After an interesting mini road-trip this St. Patrick’s Day, I finally ran into just the excuse to write a “thank you” blog entry for PZ Myers, author of Pharyngula, who recently added me to the illustrious ranks of his blogroll. Thanks, Dr. Myers! Keeping company among respected scientists, semi-respected politicos, and general “deep thinkers” is no easy feat for an experimental music blogger. In the spirit of reciprocity, thus follows one of my rare non-music-related entries…
To begin with, you have to know that I love to read. I’m not necessarily a fan of purchasing books, due to my general lack of available cash– but the occasional geek-trip to a bookstore will usually put me in the mood to part with a few dollars. And although I have a tendency to avoid St. Patrick’s day entirely– green clothing, drunkenness, tin whistles, and pinching are not for me– I was persuaded to visit a combination Irish gift and book store on the day itself. For starters, I was intrigued by the fact that there was a bookstore in Southern Illinois I hadn’t heard of, especially one with handsomely large wall-to-wall bookshelves inside an old farmhouse just a few miles from me.
Even the understanding that this was primarily a Christian bookstore did not deter me– as I was informed the proprietor also had a fine selection of other books, which I allowed to supply the requisite tinge of hope necessary for me to suggest making a visit. My wife agreed that it sounded like something interesting and different to do, so within a few minutes, we packed the kids up in the car and set off in search of some decent science fiction short stories. With my daughter’s recent first-time reading of H.P. Lovecraft, I’m sure that vision of Cthulonic texts danced in her head. Then again, she’s a kid– she might have been equally happy getting “Where’s Waldo”– children are weird.
The bookstore was much as promised– inside a renovated farmhouse stood beautifully crafted built-in shelves, with floor-to-ceiling books. Antique wingback chairs, brass fixtures, and Celtic stained glass ornaments completed the look. It was a nice place, if you could get past the weirdos struggling to prove their Irishness on this most Irish of days. Bizarre quilted pullovers for the women, round spectacles for the men– everything but a tiny Leprechaun juggling potatoes, basically. Knowing full well that this was not my scene, I advised my wife that I would be taking the kids upstairs to the children’s area. Better to hang out with the kiddies than endure another second of overused ‘o this, and ‘o that.
The upstairs area was a lot nicer– aside from the occasional “intruder,” my kids and I had the run of the children’s area. But like the books downstairs, it was mostly Christian literature, or “non-fiction” books with a Christian slant. I won’t lie, there was a decent mix of secular reading– some of those American Girls novels, the onmi-present Where’s Waldo, books about trucks, and even Lord of the Rings. Still, it was unsettling to see titles like “Getting Saved” and “Suffer the Children” among the otherwise likable selection. Truly awful, though, was the science section. Nestled among the out-of-date school library texts about minerals, fish, and robots was none other than young-Earth creationist Ken Ham’s “What REALLY Happened to the Dinosaurs,” which led me to no small amount of hushed giggling.
With headings like: “How Did Noah Get These Monsters On Board the Ark?” and assertions that there were no more than 50 species of dinosaurs, I knew that I had to share it with my daughter. After the owner made a brief appearance (and subsequent disappearance) I took the opportunity to find a chair and call her over to show off my new find. As I guessed, she found it rather ridiculous. Her class had recently spent a couple weeks studying dinosaurs, and she knew full well that they had become extinct millions of years before human beings. Actually, I think she said “thousands,” but at her age, its the idea that counts– when your concept of the elderly comprises everyone past 30, I suppose thousands is sufficient, eh?
I’m sure it helped that we had been to a local gem and mineral show earlier in the day, where numerous fossils were on display. It was a lot of fun showing her some small fossils dating to nearly 300 million years– and the mammoth teeth were also a big hit.
After discussing the ridiculous notion that knights had actively fought with dinosaurs, we joined my wife in one of the other rooms, where I was continuing to stew about whether or not to purchase the book– but since $3 is a gallon of milk on a good day, I decided against it. Ken Ham would have to wait for richer days.
Just as I had reconciled myself to the fact that the room contained nothing of interest (a sad realization in a room full of books,) I spied something I knew I had to have. There, just underneath a larger book, was a palm-sized text titled “Evidence Against Evolution.”
“Well,” I thought, amused at my diminutive find, “here it is! Everyone at Pharyngula will be so happy! They’re always asking for actual evidence against evolution, and I have found it! Perhaps the minute scale of this monograph has led to it becoming lost– shuffled amongst some playing cards, perchance! Now that it has been located, this rift amongst men of reason might yet be mended.”
Or something like that. The awful four-color printing of a lumbering Neanderthal on the cover might have swayed me a bit as well.
Apparently, this is quite the historical opuscule, though. Written by none other than Dr. Duane T. Gish, former VP of the Institute for Creation Research, this is the first of his young-Earth creationist literature. It was also published in 1972, the very year that the ICR was reorganized as an independent body from Christian Heritage College. One can only assume that the Evidence Against Evolution was lost in the move since that day! How horrible they must have felt for these 35 long years, silent in the face of clamorous opposition!
Unfortunately, I snuck a quick peek at the first page. No evidence there! The next 63 pages were pretty much the same– no evidence of any kind, just Gish’s monotonous assertions that there are a lack of transitional fossils. In fact, Gish provides absolutely NO evidence of any kind, not even a faked bar graph. It’s a pathetic little thing, with little more than some campy cover art to recommend it.
But hey, at least I got a nifty blog entry out of it. Thanks, Dr. Gish!