Given that the entire message of the book depends upon the alleged resemblance between modern animals and their fossil counterparts, I was amused, when I began flicking through at random, to find page 468 devoted to "eels", one fossil and one modern. The caption says,And Dawkins added a postcript:There are more than 400 species of eels in the order Anguilliformes. That they have not undergone any change in millions of years once again reveals the invalidity of the theory of evolution.The fossil eel shown may well be an eel, I cannot tell. But the modern "eel" that Yahya pictures (see left) is undoubtedly not an eel but a sea snake, probably of the highly venomous genus Laticauda (an eel is, of course, not a snake at all but a teleost fish). I have not scanned the book for other inaccuracies of this kind. But given that this was almost the first page I looked at . . . what price the main thesis of the book that modern animals are unchanged since the time of their fossil counterparts?
I have now looked at some more pages of this preposterous book. The double page spreads on page 54-55, 368-369, and 414-415 are all labelled 'Crinoid', and all purport to show how similar ancient fossil crinoids are to modern ones. Crinoids are stalked relatives of starfish, members of the phylum Echinodermata. The three spreads have almost identical captions. Here's the one on page 54:But then he concludes:The 345-million-year-old crinoid fossil, identical to its living counterparts, invalidates the theory of evolution. Crinoids that have remained unchanged for 345 million years refute the theory of evolution, manifesting the creation of God as a fact.And all three spreads show a beautiful colour photograph of modern crinoids to illustrate the point. Except that, in all three cases, the modern animal pictured is not a crinoid. It isn't even an echinoderm. It isn't even a deuterostome (the sub-kingdom to which the echinoderms, and we, belong). Zoologist readers will recognize it as a tube-dwelling annelid worm, a sabellid.
I am at a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the "breathtaking inanity" of the content . Is it really inanity, or is it just plain laziness – or perhaps cynical awareness of the ignorance and stupidity of the target audience – mostly Muslim creationists. And where does the money come from?Read full Dawkins' comment here.
By attributing cynical awareness or laziness, I think he is giving way too much credit to Harun Yahya. If you read some of Yahya's other writings (and I've had to painfully go through some of them recently for an article) you will realize that this simply is the level of his scholarship and his thinking. There are many others in the Muslim world who are writing at the same level - none of them are scientists, let alone biologists. The reason for their success is that they write about exactly what people want to hear (hmm...would a comparison with cheezy-bad but feel-good romantic comedies work??) and throw enough sciency-sounding words to appear credible. Many of them are probably not deliberately misleading people - but they badly want to justify their beliefs through science (and reject evolution, which in their conclusion, may conflict with religion). On my visits to Pakistan, I frequently encounter people who want me (because of my astronomy background) to affirm that there is much modern astronomy in the Quran. While my answer usually (always?) disappoints them, they find the answers they are looking for in books by Maurice Bucaille, Harun Yahya, etc. But I can also totally see some of them going out and writing their own books. The purpose (including Yahya's) is straight forward religious proselitization, rather than any deep thoughts about science or nature. Yahya is the most successful amongst them because he has money for glossy books (this is especially effective as school science textbooks often are printed on low quality paper with poor color reproductions - if at all) and slick websites. You add a message that people already want to hear - and you have a recipe for success.
Also read an earlier post about Harun Yahya and the end of the world.