|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The book is Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters by Donald Prothero. It's a detailed, superbly illustrated explication of the fossil record by a professional palaeontologist, specifically written to refute - no, to expose the lies and deceits of - Young Earth Creationism and Flood Geology. There's been nothing like it since Arthur Strahler's magisterial Science and Earth History, which came down on creationism like a ton of sedimentary rock. Though accessible to beginners, it doesn't talk down, and it doesn't mince words. Prothero isn't afraid to bring out the areas of evolutionary theory that are controversial, or where there are unsolved problems. Nor does he hesitate to call what the creationists write 'lies' and 'drivel'. He points out that Christians, even otherwise fundamentalist Christians, who work as geologists for oil companies just laugh at Flood Geology. They'd never dream of using it to find oil.
Creation science is a purely destructive enterprise, like comment trolling or wiki vandalism. Its entire impact results from scrawling across the work of real scientists questions and cavils phrased in a manner just scientific-sounding enough to trouble anyone who knows nothing in detail about the field being traduced. The habit of deceit starts early:
Q: What advice would you give young-earth creationists about their future education and research in their given field?This advice is guaranteed to damage the lives of two young people: the 'silent' student, going through the motions of acquiring a PhD with a mind firmly shut, and the genuinely interested student who isn't there, because the place they might have had - the opportunity of a lifetime, perhaps - was taken by a creationist troll.
The creationists' claim to piety deserves no more credit than their pretence at science. What can be the faith of those who cut and crush to fit this ludicrous chronology the work of the Ancient of Days?
And the frisson when I look at the book? Well, that's another story, which I've told elsewhere.