Thursday, July 9, 2015

#1409: Leonard Brand

Young-earth creationists with genuine credentials in any relevant discipline are rare, but Leonard Brand does have a PhD in biology from Cornell (from 1970). Currently Brand, a Seventh-Day Adventist, is the Chair Professor of Loma Linda University Department of Earth and Biological Sciences, which is not a place you would go to learn anything about Earth and Biological Sciences. And Brand really wants to be taken seriously, despite the complete bankruptcy of his views from a scientific standpoint, and has long been an advocate of “respectful dialogue” on what he thinks is a creation–evolution controversy. At least he has – in fairness – challenged fellow creationists to use caution when making scientific claims, but that is frankly not enough to escape a “deranged lunacy” tag from us.

As a “researcher” Brand is mostly known for his attempts to find evidence for the Flood. So for instance, Brand (with Thu Tang, Andrew Snelling and Steven Austin) has proposed that fossil tracks in the Grand Canyon’s Coconino Sandstone point to underwater deposition rather than desert wind deposition of dry sand, a hypothesis that has, to put it mildly, been criticized (“refuted” is more accurate) by scientists with a more rigorous approach to the data. Nonetheless, and quite predictably, Brand left out all criticism, objections and refutations in his book Faith, Reason and Earth History. Dishonesty is a sin only for those who don’t stand with Jesus, remember.

In other words, though Brand takes a less confrontational approach than many other young earth creationists, and may superficially appear to respect scientific investigations and empirical evidence somewhat more, there is little to distinguish him from the rest. It’s the same denialism, dishonesty and motivated reasoning as always – it’s just the presentation that has changed (somewhat) for what appears to be strategic reasons. It is noteworthy that those who praise Brand for his integrity and respect for science are his fellow young earth creationists. Brand himself? “The difference between a creationist and an evolutionist isn’t a difference in the scientific data, but a difference in philosophy – a difference in the presuppositions …” Yup. That gambit (covered in a bit more detail here); hint: presuppositions are testable as much as anything else, but Brand is completely unwilling to test his). Here is a discussion of a recent attempt to use that particularly gambit.

And Brand has been in the game for a long time. Together with Ariel Roth he defended “teaching the controversy” in public schools before the California State Board of Education in the early seventies (stating that students in California schools should be allowed to hear both theories and to make up their own minds.) His most recent book is Beginnings (2007), where he states that “[i]n my approach, I retain the scientific method of observation and experimentation, but I also allow study of Scripture to open my eyes to things that I might otherwise overlook and to suggest new hypotheses to test. This approach is not just a theory; some of us have been using it for years with success.” “Success” refers, of course, not to successful scientific investigations, but to outreach strategies. Well, Brand claims that it refers to scientific investigations, and as evidence he cites … the Coconino Sandstone fossil tracks again, completely oblivious to the fact that his interpretations of these tracks have been refuted a thousand times. So much for an honest approach to science.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church seems to have recognized Brand as something of a leader in matters of science and origins, and he served on the SDA church’s science council (now, that’s an Orwellian committee if there ever was one) for almost 30 years. As such, he has also written a book (with Australian Don S. McMahon) defending Ellen White’s writings on health. Needless to say, saying that they advocate a scientifically rigorous approach doesn’t automatically make the approach they advocate scientifically rigorous, and the book is riddled with pseudoscience and godbotting.

Diagnosis: Denialist dingbat, who harbors not the faintest trace of respect for methodological rigor, evidence, accountability or reason. As compromising and honest about science as Kent Hovind, really, though admittedly somewhat better at cushioning and camouflaging his message. 


  1. Nominations:
    Timothy Buchanan (BarbWire columnist and author of The Boobonic Plague)
    Tammy Bruce (criticism of anti-gay laws is exactly like the Gestapo (or Gaystapo or something)
    Anti-gay wingnut Michael Brown
    Transphobic radfem Cathy Brennan
    Animal Rights extremist Steven Best

  2. interesting interview with Eric Hovind: