SHiPS Resource Center ||   BOOK BRIEF

reviewed 1/94 Anti-Evolution: A Reader's Guide to Writings Before and After Darwin, 2nd ed. Tom McIver. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press (1992). ISBN 0-8018-4520-3 385 pp. $15.95.

Anti-Evolution amazed and fascinated me! While I have been reading works related to the so-called "creation-evolution controversy" for 15 years, I must confess that I did not fully appreciate the volume and diversity of material opposing evolution until I read McIver's book. Anyone who doubts that creationism poses a real threat will be stunned by the 1,852 anti-evolutionary works by "scientists, preachers, professors and private individuals" included in this text.

In Anti-Evolution, the reader will find an incredibly thorough annotated bibliogprahy which serves as both an excellent reference text and entertaining reading. To quote the publisher, "for each entry McIver provides the title of the work, date and place of publication, author's name, affiliation, and background, and a capsule summary of the work's contents." In describing each work's contents, McIver states the author's claims without interjecting any judgment as to the scientific validity of the arguments presented. However, he does provide useful descriptions of the type of anti-evolution argument each author adovcates. For example, some authors are described as "young-earth," or "old-earth creationists," while others are "Catholic," "Jewish," "non-religious" or even "occult," to name just a few.

The organization of the text makes it extremely easy to use as a reference work. Entries are arranged alphabetically by author. Furthermore, the reader will also find three useful indices: Names, Titles and Subjects. As a student of the history of ideas related to science, I found the subject index particularly valuable. For example, under the subjects "Catholic" and "Baptist," entries are listed according to the time period when they were published (e.g., 17th century, 1870s to 1905, 1920s, etc.), making it easy to trace the development in their argument. Of course, Anti-Evolution also describes many contemporary works, with entries as recent as 1988 (and some as recent as 1992 in the preface to the 2nd edition).

Obviously, this text is ideal for researching specific authors and subjects, but I also greatly enjoyed exploring the vast range of anti-evolutionary works by simply opening the book at random and reading a few entries. While using this approach, I read about many traditional "young-earth" creationist arguments. But I was most amazed by those works which advocated occult or even extraterrestrial influences on the development of life on Earth. One of the most humorous examples is a series of books written by Brad Steigler between 1976 and 1981. Apparently, Steigler's books explain the "reality of telepathy, psychic healing power, pyramid power . . . prove that an Intelligence from outer spcae is preparing mankind for cosmic linkage." Furthermore, "extraterrestrials are responsible for human origins. They arrived on earth and planted both `good' and `bad seed'. . . . Genesis is a memory about these ETIs who arrived about 40,000 years ago. The father of Jesus was an ET. They improved human DNA by mating with primitive earth creatures and laboratory manipulations. The new, implanted DNA is now being activiated: this explains psychic abilities. ..." By the way, Steigler also predicted Armageddon would occur in 1989-90!

Steigler's ludicrous books are not atypical of the vast majority of those described in this text. I merely include McIver's descriptions of them to illustrate the sometimes humorous nature of the readings. In fact, I found many more entries to be troubling, especially considering the large and receptive audience reached by authors such as Henry Morris and Duane Gish. It is for this reason that Anti-Evolution should be on the book shelf of every biology teacher who might have to defend evolution against some of the arguments these creationists are spreading. I know from experience that it is much easier to counter creationist claims in the classroom if one is familiar with their tactics in advance.

In addition to describing many books with religious foundations, McIver also includes works by both pre- and post-Darwinian scientists who have been considered by some to provide evidence against evolution. For example, the works of Adam Sedwick, Louis Agassiz and Richard Owen are among those described.

In conclusion, Anti-Evolution offers many features which make it an indispensable resource for teachers, science historians and anyone else interested in the many forms of anti-evolution arguments, both past and present. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

--Robert Dennison

Ed. note: Readers may also want to know about two other standard texts on the reception of evolutionary theory:

David Hull. Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community (Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1973).
---reprints original 19th-century reviews of Origin of Species, along with historical commentary and philosophical analysis of themes by a noted Darwin scholar. Some readers may be surprised by the early scientific opposition to Darwin.

Alvar Ellegård. Darwin and the General Reader: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution in the British Periodical Press, 1859-1872. (Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1990).
---Here again, contemporary views of Darwin--not always so very different from some perspectives we hear today.

Home [arrow] SHiPS helps teachers share resources for integrating history, philosophy and sociology in the science classroom. E-mail us at for our quarterly news.