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The Xenophile Historian

The Genesis Chronicles: A Proposed History Of The Morning Of The World


This chapter covers the following topics:
How Did We Go So Wrong?
Theories Concerning the Origin of the Solar System
What Are Fossils?
Charles Darwin
Evolution Comes to America
Catastrophism Returns: Some Suggested Literature
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Good evening. Since 1987 I have written several papers on the histories of various nations, and I noticed that I always started with events that happened around 3000 B.C.. This is a magical date of sorts, since it is around that time that people in the Middle East began writing down records of their lives for us to read. After a while I decided that a work on the prehistory of the human race (before 3000 B.C.) would be appropriate to explain my theories on how everything began. The first half of this text will be an explanation on why I do not believe the generally accepted theories on our beginnings, particularly evolution. Many authors have done a better job on the subject of creation vs. evolution than I have, so a largely creationist bibliography is included after the last chapter for anyone who wants to read more on the subject. The second half will be a detailed look at what I believe really happened, from before the Creation to the beginning of the Bronze Age. You can think of this as the ultimate "prequel," the history that ends where every other history begins!

To start with, I must state that I take the Bible literally. I believe that it is the inspired word of God, and the most reliable account on the origins of the world, since obviously none of us was around to witness the whole Creation. In those cases where I disagree with other fundamentalists concerning the first eleven chapters of Genesis, it is either because I believe the text was translated improperly, or because I pay attention to a particular phrase or verse that others overlook; where there is doubt I believe the text was totally accurate when it was first written down.

In a quarter century of secondary research I have come across many books with thought-provoking ideas on our prehistory. Because of that I must admit up front that many hypotheses proposed in this work did not originate with me, but came from an assortment of scholars of many different backgrounds and persuasions; I'm sure that if you could put all of them in one room the disagreements would be fierce and considerable! Since some of these theories are certifiably wild, I ask you to read the following pages with an open mind and wait till the end before drawing any conclusions. I may be wrong on some issues, and in fact have changed my mind on many details since I started, so I will say that the picture of the pre-3000 B.C. world that I will portray is consistent with the data I have gathered so far, and may change again as more information becomes available.(1)

Now that I have told you where we are going, enjoy the ride!

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How Did We Go So Wrong?

"Yesterday I found a laptop computer lying on a table. If this had happened 200 years ago, we would have thought that this clever device had a designer, and go looking for the maker. Now we know better. The computer has no maker, but it came about through a process of evolution. First the silicon, aluminum and other minerals that make it up were gathered through natural actions into one place. After that simple tools and parts developed, like magnets and screws. Then the plastic outer casing formed, to protect the inner parts during the next stages. Then came the screen and the batteries. Finally it evolved a brain--the microprocessor chip! We know all this happened because of recent discoveries. Last year they found a Neanderthal hard drive in California, and a friend of mine has a fine example of Java Computer (a TRS-80) at home. Any day now we might find the missing link between computers and electric can openers!"

The above paragraph probably sounds utterly ridiculous to you. If a professor stood up in front of a class and said it seriously, we'd probably send some medics with a "jacket" for him to try on. Yet this has been the modern approach to the origin of life for over a century.

People have often proposed strange ideas concerning the origins of life. Two hundred years ago, scientists seriously believed in a theory called "spontaneous generation," which states that life can be produced by nonliving matter. They thought that maggots came from spoiled meat, not from flies, and that if you put a dirty shirt and some wheat in a box and left them for three weeks, you would get mice! It took just a few experiments to disprove that idea. For the meat-maggot connection, the experimenter put samples of meat in open jars, and covered some of them with screens; the maggots only appeared on the unscreened meat, since the screens kept the flies from laying their eggs on the rest. From that came a new (and correct) biological theory: life can only come from other life. Nevertheless, just a few years later came a new theory of "spontaneous generation," which claims that under the right conditions, life can evolve from nonliving organic chemicals, and change itself with no conscious direction to meet just about any challenge that comes along. Most scientists have accepted it and taught it as fact. In classrooms and popular publications like Time-Life Books and National Geographic, they teach it as Gospel truth, while they dismiss other theories, if they even mention them, as the ravings of lunatics and fundamentalists. How did this come about?

It started in the eighteenth century, a time often called the "Enlightenment" or "The Age of Reason," when philosophers looked for a way to free people from the fear of God. It took them years of dedication to do it, but eventually they succeeded, and called it liberation from the superstition of the past. Until now most people believed that God ("the gods" if you were pagan) created the earth and man, but that also implied personal responsibility for one's actions. Men like Voltaire and Rousseau detested the idea of being accountable to anyone more important than themselves. For them the big challenge was explaining where we came from without a supreme being having anything to do with it. Atheism has been around for centuries--Psalms 14:1 answers it with "The fool has said in his heart: There is no god"--but it was never respectable until it could come up with a believable alternative to creation.(2)

The idea that "where there is a design there must be a designer" was so strong that even those who did not love God had a hard time dislodging it from their view of the universe. In the eighteenth century there was a popular belief called Deism, which says that God created the universe, but then went away and hasn't been seen since. Benjamin Franklin was a Deist, meaning that he believed in an inactive, impersonal God, but wasn't willing to take the next step and say the universe came into being without God. One day he received an orrery, a beautiful brass model of the solar system with carefully designed clockwork that makes the planets go around the sun at the same speeds as the real ones. To get the atheists to rethink their stand, Franklin had the orrery displayed at his next party, and whenever somebody asked him who made it, he answered: "No one. It just happened."

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Theories Concerning the Origin of the Solar System

The attacks on creation started in the heavens, then on earth. In ancient times the question of how the universe began was answered by priests, who made up silly stories involving thunderous gods like Zeus, Ra, Marduk, etc.

Scientific answers only became possible after the invention of the telescope, around 1600. Sir Isaac Newton and his assistant, William Whiston, suggested that the planets formed somewhere in deep space, and were captured by the sun later. This wasn't acceptable to everybody, but until more observations were made it would have to do. Since we know from their writings that Newton and Whiston had strong Puritan convictions, I doubt if they would have accepted the theories that came along after them.

The first to successfully challenge the idea that God created the Earth was a German named Immanuel Kant. Originally a Lutheran Pietist, Kant left his religious upbringing when he grew up and became the first of a long line of skeptics. We now regard him as the founder of the German school of rationalism, which later included in its ranks such notables as Feuerbach, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. He chose as his main influences Descartes the philosopher, Leibnitz the mathematician, Newton the scientist, and Emmanuel Swedenborg, an occult practitioner who claimed to have séances with men on Jupiter and other planets and stars. Determined to improve on them, in 1755 he published a work called A General History of the Nature and Theory of the Heavens.

Kant proposed that the solar system began when a big cloud shrank, formed a ball shape, started rotating, grew warmer through gravitational contraction, and eventually turned into the sun. However, the sun rotated too fast to collect all of the cloud's matter into itself, so some of it spun out into rings around the sun. These rings clumped together to form smaller balls of gas, which then cooled and solidified into planets. Kant's basic theory was elaborated on in 1792 by a Frenchman, Simon LaPlace, so now we call their theory the Kant-LaPlace theory.

Some problems came up, though, in the nineteenth century. The main one was the discovery that the sun indeed rotates, but only once in a month. For it to throw off rings of gas, as Kant and LaPlace supposed, it would have to spin about fifty times faster. Because of that, astronomers started looking for new theories on the solar system's beginnings. All of them, however, have followed the same basic assumptions made by Kant: (1) that the planets came from a piece of the sun, (2) the solar system is hundreds of millions of years old at least, (3) and that God had nothing to do with its formation.

The first alternative theory came from a contemporary of Kant, the Frenchman Georges Buffon. Buffon proposed that a comet collided with the sun, and that the matter spewed out from that cosmic accident cooled and became the planets. Then in 1881 George Darwin, the second son of Charles Darwin, proposed a similar theory, in which a passing star nearly hits the sun and draws out through tidal action part of the sun's matter. This matter then went into stable orbits and cooled to become planets. We call these theories "catastrophic theories" because they portray planetary creation as an interstellar accident, rather than a regular occurrence.

The catastrophic view of planetary creation became the most popular after Thomas Chamberlin and Forest Moulton added the planetesimal hypothesis (1902). In brief, they said that the gasses pulled out of the sun cooled into pebble-sized particles called planetesimals, which then pulled each other into large groups by gravitational action. These planetesimal collections fused into larger bodies, and thus became the planets. In 1919 James Jeans modified the theory with the suggestion that the original cloud of gas produced by the near-collision was cigar-shaped; that is why the planets nearest and farthest from the sun (Mercury & Pluto) are the smallest, while the planet in the middle (Jupiter) is the largest. Several other astronomers in the 1920s and 30s proposed that there were once two stars in the solar system, but one of them went nova (exploded) and its pieces became the planets.

Yet none of the catastrophic theories was a perfect answer, either. The reason was a matter of mathematical probability. There is so much room in space that the chance of two stars colliding is about as great as the chance that two flies buzzing around in the Grand Canyon might hit each other. It was estimated that only one star in 100,000 could ever produce a system of planets this way, meaning that a typical galaxy should be terribly empty of planets. Those who believed that the earth could be formed without God's help didn't want our solar system to be that unique; it might imply that maybe there is a creator after all.

As a result, a modified form of the Kant-LaPlace theory came back into style. In 1949 Carl Von Weiszacker proposed a "turbulent" origin for the solar system, in which the planets condensed out of the same cloud which formed the sun, but a cloud that rotated more slowly, with a series of eddies and counter currents going in every direction to keep all the matter from collapsing into the sun before it had time to cool into planetesimals. This has been the generally accepted theory ever since.

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What Are Fossils?

While Kant and company were looking up to the sky, other scientists were looking at the rocks for clues to our beginnings. For most of history, people had been digging up fossils without thinking they were very special. Only a few Greek philosophers like Anaximander and Aristotle thought that fossils were a record of extinct life; Anaximander came up with a theory that all life on land evolved from fish originally, twenty-six centuries before Darwin offered the same. If a fossil was impressive enough, it might be imagined that it came from a supernatural being. For example, some Central Asian nomads could have found the skeleton of a protoceratops in Mongolia, centuries before Roy Chapman Andrews discovered this dinosaur, noted it combined a beak with a body the size of a lion, and guessed it was a griffin; all you need to do is add wings and feathers. Likewise, the Sioux Indians might call a pterodactyl skeleton a dead "thunderbird," and the Chinese called the fossils they found long gu, meaning dragon bones.(3)

It took an amazingly long time for scientists to agree on what to do about fossils; because they did not know how fossils were made (see Chapter 4), they could not explain why the ground would contain stones that looked like bones, shells and leaves. And because many fossils came from species of plants and animals that are alive today, they refused to consider the possibility that fossils could represent life that no longer existed; after all, why would God create a creature, only to allow it to die out later? Some thought they were natural formations that had nothing to do with living things; others proposed that God created fossils as a test of our faith, to see who could be decieved into believing false ideas because of their existence.

One of those who believed that God played a trick with fossils was Johann Bartholomew Adam Beringer (1667-1740), chair of natural history at the University of Würzburg and chief physician to the Prince Bishop of Würzburg. Beringer liked to take his students on field trips to dig for fossils, and this led to an early hoax. In 1725, two colleagues, J. Ignatz Roderick and Johann Georg von Eckhart, decided to mess with Beringer by burying fake fossils at his favorite dig site. Soon Beringer was bringing back stone carvings of lizards, frogs, spiders in their webs, birds, slugs and butterflies. Here he proved to be a lousy scientist; while others said they could not be real fossils, Beringer published a book about them, Lithographiæ Wirceburgensis. When Roderick and Eckhart made some more fakes with the word "God" engraved on them in Aramaic, Hebrew and Babylonian, Beringer only believed in them more; in fact, the inscriptions made him stop believing that prehistoric pagans could have carved the fossils, because pagans wouldn't know the name of God!

In his book, Beringer went so far as to declare the fossils were "so exactly fitted to the dimensions of the stones, that one would swear that they are the work of a very meticulous sculptor." He also noted that some had marks that looked like the work of a knife striking in the wrong place, again missing what was so obvious to everyone else. Realizing that their prank was getting out of hand, Roderick and Eckhart told Beringer that the fossils were fakes, without admitting they had planted them. Instead, Beringer accused the two of trying to stop him from proving the fossils had a godly origin. He refused to believe he had been duped until he found a "fossil" with his own name on it. This caused him to retaliate by suing Roderick and Eckhart; he also tried to save his reputation by buying up all copies of his book. In the end the court battle discredited all three of them, but paradoxically, Beringer kept his job and went on to write more books. Some of the stones, now called "lying stones" (Lügensteine in German), can be seen today at museums in Oxford, England and Haarlem, Netherlands. The point of all this is that two centuries before Piltdown Man and Archaeoraptor, before people even knew what fossils were good for, some were willing to screw up the fossil record with hoaxes for their own purposes.

From Washington, Jefferson and Madison, to Clinton, Dean and Franken.

This may be the worst example of a fossil put together incorrectly. In 1663 somebody found part of the skeleton of a woolly rhinoceros in Germany, and they assembled the bones to create the infamous "Magdeburg Unicorn." The woolly rhinoceros was one of the largest animals in Europe during the ice age, and more recently some naturally freeze-dried woolly rhinos have been found preserved in Siberia, with their hair and internal organs intact, so today we know what they really looked like. By the way, who said that a rhino is an ugly, "white trash unicorn," that did not take care of itself?

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Later in the eighteenth century, some fossils turned up that could not be associated with any living creature, like dinosaur bones and the 9-inch sabers of saber toothed tigers. Because of those findings, scholars took a new interest in fossils and the science of paleontology was born. To explain the fossils, a theory called catastrophism arose, which stated that fossils came from animals that were buried in tremendous catastrophes, like Noah's Flood. For example, they mistook a mammoth's skull for that of a one-eyed, tusked giant (they incorrectly assumed that the hole where the trunk came out was an eye socket); the reason why there aren't any of these monsters around today is because they weren't taken on the Ark, and drowned in the Flood. And the Flood wasn't the only catastrophe to rock the earth, only the most severe. A series of catastrophes was suggested to explain the tremendous number of fossils and massive rock formations that now exist.

When the theory of evolution was developed, which explained fossils without resorting to the Bible, the catastrophists immediately rejected it. Sir John Herschel, son of the famous astronomer William Herschel, called it "the theory of higgelty-piggelty." It is worth noting that three of the greatest scientists of the nineteenth century--Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, and Louis Agassiz--all opposed evolution, but today's thinkers ignore that, even though we have disproved none of the theories Mendel, Pasteur and Agassiz had on life, with far more sophisticated equipment than they had (Mendel didn't even have a lab!).

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The first author who wrote on the earth's prehistory from a non-catastrophist viewpoint was a Scotsman, James Hutton (1726-97). In 1795 he published a book called Theory of the Earth. Here a theory called uniformitarianism was put forth as the way to explain the nature of the earth. Hutton stated that the processes which raise mountains, erode the landscape, and otherwise change the face of the earth are extremely gradual processes. He presumed that the Highlands of his home country were raised at a rate of millimeters per millennium, during which even a dozen generations of people would not be likely to notice a change. How did he know this? He didn't; he just assumed that nothing which shaped our world in the past is different in any way from what is shaping it now. Hutton also assumed that the earth is extremely old, with "No vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end." In so doing, he ignored the evidence being gathered by astronomers that pointed to a catastrophic history of the solar system, like the craters on the moon, Saturn's rings, and the nature of comets(4); just four years after Hutton's death, the first asteroid--possibly a piece of an exploded planet--was discovered. Because of that, his work was not widely accepted at the time, but it intrigued Charles Lyell (1797-1875), a lawyer turned geologist.

Lyell considered himself a student of William "Strata" Smith (1769-1839), the geologist who founded modern stratigraphy. It was Smith who first suggested that the age of rocks can be dated by their location--younger rocks will always be found on top of older ones--and that rocks containing similar fossils are likely to be the same age. Between 1830 and 1833 Lyell published three volumes entitled Principles of Geology, which successfully advanced Hutton's theory of uniformitarianism. Lyell argued that it took millions of years for any geologic event to take place, and set up the scale of time which still appears unchanged in today's geology textbooks. He divided the earth's past into four eras that were each millions of years in length (Pre-Cambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic), and subdivided each era into smaller periods. Ever since then "The present is the key to the past" has been a watchword of science. To quote Lyell:

"All theories are rejected which involve the assumption of sudden and violent catastrophies [sic] and revolutions of the whole earth, and its inhabitants . . . ."(5)

Lyell also put a date on the ice age (1 million B.C.). This event had just been discovered a few years before by Louis Agassiz (see Chapter 11), and Lyell called it a "recent" event, declaring it was caused by several thousand years of unusually heavy snowfalls that did not completely melt each spring. Soon geologists noticed that the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls showed evidence of having been created by the advancing glaciers of the ice age, and that Niagara falls is eroding at a measurable rate. Residents of the area told Lyell that the falls receded by about three feet per year, so he measured the distance to their original location (the entrance to Lake Ontario), and found that he was 988,000 years off; only 12,000 years were needed for the falls to reach their present location! Lyell's response was to change the figures; he concluded that the natives had been wrong, and that the falls were really receding only a foot a year. This allowed him to date the end of the ice age to 35,000 years ago.(6)

The scientists of Lyell's day grudgingly acknowledged his theory, but professors in the humanities welcomed it wholeheartedly. Uniformitarianism prospered, because it was anti-Genesis and appeared scientific at the same time. Then along came Charles Darwin, who applied the same rules to biology. Darwin found Lyell's work so crucial to his own that he wrote:

"He who can read Sir Charles Lyell's grand work on the Principles of Geology, which the future historian will recognize as having produced a revolution in natural science, and yet does not admit how vast have been the vast periods of time, may at once close this volume."(7)

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Charles Darwin

Now we are up to the most important figure in this story, Charles Darwin (1809-1882). To begin with, the theory of evolution did not spring fully developed from his mind one day. In fact, you could say it evolved (pun intended), and he was already leaning in that direction before he got started. What most history and science books won't tell you is that he came from a family that had been interested in how living things function for a long time; his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), actually laid the groundwork for the theory. A physiologist, philosopher, poet and Abolitionist, Erasmus was known as one of the great thinkers of his day, but the public was not ready to accept his ideas concerning biology.

In 1796, more than a decade before Charles Darwin was born, the elder Darwin put down those ideas in a book called Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life. Like the Greek philosophers mentioned earlier, Erasmus had come to believe that all life evolved from sea creatures, though he could not think of a mechanism that could change one organism into another. And that's not all; Erasmus summarized his version of evolution in a poem, which was published in 1802, shortly after his death:

"Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in ocean's pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing."--Erasmus Darwin. The Temple of Nature.

Charles Darwin was also encouraged to study life by his father, a physician who kept a garden as a hobby. When he grew up he found employment as a naturalist on a research vessel, the H.M.S. Beagle. For five years the Beagle sailed up and down the Pacific coast of South America, and at first Darwin thought the spectacular rock formations he saw in the Andes could only have a catastrophic origin. As time went on, though, he changed his views in favor of uniformitarianism, and when he reached the Galapagos Islands, he thought he had found a showcase for biological development. Each of those isolated little islands had its own collection of birds, lizards, and giant tortoises, similar to those found on each of the other islands, but like snowflakes; no two communities were alike. Even more important, these mini-ecosystems had not yet been contaminated by humans and their domesticated animals (later on people would hunt the tortoises and mess up things by introducing dogs, cats, pigs and rats, but that's another story). From that Darwin formulated his theory of how natural selection was responsible for this diversity, and by combining it with Lyell's geologic periods, produced the theory of evolution as we know it.

Charles Darwin, seen late in his career.

Darwin spent twenty years gathering evidence to back his theory up. Then he announced it to the world in 1859, with the publication of On The Origin of Species by Natural Selection. The book was an immediate bestseller; all 1,500 copies of the first printing were sold on the first day. Before this Darwin had primed the public with two books that contained parts of his theory, and Lyell urged him to hurry up and get The Origin of Species out before somebody else beat him to it.(8) Thus it now appears that Darwin had a successful press agent, and evolution was popularized and accepted before any of its assumptions could be firmly put to the test. Thus the philosophy of the Enlightenment, uniformitarianism and evolution became a three-member team; each challenged traditional Christian thinking, ran interference for the others and worked to promote the others.

Actually Darwin would not be considered a qualified scientist if he lived today; his only degree was in theology, and he dropped out of medical school after only two years. Unlike his successors, he never declared that evolution was a fact, provable beyond a doubt, and toward the end of his life he was rather surprised to find that the theory he invented had become a new religion. This also helps to explain why one lady, when she was told about Darwin's theory, piously remarked, "Let us hope it is not true, and, if it is, that it does not become generally known."

Am I not a man and a brother?

The most successful Abolitionist ad showed a crying black man in chains and asked, "Am I not a man and a brother?" (see above). By the time Darwin published The Origin of Species, slavery had been abolished in Western Europe, so the British humor magazine Punch found another use for the slogan (see below).

Cartoon of an ape wearing an Abolitionist sandwich board.

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Evolution Comes to America

Because Darwin had published The Origin of Species only a year and a half before the American Civil War began, it took longer for evolution to catch on in the United States; Americans had other things to think about for a while. By the time Americans paid attention to it, Ulysses S. Grant was president. Henry Adams, a Harvard historian and a descendant of the two presidents named Adams, hated Grant and actually tried to use him as evidence against evolution. He explained it this way:

"Simple-minded beyond the experience of Wall Street or State Street, [Grant] resorted, like most men of the same intellectual calibre, to commonplaces when at a loss for expression: 'Let us have peace!' or 'The best way to treat a bad law is to execute it'; or a score of such reversible sentences generally to be gauged by their sententiousness; but sometimes he made one doubt his good faith; as when he seriously remarked to a particularly bright young woman that Venice would be a fine city if it were drained. In Mark Twain this suggestion would have taken rank among his best witticisms; in Grant it was a measure of simplicity not singular. . . . That, two thousand years after Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, a man like Grant should be called--and should actually and truly be--the highest product of the most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous. One must be as commonplace as Grant's own commonplaces to maintain such an absurdity. The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin."(9)

From Washington, Jefferson and Madison, to Clinton, Dean and Franken.
And here is the same kind of thinking, applied to early twenty-first century politics. In the top row are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. In the bottom row are Bill Clinton, Howard Dean, and Al Franken.

By casting Bible-believing Christians as ignorant bigots, and by portraying their point of view as the modern, scientific one, humanists succeeded in winning over the world to the uniformitarian, evolutionary line of thinking. Leading the way were a series of anti-Christian apologists, the most famous being Thomas Huxley; most of them, like the Enlightenment philosophers, were motivated by a desire to refute all evidence that they might be accountable at some point to an all-knowing, all-powerful God. The process was complete by the end of the nineteenth century. Gradually, those who attacked evolution found themselves defending it, for there was not enough evidence to support the modern creationist doctrine until the mid-twentieth century. One such person was the president of Yale University, Noah Porter. In his day an English philosopher, Herbert Spencer, applied evolution to biology, sociology, psychology and other fields of study. Porter personally conducted a volunteer class to refute Spencer's ideas, only to find that by the end of the term, everyone in the class had become a believer in social Darwinism.(10)

From the evolutionists' point of view, the last nail in the coffin of their opponents was driven in by the "John Scopes monkey trial." This is still the popular idea today, but as Paul Harvey used to say, you need to hear the rest of the story. The most important point is that the whole thing was set up to discredit creationists by the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that has taken notoriously anti-Christian stands on other issues (pornography and the display of religious symbols, to name just two). In March 1925 the state of Tennessee forbade the teaching of evolution. The ACLU responded by placing an ad in Tennessee newspapers which asked for a teacher who could teach the theory of evolution in public schools. A group of businessmen from the town of Dayton, TN, thought that a trial over the matter, if held in Dayton, would bring great publicity and lots of visitors, especially if it was broadcast worldwide. The leader of the group encouraged John T. Scopes, a football coach and substitute biology teacher, to answer the ad. Sure enough, Scopes became the center of a national controversy when he was put on trial for violating the law. Scopes did not deny the charge; he even encouraged his students to testify against him.

John Scopes
John Scopes.

Like the first O. J. Simpson trial, the John Scopes trial quickly turned into a media circus, becoming a showdown between the fundamentalists and the evolutionists. The prosecution was conducted by William Jennings Bryan, who had been the Democratic candidate for president three times, while Clarence Darrow, a famous criminal lawyer, conducted the defense. Both men volunteered their services. There was even an attempt to get H. G. Wells, the celebrated author and a well-known atheist, to join the defense team. At one point Darrow cross-examined Bryan, who proved deficient in both Biblical and biological knowledge. Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, but he never had to pay it. The case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, and that court threw out the conviction on a technicality; according to the state constitution, the most a judge could fine someone was $50. At the same time the anti-evolution law was upheld, and it stayed on the books until 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared a similar statute unconstitutional.

Darrow became a hero for upholding evolution, while Bryan died five days after the trial ended. However, the real winner was the town of Dayton; today a few tourists still come to see the Dayton courthouse and a museum dedicated to the trial. The story about the case was made into a movie, "Inherit the Wind," in 1960.

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Catastrophism Returns: Some Suggested Literature

Evolutionists now had the upper hand in places of learning, but the catastrophists never disappeared completely. When flaws in the theory of evolution cropped up, a few catastrophists arose who were bold enough to challenge what had now become the scientific orthodoxy. One of the first was George McCready Price, a prolific writer during the 1910s, 20s and 30s. Among his publications are Evolutionary Geology and the New Catastrophism, The New Geology, and Common Sense Geology; you may still find these in a large library. An expert in the geology of his day, Price made many field trips, studied fossils, and compiled a large amount of physical evidence for a universal flood, which he believed was caused by tidal action. But then he went no further. He was considered a major authority in his own denomination (the Seventh-Day Adventist Church), and many other Christians read his works with interest, but he got no following from secular scholars, who heaped on him an unfair amount of scorn.

Price's scholarly heirs were Byron Nelson and Alfred M. Rehwinkel. Nelson wrote After Its Kind (1927) and The Deluge Story in Stone (1931); Rehwinkel published The Flood in 1951. Both of them, like Price, were seminary professors, and they also talked about the evidence in the rocks for a universal flood, though they also looked at other topics, like ancient flood traditions, which Price largely overlooked. They were quite vague on what might have caused the flood, leaving that issue for later catastrophists to tackle.

The best-known (and most controversial) catastrophist was Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979). Whereas most catastrophists come from a Christian background, Velikovsky was an atheistic Jew, a psychiatrist who studied under one of Sigmund Freud's students. Velikovsky thought that the Old Testament was accurate, and that the supernatural events in it can be explained as natural phenomena, usually caused by something happening in space; for example, the tidal pull of the planet Venus caused the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus. He announced these theories in 1950 with the publication of Worlds in Collision. An incredible barrage of criticism resulted from those who did not believe (and usually did not read) his book. Velikovsky responded with Earth in Upheaval (1955), which added scientific evidence for a young, violent earth, but he did not organize it as well as his other works, which rely on various mythologies, the Talmud, and other ancient literature to back up his points.

Personally I am inclined to believe that while not all of Velikovsky's ideas were right (his Freudian background made him draw some strange conclusions), he was correct more often than his critics would like to admit. The criticism directed against him was mostly unwarranted, and unfortunately it forced him to spend most of his time defending his ideas. From the 1940s onward he also worked on a reconstruction of ancient history from the time of the Exodus to Alexander the Great, which I consider to be even better than his scientific theories, but he died of old age when it was only two-thirds completed, leaving today's catastrophists to speculate how he would have finished it.

Charles Hapgood and Ivan Sanderson looked at the large number of frozen mammoths in Siberia and Alaska, and concluded that a catastrophic event must have caused the ice age, rather than a gradual cooling of the earth. Both contributed magazine articles on the subject; Hapgood wrote "The Mystery of the Frozen Mammoths"(11) and among Sanderson's is "The Riddle of the Frozen Giants."(12) Another secular catastrophist, Dolph Hooker, looked at patterns of ice flow, heat exchanges, changes in sea level and the composition of the earth's atmosphere, and flooded continental shelves. His work, Those Astounding Ice Ages (1958), challenged the prevailing theory of uniformitarianism without appealing to either the fundamentalism of Price, or the Freudianism of Velikovsky; he simply gathered all the physical evidence in one place and expected the record to speak for itself.

Among recent catastrophist authors the most important is undoubtedly Henry M. Morris (1918-2006), founder of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), in San Diego, CA. Morris was a very prolific writer, with dozens of book titles to his name; no list of creationist literature would be complete without him. His most important work was The Genesis Flood (1961), which he co-wrote with John Whitcomb. A former hydraulic engineer, Morris used that knowledge to give us the most thorough description of how a worldwide flood would change the earth completely. He also labored to keep his writings up to date with such data as atmospheric chemistry, carbon-14 dating, tree rings, meteoritic dust, and the principles of sedimentation.

Donald Wesley Patten (1926-) also tackles the issue of the flood, but from a different angle. In The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch (1966), he does not look much for evidence on earth; instead he uses the planets to advance his theories. Unlike his predecessors, Patten is bold enough to come up with a mechanism to explain what caused the flood. He has a passing moon or planet miss the earth by less than a million miles, and dump hundreds of cubic miles of ice on the north magnetic pole. The resulting super chill quick-freezes the mammoths Hapgood and Sanderson wondered about, starts the ice age, and disrupts the atmosphere and crust of the earth enough to start the deluge. His other major work, The Long Day of Joshua and Six Other Catastrophes (1973), shows that he did a considerable amount of thinking between books. Here he postulates that the planet Mars once had an elliptical orbit that intersected with Earth's, and once every 54 years the two planets met at the point where the orbits crossed. Each time this happened the result was a close encounter which caused extreme earthquakes, tidal and volcanic activity, and meteoritic impacts. Seven of these near misses were severe enough to change history: Noah's flood, the fall of the Tower of Babel, fire on Sodom & Gomorrah, the Exodus, the long day of Joshua, a major earthquake in the time of Joel and Amos, and the destruction of the Assyrian army in Isaiah's time. On the last pass Mars passed so close to Earth that it was thrown from its old orbit into a new one, so nowadays it never comes closer than 35 million miles.

Patten's writings are very well put together, and more balanced than those of his predecessors; he uses plenty of appropriate Bible verses alongside the physical evidence cited. However, he is not entirely convincing. Part of it is that he has not kept his work up to date. For instance, in The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch, he declared that he did not believe in continental drift, which was being verified at the same time(13); instead he believes that two close passes by the mysterious ice-dropping planet can explain the long series of mountain ranges along the southern rim of Eurasia, and the western rim of the Americas. This wouldn't have been so easy if the continents were in different longitudes/latitudes from where they are today. With The Long Day of Joshua, the problem is that he relied mostly on Velikovsky for his references; the only major difference between The Long Day of Joshua and Worlds in Collision is that Patten believed only Mars was responsible for most of the catastrophes, while Velikovsky allowed both Venus and Mars to take part, and hinted that other planets may have been involved in the more distant past. One gets the nagging suspicion that if Velikovsky had not come along first, Patten would not have much to say. In recent years Patten has carried on a lively debate with other catastrophist writers (mostly in a journal called Catastrophism and Ancient History), where he steadfastly holds on to his Martian catastrophe model, since nobody has yet come up with a better theory that can convince everybody.

This is the End of Chapter 1.


1. An English Bible scholar named John Lightfoote wrote a similar commentary on Genesis in 1642, and gave it a better title than the one I used. He called it A Few and New Observations Upon the Book of Genesis: the Most of Them Certain, the Rest Probable, All Harmless, Strange, and Rarely Heard of Before.

2. This brings to mind a joke where two goldfish are in a fishbowl. One asks, "Do you believe in a supreme being?", and the other says, "Of course not!", to which the first fish responds with "All right, then who changes the water in our bowl?"

3. The Chinese pulverized the fossils they found and mixed them with dried snakes and tea to make herbal medicines. Roy Chapman Andrews reported that one family in southwest China had made a living digging up this medicinal ingredient from a rich quarry for 700 years, and lamented at the untold number of priceless remains that must have been ground up over the centuries to cure upset stomachs!
In 2008 Chinese paleontologists announced that the world's largest dinosaur graveyard was at Zhucheng, a city in Shandong province. More than fifty-five tons of fossils had been dug up from there since 1960, and in just one nine-month period (March-December 2008), they unearthed the remains of 7,600 dinosaurs. Since Shandong has been a part of China for at least three thousand years (Lu, the home state of Confucius, was here), my response is that we're lucky to find the fossils now, in view of what the Chinese used to do to them. See what Chapters 4 and 10 say about fossil formation, for an explanation of how so many dead dinosaurs got to that spot.

4. The great astronomers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, like Halley, Newton, Whiston, Cassini, Huygens, Lehman and Wallerius, were all catastrophists, and with good reason.

5. Lyell, Charles, Principles of Geology, (11th ed., rev., New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1892), vol. I, pp. 317-318.

6. Actually he was wrong on both measurements. Niagara Falls is not receding by 1-3 feet/year, but by five feet, and undoubtedly it eroded faster when it carried the vast amount of water running off the melted glaciers of eastern Canada. This means the ice age could not have happened more than 7,300 years ago, but try to find a geology book that mentions this.

7. Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, vol. XLIX of Great Books of the Western World, ed. Robert Hutchins (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1952), pg. 153.

8. One of those rivals was a naturalist named Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913). Wallace went to Singapore in 1854 to collect birds and insects, to sell in London. He figured out right away that he wasn't going to find much if he stayed in the city, so he left Singapore and wandered all around Malaysia and Indonesia for the next eight years. Southeast Asia has a fabulous biodiversity (even today new species of plants and animals are being discovered there), and Wallace came to the same conclusion as Darwin did in the Galapagos; natural selection had caused all these creatures to evolve from a few ancestral species. He sent an essay on the subject to Darwin, and Darwin shared it with Lyell, before using it in his own book. Incredibly, Wallace never declared he had a part in The Origin of Species, though he lived more than half a century after the book was published. Wallace was younger than Darwin, and came from a family that until now had done nothing to make themselves famous, so according to the rules of Victorian etiquette, it would have been unseemly for him to claim that he had thought of evolution first. As a result, Wallace was forgotten until nearly a century after his death, when the National University of Singapore launched a website that presented all his works in one place, Wallace Online.
Darwin's relationship with Richard Owen (1804-92), the scientist who gave the name "dinosaur" to extinct giant reptiles, was not as pleasant. Like Wallace and Darwin, Owen believed that plants and animals had a way to transform themselves into new species. He had half a dozen theories on how this might happen, none of them using natural selection, and never decided which process did the job. Owen may also have been too frightened of religious persecution to publish his ideas. Whatever his reasons for not publishing, he was offended when Darwin published first, and did not give Owen credit for anything. His response was act like one of today's Internet trolls; writing under a pseudonym, he fired off reviews that attacked The Origin of Species, Darwin and his followers, and praised himself. Darwin retaliated with insulting letters that called Owen unscrupulous and narrow-minded. The public knew about this nineteenth-century flame war because newspapers enjoyed publishing letters from it; to laymen the whole business looked like pointless bickering between two eggheads. The vicious exchange may have also kept Darwin from writing a book he had been planning, to put all his ideas inside one volume, a super-textbook that would have included The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and more.

9. Adams, Henry, The Education of Henry Adams, New York, Modern Library, 1906 (1931 edition used), pp. 265-66.

10. Social Darwinism was a way to use evolution to justify one's actions; e.g., the robber barons of the nineteenth century called it a new form of natural selection when they drove their competitors out of business.

11. Coronet, September 1960.

12. The Saturday Evening Post, January 16, 1960.

13. Most creationists have come around to accepting continental drift by now; e.g., Ken Ham of the ICR was my source for the verse in Genesis that may apply to it (see Chapter 7).

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