergaster with its long legs, shortened forearms, short face, prominent nose and beetle-brows, and a cranial capacity over 800 cc, appears in the record and is well on the way to becoming us.
The early Homo-bearing beds also have stone tools. Chimpanzees modify grass stems, branches and other perishable material, and they use stones to crack nuts but do not modify the stone. Presumably australopithecines did at least as well as chimpanzees, but not until Homo are there signs that stone was deliberately modified to form tools.
Where, then, did Homo spring from? There has been a big gap in the record before 2 Ma - back to 2.5, if we think that A africanus was the ancestral stock, or to 2.9 if we reject A africanus and take it back to A afarensis. (A related question, where did Paranthropus spring from, has now gone some way to being answered by the discovery, in the mid-80s, of "the Black Skull", from 2.5-ma deposits at Lomekwi, west of Lake Turkana. This specimen is beautifully intermediate between A afarensis and the later (1-2 Ma) Paranthropus specimens we find at Koobi Fora, Olduvai and so on). Until this year, there were just a few suggestive scraps:
The Uraha mandible and Hadar maxilla are early Homo, there is no disagreement about this. The Chemeron temporal and Sts 19 are much more controversial. Even if we narrow it down to just the first two, we come to the interesting conclusion that by 2.3 Ma two species already seem to be in existence, the same two species that we find in the 2 Ma deposits at Koobi Fora
And now, and now... hot off the presses ... a paper by Asfaw and others (Nature 1999 Apr 23; 284:629-5) describes a new species which they think "is descended from Australopithecus afarensis and is a candidate ancestor for early Homo". The new species is Australopithecus garhi from Bouri, on the Middle Awash River in Ethiopia. The age is 2.5 Ma, and the remains are associated with large antelope remains with cut-marks on them, apparently from stone tools. The primitive stone tools themselves were found not at Bouri itself but at the nearby, contemporaneous site of Gona.
The type specimen of Australopithecus garhi is a partial cranium. From nearby sites, and perhaps belonging to the same species or perhaps not, come several postcranial bones including a partial skeleton, a fragment of a second cranium, and 2 mandibles (one fairly complete). The specific name, garhi, means "surprise" in the Afar language, and a bit surprising it is, too. It is basically australopithecine, with a small cranial capacity (450 cc), rectangular or slightly diverging dental arcade, and very prognathous face. It lacks the anterior pillars of Australopithecus africanus, and it even has a gap (diastema) between the lateral incisor and the canine, a primitive feature seen in A afarensis but not in A africanus. From the photos, it looks very like A afarensis, but the authors point out some more "advanced" features like the premolar shape and the more anteriorly placed malar (cheekbone) root. Like many australopithecines, including some A afarensis, it has a sagittal crest for anchoring large temporal (chewing) muscles. But what is astounding about the specimen are the huge premolars and molars. The canine, for example, is larger than any other hominin, the anterior premolar is larger than any except for some specimens of Paranthropus boisei (the East African "nutcracker" species), and the second molar is larger than any Homo, though within the range of A africanus.
About the mandible, Asfaw and colleagues say little, except that its morphology would be compatible with belonging to the same species. The stone tools might have been made by A garhi, or they might not. As for the postcranial bones, the authors are careful to explain, they too need not belong to the same species. There could be one species that left its head in the deposits and another that left its postcranial skeleton there (and of course either or neither of them might have made the stone tools). But for what it is worth, and it is worth a good deal, Asfaw and colleagues give a brief description and an interesting diagram of the limb bone proportions. The femur-to-humerus ratio was like Homo ergaster and modern humans (long femur, short "Lucy"-sized humerus), but the forearm (radius and ulna)-to-humerus ratio was long like a chimpanzee or, for that matter, like "Lucy".
Radius as % of humerus
|Humerofemoral index: |
Humerus as % of femur
|Pan paniscus (Bonobo)||91.9||97.8 ± 2.1|
|A.afarensis ("Lucy" skeleton)||90.7||84.6 ± 2.8|
|Bouri (perhaps A.garhi)||97.9||ca. 70.4|
|H.habilis (OH 62)||[79.5-93.2]||[94.3 ± 7.7]|
|Homo sapiens (African)||79.6 ± 2.5||73.3 ± 1.7|
What are we to make of it? One, 2 or 3 species? What we have is
Suppose Australopithecus garhi made the tools and was the ancestor of Homo. Where do the 4 early Homo specimens presumed older than 2 Ma fit in? The Bouri cranium lacks a base, so that prevents direct comparisons with both Sts19 and the Chemeron temporal. Asfaw and colleagues do not describe the Bouri-region mandibles, so that (for the moment) excludes comparisons with Uraha. But the Hadar maxilla is definitely different from the one found at Bouri. In fact, it could be lost among the Olduvai maxillae, more than 300 000 years later. So, if A garhi is ancestral to Homo, either there was a rapid change in maxillary morphology in the intervening 200 000 years, or else the Bouri specimen is a late survivor of its species. We must not exclude a speeding-up of evolutionary rates, nor must we fall into the trap of assuming anagenesis (evolution without branching).
It´s an exciting time to be alive if you´re interested in human evolution. New countries are getting onto the paleoanthropological map: India, Syria, Eritrea, Chad, Malawi, and Portugal. Every new fossil fulfils certain expectations but opens up a whole barrel of new research questions. Fossil discoveries are matched by new discoveries of just how human our nearest living relatives are. And the press is avid for them all, as well it might be. Keep on your (bipedal) toes; if you miss this week´s reports you might already be out-of-date.
Cladogenesis is the term used to describe the branching off of new taxa. These branches — or clades — are based on several criteria which make the descendants along a particular branch different from their ancestors and from related taxa on other branches. Each new branch exhibits a combination of novel characteristics that are unique to that branch mixed with some "familial" characteristics which this branch shares with its evolutionary ancestors. Although certain novel traits may be diagnostic for members of an evolving lineage, it is often the combination of unique and shared characteristics that defines new branches.
The basis of constructing a valid cladogram is the ability to identify the characteristics of the ancestral population and those of the descendants (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evo_06). Characteristics found among the ancestors and shared by most or all members of related taxa are referred to as primitive. In cladistic studies this word is understood as "original" or "primal" and not as "crude" or "simple". In order to avoid confusion, some writers refer to these traits as conservative or simply ancestral. Shared, conservative traits link the members of related branches to a common ancestor. On the other hand, characteristics that are found in various evolutionary branches that differ from those of the ancestors are considered derived. In many cases these derived characteristics are unique modifications of widely shared ancestral characteristics. Derived traits distinguish the members of one evolutionary branch from the members of another branch.
A cladogram is constructed on these combinations of ancestral and derived characteristics in related taxa by organizing and diagramming the pattern and sequence in which they could have arisen. Ideally, we want a cladogram based on branches defined by uniquely derived characters that emerge once in an evolving lineage and are shared by all subsequent descendants. This helps us to test our hypotheses about common descent in evolving lineages. A branch that includes all the organisms descended from the same ancestral population is said to be monophyletic.
Because living organisms are a complex combination of traits, however, sometimes it is possible to draw more than one cladogram that might reflect the evolutionary history of a group of organisms. There is a variety of methods that researchers use to evaluate these options, and the appropriate choice depends on the kinds of data available and the specific hypothesis to be tested. The goal, however, is to find the tree that best explains the phylogenetic relationships among the organisms included in the tree.
Two fundamental principles used in evaluating cladograms are parsimony (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/phylogenetics_08) and robusticity. First, when there is more than one way to draw a cladogram, and when there are no other data that suggest one of these is more likely than the others, we tend to choose the one in which derived traits are re-invented in different branches the fewest number of times. Second, we prefer trees that maintain their basic form, even when different options are applied to the sequence of changes in one or more of their branches. However, when more data are available about the history or the origin of a particular feature, these data are more important tools in determining which of the alternative trees is better. In contrast to exercises in mere classification, we want to base our taxonomy on the cladogram. The guiding principle is that our taxa should be monophyletic. Each evolutionary branch must contain all descendants of a common ancestor.
One of the chief criticisms against the "classical" taxonomy that places humans on one branch of the hominoid family tree and the great apes (African apes and the orang utan) on another is that this arrangement fails on the criterion of monophyly. Based on fossil data, comparative anatomy, and molecular biology, humans and African apes share a recent common ancestor and so a monophyletic clade would include humans and African apes together. Any branch that combines Asian apes (such as the orang utan) with African apes, but excludes the human branch, is invalid because it does not include all the descendants of the common ancestor of Asian and African apes (see http://tolweb.org/hominidae/16299).
There is, of course, a uniquely human clade containing all the hominins (species of the genera Homo, Australopithecus, and Ardipithecus) descended from the first upright walkers among the African apes; however, no clade that excludes humans but includes African and Asian groups is phylogenetically valid because it fails on the basic criterion of monophyly: it must include the most recent common ancestor of all the organisms in the tree and all the descendants of that most recent common ancestor.
Fossil data help to refine cladistic analysis by providing information about the sequence or order in which certain derived traits emerged. Cladistic analysis helps to resolve the "problem" of the so-called "missing links" or the intermediate specimens, because it does not require that fossil species evolve into any related species which emerge later. Instead, it represents the evolutionary history of an evolving lineage in terms of a collection of characteristics which can be passed along to descendant populations — or not!
What if somebody published a 592-page book to answer all the critics of his previous book? That's what Michael Cremo does in Forbidden Archaeology's Impact. In 1993, Cremo and Richard Thompson published Forbidden Archaeology (FA), a voluminous exposé of "anomalous archaeological artifacts" that suggested modern people possibly lived on earth almost as long as the world existed, some 4.3 billion years ago.
Like Christian creationists who accommodate science to the Bible, Cremo and Thompson are Hindu creationists that harmonize science with their sacred Vedic scriptures. The Bhagavata Purana says that men and women have lived on earth for a vast period of time called the Day of Brahma, which is composed of a thousand yuga cycles. Each yuga cycle lasts 12,000 "years of the gods." And since each "year" equals 360 earth years, one yuga cycle equals 4.32 million years while a thousand yuga cycles total 4.32 billion years, summing up the Day of Brahma.
Forbidden Archaeology's Impact describes the notoriety Cremo's first book triggered by including all his personal correspondence, interviews, journal articles, conference papers, and even Internet postings. But Cremo mostly confronts his critics head-on, reprinting their harsh book reviews verbatim while following them up with lengthy rebuttals that he mailed to each reviewer in protest.
And Cremo doesn't suffer critics gladly. He mailed a copy of this book to the NCSE because it includes a voluminous rebuttal to Wade Tarzia's review published 5 years ago in Creation/Evolution 34. So I'll choose my words carefully.
Cremo strenuously protests the ad hominem attacks targeted at Forbidden Archaeology and its abridged edition, Hidden History of the Human Race. And in the reviews he cites, some critics did unnecessarily tease, trivialize, and spoof the authors' deadly serious presentation of their major evidences for human antiquity. And I agree that those reviewers should have analyzed FA's claims more seriously and professionally.
But their scorn could have been provoked by the book's blunt, in-your-face debut. As a publicity stunt, Cremo and Thompson mailed dozens of free, unsolicited copies to various paleoanthropologists to trigger a response. And when these recipients opened their packages to discover a book from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness dedicated to His Divine Grace AC Ghaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and consisting of a thousand-page assault on their profession, accusing them of unwittingly and deliberately suppressing evidence, what were they to think? Perhaps that this book was someone's spooky, surreal prank?
Paleoanthropologists have have grown to expect the taunts of Christian anti-evolutionists who appeal to biblical authority. Now they have to put up with Hindus attacking evolution by invoking cyclical kalpas, manvantaras, and yugas while accusing anthropologists of worshiping at the altar of Darwinian fundamentalism and metaphysical materialism. Gee, where have we heard that before? What kind of reception did Cremo expect?
Besides, many critics had genuine problems with Forbidden Archaeology that went beyond "Darwinism". For all its densely technical discussions of archaeological anomalies, many critics complained that Cremo and Thompson bombarded readers with abundantly useless data. For example, FA devotes 400 pages to analyzing anomalous stone tools depicted in obscure literature over the past 150 years. Worse, these specimens no longer exist. So FA compensated by providing page after page of drawings taken from their original sources. But in his reprinted review on page 103, Kenneth Feder frets that these illustrations are absolutely useless because it is impossible to determine whether these Paleolithic tools are drawn to scale or accurately rendered.
In Forbidden Archaeology's Impact, Cremo boasts that he's overthrowing the Darwinian worldview; but Darwinism is the study of biology, not Stone Age finds. And Cremo ignores animal evolution entirely. In 2 reprinted letters, Cremo says he's writing a book that cites land plants found in Cambrian strata (from reports published 50 years earlier) and fossils of flowering plants found in Jurassic strata (about 213-144 million years ago). Most paleobotanists say that angiosperms didn't appear until the late Cretaceous period (about 70 million years ago). But Cremo never explains why these potential revelations threaten biological evolution.
In their separate reviews reprinted in this book, Tarzia and Bradley Lepper revealed Cremo's biological misunderstandings while critiquing his "ape-man" chapter. Forbidden Archaeology and its abridged version, Hidden History of the Human Race, claimed that Bigfoot, Yeti, and other backcountry "wildmen" really exist and threaten evolution. Why? Because if someone caught a live Sasquatch, that would prove ancient hominids still coexist with modern humans.
But on page 159, Tarzia accuses Cremo and Thompson of "ignoring the possibility of shared common ancestry." Cremo's 14-page rebuttal to Tarzia ignores that criticism. On page 203, Lepper says, "Cremo and Thompson devote an entire chapter to reports of 'living ape-men' such as Bigfoot, which, even if true, contribute nothing to their thesis that anatomically modern humans lived in geologically recent times. Chimpanzees are 'ape-men' of a sort, sharing 99% of our genetic makeup, and their coexistence with Homo sapiens sapiens does no violence to evolutionary theory."
Cremo's response to Lepper on page 213 is oddly revealing: "While evidence of the coexistence of anatomically modern humans with more apelike hominids today does not do any violence to evolutionary theory, their coexistence in the distant past would do some violence to it. And the evidence documented in Hidden History suggests that they did coexist in the distant past."
I read that passage over and over, trying to make sense of Cremo's response. If he concedes that humans and nonhuman hominids coexisting today would not undermine human evolution, then what was the purpose of his ape-man chapter to begin with? And if modern humans and apelike hominids coexisted in the distant past, paleoanthropologists will always presume that they shared an even earlier ancestry. For example, even though some paleontologists and ornithologists currently disagree over whether birds diverged from Cretaceous maniraptorans (a specific group of dinosaurs) or earlier Triassic thecodonts (tree-dwelling reptiles), neither side claims their disagreement invalidates the conclusions of common ancestry for dinosaurs and birds.
What's more, Cremo is oblivious to biological context. One of many reasons why scientists accept evolution is because humans share numerous anatomical traits with all living mammals, not just primates. But if we embrace the notion that modern people lived on earth 600 million years ago, long before the arrival of other mammals, reptiles, fish, vertebrates, or any animal with a skeleton or hard body part, then biological patterns would be rendered senseless.
Even if we overlook the implausibility of humans' thriving in an oxygen-starved world without available food sources, think about what it would mean to have people living on earth, eons before the first arthropods arrived. Finding fossilized humans at every level of the geologic column would not be anomalous at all. Those finds would be the rule, not the exception, and a Darwinian paradigm would have never seized a foothold to begin with.
But of all the criticisms aimed at Forbidden Archaeology, Cremo objects most to those who labeled it pseudoscience, which is understandable. Cremo and Thompson toiled for 8 years on this comprehensive reference work, and calling it a pseudoscience is the same thing as labeling it a fraud. But when I read Forbidden Archaeology's Impact's reprinted correspondence that Cremo exchanged with his sympathizers and supporters, he appears too stubborn and sanctimonious to follow scientific rules. For example, if Cremo and Thompson wanted their debut to be taken seriously, they should have first submitted their findings through an extensive peer-review process, but Cremo thinks "peer-review" simply means conspiracy and censorship. Like all creationists, Cremo's not looking for real answers - just believers.
Next, let's examine portions of the two following letters that Cremo wrote to his supporters. This first one on page 300, is addressed to Dr Horst Friedrich:
In your review, you note that Richard Thompson and I did not discuss the idea of recurring catastrophes or the evidence for advanced civilization mentioned in the Vedic literatures of India. That was deliberate on our part. In Forbidden Archaeology we wanted first of all to demonstrate the need for an alternative view of human origins. In our next book, tentatively titled The Descent of Man Revisited, we shall outline the alternative, drawing extensively upon Vedic source material. This will include, of course, the recurring cataclysms of the yuga cycles and manvantara periods, as well as discussion of Vedic descriptions of advanced civilization in ancient times, and in an interplanetary context as well. I hope that will satisfy you! A new picture of human origins will have to be comprehensive, in the manner you suggest in your NEARA Journal article, incorporating evidence not only for archaeological and geological anomalies, but also paranormal phenomena of all types, including evidence for extraterrestrial civilization.
That's only the beginning. Cremo goes on to describe, in complete detail, 3 unique avatarian manifestations of the Godhead and explains how Shrila Prabhupada spread Krishna consciousness around the world through God's "confidential empowerment". The religious significance of Cremo's research is paramount.
However, Forbidden Archaeology's harshest critics were paleoanthropologists, and it was amusing to watch Cremo lecture professional scientists on how to do their jobs. He even admonished Lepper for not properly understanding Thomas Kuhn's prerequisites for scientific revolutions. Yet despite all this, read the following portion of this letter addressed to Dr William Howells on page 337:
Historically, I would say that the Judaeo-Christian tradition helped prepare the way for the mechanistic worldview by depopulating the universe of its demigods and spirits and discrediting most paranormal occurrences, with the exception of a few miracles mentioned in the Bible. Science took the further step of discrediting the few remaining kinds of acceptable miracles, especially after David Hume's attack upon them. Essentially, Hume said if it comes down to a choice between believing reports of paranormal occurrences, even by reputable witnesses, or rejecting the laws of physics, it is more reasonable to reject the testimony of the witnesses to paranormal occurrences, no matter how voluminous and well attested. Better to believe the witnesses were mistaken or lying. In my opinion, there is even today quite a lot of evidence for paranormal phenomena. Unfortunately, this evidence tends to be suppressed in the intellectual centers of society by the same process of knowledge filtration that tends to suppress physical evidence that contradicts general evolutionary ideas.
In other words, Cremo not only accuses the "scientific establishment" of rejecting the paranormal; but also claims that mainstream scientists are immersed in a conspiracy to suppress its evidence. And he has the effrontery to wonder why scientists won't take him seriously?
Frankly, I appreciate Cremo's courage to express his paranormal leanings so candidly. "Intelligent Design" creationists, in contrast, often wriggle and squirm when confronted with theirs. Let me say that if anybody is interested in the cultural and religious groundwork, sincere personal motivations, and epistemological methods employed by Hindu "creation science", Forbidden Archaeology's Impact is the most comprehensive, conclusive reference work on this topic.
Cosmology, spirituality, cerebration — these are the attributes of religion. ...Cosmology reveals the creation. It answers the big questions. ...For better or worse, this is the task of science... now embraced globally as the one truly human instrument of cosmic revelation.Once again, for the true believer materialist-positivist this is all literal nonsense. But most people are not Blastoderms. The physicist-priest John Polkinghorne says that there is "a God-shaped hole in many people's lives." The Czech president and intellectual Václav Havel has been saying something similar for years (Raymo chides him on p 165-6 for going too far with this). Some sociobiologists argue that religious belief has an evolutionary function, and most social scientists ascribe important social functions to religious belief. The recent history of state-mandated atheism belies the canard that, given a choice, people will gladly throw off the oppressive burden of belief. False consciousness and opiates of the people notwithstanding, most people seem to find it very hard — at least very depressing — to believe in nothing larger than themselves.
For the method to work, we pretend for the moment that it is possible to step out of ourselves into the world as it is. To this end we invent names — Cercyonis pegol, Cercyonis meadi — that match the patterns we think we see in nature. Of course, perfect objectivity is impossible. ...Science works...in that wall of liquid between mind and world.... With.science, the arrow of transference is inward, from world to mind, a soul-making vector, incandescent with facts, sparks of the white fire kindled in our hearts.... Only when we are emotionally at home in the universe of the galaxies and the DNA will the new story invigorate our spiritual lives and be cause for authentic celebration. Knowing and believing will come together again at last. Cautious and skeptical as knowers, we can then give ourselves unreservedly to spiritual union with creation and communal celebration of its mysteries.
Forbidden Archeology is an extremely controversial book that has attracted a great deal of attention in the academic world. As might be expected, its anti-Darwinian thesis has provoked many negative reviews, some of which misrepresent the substance of the book. But even those who disagree with the book's conclusion have sometimes recognized it as a genuine scholarly contribution and correctly represented the substance of the book to their readers, as shown by the following excerpts.(http://www.webcom.com/ara/col/books/science/rev.html last accessed on July 19, 1999).
While decidedly anti-evolutionary in perspective, this work is not the ordinary variety of anti-evolutionism in form, content, or style. In distinction to the usual brand of such writing, the authors use original sources and the book is well written. Further, the overall tone of the work is far superior to that exhibited in ordinary creationist literature. Nonetheless, I suspect that creationism is at the root of the authors' argument, albeit of a sort not commonly seen before. It is impossible in the context of this short review to deal in an in-depth way with any of the myriad cases cited by the authors buttress their claims he authors to buttress their claims. Instead, their general approach can be summarized.
The authors base virtually their entire book on a literature search and most (though not all) of that literature dates to the early twentieth century. In so doing, the authors have resurrected nineteenth-century claims of "Tertiary Man" (see Grayson 1983), apparently superimposing on this a belief in the instantaneous appearance of anatomically modern Homo sapiens at some point in the very distant past, asserting that the evidence for this is at least as good, and usually better, than that cited for a much later and evolutionary origin for our species. The authors maintain that the analytical techniques applied by nineteenth century scientists to incised bones and "eoliths" that led some to conclude that these very ancient items were the result of human activity, are nearly the same techniques as those applied today to accepted evidence. Therefore, the authors assert, the conclusions reached by nineteenth and early twentieth -century researchers that these very ancient objects were cultural in origin are of equal validity to the identification of more recent (late Pliocene) cultural objects by modern scientists. Thus, when a nineteenth-century researcher using a standard microscope of the time claims that striations found on bones dating back tens of millions of years are butchering marks, this is the equivalent, in the authors' view, of a modern researcher identifying cut marks using a scanning electron microscope. I doubt that many working in the field would agree. ... When you attempt to deconstruct a well-accepted paradigm, it is reasonable to expect that a new paradigm be suggested in its place. The authors of Forbidden Archaeology do not do this and I would like to suggest a reason for their neglect here. Wishing to appear entirely scientific, the authors hoped to avoid a detailed discussion of their own beliefs (if not through evolution, how? Is not within the last four million years, when?) since, I would contend, these are based on a creationist view, but not the kind we are all familiar with.
The explicit aims of the authors is to reconcile paleoanthropology to the Vedic ideas that "the human race is of great antiquity" and that "various human and apelike beings have coexisted for a long time" (p xxxvi). That does not sound particularly challenging; but unsatisfied with the apparently easy harmony between normal science and their nebulous theology, the authors decided to redo anthropology. The argument is simple: think of all the generalizations we can make about human evolution. Now think of all the exceptions, paradoxes, mistakes, and hoaxes. Now switch them. That is this book. As the Fire-sign Theatre once proclaimed: "Everything you know is wrong!" (But then, they were trying to be humorous, too). For unclear reasons, given the looseness of their religious thesis, this book is anti-evolutionary. The authors are trying to argue that humans have always been on earth, even unto the pre-Cambrian, when there was not much for them to eat or breathe.... The best that can be said is that more reading went into this Hindu-oid creationist drivel than seems to go into the Christian-oid creationist drivel. At any rate, this is a must for anyone interested in keeping up with goofy popular anthropology; at well over 900 pages, it is a veritable cornucopia of dreck.
Forbidden Archeology, a new Bhaktivedanta Institute book, argues that anatomically modern humans have existed for millions of years, which disproves the theory of human evolution; the authors make no specific claims for other kinds of biotic evolution. The book also claims that archaeologists have become a "knowledge filter" (p xxv ff) since the 19th century, laboring under a predisposition to ignore evidence for anatomically modern humans having existed for millions of years. Sometimes the book develops a dishonesty theory-evidence is said to be "carefully edited" (p 150) by scientists so that younger investigators do not see evidence that invalidates the theory of human evolution.Note that the italicized quotations are carefully selected summaries of the book or, as in the case of my review, selections of kind opinion (despite an overall negative judgment). In any event, the quotes so selected may appear to suggest that the reviewers are re-stating the book's premises ... and agree! Note that the introduction to this web-page states that the reviewers correctly summarize the substance of the book ... and again fosters an aura of overall agreement between the authors and book reviewers.
The authors have worked hard in collecting and quoting an enormous amount of material, much of it from the 19th- and early 20th-century, certainly interesting for its historical perspective. Their evidence is as diverse as it is detailed, including, for example, eoliths (crudely broken stones some have considered early tools), "wildmen" (Big Foot, etc), and even a fossilized shoe sole from the Triassic period. Despite all this hard work, I think the book falls short of a scientific work primarily (but not entirely) because (1) its arguments abandon the testing of simpler hypothesis before the more complex and sensationalistic ones, and (2) the use of so many outdated sources is inadequate for a book that seeks to overturn the well-established paradigm of human evolution — scholars must not work in isolation, especially today, when multi-disciplinary approaches are needed to remain on the cutting edge of knowledge. However, for researchers studying the growth, folklore, and rhetoric of pseudo-science, the book is useful as 'field' data.
Compelling student belief is inconsistent with the goal of education. Nothing in science or any other field of knowledge shall be taught dogmatically.Evolution was treated matter-of-factly, as the well-accepted principle of science that it is. Nonetheless, some members of the SBE, offended by the absence of creationism or "alternatives to evolution" in the draft, sought changes. School board member Steve Abrams, assisted by the Creation Science Association of MidAmerica, submitted substitute science standards that not only completely ignored evolution, but included some bizarre notions of the nature of science (for example, that "historical" and "theoretical" sciences are inferior to "technological" sciences). After much arm-wrestling, the SBE finally adopted science standards that were a patchwork of the 2 drafts. Evolution as an organizing principle of science was stripped out as was any mention of the Big Bang, cosmology, the age of the Earth, or descent with modification. As a result of these changes, evolution will not be included in the assessment tests students take before leaving high school.
Accumulated changes through time, some gradual and some sporadic, account for the present form and function of objects, organisms, and natural systems. The general idea is that the present arises from materials and forms of the past. An example of cumulative change is the biological theory of evolution, which explains the process of descent with modification of organisms from common ancestors. Additional examples are continental drift, which is part of plate tectonic theory, fossilization, and erosion. Patterns of cumulative change also help to describe the current structure of the universe (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 9).The "compromise" version of the standards deletes this 4th concept entirely, as well as other items, including the "Big Bang Theory".
If a student should raise a question in a natural science class that the teacher determines to be outside the domain of science, the teacher should treat the question with respect. The teacher should explain why the question is outside the domain of natural science and encourage the student to discuss the question further with his or her family and clergy. Neither the Kansas Constitution nor the United States constitution require time to be given in the science curriculum to accommodate religious views of those who object to certain material or activities presented in science classes. Nothing in the Kansas Statutes Annotated or the Kansas State Board Regulations allows students (or their parents) to excuse class attendance based on disagreement with the curriculum, except as specified for 1) any activity which is contrary to the religious teachings of the child or for 2) human sexuality education (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 6).Instead, the subcommittee substituted the following single sentence: "No evidence or analysis of evidence that contradicts a current science theory will be censured" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 6).
A scientific theory that accounts for present day similarity and diversity among living organisms and changes in non-living entities over time. With respect to living organisms, evolution has two major perspectives: The long-term perspective focuses on the branching of lineages; the short-term perspective centers on changes within lineages. In the long term, evolution is the decent [sic] with modification of different lineages from common ancestors. In the short term, evolution is the on-going adaptation of organisms to environmental challenges and changes (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 78).The second definition of evolution was "cosmological":
"A method for determining the validity of an hypothesis, theory or law. To be falsifiable a theory must be testable, by others, in such a way that, if it is false, the tests can show that it is false" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 87)The issue of falsification was apparently so important to the sub-committee that they replaced the original contents of Appendix 2 to a 2-page treatise on "Falsification — An Essential Verification Strategy". This modified Appendix 2 begins:
Repeatability is an inadequate criterion and is supplemented with falsification. The reason for falsifiability may not be intuitively obvious. It is fine to make statements like 'this theory is backed by a great body of experiments and observations,' but often overlooked is the fact that such claims are meaningless. Experiments and observations do not verify theories, they must be evaluated by human reason to determine the degree of verification they provide (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 90, bold in original).The original appendix contained a diagram explaining the new science standards and a short description illustrating the connections among them.
Committee member John Dickmann, who introduced the disclaimer, said it was added because biology texts do not give enough attention to alternate explanations of the development of life.The Committee currently consists of eleven members appointed directly by the governor (there are positions for twelve members); 7 of the eleven members belong to the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators (APOE), an organization only a few years old whose members represent only a fraction of the state's teachers, most of whom belong to the Oklahoma Education Association (Cooper, 1999). Speaking for the Governor's office, Mike Brake told the Tulsa World, "We asked if they knew people in the district who follow the governor's point of view on education. It's no surprise they are members of [the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators ]", and added , "The governor hasn't selected members on the basis of teacher organization," Brake said. "We look for philosophy first." (Cooper, 1999).
"Some of us on the committee wanted to send a strong statement to the publishers that we are fed up with textbooks that only present one side of the story," said Dickmann, a Broken Arrow Central Middle School teacher. "I'm not just picking on science, either. I have concerns in other subjects, too." (Associated Press, 1999)
It was in the 19th century that America's Judeo-Christian foundation started to erode. One contributing factor was Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which began to replace the theory of intelligent design as the accepted explanation for the origin and purpose of the universe and life. America's intellectual elites concluded that God was a myth and that the universe, life, and society had evolved on their own - a conclusion most Americans dispute. The intelligentsia's acceptance of this explanation resulted in the replacement of the Judeo-Christian worldview with humanism's shifting moral and legal standards. (Hoeft, 1999)Early reactions to the Committee's decision seem mixed. State legislators have said they do not intend to address the issue (Ervin, 1999).While , "State schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett expressed deep annoyance and said, 'We are concerned with this action and are looking into it further'... Education Secretary Floyd Coppedege expressed some sympathy for the committee's opinion but said such decisions 'should have been left to the local textbook committees."such decisions 'should have been left to the local textbook committees'"(AP, 1999 ). The Executive Director of a national civil liberties group sent a later to state officials that read in part, "I am writing today to let you know that this action raises serious constitutional concerns and that failure to reverse it could result in a lawsuit" (AU, 1999).
The Smithsonian Institute [sic] has 33,000 sets of human remains in their basement ... Many of them were taken while the people were still alive. They were so desperate to find missing links, so desperate to prove their theory that they murdered people to prove it. It was the philosophy of evolution that drove them (Hovind, Ch 4).[This quotes exposes Hovind's historical as well as scientific ignorance. The Trail of Tears occurred in America in the 1830s. Darwin's The Origin of Species was not published in England until 1859.]
Five billion people [yes, he says billion] could drown in Loch Ness, and no one would show above the surface. It is a big lake. . . . As of the 1960s, there were over 9,000 sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Today, there have been over 11,000 such sightings (Hovind, Ch 2).
The Trail of Tears was where the Cherokee Indians were driven out of the Chattanooga area all the way to Oklahoma. ... Evolution is responsible for what happened to the Indians. How any Indian can believe in evolution just blows my mind. ... [T]he evolution theory is what destroyed them (Hovind, Ch 4).
I believe the Great Pyramid was built to be the Bible in stone. The Egyptians did not build it. (Hovind, Ch 6).[The connection in Hovind's mind between homosexuality and evolution is unclear, but this quote demonstrates Hovind's mean-spirited, flippant stereotyping of homosexuals and their families.]
Adam and Eve probably had hundreds of children. They lived 800 years, and one could have a lot of children in 800 years (Hovind, Ch 6).
There has been research that indicates nearly all homosexuals come from families that have a weak father figure, and a dominant mother ... research shows that there is a social link where the children are raised to be wimps or whatever (Hovind, Ch 6).
My first question [to God, after Hovind goes to heaven], believe it or not, will be, 'Did Adam and Eve have a belly button?' I don't know why, but that has bothered me for years (Hovind, Ch 6).I ended the quotes with a selection from Hovind's web site, reflecting paranoid ideas common in far-right movements:
The only book that I have read that really struck home with me giving a possible explanation for UFOs was . . .The Cosmic Conspiracy by Stan Deyo. . . . Deyo, a Christian, is a genius who wrote the book way over my head. . . . He says that Satan has always used that mode of transportation to get around because the devil can only be at one place at one time . . . I do not know if it is true, but it is an interesting theory (Hovind, Ch 6).
Microchips may play an important part in the mark of the beast. One example of technology is the UPC, or bar code. . . . the two skinny lines at the beginning, middle, and end of every barcode stand for '6' in binary code: 666 [the mark of the beast]. . . . four people have called me from Arkansas and Missouri to report seeing customers at the grocery store pay for purchases by scanning their hand (Hovind, FAQ's, http://www.drdino.com).I offered a final gem from his video series (which he usually sells at his seminars). In Part Four of "Dinosaurs, Creation, Evolution: A Creation Seminar," Hovind shows a slide of a bird hatching from an alligator's egg: "Maybe a reptile laid an egg and a bird hatched out." Hovind's use of this absurd explanation of punctuated equilibrium demonstrates his strategy of discrediting evolution with ridicule. (Readers can download an example of his rhetorical technique in an audio clip, "November 13, 1998, Tuesday, Kent Hovind — 'Evolution, Check Your Brains At The Door.'" http://www.audiocentral.com/rshows/missler/archives.html Accessed January 25, 1999.)
"The Rev. Lonnie Wascom, Immanuel's pastor, said Hovind's seminars are fact-filled, exciting and informative causing even the most devout evolutionist to sit up and take notice. ... Hovind is considered one of the foremost authorities on science and the Bible. He has debated evolutionists across America and is dedicated to proclaiming factual scientific evidence supporting the Biblical record of creation and the history of the world. " (Daily Star, October 16,1998, Hammond, LA)Flabbergasted at this misleading representation, I found during my research that the wording was taken virtually verbatim from the web site containing Hovind's book (http://www.hsv.tis.net/~ke4vol/evolve/introng.html). The newspaper did not reference the source, probably obtaining it directly from the pastor.
On December 16, 2000, geologists at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco held a special session entitled "Explaining Evolution". It was a spectacular success, if we can judge from the attendance — standing room only for the whole morning. The atmosphere was charged, with an attentive audience, which included at least one vocal creationist, John R Baumgardner from the Fluid Dynamics Program of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Brent Dalrymple, the author of that well-known text The Age of the Earth, began by discussing "The Creation/Evolution Issue: Why Should Earth and Space Scientists Care?" He pointed out that young-earth creationists (YECs) include the history of the earth in their definition of evolution. They try to accommodate the expansion of the universe and radiometric dating within their 10,000-year time frame by arguing that, since the Fall of Adam, the speed of light has increased by a factor of 200 million and radioactive decay constants have increased by a factor of 750,000. These requirements in turn force Planck's constant to increase by many orders of magnitude. All of this would lead to a universe that does not work. For example, before the Fall, each atom undergoing radioactive decay would have released energy equivalent to that of an exploding tactical nuclear weapon.
During the question period, the first response was from John Baumgardner. He began by saying that as a committed Christian he was insulted by Dalrymple's characterization of creationists. He expressed his disappointment that the AGU had not invited speakers to present creationist arguments. His exchanges with Dalrymple became quite heated. This made me apprehensive that he would later come after me because in my presentation I would use a slide making fun of one of Baumgardner's sillier ideas — that giant whirlpools on the continents allowed dinosaurs and other large animals to survive until late in Noah's flood, thus explaining why their fossils occur high in the geologic column.
Readers may remember that Baumgardner was featured in the article entitled "The Geophysics of God" in US News & World Report in June 1997 (see RNCSE 1997; 17 : 29-32). He was attending the AGU meeting as the co-author of 4 papers concerning dynamic modeling of the Earth's mantle. However, none of his papers gave even a hint of applicability to a creationist paradigm, whether YEC or any other sort. So it is difficult to see how the results he presented could produce the changes in the values of physical parameters necessary to make plate tectonics happen in 6000 years.
Leo Laporte, a paleontologist from the University of California at Santa Cruz, then talked about "Darwinian Descent with Modification". He made 4 points about the paleontological record: (1) fossils are remains of once-living organisms; (2) fossils occur in rock sequences in temporal order; (3) the absolute ages of these sequences can be determined from radiometric dating; (4) the fossil record provides many examples of transformation of anatomical features through time — for example, the transition from amphibians to reptiles, the evolution of mammalian ear ossicles, and so on. He ended by summarizing his credo that it is the methodology of science that matters, rather than its content.
Baumgardner responded by stating that evolution is not supported by paleontology and challenged Laporte to state his epistemology. Laporte repeated his scientific credo. Baumgardner pressed him again. Eugenie Scott interjected that they were at cross-purposes because Baumgardner was not distinguishing between epistemology and metaphysics. Although scientists should share a common epistemology, she said, they can hold widely different metaphysical positions.
John Hafernik, a molecular biologist from San Francisco State University, then spoke on "Testing Evolutionary Hypotheses: Application of New Developments in Computing and Molecular Biology". His talk was about the advantages of using molecular data for evolutionary studies. Genetic data can be obtained from all kinds of organisms. It provides direct measures of amounts and rates of divergence as well as a nearly unlimited number of characters to analyze. His examples included cladograms of chipmunks and carp.
Lee Allison, the Director of the Kansas Geological Survey, followed with a talk on "Stealth Creationism: The Assault on Teaching Evolution in Kansas". He reviewed for us the political background to the Kansas State Board of Education decision to drop evolution from the state science standards. He pointed out the strong ties between the Board of Education and the conservative wing of the Republican Party of Kansas, and the influence on the Board's actions exerted by the Creation Science Association of Mid-America. He outlined the actions being taken by the Kansas Citizens for Science to redress the decision. I felt that this was an excellent background to my talk later in the morning.
John Geissman, from the University of New Mexico and a member of the AGU Committee on Public Affairs, spoke about "Teaching Geosciences: Challenges and Opportunities". This talk was mostly about how he handles the issue of creationist challenges in teaching large freshman college classes on physical geology. I feel that, although it is important to treat this issue judiciously at the college level, the main challenges lie in the K-12 arena.
Robert Hazen, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the author of the popular book Science Matters, gave a talk on "Teaching the Teachers About Evolution and the Nature of Science: Lessons from the NRC's Working Group on Teaching Evolution". As the title suggests, he was a member of the National Research Council committee that produced the 1998 publication Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. His paper was perhaps the most philosophical presentation. He posed the question "Are science and religion completely separate domains of knowledge?" He suggested that the issues are not black and white. Many religious beliefs are informed by empirical fact, and we should use the scientific method to decide empirical issues.
My talk considered a more limited, but more practical question, "Should We Teach Both Evolution and Creationism?: The Case of the Grand Canyon". After reviewing the fairness issue, I posed the question "If we were to give equal time, what textbooks would we use?" I took the geology and paleontology of the Grand Canyon as my test case, quoting liberally from the writings of YECs Gary Parker, Steven Austin, and Larry Vardiman (who cites Baumgardner on whirlpools). I showed how their interpretations were totally at variance with the standard geological interpretations. I suggested that the burden of proof lies with the creationists. Discussing various published pieces of creationist research on the Grand Canyon, I argued that they are wrong, trivial, or irrelevant. Giving equal time to creationism requires us to teach bad science (and, in my opinion, bad religion).
The concluding talk, by NCSE's Eugenie C Scott, was on "Evolution and the American Public: Perceptions Differ Outside the World of Science". She reviewed the 3 reasons why YEC has such a hold in the US (in contrast to more enlightened countries such as my own — the UK). First, the early European settlers were congregational rather than hierarchical. In the early years of this century, fundamentalism and biblical ignorance rose to the fore. Second, unlike in the rest of the world, the US has a decentralized educational system. Third, in the US there is a cultural imperative of fairness, exploited by the YECs. Having had their efforts to require equal time in the classroom thwarted by the courts, they are using different tactics, such as influencing textbook adoptions, banning the teaching of evolution, and proposing "intelligent design theory" as the thin leading wedge to open up academia to anti-evolutionary thinking.
The formal lecture session was followed by a 90-minute strategy workshop on "Promoting Good Science: Countering Creationism in Public Schools", at which Eugenie Scott was the principal speaker. We were given an excellent notebook prepared by the AGU Public Affairs Office full of good advice. All the front-line troops fighting this battle should have this ammunition.
John Baumgardner continued his vocal opposition. He criticized the Public Affairs committee of the AGU for providing a forum for the National Center for Science Education, which he said he regards as an "extremist organization". On the other hand, I would have been most vociferous if the AGU had provided a forum for the Institute for Creation Research to hold a workshop on "Countering Evolution".
Interested readers can examine the abstracts of the papers in this session on the AGU web page at http://www.agu.org. Follow the links through "Meetings, 1999 Fall Meeting, FM99 Programs & Abstracts On-line". To examine the abstracts in the "Explaining Evolution" session, click on keyword EP41A (the code for the evolution session).
On March 5, 2000, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported the end of a 3-year battle to oppose the construction of a "creation museum" in Boone County (see RNCSE 1999; 19 : 5). Answers in Genesis (AIG), the evangelical Christian ministry headed by Ken Ham, is poised to start building the 95 000–square-foot museum/headquarters close to Big Bone Lick State Park, a state park rich in geological and paleontological resources near the state´s border with southern Ohio. AIG had failed to obtain permission to build a museum on a site even closer to the famous fossil site, after meeting opposition from county officials and a coalition of concerned scientists and area residents (see RNCSE 1996; 16(4): 1, 8–9).
Local opposition continued when AIG applied for a zoning variance at a new location, but the last roadblock was removed in February 2000, when a Kenton County judge ruled that there had been no conflict of interest on the part of a zoning commissioner who has ties to the organization and voted in favor of granting a zoning variance to build the museum. Opponents of the proposal will not appeal the decision.
Answers in Genesis staff anticipate that construction will begin in 2001 and that the first exhibits will open in 2002. AIG officials told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the museum will be filled with the kinds of exhibits that are in natural history museums, such as dinosaur replicas, fossils, and a DNA exhibit, but they will be presented as a walk-through history of the world from a biblical perspective. (AIG recently acquired a walk-through model of a cell and other exhibits from a bankrupt science center in Baltimore.)
For a report on the AIG reaction to the story, readers can connect to the AIG web site, http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/4233news3-6-2000.asp
[Details of this story are available at the web site of the Cincinnati Enquirer, http://enquirer.com/editions/2000/03/05/loc_opponents_of_genesis.html.]
It should be known that we — May God guide you and us — notice that this world with all the created things in it has a certain order and a solid construction. It shows nexuses between causes and things caused, combinations of some parts of creation with others, and transformations of some existent things into others, in a pattern that is both remarkable and endless. ...Each one of the elements is prepared. It started out from minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants...The last stage of plants is connected with the first stage of animals. ... The word "connection" with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group (Ibn Khaldun 1967: 194-5).Ibn Khaldun is also one of the philosophers who suggested that humans evolved from apes:
The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and to reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man after the world of monkeys. This is as far as our physical observation extends (Ibn Khaldun 1967: 195).Al-Afghani (1839-1897), who initially opposed the theory of evolution, later accepted it, proposing that Muslim thinkers preceded Darwin in advocating the theory of evolution (Bezirgan 1972).
In creationism's opinion, all living entities and species were created by Allah separately. Although they may have undergone some changes since the day they were created, neither did any evolve into other species (Guven and others 1997: 68).Even though evolution was still in the textbooks, it was taught in a biased, ludicrous, and non-scientific way, so that it could be discredited easily by some of the religious high school biology teachers. One of the ridiculous statements found in the high school books is:
contrary to what evolutionists claim, it has been demonstrated that frog, mouse, and snake bloods are closer to human blood than that of monkeys (Ayas and Tumer 1996: 12).Another sentence misconstrued Darwinism by stating that
according to Darwin, strong ones would live, and weak ones would be eliminated. However strong organisms such as dinosaurs, and mammoths have become extinct, whereas some weak organisms such as earthworm could survive (Ayas and Tumer 1996: 13).When the Social Democrats came to power in 1998 under prime minister Bülent Ecevit, the biology textbooks were revised, and chapters related to Darwin and Lamarck were rewritten more objectively (Korkmaz and others 1998). Creationists' arguments were still presented as alternative hypotheses, but to make the books appear more secular, phrases such as "according to Islam" were replaced with "according to sacred books".
It is true that as a whole, the male sex has been created superior to the female. Even the sperm which carries the male sign is different from the female. The male-bearing sperm is more active, ... the female less. The egg stays stationary, the sperm seeks her out, and endures a long and dangerous struggle in the process. Generally in nature, all male animals are more complete, more superior compared to their females…. Man, being more enduring at work, and superior in prudence and willpower, has been given the duty of protecting woman (Ates 1991: 37; translation by author).Such Aristotelian views of biology are quite common, even among theologians like Ates who think that some form of development in time may be acceptable to Islam.
Whoso walks in the path seeking knowledge thereby, God will make him walk in the paths of paradise; and verily, the angels spread out their wings out of pleasure for the seeker after knowledge; and verily those who are in the heavens and the earth and fish also in the midst of water, all ask pardon for him; and, verily, the excellence of a learned man over a mere worshipper is as the excellence of full moon over the stars. And, verily, the learned men are the inheritors of the prophets; for verily, the prophets' heritage is not [riches], but the heritage of knowledge; whoso then receives this, he has received ample good fortune.The Qur'anic verse "my Lord, increase my knowledge" was one of the constant prayers of the Prophet of Islam, who also asked God to show him "things as they really are". This prayer of the Prophet has echoed throughout the history of Islam in many forms, but perhaps its most eloquent expression is by the 16th-century Persian Sufi poet and scholar, 'Abd al-Rahman Jami (d 1492) who prayed to God thus:
O God, deliver us from the preoccupation with worldly vanities, and "show us the nature of things as they really are". Remove from our eyes the veil of ignorance, and show us things as they really are. Show us not non-existence as existent, nor cast the veil of non-existence over the beauty of existence. Make this phenomenal world the mirror to reflect the manifestation of Thy beauty, not a veil to separate and repel us from Thee. Cause these unreal phenomena of the Universe to be for us the source of knowledge and insight, not the causes of ignorance and blindness. Our alienation and severance from Thy beauty all proceed from ourselves. Deliver us from ourselves, and accord to us intimate knowledge of Thee.Thus from the very moment of birth to the last breath, a Muslim is required to seek knowledge. This extraordinary emphasis on acquisition of knowledge is not surprising for a religion that is based on a book.
For knowledge, there are vocations; for faith, there is a progression. And for sciences as well as scientists, there are experiments. Knowledge is of two kinds: one sterile, the other that bears fruit. The ocean is two oceans: one that allows passage, the other dangerous. And time is two days: blamed and the praised. And the human race is two races: one endowed and the other deprived. So listen with your heart to what a sage says. And ponder in your understanding, for discernment is a gift.[This item is an edited version of a longer article that originally ran on the listserver Meta as posting 112 on June 18, 1999. It was the first of several columns by Iqbal on different aspects of science from an Islamic perspective. Meta is an edited and moderated listserver and news service dedicated to promoting the constructive engagement of science and religion. Subscriptions are free. For more information, including subscriptions, archives and submission guidelines, go to
Evolution: The process by which existing organisms have developed from earlier forms through transformations of characteristics in successive generations. The most widely accepted theory explaining this process is that originally advanced by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace in 1858, and subsequently amplified by the work of other scientists.It goes on to discuss natural selection, mutations, and recombination. This discussion is followed by a paragraph dismissing any conflicts between any theory of evolution and Catholic doctrine, as long as one accepts the creation by God of each individual human soul. The book under review, although from the same publisher, takes a far different stance on the question of whether Darwin "got it right".