Reviewed by: Henry E. Neufeld
Morris, Henry M. and Gary E. Parker. What is Creation Science? (Revised and Expanded). El Cajon, CA: Master Books, 1982, 1987. ISBN: 0-89051-081-4.
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I took up reading this book with some hesitancy because I grew up reading so-called creation science books. I had the understanding that the earth was young, about 6000 years old, and that the entire geological column could be explained via the Noachian deluge. Having moved away from that matrix, and studied the wonders of geology and astronomy, albeit on my own as a hobbyist, and having seen the quality of some excellent popularizations of science, I hardly wanted to return to the style of the creationist literature. In that regard, What is Creation Science? was just as disappointing as expected.
I intend to respond to this book largely at the logical level and further at the religious level. I am not involved in the natural sciences except as a layperson. I see quite a number of things in this book which appear to me to be bad science, but I will leave those to others with better knowledge and credentials to deal with.
I want to emphasize that I do not have a quarrel with those who accept a young earth and a literal reading of Genesis and base this on faith. I do have a problem with those who claim a level of scientific proof which they cannot sustain, though it is not in that area that I was most disturbed by this book. The critical problem that I found in reading this book is that it misrepresents the entire issue in an apparent attempt to lock out the middle ground. Apparently one is either a young earth creationist or one is an atheist. The notion of Christians who believe in creation and an old earth or universe or who are theistic evolutionists is simply excluded. This exclusion is carried out without explicit statement. It is brought in through fallacious logic. It is no wonder that many laypersons who believe in young earth creation believe that no old earth creationists or theistic evolutionists who are Christians actually exist.
The fundamental misstatement of the issue occurs early, in the introduction:
. . . It deals with two opposing basic world views–two philosophies of origins and destinies, of life and meaning. Consequently, it is (or should be) of special concern to everyone.
One of these two world views–evolution–assumes that the universe is self-contained, and that the origin and development of all its complex systems (the universe, living organisms, man, etc.) can be explained solely by time, chance, and continuing natural processes, innate in the very structure of matter and energy.
The second world view–creation–maintains that the universe is not self-contained, but that it must have been created by processes which are not continuing as natural processes in the present. (p. x)
This statement is fundamentally false, and I suspect intentionally so, because the entire remainder of the argument of the book depends on falsely excluding the middle. This “middle” includes Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, who holds that the universe is old and that stellar evolution takes place, but does not believe in the evolution of life on earth. Dr. Ross clearly believes that the universe is contingent, yet this false dichotomy excludes his view. It excludes my own view that holds that God is the logical (and continuing) first cause of everything. My next breath and all of the natural laws that go into it is contingent upon God. Yet I can understand this God, who creates and sustains natural processes, and does so in an absolutely consistent manner which allows us to study them, can also create a natural process called evolution. In this evolution, life can beget other kinds of life and thus we have descent with modification. My view in no way assumes that the universe is self-contained.
Further, evolution is not a world view, it is a process. It may be held as part of a world view. Thus the view of Dr. Ross that stellar evolution takes place is not a world view, but simply his view of the mechanism by which God created and creates stars.
Having stated their basic thesis in the form of a classical logical fallacy, our authors proceed to try to define evolution as a religion. It is beyond the scope of this review to deal fully with the issues of what is and is not a religion, but just as evolution is not a world view, but a process, one can say it is not a religion, but rather a process. I apologize for being repetitive here, but it seems a fairly obvious point that has escaped the authors of our book. The simple fact that they can then list a number of religions which they claim are evolutionary religions, a list which includes Liberal Christianity, Liberal Islam and Liberal Judaism, puts the lie to this claim. One might argue that evolution may be a doctrine of a religion, but it is not, in fact a religion. In the case of biological or stellar evolution it is ridiculous to claim that it is even a religious belief. (The notion of social evolution or of evolution of religious beliefs is a religious belief in some religions, but in this case it can be argued either from a religious or a scientific viewpoint. The fact that something is held as a religious doctrine by some does not necessarily argue that its sole basis is religious.)
In this same list of religions, found on page 17, is included Satanism, in what would appear to be an effort again to reclassify certain religious groups with others. Liberal Christianity does not have anything significant in common with Satanism, yet it (and a number of other religions) are falsely so classified by the tactic of this list. I call this kind of attack the “stealth ad hominem” in which the author, not wanting to provide a quote for opponents, sneaks his point into a chart.
The effort that is made is to equate creationism with theism and Christianity (and just to be generous our authors include Orthodox Judaism and Islam), and evolutionism with atheism. The fact that the world doesn’t divide itself according to this theory doesn’t seem to stop our authors.
The book continues with a lengthy section that is intended to debunk the notion that life has evolved (pp. 31-186). This is separated from the issue of the age of the earth, though frequently in the first chapter Dr. Morris brings up the notion of recent creation. This introduces a rather interesting contradiction in the text, because frequently Dr. Parker indicates that species appear suddenly, undergo only minor variations, then disappear suddenly in the fossil record, just as one would expect in the “creation model” (see p. 143). But is this in fact what the so-called creation model predicts? I hardly think so. What the creation model should produce is simultaneous existence of pretty much all of the major taxonomic categories. We should not see a pattern of appearance, variation and extinction, at least not if one uses as the creation model the Genesis story.
Parker and Morris argue that they are not doing so, but if they are not using the literal Genesis model, then the apparently are not using any model. In fact, it would appear that anything that happens to show up in the fossil record could fit, because the model is nowhere stated. Using the literal Genesis model, however, (and I think this is precisely what they are trying to do without admitting it) the prediction would be for simultaneous existence in the record of the full variety of species. Essentially, the fossil record does not provide any evidence for the Genesis 2 record of all the creatures existing simultaneously such that Adam could name them (Genesis 2:19). Now it may be argued that I’m being unfair by both bringing in the Genesis record (which they do not do explicitly) and by ignoring the flood, but they do, in fact, claim that the age of the earth is not relevant to the basic argument for creation, and then they argue for catastrophism in addition, specifically the global flood (see below). Without specifying something about the age of the earth, I fail to see how they can claim they are dealing with a model which would predict anything at all about the fossil record. Even the simple claim of sudden appearance, essential stasis and sudden disappearance requires some notion of time. How long do those “variations within kinds” take which form a part of stasis? When did all these extinctions occur?
Look at the following:
The question of the date of creation is separate and distinct from the question of the fact of creation. The basic evidences supporting the Creation Model–for example, the laws of thermodynamics, the complex structures of living organisms, the universal gaps between types in both the living world and the fossil record–are all quite independent of the time of creation. Whether the world is ten thousand years old or ten trillion years old, these and other such evidences all point to creation, not to evolution, as the best explanation for origins. (p. 253)
It seems to me, as a non-specialist, rather incredible to suggest that ten thousand years of ten trillion years doesn’t make any difference in a “model” which could be used to make predictions of what should occur in the fossil record.
But it gets even worse. Having used the notion of stasis (sudden appearance, minor variation, sudden disappearance) as a basis for relating creation to the fossil record, we go back to the issues of catastrophism and flood geology. On page 230 Dr. Morris makes the following astounding statement: “The evidence for creation and against evolution is quite independent of whether the earth is old or young and whether the geologic data should be interpreted in terms of uniformitarianism or catastrophism.” (This is extracted from a lengthy paragraph that deserves full treatment, but which I believe only increases the impact of the above statement.)
Let me provide an analogy from a field closer to home for me–archeology. If one is studying the stratigraphy of an ancient site, and finds evidence that the site has been tampered with, then that evidence must be dealt with first. As an example, if a site was scraped off at some point, and the debris used as filler, one will find artifacts well outside of their proper provenance. The argument above sounds something like suggesting to the archeologist investigating the site that the question of misplaced debris and the question of the village stratigraphy are totally separate issues. If flood geology is correct, and the entire geological column, including fossils, is the result of the flood, then it is hardly appropriate to use the appearance and disappearance of fossils from the record as an evidence of creation. Obviously, these fossils either point to the catastrophe which placed them there or to the longer history of the life on earth, and the age of the earth is very relevant if the latter is the case. (Note that on p. 243, Dr. Morris does acknowledge that these issues are related, but I don’t believe he acknowledges their full entanglement. Dr. Morris argues for a cataclysmic model, but avoids the Biblical flood scenario directly on pages 248-252.)
This book, which tries to establish “scientific creationism” as “scientific” appears to me instead to establish it as a foundationless enterprise when one tries to construct it without its religious foundations. Without providing a time frame for creation, the age of the earth, and for any catastrophes that are desired in the model, it is rather useless to call it a model at all. It does not, in fact, predict anything without those elements. If it cannot be examined and falsified, it cannot be considered a scientific theory. It seems to me that in attempting to treat young earth creation in a purely scientific manner, and failing, the authors of What is Creation Science? have rather weakened their position.
I would recommend this book only for those interested in dealing with the details of the controversies that surround young earth creationism. It appears to me to provide little on which a lay reader can rely in gaining a greater understanding of origins in general.