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Volume 2, Number 5 September/October 1997
A bimonthly publication of the Creation Research Society.

This Web version of Creation Matters lacks the "Creation Calendar" as well as photos and special graphics found only in the print version. The latter is automatically sent to members of the CRS along with the peer-reviewed CRS Quarterly.

Adaptations within the Bear Family
Movie Review: Contact — The Gospel According to Carl
Nobody Here but Us Earthlings
Book Review: Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds
Catastrophic Flood on Mars

Adaptations within the Bear Family
A Contribution to the Debate about the Limits of Variation

By David J. Tyler, Ph.D.

Dr. Tyler (B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Physics; Ph.D. in Management Science) is a frequent writer on creationist geology and other matters. He is a senior lecturer at a British university and is Secretary of the Biblical Creation Society (UK).

For many years, a distinction has been made between microevolution (which creationists generally accept) and macroevolution (which creationists regard as an unwarranted extrapolation of the observational data). Whilst this distinction has had some value, there is a growing feeling that more needs to be said. Observed microevolutionary changes in the length of finch beaks or the length of lizard legs seem trivial enough, but they have not yet led to the development of new species. What if they did? There is uncertainty within the creationist community about how much speciation is possible within the commonly accepted "limits of variation" concept. Thus, in a letter to The Times (London, 6 May 1997) about recent reports of observed "evolutionary change," it was said:

"That lizards' legs have adapted to local conditions after their introduction to a group of Caribbean islands need not be doubted. But the more important question for Darwinians is whether an evolutionary transformation has ever produced what can unequivocally be recognised as a new species."

If new species had arisen, would this be regarded as a success for Darwinism? When the quotation above is compared with the models of variation developed by creation-based biologists, there is a mismatch: these models suggest that much more variation has occurred in the past. Frank Marsh's pioneering book on Variation and Fixity in Nature points to the importance of hybridisation data in establishing common ancestry of organisms: if animals and plants can hybridise, then they have very similar developmental pathways, and there is a direct link with the biblical pattern for organisms to reproduce after their "kind." Subsequently, there have been three important developments of Marsh's ideas: Baraminology, Discontinuity Systematics, and Basic Type Biology. Significantly, all three approaches utilise hybridisation data as a major indicator of common ancestry. For the purposes of this article, the term "Basic Type" is used to refer to the different kinds of plants and animals as they appeared from the hand of the Creator.

This article limits itself to such evidences — for the sake of developing an argument and to avoid the need to address numerous relevant technical issues. With some groups of organisms, good hybridisation data are available, and an interesting general pattern emerges. In Typen des Lebens (in German), Scherer and his colleagues show that there are biologically-meaningful groups of organisms at the Family or sub-Family level of classification. These groups show all the signs of having a common ancestry. However, it is more common for hybridisation data to be fragmentary, with more ambiguous implications.

The bear family

This article draws on readily-available published data for one small group: the Ursidae, the Bear Family. Despite the limitations of the database, there are significant implications for creationist thinking as to how much variation has occurred within God's creation. These relate to the rapidity of speciation, the origin of carnivory, and the origin of designed characters.

There are 8 species of bears in the family Ursidae (Table 1). Four species belong to the genus Ursus, and the other four species are classified as each belonging to different genera.

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Brown and Grizzly Bears have numerous sub-species. Gray's Mammalian Hybrids (1972) has the following: the Peninsula Giant Bear (Ursus arctos gyas), the Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horriblis), the Kodiak Bear or Alaskan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi), the Manchurian Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus), the Fishing Bear (Ursus arctos beringianus), the Red Bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus), the Syrian Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus) and the Sitka Islands Bear (Ursus arctos sitkensis). The significant observation is that several hybrids have been reported: these sub-species readily interbreed.

Of much greater interest is the hybridisation data at the inter-species and inter-genus levels. Gray has documented the several hybrids. These are shown in Table 2; the row and column numbers relate to the eight species listed in Table 1.

Table 2 shows two groups where hybridisation has been demonstrated: each of the four members of the genus Ursus has interbred with at least one other member, and there is evidence that the Sloth Bear and the Sun Bear interbreed. There are no reported hybrids involving either the Spectacled Bear or the Giant Panda Bear.

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It should be noted at the outset that lack of hybridisation data does not mean that hybrids cannot occur. By far the majority of hybrids have occurred in zoos where animals have been kept together rather than in isolation. As a general policy, zoos do not set out to research hybridisation potential, and the contemporary trend is to avoid the incidence of hybrids, in order to preserve the identity of species.

The Ursus group

Let us consider first four species in the Ursus genus: the Brown Bear, the American Black Bear , the Polar Bear and the Asiatic Black Bear. The other two members of this group are considered separately below. The descriptions that follow note a few specific adaptations and the typical diet of each species.

Brown Bears are highly variable in weight (150-375 kg), with heavy shaggy fur. They have small rounded ears and long (9-12 cm) claws, which are adapted for digging. They are primarily vegetarian (about 75% plant material) and they have appropriate dentition (flatter surfaces of teeth to enable crushing of plant material).

American Black Bears are also highly variable in weight, but are lighter than Brown Bears (57-272 kg). They have rounded ears and curved claws adapted to tree climbing. Like Brown Bears, they are 75% vegetarian, with similar dentition.

Polar Bears are significantly heavier (300-600 kg) and are covered in heavy fur. The ears are short and fur-covered. The Polar Bear's fur is very interesting, as there are two layers. The undercoat is made up of fine white hairs, and there is an outer coat of long guard hairs. The guard hairs are specialised, in that they are noticeably hollow; this helps promote buoyancy in swimming. Other adaptations include a very long neck and partial webbing between the toes, to help in swimming. Fur-covered feet pads provide for better traction on ice. The Polar Bear is almost exclusively a meat eater, with appropriate dentition. The carnassial teeth are sharp, for shearing off meat, and the canine teeth are longer, sharper and more widely spaced than are those of the Brown Bear. There is a very large stomach capacity, to enable opportunistic feeding.

Asiatic Black Bears are more uniform in size (90-115 kg) and have dense black fur. They have large ears, and their claws are short (4-5 cm), adapted for tree climbing. They are omnivorous, eating meat and plant material as they have opportunity.

Most of the variation noted here could be regarded as uncontroversial among creationists: there are variations in body weight, claw length, ear morphology, and fur characteristics. These are adaptations which can be interpreted as "fine-tuning" without significant novelty. The Polar Bear, however, provides evidence for more dramatic change, and it is worthy of note that it used to be classified as a species within its own genus (Thalarctos maritimus). As previously mentioned, the fur has specialised hollow guard hairs; there is partial webbing between the toes; the feet pads are fur-covered; the dentition is that of a predatory carnivore, and the very large stomach capacity is of particular value to this animal in its normal environment. These morphological changes seem to me to go beyond the small, microevolutionary changes which are widely cited in creationist literature, and they all suggest the idea of design. At the very least, a study of these members of the Ursus group suggests that creationists need to be more positive about larger-scale adaptations (with the appearance of design) than generally appears to outside observers.

The Sun Bear and Sloth Bear group

Next we consider the Sun Bears and Sloth Bears, which used to be classified in separate genera, but which are now regarded as members of the Ursus group. These two species have been observed to hybridise with each other, but hybrids with the rest of the Ursus group have not yet been reported. Since these two species have common developmental pathways, they can therefore be recognised as having descended from common ancestors.

Sun Bears are the smallest bear species (27-65 kg) and are covered by very short, dense, black fur. They have small rounded ears and sharp sickle-like claws which are suited to tree climbing. The animal has an omnivorous diet.

Sloth Bears have typical weights in the range 127-145 kg and have long, black, shaggy fur. They have rounded ears and their front claws are long (7 cm) and curved, equipping them for both digging and tree climbing. The head and dental structure is unusual, and is very efficient for consuming termites (the Sloth Bear's major food source). The muzzle is long, the lips are extremely protusible, and the nostrils can be voluntarily closed. There are no front incisor teeth and the bony palate within the upper interior of the mouth is hollowed out. These facial and dental characteristics combine to produce a vacuum tube through which the bear can suck up termites. Plant materials provide secondary food sources, and whilst the bear is not known to be predatory, it will consume any carrion it discovers.

The significant point for discussion is that the Sloth Bear has a set of remarkable characteristics which appear to have been designed for consuming termites. Further, it is very significant that this specialised species hybridises with the much more generalised Sun Bear. It is a matter for further discussion and research among creationists whether the specialised features were part of the ancestral population, or whether they were subsequent adaptations. However, if a hybridisation link were to be established with the genus Ursus, then the conclusion that these apparent design features are adaptations would seem inescapable.

Gray (1972) records one occasion where a hybridisation link with the Ursus Group might have been demonstrated: where a male Sloth Bear lived peaceably together with a female Asiatic Black Bear for more than a year, but no young were produced. Since Gray deemed this observation worthy of inclusion, it could be argued that the contented cohabiting of these species is a positive indicator of hybridisation potential. This "lack of data" problem is not unusual in Basic Type research, which is why further evidences having a bearing on the analysis are generally sought. These, however, lie beyond the scope of this article.

Bear species with no known hybridisation links

What can be said of the Spectacled Bear and the Giant Panda Bear, which have no known hybridisation links (at least to this writer) with other bears?

The Spectacled Bear is an endangered species, living in the tropical forests of South America. The weight range is between 80 and 125 kg. They have rounded ears and black shaggy fur. Spectacled Bears are 95% vegetarian with very powerful jaws. They have teeth structure and a digestive tract appropriate to their diet. Their claws allow them to be adept at climbing. A unique characteristic is that this species of bear has 13 pairs of ribs (the others have 14 pairs). By comparing these features with the Ursus group, it could be argued there are no really novel features possessed by Spectacled Bears.

The Giant Panda Bear (the Panda) is also an endangered animal, but it presents a rather different picture. It is extremely solitary by nature and it is difficult in zoos to get pandas to breed with other pandas, let alone produce hybrids with other bear species! Their weight range is 80-125 kg. They have rounded ears and a mottled, thick, coarse fur. Their short claws are particularly suited for climbing trees; the hind feet lack a heel pad. The head of the Giant Panda is very large: it has large molars and powerful muscles for crushing plant material (bamboo being 99% of its food). The oesophagus has a tough, horny lining which helps protect the bear from bamboo splinters. Thick, muscular, wall-linings help to control the bamboo fragments in the stomach. The digestive tract therefore appears designed to handle the bamboo diet, although it is said not to remove all of the available nutrients. One of the best-known features of the Giant Panda is its opposable "thumb": an enlarged wrist bone. This allows the animal to grasp and manipulate bamboo stems with great precision.

With present knowledge, it would be defensible to argue that Giant Pandas were created with their distinctive characteristics and specialised mode of life. However, it is also not unreasonable to suggest that they show many specific adaptations and that they are derived from more generalised ancestors. The need for ongoing research in this area is therefore substantial.

... the creationist has a perception of the sources of variation and the nature of speciation which is fundamentally different than that of the evolutionist.

Rapid speciation

The variations that are identified above suggest that far more change has occurred in the past than is apparent from studies of contemporary populations. Furthermore, the timescales for change must be extremely rapid, taking place between the Flood and the onset of recorded history. How should this rapidity of change, with subsequent stasis, be explained? Neo-Darwinistic mechanisms, being dependent on mutations, are totally inadequate. However, the creationist has a perception of the sources of variation and the nature of speciation which is fundamentally different than that of the evolutionist.

The potential for variation in the original "very good" creation must have been immense. This can be anticipated on ecological grounds: organisms which have the capacity to vary are robust and unlikely to flounder when the environment changes. After the Flood, the earth experienced an extraordinary variety of ecological changes and organisms were subjected to extreme environmental stress. Their response was speciation: ecological niches were filled by species which were adaptations from the ancestral population. The source of these adaptations was not genetic mutation, but the expressing of latent characters which God had bestowed at creation. The variation we see in nature is not novel but innate. No new biological information is introduced to organisms during speciation, but hidden genotypic information becomes phenotypic. The mechanisms of speciation have yet to be elaborated in any detail, but it is highly probable that many involve a loss from the gene pool. Specialised organisms are then less able to adapt — if the environmental stresses are too great, they may become extinct.

Creationists therefore have a framework within which to understand variation, speciation and extinction. In principle, this is a testable model of variation in living things. For example, one implication of this model is that members of the same Basic Type will exhibit a limited range of variation: different species will exhibit a mosaic of characters, where particular features keep recurring. A hint of this can be seen in the Ursidae, but the number of species is not large enough to draw conclusions.

The origin of carnivory

One objective of this article is to contribute to the debate on the origin of carnivory. If the members of the Ursidae all belong to the same created Basic Type, then there is a complete spectrum of dietary adaptations, ranging from 99% carnivore to 99% herbivore. Even though the bears are classified as belonging to the order Carnivora, the majority of species have more of a herbivorous than a carnivorous diet. In general, dental and digestive tract differences correspond to the different diets. If only the classical genus Ursus is considered (species 1-4 in Table 1), where all the species are definitely linked by hybridisation, the conclusion is not quite so dramatic, but the essential point can still be made. It is suggested that it is not unreasonable to argue that carnivory in the Ursidae is an adaptation from ancestors that were created herbivores.

Adaptations and designed characteristics — the Panda’s thumb

A final point concerns the Panda's "thumb" and our understanding of design in nature. Many evolutionists have used the Panda's "thumb" as an evidence of imperfect design which points to the inadequacy of the creationist paradigm (notably Stephen Jay Gould). However, if the Ursidae derive from the same created Basic Type, then the Panda's thumb is indeed an adaptation, along with its specialised head, oesophagus, and reproductive system. So also is the Sloth Bear’s "vacuum cleaner" device for consuming termites, and the Polar Bear's carnivorous dentition and digestive tract.

This article does not conclude that all the members of the Ursidae belong to the same Basic Type, but it does suggest that this is a hypothesis which is not unreasonable and it is in line with patterns observed in other animal groups. The Panda's "thumb," if it is an adaptation, is not a definitive evidence for Darwinism and neither is it evidence for bad design: it could equally well be understood as an evidence for the richness of biological information in the created Basic Types. If this is the case, a false dichotomy between adaptation and design has been drawn by evolutionists. In the cases outlined above, it is not "either adaptation or design," but "both adapted and designed." The wisdom of the Creator is revealed in providing organisms with the potential to adapt so as to be "fit" for a wide range of habitats and lifestyles.

Literature cited

Gray, A. 1972. Mammalian Hybrids (second edition). Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Edinburgh.

Marsh, F. 1976. Variation and Fixity in Nature. Pacific Press, Mountain View, CA.

Scherer, S. (ed). 1993. Typen des Lebens. Pascal-Verlag, Berlin.

All the biological information contained in this article can be accessed either in Bears of the World by Paul Ward and Suzanne Kynaston, 1995, Blandford, London, or at The Bear Den on the World Wide Web.


Movie Review

The Gospel According to Carl — “Contact
Director/producer Robert Zemeckis, Warner Bros., 1997

Reviewed by Todd Wood

Todd Wood is a graduate student working toward a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

Yesterday, I was finally able to see the movie Contact, based on Carl Sagan's book of the same name. I was so surprised and fascinated by it, I wanted to share my impressions with our readers. To begin, I can sum up my feelings about the movie in one word: Despair. To those of you who have seen the film, that may sound a bit odd, but I'll explain my thinking a little later on. For those unfamiliar with the movie, Contact tells the story of a scientist who works for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project. She spends her time listening to radio signals from outer space, searching for signs of intelligent life. Unlike the real SETI, the movie version is actually successful, and our heroine records the first radio signal from an extra-terrestrial intelligence originating somewhere near the star Vega. The rest of the movie tells of the deciphering of the signal (revealing plans to build a "Machine"), and the construction of a vehicle that allows the occupant to travel to Vega and have a bit of a chat with the aliens.

On the downside, the movie was very obviously a work of Sagan. Every now and again, when the heroine would wax philosophical, we were treated to statements about science proving that God "never existed in the first place" or how, if God did make the universe, He left us no evidence. These statements, and others like them, revealed quite clearly the arrogant atheism of Carl Sagan; but frankly, I expected worse. Much of the movie dealt with issues of faith, ultimate meaning, and science. Surprisingly, though several characters were obviously theists, the movie did not simply belittle or ridicule these characters. The heroine states that she would be willing to give her life if she could help to answer the question, "Why are we here?" She also keeps repeating the phrase, "If we're alone in the universe, it seems like an awful waste of space." That statement was so teleological I almost laughed out loud. In the end, she is forced to take a stand on what I would describe as faith.

Nevertheless, this movie left me with a feeling of forboding. Part of that despair comes from the motif of loneliness and darkness that pervades the film. The heroine is an orphan whose mother died from complications in childbirth, and whose father died of a heart attack when she was nine years old. She is rejected and mocked by her colleagues and spends much of her time in isolated places where the best radio telescopes are. As I watched I was eager to hear what the alien would tell her, since I was curious to hear Sagan's answer to the despair of life without God. From my passing knowledge of Sagan, I knew that his "brand" of atheism was a bit unusual. Many people who have rejected God in our modern era have done so regretfully, knowing full well that the universe is a cold, cruel place once the hope that all things work together for good is abandoned. You can see this reaction in the early works of T.S. Elliot, or in any of the writings of Samuel Becket. A depressing cynicism permeates their works, and that's probably an understatement.

In recent times, the negative reaction to the rejection of God has shifted slightly from simple depression to active anger and fury. You can hear this in the songs of some of today's (unfortunately) popular grunge and punk rock bands, should you choose to listen. Sagan was different, though, in that he never gave up hope. His atheism was positive and optimistic, so it seemed only natural to me that the darkness would be alleviated before the end of the film. I was very attentive when the alien finally appeared, but Sagan's answer to this darkness, his "gospel," if you will, was no better than anyone else's grasp at hope when all Hope is gone.

The essence of the alien's message is this: Yes, we are alone in a dark, dark universe. We've been this way for billions of years. What makes it bearable, what gives our existence meaning is that we can reach out to each other, and struggle through the darkness together.

I have not read the novel upon which the movie was based, so I cannot say whether this was Sagan's original idea or whether this was the movie-maker's embellishment. Whatever its source, this idea, more than any other in the movie, disturbed me. Let's face it: Sagan is right, to an extent. The universe is a dark and lonely place, but the darkness does not oppress us from without. It emanates from within our very souls. We are responsible for the darkening of our world. By one man's sin, death entered into our world; all have sinned. Because I know this, I know that any person who tries to find meaning in holding another's hand in the dark is still in the dark. Although they may never know the pain of betrayal, they will certainly feel the sting of death, a darkness that cannot be remedied by human effort.

"The Horror!   The Horror!"

— Mr. Kurtz
Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad understood this. Conrad wrote the novel Heart of Darkness, which tells the fate of Mr. Kurtz who journeyed deep into Africa in the late 1800's to obtain ivory and "civilize" the natives. Instead, Kurtz becomes a savage himself and ultimately goes insane. Rather than bringing light to the "Dark Continent," Kurtz only gives expression to his own darkened heart.

No, human friendship and love are certainly not the remedy for the loneliness and darkness that we all know and fight not to know. What is needed, and what Sagan refused to accept, is a Light from beyond our world. Millennia ago, Isaiah announced, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined." Much to Sagan's surprise, no doubt, the Light is not simply extra-terrestrial. It is divine. Jesus Christ is the hope for our supreme loneliness. He is the only Light that can illumine our darkened hearts. Carl Sagan rejected that truth, and another brilliant mind succumbed to the darkness. I suppose it is his death that illustrates my point most vividly. In the end, all the friends and admirers in the world could not save his soul. Sagan passed into eternity shaking his fist in the face of the only One Who could.

Sadly, there are many today who agree with Sagan. They try to find meaning in anything but the Creator and Savior. They accept the nonsense that science has done away with "superstitions" about God. People believe Sagan and his movie, and that distressed me most of all. They huddle together, striking flints in a vain effort to light their world. What they need is not a critique of their naturalistic science, but rather an encounter with our Holy God. As you move among them, remember the false gospels that they cling to. Remember the darkness. But most of all, remember to reflect the Light.


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Nobody Here but Us Earthlings
by Guillermo Gonzalez

Reprinted with permission of The Wall Street Journal
1997 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved

Mr. Gonzalez is a research astronomer at the University of Washington.
Note from the CM editors: Mr. Gonzalez’s position in the creation-evolution controversy is not known to the editors of CM. This article is provided solely to make our readers aware of this opinion article which appeared in the Wednesday, July 16, 1997 edition of the WSJ.

Are we alone? It's the question we astronomers are most frequently asked. Fascinated as always by the notion of extraterrestrial intelligence, people are flocking to see "Men in Black" and "Contact" and watching with wonder Pathfinder's images from Mars.

We should not be asking:
“Are we alone?”
We should be asking instead:
“Why are we here?”

My answer to the question almost always catches people off guard: Very likely yes, we are alone. When one looks at the astronomical data with an open mind, it becomes quite obvious why we have not found any evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

The subject was not seriously addressed by astronomers until the 1960s. In 1966 Carl Sagan and Iosef Shklovski estimated that the Milky Way had a million habitable planets. But they based this on just two astronomical constraints: type of parent star and distance from that star. As knowledge of the universe has increased, astronomers have quietly been adding to the list of astronomical constraints. It is now clear that the early estimates were wildly optimistic.

The first step in calculating the probability of extraterrestrial intelligence is determining the biological requirements for life. Given that the laws of chemistry and physics are universal, we can be fairly certain about inferring the essentials from our observations on Earth. The most basic ingredients are liquid water, a long-term, stable energy source and a number of key chemical elements (bacteria require hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sodium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulfur, chlorine, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, cobalt, copper, zinc and molybdenum; humans require some 10 additional elements). Of course, just having these basic ingredients does not guarantee life; one must follow the directions carefully when baking a cake.

To determine the probability of intelligent life existing elsewhere in the Milky Way, we must consider the necessary conditions for both the origin of life and the maintenance of life. Examples of the first category: a source of heavy elements, required to build terrestrial planets and organisms (this rules out most old stars, which formed from hydrogen and helium); a source of radioactive elements to keep the core of a planet hot (this rules out recently formed stars); and a source of liquid water (which may come from comets). These requirements limit the possible locations in the Milky Way where life might originate. Heavy elements are more plentiful in the galaxy's inner regions, and terrestrial planets could not have formed early in the Milky Way's history, because the concentration of heavy elements was too low. There exists only a small "window of opportunity" — both in space and time — for life to form in the Milky Way.

The conditions needed to sustain life are different from — and in some cases seem to contradict — those needed to form it. Among them: the presence of a large moon to stabilize a planet's axial tilt and slow down its rotation rate; the absence of nearby novae and supernovae; a circular orbit in the plane of the Milky Way; and the presence of a "gas giant" — a Jupiter-like planet — to regulate the influx of comets. I could list well over two dozen other astronomical constraints.

Recent discoveries in astronomy greatly weaken the case for extraterrestrial life by demonstrating how dangerous the universe is. Gamma-ray bursts turn out to give off much more radiation than had previously been believed. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have observed that most nearby large galaxies harbor massive black holes in their centers, which also give off prodigious quantities of dangerous radiation. And the link between the meteor crater near Chicxulub, Mexico, and the demise of the dinosaurs shows how vulnerable existing life is to planetary catastrophe.

But what about recent discoveries in our own solar system — the evidence of life reported on a Martian rock last year, and indirect evidence of an ocean under the frozen surface of Jupiter's moon Europa? Additional research on the Mars rock has greatly weakened the case for Martian life. And the possible existence of liquid water below Europa's surface is far from a guarantee of life. The lesson we should learn from the spectacular pictures coming back from the latest Mars mission is not that life might be present, but that even for the most Earth-like planet in the solar system, the conditions appear too harsh even for simple life.

We should not be asking: "Are we alone?" We should be asking instead: "Why are we here?"


Book Review

Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds

(Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1997) by Phillip E. Johnson. 131 pages, $16.00 (hard cover)

Reviewed by Wayne Frair, Ph.D.

Dr. Frair (Ph.D. Biochemical Taxonomy) is a retired professor of biology and former president of the Creation Research Society.
[to order from the CRS]

University of California law professor Phillip E. Johnson is a prophet for the late 20th and early 21st centuries. His message, to a considerable extent, has already been presented in two earlier books, Darwin on Trial in 1991 and Reason in the Balance in 1995. But this time the challenge is shotgunned toward a wider spectrum of readers, including late teenagers, college students, parents, teachers, and even professional scientists who have been indoctrinated in evolutionary naturalism and materialism. The pith of this power-packed book is presented in the book’s title, and author Johnson is predicting that the coming collapse of the naturalistic Darwinian giant will be even greater than that of the already-fallen Marx and Freud.

At present, however, the battle is still raging. Students are being indoctrinated with a naturalistic view of the origin and development of life without being permitted to hear a creation alternative. This educational farce becomes gripping when people recognize that the fingerprints of God are "all over the evidence." Hope for the coming change is encouraged when it is realized that more than ninety percent of the American people just will not swallow what is being served up by the educational elite, even though it is supported by sympathetic media coverage.

Sometimes evolutionary atheists will say that their theory need not deny God's existence because they are not talking about religion. But what they usually mean by this is that they might not be opposed to the idea that a god could have set up the laws of nature and then just let these natural processes operate what is virtually a self-sustaining universe. This position is termed “deism,” which certainly is contrary to Biblical teaching. A major error of this belief is that God becomes unimportant. Not only is it vital to realize that God exists, that He created the universe, and that He is the Sustainer of all nature, but also that He has a personal concern for His creation, especially for people like you and me.

Is Johnson's book a Christian treatise? A one-word answer would have to be yes, but it is only beyond about the first half of the text that Christian beliefs are first mentioned, and then in certain contexts from there through the rest of the book. However, Johnson is even-handed and non-confrontational. Near the end of the book he states that he was converted from agnosticism and now belongs to a mainline Presbyterian Church; but he feels that even this group is much too concerned with social issues rather than sin and salvation. In the last chapter he salutes Billy Graham for faithfully proclaiming the Gospel message which continues to reach the human heart.

Artfully, Johnson applies first the fictional play based to some degree upon the 1925 Scopes Trial, and secondly Carl Sagan's "baloney detector" metaphor to the important issues we are facing in our society. As Defeating Darwinism makes absolutely clear, it is imperative that science no longer be defined as naturalism, and that people recognize their true condition and turn back to their creator-God, Jesus Christ. As a harbinger of the future and a challenge for today, Johnson's book deserves wide distribution.

Catastrophic Flood on Mars?

by D. Russell Humphreys, Ph.D.

Dr. Humphreys, a Senior Physicist at Sandia National Laboratories, is a board member of the Creation Research Society, and is a leader in the Creation Science Fellowship of Albuquerque.

I'm delighted with Pathfinder's reaffirmation of a global flood on Mars. I say "reaffirmation" because those of us with some slight memory of the 1970's can recall news stories saying there was once a lot of water on Mars ["Mars in Focus," Science News, Vol. 109 (June 5 & 12, 1976), pp. 366-370].

The first reason for my delight is that it helps people imagine the Genesis flood. After all, if a planet which is presently dryer than the Gobi desert could once have been covered with water, then how much more possible would such a deluge be for the Earth — whose surface is three-quarters covered with water two miles deep?

The second reason is that it supports the Bible's implication of a water origin for all things [Genesis 1:2, 6-10; 2 Peter 3:5]. Water (often as ice) is everywhere in the solar system: in comets, planetary rings, on moons of the large planets, possibly on the asteroid Ceres, at the poles of the Earth's moon, formerly on Venus ["Venus: The Waters of Yesteryear," Science News Vol. 120 (Dec. 12, 1981) pp. 372-373], presently on earth and deep in its rocky mantle, and in the polar caps of Mars. Water, as falling chunks of ice, may have pounded out many of the craters we see everywhere in the solar system. God asks, "...have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of distress ...?" (Job 38:22, 23, NAS). Readers of my book, Starlight and Time..., will know that I have built both a young-world cosmology and a theory of solar system magnetic field origins on the Biblical suggestion of water at the beginning.

Where did the water on Mars come from? Probably both from space and from the interior of Mars. Many creation scientists [for example, Wayne Spencer, "The Origin and History of the Solar System" 3rd ICC, 1994, pp. 513-523] have suspected that the Genesis flood was a catastrophe which affected the whole solar system, not just the earth. If high-velocity chunks of ice made the craters on Mars, the ice would turn to water vapor upon impact. The very large Martian volcanoes (Mons Olympus, etc.) would have belched out huge volumes of water vapor (even the smaller volcanoes of Earth do that). Recently two creation scientists here in New Mexico, John Baumgardner and Roger Lenard, both suggested that possibility to me. John has previously pointed out the evidence for a global "resurfacing" event on Venus at precisely the time his theory says the tectonic plates on Earth were plunging into the mantle to produce the events of the Genesis flood [Austin, Baumgardner, et al., "Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History," 3rd ICC, 1994, pp. 609-621].

How could liquid water exist beneath the normally low-pressure atmosphere of Mars? If the water vapor from ice impacts and volcanoes were produced over a very short period of time, a few days or weeks, much of the vapor would form a temporary atmosphere of water vapor with enough pressure to retain liquid water beneath it.

Where did the water go? Probably much of it evaporated into space. Some of it may have chemically combined with minerals on Mars' surface. Some of it may have soaked into the ground and become frozen "permafrost." For sure, some of it formed the polar ice caps of Mars.

Thus, Pathfinder is confirming the Genesis account of a very destructive deluge, a catastrophe which extended beyond the Earth into the whole solar system.

ISSN 1094-6632
A publication of the Creation Research Society
Volume 2, Number 5
September/October 1997

Copyright 1997 Creation Research Society
All rights reserved.

General Editor: Glen Wolfrom

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Articles published in Creation Matters represent the opinions and beliefs of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Creation Research Society.


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