Science or Religion?

The Astronomy Book cover

The Astronomy Book

Submitter: A patron donated The Astronomy Book, by Dr. Jonathan Henry (cover and select pages attached) to my library this week. At a glance, it seems like a harmless, if a little outdated, juvenile astronomy book. But woe betide the librarian who doesn’t dig deeper.  This “astronomy” book includes such claims as, “Satan uses the search for aliens and UFOs as a deception to keep many people from finding the true source of salvation” (p 75), and, “There is evidence  that the speed of light was much higher in the past, which means that the light we now see from the Andromeda Galaxy did not actually need 2 million years to reach us, but only a few thousand years” (p 55). Of course, the universe is only about 6,000 years old, and the short glossary includes helpful definitions such as, “Nebular hypothesis – the false belief that the solar system evolved from a cloud of gas” (p 78).

We won’t be including this donation in our collection, but a quick tour of World Cat showed that quite a few public libraries own this book. I understand the place of books like this in certain religious school libraries, but this book has so much potential for creating confusion among unsuspecting public library patrons and space enthusiasts who don’t pick up on the cover’s subtle clues!

Holly: This is a great example of why libraries have selection policies.  If this book matches your library’s mission, that’s great.  You have to look at items carefully to make that determination.

The Astronomy Book - back cover

Why did God make other planets?

Seeing Distant Objects in a Young Universe

What are UFOs?


  1. The publisher seems to have gone to some trouble to make the outside of the book appear to be a real astronomy book and not reflect the religiosity of the actual contents, so I wonder why they put the phrase “the myth of star birth” on the back cover?

  2. Oh my gosh, I’m reading this out loud to my girlfriend (who has a degree in Physics), and we’re just in tears. I think my personal favorite is the idea that the entire rest of the universe is just a billions-of-light-years-wide wristwatch, though the part about how G-d created all the stars except the ones that explode is pretty great too. (The second law of thermodynamics is a trick of Satan maybe?)

  3. Things we learned from this book:

    * Satan is the god of outer space. Or the god of extraterrestrials. Or Roswell. Or UFO researchers. Or… you know what, I don’t even know what concept they are attempting to communicate there.

    * “The speed of light was faster in the past, so the Universe can still be only a few thousand years old!” (I have to admit, of all the impressive mental backflips I have seen Creationists make, that one’s new.)

    * “God wouldn’t let a star explode. So all those exploding stars we see through telescopes are really just… uh… let me suddenly change the subject!”

    * The Universe exists for humans! F*** everything else, it’s all about me! Uh, I mean, us!

    This is all pretty amazing (especially the Satanist aliens part), but I think the “dragon” in this book still wins:

  4. Eek, reminds me of the Moody Institute of “Science” and their classroom films that were similar to this trash. I don’t object to the material as much as the deceptive packaging. Definitely at least SKIM materials before adding them to a collection.

  5. Did anyone see the video from the Daily Show where they interviewed a strategist for the Republicans and heard her ludicrous statements on science?

    I’ve always wondered why on earth so many people are anti-science, and I think I’m starting to realize…it’s because it disproves the idea of a seven-day creation story.

    This book is entertaining, in that they’re trying to stretch and mold what information they have to fit the creation story.

    Except…that’s not how science works. SIGH.

  6. I think libraries need more books like this…they’re supposed to include all viewpoints in their subject matter. It’s all science, the only difference is in which presuppositions peoples start with and how they interpret the evidence. But if they’re doing it right, it’s all based on the evidence. It’s sad that there are so few of these books in many libraries.

    That said, I haven’t heard of all the things that were said…the speed of light thing is probably off and I don’t know about the nebulization thing. But not everyone makes such mistakes, and those that get it right still deserve respect. I also don’t see anything wrong with the UFO part…it’s not illogical that demons could use such things to trick people.

    To get better acquainted with what the real views cover and what the book got wrong,I’d suggest sites like True Origins or Answers in Genesis or Creation Research Ministries….not posting any links here, because I’ve found a lot of blogs/forums really don’t like anything that could be considered spamming.

  7. No, this book is not science. It starts from the assumption God Did It, and looks for ways to make the evidence fit that hypothesis. The term for this sort of thing is “scientism”, the use of scientific jargon to support anti-scientific viewpoints.

    A book like this does not belong in a school library at all. It is not honest science, and it is not honest theology. It’s deliberately trying to trick people into thinking science supports a specific religious viewpoint…exposing students to ideas does NOT have to mean letting charlatans have a go at them.

  8. @April — the world was actually created in six days. On the seventh day, God rested. No where does it actually say the world was created in seven days. The idea of the seven day week come much later, although admittedly from the bible. And that’s knowledge from an avowed athiest.

    Also, for all of those questioning the cover of the book, didn’t any of you notice the Wonders of Creation tab?

  9. The Bible actually leaves open a lot of intriguing possibilities about life existing “elsewhere” besides Earth. It says little about happenings in celestial (star) places, but does say these places exist. Many Christians are afraid that acknowledging the existence (or even possibility) of other-than-human races will turn people’s minds away from God, when, in fact, they have to ignore parts of scripture to come to those conclusions.

    It’s true that some people are waiting for the aliens to come and save us from all our problems with their superior technology, but what if they don’t want to? What’s in it for them? Most of us realize that we’re stuck with our problems until we find a way to solve them.

    The problem with this type of “education” is that it is neither based on science nor on sound doctrine. Where does it say God won’t allow a star to die? God created zebras, and they die.

    It’s this sort of “education” that really makes people turn from God, when they grow up and realize that a lot of the stuff they were indoctrinated with makes no sense. Then they often become angry that they were manipulated. Who wouldn’t feel that way?

  10. I would weed this in a second and I’m a church librarian. Not only does it get the science wrong; it really gets the Bible wrong. Nothing in the Bible supports that 10,000 year thing; that’s from one crazy guy in the 1500’s. Nobody paid attention to him until they decided they needed something to fight science.

  11. This book is hilarious! My dad is an astronomer who specializes in the origins of the Solar System and he would laugh at the arguments presented in this book. And contrary to popular belief, not all scientists are atheists and not all religious scientists distort their science to fit their religion. My dad is also a fairly devout Lutheran. He just believes that God had a hand in getting the whole thing started and that people’s definition of the length of a day is not necessarily God’s definition. He made his religion fit his science, instead of the premise of this book. But I find their theories on extraterrestrials the best of all. One of our oldest family friends is the Jesuit Brother who manages the Vatican’s meteorite collection. He even wrote the Vatican’s position on aliens and nowhere does it say anything about demons masquerading as aliens. He even appeared on The Colbert Report to present it. Here’s a link talking about him and the Vatican’s position, which has the best byline ever! “Highly evolved extra terrestrial lifeforms may be living in space and would be welcomed into the church – “no matter how many tentacles”, one of the Pope’s astronomers has said.”

  12. That book is definitely NOT science.

    No major harm if you think such books should be in your library, but they need to be filed correctly – under the religion section.

  13. The theories about a younger universe are acceptable. The insulting tone about theories such as the Big Bang and the whole alien thing is just….well, it made me speechless. Normally I’d grumble, “what the he’ll?” Also, no explanation on how God doesn’t explode his own stars!!!??

  14. @mm Answers in Genesis, isn’t that Ken Ham? Aren’t they the ones with the Creationist Museum of Natural History in KY which depicts Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs after the fall? Junk science. Young Earth Creationism is a new concept. Old Earth Creationists can argue rings around the Young Earthers. Absolutely none of what Young Earthers make up to try to justify the Earth being between 6,000 and 10,000 years old has any basis in fact.

    This book doesn’t have a place in the science books in a library. Perhaps in the religion section, but definitely not in the science section. I see this is from a Christian Home Schooling publisher. I’m betting the parents who buy this book also have and use that book by Michael and Debi Pearl. In other words, the kind of fundamentalist cultists who scare me.

  15. “Satan uses the search for aliens and UFOs as a deception to keep many people from finding the true source of salvation”

    My husband enjoys all talks of UFOs and ETs. Just wondering if, by the book’s standards, does this mean he’s possessed or just hasn’t seen the light yet? in either case, I will still inform him that he’s missing out on salvation. I knew there was always a reason I didn’t care about Roswell. 😉 Though to be fair I don’t care about seeing the light either so I wonder what demonic force is at work on me keeping me from salvation.

  16. Just realized something.

    This Book: “Some people believe in very wrong and sinful nonsense about intelligent beings that are better than humans and live in the sky!”

    Me: “Angels?”

  17. Lookout! Must…somehow…acquire this book for my collection of WTF “Literature”! How do we bribe you to get us some of these, uh, “gems” (cubic zirconium at best) to us? Or do we just make do with the knowledge of their existence and go on a half-hearted quest? (Feel free to E-mail me, admin, if getting this doozy is a possibility!)

    Young Earthers also claim that the rate of radioactive decay /argon decay was manipulated by god, so all carbon dating appears millions of years old when it isn’t. I’m waiting for the Bible reference for that one…

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