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Bruce Sterling. Creation Science

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From THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, August 1993. F&SF, Box 56, Cornwall CT 06753 $26/yr USA $31/yr other F&SF Science Column #8: "Creation Science" In the beginning, all geologists and biologists were creationists. This was only natural. In the early days of the Western scientific tradition, the Bible was by far the most impressive and potent source of historical and scientific knowledge. The very first Book of the Bible, Genesis, directly treated matters of deep geological import. Genesis presented a detailed account of God's creation of the natural world, including the sea, the sky, land, plants, animals and mankind, from utter nothingness. Genesis also supplied a detailed account of a second event of enormous import to geologists: a universal Deluge. Theology was queen of sciences, and geology was one humble aspect of "natural theology." The investigation of rocks and the structure of the landscape was a pious act, meant to reveal the full glory and intricacy of God's design. Many of the foremost geologists of the 18th and 19th century were theologians: William Buckland, John Pye Smith, John Fleming, Adam Sedgewick. Charles Darwin himself was a one-time divinity student. Eventually the study of rocks and fossils, meant to complement the Biblical record, began to contradict it. There were published rumblings of discontent with the Genesis account as early as the 1730s, but real trouble began with the formidable and direct challenges of Lyell's uniformitarian theory of geology and his disciple Darwin's evolution theory in biology. The painstaking evidence heaped in Lyell's *Principles of Geology* and Darwin's *Origin of Species* caused enormous controversy, but eventually carried the day in the scientific community. But convincing the scientific community was far from the end of the matter. For "creation science," this was only the beginning. Most Americans today are "creationists" in the strict sense of that term. Polls indicate that over 90 percent of Americans believe that the universe exists because God created it. A Gallup poll in 1991 established that a full 47 percent of the American populace further believes that God directly created humankind, in the present human form, less than ten thousand years ago. So "creationism" is not the view of an extremist minority in our society -- quite the contrary. The real minority are the fewer than five percent of Americans who are strictly non-creationist. Rejecting divine intervention entirely leaves one with few solid or comforting answers, which perhaps accounts for this view's unpopularity. Science offers no explanation whatever as to why the universe exists. It would appear that something went bang in a major fashion about fifteen billion years ago, but the scientific evidence for that -- the three-degree background radiation, the Hubble constant and so forth -- does not at all suggest *why* such an event should have happened in the first place. One doesn't necessarily have to invoke divine will to explain the origin of the universe. One might speculate, for instance, that the reason there is Something instead of Nothing is because "Nothing is inherently unstable" and Nothingness simply exploded. There's little scientific evidence to support such a speculation, however, and few people in our society are that radically anti-theistic. The commonest view of the origin of the cosmos is "theistic creationism," the belief that the Cosmos is the product of a divine supernatural action at the beginning of time. The creationist debate, therefore, has not generally been between strictly natural processes and strictly supernatural ones, but over *how much* supernaturalism or naturalism one is willing to admit into one's worldview. How does one deal successfully with the dissonance between the word of God and the evidence in the physical world? Or the struggle, as Stephen Jay Gould puts it, between the Rock of Ages and the age of rocks? Let us assume, as a given, that the Bible as we know it today is divinely inspired and that there are no mistranslations, errors, ellipses, or deceptions within the text. Let us further assume that the account in Genesis is entirely factual and not metaphorical, poetic or mythical. Genesis says that the universe was created in six days. This divine process followed a well-defined schedule. Day 1. God created a dark, formless void of deep waters, then created light and separated light from darkness. Day 2. God established the vault of Heaven over the formless watery void. Day 3. God created dry land amidst the waters and established vegetation on the land. Day 4. God created the sun, the moon, and the stars, and set them into the vault of heaven. Day 5. God created the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air. Day 6. God created the beasts of the earth and created one male and one female human being. On Day 7, God rested. Humanity thus began on the sixth day of creation. Mankind is one day younger than birds, two days younger than plants, and slightly younger than mammals. How are we to reconcile this with scientific evidence suggesting that the earth is over 4 billion years old and that life started as a single-celled ooze some three billion years ago? The first method of reconciliation is known as "gap theory." The very first verse of Genesis declares that God created the heaven and the earth, but God did not establish "Day" and "Night" until the fifth verse. This suggests that there may have been an immense span of time, perhaps eons, between the creation of matter and life, and the beginning of the day-night cycle. Perhaps there were multiple creations and cataclysms during this period, accounting for the presence of oddities such as trilobites and dinosaurs, before a standard six-day Edenic "restoration" around 4,000 BC. "Gap theory" was favored by Biblical scholar Charles Scofield, prominent '30s barnstorming evangelist Harry Rimmer, and well- known modern televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, among others. The second method of reconciliation is "day-age theory." In this interpretation, the individual "days" of the Bible are considered not modern twenty-four hour days, but enormous spans of time. Day-age theorists point out that the sun was not created until Day 4, more than halfway through the process. It's difficult to understand how or why the Earth would have a contemporary 24-hour "day" without a Sun. The Beginning, therefore, likely took place eons ago, with matter created on the first "day," life emerging on the third "day," the fossil record forming during the eons of "days" four five and six. Humanity, however, was created directly by divine fiat and did not "evolve" from lesser animals. Perhaps the best-known "day-age" theorist was William Jennings Bryan, three-times US presidential candidate and a prominent figure in the Scopes evolution trial in 1925. In modern creation-science, however, both gap theory and day-age theory are in eclipse, supplanted and dominated by "flood geology." The most vigorous and influential creation-scientists today are flood geologists, and their views (though not the only views in creationist doctrine), have become synonymous with the terms "creation science" and "scientific creationism." "Flood geology" suggests that this planet is somewhere between 6,000 and 15,000 years old. The Earth was entirely lifeless until the six literal 24-hour days that created Eden and Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were the direct ancestors of all human beings. All fossils, including so-called pre-human fossils, were created about 3,000 BC during Noah's Flood, which submerged the entire surface of the Earth and destroyed all air-breathing life that was not in the Ark (with the possible exception of air-breathing mammalian sea life). Dinosaurs, which did exist but are probably badly misinterpreted by geologists, are only slightly older than the human race and were co-existent with the patriarchs of the Old Testament. Actually, the Biblical patriarchs were contemporaries with all the creatures in the fossil record, including trilobites, pterosaurs, giant ferns, nine-foot sea scorpions, dragonflies two feet across, tyrannosaurs, and so forth. The world before the Deluge had a very rich ecology. Modern flood geology creation-science is a stern and radical school. Its advocates have not hesitated to carry the war to their theological rivals. The best known creation-science text (among hundreds) is probably *The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications* by John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris (1961). Much of this book's argumentative energy is devoted to demolishing gap theory, and especially, the more popular and therefore more pernicious day-age theory. Whitcomb and Morris point out with devastating logic that plants, created on Day Three, could hardly have been expected to survive for "eons" without any daylight from the Sun, created on Day Four. Nor could plants pollinate without bees, moths and butterflies -- winged creatures that were products of Day Five. Whitcomb and Morris marshal a great deal of internal Biblical testimony for the everyday, non-metaphorical, entirely real-life existence of Adam, Eve, Eden, and Noah's Flood. Jesus Christ Himself refers to the reality of the Flood in Luke 17, and to the reality of Adam, Eve, and Eden in Matthew 19. Creationists have pointed out that without Adam, there is no Fall; with no Fall, there is no Atonement for original sin; without Atonement, there can be no Savior. To lack faith in the historical existence and the crucial role of Adam, therefore, is necessarily to lack faith in the historical existence and the crucial role of Jesus. Taken on its own terms, this is a difficult piece of reasoning to refute, and is typical of Creation-Science analysis. To these creation-scientists, the Bible is very much all of a piece. To begin pridefully picking and choosing within God's Word about what one may or may not choose to believe is to risk an utter collapse of faith that can only result in apostasy -- "going to the apes." These scholars are utterly and soberly determined to believe every word of the Bible, and to use their considerable intelligence to prove that it is the literal truth about our world and our history as a species. Cynics might wonder if this activity were some kind of elaborate joke, or perhaps a wicked attempt by clever men to garner money and fame at the expense of gullible fundamentalist supporters. Any serious study of the lives of prominent Creationists establishes that this is simply not so. Creation scientists are not poseurs or hypocrites. Many have spent many patient decades in quite humble circumstances, often enduring public ridicule, yet still working selflessly and doggedly in the service of their beliefs. When they state, for instance, that evolution is inspired by Satan and leads to pornography, homosexuality, and abortion, they are entirely in earnest. They are describing what they consider to be clear and evident facts of life. Creation-science is not standard, orthodox, respectable science. There is, and always has been, a lot of debate about what qualities an orthodox and respectable scientific effort should possess. It can be stated though that science should have at least two basic requirements: (A) the scientist should be willing to follow the data where it leads, rather than bending the evidence to fit some preconceived rationale, and (B) explanations of phenomena should not depend on unique or nonmaterial factors. It also helps a lot if one's theories are falsifiable, reproducible by other researchers, openly published and openly testable, and free of obvious internal contradictions. Creation-science does not fit that description at all. Creation- science considers it sheer boneheaded prejudice to eliminate miraculous, unique explanations of world events. After all, God, a living and omnipotent Supreme Being, is perfectly capable of directing mere human affairs into any direction He might please. To simply eliminate divine intervention as an explanation for phenomena, merely in order to suit the intellectual convenience of mortal human beings, is not only arrogant and arbitrary, but absurd. Science has accomplished great triumphs through the use of purely naturalistic explanations. Over many centuries, hundreds of scientists have realized that some questions can be successfully investigated using naturalistic techniques. Questions that cannot be answered in this way are not science, but instead are philosophy, art, or theology. Scientists assume as a given that we live in a natural universe that obeys natural laws. It's conceivable that this assumption might not be the case. The entire cognitive structure of science hinges on this assumption of natural law, but it might not actually be true. It's interesting to imagine the consequences for science if there were to be an obvious, public, irrefutable violation of natural law. Imagine that such a violation took place in the realm of evolutionary biology. Suppose, for instance, that tonight at midnight Eastern Standard Time every human being on this planet suddenly had, not ten fingers, but twelve. Suppose that all our children were henceforth born with twelve fingers also and we now found ourselves a twelve-fingered species. This bizarre advent would violate Neo-Darwinian evolution, many laws of human metabolism, the physical laws of conservation of mass and energy, and quite a few other such. If such a thing were to actually happen, we would simply be wrong about the basic nature of our universe. We thought we were living in a world where evolution occurred through slow natural processes of genetic drift, mutation, and survival of the fittest; but we were mistaken. Where the time had come for our species to evolve to a twelve-fingered status, we simply did it in an instant all at once, and that was that. This would be a shock to the scientific worldview equivalent to the terrible shock that the Christian worldview has sustained through geology and Darwinism. If a shock of this sort were to strike the scientific establishment, it would not be surprising to see scientists clinging, quite irrationally, to their naturalist principles -- despite the fact that genuine supernaturalism was literally right at hand. Bizarre rationalizations would surely flourish -- queer "explanations" that the sixth fingers had somehow grown there naturally without our noticing, or perhaps that the fingers were mere illusions and we really had only ten after all, or that we had always had twelve fingers and that all former evidence that we had once had ten fingers were evil lies spread by wicked people to confuse us. The only alternative would be to fully face the terrifying fact that a parochial notion of "reality" had been conclusively toppled, thereby robbing all meaning from the lives and careers of scientists. This metaphor may be helpful in understanding why it is that Whitcomb and Morris's *Genesis Flood* can talk quite soberly about Noah storing dinosaurs in the Ark. They would have had to be *young* dinosaurs, of course.... If we assume that one Biblical cubit equals 17.5 inches, a standard measure, then the Ark had a volume of 1,396,000 cubic feet, a carrying capacity equal to that of 522 standard railroad stock cars. Plenty of room! Many other possible objections to the Ark story are met head- on, in similar meticulous detail. Noah did not have to search the earth for wombats, pangolins, polar bears and so on; all animals, including the exotic and distant ones, were brought through divine instinct to the site of the Ark for Noah's convenience. It seems plausible that this divine intervention was, in fact, the beginning of the migratory instinct in the animal kingdom. Similarly, hibernation may have been created by God at this time, to keep the thousands of animals quiet inside the Ark and also reduce the need for gigantic animal larders that would have overtaxed Noah's crew of eight. Evidence in the Biblical geneologies shows that pre-Deluge patriarchs lived far longer than those after the Deluge, suggesting a radical change in climate, and not for the better. Whitcomb and Morris make the extent of that change clear by establishing that before the Deluge it never rained. There had been no rainbows before the Flood -- Genesis states clearly that the rainbow came into existence as a sign of God's covenant with Noah. If we assume that normal diffraction of sunlight by water droplets was still working in pre-Deluge time (as seems reasonable), then this can only mean that rainfall did not exist before Noah. Instead, the dry earth was replenished with a kind of ground-hugging mist (Genesis 2:6). The waters of the Flood came from two sources: the "fountains of the great deep" and "the windows of heaven." Flood geologists interpret this to mean that the Flood waters were subterranean and also present high in the atmosphere. Before they fell to Earth by divine fiat, the Flood's waters once surrounded the entire planet in a "vapor canopy." When the time came to destroy his Creation, God caused the vapor canopy to fall from outer space until the entire planet was submerged. That water is still here today; the Earth in Noah's time was not nearly so watery as it is today, and Noah's seas were probably much shallower than ours. The vapor canopy may have shielded the Biblical patriarchs from harmful cosmic radiation that has since reduced human lifespan well below Methuselah's 969 years. The laws of physics were far different in Eden. The Second Law of Thermodynamics likely began with Adam's Fall. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is strong evidence that the entire Universe has been in decline since Adam's sin. The Second Law of Thermodynamics may well end with the return of Jesus Christ. Noah was a markedly heterozygous individual whose genes had the entire complement of modern racial characteristics. It is a fallacy to say that human embryos recapitulate our evolution as a species. The bumps on human embryos are not actually relic gills, nor is the "tail" on an embryo an actual tail -- it only resembles one. Creatures cannot evolve to become more complex because this would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In our corrupt world, creatures can only degenerate. The sedimentary rock record was deposited by the Flood and it is all essentially the same age. The reason the fossil record appears to show a course of evolution is because the simpler and cruder organisms drowned first, and were the first to sift out in the layers of rubble and mud. Related so baldly and directly, flood geology may seem laughable, but *The Genesis Flood* is not a silly or comic work. It is five hundred pages long, and is every bit as sober, straightforward and serious as, say, a college text on mechanical engineering. *The Genesis Flood* has sold over 200,000 copies and gone through 29 printings. It is famous all over the world. Today Henry M. Morris, its co-author, is the head of the world's most influential creationist body, the Institute for Creation Research in Santee, California. It is the business of the I.C.R. to carry out scientific research on the physical evidence for creation. Members of the I.C.R. are accredited scientists, with degrees from reputable mainstream institutions. Dr. Morris himself has a Ph.D. in engineering and has written a mainstream textbook on hydraulics. The I.C.R.'s monthly newsletter, *Acts and Facts,* is distributed to over 100,000 people. The Institute is supported by private donations and by income from its frequent seminars and numerous well-received publications. In February 1993, I called the Institute by telephone and had an interesting chat with its public relations officer, Mr. Bill Hoesch. Mr. Hoesch told me about two recent I.C.R. efforts in field research. The first involves an attempt to demonstrate that lava flows at the top and the bottom of Arizona's Grand Canyon yield incongruent ages. If this were proved factual, it would strongly imply that the thousands of layers of sedimentary rock in this world-famous mile- deep canyon were in fact all deposited at the same time and that conventional radiometric methods are, to say the least, gravely flawed. A second I.C.R. effort should demonstrate that certain ice- cores from Greenland, which purport to show 160 thousand years of undisturbed annual snow layers, are in fact only two thousand years old and have been misinterpreted by mainstream scientists. Mr. Hoesch expressed some amazement that his Institute's efforts are poorly and privately funded, while mainstream geologists and biologists often receive comparatively enormous federal funding. In his opinion, if the Institute for Creation Research were to receive equivalent funding with their rivals in uniformitarian and evolutionary so-called science, then creation-scientists would soon be making valuable contributions to the nation's research effort. Other creation scientists have held that the search for oil, gas, and mineral deposits has been confounded for years by mistaken scientific orthodoxies. They have suggested that successful flood- geology study would revolutionize our search for mineral resources of all kinds. Orthodox scientists are blinded by their naturalistic prejudices. Carl Sagan, whom Mr. Hoesch described as a "great hypocrite," is a case in point. Carl Sagan is helping to carry out a well-funded search for extraterrestrial life in outer space, despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever for extraterrestrial intelligence, and there is certainly no mention in the Bible of any rival covenant with another intelligent species. Worse yet, Sagan boasts that he could detect an ordered, intelligent signal from space from the noise and static of mere cosmic debris. But here on earth we have the massively ordered and intelligently designed "signal" called DNA, and yet Sagan publicly pretends that DNA is the result of random processes! If Sagan used the same criteria to distinguish intelligence from chance in the study of Earth life, as he does in his search for extraterrestrial life, then he would have to become a Creationist! I asked Mr Hoesch what he considered the single most important argument that his group had to make about scientific creationism. "Creation versus evolution is not science versus religion," he told me. "It's the science of one religion versus the science of another religion." The first religion is Christianity; the second, the so-called religion of Secular Humanism. Creation scientists consider this message the single most important point they can make; far more important than so-called physical evidence or the so-called scientific facts. Creation scientists consider themselves soldiers and moral entrepreneurs in a battle of world-views. It is no accident, to their mind, that American schools teach "scientific" doctrines that are inimical to fundamentalist, Bible-centered Christianity. It is not a question of value-neutral facts that all citizens in our society should quietly accept; it is a question of good versus evil, of faith versus nihilism, of decency versus animal self-indulgence, and of discipline versus anarchy. Evolution degrades human beings from immortal souls created in God's Image to bipedal mammals of no more moral consequence than other apes. People who do not properly value themselves or others will soon lose their dignity, and then their freedom. Science education, for its part, degrades the American school system from a localized, community-responsible, democratic institution teaching community values, to an amoral indoctrination- machine run by remote and uncaring elitist mandarins from Big Government and Big Science. Most people in America today are creationists of a sort. Most people in America today care little if at all about the issue of creation and evolution. Most people don't really care much if the world is six billion years old, or six thousand years old, because it doesn't impinge on their daily lives. Even radical creation-scientists have done very little to combat the teaching of evolution in higher education -- university level or above. They are willing to let Big Science entertain its own arcane nonsense -- as long as they and their children are left in peace. But when world-views collide directly, there is no peace. The first genuine counter-attack against evolution came in the 1920s, when high-school education suddenly became far more widely spread. Christian parents were shocked to hear their children openly contradicting God's Word and they felt they were losing control of the values taught their youth. Many state legislatures in the USA outlawed the teaching of evolution in the 1920s. In 1925, a Dayton, Tennessee high school teacher named John Scopes deliberately disobeyed the law and taught evolution to his science class. Scopes was accused of a crime and tried for it, and his case became a national cause celebre. Many people think the "Scopes Monkey Trial" was a triumph for science education, and it was a moral victory in a sense, for the pro-evolution side successfully made their opponents into objects of national ridicule. Scopes was found guilty, however, and fined. The teaching of evolution was soft-pedalled in high-school biology and geology texts for decades thereafter. A second resurgence of creationist sentiment took place in the 1960s, when the advent of Sputnik forced a reassessment of American science education. Fearful of falling behind the Soviets in science and technology, the federal National Science Foundation commissioned the production of state-of-the-art biology texts in 1963. These texts were fiercely resisted by local religious groups who considered them tantamount to state-supported promotion of atheism. The early 1980s saw a change of tactics as fundamentalist activists sought equal time in the classroom for creation-science -- in other words, a formal acknowledgement from the government that their world-view was as legitimate as that of "secular humanism." Fierce legal struggles in 1982, 1985 and 1987 saw the defeat of this tactic in state courts and the Supreme Court. This legal defeat has by no means put an end to creation- science. Creation advocates have merely gone underground, no longer challenging the scientific authorities directly on their own ground, or the legal ground of the courts, but concentrating on grass- roots organization. Creation scientists find their messages received with attention and gratitude all over the Christian world. Creation-science may seem bizarre, but it is no more irrational than many other brands of cult archeology that find ready adherents everywhere. All over the USA, people believe in ancient astronauts, the lost continents of Mu, Lemuria or Atlantis, the shroud of Turin, the curse of King Tut. They believe in pyramid power, Velikovskian catastrophism, psychic archeology, and dowsing for relics. They believe that America was the cradle of the human race, and that PreColumbian America was visited by Celts, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, and various lost tribes of Israel. In the high-tech 1990s, in the midst of headlong scientific advance, people believe in all sorts of odd things. People believe in crystals and telepathy and astrology and reincarnation, in ouija boards and the evil eye and UFOs. People don't believe these things because they are reasonable. They believe them because these beliefs make them feel better. They believe them because they are sick of believing in conventional modernism with its vast corporate institutions, its secularism, its ruthless consumerism and its unrelenting reliance on the cold intelligence of technical expertise and instrumental rationality. They believe these odd things because they don't trust what they are told by their society's authority figures. They don't believe that what is happening to our society is good for them, or in their interests as human beings. The clash of world views inherent in creation-science has mostly taken place in the United States. It has been an ugly clash in some ways, but it has rarely been violent. Western society has had a hundred and forty years to get used to Darwin. Many of the sternest opponents of creation-science have in fact been orthodox American Christian theologians and church officials, wary of a breakdown in traditional American relations of church and state. It may be that the most determined backlash will come not from Christian fundamentalists, but from the legions of other fundamentalist movements now rising like deep-rooted mushrooms around the planet: from Moslem radicals both Sunni and Shi'ite, from Hindu groups like Vedic Truth and Hindu Nation, from militant Sikhs, militant Theravada Buddhists, or from a formerly communist world eager to embrace half-forgotten orthodoxies. What loyalty do these people owe to the methods of trained investigation that made the West powerful and rich? Scientists believe in rationality and objectivity -- even though rationality and objectivity are far from common human attributes, and no human being practices these qualities flawlessly. As it happens, the scientific enterprise in Western society currently serves the political and economic interests of scientists as human beings. As a social group in Western society, scientists have successfully identified themselves with the practice of rational and objective inquiry, but this situation need not go on indefinitely. How would scientists themselves react if their admiration for reason came into direct conflict with their human institutions, human community, and human interests? One wonders how scientists would react if truly rational, truly objective, truly nonhuman Artificial Intelligences were winning all the tenure, all the federal grants, and all the Nobels. Suppose that scientists suddenly found themselves robbed of cultural authority, their halting efforts to understand made the object of public ridicule in comparison to the sublime efforts of a new power group -- superbly rational computers. Would the qualities of objectivity and rationality still receive such acclaim from scientists? Perhaps we would suddenly hear a great deal from scientists about the transcendant values of intuition, inspiration, spiritual understanding and deep human compassion. We might see scientists organizing to assure that the Pursuit of Truth should slow down enough for them to keep up. We might perhaps see scientists struggling with mixed success to keep Artificial Intelligence out of the schoolrooms. We might see scientists stricken with fear that their own children were becoming strangers to them, losing all morality and humanity as they transferred their tender young brains into cool new racks of silicon ultra-rationality -- all in the name of progress. But this isn't science. This is only bizarre speculation. For Further Reading: THE CREATIONISTS by Ronald L. Numbers (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992). Sympathetic but unsparing history of Creationism as movement and doctrine. THE GENESIS FLOOD: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications by John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961). Best-known and most often-cited Creationist text. MANY INFALLIBLE PROOFS: Practical and Useful Evidences of Christianity by Henry M. Morris (CLP Publishers, 1974). Dr Morris goes beyond flood geology to offer evidence for Christ's virgin birth, the physical transmutation of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, etc. CATALOG of the Institute for Creation Research (P O Box 2667, El Cajon, CA 92021). Free catalog listing dozens of Creationist publications. CULT ARCHAEOLOGY AND CREATIONISM: Understanding Pseudoscientific Beliefs About the Past edited by Francis B. Harrold and Raymond A. Eve (University of Iowa Press, 1987). Indignant social scientists tie into highly nonconventional beliefs about the past.

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