One of the most challenging tasks for the modern day creationist to is reconcile the belief in a 6,000 year old Earth with the ever-growing mountain of scientific evidence pointing to a vastly different conclusion — namely a universe that's 13.5 billion years old and an Earth that formed 4.5 billion years ago. So, given these astoundingly dramatic discrepancies, biblical literalists and 'young Earth creationists' have had no choice but to get pretty darned imaginative when brushing science aside. Here are 10 arguments creationists have made to counter scientific theories.
Quite obviously, creationists aren't able to gloss over the fact that dinosaurs existed. They are clearly a part of the fossil record. But in accordance with the Bible, creationists insist that they lived contemporaneously with humans. And in fact, they say this explains why dragons play a prominent role in our mythological record. Moreover, creationists claim that human footprints have been found alongside dinosaur tracks at Paluxy, that a petrified hammer was found in Cretaceous rocks, and that some sandal footprints have been found alongside trilobites. Other theories suggest that the Great Flood shook up and redeposited the fossil record so that it appears that dinosaurs lived millions of years before humans arrived. Real evidence and proper interpretation of the fossil record, however, supports the idea that humans first emerged about 200,000 years ago — long after the demise of dinosaurs who went extinct 65 million years ago.
This is what biochemist Michael Behe refers to as irreducible complexity. He and other creationists complain that a complex biological system, what is comprised of many interacting parts, would cease to function properly in the event of any alteration. Proponents of intelligent design use this argument to claim that anything less than the complete form of a fully functional biological system (or organ) would not work at all — what would be catastrophically detrimental to an organism. In other words, all mutations have to be bad. The only way for an organism to evolve, the ID defenders say, is for God to guide the process every step of the way. This is silly, of course — organisms are not that fragile. And in fact, evolvability is an indelible aspect to life.
When we look up at the sky at night, we're actually looking back in time. Given the vastness of the universe, it can take upwards of millions and even billions of years for the light from the most distant celestial objects to reach us. Creationists have a rather convenient explanation for this problem: The universal constants, including the speed of light, are not constant at all. It's quite possible, they surmise, that the speed of light was significantly faster in the past, allowing it to reach the Earth in time for Adam to see it. Others speculate that the Big Bang theory is simply wrong, and that a new ‘creationist cosmology' is required to reconcile the apparent anomaly in our observations. As the Creation Answers Handbook claims:
The basic biblical framework, because it comes from the Creator, is nonnegotiable, as opposed to the changing views and models of fallible people seeking to understand the data within that framework (evolutionists also often change their ideas on exactly how things have made themselves, but never whether they did).
Failing this, creationists can always default to the most convenient of explanations: God simply created the light ‘on it's way,' so that observers on Earth could see the stars immediately without having to wait. Mmmm, handwaving....
Given that Scripture doesn't provision for evolution, the discovery of ancient human relatives like Australopithecines and Neanderthals is deeply problematic. To explain this away, creationists argue that anthropologists are misreading the fossil record and inaccurately conflating Homo sapiens with other ape species. When it comes to Neanderthals, they say there was no such thing — that these are human remains and not some distant relative. And to explain the morphological differences, creationists simply argue that these were disfigured humans, or people suffering from rickets or arthritis.
According to Abraham Loeb, an astrophysicist from Harvard whose work gets cherry picked by creationists, "The truth is that we don't understand star formation at a fundamental level." Creationists, like Jonathan Sarfat, have used the arguments of Loeb and others to make their case against the ‘nebular hypothesis' — the theory that stars and planets formed over the course of billions of years as gravity brought gasses and particles together to create large masses. It's impossible, they say, for stars to form from nebulas. They claim that terrestrial planets could never congeal from "blobs" of gas and dust, as other objects would constantly provide resistance and disruption. Creationists also argue that the temperature of nebulas following the Big Bang would have been far too hot to facilitate contraction, and that the particles would have pushed away from each other. Other inconsistencies include the sun's axial tilt and the presence of inexplicable gas giants. As Sarfat notes, the best explanation comes from the Bible, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host." In other words, when in doubt, attribute any kind of natural phenomenon to God. Gotcha.
The second law of thermodynamics states that the universe and all its systems are progressively moving towards disorder, or entropy. Evolution, on the other hand, implies the improvement of a species — what creationists say is a gross violation of the Second Law. This contradiction, say the creationists, implies that ‘evolutionists' are fundamentally wrong in their assumptions — that changes to systems should be regressive and not progressive. What they fail to understand, however, is that the 2LT should only be applied to the universe as a whole, or a closed energy system — which the Earth is most certainly not. But moreover, evolution does not always lead to improvement or increased complexity. Organisms are either well adapted or poorly suited to their environments at any given point in time. And in fact, some species evolve towards too much complexity (i.e. over-specialization) and detrimental adaptations that can lead to outright extinction. Evolution is by no means a process of improvement; it's merely an autonomous system that's driven by variation and selection.
Like the presence of dinosaurs, the ice age is another conundrum that demands a response — a glacial period that occurred during the last years of the Pleistocene, approximately 110,000 to 10,000 years ago. Actually, this is an easy one, say the creationists. According to Genesis, most of the Flood water came from underground — what resulted in warmer than average oceans and a significant increase in global snowfall. This gave rise to the ice sheets and the pluvial periods. In addition, large amounts of volcanic dust in the atmosphere blocked crucial sunlight, which caused cooler summers. Moreover, the ice age is a geological phenomenon that can also explain why there's no trace of the Great Flood in the sedimentary record. And on a related note, some creationists contend that the sedimentary layers were caused by the tremendous weight of the flood waters above the ground.
For years, scientists have used radiocarbon dating to get a sense of how old ancient objects really are. They're able to do this by exploiting the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 (14C) to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials. To sweep this inconvenient truth aside, some creationists claim that radioisotope decay rates aren't constant — and that all processes in nature vary according to different factors. Others argue that carbon dating gives inaccurate results, pointing to changing ratios of 14C in the atmosphere and varying amounts of cosmic rays reaching the Earth — what would affect the amount and ratios of 14C produced. Additionally, some claim that the Genesis Flood would have greatly upset the carbon balance; the water, they argue, buried huge amounts of carbon (which became coal, oil, etc.) lowering the total 12C in the biosphere. Read this to see why they're wrong.
Some creationists argue that DNA, by virtue of the fact that it contains stored information that can be read by humans, must be the result of intelligence. The information within DNA — what facilitates the assembling of proteins and enzymes — wouldn't be coherent if someone, namely God, wasn't scripting it. Creationists clearly need to ramp-up on information theory if they ever hope to understand how complex systems actually work — and how the scientific endeavor is largely an effort to translate the mysteries of the universe into a language we can understand.
The Grand Canyon formed about 70 million years ago — at a time when the dinosaurs still ruled the Earth. This geological time scale is obviously a problem for creationists, who simply respond by suggesting that it was created in one fell swoop when the flood waters retreated (it's amazing how many things can be explained by the Great Flood). Not only is there no evidence to support this claim, it is a geologic impossibility. Moreover, it would have likely created a huge, straight, washed out chasm, and not the intricate and winding Grand Canyon we know today. And of course, creationists are loath to explain why there's only one Grand Canyon on Earth.
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