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Reasons skeptics should consider Christianity

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Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity was written in 1981 by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart. Reasons endorses a Young Earth Creationist view and arguments on behalf of a global flood in Section 2, The Ark, and Section 3, Evolution.[1]


Topics addressed by the book include:

Fraudulent Ape-Men

Main Article: Recent controversy in hominid ancestry

In striking analysis of the discoveries to occur 20 years later, McDowell & Stewart pointed to the growing existence of offshoots, evolutionary dead ends, once believed to be human ancestors. The following examples are given by Reasons as evidence the scientific community has displayed interpretive preference for evolution that is not truly objective and honest:

Africanus' Co-Existence with Habilis

In the chapter "Who is man's ancestor?" on pages 184-185, Reasons observes how A. africanus was discovered by Raymond Dart, and in 1936 an adult specimen was found by Robert Broom. By the 1960s and early 1970s it was commonly accepted the human evolutionary tree could be diagrammed H. sapiens > H. erectus > H. habilis > A. africanus, with A. robustus an offshoot of A. africanus. Key quotes include:

"For many years now, however, the general consensus has been that these fossils are very close to the human lineage and that particular subgroups... are direct human ancestors.

-C.E. Oxnard, Human Fossils: The New Revolution[2]

"With the wisdom of hindsight, we are today able to recognize in Dart's fossil, the first real proof of animal origins of man, the first concrete fossil evidence that Darwin's theory of the origin of species by small modifying steps and gradations from other pre-existing species is applicable to man. For here was an ape-like creature which showed in its anatomical make-up a greater number of resemblances to hominids than are shown by any of the existing man-like apes of Africa or Asia."

-Philip V. Tobias, Science[3]

Reasons notes that (a) if Dart's fossil was the first proof of man's evolutionary origins, people should not have been told beforehand that the theory had been proven, and (b) less than 15 years after Tobias' "proof" that A. africanus was our ancestor, opinion had changed, with africanus now considered an offshoot as well, instead of a direct ancestor.

Reasons calls attention to three discoveries that led to this new shift in opinion on Africanus:

(1) C.E. Oxnard published a computer study of Australopithecine skeletons, showing the bone shapes are far more similar to apes than humans, since the ankle bones required for bipedalism in Australopithecines differ even more from man than the African apes, and that their hands and shoulder blades are likewise much more similar to apes than humans. (2) The discovery by Richard Leakey that H. habilis coexisted with A. africanus, showed that like Robustus, Africanus was likewise an offshoot that could not be a human ancestor. (3) The discovery by Johanson and White of A. afarensis led to its now being plopped into the place once declared to be certainly occupied by Africanus. By the time Reasons was written, Africanus had become considered an offshoot from which Robustus descended, with the common link to humans being Afarensis.

Reasons concludes, "Who is correct? No one knows. Further discoveries likely will overturn both of the above viewpoints, and show once again that man's lineage is nothing more than opinion, which is where it stands today." This has proven a remarkably accurate prediction, as initial discoveries of Afarensis (Lucy) are now being found more questionable, as it turns out Lucy walked upright similar to modern man.[4]

Global Flood

Arguments made in favor of a global flood include:

Depositional Rates

In the chapter "Is fossilization evidence of a catastrophe?" (pp. 196-198) it is pointed out that "The process of fossilization is itself an evidence of abnormal deposition." Rotting of carcases begins to occur upon death, and then bacteria and scavengers (e.g. vultures), begin recycling the body's material. After this, weathering processes destroy the bones themselves, whether dissolution in the sea or weathering on land. The only way to preserve a carcass is to prevent the effects of both scavengers and weather, burying it deeply enough that the oxygen bacteria need is excluded, and rapidly enough that there is still something left to preserve.

However, J.B. Birdsell estimates the average rate of deposition during the last geologic epoch (the Pleistocene) was just .024 inches a year, not nearly enough required to preserve fossils.[5] It is pointed out that major fossil deposits shown around the world (e.g. the Karroo formation with over 800 million fossilized skeletons of vertebrate animals) indicate a tremendous amount of rapid sedimentation for fossilization. Other examples given include the Monterrey shale with over 1 billion fossil fish within 4 square miles, and the Mission Canyon formation and Williston Basin which are estimated to contain over 10,000 cubic miles of broken crinoid plates, crinoids being deep sea creatures. Reasons quotes Clark and Stearn's conclusion, "How many millions, billions, trillions of crinoids would be required to provide such a deposit? The number staggers the imagination."[6] Reasons concludes that it is more reasonable to believe a massive Flood rapidly deposited fossils than that slow, gradual depositional rates were responsible.

Environmentally-Mixed Fossil Deposits

McDowell & Stewart note in the chapter, "Are the fossil deposits environmentally mixed?" (pp. 199-201), that if the fossil record is truly the result of slow depositional and erosive forces over millions of years, we should not then find animals and plants from very different environmental zones buried together in rock stratum. However, if a global Flood is instead at work, we should see tropical life mixed with those found in temperate and arctic climates, as well other environments. Key quotes made in Reasons to prove the latter is true include the following:

"The Pleistocene marine faunas of California have long attracted attention. Many of them are large: 100 to 350 species of mollusks in one formation.... These fauna show different associations. Some associations include cool-water and warm-water species.... They evidently do not represent the same environment; in fact, they appear to represent notably different environments..."

-W.P. Woodring, Paleocology[7]

"The London Clay flora, or early Eocene age, includes 314 species of seeds and fruits; of this number 234 have been identified whereas the affinities of the remainder are considered doubtful. It is almost exclusively an angiosperm flora, there being but 7 conifers. Of the 100 genera, only 28 are still extant; thus its family relationships will primarily occupy our attention. The present-day distribution of the families which make up the London Clay flora are: 5 are entirely tropical... 14 are almost exclusively tropical... 21 families are equally tropical and extratropical and five are chiefly temperate... there are some obvious inconsistencies which cannot be overlooked. For example, Artocarpus, (breadfruit), Rhamnidium and Tabernae montonae which are tropical genera are associated with temperate climate (hickory, maple, and ash-GRM). This occurrence of climatically divergent elements in a fossil flora is not an uncommon problem..."

-Henry N. Andrews, Studies in Paleobotany[8]

"Within the lumps of amber are found insects, snails, coral and small portions of plant life. These are of modern type that are now found in both tropical and cold temperature regions. Pine leaves are present, of the types now growing in Japan and North America... Such mixed strata are well known features of coal measures of all ages... A similar conclusion is drawn from the evidence of the fossil-bearing layers of thelignites of Geiseltal in Germany. Here also is a complete mixture of plants, insects and animals from all climatic zones of the earth capable of supporting life".

-Wilfred Francis, Coal: Its Formation and Composition[9]

"...on top of the arctic freshwater plants and shells is a marine bed. Astarte Borealis and other mollusk shells are found in the position of life, with both valves united. These species are arctic, but, the bed seems in other places to contain Ostrea edulis (a mollusk), which requires a temperate sea; the evidence is conflicting as to the climate."

-W.B. Wright, The Quaternary Ice Age[10]

McDowell & Stewart draw particular attention to Francis' observation that it's very difficult to explain coral mixed with insects and pine leaves from two separate continents, as coral grows only in the ocean, and typical explanations of how amber forms do not explain such severe mixing of oceanic content with material from both Japan and North America.

Rapid Sedimentation

In the chapter "Was the sedimentation rapid?" (pp. 205-207) emphasis is made on whether the fossil record shows evidence of rapid sedimentation, or slow, gradual deposition at a rate of .024 inches a year (Birdsell's estimate). Reasons quotes the following sources to suggest that deposition was in fact far faster:

"In my own collection, I have a lobster from the Solenhofen stone of Germany which was apparently fossilized in the act of catching a small fish."

-Derek Ager, Principles of Paleoecology[11]

"A great slab of Hamilton sandstone, found at Mount Marion, New York, and now in the State Museum at Albany, originally preserved the casts of over 400 starfish, some of which died hovering over clams they were in the act of devouring just as modern starfish eat oysters."

-Schuchert & Dunbar, Textbook of Geology Pt. 2[12]

"Probably the best-known fossil-fish fauna is that of the Eocene Green River beds of southern Wyoming and northwestern Colorado. These strata contain large numbers of well-preserved bony fishes."

-William Matthews, Fossils[13]

In analyzing these sources, it is noted in Reasons that the 2,600 feet of shale in the Green River formation contains 6.5 million bands, each of which is typically believed to have taken one year to deposit, making for a 6.5 million year depositional period. However, the fossil fish are pressed flat between the bands, the flesh outline of the fishes can be seen not just the bones, and the thickness of each band would make it difficult to preserve the fish. Reasons concludes that (a) the flesh outline indicates the fish were buried so rapidly they hadn't undergone decay, (b) deposition occurred with considerable pressure from above given the compression of fossils between bands, and (c) bands of just 1 mm or 5/1000 of an inch per year would make it virtually impossible to preserve the fish from bacteria and scavengers, and certainly not leave the flesh intact.

Fossilized Footprints

In the chapter "Are footprints evidence of the flood?" McDowell & Stewart question how gradual depositional rates can possibly preserve the the numerous footprints found in the fossil record. While in some cases like mud, hardening might be a possible explanation, in others like sandstone where it is sand being hardened, it is difficult to explain how footprints could be fossilized before erosive forces like waves or wind could erase them. The only way to preserve them is to cover them rapidly with another substance from above, perhaps something which will harden rapidly such as lava. Particular emphasis in the chapter is made upon evidence of raindrops seen in footprints which indicate particularly rapid fossilization. Sources provided in the chapter include the following:

"Of vertebrates higher than fishes, the only evidence rests upon one foot imprint (thinopus Antiquus) nearly four inches long, which was found near the top of the Upper Devonian of western Pennsylvania. This indicates the presence of a salamander-like animal (stegocephalian) with a probable length of nearly 3 feet. The track is from a marine sandstone of the littoral or beach area over which the animal walked, probably in search of dead marine life. This stratum is associated with others that are ripple-marked and sun-cracked, and bear rain imprints... Lea in 1849 collected a most interesting slab, a little over 5 feet long, with six successive series of foot impressions made by an amphibian (Paleosauropus) with a 13 inch stride. This slab is ripple-marked and has rain imprints, indicating a mud flat of land origin, over which the animal walked when the deposit was yet soft and wet... Fig. 461 - Slab of Triassic sandstone 6 x 3.5 feet, pitted by rain. A large dinosaur (Steropoides diversus) walked over the muddy ground before the storm, and a much smaller one (Argoides minimus) afterwards."

-Pirrson & Schuchert, Text-Book of Geology[14]

"Often they record tragedies of the past, such as that found near the German city of Nierstein on the Rhine. Here in the sandstone, which was once a desert sand, are the small tracks of an insect. Death stalks the unwary insect in the form of lizard tracks which converge upon the insect tracks. Soon the two trails come together - and beyond, the lizard walks alone."

-Twenhofel & Shrock, Invertebrate Paleontology[15]

"An intriguing feature of the Coconino footprints is that they almost always run uphill on the steeply inclined bedding planes of this dune sandstone."

-Derek Ager, Principles of Paleoecology[16]

Reasons further asks why, in the last example, the animals are seen running uphill, and questions whether this could be due to rising Flood waters.

External Links

Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity at


  1. McDowell, Josh & Stewart, Don (1981). "Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity." Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois.
  2. C.E. Oxnard, Human Fossils: The New Revolution," The Great Ideas Today 1977, Chicago: The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1977, p. 142-143.
  3. Philip V. Tobias, "Early Man in East Africa," Science, Vol. 149, p. 22.
  4. Handwerk, Brian (2011, February 10). "'Lucy' Was No Swinger, Walked Like Us, Fossil Suggests." National Geographic.
  5. J.B. Birdsell, Human Evolution, Chicago: Rand McNally, 1972, p. 141.
  6. Thomas H. Clark and Colin W. Stearn, The Geological Evolution of North America, New York: The Ronald Press Co., 1960, p. 88.
  7. W.P. Woodring, "Marine Pleistocene of California," Treatise on Marine Ecology and Paleoecology, Vol. 2, Paleoecology, H.S. Ladd editor, Washington: The Geological Society of North America, Memoir 67, 1957, p. 594, 595.
  8. Henry N. Andrews, Studies in Paleobotany, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1961, pp. 189, 201-202.
  9. Wilfred Francis, Coal: Its Formation and Composition, London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1961, pp. 17-19.
  10. W.B. Wright, The Quaternary Ice Age, p. 111, cited by Immanuel Velikovsky, Earth in Upheaval, Garden City: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1955, p. 57, 58.
  11. Derek Ager, Principles of Paleoecology, San Francisco: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1963, p. 249.
  12. Charles Schuchert and Carl O. Dunbar, Textbook of Geology pt. 2, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1933, p. 212.
  13. William H. Matthews III, Fossils, New York: Barnes and Noble, 1962, p. 135.
  14. Louis V. Pirrson and Charles Schuchert, Text-Book of Geology, New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1920, p. 711, 712, 739, 826.
  15. William H. Twenhofel and Robert R. Shrock, Invertebrate Paleontology, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1935, p. 19.
  16. Derek Ager, Principles of Paleoecology, San Francisco: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1963, p. 108.