One For Science

It wasn’t long ago during my review of Niles Eldredge’s book The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism, that I lamented its lack of detailed enough examples to counter Creationists flawed arguments. I am now happy to tell you that such a book does exist in the form of Science and Earth History - The Evolution/Creation Controversy by Arthur N. Strahler. This 1999 edition was published by Prometheus Books and is available for a retail price of $56.00. Science and Earth History is a large book at 8 x 11 and 552 pages of very fine print.

Since this is such a voluminous work I will have to skim the highlights and trust my readers to dig into the details on their own.

Science and Earth History is organized into 54 chapters in nine main sections. These main sections are:

I) Science and Pseudoscience
II) Creationism - Its Roots and Tenets
III) Two Views of Cosmology and Astronomy
IV) Two Views of Geology and Crustal History
V) Two Views of the Origin of Landscapes
VI) Two Views of Stratigraphy and the Fossil Record
VII) Integrity of the Evolutionary Record Under Attack by Creationists
VIII) The Rise of Man and Emergence of the Human Mind
IX) The Origin of Life on Earth - Naturalistic or Creationistic?

Section I. on science and pseudoscience is of utmost importance. In the eight chapters of this section, Strahler explains how science works in great detail. Two chapters cover the Scientific Hypothesis including the principles of formulation, prediction, falsification, and rejection. It would behoove the legislators of the State of Ohio (or any other State considering the inclusion of Intelligent Design in public school science curricula) to read and understand this part of Science and Earth History. These two chapters alone should convince any reasoning person of the difference between science and religion. There would be no doubt in anyone’s eyes that Intelligent Design is not science and has no place in the public schools.

Section II. gives the reader a history of Creationism and the principles of Creation Science (This term has now been replaced by Creationists with Intelligent Design since “Creation Science” has been soundly defeated in the courts and declared to be religion in thin disguise).

In Section III., Two Views of Cosmology and Astronomy, Strahler discusses the scientific views of the formation and age of the universe and the young earth views of fundamentalists. This section also explains the false application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics as used by Creationists to refute evolution.

Radiometric dating is fully explained for those who may have doubts as to its accuracy or validity. Strahler quotes Stephen G. Brush, Ph.D. in physics, concerning Creationist attacks on radiometric dating: “To attack the theory of radioactive decay by abandoning quantum mechanics seems almost suicidal; one can only suppose that the Creationists know nothing about modern atomic physics (in spite of their “qualifications”) or that they hope no one will notice how absurd their position is.” (page 137).

The Biblical Flood of Noah is discussed in Section IV. The Flood is compared to the recognized process of plate tectonics. The proofs against a universal flood are numerous. These are compared against the Creationists special pleadings.

Section V. presents both scientific and Creationist views of the last Ice Age and its causes. As with other sections, scientific explanations are detailed and specific and include diagrams illustrating the principles involved.

Stratigraphy and the fossil record is the subject of Section VI. It is within this section that the evolution of the Geologic Timescale is presented. With a clear use of drawings and text, Strahler illustrates how strata are correlated and how the timescale was developed. This is a primer on the workings of geology. Faulting, tilting, folding, eroding, rifting, sea level changes, sedimentation, lack of sedimentation, volcanic intrusion, and other geologic processes and their relationships to earth history are well explained. With this understanding of the development of sequential strata through earth history, the following presentation of changing life forms through geologic time becomes almost self evident.

Within Section VI., Strahler takes exception to scientists referring to evolution as a “fact” and to statements that scientists “believe in evolution.” This surprised me, being one among those who make such statements. His preference is a modification of a statement made by Bernard G. Campbell, an anthropologist, (quoted on page 330) such that, “the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that we can treat it as if it were a fact” (emphasis his). This may be seen as hair splitting but Strahler makes a good point for eliminating the word “belief” in that it implies credence without proof in the same fashion as it is applied to religious belief. Creationists have indeed made statements that evolution is nothing but another form of religion so splitting hairs on word usage is indeed important.

Section VI. also includes chapters on molecular biology and genetics. Herein it should become obvious that discounting evolution undermines all of biology as well. Genetics and the human genome project are among the most important supports for evolutionary theory.

The integrity of the revealed evolutionary record through fossils is the topic of Section VI. Evolutionary transitions such as invertebrate transition to vertebrates and fishes to reptiles are considered here. Strahler has included discussion of the meaning of the famous gaps in the fossil record, living fossils, out-of-order fossils (those pesky human footprints next to those of T. rex), and mass extinctions. I must add that Steven D. Schafersman, who spent time with the Dry Dredgers when he was teaching at Miami University, was one of many scientists Strahler mentioned who helped debunk the Texas man tracks with the dinosaurs at Paluxy.

Human evolution is covered in Section VIII. Strahler walks the reader through the most recent thinking on hominid relationships and just what qualifies a primate to be classified as a hominid. Meaningful subjects include the development of languages and races and the evolution of the human brain.

The final section covers the origins of life on earth from naturalistic chemical origins to the Creationistic.

I have only touched on the content of Strahler’s work. I wish that I could present more of what Science and Earth History covers in these many pages. Of course I did manage to expand upon a few of my favorites along the way. If you take the time to read even portions of this book you will have to be impressed with the quantity of special pleadings required to make the Creationist explanations believable to any degree at all. Also evident is the Creationists poor level of scientific competence in many technical fields and their tactic of quoting scientists out of context to illegitimately “prove” that science supports their views.

As I mentioned earlier, Science and Earth History is illustrated with numerous drawings and charts that supplement the text explanations. Some of the explanations are a bit technical by necessity but most will be understandable by high school or undergraduate students.

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