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Astronomical Pseudo-Science: A Skeptic's Resource List


9. Astronomical Aspects of Creationism and Intelligent Design

Fundamentalist religious thinkers (from a number of religions) have sought to deny the evidence from geology, astronomy, and evolutionary biology about the age and gradual development of the universe, the Earth, and its life-forms. (Recent creationist tactics have involved attacking the Big Bang theory and radioactive dating, for example.) Some groups have worked hard to get their own brand of "creation science" or "intelligent design" into the public schools and to undermine the teaching of evolution, one of the most fundamental and best-established ideas in modern science. The literature examining this controversy is enormous; the list below is merely a representative sampling, of particular interest to astronomy educators.

An Ancient Universe: How Astronomers Know the Vast Scale of Cosmic Time: (from the Education Board of the American Astronomical Society)

National Center for Science Education: Best web site for keeping up with issues in this area, with many articles, resources, and links.

Scott, Eugenie Evolution Versus Creationism, 2nd ed. 2009, University of California Press. Excellent introduction to the key issues -- scientific and political.

Bobrowsky, M. "Teaching Evolutionary Processes to Skeptical Students" in Physics Teacher, Dec. 2000, p. 565. Includes a list of creationist arguments and science teacher responses.

Bobrowsky, M. "Dealing with Disbelieving Students on Issues of Evolutionary Processes & Long Time Scales" Astronomy Education Review, vol. 4, #1, pp. 95:

Morrison, D. "Only a Theory: Framing the Evolution/Creation Issue" in Skeptical Inquirer, Nov/Dec. 2005, p. 37. An astronomer comments on how scientists are ceding the field by not noting the use of language. (On the web at:

Hameed, S. "Bracing for Islamic Creationism" in Science, vol. 322, p. 1637 (12 Dec 2008). An astronomer warns of the rise of creationist ideas in Muslim countries and the need for education.

Talk.Origins Archive: (full of resources, discussions, links)

Supernovae, Supernova Remnants, and Young Earth Creationism by Dave Moore: (How creationists misuse arguments about exploding stars.)

Lawson, Kristan Darwin and Evolution for Kids. 2005, Chicago Review Press. An introduction to Darwin’s life and key evolutionary idea, with a discussion of why creationist ideas are wrong.

Pigliucci, Massimo Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science. 2002, Sinauer Associates. A biologist gives the history of, explains, and refutes the various "brands" of creationism.

Strahler, Arthur Science and Earth History: The Evolution / Creation Controversy. 1987, Prometheus Books. A discussion from the geologist's point of view, with lots of information about dating the Earth's rocks.

Brush, S. "Finding the Age of the Earth by Physics or by Faith?" in Journal of Geological Education, 1982, vol. 30, pp. 34-58.

Coyne, J. "The Faith That Dare Not Speak its Name: The Case Against Intelligent Design" in The New Republic, Aug. 22/29, 2005 issue (vol. 233, issue 4727/8, p. 21.) Superb layperson’s introduction to the history/politics of intelligent design and a refutation of its arguments (by a biologist.)

Dutch, S. "A Critique of Creationist Cosmology" in Journal of Geological Education, 1982, vol. 30, p. 27.

Wilson, M. "Geology Confronts Creationism: An Undergraduate Science Curriculum" in Skeptical Inquirer, Jan/Feb. 2002, p. 52. A course for geology majors.

The Age of the Earth: This useful page from the Talk.Origins site describes how we measure the age of our planet and then dissects some of the common creationist arguments for a younger Earth.

Changing Speed of Light Analysis: Addresses the creationist idea that the age of the universe could be a lot less than astronomers think if the speed of light has been getting a lot slower with time, so that light from distant objects wouldn’t have had to leave them so long ago.
A more technical site is:

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10. The "Great Moon Hoax": Did Astronauts Land on the Moon?

A small group of "true believers" who claim that NASA never landed on the Moon got a big boost in 2001, when Fox network broadcast a long paranoid show about their ideas. The web sites below provide a skeptical examination of this claim and the so-called evidence for it. From the many moon rocks brought back by the astronauts to the instruments they left on the Moon, there was always ample evidence that the moon landings actually happened. But in 2009, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took direct images showing the Apollo artifacts on the Moon, settling the issue for all except the most fervent "believers."

Phil Plait’s response to "Moon Hoax":

Hoax Comments by astronomer Jim Scotti:

Science at NASA discussion of hoax:

Moon Base Clavius Site (a group effort at debunking) [note that you need to click on the small arrows at the bottom to get to the next pages]:

Keel, W. "The Earth and Stars in the Lunar Sky" in Skeptical Inquirer, Jul/Aug. 2007, p. 47. The ultraviolet camera on Apollo 16 did record stars in the lunar sky and you can even identify them.

Plait, Phil "Apalled at Apollo" Chapter 17 of Bad Astronomy. 2002, Wiley. Good ammunition for debunking the notion that NASA never went to the Moon point by point.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Images:

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