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Book Review: Fossil Hunter by John B. Olson

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Fossil Hunter is part of the Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed campaign. Expelled is a documentary (I haven’t seen it) exploring the difficulties that those in the fields of education, science and academia encounter when they simply suggest or explore the possibility that an intelligent being (God) was involved in the creation of the Earth. A quick peek through the movie website and blog reveal the intensely vitriolic feelings aroused by this topic.

I read Fossil Hunter to see how the conflict between intelligent design and evolution was developed and explored within the context of a fictional novel. Before I read this title, I knew very little about the Intelligent Design movement, the beliefs of those involved in it, and the difficulties they face within the hardcore sciences. I now feel that I’ve at least had a glimpse into what those who believe in an “Intelligent Designer” (God) face in their professional lives, as well as their beliefs. Author John B. Olson, holder of a Ph.D. in biochemistry, does an excellent job portraying the persecution Christian academics face, and the suppression of scientific data that does not match the theory of evolution.

Dr. Katie James is a paleontologist, one of the ‘hot’ names in the field of working with whale fossils. She is also a Christian, her father a Pastor – not a fact that she widely broadcasts, nor a secret either. When she comes under scrutiny for her beliefs and loses her position, her only chance to redeem herself is to undertake an exciting, dangerous, once-in-a-lifetime expedition to Iraq. Turbulent times follow, with a dangerous political climate, fossil smugglers and a competing team, led by Dr. Nick Murad seeking to beat her to the find.

Katie is a complicated character, fiercely self-reliant, yet achingly vulnerable due to a debilitating phobia that has haunted her, and damaged her professional career. It is no surprise then, that Nick finds himself entranced by this unique combination of traits (few men can resist a vulnerable woman). His interest is tastefully developed and never crosses the line into inappropriate behaviour. Unlike many modern heroes, he conducts himself in a most gentlemanly way towards Katie. Based on his previous experiences with women, this is definitely a change of pace for him, but you’ll love the gentle way he treats Katie, and his respect for her Christian convictions despite his own confusion and ambivalence regarding her faith.

Reading Katie’s discussions with Nick and others on her faith, belief in God as creator, and views on evolution, I wished I could join in the fictional conversation. Though she is a Christian, she feels that the Bible does not clearly and literally speak to a seven-day creation period or disallow evolution. Our family does believe in a young earth and seven-day creation, we feel the Bible speaks very clearly in this regard, and I’d love to share some scriptures with her character. You won’t find a vigorous defense of biblical creationism within these pages; the science presented uses evolutionary time-spans and terminology.

While Katie’s Christian standards do shine through in her response to Nick’s romantic interest, there are other areas in her Christian walk that I would have loved to see her grow in during the course of the book. Katie has a problem with deception, including outright lies. We do see her clearly and publicly repentant on one occasion, but that is not the end of her deceptions, and this sin isn’t resolved within the course of the novel. I was disappointed to find violence on her part towards those opposing her to be so lauded and admired. Jesus gives us clear instructions on dealing with our enemies – physical violence is never one of the options he gives us. I do feel it’s possible for Christian authors to write intense adventure stories without having Christian characters resorting to violence.

Vividly written, with just enough heat-rash, grit, and sand to make you jump in the shower, Fossil Hunter is sure to appeal to those with a love of the sciences, action, fossil digs and political intrigue.

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About Jennifer Bogart

  • infidel57

    “Our family does believe in a young earth and seven-day creation, we feel the Bible speaks very clearly in this regard, and I’d love to share some scriptures with her character.”

    You can share scriptures ’til the cows come home. I doesn’t matter. The Bible is flat wrong if you take it literally. Reading more of it over and over again doesn’t correct the errors.

    ID creationists and young earth creationists will always suffer when they come up against real scientists because they have no facts, only their “faith”.

  • Contrary to nfidel57 it is the evolutionists who force square pegs of evidence to fit into the round holes paradigm of evolution. Evolutionist educators make anything that is not forced into the evolution paradigm is automatically considered anti-science or religious. However, evidence of origins from any source, if considered honestly on a level playing field, will overwhelmingly point to creation. But evolutionists have a monopoly on education and so they have no interest in a level playing field especially since such would lead a more objective public to reject evolution and embrace creation.

    One bit of evidence I would like to briefly mention concerns information. Consider the outline of a heart on the beach with the words “I love you” written in it. Would you ever think this came about by some natural means such as the waves, wind or rain? No. Anytime we see words or a code or a paragraph we know that it came from an intelligent source. Any impartial scientific study would verify this. Now consider the DNA of even a bacteria. It is a library of information and more complex than any single human’s writing. Yet evolutionists would have us believe the first cell’s DNA came about by time, chance and natural causes such as waves, wind or heat. Think of the likelihood of such an event. It is mathematically not possible. Yet evolutionists must conclude that this event took place by chance, time and natural causes alone and try to say with a straight face that this is science and not faith!

    If you have any openness for a level playing field consider the book Evolution Shot Full of Holes from Amazon.com

  • However, evidence of origins from any source, if considered honestly on a level playing field, will overwhelmingly point to creation.

    And who decides what is a level playing field, Jim? You?

    …evolutionists would have us believe the first cell’s DNA came about by time, chance and natural causes such as waves, wind or heat. Think of the likelihood of such an event. It is mathematically not possible.

    Argument from incredulity. Just because you can’t conceive of an event doesn’t make it impossible.

    One could just as easily say that the existence of a being so powerful that it can construct an entire universe from scratch is so unlikely as to be an impossibility.

    But by all means, if you have a mathematical proof or disproof of either event, bring it forward.

    If you have any openness for a level playing field consider the book Evolution Shot Full of Holes from Amazon.com

    And the author of that book is…

    …So it apparently is you who decides on the levelness of the field!

  • Ed

    I think a natural blend of creationism and evolution is the obvious choice for how humans came upon this Earth. Call it ID, is Ok with me. The simplest explanation for the logic that I have seen is in Freiman’s Current Events, Conservative Outcomes. He uses simple logic and prayer to explain why ID works. Why do people make things so tough to understand? Because they want there point of view to be the only point of view!

  • Why do people make things so tough to understand? Because they want there point of view to be the only point of view!

    That might be so in a few cases. A common reaction to something you can’t understand is just to deny it, ignore it or walk away from it.

    But some things just are, by nature, unavoidably hard to understand. Try reading a book on superstring theory or Henri Bergson’s philosophy sometime.

    For some, evolution falls into that category, especially when you get down to the molecular nitty-gritty of the DNA strand.

  • In response to Dr. Dreadful:
    By “a level playing field” I mean students should be allowed to follow the evidence to wherever it leads whether it be creation or evolution. Before the Scopes trial it was the ACLU and the atheists who were crying foul. Now the tables are completely turned with no objectivity in higher education regarding origins. This is the point of the, No Intelligence Allowed documentary.

    The argument of incredulity I agree does not make the first DNA by natural causes to be impossible however; it shows that it is extremely, extremely, extremely unlikely. The origin of the first DNA by natural causes is not factual science as evolutionists imply. There is no empirical or even rational evidence for it therefore it is an issue of obsessed faith! If my analysis is correct then either both creation and evolution should be taught or neither should be taught. Let’s be consistent. Are we not a pluralistic people believing in freedom of speech and yet it is not allowed in public schools or in higher education when it disagrees with the evolutionary dogma. This is a gross double standard.

    The information found in DNA logically infers a super intelligence. It certainly does not point to a natural cause.

    Concerning a mathematical proof I provide a simple test that can be done to determine (with close approximation) whether an object was designed or has design features on it versus being a naturally occurring object. The article utilizes a few examples. The result is one can reliably determine design or not. See the article here.

  • duane

    Nice writeup, Jennifer.

    Now to Jim:

    Oh, dear. Jim, Jim, Jim….

    At your website you use SETI as an example of real scientists who are looking for intelligent design. So, looking for radio signals from intelligent life forms (ALIENS) is the same as looking for the Big Guy in the Sky?

    Then you make a similar claim about archaeologists. In that case, to state the obvious, the sought after “intelligent designers” are HUMANS, not you know who.

    Playing a little fast and loose with the definitions I would say.

    The face on Mars:

    There is no way to determine whether or not the “face on Mars” was constructed by an intelligent species simply by looking at that one picture. None of the planetary geologists involved in that project invoked your so-called “specified complexity” to make any conclusions. They took some more pictures, then realized that, from most viewing angles and most illumination angles, it doesn’t really look much like a face at all.

    Suppose it had been designed by an intelligent species. You inappropriately make a comparison between Mt. Rushmore and something built (hypothetically) by aliens to argue for a lack of specificity. (!?) Would you expect the face to look like a famous Earthling, say, Frank Sinatra? Suppose it had been erected as a monument 20,000 years ago, in the the likeness of Twoopzleplaz, the brave alien leader, then eroded to its present state by the nasty and persistent Martian winds. It would then have little specificity or complexity, but it would still be an alien monument. Your “specified complexity” is of no use at all in this case.


    You quote Meyer of the Discovery Institute

    “Now if information is not a material entity, then how can any materialistic explanation explain its origin?”

    This is absurd. Logic is not a material entity. Humans (who are very material) “created” it.

    Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute describes information as, “a massless quantity”.

    Not a very useful definition. Light is also massless. Do you think that every photon of light striking your retina at this moment has an origin that is not natural and material?


    The natural origin of radio pulses was verified by the fact that the pulse period is slowly increasing, which is expected from basic physics (energy conservation). The scientists involved did not pause for one moment to think about “specified complexity.” And if you think that pulsar signals are not complex, well, hahahahaha. But they’re still natural.


    I would also love to see a mathematical proof of intelligent design. Now’s your chance!

    Last Saturday, on the 9th hole, I whacked a golf ball with a 7 iron, and the damned thing ended up on a blade of grass 122 yards, 3.73 inches away. It was 15 yards, 2 feet, 7.09 inches off the line I wanted. That particular blade of grass — out of all the blades on the fairway. And yet, there it sat. So extremely, extremely unlikely. I had 10 bucks on a blade about 30 yards away. Well, unlikely things happen every day.

  • Thanks for all of the comments and discussion. Creation vs. intelligent design vs. evolution is certainly a complicated issue. I don’t believe that a certain conclusion can ever be reached in a comments forum however :). I have requently witnessed online discussions of this topic disintegrate into mud-slinging matches.

    What I can say is that this is a particularly difficult topic to debate with a believer – such as myself! When one strongly believes in the literal inerrancy of the word of God (aka – faith) all of the scientific ‘proofs’ in the world look very dim in comparison with the light of truth found within the Bible. After all, we are instructed not to lean upon our own understanding.

  • Jordan Richardson


    I think, because the Biblical authors lived in a pre-scientific age, that we need to take their explanations and understandings of creation and the way “God made the universe” with a grain of salt. Not only was their perception largely limited by sin and separation from God, but their perception was also influenced by their culture to an enormous degree. We can’t simply accept their words as literal or inerrant without understanding how problematic this can be. Once we’ve weight the costs of accepting the Bible as “literal truth” versus the costs of accepting the Bible as a fluid narrative or an understanding of the world through the eyes of early believers, we can make an informed decision.

    There are countless reasons to reject an outright inerrant understanding of scripture, most of which I won’t get into here. I realize that you believe what you believe, but basing a rejection of the modern scientific world – which is, in line with theistic thought, a “God-given world” – on Biblical literalism seems to fly in the face of everything Christ said. If everyone in the time of Jesus Christ was a Biblical literalist, they would have very likely missed out on what he was saying (and they did, countless times!). Do we really want to be in the same boat? Isn’t a fluid, contextual, updated understanding of scripture more compatible with the obvious truths God revealed in the passing of time? As believers, we need to trust in God’s revealed truth and realize that confining God to the pages of a man-written, fallible narrative is simply making our God far too small.

    So with that in mind, wouldn’t scientific proofs be proofs designed by God? Should they be so ably rejected simply through the lens of Biblical “truth?” Or is the concept of Biblical truth one worth looking at in light of knowledge of the fallen, sinful Biblical authors? We can certainly say that scripture was “inspired by God,” much in the same way the work of Francis Collins is inspired by God. But is it really accurate to say that Collins’ wonderful work with the Human Genome Project is contextually relatable to how early, pre-scientific Biblical authors understood the complex organism of man? Moreover, is it accurate to say that the limited understanding and “fallen knowledge” of the Biblical authors is superior in understanding God’s will to Francis Collins (who is also a believer)?

    There are many issues to discuss when it comes to Biblical inerrancy, as I’m sure you well know. Dating the texts is difficult, the Gnostic books are often a problem, the Gospel narrative contradictions and additions are worth discussing, and so on. You are quite correct when you say that discussions like this never find solutions on comments sections or even on message boards. But I fear you are running the risk of making your God much too small by openly negating the possibility that He or She should work in other ways other than those understood by misguided, often ignorant Biblical authors.