Antiquity is the world’s most respected and widely read academic journal in archaeology, our equivalent of Nature or Science. Its summer issue reached me last Friday and yesterday I brought it to the beach. On the first page of his editorial (entertaining, anti-po-mo, available on-line behind a paywall), Martin Carver attacks creationism and quotes a blog entry from March last year by Aard regular Chris O’Brien of the Northstate Science blog! After quoting Turkish creationist Harun Yahya and describing his propaganda efforts, Carver continues:
Here is Christopher O’Brien, a Forest Archaeologist in northern California, bravely setting out our stall : Just like other disciplines, he says, “archaeology is being used and abused by creationists of all stripes. It’s time to start pointing out the falsehoods. … “. First we must champion our own dating methods: “because many of us deal in time scales measured in millions of years, archaeologists must also fight the same inane arguments against the efficacy of radiometric dating methods as any palaeontologist”. Then we must not allow the numerous cohort of amateur archaeologists to try and prove the Bible was right after five minutes working as a volunteer on an excavation.
The archaeological reality of Jericho, he reminds us, no more “proves the Bible” than the archaeological reality of Troy “proves the Iliad”. “In the context of archaeology, the Bible is simply another historical manuscript (one of thousands throughout the world and across time) that may or may not be useful for aiding interpretation of the archaeological record”. Amen to that. And as a final abuse of archaeological reasoning, creationists seem to think there is an analogy to be drawn between an archaeologist’s recognition of intelligent design in artefacts, with their own identification of intelligent design in biological systems.
In other words, O’Brien shows that far from countering the benighted influence of creationism, we are providing it with ammunition. For the sake of our children, archaeologists must confront it, but confrontation of the tis-tisn’t kind won’t be enough on its own. To take the dating issue: the supposed moment the world was created has moved back from Archbishop Ussher (4004 BC, worked out from the Bible) to an origin about 10 000 years ago. Yahya is even happy to cite a 40 000 year old flute as proof that man did not evolve from something more primitive (primitive persons can’t play flutes). Radiometric dating may even be recruited to the creationist cause, proving that man is actually eternal and Noah’s flood could soon reappear as the explanation of the Pleistocene. And what would creationists say if they knew that we no longer believed in evolution as an explanation either — at least not for handaxes or human societies. No, the real case against creationism is that it is unimaginative, small-minded and dull.
Go, Chris, go!