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The Counter-Creationism Handbook : Mark Isaak

04/01/07

  11:37:07 am, by Nimble   , 571 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Religion, Science

The Counter-Creationism Handbook : Mark Isaak

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0520249267?ie=UTF8&tag=thecerealkill-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641&creativeASIN=0520249267

I was moved to pick this up when I saw a book-signing in the front of the bookstore I was walking into, and got close enough to realize they were peddling mystical garbage. I ended up in the science section just to shake off the willies from such close contact :)

This is a book by Mark Isaak, the editor of TalkOrigins' "An Index To Creationist Claims".

In fact, the book is essentially a very slightly pared-down list of the claims and their rebuttals in book form, though with a few more images. When you have it laid all out in paper format, it's a substantial amount of material. It can be used as a reference for specific claims, it's true, but you can do that on the web site. I enjoyed it most just reading it from cover to cover. Creationist claims are pretty colourful, so they and their rebuttals don't get dry all that quickly :)

The claims cover everything from "Darwin was a racist" to the Grand Canyon being produced by a retreating Noah's flood to Intelligent Design.

There are a few themes that emerge from creationist claims. For one, they're often wrong not just on a single point, but many. The explanation for the Grand Canyon, for example, not only fails to take into account the hardness of the rock or what retreating floodwaters usually do, but would lead us to overestimate how many canyons there ought to be on coasts all over the world.

For another, they tend to try to point out single mistakes and ignore the successes that vastly outnumber them. Piltdown Man is a favourite to this very day, despite the fact that it was an engineered hoax that fell apart under scientific scrutiny... six decades ago.

Thirdly, many of the claims, in particular related to the Noahic Flood, would have failed my wife's chemistry course. Things like forgetting the energy released by precipitation of limestone from solution. Proposing vapour canopies for all the extra water to come from (since we don't have enough for such a flood now, even with the polar caps all melted) would have had interesting consequences, such as raising the temperature to unsurvivable and increasing atmospheric pressure over sixtyfold compared to today.

Fourthly, many of the claims (such as for hoaxes or fossil gaps) point a wagging finger at evolutionary biology while glossing over their own hoaxes or lack of predictive power.

You get to the point, sometimes, where you wonder whether the people promoting creationist arguments are doing so because they don't know, or because they do know but for reasons which are a little hard for me to fathom figure that it would just be "better" for people to disbelieve evolution so that they can have faith in a literal interpretation of Genesis.

Many of the claims can be dismantled by people with a rudimentary background in the appropriate sciences, yet the claims persist in being used, in particular during debates and to a doting public, which certainly cements my image of creationists as duplicitous, to be polite.

It's a great book to thumb through the answers to a great many claims. A science background is helpful, in particular to enjoy the more technical answers (since many of the creationist claims rely on scientific ignorance, some of the answers must be technical), but is not necessary. A pretty nice resource to read and to have on the shelf.

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