Posted by jlwile on January 26, 2012
Paul Garner is a British environmental scientist and Fellow of the Geological Society of London. He is a very active young-earth creationist researcher, currently doing original geological research in collaboration with Dr. John Whitmore and Dr. Steve Austin. He also recently authored a book called The New Creationism.
The word “new” in the title does not mean that he is offering some fundamentally new concept in creationism. Instead, the purpose of the book is to give the reader an understanding of the latest creationist models in the areas of astronomy, geology, and biology. In this purpose, Garner succeeds admirably. He is not only a very understandable writer, he is also very knowledgeable in a wide range of fields. As a result, this book is easy-to-read and (mostly) accurate.
There are many things l really like about this book, and one of them is that Garner makes sure the reader is not fooled by terminology. For example, in his second chapter (“The Sun, Moon, and Stars”) he discusses how astrophysicists think main sequence stars (such as our sun) eventually turn into different kinds of stars (like red giants, white dwarfs, and supergiants) and perhaps even supernovae. He then says:
Some creationists have instinctively reacted against this idea because the process of change is usually referred to as ‘stellar evolution.’ However, it is perhaps better to think of it as ‘stellar ageing’ because the changes are nothing more than an outworking of the law of entropy, the tendency of all natural systems to move towards a disordered state. (p. 37)
This is a very important point. What is generally referred to as “stellar evolution” has nothing to do with evolution as the term is generally used. It certainly has to do with change, and “evolution” can mean “change.” However, the general use of the term “evolution” implies an increase in complexity, and that is certainly not what goes on in stellar evolution.
Another thing I really liked about the book is that it concentrates on the evidence that supports creation and only discusses the evidence against evolution when necessary. Many creationist books are nothing more than attacks on evolution. While it is important to show a competing theory’s weaknesses, science should never be focused on shooting down opposing ideas. It should be focused on building up your own ideas. As a result, Garner gives the reader a lot of evidence that supports various creationist models.
For example, in his section on geology, he gives evidence for the idea that majority of the geological formations we see today were formed rapidly. In his section on the age of the earth, he gives evidence that radioactive half-lives were much shorter at some point in the past. In his section on the diversity of life, he gives evidence that indicates God created organisms of basic kinds, and those kinds then diversified into the various creatures we see today. He also discusses Dr. Todd Wood’s proposal that there are mobile genetic elements designed by God to produce genetic diversity.
Probably his best chapter, however, is the one on catastrophic plate tectonics. This is where his knowledge of the subject matter and his excellent ability to explain things are on prominent display. He gives an excellent “blow-by-blow” description of the process by which the continents separated, the ocean floors rose, and the seas’ waters were pushed onto the continents. He even discusses an event in 2004 which mimicked this process on a small scale. In addition, he gives an excellent explanation of why one would expect rapid reversals in the earth’s magnetic field as a result of catastrophic plate tectonics. He then discusses evidence that indicates such reversals did, indeed, take place.
This brings me to another thing I really liked about the book. While he spends a lot of time presenting positive evidence that supports various young-earth scenarios, he is not at all shy about discussing the problems that exist with those scenarios. As he says in his section on geology:
The evidence that we have considered so far supports the idea that the sedimentary layers were formed rapidly, and this is consistent with the short biblical timescale. It must be acknowledged, of course, that there are also challenges to this catastrophist interpretation of the geological record and we need to address them. (p. 86)
A lot of scientific theories have problems when faced with the data, and the young-earth creationist theories are no exception. If we are to engage in real science, then, we must examine both the data that support the theories we like as well as the data that speak against them. Garner does an admirable job when it comes to this important part of the scientific process.
Since I have been telling you all the things I liked about the book, let me also tell you a couple of things that I didn’t like. He includes a chapter on young-earth theology. Most of his points are very good, but he doesn’t present the objections to young-earth theology as well as I would have hoped. For example, after presenting the strong theological evidence that the days mentioned in the creation account were 24-hour days, he then considers the objection that the events discussed on day 6 seem to require more than 24 hours. I find that a very weak objection. The stronger objection is about the events on day 3. Those really do seem to take more than 24 hours. There are ways around this objection, of course, but they are not nearly as simple as those around the objection related to day 6.
I also noticed one spot where Garner used evidence that has been thoroughly refuted. As part of an excellent discussion about creationist cosmologies that utilize general relativity, he discusses their assumption that the earth is at or near the center of the universe’s expansion. Garner then cites a paper by Russell Humphreys which claims there is evidence to back up that assumption. Unfortunately, that paper cites older studies (from 1997 or before). In 2002 and again in 2005, significantly more detailed studies were done, and they showed that the previous studies were simply not correct.
Even though there were a few things I did not like about this book, overall I consider it an excellent resource. It is full of a lot of great information, and honestly, the chapter on catastrophic plate tectonics alone is worth the price of the entire book.