Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line

Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line

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by Jason Rosenhouse

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Why do so many Americans reject the modern theory of evolution? Why does creationism, thoroughly refuted by scientists, retain such popularity among the public? Is the perceived conflict between evolution and Christianity genuine, or is it merely an illusion peculiar to Protestant fundamentalism?

Seeking answers to these questions, mathematician Jason Rosenhouse


Why do so many Americans reject the modern theory of evolution? Why does creationism, thoroughly refuted by scientists, retain such popularity among the public? Is the perceived conflict between evolution and Christianity genuine, or is it merely an illusion peculiar to Protestant fundamentalism?

Seeking answers to these questions, mathematician Jason Rosenhouse became a regular attendee at creationist conferences and other gatherings. After ten years of attending events like the giant Creation Mega-Conference in Lynchburg, Virginia, and visiting sites like the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, and after hundreds of surprisingly friendly conversations with creationists of varying stripes, he has emerged with a story to tell, a story that goes well beyond the usual stereotypes of Bible-thumping fanatics railing against coldly rational scientists. Through anecdotes, personal reflections, and scientific and philosophical discussion, Rosenhouse presents a more down-to-earth picture of modern creationism and the people who espouse it. He is neither polemical nor insulting, but he does not pull punches when he spots an error in the logical or scientific reasoning of creationists, especially when they wander into his own field, mathematics. Along the way, he also tells the story of his own nonbeliever's attempt to understand a major aspect of American religion. Forced to wrestle with his views about God and evolution, Rosenhouse found himself drawn into a new world of ideas previously unknown to him, arriving at a sharper understanding of the reality of science-versus-religion disputes, and how these debates look to those beyond the ivory tower.

A personal memoir of one scientist's attempt to come to grips with this controversy-by immersing himself in the culture of the anti-evolutionists-Among the Creationists is a fair, fresh, and insightful account of the modern American debate over Darwinism.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In essence, Rosenhouse, professor of mathematics at James Madison University, has written two intertwined books. One consists of vignettes describing his interactions with attendees at creationist conferences and at the Creation Museum. The second comprises slightly longer essays addressing some of the philosophical and theological ideas underpinning creationism. The personal encounters are compellingly readable. Often quoting his exchanges verbatim, Rosenhouse demonstrates that civility between evolutionists and creationists is possible and, he argues, advisable, whether he is speaking with “creation scientists,” high school students, or the general public. But as he points out, civility is not quite the same as meaningful dialogue, and very few, if any, minds were changed. The longer, more philosophical pieces are less successful because the complex topics touched on (such as the nature of religious experience, the role of theodicy, the meaning of original sin, ways to interpret scripture) demand more detail than Rosenhouse provides. He does a good job of relating the various historical strands of creationism, but his is not a book for anyone looking for arguments to combat specific creationist claims. While he dismisses some handily, others require more space for their demolition. Photos. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"Fascinating creatures, these creationists. Rosenhouse holds up a magnifying glass to the various varieties of this species as he strolls through the thickets of confusion known as creationist conferences. Conversationally, he draws you into a world experienced by few secularists. His anecdotes are entertaining - but also instructive about science, religion, and philosophy. An enjoyable read, whether or not you know anything about the creationism/evolution controversy." - Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director, National Center for Science Education, and author of Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction

"Armed only with curiosity and a razor-sharp intellect, the intrepid Jason Rosenhouse attended a series of creationist conferences over the course of a decade. The result, Among the Creationists, affords a unique glimpse at the cultures of American creationism, as well as Rosenhouse's own thoughtful and provocative reflections on science, philosophy, and religion prompted by his experiences. Highly recommended!" —Glenn Branch, National Center for Science Education

"Those of us who battle creationism usually wage the war on the Internet, on paper, or in the courtroom. Rarely do we get to know our adversaries as people. Jason Rosenhouse is the rare exception. Equipped with remarkable empathy and a deep knowledge of evolutionary biology, he wades into creationist meetings, trying to understand the mindset that leads people to oppose one of the best-supported ideas in science. The upshot is a remarkably readable chronicle that at once gives penetrating insights into the psychology of creationists while handily refuting their arguments." — Jerry Coyne, Professor of Ecology & Evolution, University of Chicago, and author of Why Evolution is True

"From the plain foolishness of equating "Darwinism" with every social evil, to the serious implications of naturalism (methodological or natural) as viewed by theists, the author reports, documents, and then offers humane and honest judgment on the validity of the arguments. Serious evolutionists will find endless utilities in this handsomely-written work" — Paul Gross, University Professor of Life Sciences, emeritus, University of Virginia, and co-author with Barbara Forrest of Creationism's Trojan Horse.

"This is a terrific book. Rosenhouse's incisive but accessible analysis of the never-ending problem of creationism treats the theological and scientific contortions of its promoters with both humor and pathos. His firsthand familiarity with rank-and-file creationists has enabled him to craft a response that combines a truthful account of how utterly misguided they are scientifically with a respectful recognition of their humanity." — Barbara Forrest, expert witness for plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover

"Rosenhouse, a mathematician interested in the creation-evolution "controversy" has done a unique service. He attended creation conferences, talked with creationists, and took a serious look at the most lavish creation museum in America. These are efforts few evolutionists would be willing to endure...All in all I enjoyed reading Among the Creationists. It represents a unique attempt of a secular scholar to engage creationist communities on their own home ground and report his experiences. Rosenhouse has provided an immense service to our understanding of a remarkable, persistent, and wrongheaded phenomenon." — Rudolf A. Raff Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

"This is a well-written, enlightening take on a topic that has generated many books on both sides of a well-heated controversy. The author's sympathetic treatment of this deep divide is valuable. It will help both evidence-based and faith-based individuals move closer to an appreciation of the issues on the other side of this dispute." — CHOICE

"Rosenhouse has written a highly readable and captivating volume that provides us with an exceptionable perspective on creationism and the people who believe in it." — Metascience

Library Journal
Rosenhouse (mathematics, James Madison Univ.; The Monty Hall Problem: The Remarkable Story of Math's Most Contentious Brain Teaser) recounts his experiences as a Darwinist attending creationist events and conventions over the course of ten years. His engaging account showcases the varied types of creationist beliefs (e.g., intelligent design, biblical literalism), but it is at its core a story devoted to a scientific worldview. Evident throughout the book is that Rosenhouse and the creationists with whom he interacts have completely different visions of what constitutes fact. But the true definition of fact is an issue best left to philosophers, and it is not one this book claims to address. Rosenhouse explains that he is merely documenting his experiences with people whose views were very different from his own. VERDICT While it offers an engaging story, this book does not present a clear case for or against Darwinism or creationism and does little to promote discussion. Recommended for those who wish to read about interactions of creationists and evolutionists.—Eric D. Albright, Tufts Univ. Lib., Boston
Kirkus Reviews
An evolution proponent writes about his encounters with creationists. Rosenhouse (Mathematics/James Madison Univ.; The Monty Hall Problem: The Remarkable Story of Math's Most Contentious Brain Teaser, 2009) has been meeting anti-evolutionists on their turf--at Intelligent Design conferences, Christian universities and Kenneth Ham's state-of-the-art creationist museum in Kentucky --since he worked on implementing math standards for public schools in Kansas two years after that state banished Darwin and the Big Bang from its science curriculum. A Jewish atheist, Rosenhouse sought to understand the mindset of Christians who not only dismiss the overwhelming evidence of natural selection in favor of a literal interpretation of Genesis, but also use their political influence to try to outlaw any view but their own in public schools. Contrary to the stereotype common among his fellow science defenders, the author discovered opponents who were as intelligent and sincere as they were determined. It isn't ignorance or stupidity that makes a creationist, Rosenhouse learned; it's firm and consistent belief in the divine origin of the scriptures and their teachings. While the author has greater respect for creationists as a result of his encounters, he maintains that if evolution by natural selection is true, then creationism and even Christianity as a whole, with its anthropocentric view of the cosmos, cannot be. However, for all their biased selectivity toward the evidence and misuse of science and history, at least creationists (unlike more sophisticated theological evolutionists) recognize what is really at stake. Rosenhouse is an amiable storyteller and a fair-minded reporter. The narrative drags and diffuses a bit as the author wrestles with theology, but that has more to do with theology's abstruseness than Rosenhouse's. A thorough introduction to the controversy with much to teach both sides.

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Oxford University Press
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6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Jason Rosenhouse is Associate Professor of Mathematics at James Madison University. He is previously the author of The Monty Hall Problem: The Remarkable Story of Math's Most Contentious Brain Teaser and Taking Sudoku Seriously: The Math Behind the World's Most Popular Pencil Puzzle.

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Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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