Fiction: Operation Adam

Operation Adam, by Ivan Petrovitch C. (the pseudonym of a French paleontologist). Published by Cerf, 1997, pp 273.

Warning: this page discusses the plot of Operation Adam in detail, so you might want to skip it if you intend to read the book. The book is currently available only in French.


Operation Adam Tucson, Arizona, is the site of the 12th International Conference on Human Evolution, and virtually all of the important hominid fossils are present. On the first day of the exhibition, someone notices that one of the "fossils" is actually a cast, and it is soon realized that all the fossils have been stolen and replaced by casts. The frantic conference organizers call in law enforcement, who set about finding the fossils. One of the perpetrators is a graduate student, Samuel Lev, who was watching over the fossils the previous night. Lev disappears, but is discovered unconscious after a car accident. His personal computer contains details about a secret society called the Protectors of Adam, dedicated to preserving the Genesis account of the origin of man by any means.

It turns out that the Protectors of Adam were also responsible for the Piltdown Man hoax, an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Heidelberg Man jaw during World War II, and the disappearance of the Peking Man fossils during World War II.

Clues lead the searchers to a hiding place in Zion National Park where all the fossils are discovered unharmed, along with the long-lost Peking Man fossils.

A third "Monkey Trial" is held the following year (the first two being the 1925 Scopes Trial and the 1981 Arkansas Trial). For reasons that are not made clear, the court does not even attempt to determine whether the defendants are guilty of the crime or not. Instead, the entire case is devoted to arguing the merits of creation vs. evolution. The prosecution and defense debate the major topics of the creationism/evolution debate, such as the fossil record, human evolution, the Flood and Noah's Ark, radiometric dating, and the origin of life.

Samuel Lev testifies during the trial. During his convalescence, he has abandoned creationism, and now apologizes for his actions.

During the trial, there are threats of violence from creationist supporters, and eventually a newspaper reporter who has been critical of creationism is abducted and seriously wounded by being crucified on a saguaro cactus.

The jury returns a decision which finds all the defendants guilty and sentences them according to their complicity, with jail terms ranging from 10 years for the major perpetrators to short suspended sentences. They also rule that the words "scientific creationism" can not be used together.


Although a plausible premise for a fictional work, it is highly unlikely that all the original hominid skulls will ever come together in one place. The closest attempt so far was the 1984 Ancestors exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Even then, at least half of the major hominid fossils were absent, usually because their curators did not wish to subject them to the risks of travel. The book implies that all the hominid material is stolen, but this is also impausible, as there are literally thousands of such fossils. Most of them, of course, are isolated bones and teeth, and are not very significant. The really important fossils are rare enough that they could all conceivably be exhibited together, were it not for the difficulties involved in actually getting them in the one place.

Far less plausible - indeed, totally implausible - is the ease with which the fossils are stolen. The entire collection of skulls would be priceless and irreplaceable, but I would estimate that their insurance value would be many tens of millions of dollars. So should such an exhibit ever occur, we can be quite sure that security will be far, far, tighter than is the case in this book, in which a single student is left in charge of the entire collection overnight.

And no matter how oxymoronic the term "creation science" is, I find it impossible to imagine any American court ever forbidding its use even by a convicted defendant, let alone in the community at large, as happens in this book. Such a judgement seems in blatant contradiction to the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech.

Finally, I believe this book portrays creationists as more violent and racist than is justified. Creationists are fond of trying to smear evolution with the taint of racism (and evolutionary thinking was often misused to justify racism in the past), but nowadays it seems many racists are aggressively Christian, and even creationist. Nevertheless, although many racists may be creationists, the reverse is not true, and the creationist movement is not racist to any significant degree.

This is not, and is not meant to be, an even-handed book (not that that's a bad thing; creation science books are not noted for their balance either). The creationists are portrayed unsympathetically, and during the trial are continually outwitted, outdebated, and reduced to silence by the arguments of their opponents. If only real creationists were so readily corrected.

See the entry for this book at

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