The following book review is reprinted from the Creation Research Society’ Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 3, by permission of the Creation Research Society.
by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee
Reviewed by Don B. DeYoung
This book has become a best seller. The authors, professors at the University of Washington, Seattle, have dared to suggest that complex life is rare and possibly unique to earth. Instead of Carl Sagan’s estimate of 1017 civilizations in the universe, there instead may be just one (p. xiv)!
The book describes a long list of special, if not unique, earth features. The sun we orbit is a stable star. Earth is located in the habitable zone of the solar system, where liquid water can exist. Our large moon stabilizes the tilt of the earth’s axis, ensuring seasonal changes. Plate tectonics recycles earth elements and thereby keeps the volume of atmospheric carbon dioxide relatively uniform. The large outer planets, mainly Jupiter, protect us from comet collisions. Earth’s magnetism deflects the solar wind radiation. Terms such as “remarkable conditions,” “sheer luck,” and “charmed planet” are used to describe these special earth’s features (P. 37).
The previous list goes further, but the book fails to treat perhaps the most important factor regarding life: its zero probability of origin. Instead, the book writers assume that microbial life has evolved practically everywhere in space, in spite of a complete lack of evidence or detection. It is only “higher” animal and plant life forms, which are said to be rare in the cosmos. Of course, “higher” is a relative term. One wonders whether the authors really comprehend the complex structure and functions of a single cell.
There are other problems with Rare Earth. The authors describe the famous Mars meteorite of 1996 without mentioning that microbial evidence within the rock is now doubted (p. II). DNA is taken as the greatest evolutionary evidence of a common ancestor for all life (p. 57). The authors end their book with several politically correct but inaccurate statements. Thus the world’s problems are said to be due to overpopulation and also the loss of the world’s topsoil (p. 284). However, recent studies have challenged both of these misguided ideas (Pearce, 1999; Monastersky, 1999).
As the book shows, the earth is indeed a unique planet. There is no place like home! And creationists agree that all earth’s life is precious. Not because it arose by shear luck, but because the Creator placed life here to show his glory.
Monastersky, R., 1999. Erosion: Dustup over Muddy Waters. Science News 156(8): 116
Pearce, Fred, 1999. Counting Down. New Scientist 164(2206):20-21.