Unleashing the Storm
With heavy heart, CMI must give strong ‘thumbs down’ to beautifully-presented new creationist book.
13 January 2003
Updated 31 January 2003 with addendum:
Did CMI Share its Concerns with the Author?
When we heard that a new version was being prepared of Dennis Petersen’s book Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation, we were at first excited. We had previously sold the earlier book of the same name, until it became a little outdated in some areas. That book had communicated very well to the layperson. But when we were given a small number of pages of the new one as colour proofs by the publisher, we became very concerned, and sought to convey the reasons.
There was no doubt that it would ‘sell well’, because of the unsurpassed quality of its colourful presentation and its easy-to-read style. It also upholds a straightforward understanding of Scripture, and so is much preferable to books by those who compromise the Bible with evolutionist interpretations, such as Hugh Ross. But the concerns, which were greatly reinforced when we saw the final product, were wide and deep.
Despite its good intentions, it seemed to be focusing heavily on material that was incorrect, outdated by many decades, speculative, poorly documented, and usually not peer-reviewed by the creationist scientific journals. And it was precisely because the book was so well presented that we feared greatly for the many Christians who would be misled into thinking that at least most of its evidence and arguments would be sound.
We also became concerned at the surprising lack of discernment from many creation-oriented ministries, who were saying things like ‘every Christian home should have one’ and that this book is set to become ‘the new standard for creation material’. All this—and the fact that we keep getting asked about it—was ultimately why we have taken the unusual step of releasing an edited cut-down version of our inhouse review notes, which follow. These notes are a compilation of input from a number of scientists and researchers active in the creation movement (who do not all work for CMI, incidentally).
This release is not coupled with ill will of any sort. We sell many materials from various authors and organizations. If it was a matter of some minor disagreements on a few issues, we would simply not stock it. But we believe that this book has the potential to set the creation movement back by many years if we do nothing, and if undiscerning creationist groups promote it uncritically.
Note that this is neither a formal review nor a full one, these are just a few of the many problems, i.e. a sample of the main reasons we cannot recommend this book.
Some notes on Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation (2002 edition)
Page 19 — The ‘Lucas model’ of the atom is highly controversial and has had little peer review either by creationist scientists or secular scientists. Further, those creationist scientists qualified in nuclear and quantum physics, both within CMI and well respected ones outside CMI, reject this model. Moreover, even if it were true, it wouldn’t have the slightest effect on refuting evolution or supporting creation, so it is completely irrelevant to the book’s theme.
Page 21 — The vast majority of the text on this page is in support of dubious health beliefs, about how much water to drink, and so on. It seems to be ignorant of some basic scientific facts about water production from metabolism, etc. And it promotes a highly controversial ‘fringe’ book which pushes water as the cure for a whole host of medical conditions. This is regarded by most scientifically trained people as on roughly the same par as water-powered cars, and the like. Even if an author does passionately believe that ‘pure water’ can cure a wide range of disease, why put such tangential material in a creation book? Our concern is that such things allow most people to ‘write off’ the Bible, making it an easy target.
Page 25 — The ‘appearance of age’ model for how distant starlight arrived is only one of many models now available. The author does not discuss shortcomings of that model, such as the fact that it requires God to have placed unnecessary indicators of age (like galaxies in the process of colliding) in the cosmos.
Page 36 — About the stronger magnetic field in the past—blocking cosmic rays is said to eliminate ‘one of the chief causes of mutations’. In fact, most mutations are random copying mistakes, with only a minority being due to cosmic rays.
Page 37 — The book promotes as if it were proven fact the ideas that increased atmospheric oxygen would virtually eliminate disease, and ageing would be ‘lowered to almost nothing’. There is no evidence that oxygen will get rid of disease or increase lifespans, and plenty of evidence against it. If it were true, then everyone would be lining up for oxygen tents. In fact, the whole issue of higher oxygen is fraught with difficulty. Some evolutionists believe that oxygen was much higher in the Cretaceous period, but others argue that it would cause big problems with wildfires. Also, too much oxygen is a bad thing. Many premature newborn babies have in past years become blind through being given supplemental oxygen. Also, increased oxygen will increase the amount of free oxygen radicals, which are believed to cause much damage, which many believe enhances the ageing process. (This is why ‘antioxidants’ are so popular.) The bottom line is that there is no mandate for dogmatically basing virtually an entire creation apologetic on such controversial speculations as if they were ‘facts’. None of these issues are really important in the development of a powerful creation model, nor in effective creation apologetics. There are so many good arguments, that it is sad to see much of the framework of this book devoted to such peripheral and poorly supported ‘evidence’. When it comes to longer lifespans, for instance, it can be said with a fair degree of confidence that these can be Biblically deduced not to be related to the environment, at least not in the ways this book suggests. If the environment is to have changed so dramatically after the Flood that things now live only one ninth as long, then poor old Noah, who was already an old man, even in his own terms (600 years), stepping into this toxic environment, should shrivel up and die fairly soon, but in fact he goes on to live another 350 years! See Living for 900 years.
Pages 38 & 39 — The book gets into a controversial and unrelated area, i.e. makes a stand on ozone depletion being a ‘scare’ and a ‘myth’. Whether it is or isn’t, why take a view on a polarizing issue that will cause one half of your audience to turn off? And if the view turns out to be unequivocally wrong (as observed data might conceivably show one day), taking such a stand would then cause collateral damage to creation for no good reason. I.e. all downside with no upside. Sadly, this sort of thing is not uncommon throughout this book.
Page 40 — Gets into diet again. The kindest things one can say about the section on ‘minerals and health’ is that it contains extremely inadequate and pointless nutritional explanations, and gives the impression that simply increasing mineral intake will solve all sorts of health problems. It completely ignores the fact that most minerals are trace nutrients. So if you have too much, they can even (likely) be toxic. Statements like ‘drinking mineral water will only put excessive burden on the body’s filtration system, causing kidney stones and arterial plaque’ do absolutely nothing to enhance a book on creation or the credibility of its science, but rather raise all sorts of questions. For one thing, what is the evidence for that? That drinking canned mineral water, for instance, will increase hardening of the arteries? We know of none. These sorts ofblasé health pronouncements, and many mini-lectures on all sorts of peripherally (or un-) related topics substantially mar this book, in our view. Of course, proponents of this sort of view will probably want to argue the health point, but that is peripheral to the main thing, namely that it is a fruitless stance for a book presented as a major tool for creation apologetics/evangelism. Again, these many ‘side’ issues have no ‘upside’ and plenty of potential ‘downside’ in the battle for Biblical truth.
Page 43 — Raises the possibility that the continents were ripped apart after the Tower of Babel. Problem: Simple physics says that if the continental separation (of which we have evidence) happened after the Flood, it would have caused another catastrophe on at least the same scale as the Flood—totally global. That’s why virtually all well-known creationist researchers with training and experience in the Earth sciences (most not associated with CMI) agree that any rapid continental drift would have had to have been in relation to the Flood, not hundreds of years later. We also point out that the ‘division’ of the Earth in Peleg’s day was most likely linguistic, so refers to the confusion of languages at Babel. See discussion about Peleg.
Page 50–51 — Presents the discredited moondust argument in a way which seriously misleads. The Snelling/Rush article which reported that the dust influx rates are not what was previously believed, has been widely publicized in creationist circles. So it is strange that the author says outright that it would only take 8,000 years to accumulate the dust on the surface of the moon. From measured influx rates, that is simply not true.
Page 57 — The paragraph on magnetic reversals is extremely poorly expressed and confusing, giving the impression that there are only some minor, very localized patterns. Dr Russell Humphreys’ landmark article in the CRSQ showed that there were world-scale patterns of reversal, which his subsequent writings amply explain. See also The earth’s magnetic field: Evidence that the earth is young.
Also on this page, more recent creationist studies than Melvin Cook’s 1957 article (e.g. Dr Larry Vardiman’s monograph ‘The Helium Age of the Earth’s Atmosphere’) reduce the ‘millions of times more helium’ to 2000 times more helium. That raises the maximum age from ‘10,000 to 15,000 years’ up to 2 million years.
Pages 58 & 59 — Ignoring the lack of appropriate caveats and caution in using the ‘shrinking sun’ argument, the major blooper here is that it pushed the ideas that the shrinkage is linked to the sun not burning by nuclear fusion, and thus pushes the ‘missing neutrinos’ argument. But we have long pointed out that there must have been some fusion to produce any neutrinos. And while the missing neutrinos were a mystery given the prevailing theories of particle physics, the fact of oscillation has now been shown by observation (i.e. they are ‘missing’ no longer), and the sun most definitely burns via nuclear fusion. This sort of thing destroys the credibility of creationism to the scientifically educated. See this section of our ‘Don’t Use’ article).
Page 60 — The book mistakenly attributes redshifts in the big bang theory to the Doppler effect, whereas it is in fact the stretching of space. He then embraces a theory of ‘intrinsic’ redshifts that is very controversial in both secular and creationist circles.
Page 61 — A casual statement (in the context of opposing the theory of solar system evolution) ‘there is evidence to indicate that Earth rocks were formed as cold, hard material.’ This is such a vague, unreferenced statement as to be almost meaningless. Which Earth rocks? Everybody agrees that basalt, for instance, was not formed as cold, hard material.
Page 63 — On this page it refers to the Laetoli footprints as being beneath a layer of volcanic ash, but this is false. (On page 139, the book gives the correct information about these prints, i.e. that they were formed in volcanic ash.)
Page 65 — Concerning alteration in the generation rate of carbon-14, refers to meteors ‘falling to earth’. How is this supposed to affect the generation rate of 14C to a level that would make a difference to the dating issue? In any case, meteors, by definition, do not fall to Earth. A meteor is just a tiny thing that burns up. If it goes all the way through, it’s a meteorite. This will not help the many Christians who try to impress their science teachers with creation arguments. The book also mentions the Tunguska blast in Siberia in this context. Many think that this was a comet, but at any rate, it was certainly not a ‘meteor’, and again it’s unreferenced. It is also not clear how a cosmic impact could cause a change in 14C worldwide, but this is such an important thing that one would expect something other than a Reader’s Digest reference which is all it gives. In fact, recent discussion in the scientific literature suggests that the Tunguska event involved a high-pressure gas explosion, from the release of millions of tons of methane. Ironically, the soil around Tunguska is so enriched with 14C that it shows up as a future date. So perhaps this has been misread from earlier literature.
Page 79 — Wrong scientific terminology is used to talk about ‘micro-evolution’ (‘physiological changes’). All organisms undergo physiological changes every day — their heartbeat and respiration go up and down, for example. And the whole discussion about macro-and micro-evolution misses the point entirely. That is, the issue is not the size of the change, but whether the change increases information content of the genome.
Page 80 — Says that some big bang theorists insist that not even space existed. We are unaware of any big bang theorist who would not say that.
Page 81 — Brings up the missing neutrinos again as some sort of an objection to the big bang. As pointed out, they are not missing, and it does not relate to the big bang notion, anyway. When one attacks an idea, one must be careful to have a good basic understanding of it. It mentions the undeniable fact that there are alternative explanations for redshift, but lists these under the heading of ‘insurmountable objections’ to the big bang! In that same list of objections, it is asked, ‘Where’s the big “hole” in the middle of the universe?’ Anyone with even a basic understanding of the issues should understand why we cringe.
Page 83 — Says that ‘everything in our physical universe is running down’. This is an incorrect statement of the law of entropy. Not everything runs down. Some things run the other way. Open systems can go ‘uphill’.
Page 85 — Perpetuates the belief that the 2nd Law began at the time of the Curse. This is a common theme that lays itself open to ridicule because, as everyone knows, the 2nd Law also has heat flowing from hot bodies to cold bodies, and is involved in the processes of digestion, etc. So was there no warmth from the sun, and was there no digestion of the fruit that Adam and Eve ate? This could be overcome to make it non-controversial, without losing the force of the argument about the 2nd Law. See Did the 2nd Law begin at the Fall?
Page 87 — The last sentence says, ‘This kind of trick had to happen trillions of times over to produce all the systems of life on Earth by chance.’ In context, it is potentially misleading, and anyone understanding the selectionist arguments evolutionists rely on would dismiss this out of hand. It is a classic case of destroying one’s argument by overreach—one can do a brilliant statistical demonstration of the mathematical impossibility of even a single protein evolving, let alone the first living thing. But once you have a living reproducing thing, you then have selection coming into play. It is logical fallacies like these that leave Christians open to demolition by cleverly written propaganda such as Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker. In fact, this whole two-page spread reinforces that concept, i.e. that evolutionists believe all of the complexity of every living thing just happened by sheer ‘randomness’. This is just one of the ways in which evolutionists can gleefully point to this boo.com/241.htmlk as a ‘teaching tool’ to prove that creationists don’t understand the arguments of evolution. The selection arguments have to be met separately, and can easily be (see Weasel: a flexible program for investigating deterministic computer ‘demonstrations’ of evolution), but it is very unfair and misleading to attack them all under the same umbrella as randomness.
Page 89 — A paragraph is quoted from an I. Cohen to say that ‘the only way known for DNA to be altered is through a meaningful intervention from … intelligence …’. There are stacks of creationist books that show that DNA can be altered via accidental changes, i.e. mutation.
Page 91 — It asks, ‘But wait! Hasn’t life been “created” synthetically in a test tube? No!’ This refers to the Stanley Miller experiment, but it is another unfortunate overreach, since Stanley Miller never claimed to have created life in a test tube.
Page 97 — It dogmatically says that ‘beneficial mutations do not exist’ [emphasis in original]. This is just plain wrong. A survival advantage is a clear benefit. Many mutations, even though they are losses of information, help something to survive. E.g. a wing-losing mutation in beetles on a windy island (see Beetle Bloopers). There have been countless articles on other beneficial information-losing mutations in CMI literature. For instance, it is common knowledge that there are mutations in bacteria that cause some types of antibiotic resistance. These obviously benefit the bacteria by enabling them to survive. This is thus an obviously false argument which will therefore back-fire on creationists over and over, and its perpetuation is tragic.
Page 101 — Talking about fixity of kinds, it says that there are ‘minor’ changes occurring within kinds, but it would be confusing for any creationist to say that these changes are ‘minor’ if, at the same time, they pointed out that lions, tigers, pumas, domestic cats, lynxes, bobcats, etc. all came from a common ancestral pair on the Ark, or that horses, asses, zebras, etc. were the same created kind. (These are certainly not increases of information, and certainly not evolutionary changes, but no-one can honestly call them ‘minor’.)
Page 102 — The whole discussion on whales leaves out most of the story, and will thus be totally unsatisfying to anyone who has ever read a Reader’s Digest-level article on the alleged evolution of whales. In any case, it is out of date, since it almost certainly refers to Pakicetus, where leg bones have been found (and it’s definitely not a whale—see Pakicetus).
Page 103 — Says that ‘The only reason some make a correlation between reptiles and Archaeopteryx is because of its clawed wing tips and a beak full of teeth’. This is not true. There are a number of other reasons evolutionists put forward. E.g. its bones, vertebrae in the tail, etc. Also, on page 103, it favorably mentions the idea that Archaeopteryx was a fraud. See Archaeopteryx (unlike Archaeoraptor) is NOT a hoax — it is a true bird, not a ‘missing link’.
(Incidentally, there are many unreferenced claims which we are not critiquing, but are unable to use with confidence because there is no way of checking them out, which is a pity.)
Page 107 — It favorably quotes someone as saying, ‘I can think of no cases of radioactive decay being used to date fossils …’, but in fact this very book itself contradicts that, as it talks about fossils being dated radioactively via such things as volcanic ash, etc.
Page 107 — It quotes George Gaylord Simpson as talking about the absence of pre-Cambrian fossils — this is a seriously outdated quote, as the Ediacara fossils have been known about for many years. They don’t show any ancestors to the Cambrian fauna, but to say that there are no multicellular pre-Cambrian fossils (we are here kindly adding the word ‘multicellular’ to this part of the book, because it’s applied, correctly, earlier) is simply going to cause people who use it to be ‘shot down in flames’. It was legitimate to use many years ago, but it’s no longer appropriate.
Page 113 — Once again, it talks about ‘blind mindless chance’, without any consideration of the selectionist arguments. In one sense, of course, natural selection is based on whatever environment happens (by chance) to be there, but to imply that evolutionists believe that a complete ‘roll of the dice’ caused all the finely-tuned adaptations of today seriously misrepresents their position, and so it does us no good. This can again be used as a teaching point against creationists.
Page 126 — The book says, ‘THINK! How can “a whole chain” be “established” when the links are “missing?”’ This seriously misrepresents the Reader’s Digest statement to which it is responding. In fact, R.D. was careful to put the words ‘missing links’ in scare quotes. It is obvious that R.D. is not implying that the very bones they are discussing are missing! The first paragraph on the next page is also responding to (another) evolutionist statement, which is again seriously misrepresented. The statement was by no means indicating that an individual going on a hunting expedition would develop a larger brain! The article being quoted was assuming that one understands that the evolutionary changes are postulated to occur in populations, i.e. that someone whose brain became bigger just a little bit due to a random mutation in his parent’s sex cells would have a greater chance of surviving in an environment of more complex hunting, and therefore would have a greater chance of passing the mutated gene along to his descendants. In this way the population ‘responds to the demands of more complex hunting’. This is the sort of chapter that, if one were an evolutionist school teacher, one would really enjoy tearing apart in front of the class to show how creationists misunderstand evolutionary science, or misrepresent it purposefully. There are good counters to the evolutionary selectionist arguments; one should not ignore or misrepresent them.
Page 129 — It says that Lucy ‘is acknowledged to be a chimpanzee, but one that is claimed to have walked upright.’ This is absolutely false. Lucy may have had many chimp-like features, but this makes it sound as if everyone acknowledges that it was ‘just a chimp’, which would scarcely have excited evolutionists. If it was just a chimp, then they wouldn’t have been able to claim that it walked upright, so the statement, as it is printed in this book, is self-refuting. The book reinforces that by referring to ‘this old chimp, Lucy’, and by talking about ‘Lucy’s chimp bones’. There are indeed great similarities between Lucy and the pygmy chimp, but also great differences, which are not transitional, as the work by Oxnard and others has shown. And Lucy did not walk upright, but was likely a knuckle-walker.
Page 132 — Reinforces the misleading myth that Java man was claimed by his discoverer to be a giant gibbon, though, fortunately, it does point out that Dubois still called it a missing link. This is a minor quibble, but many creationists will have their argument subtly reinforced, which they often use, namely that Dubois himself ‘changed his mind about Java man’, as if he repudiated its missing link status. See Who was ‘Java man’?
Page 133 — Re Peking man: the comment about the huge ash heap indicating significant industry and fire-burning, etc.— this is now in some doubt in the literature. I.e., it seems likely to have been from a non-human source. At the least, this sort of comment about fire for industry is now better not made in an unqualified way. It also asks ‘What kind of science depends upon models of evidence that are now lost?’ This seems a fairly weak point, because if the casts of the originals are accurate, a great deal of study can legitimately be undertaken on them. And an evolutionist teacher using this book as an example of ‘how creationists distort’ would claim that it implies that the whole field is based on missing bones.
Page 138 — It quotes Leakey as attacking the classification system, but in the context, it’s a bit misleading to use this, because it actually argues against the creationist view, as a little bit of thought should reveal. Leakey is saying that, because of changes through time, you can’t easily fit things into the classifications of today, i.e. as either apes or humans. (These sorts of things are, in themselves, mild blunders, but, unfortunately, they are so frequent—and we are not even mentioning them all.)
Pages 144–145 — Re ‘Malachite man’: there is a need for great caution here, lest we repeat the whole ‘Guadaloupe lady’ fiasco. Malachite man has never been properly published in the peer-reviewed creationist literature, nor subjected to critical analysis. The original skeleton discovery, prior to Don Patton’s further discovery, offered serious reasons to doubt that it was an in situ burial, so proper analysis of the subsequent find by Patton is extremely important. At this stage, we would classify it as an (so far) unsubstantiated claim that can get people really excited because of its potential significance. (Unsubstantiated in regard to the in situ nature of the burial.) We would strongly encourage Patton and others involved to go through the proper processes of peer review.
Page 149 — Says that reptiles keep growing and growing as long as they live. It implies that the reason for large dinosaurs is not because they are genetically programmed to be large, but because they were simply reptiles that lived for many hundreds of years because of the pre-Flood conditions. However, if this were true, why would there be some distinct types of dinosaurs, many of them in fact, which, fully-grown, were very small? Furthermore, the reality is that it is simply not true that reptiles always keep growing as long as they live. Many types, if not most, reach a terminal size. There’s no way a gecko or skink, for example, will grow as big as a Brachiosaurus. Rather, the large dinosaurs were genetically programmed to grow to that size—from recent evidence, most likely in a rapid spurt.
Pp. 154–159 — Our concerns about the Paluxy ‘human prints with dinosaur prints’ are well known, but they occupy all of these pages. Paul Taylor, of Films for Christ, despite knowing that he would lose much money by doing so, felt obliged to withdraw his famous film Footprints in Stone after he went and re-examined the prints (including the famous ‘Taylor trail’ featured in the film) for himself. A team from the Creation Research Society has re-examined the whole issue of ‘quasi-human ichnofossils’ and concluded that one not should use these evidence any more. Due to the widespread potential sales of this book, creation ministries will probably have to spend many hundreds of hours explaining why reputable creationist speakers don’t use Paluxy, etc., in creation ministry—sowing confusion in the process. On page 158, it implies that authors who withdrew about the Paluxy have ‘never personally witnessed the tracks’, but John Morris personally witnessed them before withdrawing his book on the subject. Petersen refers to excavations continuing to discover more tracks, and to a Japanese team of scientists, etc., but there are no references for any of this, so as to be able to check it out.
Pages 160–161 — More unsubstantiated ‘evidence’ that seem exciting, but are in fact poorly documented and dubious. For instance, the ‘fossil finger’. Despite various claims, none of these sorts of things have ever been written up as a properly researched report, subjected to peer review by other creationists, etc. The book also features the alleged ‘hand imprint’. But it turns out that no-one is able to verify that it really is from Cretaceous rock, and creationist experts in hand anatomy such as Dr Jon Jones (plastic surgeon) and Dr David Menton (emeritus professor, human anatomy) have recently examined the specimen and expressed serious doubt that it really is a human handprint, based upon such features as the ‘web angle’.
Page 165 — Promotes the Cabrera discovery of the Ica dinosaur stones. We featured these very gingerly in the magazine, saying that they might turn out to be man-made artifacts. The evidence now appears to strongly suggest that they are of modern-day manufacture.
Page 167 — The ‘Japanese plesiosaur’ is rehashed. But this has been profoundly discredited.
Pages 172–175 — One wonders about the apologetic value of spending four pages on the speculative idea (whether right or wrong) that Adam and Eve were dressed in (physical) light.
Pages 182 & 183 — Twice perpetuates the common myth that we only use 10% of our brains. This was allegedly attributed to Einstein—Creation magazine ran an article showing that this was a totally unsubstantiated idea and that there was no way to even measure this (Our Brain: Do we use only a small portion of it?, Creation 21(2):42-43 March–May 1999.)
Pages 184 & 185 — Toys with the idea that maybe modern technology isn’t as effective as the technology of the ancients. This is a bit risky—especially implying that there are larger long-term benefits with ‘less complex hardware’. To use the incredible ingenuity of the Incas, etc., to show that man has always been smart and ingenious is very appropriate, but here a position is taken that will draw a lot of flak (maybe rightly so) from many readers, who may well conclude that the benefits of modern technology are immense and unprecedented. (Most people would, one suspects, rather have their brain surgery done, or appendix removed, in a Western culture rather than among the Incas or Egyptians of old.)
Page 186 — The paragraph which assertively asks where the evolutionary ‘Cain’ found his ‘sweetie pie’ is an example of something which evolutionists will decry, with some justification, as incredibly foolish. It is even more pronounced by the fact that there is a mocking cartoon to go with it. The sarcasm bounces back upon the writer, because once again there is absolutely no indication that the writer understands what evolutionists are actually saying. To suggest that a male ‘primeval man’ or ‘ape-man’ evolved in isolation is simply ‘way off beam’. Populations evolve, not individuals, in evolutionary models. A book with such a superb illustrative appearance makes itself a major target for astute teachers to demonstrate that creationists are either totally ignorant of evolutionary biology, or dishonestly and willfully misrepresent it.
Pages 190–193 — Pushes the speculative idea of some sort of incredible technology prior to the Flood. A huge amount is demanded of the two verses in Job (8:8–9). The book says that developments of the last 4,000 years can be used to show that in the 1,600 years before the Flood, when people lived much longer, it would have been something like ‘inevitable’ to have more or less those same sorts of developments. (A number of things are ignored, however. Most prominent among them is the fact that Noah’s family would have understood the technology of the age, and therefore one would expect that at least some of the post-Babel civilizations would reflect the technology of that previous world. Some would be lost, of course, hence cave men etc., but speculation about (in effect) laptop computers and power tools etc., before the Flood have no sound basis. It may also be worth mentioning that our modern technology really ‘took off’ due to the availability of energy from coal and oil. Yet most, if not all, of this was formed during the Flood. Yet, that is what it invites us to conclude on these two pages.) Also, it ignores the fact that the real explosion in science and technology was after the spread of the Gospel. The pre-Flood world was exceedingly wicked, and discoveries/inventions are surely not random, but have something to do with God’s blessing or otherwise.
The entire book majors on using techniques such as rhetorical questions to get you to draw conclusions, not just a conclusion about the authority of the Bible, as such, but majoring on the various speculative ideas it favors.
Page 200 — Continues the theme of strong hints at the high technology before the Flood; to cement the fact that it is not just talking about some ingenuity, on page 201, it stretches Solomon’s ‘nothing new under the sun’ Bible comment to mean this: ‘Whatever we discover or invent has already existed in “ancient” time.’ By definition, that means that laptop computers, atom bombs, moon rockets, MRI scanners, etc., are all not original, but were previously discovered and lost. This is obviously ‘stretching it’ to an extreme point.
Page 201 — It is risky to claim that there is ‘no proof’ that there are planets outside of our solar system. There is ever-increasing evidence for this, and so what if there are some gas balls or piles of rock circling some star? In the same box, we read, ‘Many UFO reports can be explained by top-secret human technology’. It’s not even that it is presented as a possibility, but stated dogmatically—many reports can be explained in this way. And this is a statement without real evidence (by definition, since the technology is top-secret!).
Page 202 — It says that the planning and construction of the Great Pyramid was somehow super-human or mysterious because it ‘evades our attempts to understand it’. This seems somewhat ‘over the top’. Certainly, it is an immense achievement, but is it not consistent with the ingenuity of people at all stages of history, without having to be supernatural or similar? This is especially so considering the number of demonstrable ‘false starts’ in pyramid building technology.
The book also asks, ‘With no evidence of a crude past, why were the earliest people of Egypt so culturally sophisticated, yet insistent that their forefathers were even more advanced?’ We are not aware of any evidence for this alleged insistence. And in fact, many will point out that certain sites in Egypt have been interpreted as evidence of pre-civilization settlements. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t live contemporaneously, but to say that there is ‘no evidence of a crude past’ is pushing the envelope. There is evidence, but from Biblical history, we know it has been incorrectly interpreted.
Page 203 — It again says about the ancients, ‘Remember that they used their brains to a greater degree than we do today’—a completely speculative statement, made with no supporting evidence whatsoever. We can’t even establish what percentage of our brain power we use today, let alone say that ancients used a greater percentage.
Page 204 — The collection of ‘pre-Flood artifacts’ is interesting, but unfortunately all are anecdotal. I think some are worth featuring in such a book, but with much greater caution. The Texas hammer is an example—it is a classic concretion around an iron artifact, like the ‘fossil pliers’, which we showed in our magazine. It is not buried in sedimentary rock, but a concretion. There are many reasons to think it may well have been a miner’s hammer that dropped down a crack and the concretion formed later. In fact the reason why people say that the rock is ‘supposed by evolutionary reckoning to be 135 million years old’ is apparently because there are some shells in the concretion which are typical of that ‘period’. Unfortunately, the same shells have a range which extends to the present, so they are not at all diagnostic of that age of rock. The allegation about the apparently anomalous metal structure of the hammer has never been, to our knowledge, published in the peer-reviewed creationist literature, e.g. testing the assertion that ‘an alloy of iron with chlorine cannot be made in its present atmospheric condition.’ But in any case there is no such thing—chlorine is simply not an element that can form a metallic alloy, as opposed to an ionic compound with a metal. This highlights the major flaw in this whole book—it completely overlooks almost all the sound arguments, and ‘zooms in’ on precisely the ones that are dubious and are based on untested, unpublished assertions.
Page 214 — Continues the book’s fascination with the Great Pyramid, which is not unusual in ‘fringe’ literature, incidentally. The text says its location ‘is the very center of Earth’s landmass’. That is a very precise statement to make about one single building. Others have claimed this for Ararat, and for Jerusalem. We’ve heard people say that Ararat is, Jerusalem is, whatever. There is no reference given for the claim, or how it was calculated. Amazingly, it quotes, without disapproval, the following: ‘Some say Seth built it before the Flood (even if it contains Flood-made rock)’. First, how could anything survive such a great catastrophe? Second, it’s built on top of Flood deposits. And third, how could it possibly have been built before the Flood if it contains Flood-made rock??
Page 217 — The book goes deep into the realms of way-out speculation, by reporting a Spanish conquistador talking about how the great stones in some South American ruins were ‘carried through the air to the sound of a trumpet’.
Pp. 218–219 — It is perfectly justified to talk about the marvels that the ancients achieved with engineering, moving huge blocks in astonishing ways. Such things have been properly used to show that ancient people were sufficiently ingenious to have figured out how to do without our level of technology (which present technology is not the result of evolving higher intelligence, but is the result of inventions being passed down and added to). In other words, such demonstrations of ingenuity can be a powerful argument against the idea that ancient man was a less-evolved primitive.
But here, it moves into the realm of the mystical, in the way it reports on a mysterious ceremony in Tibet in the 1950s, allegedly witnessed by an engineer, in which a block of rock began to rise into the air by itself through drum beats and trumpet blasts. Incredibly, it links this to the reports in science journals in which sound waves have levitated pellets of glass or metal. This misleads to an extent that is mind-boggling. For a scientist to use extremely concentrated (‘hi-tech’) sound waves to levitate tiny pellets in the laboratory is so vastly different to the belief that a group of people stood around a huge rock, beating drums and blasting trumpets to make it rise into the air, that we are frankly incredulous that the link was made.
Page 223 — More Nexus type material. It says, ‘A number of mysterious indications from ancient cultures link the use of rock crystals with communications through the air’. It then says, ‘Even the Bible draws this connection’. The evidence? Crystals being part of the breastplate prescribed by God to be worn by the high priest. This is getting uncomfortably close to ‘new age’ beliefs. The book says, ‘It should be no surprise if we someday learn that even the realm of wireless communications was known by people before and after the Great Flood.’
Pages 224–225 — Continue the fascination with ‘nothing new under the sun’. The ancient battery discovery certainly shows ingenuity, and we have used it ourselves for that. But the fact that a very crude chemical battery, which, using lemon juice or vinegar, can produce a tiny half volt of electricity is hardly enough to justify the previous assertions about everything having been previously discovered! And the toy gliding machine presented is clearly meant to make people think that the ancient Egyptians had airplanes. While it does show great ingenuity (just like the Aboriginal people with their boomerangs), it seems remarkable that anyone would seriously believe that the Egyptians had airplanes. (They would have been much more successful in chasing after the Israelites if they had). One would expect the many hieroglyphic inscriptions to reveal overwhelming evidence for the existence of such sensational devices. But overwhelmingly, the inscriptions from tomb after tomb reveal details of an everyday life which was anything but high-tech. Nor did the pharaohs take images of airplanes into their tombs to make their transport in the afterlife comfortable, yet they took all sorts of everyday objects to ensure they enjoyed the benefits in that afterlife.
If this review were about one or two problems or points of disagreement in a generally sound book, or if the book were such as to likely cause little impact, CMI would see little cause to risk the storm of censure that will doubtless come from many for having been this openly critical. However, the overwhelming thrust of this book falls into an extremely dubious, speculative and poorly argued category, one which may not be instantly obvious to the layperson, and much of what it argues is plain wrong. Most, if not all, of these questionable items have never been peer-reviewed in the creationist scientific journals.
Apart from the Bible, no book, including any we publish, is perfect. But in this case, the potential for many thousands of people to be seriously misled into believing they have a major weapon, when it is a major step backwards for the creation movement, has led to this review. We also feel that this is the sort of book that your average neighborhood evolutionist will have been ‘waiting for’, in a sense, to reinforce his prejudice that creationists do not understand evolutionary science and misrepresent it, etc. We believe that we have a responsibility to not just refrain from stocking it, but to actively warn against uncritically accepting its contents as if they were generally based on some sort of consensus from the global community of qualified creationist researchers. That would be far from reality.
It is a hard thing to have to point out this tragic consequence of people ‘doing their own thing’ in creation ministry without any sort of concession to the normal processes of peer review. It is especially hard, because the book is doubtless well-meant, and its motives good Christian ones. Readers of this review who have read the book will no doubt make their own judgment. But if the book doesn’t convince creationists such as us, then readers should realize that evolutionists are even less likely to be swayed. At least readers will then be prepared when their evolutionist acquaintances gleefully commence their ‘demolition derby’ on its contents.
Since our Web critique of this book appeared, a number of people have written to us asking, in effect, why we did not go to the author first, some even invoking Matthew Chapter 18.This book was in the Christian public arena, and we made our assessment of it in the same arena. There was no thought in our minds that any sin against us was involved, nor did we say or imply that. So Matthew 18 can scarcely apply. That chapter refers to someone who believes someone else has sinned against them. It does not apply to issues where a Christian believes there is serious error, lack of judgment, etc. in another person's work. For instance, when a person publishes in a theological or science journal, critique is fair and accepted. In fact, we made it clear that what made the whole thing doubly tragic was the undoubted good motivation of the author.
Matthew 18 aside, then, many have felt (on the basis of Christian courtesy, especially to a fellow anti-evolutionist) that we should have made our comments clear to the author so he would have a chance to make modifications. Actually, there has been communication between CMI and the author, so a detailed history of what actually took place (to the best of our recollection) seems to be appropriate.But first, it is necessary to give a brief background as to what normally happens in CMI when authors send us manuscripts to check. A few years back, we were having so many manuscripts sent to us from all over the world that we could not possibly help them all with our limited number of staff. Also, we noticed that, after one of our staff scientists had spent many hours on a review, often an intending author would not necessarily accept constructive criticism anyway, meaning that the ministry’s time (paid for by our supporters) was being wasted.
So we instituted a new policy, namely that we would send everyone who asked us to check their work a form letter. This letter explained our overload, and said that we would only check manuscripts on a commercial basis, i.e. at an hourly rate. We made it clear that this was not an attempt to generate revenue, and that we would rather not have this additional load on the ministry. Rather, it was an attempt to ‘stem the tide’ without totally ‘locking up’ our scientists’ services to others. But if an author wanted to go ahead, then if we felt the book was something we would want to publish, we would refund any such payment anyway. This policy had the intended effect, in drying up the requests considerably.
THE COURSE OF EVENTS
Some years ago, we were very pleased to be able to sell the first edition of Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation, by the same author. The book communicated well to the layperson.
After some years passed, aspects of the book became outdated in the light of new information, and we did not re-order for that reason, pending a new edition which we had been told would come one day.
Some time after that, the author approached us in writing, saying that he was working on this new edition, and asked if we would be willing to check the manuscript. This was in about the year 2000.
We replied by saying that we would, but pointing out our normal manuscript review policy.
The author did not avail himself of our services. That was his right, and we had no problem at all with that, and thought nothing further of it.
A fairly substantial time after that, the current publisher sent us a limited number of color proofs from the book. They were only of a few sections, but presumably chosen because the publisher felt that these would be the controversial areas within creationism, and the publisher wanted our comments. Presumably his plan was to pass them on to the author if he felt that the pages could be ‘tweaked’ to improve them in some way, or make them less controversial.
The proofs were very, very beautifully presented. We were informed that a huge sum was spent on these graphics by the author, and we were completely sympathetic to the author's desire to see the book present the material in the best manner possible. Nevertheless, we had to be honest. We forwarded our comments to the publisher, who had asked for them, since it was not too late to make changes at this point. These comments expressed concern at the sorts of dubious and poorly documented evidence that were featured on these particular pages (we had no idea of the many additional problems in the rest of the book that would come to light). One of the evidence that we were concerned about was the alleged ‘fossil finger’.
We then received personal e-mail from the author, defending the validity of this ‘fossil finger’.
From memory, there was an e-mail exchange, in the course of which we asked to be provided with certain medical documentation that was said to be available in relation to this ‘finger’, to help us assess it further; we did not receive this, and the author did not contact us any more. Our main thrust was-as it has consistently been for some time-the lack of proper peer reviewed documentation for such claims. (The creation movement had, for instance, been greatly embarrassed by similar claims made for a fossil ‘human tooth’, touted in the same manner by the same people, which turned out to be a fish’s tooth.)
With the author’s pulling back, it was not our right or position to do anything further at this point. Our comments had been put forward in good faith, it was up to the author if he wanted to take any notice.
When the book appeared, we were already prepared for the inclusion of this handful of very dubious evidence. But we had no way of knowing that the entire book would focus so much on poor and unsubstantiated speculative material that we would feel compelled to formally recommend against it (as opposed to merely deciding not to stock it ourselves) for the sake of the creation movement.
Post-script:Since the above was prepared to the best of our memory of events, we found in our US office a 1996 letter that Dr Carl Wieland had written to the author of Unlocking. In view of its date, it did not refer to this modern version and point 3 above, but was apparently in relation to the earlier version at a time after we had decided to no longer stock it. It serves to make the point that we certainly did take the trouble to share many of our concerns with the earlier edition with Dennis. In fact, it was sad to see when this old letter came to light just how many of the same errors have been served up again in this new edition, as if these points had never been made.
NB this letter has been retyped (we only had a hard copy on file) and the comments in square brackets [like this-CW] are explanatory only.
September 26, 1996
Sorry to be so long in replying-things have been really hectic. I have not even had a chance to reread your book but thought I would quickly reply on the basis of a quick glance through. We have never been antagonistic to your book, of which we have sold quite a few copies over the years. Creationist books (including those we ourselves write) get naturally 'dated' with time, as new evidence and information comes to light. Sometimes the extreme value of a book which uses such information (e.g. the Paluxy tracks) means that we will continue to stock it but with a disclaimer in the front.
Each time a book comes up for reordering, there is an opportunity to reconsider whether its value outweighs its datedness, or whether there are other better books to fill the niche it occupies in creationist literature. So when we decide not to reorder, it is not often a matter of some devastating or catastrophic scientific problem, but rather that the weight of those sorts of factors has gone against it. If there had been huge problems in the sense of overt misrepresentation, e.g. we would withdraw a book immediately and not worry that we had some left in stock.
Some of the factors which would have been negatives in our decision not to reorder are as follows (your book has many positives—and remember that some of these are nit-picky):
1. Lack of colour (people are much more fussy these days, although I personally think it is well-illustrated and would look odd in colour, as well as being much more expensive to produce. Also, it fills a niche which is not met by any single one of the other books available for young people.)
2. Use of Freiburg ‘coal skull’ which investigation by our contacts in Germany (now that the Wall has collapsed) indicates is a skull carved from coal.
3. Implying that Nebraska man was used at the Scopes trial (it was actually Piltdown-Nebraska was in the papers at the time, but according to the trial transcripts, did not feature).
6. Talking about punctuated equilibrium and hopeful monster theories as if they were the same thing.
7. The Meister sandalprint is uncritically accepted, despite not being part of a trackway, and despite the geology there being such that all sorts of flat, spawled shapes arise from natural processes.
8. Implying that the PreCambrian has no fossils, when there is a substantial Ediacaran fauna (no help to evolutionists, of course).
9. Implying that the geologic column is an unreal progression, which is now becoming passé among creationist geologists of qualification and field experience (Wise, Snelling, Austin, etc,)
10. Section on whale evolution needs to be upgraded to deal with newer finds of alleged transitions.
11. Section on mutations misleading-many are neutral, the % of harmful ones is grossly overstated.
12. Shrinking sun argument needs to be more cautiously stated (see the series of three articles in Creation magazine) or not mentioned at all.
13. Magnetic field argument needs upgrading to take into account Humphreys' data or rapid reversals, or else kids will think they have been cheated when they hit the relevant lessons in high school and learn about reversals.
14. The comets argument needs to be used with caution, considering the alleged observation of objects the right size in the Kuiper belt.
15. The moon dust argument is still being used in this book, even though it has been thoroughly demolished by our own Dr Andrew Snelling and Dave Rush, in the Technical Journal [Journal of Creation], as stated in the negative.
Dennis, that is only from a quick glance through. There may be several other areas which would make us reluctant to reorder. Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to spend the time to assist in the detailed rewriting which would be necessary for us to restock it.
If you wanted that, or simply to engage us to do a proper, detailed, final check of the manuscript, we would be forced to do it on a commercial basis, as we get so many requests from all around the world from people wanting us to check their material before publication that we would not have the time left for all the other things we do. That is not to say that we are looking for such work-far from it.
I strongly recommend, if considering such a major rewrite, becoming really familiar in detail with all of the modern creationist literature, not just the old ICR stuff (however much we all cherish their pioneering efforts) recycled. That would include all the Pittsburgh conference proceedings, and all the old Tech. Journals [now Journal of Creation], even though there will be much in both which will not be directly relevant. Also, I would suggest reading widely in a range of more recent creation books, such as Marvin Lubenow's on fossil men, also the biology, such as The Natural Limits to Biological Change, and Walter Remine's classic etc. It might seem like a lot of unnecessary work for a young people's book but as you would know it is a real challenge, and involves a lot of detailed knowledge, to be able to condense well into a book which holds the interest of the young reader. From that point of view you have always done well.
It is of course somewhat of an embarrassment for Dr Snelling [he still worked for CMI at that time-he now works for ICR-CW] to have his name on as an enthusiastic endorser [of that original version of Unlocking—CW], now that he himself has co-authored a debunking of the moondust argument featured therein. The decision to restock a new version would involve a more stringent set of criteria than one which we had stocked and which became dated progressively- i.e., we would not like to see any errors or dubious material in it at all. Some of our own books would not now qualify as candidates for accepting de novo. For instance, you will find also that when our Answers Book [now The Creation Answers Book] gets reprinted, there will be many changes, we will be much more cautious about such things as the vapor canopy, for example. We are finding more and more that it is important to be cautious and tentative about the evidence, and dogmatic only about the Scriptural foundation. I know that you have been admirably tentative in much of your presentation already.
The other thing possibly worth mentioning is that Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, [in the USA—when I wrote this, we (CMI) in Australia were still called Creation Science Foundation and had not yet followed the lead of the US office in changing the name, and they have still kept that name—CW] who is one of our directors as well as I being one of theirs, would probably also not stock a book if we were not happy with it.
Dennis, I too would love to meet you someday, and hope that the above comments will not be too disappointing. I am sad to say that I think a minor adjustment would not overcome all these factors, and that it is not a matter of inserting just one erratum sheet, as you can see. If it is any consolation, we too have used many of the same arguments over the years, but it is inevitable that time moves on and that the arguments will change.
Yours sincerely in Christ,