Beware of Books With Misleading Titles

I always keep my eyes open for any new books at the local stores that may be of interest to the Dry Dredgers. As luck would have it, I found a book in the Science and Natural History section that I hadn't seen before with the eye catching, snappy title: Buried Alive. Jack Cuozzo is listed as the author of Buried Alive. The 1999 second printing is published by Master Books.

Some of the additional text on the cover of this $18.95 soft cover book (pretty steep for a paper back) indicated that it dealt with one of my favorite paleoanthropology topics, the Neanderthals, and included many never-before-seen photographs. I almost bought it on the spot, but...since I did not recognize the author's name and having been burnt before in buying without checking, I read the author's bio, scanned the table of contents, read some of the text, and checked into the publisher. What follows is my version of Caveat emptor - Let the Buyer Beware.

Let me begin with the text on the front cover that might be construed as a very long subtitle: "Hidden suffocating from the pain of a story left untold . . . The startling truth about Neanderthal man." That's quite dramatic don't you think. Well, sometimes authors get emotional about their topics and come up with such subtitles . . . sometimes.

The text appearing on the back cover was somewhat unusual. Totally lacking is the usual list of testimonials for the book by noted people in the field. As a matter of fact, there are no testimonials at all. In addition, there is some text that indicates that the Neanderthals are somehow going to speak to the reader and tell us the painful untold story alluded to on the front cover. Having Neanderthals speak to us is probably a metaphor so we can let that pass too.

So who is the author, Jack Cuozzo? The biographical information tells us that he had majored in biology and minored in philosophy. He graduated with a D.D.S. certification and an M.S. in oral biology, specifically, orthodontics. We can suppose that Cuozzo's education and his lifelong interest in Neanderthals allows him to apply his expertise in dentistry to fossil teeth and jaws.

After scanning the table of contents and seeing headings that surprised me, I had to check into at least two of the chapters. When I did this, I found that I had a right to be uneasy about this book. I don't recall the chapter heading exactly but it related to some kind of backwards evolution. Cuozzo discusses the changes in timing of sexual maturity in humans from historical times up to today. Briefly, humans have been sexually maturing at younger and younger ages. This is apparently some kind of problem for Cuozzo. Let me quote from page 194 of Buried Alive:

"Early sex maturity in man is a decline from the original perfect Creation."

Uh, oh...I always thought it had to do with modern medicine and nutrition.

"Reproductive endocrinologists tell us that the average age of the onset of puberty demonstrates a secular trend [worldwide or universal] that ‘cuts across geographic and ethnic lines.'14 Things like this going on in the human body betray any idea that the present is the key to the past. As a matter of fact, what this really does is show up physiological uniformitarianism for what it is; a philosophical concept, not a scientific concept."

Good grief! With this strange logic, Cuozzo is trying to discredit one of the principles, uniformitarianism, used in geology and paleontology.

Evolution is supposed to show progress according to the author, and since, as he also states, early sexual maturation is regressive, he comes to the conclusion that evolution is thereby disproved. The problem here is a lack of understanding of evolution. Early sexual maturation is not an evolutionary process; at best it may be a response to changes in environmental conditions that is pre-programmed within the human genome. Progress from simpler life forms to more complex, culminating in the pinnacle of perfection, man, is from 18th century thinking. In earlier times, man was thought to be the ultimate expression of the Creator's design with all other beings as lesser Creations. Let us not forget that the 18th century understanding of perfection was Caucasian man. Mongoloids, Negroes, and other groups with less than white skin color or less advanced societies needn't apply for this position. This anthropocentric definition of progress is an arrogant construct of humans, not of nature.

Cuozzo refers to evolution as "dogma." As is often the case with other biblically based attacks on evolution, the author does not know his subject matter. Dogma refers to tenets or beliefs, an arrogant assertion of opinion all proclaimed without proof. Dogma is usually applied to religious beliefs that are based upon faith - the acceptance of "truth" without proof. The mistake made by Cuozzo in using "dogma" in reference to evolution is that evolution is an observed fact, life forms on this planet have changed over time, period. Although there have been many theories concerning the mechanism for this observed fact, science accepts, rejects, and modifies these theories as new research dictates. The many theories of evolution are accepted by scientists based upon proofs. Does science have it completely figured out? By no means. But, the scientific method provides a self correcting process that strives to get as close to the absolute truth as research can allow. Nothing about evolution or its theories is correctly defined by the word dogma.

It took just a little more scanning to see that the text is resplendent with biblical quotations used as "proofs" of the author's claims (which, by the way, is dogma). He even reassures the reader that all of the fossil Neanderthal specimens he has personally examined have been "post flood Neanderthals." This of course would place the date of the Great Flood no more recently than 30,000 years ago.

I didn't need much more evidence that this was a Creationist work but I did check out the publisher, Master Books. This company is located in Green Forest, Arkansas. Their area of specialty is religious works, including books of "science" such as Buried Alive.

While there may be some actual scientific findings in Buried Alive, I chose not to ferret them out because of its overbearing religious nature. If you are interested in learning about Neanderthals there have been a number of excellent books by noted scientists that have been reviewed in my column. I would only recommend this book to those who may want to witness manipulation of scientific principles to justify the Creationist position.

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