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THE NEWS!

Newsletter of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists

Volume 9, Number 1 - Spring 2001


The President's Column

Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College
stephen.o.moshier@wheaton.edu

Dear Colleagues of the ACG:

The President of our organization is charged with submitting an annual report of activities to the American Scientific Affiliation. My space here in this issue of the News will contain this report. The President of the ACG does not get a salary or a white house to live in, just a column in the newsletter to fill.

First, let me promote the ASA. The benefits of our relationship with the ASA include our participation in the annual meeting and some legal/financial arrangements (such as, the ASA keeps our vast treasury safe and accountable). ACG members are not required to belong to the ASA, but many members do belong. The recent ASA journal, Perspectives, features articles by ACG members Carol Hill and Glen Morton. Our Secretary/ Treasurer Keith Miller is one of the organizers of the next ASA annual meeting, to be held at Kansas State from July 20 – 23. He will also be leading a field trip to look at Paleozoic cyclothems after the meeting. Find more information on this elsewhere in The News!

The Affiliation of Christian Geologists moved forward with a few new projects during the year 2000. Officers continued their service from the previous year. Official membership in the ACG stands at about 350.

Gatherings – A small group of six members of ACG met together at the annual ASA meeting at Gordon College during the summer. The discussion was about what resources the ACG could provide to the Christian community. The ACG met officially at the Geological Society of America Meeting in Reno, Nevada in November. Attendance was counted at about thirty (26 signed the welcome sheet). The discussion there was about what individuals in the ACG are doing in their communities to raise science/geology literacy and creation stewardship awareness. An informal gathering was planned for the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting, but there is no report.

Web site and Internet Activity – The ACG website (www.wheaton.edu/acg) continues to offer membership information, recent newsletters, several essays from past newsletters, and links to other resources on the net related to geology and faith-science issues. The Ask a Geologist feature brings about three questions each week (averaged over the past year). About six members are involved in writing responses. Most new members are finding us via the web site. It is one of the most active web pages on the Wheaton College server.

The ACG sponsored Internet discussion group (list serve) has been less active this year than in the past.

Newsletter – Only one issue of The News! (our newsletter) was issued during the year.

Field Trip – Possibly the highlight of the year for our organization was a field trip that was held before the Geological Society of America Meeting in Nevada. Wayne Belcher organized and led a full day trip in the Frenchman Mountains area north of Las Vegas. About 12 members participated, including a young geologist from Nigeria who learned of the trip from our web site announcement!


The Editor's Corner

Steven H. Schimmrich, SUNY Ulster
schimmrs@sunyulster.edu

Once again, I must apologize for the long gaps between recent issues of The News! I had planned to get out a Winter 2000 issue of the newsletter but real life interfered and God blessed my wife and I with a healthy set of twins (a boy and a girl!). Those who are parents know about the sleep deprivation and total disruption of your lifestyle that follows such events.

Anyway, we do need submissions for the next issue of The News! which I hope to get out toward the end the summer so that I can include information about the annual GSA meeting in Boston next November (and don't forget about the annual meeting of the ASA coming in July). Please e-mail me any submissions you may have.


Caring for God's Creation

56th Annual Meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation
Kansas State University, July 20 – 23, 2001

Keith Miller, Kansas State University
kbmill@ksu.edu

The 2001 American Scientific Affiliation annual meeting at Kansas State University will be an event you will not want to miss. The theme for next year's meeting was chosen explicitly to draw on the research and teaching strengths at Kansas State. This theme encompasses issues of environmental stewardship, species and ecosystem preservation, global change, pollution control and abatement, sustainable agriculture, agricultural economics, cultural issues of land stewardship, and international environmental issues. This theme also has considerable relevance to the geological sciences.

Two world-class scientists will deliver the keynote addresses. Sir Ghillean Prance, recently retired director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England and renowned ethnobotanist, will join Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, Salina Kansas, to challenge us as we consider our role as stewards of God's marvelous creation.

The work of Wes Jackson and The Land Institute is highlighted at their web site: http://www.landinstitute.org. Wes Jackson, president of The Land Institute, earned a BA in biology from Kansas Wesleyan, an MA in botany from University of Kansas, and a PhD in genetics from North Carolina State University. He established and served as chair of one of the country's first environmental studies programs at California State University-Sacramento and then returned to his native Kansas to found The Land Institute. He is the author of several books including New Roots for Agriculture and Becoming Native to This Place and is widely recognized as a leader in the international movement for a more sustainable agriculture. He was a 1990 Pew Conservation Scholar and in 1992 received a MacArthur Fellowship.

Sir Ghillean Prance, former director of the Royal Botanic Gardens is a leader in the field of Ethnobotany. See http://www.rbgkew.org.uk for information regarding the Royal Botanic Gardens.

A plant taxonomist, Prance has spent more than eight years in Amazonian Brazil conducting fieldwork and botanical exploration and has lived with no less than 16 indian tribes. He has written 13 books, edited nearly a dozen more and published more than 300 papers on plant systematics, plant ecology, ethnobotany and conservation. It is his scientific expertise in the field of classification that brought him to the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, as its dynamic and highly influential Director.

Retiring in August of last year as the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where there is a Center for Economic Botany, he served for 11 years as one of Kew's greatest directors since Sir William Hooker became the first in 1841. He has also served as the Former Director of Research at the New York Botanical Garden -where he started the Institute of Economic Botany.

In pursuit of plants he has explored the rainforests of Brazil for the past 30 years. Professor Sir Ghillean T. Prance is widely known for his studies of the ethnobotany, ecology and systematics of tropical plants. Prof. Prance's outstanding personal contributions to these scientific developments have been rewarded by a growing list of honors, including the Distinguished Service Award of the New York Botanical Garden, the Linnean Medal for Botany and the Patron's Medal of the Royal Geographic Society. He was also elected a fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded the International Cosmos Prize for his environmental work in the Amazon, A Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1993, the prestigious International Prize in 1994, a knighthood in 1995, Royal Horticultural Society's Victoria Medal of Honor, honorary degrees at 11 universities in Europe and the Americas, and most recently, the Dr. David Fairchild Medal presented at the Kampong, Miami by the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Additional perspectives on his life and research can be found in a biography that appeared a few years ago: Langmead, C. 1995. A Passion for Plants: From the Rainforest of Brazil to Kew Gardens. Oxford, Lion Publishing.

Although the theme for the 2001 ASA conference is Caring for God's Creation, there will be symposia and presentations addressing other interests and concerns of ASA members. Of particular importance will be presentations in new symposia by young scientists within the ASA. These symposia will feature the work of current graduate and undergraduate students.

There will also be a geological fieldtrip, “Ancient Ice Ages, Sea Levels, and Climate Change", that will look at cyclothemic sedimentation in the Manhattan, Kansas area on July 23. This will focus on rocks of Early Permian age with spectacularly developed cyclic strata. These cyclothems record dramatic changes not only in depositional environments but also in climate. This will be a great opportunity to discuss many interesting interpretive geological questions.

This meeting promises to an excellent one!. The pre-registration deadline is June 1, so make plans now to attend. More information can be found at the ASA web page (http://www.asa3.org), the conference web site (http://www.eece.ksu.edu/~rdmiller/ASAannmtg.html), or by contacting Keith Miller at 785-537-5066.


ACG Comments to the GSA Panel on Evolution and Creationism

Following a call for comments in GSA Today, ACG President Steve Moshier drafted a memo to the GSA panel that was organized to draft a position statement on evolution and creationism. The text of his memo is reprinted below.

“As a member of the GSA and President of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists, I would like to offer my services and the resources of the ACG to your panel.

The Affiliation of Christian Geologists was formed in 1989 to:

The ACG is affiliated with the American Scientific Affiliation, a national organization of scientists interested in issues at the intersection of faith and science.

The current ACG membership is about 350, most of whom also belong to GSA, NAGT, AGU, AAPG and other professional geological societies (in which some have held positions of leadership). For the past 10 years the ACG has sponsored a gathering during the GSA annual meeting which has been listed in the official convention schedule. Our membership includes geoscientists working in a cross-section of disciplines and employed with government surveys, industry and universities. A visit to our web site would provide familiarity with the views and interests of our members, so I invite you there (www.wheaton.edu/acg).

Members of the ACG are, of course, interested in the topic of evolution and creationism and we are acutely aware of the tensions that such a position statement by GSA might address. We share the prevailing concern in the GSA and other scientific organizations over the inappropriate use of science to promote certain religious/political movements and the effect of this on national science education. Furthermore, most of us are disturbed that these movements are popular in churches that we attend. To be sure, there are some ACG members who accept and promote what is known as special creation or flood geology but, to my knowledge many of these individuals also belong to the GSA.

I am sure that you will be discussing the statement¹s audience – the population you are trying to reach. If the audience is beyond the scientific community, to educators and to the general public, then of course you will be reaching out to many people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians. It is safe for us to assume that a majority of ACG members also identify themselves with this community of faith. If the statement even inadvertently antagonizes this group, nothing will be served. I feel that the ACG can help GSA be more effective in efforts to address science and religion issues.

I hope that what follows will be welcomed as a preliminary contribution to your worth-while project.

It is very important to us in the ACG that the GSA statement would not perpetuate the "warfare" myth in which religion is painted as the historical enemy of scientific progress. This perception was expressed by a participant at the Paleontological Society short course on Evolution, Religion and Science Education at the 1999 GSA national meeting. Fortunately, panelist Ronald Numbers was there to authoritatively declare that history of science scholars reject this view. In fact, the biblical worldview of an orderly creation stimulated scientific investigation during the Renaissance. Awe of nature as creation continues to inspire Christians working in the sciences in our time.

Conversely, it would be counterproductive if the statement played into fears among people of faith that modern science poses a threat to religion. There have been statements issued by other scientific and educational groups (or views expressed by scientists in their popular writings) which have tended to marginalize communities of faith, perhaps unintentionally, by implying the superiority of science over religion. For example, a book from the National Science Teachers Association (The Creation Controversy and the Science Classroom) contains a table that identifies "non-theistic evolution" as the "basic stance of science." It is also known that the National Association of Biology Teachers had to reconsider the association of "impersonal and unsupervised" phenomena in their definition of evolution. I hope that the GSA statement will be clear in it¹s endorsement of good science (including evolution), but avoid teleological claims or perpetuate the common misunderstanding that evolution and creation (or evolution and creationism) are mutually exclusive concepts.

The potential for misunderstanding even exists in the dualistic juxtaposition of the terms "evolution and creationism." Consider the meanings and implications of words such as evolution, creation, evolutionism, and creationism. Evolution is either a description of biological change over time or, the process by which life changes (natural selection, speciation, adaptation, etc.). Does GSA intend to broaden the meaning of evolution to include other origins topics of interest to geologists, such as big bang cosmology, deep time and the physical history of the planets? Creation includes the physical world that God created, without necessary implication of how it was created. Evolutionism might be a worldview akin to philosophical naturalism or something all together different. Expressions of creationism, a worldview rooted in Judeo-Christian theology, range from special creation (and young earth geology) to progressive (old earth) creationism to continuous (old earth) creationism.

The GSA has the resources and responsibility to promote good science education and public policy regarding science education. I am sure that this is the ultimate objective of the document you are preparing. The statement should assert our contemporary understanding of the past, based upon two centuries of research in the geosciences, and encourage the appropriate dissemination of this knowledge. I hope that the statement will also respect the limits of science in the human quest to answer the great questions about our origins, and acknowledge the complementary contributions of faith traditions in this quest.”


An Account of the 2000 ACG Field Trip

Wayne R. Belcher, USGS Las Vegas
wbelcher@usgs.gov

At the 1999 GSA meeting in Denver, it was determined that a field trip to examine some aspect of Nevada geology (the GSA Annual meeting would be in Reno) would be undertaken. The purpose of this trip was to foster some understanding between the young and old earth camps that comprise the membership of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists.

On Sunday, November 12, 2000 nine geoscientists, including a Nigerian who had come especially for the field trip from Malaysia, met in Las Vegas, Nevada (“Grace City”, Romans 5:20). Wayne Belcher, the field trip organizer, had chosen the Las Vegas area due to his familiarity with the area (Wayne lives in Las Vegas where he works for the U.S. Geological Survey) and the unique combination of features that makes this area geologically interesting. Unfortunately, no young-earth view adherents could participate in the field trip. The trip opened up with Steve Moshier praying for the trip and Wayne reading Psalm 19.

On the east side of the Las Vegas Valley is the Frenchman Mountain block, consisting of Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau strata turned on its side (making for much easier examination!). Strata from the Precambrian to the Quaternary were examined on the trip. At the base of Frenchman Mountain, the Great Unconformity between the Tapeats Sandstone and the Vishnu Schist-equivalent was examined. Field trip participants were able to put their hands across 1.2 billion years of missing time. Some time was spent in the Bright Angel Shale looking for Olenellus trilobites. Paleozoic marine carbonate strata, as well as the Mesozoic terrestrial deposits of the Chinle and Moenkopi Formations were also observed.

Tertiary basin fill deposited during the Cenozoic extension of the Basin and Range were examined, including rather enigmatic blocks of Precambrian rapakivi granite imbedded in the Tertiary Horse Spring Formation. Close examination of these brecciated blocks revealed them to landslide blocks forming during the opening up of the basin during extension. Some discussion was also involved in the timing of the carving of the Grand Canyon as indicated by the Miocene Muddy Creek Formation. These sediments, deposited in a closed basin, limits the time of the establishment of the lower Colorado River drainage as through-flowing to the Gulf of California to after 5 or 6 million years ago (according to radiometric dating of basalt flows in the Muddy Creek). Younger basalts, intercalated with Colorado River gravels, have been dated at around 4 million years. This is a strong indicator that the Grand Canyon was carved out sometime during this period.

The Aztec (Navajo) Sandstone, a Jurassic-aged desert dune deposit, was examined closely at the Red Rock picnic area in Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Valley of Fire State Park (site of the filming of Star Trek: Generations). The well-sorted nature of the sand grains, the roundness of the grains, and the sweeping cross-bedding of this deposit suggest a desert dune depositional environment. Some of the participants remarked, upon seeing drifts of sand eroded from the sandstone, about the desert sands being freed after millions of years to enter the rock cycle again.

Wayne, being a hydrologist, also took the field trip participants to Rogers Spring, a fault controlled spring near Lake Mead. Some participants felt the temperature of this warm spring by sticking a tentative hand in the water, but were careful not to stick their hands in their mouths (or other facial orifices) after reading the sign warning of amoebas inhabiting thermal springs.

The trip ended with a stop in the Muddy Mountains, in a fenster of the Muddy Mountain thrust plate where Paleozoic carbonate rocks are thrust over Jurassic-aged Aztec Sandstone. A short hike up a side canyon revealed a wall of petroglyphs etched into a desert varnish-like manganese oxide deposited along an exposed joint in the sandstone. The juxtaposition of the petroglyphs and the cross-bedded desert dune deposits of the Aztec Sandstone provided for a great photo opportunity.


The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV)

Essay

Radio Days: My Experiences on Talk Radio

Wayne R. Belcher, USGS Las Vegas
wbelcher@usgs.gov

In mid-July of this year I was working at my home computer typing up a revision to a paper while listening to Christian talk radio. On this particular afternoon, the host of the drive time talk and call-in show on a local AM station, Bill, was reminiscing about his recent vacation to Colorado. He expressed his awe at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a steep gorge in central Colorado carved through metamorphic rock. During his stroll down memory lane, he expressed his disdain for geologists and “their millions of years”. After hearing that I perked up and listened a bit closer. After listening to him poke fun at geologists, my dander was up a little so I called in to the station to express my particular viewpoint as a geologist. After being put on the air, I let him know that I was a professional geologist and that it has been a long tradition in evangelicalism of acceptance of an ancient earth. Bill back-tracked on some of his earlier sarcastic comments about geologists and indicated that they were only having some fun. He asked if I would be willing to come on the air and be interviewed about the age of the earth. I indicated so and a time was set up for the interview in a couple of weeks.

The first interview was about 45 minutes in length. Driving to the station, I was listening to the show and they indicated that they were going to have “Christian geologist” on the show. One of the hosts of the show said he thought that was an oxymoron. I was a little peeved when I got to the station so I prayed in my car before going in. I tried to put a good humor on the comment by introducing myself as Wayne “Oxymoron” Belcher to Fred (the technician), Bill (the host), and Ken (the guest/ “foster” host). They thought this was funny and I think it embarrassed them a little.

The interview started off well, with the hosts of the show bantering about with each other and asking me about my Christian walk and education. They were impressed because I brought in some fossil specimens, rocks, and lots of quotes from evangelicals such as Gleason Archer, R.C. Sproul, and B.B. Warfield, as well as some 18th and 19th century Christian geologists such as William Buckland and Hugh Miller. I started out by quoting from Job about descriptions of how God creates and explaining that scientific descriptions of how God creates are just as legitimate as the literary descriptions we find in the Bible and that scientific explanations do not negate the existence of God. I explained how understanding the doctrine of providence (God working through “natural” means) gives a framework for understanding the interaction of faith and science.

Ken, the guest host, was by far the most aggressive of the three, asking typical young-earth creationist question about physical death before the fall, reliability of radiometric dating, Mt. St. Helens, etc. A caller called in with the appearance of age argument, to which I responded with some of my theological concerns (“Why would God create a world to deceive us?”). People were also very interested in whether I believed in evolution. I indicated that I accepted that evolution is a valid scientific concept, but that it is a separate issue from the age of the earth (the primary issue I felt I was to address on the show). About half way through Bill, the host determined that we were never going do more than scratch the surface of the subject at hand so I was invited back.

The second interview was more frustrating for me than the first. During the first interview I had extended periods of time to express my viewpoints. The second interview was interspersed with a lot of callers, which asked questions all over the map. I had wanted to give an explanation of radiometric dating, but only could in response to callers' questions. Consequently, I felt I was never able to make a coherent case for these methods of age dating. I was also surprised at the interest in a casual comment I had made on my acceptance of a local Noah's flood versus a global flood. Almost every caller wanted more information on this. One caller claimed that Noah's ark had been found (I later found out that he was talking about Ron Wyatt's claim regarding a canoe-shaped geologic structure). I was more than a little amazed at how easily callers blew off the conclusions of evangelical Hebrew and Old Testament scholars that indicate the untenable nature of the young-earth view (such as Gleason Archer).

While I was somewhat frustrated with my performance and inability to make a coherent case for the age of the earth, Bill has invited me back for a third go around. Stay tuned…

Some hints from my experiences…

  1. Pray. Use this as an opportunity to witness for Christ. It is an opportunity to show fellow Christians that scientists are not the enemy and that science is a legitimate avenue to investigate God's creation. Research can lead to worship! My second interview was heard by many people at my office, including some Jews and agnostics. It generated discussions about the gospel and the validity of Christianity.

  2. Get involved. If you hear something you disagree with on a radio or TV show, write a letter or call. On a local call-in radio show, you will probably be put on the air. While in Denver, I wrote a letter to a local Christian FM station which resulted in being interviewed about dinosaurs and people living contemporaneously.

  3. Be prepared. Know how to respond to basic young-earth creationist assertions. Be ready to not only talk about science, but Biblical interpretation and some theology as well. The associate pastor of my church was amazed that the same questions always come up (he is old earth) in these types of discussions. I also brought in a lot of quotes from early geologists, historians of science, evangelical theologians, etc.

  4. Be ready to say “I don't know”. This is a legitimate answer to a question.

  5. Bring in samples. While the audience cannot see them, you can describe what they are. Rocks are our primary evidence for what we read in the books laid open by the earth.

  6. Try to explain things in simple terms. I have a hard time with this because I do not spend much time in education, but hang around with other USGS scientists all day spouting jargon. I do, however, volunteer with elementary school groups and Scout groups, so this helps me in dealing with the public.

  7. Use this as an opportunity to educate the public. Much of what the audience has heard about geology, if anything, is incomplete or downright wrong.

  8. It helps to be somewhat well-traveled to significant geologic sites (my wife claims that all of our vacations are actually geology field trips – which they are!). Since I lived near Mt. St. Helens a few years ago (I actually saw it erupt on my way to work in 1980), I was able to address claims that the volcanic debris is now “solid rock”. Since I had recently hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I could relate my personal interactions with and observations of this monument to deep time.

  9. Be gracious. Ken, the “foster” host tended to be antagonistic and some of the callers were too. Don't be afraid to gently, but firmly, correct bad logic and assertions by callers and the hosts.

  10. Mention the ACG web site. There is a great deal of information on this site, much more than one could repeat during an interview.

  11. Do not over-critique yourself when done. I listened to the tapes later of my performance and thought of better arguments, heard stuff I did not express correctly, etc. and tended to beat myself up about it.

Book Review

Dinosaurs in Your Christian Bookstore: A Review of Two Books for Children

Stephen O. Moshier, Wheaton College
stephen.o.moshier@wheaton.edu

There is a tendency in Christian media to follow cultural cues, whether it is in print, music or children's animation. It was only a matter of time before Christian bookstores would offer picture books for children on Dinosaurs! Two titles caught my attention during a recent visit to the local “family bookstore.” Should we be happy that these books may inspire future members of the ACG?

Before I review the books, let me remind you of the amazing mix of doctrinal positions that are represented in the contemporary Christian bookstore. Buyers beware! Say you are looking for a book on the Holy Spirit. You better not just take the first book off the shelf - there may be a persuasive volume by a tongue-speaking Pentecostal right next to the definitive monograph by a tightlipped dispensationalist. A host of other issues will be represented by various theological positions. Critics of evangelicalism would be surprised by the coexistence of divergent views – true academic freedom.

Of course, this was not always true of one issue, namely creation. For years (virtually from the 1950s through the 80s), if you wanted a book about creation there was only one position represented and that was antievolutionary, the-flood-did-it, special creationism. There were a few exceptions. InterVarsity Press had some noteworthy titles on science. Dave Young and John Wiester tried to bring common-sense geology to the church, but their books had limited runs. In the 1990s Hugh Ross broke the ice with Christian publishers and brought old earth, progressive creationism into the evangelical mainstream. But, from personal experience, I know that Christian publishers are reluctant to publish anything that looks too much like “secular geology.” Creation science books sell, I am told. [Apparently, Ross guarantees the publisher that a minimum number of books will be distributed though his ministry.]

All of these books (young or old earth) were written for adults or bright high schoolers. The only materials for children and young teens were picture books about Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark which simply retold the Biblical narratives. The books I found about Dinosaurs promised to reveal something about science for young Christian readers (8 – 12 years). However, they could not be more different in content and approach!

Dinosaurs of Eden, A Biblical Journey Through Time (2001, Master Books, 64 pages), by well-known special creationist Ken Ham is a big-page, full-color, picture book with text in the style of the classic “Golden Books.” His premise is laid out on the first page: the Creator has given us in the Bible all the most important events of history, “a written record of the history of the universe, past, present and future.” Reading the Bible is “like traveling in a time machine.” In the book, two young time-travelers jump through the “Bible Time-Gate” into the not-too-distant past when dinosaurs roamed the planet.

Remarkably, Ham almost completely covers the theological and scientific rationale for young-earth, special creationism in these 64 pages. He explains why the six days of creation were ordinary days and concludes that, “If God created everything in six long periods (or millions of years), our week would be millions of years long! That wouldn't make any sense whatsoever.” Since dinosaurs and Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day, they surely coexisted, even in the Garden of Eden. “When we believe God, who was there, then the truth is that dinosaurs and people first came into existence only thousands of years ago.”

Young readers learn that the reason the word “dinosaur” is not found in the Bible is that the word was not coined until 1841. However, all the references to beasts that were translated as “dragons” in the King James Version could well have been dinosaurs. Ham is ready to accept extrabiblical literature and legends containing dragons as evidence of contemporaneous dinosaurs and humans. One illustration imagines a battle between St. George and baryonyx as the time-traveling children peer from behind rocks. American Indians saw dinosaurs, too (as recorded on a Utah petroglyph). In fact, exploration of the African Congo might confirm creationist expectations of living dinosaurs.

But, what about those big, sharp teeth? According to Ham, all animals were vegetarians before the Fall. So what! Bears and pandas have big, sharp teeth and they don't eat meat.

But, what about all those big dinosaurs on the ark? According to Ham, only 50 “kinds” of dinosaurs ever existed (rather than the hundreds of species that have been identified). Teenage dinosaurs were carried on the ark.

But, what about the millions of fossils buried in sediments miles thick? “What does this sound like? Noah's Flood, of course!”

Ham encourages children to engage in dialog with scientists, perhaps at the local zoo. He even provides a script with questions, likely answers, and piercing follow-up. His “scientist” has no idea what happened to the dinosaurs, replying, “We haven't really got a clue. It's a mystery.” According to Ham, it is no mystery at all. There is an illustration of the narrow-minded, secular, lab-coated scientist. Our young time travelers are reading to him from the Bible. In one arm he grasps several volumes by the Devil's Chaplain. His other arm is outstretched as if to say, “Stop it! Evolution created the dinosaurs, not God.” The children are ready with answers because they have read the stack of books on the table next to them (the titles are clearly reproduced): The Lie, The Answers Book, One Blood, The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved, Creation Evangelism for the New Millennium. Guess who wrote those books? I don't think even Steven King has pulled off that kind of self-promotion! In fact, after leading the reader through the believer's prayer for salvation on the last page, the reader is urged to write Ham at Answers in Genesis.

Dinosaurs, Exploring the Scientific Mysteries of God's Creation (2000, Cook Communications, 47 pages) appears to be part of a series of books for children called “Exploring God's World with Michael and Caroline Carroll.” Michael is a science writer and artist with credits in Popular Science, Astronomy and Sky & Telescope. Caroline is also an artist and writer. I noticed a very different premise from Ham's on their first page, that “the Bible tells us that we can understand things about God by looking at his creation.” Further, God's creation does not lie and the study of dinosaurs can point toward God and reveal his glory. There is no claim that everything we need to know about dinosaurs is in the Bible. Then they set out to explore the world of dinosaurs.

This book is laid out like the popular “DK” picture books, with topics presented with concise narratives and a mix of art and photography. Little boxes highlight “Fun Facts,” like the number of known dinosaur species. Throughout, the authors present some of the latest and most fascinating information on dinosaurs. In this book, scientists are portrayed in a positive light. They even review the influence of early Christian geologists, like William Buckland and Edward Hitchcock. There is a profile of Jack Horner and quotes from Bob Bakker. They refute Ham's claim that the Bible contains specific dinosaur references. Readers learn how dinosaurs are found, excavated and reconstructed. The recent extinction theories are presented. Apparently, scientists do have a clue!

But, when did dinosaurs live? The Carrolls agree with the scientists and set out to explain why the evidence points to a very old earth. They examine the claim that all creation was accomplished in six days, and rely on “godly men such as Origen, Justin Martyr and John Calvin, “who believed that the word for day can mean a long period of time.” However, I am disappointed that the authors never specify how old. There is not a single date given in the entire book for any specimen or formation, beyond its period assignment. For example, the Jurassic is defined as, “the second geological period of the age of the dinosaurs.” Some things are just too controversial for our youngsters.

While Ham cursed a blue streak about evolution in Dinosaurs of Eden (it's a Lie, remember), the very word is not to be found anywhere in the Carroll's book. Questions like, “where did dinosaurs come from?” are not addressed here. There is no mention of recent ideas about bird-dinosaur relationships. One has to wonder if the obviously intentional omission of evolution was a mandate from the publisher or just a precaution not to confuse young readers (and their parents) with too much science. While the authors promote the idea that people can use their God-given, scientific minds to learn about creation, they avoid the fascinating work of using science to try to understand how God creates.

The Carroll's book on Dinosaurs is as good as any similar book for children from secular publishers. It is appropriate for the young Christian who is interested in science and motivated by these amazing creatures. It gives a positive view of science and faith that should lead the child to further inquiry. The Carrolls urge the reader not to be afraid of science, for it is “simply our way of trying to figure out how God put the world together. And remember that science can tell us the “how” about the world, but only God's Word can tell us the why.”

Dinosaurs of Eden is the colorized, big-page version of the classic Chick comic-tract “Big Daddy.” The book is less about dinosaurs and more about creation evangelism (salvation being tied up in belief in a recent creation). As Ham asks throughout the book, “What has all this got to do with dinosaurs?”


Why not join ASA, the American Scientific Affiliation?

The Affiliation of Christian Geologists is an independent organization, but we are an “affiliated society” of the American Scientific Affiliation. ASA supports ACG in many of its endeavors, for example, keeping our financial records and letting us use their bulk rate permit. Personal membership in the ASA has the following benefits:
  1. You will receive the quarterly journal, Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith and the bimonthly newsletter.
  2. You will receive free copies of ASA books, such as Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy and the Membership Directory.
  3. You will find fellowship at local and annual meetings both spiritually and intellectually stimulating.
  4. You will have opportunities for service to both the Christian community and the scientific community.
  5. You may join special commissions that are charged with relating various issues in faith and science.
Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith is a premier journal with articles that are on the cutting edge of relating science and Christian faith. The views expressed by authors in Perspectives span a range of positions on these issues in the context of evangelical faith. The bimonthly newsletter is filled with information on what Christian scientists are doing around North America. Most members of the ACG are qualified to join the ASA with full membership for annual dues of $55.

The American Scientific Affiliation (ASA)
P.O. Box 668, Ipswich, MA 01938-0668
http://www.asa3.org/
asa@asa3.org

Dues Due?

Have a look at the mailing label on this newsletter. The date printed on it is when your membership with the ACG expires. If the date is getting close, or has passed, please renew by sending your annual dues of $10 ("ACG" on your checks will suffice) to the ACG treasurer Keith Miller, Department of Geology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506.

ACG Online

Visit the ACG web page (which you're experiencing)!

http://www.wheaton.edu/ACG/

The ACG also has an active mailing list. Learn how to subscribe at http://www.wheaton.edu/acg/listserv.html.


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