OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - Some Minor Editorial Changes


By Tony Russell

"We're really excited about your new science textbook series. It's clear, well-written, and beautifully illustrated. What we like best about it, though, is the way it helps students understand how scientists work. You get a real feel for their passion, their curiosity, their commitment to following evidence wherever it leads."

"I appreciate the kind words. Thanks very much! So you're going to publish the books?"

"We'd be crazy not to. All you have to do is make some minor editorial changes, and we're good to go."

"Sounds simple enough. What changes did you have in mind?"

"Well, here in your section where you talk about glaciers, you say that the Great Lakes were formed when glaciers carved deep basins in the northern part of the country and then retreated. You write that all of that took place during the Wisconsin glacial period, which was at its height twenty thousand years ago."

"Yes. That's pretty much agreed upon by geologists everywhere. Is there a problem?"

"Uh, the issue is, counting generations back through the Old Testament, folks have calculated that the earth is six thousand years old. So you're saying the Great Lakes were created before the world existed."


"And here in the section on botany, you have a fascinating piece on the dawn redwood. That was all new to me--I'd never heard of it. You say it had been found as a fossil dating back to the Miocene epoch, and everybody assumed it had been extinct for over five million years, until a small stand was found in China in 1944, still alive. It's a wonderful story. But that number 'five million' presents a difficulty, of course."

"I think I follow you. The tree species is four million, nine hundred and ninety four thousand years older than some people want it to be."

"Right. Then there's your profile of Jack Horner, the paleontologist who discovered a colonial nesting site for a new dinosaur species on Egg Mountain in Montana. You say he concluded that they built colonies of nests and watched after their young when they hatched out. According to your chapter, they lived in large herds; Horner calls them 'the cows of the Mesosozoic.' It's all really well done. Kids are crazy about dinosaurs, and they'll eat that stuff up. A lot of them reading your book would be motivated to get into science."

"I'd love to see that."

"The problem is, you say the so-called Mesozoic era ended sixty-five million years ago."

"Yes, that's correct."

"Then there's this section on birds. You mention that the 'first bird' that we have evidence of is Archaeopteryx. By the way, that's a stunning photo of that fossil; you can see the clearest details of the feathers! But you say that this bird lived 150 to 155 million years ago."

"Right. That dating has been thoroughly researched and validated."

"Surely you see the difficulty, though. The gap between six thousand years and a hundred and fifty million years is a bit wider than we're comfortable with."

"I'm getting the picture."

"And then, of course, there's astronomy. Where to begin? You write that by studying meteorites, which are presumed to be remnants from the creation of the solar system, astronomers put the age of the system at four billion, six hundred million years."

"Yes, that's the consensus among astronomers and astrophysicists."

"I don't suppose you could scale back that timeline somewhat?"

"All the way to six thousand!?"

"I'm not suggesting you compromise your standards. But is that asking too much to sell a lot of books?"

© Tony Russell, 2008

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