I’m not sure if Secretary of the Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is cheap or cuckoo, but it comes as something of a shock to learn that the controversial book The Atlas of Creation is prominently displayed in the waiting room to his office. Written by the Turkish writer Adnan Oktar (under the pen name of Harun Yahya), the Atlas offers an Islamic version of creationism and blames Charles Darwin for modern terrorism–including the 9/11 attacks. A recent visitor to the office tells me that the Atlas is impossible to miss, both because of its huge size–it weighs in at 12 pounds and has nearly 800 pages–and because it is prominently displayed on a stand at the entrance to the room.
The Atlas of Creation can be bought for $99 (plus shipping and handing) through a link from Harun Yahya’s website. A summary says:
This book provides the reader with not only such information as what fossils are and where and how they are found, but also a closer examination of a variety of fossil specimens, millions of years old, that are still able to declare, “We never underwent evolution; we were created.” The fossils discussed and illustrated in this book are just a few examples of the hundreds of millions of specimens that prove the fact of Creation. And even these few are enough to prove that the theory of evolution is a major hoax and deception in the history of science.
Earlier this year, the Atlas created a controversy in France, where creationist belief is relatively rare, when hundreds of unsolicited copies turned up at high schools and universities. This summer, hundreds (and possibly thousands) of copies were mailed to university biology departments, science museums and government offices in the United States. No one ever determined who paid for the mailings, but the cost was clearly extensive. A July 26, 2007 story on University Wire said recipients marveled at the color illustrations, but said the contents “set scientists sputtering with indignation.”
A caption from the book, below a photograph of one of the planes striking the World Trade Center, reports: “No matter what ideology they may espouse, those who perpetrate terror over the world are, in reality, Darwinists. Darwinism is the only philosophy that places a value on–and thus encourages–conflict.”
Darwinism is also to blame for fascism and communism. As the Atlas explains, it “is the root of various ideologies of violence that have spelled disaster to mankind in the 20th century.
The New York Times reported over the summer that scientists in France had banded together to denounce the book:
So far, no similar response is emerging in the United States. ”In our country we are used to nonsense like this,” said Kevin Padian, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who, like colleagues there, found a copy in his mailbox. He said people who had received copies were ”just astounded at its size and production values and equally astonished at what a load of crap it is.
I called Secretary Gutierrez’s press office to ask if the copy on display in his waiting room had been bought, or mailed unsolicited to his office. (If I hear back, I’ll update this story). But either way, it seems like a bizarre choice of literature to offer to people waiting to meet the secretary.