THE CREATIONISTS by Ronald L. Numbers

THE CREATIONISTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A beautifully balanced and comprehensive history of ``scientific creationism.'' Although Numbers (History of Science and Medicine/Univ. of Wisconsin at Madison; Prophetess of Health, 1976) is a staunch evolutionist, he professes sympathy for creationists, a product of his Seventh-Day Adventist childhood. The result is a book of crisp, cool intelligence that avoids polemic as it untangles the colorful ideas and personalities that shaped creationism. Modern Americans- -47% of whom embrace creationism, according to a Gallup poll, and 86% of whom favor teaching it alongside Darwinism in the public schools--may be surprised to learn that until a few decades ago, creationists accepted the antiquity of the earth and the validity of fossils, holding to either the ``day-age'' theory (each biblical day of creation was eons long) or the ``gap'' theory (after the initial creation, millennia passed before God made Eden). All changed with George MacCready Price, an armchair scientist and occasional construction worker whose 726-page textbook, The New Geology, dated the earth at less than 10,000 years and claimed that a massive flood (the one Noah survived) gave birth to the fossil record. This ``flood geology'' rules creationism today, which has received a remarkable boost through bestselling books, the support of scores of scientists, and massive publicity from the ``creation trials'' of the 1980's. Numbers notes that creationism is now a self-critical field with strict ethical standards, while orthodox science too often bashes the opposition through blatant prejudice and arrogance. Creationism is in its heyday, he says, with its ``shocking success'' most marked among Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and evangelical Protestants. Numbers's objectivity, eye for anecdote, and knack for deciphering the enigmas of science and pseudoscience make this the best history of creationism to date--a landmark work in the field. (Twenty-four b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-40104-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1992




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