Tower of Babel

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism Robert T. Pennock appreciates that the study of origins from a scientific perspective will almost necessarily discomfit religious people, but still he was taken by surprise when in the 1990’s creationism—a theistic alternative to Darwinian evolution—made a strong resurgence, with some school districts choosing to adopt creationist textbooks for science classes.

The challenge to evolutionary thought is now coming from academicians such as Phillip Johnson of the University of California at Berkeley, whose attack has moved from the particulars of evolutionary theory to the more abstruse level of philosophy of science itself. Pennock points out that while many scientists are learned in their methodology, they may not be accustomed to explaining why science investigates the world in the manner that it does. Tower of Babel, Pennock says in the preface, is a primer to help scientists know how to respond to these creationist arguments.

Pennock uses his philosopher’s critical skills to examine creationist approaches and to compare the new tack with the old, pointing out the disagreements among the creationists themselves. He rebuts some of the main arguments, but rather than rehashing old ground quickly moves to a new approach: the evolution of languages. He argues that if their literal interpretation of the Bible leads them to reject biological evolution, then creationists must also reject linguistic evolution because of the Tower of Babel passage.

While not critical of religion itself, Pennock clearly explains his conviction why religious perspectives are antithetical to the methods of science.