Masochistic pleasures

The blog Startling Moniker has a nice acknowledgment for being added to my blogroll, but the main interest in that post is that he admits to a guilty pleasure I share: fishing through seedy bookstores. You can sometimes find the weirdest stuff in old bins in fringe bookstores. DaveX explores a Christian bookstore (speaking of masochism…) and finds a copy of Gish’s 1972 Evidence Against Evolution, which of course does not contain any.

I can do him one better—I have this treasure on my bookshelf:


Yes indeed, Henry Morris was announcing the Twilight of Evolution 44 years ago, in 1963. It also has a section on the evidence against evolution, which begins with this not-so-promising paragraph.

In this chapter and the next we shall summarize the evidence against by showing, first, that there is no evidence of evolution occurring at present, and second, that there is no evidence that evolution has occurred in the past. In doing this, it is necessary to start with the Biblical record.

The rest of the chapter consists of bible quotes, the second law of thermodynamics, more bible quotes, mutations cause decay, more bible quotes, Big Bang vs. steady state, and concludes that “the revealed Word of God, supported completely by all true science, teaches that the evolutionary principle, as applied to present processes and events, is not only not valid but is essentially impossible.”

The last chapter also explains the title—we’re in the twilight of evolution because soon enough Jesus is going to appear with a fiery sword and put it to death. There’s a lot of gloom and doom and threats of Armageddon to wrap up this story, so just in case you don’t accept Biblical Science, be prepared to be tortured. One happy note: it also admits that they have no hope of defeating evolution “until Satan himself is destroyed”!


  1. quork says

    I have a copy of that, but with a less colorful cover. The stuff on the second law of thermodynamics is quite a laugh. Morris believes that organisms actually violate the second law, but this is OK because it is only temporary and the disorder is restored when the organisms die. It apparently never got through to him that we eat, we ****, we obey all the laws of thermodynamics throughout our lives.

  2. says

    That’s a GREAT cover! One of my favorite odd-bookstore finds is my copy of Langston Hughes’ “First Book of Negroes,” a children’s primer from 1952. Thanks again for the blogroll add!

  3. O-dot-O says

    I collect books like that. My latest acquisition… When a poster (a YEC) on another forum quoted 101 Questions and Answers About Dinosaurs to refute evolution, and insisted that it was an authoritative source, I found a copy on the internet for just a couple of bucks. The first page told me all I needed to know:

    101 Questions and Answers About Dinosaurs
    A Dover Picture and Puzzle Book

  4. says

    Recently I bought Paley’s Natural Theology on eBay, but it has yet to arrive. When (if) it arrives, expect me to post quotes from it at my blog. I recently read a 1913 book on evolution that mentioned the book, and some of its content, and it sounds like there are a few good passages in it. Well, good if you want to show how silly the book is.

  5. says

    That is quite impressive, but I have a signed copy of Darwin On Trial. We had a creationist graduate student who wanted to discuss it, so I had to see what the fuss was about. I didn’t even realize it was signed until someone pointed it out to me months after I bought it.

    Alas, something tells me signed copies of Darwin On Trial aren’t that rare…?

  6. Erasmus says

    i’ve got tim lahaye and henry morris ‘the genesis flood’. it is a howwwwwler.

    looks like the good dr morris was dabbling in the acid in the 70s, from the look of that cover.

  7. says

    For some time I’ve been thinking about the need for a permanent exhibition on the history of creationist claims and on the predictions of evolution’s “demise” – with the visitor being able to walk a timeline through these various claims juxtaposed with the advances in science that continued on, unruffled by all this nonsense. I think it would make the visitors reflect upon the danger of stopping scientific research and chalking it all up to “Goddidit” before we discovered antibiotics, the polio vaccine (or before we unravel the evolution of the immune system), etc., as well as show how creationism itself is a strategy that adapts whether creationists admit it or not. Perhaps it would be more of an archive of books like this than an exhibition, unless one can get a hold of artifacts such a drawings, etc.

    Perhaps to this end, I should make an effort to collect creationist materials – I do have a collection of religious materials (people just throw Bibles away) and “alternative paradigms” (ancient astronauts, Bigfoot, etc.).

  8. says

    Henry Morris was a professor and eventually the head of the department of Civil Engineering at my school, Virginia Tech, from 1957-1970. He wrote this book during his tenure here. (I’m currently a PhD student at VT in Computer Engineering.)

    Yesterday, I went to a discussion group that was talking about Dawkins’ “God Delusion.” There, the topic of Henry Morris came up. There were several retired VT professors of Biology, Computer Engineering, and other sciences there that personally know both him and Ken Cumming, another VT professor who co-founded the Institute for Creation Research with Morris. It was fascinating to hear stories about what these guys were like when they were at VT.

    Morris was apparently a top-quality engineer, but he evidently betrayed strong signs of knowledge compartmentalization from the beginning. One of the stories told was that in the middle of the night, he saw a vision or heard a voice from God telling him that He was going to divinely destroy Blacksburg, VA (VT’s town) for its sins. Morris apparently immediately roused his entire family and walked the perimeter of the town, praying God’s forgiveness on the town. God apparently listened, since Blacksburg is still around.

    I’ll have to see if I can find these former faculty members again and get some more first-hand impressions of Morris in his early days. It could be valuable, considering he is the modern founder of the American creationist movement.

  9. says

    Thanks Blake – seems like I don’t have to type in the more interesting passages myself. I prefer to read a book rather than a textfile from project Guthenberg, but it certainly makes it easier to post the passages.

  10. CortxVortx says

    Wow, I had that book in my collection of creationist cra– er, “literature.” I’d been collecting stuff since the early 80s when Senator Bill Keith’s “Balanced Treatment Act” was passed in Louisiana. Henry M. even visited the Shreveport-Bossier area, as did Kent Hovind, John N. Clayton of “Does God Exist?” and the Bert Thompson-Wayne Jackson duo from Apologetics Press. I got free tracts about evolution from all kinds of backwoods preachers; even had a subscription to “Axin’ Facts” for years.

    The stuff eventually filled two cardboard boxes, and I turned them over to Dr. Victor H. Huchison at the University of Oklahoma (and Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education) when I moved from Norman.

    Is that the book where Morris claims that plants aren’t alive, but “merely complex chemical replicating systems”? That struck me at the funniest cretinist line ever. (Morris was trying to explain away the need to carry plants on the ark — they weren’t really alive, so the flood wouldn’t hurt them.)

    That was before the Internets and access to TalkOrigins — but the Committees for Correspondence (now the National Center for Science Education) soon formed to counter the bald-faced lies of the cretinists. (All that literature went to Dr Huchison, as well.)

    Ah, the letters-to-the-editors in the two Shreveport papers…

    — CV

  11. says

    I just remembered: Went to a flea market in 2002 and picked up a book for a quarter: It was one of those “God’s going to destroy the world with Y2K!” books. Got more than a quarter’s worth of laughs out of it. Apparently the guy thought that every transistor had a calendar programmed into it.

    I may try digging it up sometime.

  12. says

    Thank you, Mithrandir, I know about this excellent resource – it gave me the idea in the first place! ;-)

    Anybody remember that classic snorer, The Late Great Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey? Man, that was big in the 1970s.

  13. says

    I found a very cheap 1st edition of Paley’s Natural Theology . Total bilge, but old, beautifully bound bilge. Lodged it amid my hundreds of books at home, went away for some months. Came back to read the old fraud, to find that my (Down’s Syndrome) foster sister had adorned every page with purple felt tip circles – her version of writing. She’d ignored the 2nd edition of Darwin’s climbing plants, all the Darwin, Gould, Dawkins et evolutionary al on the shelf. “ID: it can be improved by someone with a mental age of two and a felt tip pen!” Out of the mouths of babes, sucklings and Downs.

  14. Sonja says

    Some friends of mine and I used to pull out a copy of Pat Roberson’s Answers to 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions at parties because it was f’in’ hilarious.

    It had questions like “Do people who commit suicide go to heaven?” Pat’s answer was “Yes, if they had mental illness”.

    So Adolph Hitler and Pat Robertson are going to heaven. Who wants that eternity?

  15. Dawn says

    Zeteo Eurisko–I look forward to hearing more stories about Morris; my oldest child is a Freshman at VT and enjoying it immensely. I look forward to forwarding your first story…yes, Blacksburg is still there but I’m not so sure it’s “saved”…..

    I’ll have to ask my relatives who live in Blacksburg if they know any Morris tales; they’ve lived there for years and were very involved with the town and the university. Dawn

  16. Eamon KNight says

    I’ve got a modest collection of creationist (and other fundy) stuff. Some of it from back in my foolish religious youth, others more recent, but only if it was free/second-hand/whatever (ie. as long as no actual royalties went back to the charlatans). My best find, at a church rummage sale: Harry Rimmer’s Harmony of Science and Scripture, published c.1930. That alone is motivation to get my nascent blog off the ground, so I post select excerpts. He’s a worthy predecessor to Hovind, Ham, Gish and the rest.

  17. says

    It just goes to show you how little things change in the religious world. 44 years ago it was the same crap, although I’d have to say they seem to have more attractive book covers.

  18. Ichthyic says

    It’s shocking to see how little “natural theology” has progressed since Paley’s day.

    not really. How could it progress, given there is nothing to test?

    all that could be done is reinvent the terminology used, which is all that has been done.

  19. says


    It’s shocking to see how little “natural theology” has progressed since Paley’s day.


    not really. How could it progress, given there is nothing to test?

    all that could be done is reinvent the terminology used, which is all that has been done.

    Yes, of course — perhaps I should have said, “It’s shocking, shocking to see how stuck in Paley’s time the natural theologians are.”

  20. Jon Blumenfeld says

    Hal Lindsay is alive and well and writing for – and just as loony as ever. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read his stuff.

  21. Ichthyic says

    “It’s shocking, shocking to see how stuck in Paley’s time the natural theologians are.”

    LOL, yeah. One of my favorite movies, btw.

    Even strictly regimented religions like Catholicism have progressed in their thinking, while creationists appear completely stuck in an endless catch 22 of their own making.

    no greater prison than one’s own mind, eh?

  22. chet says

    I got Duane Gish to sign my copy of Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things.” Considering Shermer’s chapter on the “Gish Gallop”, apparently he was a little too old to recognize the irony.

  23. False Prophet says

    “Until Satan is destroyed,” eh? Last I heard, Satan was playing right-wing for the New York Islanders. (Seriously, check out that link–especially the URL. One of the web people for the ESPN has a wicked sense of humour.)

    I read bits of Natural Theology when I was writing a philosophy paper trashing the teleological (“design”) argument for the existence of God. Sure, Paley was dead wrong, but a hell of a better writer than today’s YECers and IDiots.

  24. False Prophet says

    “Until Satan is destroyed,” eh? Last I heard, Satan was playing right-wing for the New York Islanders. (Seriously, check out that link–especially the URL. One of the web people for the ESPN has a wicked sense of humour.)

    I read bits of Natural Theology when I was writing a philosophy paper trashing the teleological (“design”) argument for the existence of God. Sure, Paley was dead wrong, but a hell of a better writer than today’s YECers and IDiots.

  25. says

    Speaking of “The Late Great Planet Earth”, I found a copy of the movie version on DVD for $5 at Half-Price Books and will use it to do an “end of the world” theme program for my cable TV program. I’ll use clips from it and talk about the extremely horrid and mind-damaging “Left Behind” seies as well as poke fun at other end of the world predictions. It should be interesting program, however it does mean I’ll have to watch the movie. I think I’ll need a week of Trek to cleanse my brain.


  26. says

    I’ve got a Catholic creationist book on my bookshelf that I managed to pick up for a few pounds in my local, slightly kooky used bookstore. They have some really good, cheap philosophy tomes in there, and some good science too – but masses of religious crap. I thought it a public duty that I ought to buy “Creation Rediscovered” to prevent some gullible believer from picking it up and believing it. Instead, it sits on my shelf so I can laugh at it.

  27. quork says

    It’s hard to beat Ken Ham’s The Lie: Evolution for a good laugh. It’s even got cartoons. Plus, the book is self-contradictory. Ham insists that a Genesis “day” is 24 hours, then in another spot he quotes GEN 2:17, in which God promises that if Adam eats the forbidden fruit, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

    I also have a Creationist book put out by the Moody Bible Institute. It’s intended for children. IIRC, they give up on the age of the Earth, so it’s not YEC.

  28. Dennis says

    However, it is hard to imagine a rabbit being pulled out of an empty hat without a magician.

  29. says

    PZ, you should check out – I would love to get my eyes on your library just to see what sorts of treasures you have hidden in there. (no affiliation, just love that I can browse other people’s libraries that way).

  30. says

    Wow! That’s impressive Troy. How did you manage to collect so many?

    More money that I should, combined with lots of time in used bookstores, and apparently a somewhat perverse desire to inflict pain on myself.

    Actually I consider them ammunition (know thine enemy).

  31. Scott Hatfield says

    Troy: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I had no idea your particular resource existed. If I may be so bold, do you have a contact email that you could share? From time to time I dabble in creationist-flouting, and knowledge is power. Or, as the old song would have it, ‘Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, and we’ll all stay free!”

    Jovially….Scott (

  32. says

    Seedy bookstores, mmmmm!

    In my favourite seedy bookstore here I found a book about how to kill people. It is a very serious and scholarly book, and contains such fabulous techniquies as, oh, let’s see … collecting old watches so you can scrape off the radium from the numbers until you have enough to poison your target’s sugar or salt. By the time he or she dies several years later, you will be conveniently far away and beyond suspicion.

    I thought it might come in handy one day.

    (It also turned out to be selling for over US$1000 second-hand on the web, and I paid about $3 for it. The problem is that I don’t really want to sell it to anyone who wants to buy it.)

  33. Nevyn says

    Has anyone noticed the irony of the title when paired with McGrath’s “Twilight of Atheism”? I think the quality of writing and delusion is strikingly similar.

  34. Robert says

    I found a 1972 edition of “Late Great Planet Earth” back in 2000. I was vastly entertained, not least of all the by his assumption that the USSR would still be around in 2000. I kept hoping for a reference to the Shah of Iran; alas, no.

    I also found a tattered paperback of “Criswell Predicts!” that doesn’t quite count, as Criswell was an unabashed phony from the get-go. But entertaining? As much fun as listening to Rush Limbaugh trying to talk his way out of a cavity search at airport security.