Triple Review


Our own Paul Gross reviews three books concerning evolution and creationism for Skeptic magazine. The books are Arthur McCalla’s The Creationist Debate, Wallace Arthur’s Creatures of Accident, and Francis S. Collins’ The Language of God. Read and enjoy!


I was asked to review McCalla’s book and found so full of holes that it is worthless. Here’s my review written for a British audience.

Arthur McCalla The Creationist Debate:The Encounter between the ninle and the Modern Mind Continuum International, 2006, xiv 222pp £19.99 ISBN 0 8264 8002 0

Here is a book that seems to be full of promise as it puts the whole Creationist Debate into its historical context, and considers the theological, scientific and philosophical issues surrounding the question of evolution, which has come to the fore in recent years. It is a clear and well-written book and describes the history of science, especially of geology and its vast ages, evolution and human antiquity, all in historical context and leads up to the rise of biblical criticism and Fundamentalism. The book concludes with two chapters on Creationism. The concept of the book is excellent as it seeks to understand Creationism by considering it in the history of Christian thought. This is something I have been striving to do since I first came across Creationism in 1971, when no one in Britain had heard of it! However, the volume is so badly flawed that is simply misleading. The flaws are both of interpretation and factuality, and the latter are too numerous to mention. He claims (p139) that Gosse wrote Omphalos in 1857 to counter The Origin of Species written in 1859 — a clear case of pro-chronism! His grasp of science is very poor as is shown by his confusion on radiometric age-dating claiming it began with Carbon 14 dating in 1950 whereas it began with Uranium-Lead in 1907 (p137). He consistently does not understand things geological and has read good historians of geology like Rudwick in a very slapdash way. He is simply inaccurate when he describes the work of the early geologists Smith, Sedgwick, Buckland, Lyell and Murchison, as he is on Darwin himself. For interpretation he reckons that the essence of a liberal Christian is to accept geological time and its implications for Genesis (p83, 118). He is blissfully unaware that Adam Sedgwick was an Evangelical (as conservative as Francis Close) and Buckland and Conybeare were definitely not Broad Church. Many of the early British geologists were Evangelical — an inconvenient fact. Despite reading Livingstone’s Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders(Eerdmans 1987) he can’t cope with evangelicals accepting Darwin’s evolution, as some (H.B.Tristram) did from 1858 (note the date) and later Warfield to mention only two. His chapters on The Bible in America and Fundamentalism are unhelpful and prejudicial. When it comes to Young Earth Creationism it is clear that he has never read The Genesis Flood (published in 1961) as he claims that it is like Gosse’s Prochronism in Omphalos. McCalla understands “creationism” no better than the history of science and fails to grasp either the origin or beliefs of Intelligent Design. The whole book gives the impression of a rushed and superficial job by one who knows little science and only slightly more about the history of Christian thought, but who knows how to write a marketable book. Here lies the rub; the reaction to creationism in all its forms has created a demand for “explanation”. Far too often, these are superficial works based on little research. How this book got published by a reputable publisher I do not know, but anti-creationsim like creationism finds a ready market. It might help his RAE but not the reader.

Michael Roberts,

sorry, i see lots of critcism of McCalla, and little point.

what IS your point, exactly, as it sounds less like a book review and more like a rant.

If you think Mcalla is so “off” on the history of the development of the creationsist movement in america, I wonder if you have read this:[…]p/0195151119

Haven’t read that of Noll’s but have read most of his stuff which is excellent.

One needs to rant at inaccurate rubbish whether it is by Dembski, Morris Ken Ham or some equally inccurate anti-creationist who doesnt do his homework


Yeah, Nick pointed that book out to me the other day, and it’s next on my reading list, though I’ve already perused slected bits of it.

seems spot on, but I’m no historian.

so, did you read Paul’s take on McCalla, and what he sees as the significance of the work?

do you disagree?

Yes I read what Paul says and note that he does not not have a good historical grasp and of course grossly overates the importance of scriptural geologists in the early 19th century.

Perhaps a reading of Rudwick’s later book (and correct reading of his previous ones) might help.

I have to say this is one of the worst books I have read for a long time.

What do you say about his appalling science - competing with AIG?


Wow. That’s a scathing review Michael. I was considering buying the book but will instead go for the library read instead. Thanks.

Yes I read what Paul says and note that he does not not have a good historical grasp and of course grossly overates the importance of scriptural geologists in the early 19th century.

but is that the point, really?

Is the essence of what Paul is arguing McCalla’s focus is, incorrect?

McCalla is not attacking creationism. He is explaining why painstaking responses to its endlessly recycled “scientific” arguments are useless. Creationist wars happened before the Reformation, but the probability of their occurrence and their likely violence were given a strong push by early Protestant insistence upon the plain sense of Scripture. If, indeed, the fundamental truths of God are available to every man, unmediated, in Scripture; if the Bible is the Word of God, then interpretive coatings on the primary texts were best stripped away, revealing that plain sense — the Truth. But what if the plain sense doesn’t make sense? Centuries had to pass before so appalling a question could be asked.

so, is Paul himself missing what McCalla was getting at? Did McCalla not present sufficient evidence to support this contention, even if there were some technical inaccuracies? Or do the technical inaccuracies invalidate the entire point he was getting at?

Well, it’s basically the historical trash peddled by Andrew Dicison White in the 19th century and no historian of science accepts it today.

What were the pre-Reformation creationist wars - Roger Bacon?? Flat earth??

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Reuland published on March 2, 2007 12:27 PM.

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