Yesterday, I mentioned the Atlas of Creation a book by Islamic creationist Adnan Oktar (a.k.a. Harun Yahya) sent unsolicited to scientists around the world. My boss also received a copy a few months ago, and yesterday he dug up the enormous volume for me. My first impression was that it was even larger and more glorious than I remembered. With hundreds of pages of full-color photos, this book must have been incredibly expensive to produce and distribute.
My second impression, though, was that it was also even crazier than I remembered. In the “to the reader” note at the beginning, Oktar writes:
In these books, unlike some other books, you will not find the author’s personal views, explanations based on dubious sources, styles that are unobservant of the respect and reverence due to sacred subjects, nor hopeless, pessimistic arguments that create doubts in the mind and deviations in the heart.
With the exception of the last two points, this was the exact opposite of what I saw when I opened the book. From the very beginning, Oktar does the opposite of what he purportedly sets out to do. For example, here is a representative passage from the introduction:
Darwin’s claims were of course based on no scientific evidence or findings. But since the scientific understanding and technological means available at the time were at a fairly primitive level, the full extent of the ridiculous and unrealistic nature of his assertions did not emerge fully into the light of day. In such a climate, Darwin’s scenarios received general acceptance from wide number of circles.
Rather than being just misleading, this is obviously, even transparently, incorrect–ridiculously so.
The bulk of the book consists of photos of fossils next to photos of their modern day counterparts. For each, there are of two pages of photos with a small caption that includes the common name of the organism; the size, location, and period of the fossil; and a brief explanation of why this particular specimen disproves evolution. Here are some examples of these captions, selected at random:
There is no difference between alder trees growing today and ones that grew between 54 and 57 million years ago. Alders that lived then had the same systems as trees have today. This is proof that evolution never happened on Earth.
These 25-million-year-old midge and gall gnat, identical to midges and gall gnats living today, are among the proofs that living things never underwent evolution.
There is no differences [sic] between starfish of 390 million years ago and those living in the seas today. Despite the intervening millions of years, starfish have remained unchanged and never evolved in any period in the past.
Ferns that lived 360 to 286 million years ago are identical to specimens of today. These plants have remained the same for hundreds of millions of years, revealing the indisputable fact of God’s creation.
And so on. I think you get the point. It’s a mix of logical fallacies, selective reporting, misunderstandings of the scientific method, religious proselytizing, and mind-numbing repetition. After this section, the last few hundred pages offer some of the arguments usually advanced by creationists against evolution, most or all of which can be found in An Index to Creationist Claims.
I don’t see any reason why it would be productive to go through the entire book (especially since I would risk death by boredom or spontaneous head explosion), but my superficial examination of the book leaves me somewhat perplexed. From what I can tell, Oktar acknowledges that different organisms appeared at different points in the Earth’s history. He also acknowledges that many species have since become extinct. His one tiny thread that he still hangs onto is his idea that none of these organisms have undergone any change. How someone can come to embrace this idea–against all of the evidence of modern molecular and evolutionary biology, against all logic, and even against the natural conclusions one would draw from the evidence presented in his own book–is completely beyond me.
It a beautiful example of rationalization and willful ignorance, one fittingly materialized into such an aesthetically-driven–but not fact-based–volume.