From time to time, I find it instructive to read books written by academics with whom I do not share a worldview. One such, Norman Geisler, has written or co-authored over four dozen books and many articles over a forty year career. He holds the position of dean at Southern Evangelical Seminary. One may disagree with him, and yet respect his fervor and willingness to articulate his views.
The book is blurbed by Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, Paige Patterson and others. Duane Gish provides a Forward and Wayne Friar a Preface. There is much good (original) source material in the book, including much of the Overton decision (McLean, 1982) as Geisler analyzes that decision and critiques it. Court cases from the 1925 Scopes trial to the 2005 Dover case are analyzed.
Geisler positions himself as a philosopher, not a scientist. He has apparently not read deeply into the science of the evolution-creation controversy. He admits, for instance, to have never read Duane Gish's 1973 book, THE FOSSILS SAY NO. He accepts the scientific expertise of the YEC adherents on their say-so. He is deeply convinced of four things: (1) Creation and evolution are the only two views of origins (there can be but one true position), (2) there is a difference in kind between experimental science and "forensic" science, (3) the media is biased, and (4) there is genuine scientific evidence for the creationist position. On these premises, he bases his book. Paige Patterson comments that Geisler "offers the sort of clarity this debate requires." I did not find this to be true; Geisler consistently confuses science and metaphysical speculation, majors in minors and, generally, brings more heat than light into the debates.
Chapter 4 particularly puzzled me. It is entitled "The Testimony They Refused to Transcribe." Geisler spends 37 pages on this and then, in Appendix 4, uses another 23 pages to completely document that testimony (his own). That's over 15% of the book! He makes no case that the "refusal to transcribe" was anything more than either an oversight or simply the court's recognition that the content was irrelevant to the issues at trial. When I read the testimony, the latter reason seemed most likely. Geisler did get some bad press after this testimony; its publication may serve, to some extent to clarify (and normalize) his beliefs about the occult, UFOs and the like. I suspect that is the reason he spent so much time on it.
One point Geisler makes may be instructive, and may show how his education in the philosophy, methods, procedures and assumptions of science is lacking. On page 252, he writes: ' . . . while naturalistic evolutionists . . . criticize creationists of a 'God-of-the-gaps' fallacy . . . they are themselves guilty of a "Nature-of-the=gap" view." It is this sort of thinking, of course, that has led Phillip Johnson's "Intelligent Design" crusade. If magic were real, such thinking might have an audience.
So do I recommend this volume? Yes. It has a place in a University library, and many ASA members may want to check it out for an evening of entertaining reading. It will not stay in my personal collection, however, very long.
John W. Burgeson
Sent to PSCF 7-21-2007