The New York Times article "Islamic Creationist and a Book Sent Round the World" examines the recent mailing of Harun Yahya's Atlas of Creation to scientists, politicians, and museums in the United States. Of interest to Iconic Books aficionados is the role that appearance plays in this latest round in the debate over human and natural origins. According to the article, "for many, it is too beautiful for the trash bin but too erroneous for their shelves." The article quotes UCB evolutionary biologist Kevin Padian as saying his colleagues were "just astounded at its size and production values and equally astonished at what a load of crap it is." Elsewhere, the article quotes Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller: "While they said they were unimpressed with the book’s content, recipients marveled at its apparent cost. 'If you went into a bookstore and saw a book like this, it would be at least $100,' said Dr. Miller, an author of conventional biology texts. 'The production costs alone are astronomical. We are talking millions of dollars.'"
Scholars of iconic books are quite familiar with the rhetorical value of a beautiful book and equally familiar with Islam as one of the traditions that is most well-known for its beautiful religious texts. Here, I think, we see a member of that tradition put those artistic and rhetorical tools to use in a different kind of argument. Even if the content of the Atlas of Creation fails to persuade the audience, the physical presence of the book is too powerful to ignore.
Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)