Return to the Stars

Some of the more lustrous anti-science gems from Vine Deloria Jr’s 1995 book “Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact

On the Earth as a Youthful Planet

Deloria doubts that the earth is billions of years old; indeed, he writes, “Most American Indians, I believe, were here ‘at the beginning' and have preserved the memory of traumatic continental and planetary catastrophes” (p 251). The geologists are simply wrong in their reading of the geological record. For example, “vulcanism was a onetime event” (p 235).

Dinosaurs and Human Beings

Indians tell stories about a time when there were monsters on the earth. Some of these monsters Deloria recognizes as dinosaurs: “That is to say, humans and some creatures we have classified as dinosaurs were contemporaries” (p 241). Deloria is inclined to credit one western tribe’s belief that they have in their possession “an unfossilized dinosaur bone” (p 241). And as we have seen, he believes that the Sioux saw the stegosaurus walking in the Badlands a hundred years ago.

On Noah’s Flood

Deloria believes in the historical reality of the biblical flood, because “Indian traditions also spoke of a great flood… and they had their own culture heroes who followed the same procedure as Noah” (p 61-2). In fact, the Old Testament account of Noah’s flood “may very well provide evidence of the basic accuracy of the Indian story” (p 207). Just as his forefathers built their encampments in a circle, so Deloria builds his arguments.

On Pilgrims and Mammoths

Deloria argues that “there were mammoths or mastodons still living in the eastern United States at the time the Pilgrims landed" (p 143).

On the Mormon View of the Origin of the American Indians

Deloria gives credence to the Mormon contention that the American Indians came from the Middle East (p 62).

On the Effects of Increased Levels of Carbon Dioxide

Deloria is convinced that increased levels of carbon dioxide lead to gigantism; this explains the size of the mammoths and the giant sloths — just as it explains the increasing size of human beings since the beginnings of the industrial revolution. Indeed, Deloria sees the increase of carbon dioxide (which most of us worry about in connection with global warming) as one reason for the increased size of football and basketball players since he was in high school (p 172-7).

On the Change in the Coefficient of Gravity

Deloria is inclined to think that the coefficient of gravity has fluctuated so widely as to account (with the increased levels of carbon dioxide) for the gigantism we find in the age of the dinosaurs and again in the age of the mammoths and giant sloths (p 174).

On Ecology

By way of dismissing the idea that such animals as the mammoth might have gone extinct because of climate change, Deloria writes that “It hardly seems possible that any animal, living in a more benign region for a change, would promptly expire” (p 164) — as though penguins, for example, would really be better off in San Diego.

On Evolution

Evolution is a failed theory: “[E]ven the most sophisticated of modern scientists, in explaining the fossil remains, finds that species in the rocks are distant relatives to each other, not direct lineages" (p 40). At one point Deloria refers dismissively to "the outmoded sequence of alleged human evolution" (p 217). Once Deloria has considered the evidence he asks, "Where is evolution?” (p 238).

On the Character of Science

Scientists are virtually incapable of independent thinking; they are hobbled by their reverence for orthodoxy (p 42-4, 50-1, 154-5, 180, 202, 231-2). Scientists characteristically persecute those who dare to advance unorthodox views. Science is thus essentially a religion (p 17-8, 41, 87, 178, 251) — and scientists are in the thrall of their scientific myths. In many areas science is nothing more than “a hilarious farce” (p 202).

Most readers will recognize in much of this the lineaments of “creation science”. But for those who have (quite reasonably) paid little attention to “creation science”, here is a good, brief characterization of the movement:

The creationists have learned a lot in their long struggle to unseat evolution. Trial and error has shown them what doesn’t work: Anti-science doesn’t, efforts to ban [the teaching of] evolution don’t, and purely religious invective is also a losing proposition. The idea of being open-minded, religiously neutral, and scientific has gained such wide credence (or at least lip service) that creationists can’t successfully oppose it, no matter how much they might like to. So, their new tactic is to declare creationism scientific, then join in with the majority and espouse the virtues of the times in their own name. In this way they can pose as latter-day Galileos being persecuted by “orthodox” science (Edwords 1980: 4-5).

Add to this a large measure of standard-issue American Ethnic Invective, and you have Deloria’s method exactly.