Over at Amazon, paleontologist Donald Prothero has posted a review of Among the Creationists. (The review will eventually appear in Skeptic Magazine as well.) Prothero is a familiar name to people with an interest in this issue, since he is the author of the magnificient 2007 book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, among many other books. So what did he think?
Rosenhouse’s approach in this book is to recount vignettes and anecdotes of his experiences at various creationist conferences and venues, intermingled with his dispassionate and extremely lucid dissection of the logical, philosophical, and scientific issues raised by creationism. He went, among other places, to the Creation Mega-Conference at Liberty University, the Darwin vs. Design Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. He’s a mathematician by training, so he is personally offended when he hears creationists abuse math or statistics, just as I am when they lie about paleontology and fossils. In his words, “I am not saying that creationists had interesting points to make, but had misunderstood some difficult, technical detail. I am talking instead about errors indicative of a total incomprehension of the subject.” For a mathematician, his level of philosophical sophistication is very advanced. In chapter after chapter, he runs circles around many of the specious arguments of creationists and theistic evolutionists, who try to squirm out of the problem with weak arguments or special pleading. It comes as no surprise that he is also a ranked chess champion as well–he sounds like someone who is brilliant, cool, analytical, and dispassionate. Through all of his sacrifices spending time listening to the creationists, he is still honestly seeking answers to who these people are and what motivates them.
Oh, pshaw! Modesty forces me to admit that “chess champion” is stretching things. (Though I did once represent the state of New Jersey in a high school match against New York. New York won the match pretty decisively, but the really important thing is that I won my individual game!) In chess, though, I’m just a decent amateur player.
Everything else in that paragraph? Spot on!
And Prothero’s conclusion?
Among the Creationists is a very insightful book that allows the skeptic and scientist alike to better appreciate the forces that we are up against in the United States. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the creation-evolution wars as a valuable resource for dealing with the never-ending battle with the forces that deny science.