Darwin's Sandcastle: Evolution's Failure in the Light of Scripture and the Scientific Evidence

Wilson, Gordon. 2023. Roman Roads Press. ISBN-13: ‎978-1944482831

The author earned the PhD in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University in Virginia. He teaches biology at New Saint Andrews College, a small Christian college in the Reformed faith tradition, located in Moscow, Idaho. He is the author of A Different Shade of Green, and The Riot and the Dance, and regularly writes for Answers Magazine.  
Darwin’s Sandcastle is a well-written paperback book that addresses many of the familiar questions about creation. The text is divided into 13 chapters and a “Creationist Manifesto” at the end. Familiar topics are included, often with new examples. A chapter (11) on theodicy is an interesting addition to the usual list of subjects. Topics that could have been included include the history and philosophy of science, soft-tissue preservation in dinosaurs and other fossils, and a discussion of geological phenomena. But an author cannot reasonably cover every topic, and has to stop somewhere.  
Three things in Wilson’s approach stand out. First is his unwavering confidence in the Scriptures. The doctrine of creation, as derived from Genesis 1-11, forms the foundation for all biblical doctrines. Science is to be understood in the light of Scripture, not the reverse. Second is his care with his arguments. Where they are based on Scripture, he is totally committed. Where they are based on incomplete data or not constrained by Scripture, his conclusions are tentative, and he cautions the reader to be careful. Third, he values Christian courtesy in the discussion, and ends the book with a chapter (13) on that topic.  
The book begins with two chapters discussing the reliability of Scripture. Creation occurred in six days within a single week. Biblical chronologies give a reliable indication of the age of the Earth. A global flood destroyed all terrestrial life not in the ark. Deep Time (chapter 3) is rejected because it doesn’t fit with Scripture, although the author does not address the question of whether the physical universe could have an age different from the age of life on the Earth, a position that seems probable to some creationists,[1] including this reviewer. 
Species can change in order to adapt to environmental changes (chapter 4) but Darwinian processes are inadequate to produce new novel structures, such as feathers, the shell of the turtle, and the ptilinum of a housefly. Fossils (chapter 5) show gaps among phyla in the Cambrian Explosion, a well-known challenge for common ancestry.[2] Wilson points out that this pattern of gaps is seen in lower taxonomic categories, such as among classes within a phylum, and among orders within a class. Wilson acknowledges the existence of “intermediate” fossils, and urges other creationists not to downplay their mixture of traits, but to embrace them as examples of created diversity. There is no need to shoehorn, for example, the fossil Tiktaalik, into a larger group such as fish or amphibian. It is different, neither fish nor amphibian.[3] God created many different habitats, and many different kinds of animals to inhabit them.
Human and ape fossils (chapter 6) can be divided into three groups: humans, apes, and invalid taxa based on mixtures of bones. Wilson includes in the latter Homo erectus and Australopithecus sediba. Human-like fossil footprints on the island of Crete date to 5.6 to 5.7 million years ago, which, in the standard chronology, disqualifies all younger fossil material from the ancestry of humans. This implies that none of the known Australopithecus and Homo fossils has anything to do with the ancestry of humans.
The problem of the origin of life[4] is taken up in chapter 7. Irreducible complexity is discussed in chapter 8. Genetic entropy (deterioration) is compared (chapter 9) to making a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, with loss of resolution in each generation.  
Chapter 10 discusses the problem of identifying which species or groups of species comprise a created kind[5] (baramin). A baramin consists of a created ancestor and all the variations and species that have developed from it. The best criterion for determining membership in a baramin is “genetic equivalence.” Species that differ in the types of genes present should not be clustered together. Biogeography may also play a useful role. Comparing Russell’s Viper, the Puff Adder, and the Malabar Pit Viper leads to the conclusion that vipers and pit vipers represent separate baramins.  
The problem of evil in nature (theodicy, chapter 11) is an interesting and valuable contribution of this book, regardless of whether one agrees with everything written. Wilson identifies three biblical principles to guide the discussion:  
     1. The original creation was “very good.”
     2. There was no death before the Fall.
     3. After the sixth day of creation God finished His work, there was no further creation.
These principles imply that predators, parasites, and pathogens were not present before the Fall. Wilson provides an example of each to show the evidence for directed design rather than random genetic changes, and lists four potential explanations for the origins of the design seen in predation, parasites and pathogens: Satanic modification; macroevolution; post-Fall divine modification; and pre-Fall divine provision. The latter is the preferred explanation, but Wilson frankly admits “whether this is correct or not I don’t know.”
Wilson addresses another issue that is sometimes brought up as an argument against the idea that there was no death in the original creation. What prevents overpopulation if there is no death? And what prevents a large animal from accidentally crushing a small animal to death?  Wilson proposes reasonable mechanisms to respond to these questions, but there are other possibilities that merit consideration. First, overpopulation could easily be prevented by a behavioral mechanism that caused reproduction to stop when a target population size was reached. Even in the present world, reproduction in many species tends to slow down when a population encounters environmental stress. This could even be a residual of what was originally an efficient mechanism for limiting population growth. Second, predation as used in the Bible may have a more restricted definition than in present thinking. Bible writers did not consider plants to be alive or dead in the same way as vertebrates, so biblical references to death may not mean the same as current word usage would imply. The problem with these issues is not that there is no plausible answer. The problem is that are too many possibilities to be sure of a conclusion.
Chapter 12 is devoted to a variety of questions about topics not covered in the rest of the book. Dinosaurs, the Flood, plate tectonics, the Ice Age, and starlight are among the topics addressed. I understand why many creationists want to say that dinosaurs were on the ark, but I find the arguments totally unconvincing, especially in light of the complete lack of a single dinosaur bone or footprint through the entire Cenozoic layers, including the archaeological record. On another subject, I do not think Genesis 1 requires that the entire universe was created at the same time as this Earth, or that starlight was created to simulate the passage of time. But neither of these points is vital for creation theory.  
In the final chapter (13) Wilson is surprisingly frank about the problem of discord among creationists, too many of which show a lack of caution in their conclusions and a lack of courtesy in their disagreements. He appeals to the group to do “godly science” and reminds all of us that “gentle” and “kind” are just as biblical as “creation.” Despite the occasional discord, Wilson says, “God is doing a great work through the creation ministries.”  
The book ends with a “Creationist Manifesto” which lists what the author believes to be the most important points for a creationist to understand.  
This book should be of interest to all creationists, regardless of whether they agree with everything written. Several of the examples will be new to most readers, adding to the interest.

Reviewed by Jim Gibson, PhD

[1] For a scholarly treatment of this position from a biblical perspective, see Davidson, RM, 2015. The Genesis account of origins

[2] See, for example, this accessible overview of the Cambrian Explosion: Esperante, R, 2015. The Cambrian Explosion  

[3] A similar conclusion could be applied to Archaeopteryx, see Gibson, LJ, 2018. Archaeopteryx: Bird or reptile? Or not? 

[4] See also: Standish, TG, 2014. Where did life come from?, and Javor, GT, 2021. Synthesizing life in the laboratory: Why is it not happening?

[5] A textual analysis of the Hebrew is available at: Davidson Schafer, AR, 2003. The “kinds” of Genesis 1: What is the meaning of “min?”