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Book Review: Man And His Planet: An Unauthorized History by James E. Strickling Jr.

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Man And His Planet is a book by James E. Strickling Jr. that endeavours to look at Creationism and Evolutionary Theory objectively, while proposing an interesting alternative. What it actually does is proceed to dismiss each while advancing the author’s own hypothesis involving electrical phenomena such as coronas and electromagnetic fields in Biblical times. He essentially starts playing Scooby-Doo with the Bible. (“It turns out Jesus was the caretaker all along” is sadly not a quote from the book.) He also spends most of the book extolling the virtues of Immanuel Velikovsky (this guy), to the extent that the reader starts to wonder if he was a bit in love with him. 

One of the difficulties of reviewing books is that you will sometimes have to review a book that in some way goes against the things you believe in. As a consequence, it becomes very hard to review the book objectively, because you will spend a fair portion of the time saying that it’s wrong. It’s like if you were a deeply Christian person (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and yet you were forced to read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (and I’m pretty sure this has happened). One of the reasons I’m anti-religious is that I tend to find science and religion incompatible from my fairly limited understanding of both. Therefore, if you write a book proposing that one of the cornerstones of modern science is wrong, I’m probably not going to be too happy to read it.

Don’t get me wrong, Man And His Planet takes aim at creationists as well (this is why I was so conflicted for most of the book, as I was supporting his creationist-slating while getting annoyed that he was having a go at evolution and natural selection). The first three-quarters of the book is spent using “their own supporting arguments to refute their own conclusions,” as the author puts it. He suggests that one of the well-known maxims of evolution (“survival of the fittest”) is circular because fitness is defined by ability to survive and survivability is determined by how fit you are. Which is a nice thought, except the maxim doesn’t work that way. The maxim works by virtue of the “fittest” involved just needing to survive long enough to father children for the good of the species (which is a pick-up line if I’ve ever heard one). It’s also based around your ability to run away from predators.

The bit of the book that’s actually interesting, the reason why you’re reading it and the only bit actually worth reading in my opinion, is the bit where he actually starts laying out his thoughts on biblical phenomena, such as the Ark of the Covenant (no melting Nazis here, sadly) and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This point comes after the halfway point in the book so my advice would be to just start reading from anywhere after there. The hypothesis makes sense and as even people nowadays get scared by thunderstorms and such, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that they could interpret one as God being angry (especially if they saw someone get struck by lightning).

The book can be a bit hard going at times but if you devote a little time to it it does get easier. The last 50 pages or so is where it starts to get worthwhile to read. I would’ve gladly read an entire book deconstructing the Bible from his point of view, but sadly that’s not what I got. If you do buy it, skip to about halfway through as mentioned above or prepare to be annoyed and if you’re a creationist, you should probably avoid this book entirely.

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