Book review of
Is There a Creator Who Cares About You?
At the 1998 District Conventions the Watchtower Society released a new book Is There a Creator Who Cares About You? It is another in a long string of books that present and defend the Society's ideas about God with an orientation toward the "scientific" aspects of such ideas. The book is generally well-written in the manner of other such Watchtower books. Unfortunately it has a number of serious flaws, many of which are standard in WTS books like this. In contrast with earlier books, incomplete source references are given, or none at all, and there is no bibliography. This book does not replace previous ones of its genre, but is supplementary to them. For example, the reader is referred to the 1985 book Life: How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or By Creation? for "a further study of the history of life-forms on earth" (p. 102).
The first chapter plugs the idea that belief in a Creator can add meaning to one's life. Chapters 2 through 5 cover a variety of evidences that a Creator exists. Interestingly, the arguments given closely follow those published in the last 15 years or so by people plugging various forms of the argument from design. For example, the ideas of authors Dean Kenyon, Michael Behe, Michael Denton, Phillip Johnson, Hugh Ross and other popular writers are quite evident throughout the presentations. The book quotes directly from the first two of these.
It is quite obvious that the author has educated himself in the discoveries of modern physics, and he does a right creditable job explaining in laymen's terms things like the four fundamental forces of nature. This is a welcome change from the older Creation book, where the original version informed the reader that atoms are just like miniature solar systems. Another nice touch is the picture on the cover page, of giant hydrogen clouds where stars are being born. This picture has always given me goose bumps.
Chapter 6 is titled "An Ancient Creation Record--Can You Trust It?", but oddly enough it gives almost no arguments in support of the title theme. The few it does give are poor at best.
For example, the book spends quite a bit of time explaining Einstein's equation E=mc2, and how matter and energy are intimately related. Then the book states (p. 90) that the Bible "clearly shows the relationship between energy and matter. It then quotes Isaiah 40:26 in support: "'... Who has created these things? ... Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing.' ... Yes, the Bible is saying that a source of tremendous dynamic energy -- the Creator -- caused the material universe to come into existence. This is completely in harmony with modern technology. For this reason alone, the Biblical record of creation merits our deep respect." This argument can be shown to be wrong in at least two ways.
First we note that the scriptural quotation is from the New World Translation. The key phrase here is "dynamic energy", and the book claims that this somehow has to do with the modern scientific concept of "energy". Does it? Let's go a few verses further into Isaiah 40 and see. Verse 29 says of God, "He is giving to the tired one power; and to the one without dynamic energy he makes full might abound." Now, does that sound like God is giving "energy" in the modern scientific sense to the one who is tired and lacking power? Of course not. By the same token Isaiah 40:26 is not saying anything about the relationship between matter and energy. This can be seen further by looking at the meaning of the Hebrew word 'ohnim that the NWT translates as "dynamic energy". A variety of Hebrew lexicons yield the following definitions: "great strength, might, power, manly vigor", and these quite properly describe God. A better translation of these verses might be this, from Tanakh--The Holy Scriptures by the Jewish Publication Society: "Because of His great might and vast power, not one fails to appear... He gives strength to the weary, fresh vigor to the spent." It seems clear that the author of the Creator book has relied on a somewhat misleading translation to make his point. The Society has used this wrong argument several times before.
Chapter 6 next briefly describes the creative days of Genesis 1. The only evidence given in support of the chapter's thesis here is a couple of references to highly controversial reports that may or may not have established that all humans today had a common ancestor, which even if true might or might not point to Adam and Eve as our first parents. The section is essentially a recapitulation of parts of Genesis 1 and 2 from the standard Watchtower viewpoint.
Interestingly, the book follows the Society's pattern of the last ten years by failing to be specific about the length of the creative days. It says (p. 93): "The fact is, the Bible reveals that the creative 'days,' or ages, encompass thousands of years... the seventh 'day' was a period spanning thousands of years, and we can logically conclude the same about the first six 'days.'" Since the Society has been extremely clear in most publications more than about ten years old that the creative days were 7,000 years long, but in newer ones it has used the same sort of fuzzy language about periods "spanning thousands of years", and it is apparent that science has shown solidly that life has been around for some 3 billion years, one wonders why the Society remains so vague about this little point. Likely it's to avoid alarming the older generation of Witnesses.
In the final section titled "Can You Trust the Genesis Record?" the book presents the argument that the order of creation given in Genesis closely matches the pattern given by modern science. It quotes "noted geologist Wallace Pratt" in support. Then it asks (p. 102), "Consider: How did Moses -- thousands of years ago -- get that order right if his source of information were not from the Creator and Designer himself?" Well of course the book has provided only a single quotation (unreferenced) to support these fundamental claims. Some readers will note that these arguments are brief synopses of those given in much greater detail in the Society's 1985 Creation book. We will see why the writer does not prove his case, or even give any real evidence for it.
The final five chapters of the Creator book are a fairly standard exposition of the views of Jehovah's Witnesses on Bible prophecy, God, Christ and so on. We will not discuss them here.
Now let's consider some details of chapter 6. First of all, by giving hardly any evidence that Genesis can be trusted, the writer of the Creator book fails to support the claim of the chapter's title. Second, the only quotation given in support actually gives no support at all, since it turns out to be the religious opinion of a man who also was a geologist.
Here is what the Creator book says about trusting the Genesis record:
But can you really put faith in this account of creation and the prospects it holds out? As we noted, modern genetic research is moving toward the conclusion stated in the Bible long ago. Also, some scientists have taken note of the order of events presented in Genesis. For example, noted geologist Wallace Pratt commented: "If I as a geologist were called upon to explain briefly our modern ideas of the origin of the earth and the development of life on it to a simple, pastoral people, such as the tribes to whom the Book of Genesis was addressed, I could hardly do better than follow rather closely much of the language of the first chapter of Genesis." He also observed that the order as described in Genesis for the origin of the oceans and the emergence of land, as well as for the appearance of marine life, birds, and mammals, is in essence the sequence of the principle divisions of geologic time.
Now, this sounds awfully authoritative, but does it measure up? We will see that it does not. The Creator book's quotation of geologist Wallace Pratt is in fact an example of how the Society fails to include significant points about the credentials of a source reference, even though the points left out can make a decisive difference in the reader's judgment of the reliability of the source.
So who was Wallace Pratt? He was a geologist and an executive for Humble Oil Company and Standard Oil Company (Exxon) at various times in his career. Here is the full context of Creator's quotation of him. Let the reader make his own judgment.
Pratt is as much at home in the worlds of literature and philosophy as he is in those of science and industry. He is intrigued by the power of poetic expression. In "Sermons in Stones," a lecture which he gave in 1928, he said, "If I as a geologist were called upon to explain briefly our modern ideas of the origin of the earth and the development of life on it to a simple, pastoral people, such as the tribes to whom the Book of Genesis was addressed, I could hardly do better than follow rather closely much of the language of the first chapter of Genesis." He noted that the order of events -- from the origin of the oceans, to the emergence of land, to the appearance of marine life and then of birds and mammals -- is essentially the sequence of the principle divisions of geologic time from the Cosmic Era to the Psychozoic. He was undisturbed by the way Genesis compresses millions of geologic years into six days, for "Are we not assured, indeed, that with the Creator, 'a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day?'"
Many of the theories of the origin of the earth to which scientists gave credence in 1928 have been sharply modified in the light of new discoveries in geology and astronomy, but not enough, Pratt feels, to disrupt the parallelism with Genesis. "Science is like that," he says. "No scientific theory is sacrosanct. Somebody has said that the great glory of science is that its truths of today are its absurdities of tomorrow. And that is so. New facts always inspire scientists to devise new hypotheses and to demolish old ones." [W. L. Copithorne, "The Worlds of Wallace Pratt," The Lamp, vol. 53, pp. 11-14, Standard Oil, Fall, 1971. This magazine was published for shareholders of Standard Oil.]
Note two important points from this: (1) Pratt was a fundamentalist-style creationist who believed that the earth was created in six literal days, and (2) Creator's reference was to a lecture he gave in 1928. The book is silent on these points because they destroy its argument, in spite of comments from Pratt. This witholding of information that could help a reader evaluate an argument is unconscionable.
An interesting point about Pratt was his religious belief that the earth was created in six literal days. Pratt was legendary for his ability to find oil fields based on the geology of an area. He regularly used the idea that oil bearing strata were laid down over a long period of time, so that the strata had a certain consistency he was able to discern so as to pick out likely oil fields with great success. One wonders how he was able to reconcile the two conflicting sets of beliefs.
All in all, the new Creator book is not much of an offering, except that it presents the relatively recent "argument from design" that is currently popular among non-young-earth creationist authors to a Witness community that would otherwise know little of it. It's too bad that the book fails to give credit to the popularizers of this "intelligent design" paradigm, but pretends that it is a phenomenon within the scientific community rather than what it really is -- the latest offering from a small group of Christian authors who do not accept the far more popular young-earth variety of creationism.
Leolaia wrote at Re: Study in the Creator Book:
There is one minor flaw in Alan's review; Pratt did not hold to six literal days but like the Society and other Day-Age creationists, construed them as "epochs":
If we interpret the term day merely as a period of time, remembering that with the Creator "A day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day," the six days of creation take on something of the sequence our principal modern units of geologic time display.
Geologically speaking, the period of man's dominance over his environment has been, so far, of only the briefest duration. Man first became a weapon-making creature perhaps a million years ago. But, according to James Breasted's The Dawn of Conscience, the time men began to feel the power of conscience to such a degree that it became a potent social force was only 5,000 years ago.
He also seems to accept evolution and the relatedness of all living things, but wishes to describe the final development of Homo sapiens as involving something greater than natural selection:
It is these "transcendent and transcendental features of the earth's evolution" that so impress the geologist when he examines the record inscribed in the rocks; this magnificent procession of life through the ages, extravagantly diverse in its myriad individual forms, but absolutely single in continuity and overall structure; starting with the lowly amoeba and culminating in homo sapiens. In the past, evolution has proceeded blindly. Change has taken place solely as response to environment. Now, in man, life has achieved consciousness. It has acquired spiritual values. It controls its environment and modifies it at will. It plots its own course into the future. And modern man stands at the helm!
Has this geologically recent ascent of man to his present position of dominance been achieved by the glib formula "Survival of the fittest," interpreted to mean the supremacy of the law of "Tooth-and-claw?" Is this the standard of ethical values to which humanity must adhere in the future? Even a glance at the geological record reveals clearly that these questions must be answered in the negative.
He goes on to claim that human evolution is marked not by environmental adaptation (man being indifferently adapted to his ecology) but by the development of the frontal lobes, and intelligence, a spiritual faculty, "man's soul", and a social instinct which allowed man to dominate nature tho lacking in physical adaptations. It's hard to tell from his rhetoric whether he was a theistic evolutionist or not.