Examining Creationism – my Essay for a Course

Writing is something that I am trying to do more of. One of the ways I have tried achieve that is by signing myself up for on line learning courses, such as those available through Coursera. One of the reasons I like to write this way is that there is a course schedule and it forces me to make time to write. If I didn’t do that I’d never write anything. It is a double edged sword though because time spent on the course is time not spent on my own projects, including blogging. However, it also forces me into maintaining a habit and I have found that after working on an assignment, I then find I have the motivation and presence to do my own work, something that would not have happened if I hadn’t already spent a couple of hours on a course assignment.

I’ve done a couple of courses that take a similar structure and the peer review process is interesting. Some students review well and give excellent constructive feedback. Some tone their negative comments poorly and some are clearly reviewing to a ticking clock and are too rushed to put in the effort that the work they are reviewing deserves. Sadly, I find myself in the latter category too often, which is a shame as some students to submit good pieces that are worth reading. There are of course submissions are are not that great and it is difficult to be constructive with these and they can kill the motivation to carry on.

All in, I find the courses a challenge and I get more out of them by putting in the practice and and being focussed on doing the work than by actually counting my grades and hunting good reviews.

The course I am currently doing is focused towards academic writing and I was free to choose the subject. I decided to title my essay, Examining Creationism and I have just submitted it for peer review and grading by a random and anonymous selection of fellow course participants. One commenter on my draft submission suggested I might want to pick a different subject, one which was less controversial. I did change the focus of my essay as a result, the original draft was generalistic and commented about religion, this essay is more specific. I am looking forward to seeing what reviews I get.

So, for the pleasure of my readers, I have copied the text of my essay below, I have removed the header and title section, but left the essay text and citation references.

Enjoy, and feel free to give your own feedback.

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EXAMINING CREATIONISM

 

Introduction

Creationism is a brand of Christianity that interprets parts of the Bible literally. Specifically, this refers to the creation account in the opening chapters of Genesis. More broadly, this extends to other events such a global flood and the tower of Babel, both also in Genesis. Outside of Genesis there are events such as the Parting of the Red Sea in Exodus, Elisha ascending to Heaven in a fiery chariot in Kings, the Sun being commanded to stop moving in the sky in Joshua and the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospels of the New Testament. These are by no means an exhaustive list of seemingly impossible events recorded in the Bible, but they are among the most well-known.

Creation

What makes belief in a literal six day creation, as described in the Bible, most critical is that it puts this creation event at less than 10,000 years ago (Hodge, 2007), which directly opposes the sciences of biology, geology and astronomy which all put the age of Earth as significantly older. Current understanding is that Earth is about 4.5 billion years old (Redd, 2014), the universe is older still.

Human scientific investigation over the past 100 years has brought huge advances in understanding and knowledge, from how DNA makes us unique (Craig Freudenrich) to what makes a star explode in a supernova (Thompson, 2009). Understanding the world and the universe about us has been at the heart of human curiosity for the entire existence of our species and it should be with excitement and enthusiasm that we accept new understanding of something that was once a mystery.

This is the point at which Creationism and scientific progress meet head on. For the creationist, anything which contradicts the literal interpretation of the bible has to be wrong. The argument stops being one of evidence and rationality and instead becomes one of entrenched viewpoints and interpretation. This stops a meaningful dialog being held and the result is that the rhetoric of the opposing sides becomes increasingly dismissive.

Evolutionary science is a good example of this; Ever since Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Walace first presented their ideas of Natural Selection (Berkeley), scientists have been studying, testing and developing what we now know as the theory of evolution. In the intervening 150 years scientists have studied all aspects of Evolution, from digging up huge fossils to examining the components of DNA. The conclusion that scientists have come to, as a result of all this study, is that all life is related as a result of species adapting and changing over time.

Scientists are confident that these changes have happened over millions of years and that these changes have produced the many differing species we see today (Brain). Creationists don’t accept evolution because it contradicts the notion is special creation. The creation account of Genesis explicitly says that the Christian God created each animal as it appears today and it is for this reason that creationists won’t accept the scientific evidence for evolution. This firmly held belief and rejection of scientific evidence leaves no room for dialog with other religions or with the sciences that produce the evidence.

 

Christian Salvation

The issue for the creationist is more than just believing what the Bible says about creation over the steady advancement of scientific discovery. It is much more fundamental than that and touches on the basic Christian salvation message.

In order for the Christian to claim salvation through Jesus, there has to be the concept of original sin. This original sin came through Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and is a critical part of the creation account because Adam and Eve are seen as the parents of the whole human race. However, the story is highly doubtful as an historical account because human genetics shows that our lineage does not meet as a single couple anywhere in history (Barras, 2013). This is a critical blow because without a real Adam and Eve there is no original sin and there is no point in Jesus dying on the cross. Creationists know this and so anything that contradicts the creation account in Genesis is discarded or explained away.

In an effort to try and solve this dilemma, some, more liberal, Christians will take the view that Adam and Eve were a leadership couple over an extended population of humans (Christianity Today, 2011). The difficulty with ideas like this is that it adds information and interpretation to Biblical accounts. Some Christians have gone even further and suggest that the resurrection of Jesus was not a physical resurrection but instead he lives on in the hearts and minds of Christians today (Robinson, 2008). The question which must then be asked is; how much is it acceptable to change the Bible and our understanding of its intended meaning? When Christians disagree on critical areas like this, one wonders how the basis of the faith can have any relevance today. Doesn’t interpreting the story of the fall of man in the light of scientific evidence pollute the story to the point that the entirety of the dependent narrative becomes null and void?

The whole basis of the Christian faith relies on the belief that the Bible is the inspired word of God (Kraft, 2008). At its most basic, the Christian narrative is that the universe was created by God. Humans are the pinnacle of that creation and as such it is our duty to worship God (Ritenbaugh, 2000) and care for His creation (White, 2006). Christians say that man has failed in this duty and the punishment for this failure is to not spend eternity with God. In order to save his loved creation from this fate God sacrificed His begotten son, Jesus, to take the punishment and provide a path by which all of mankind can once again spend eternity worshiping his creator. The wider Christian message hinges on this sequence of events; if a Christian is to accept that they didn’t happen, or are interpreted as poetic stories, this must surely question the existence of the Christian God.

Fable or Truth

Creationists know these arguments and they know that doubting the existence of Adam and Eve as a literal couple has long reaching effects on the authenticity and reliability of the Bible. The reason creationists are so keen to promote and defend the creation story against the onslaught of science is more to do with defending their belief position than it is to do with learning new science. If one was to accept the argument that the Adam and Eve story is an anecdotal account of creation, designed to demonstrate God’s creative power and man’s fallenness; then one question that needs to be answered is where does it stop? At what point in the bible does the fable stop and the truth begin? More importantly, what is it about the Christian creation account that makes Christianity true and not any of the other creation beliefs? What is it that makes the Christian God more real than any other if the very start of the religion is only a fable? For the Christian who accepts the science of evolution and the big bang start to the universe, there is the uncomfortable truth that there is no reality in the story that is the very seed of their faith. Its validity is therefore no better than any other religion. This in turn means that the Christian God is no more real than any other god from any other religion. Since they can’t all be right, the logical conclusion is that they all must be wrong. The creationist believes in a literal creation account because they have to, not because it is true.

Conclusion

Creationists today accept that the sun is the centre of our solar system. There was a time in history when the general belief was that the sun and the other planets all orbited earth and that the Bible supported that notion (Wikipedia). Today we look back at the arguments that were had then and shake our heads at how hard it was for science to overturn the dogma of belief.  Rigorous scientific study and questioning did eventually win out. In years to come, there will be a time when the creationist arguments of today are looked at with similar scorn.

 

Works Cited

Barras, C. (2013, March 13). The father of all men is 340,000 years old. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23240-the-father-of-all-men-is-340000-years-old.html#.U6ar1fldU0E

Berkeley. (n.d.). Understanding Evolution. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from Natural Selection: Charles Darwin & Alfred Russel Wallace: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/history_14

Brain, M. (n.d.). How Evolution Works. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from How Stuff Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/evolution7.htm

Christianity Today. (2011, June 6). No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/june/noadamevenogospel.html?paging=off

Craig Freudenrich, P. (n.d.). How DNA Works. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from How Stuff Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/cellular-microscopic/dna4.htm

Hodge, B. (2007, May 30). How old is the earth? Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Anwers in Genesis: https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/

Kraft, M. V. (2008, June 3). [Basics of Christian Faith 1] The Bible: The Word of God. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from Bible.org: https://bible.org/seriespage/basics-christian-faith-1-bible-word-god

Redd, N. T. (2014, February 27). How Old is Earth? Retrieved June 24, 2014, from Space.com: http://www.space.com/24854-how-old-is-earth.html

Ritenbaugh, J. W. (2000, October). Why Worship God? Retrieved June 15, 2014, from Church of the Great God: http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/PERSONAL/k/64/Why-Worship-God.htm

Robinson, B. (2008, October 5). Alternative beliefs by some liberal & mainline Christians, secularists, etc. Retrieved June 15, 2014, from ReligiousTolerance.org: http://www.religioustolerance.org/resur_lt.htm

Thompson, A. (2009, May 4). What Is A Supernova? Retrieved June 29, 2014, from space.com: http://www.space.com/6638-supernova.html

White, B. (2006, November 1). Why should Christians care for the planet? Retrieved June 15, 2014, from Evangelical Alliance UK: http://www.eauk.org/church/resources/theological-articles/why-should-christians-care-for-the-planet.cfm

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Geocentric model. Retrieved June 29, 2014, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocentric_model

 

 

 

Confessions of a Disappointed Young-Earther – an Essay

While researching a subject I stumbled across this large PDF file containing a variety of essays and book reviews.

http://baptistcenter.net/journals/JBTM_10-2_Fall_2013.pdf#page=6

One essay has the title ‘Confessions of a Disappointed Young-Earther‘ and I though it made an interesting read. Its by someone called Kenneth Keathley, Ph.D. and he appears to be Southern Baptist. His journey is one of YEC to OEC so he’s not gone the distance like I did, however he arguments and points about YECism are still valid and worth reading.

Kenneth’s essay is on pages 6 to 20 of the PDF.

He covers quite a few YEC points and skips through them very quickly, giving little more than headlines on some. I did find his logic and prose concise and clear so the brevity is not a complaint.

 

 

Vegetarian Carnivores

One element of creationist theology that I never made my mind up about was the idea that there was no death before the fall and all animals lived in harmony together. The conclusion from this is that predator animals, like Lions, did not eat meat. Instead all animals ate the available fruit and vegetable matter. I guess that eating an apple or grass doesn’t count as death.

Would a tree being felled not have counted as death either? I have yet to see a creationist comment on vegetation dying counting as death in this context. One would guess not and so since they ignore it, I will too.

I do know that in my creationist days I did ponder about animals eating animals before the fall and how fitted in with what we read of the pre fall world. It is a challenge on which the bible says nothing. What creationists believe on the matter is inferred, something that should be done very cautiously.
Answers in Genesis has a post on subject where they confidently state that animals where vegetarians before the fall (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/origin-of-attack-defense-structures). One example this article suggests is:

chameleon tongues could have been used to reach out and grab vegetarian foods

This strikes me as a very inefficient method of getting food that literally hangs there waiting for a passing animal to pick and eat. Some fruit can also be stubbornly difficult to pull off the stalk. Sadly, like all pre fall animals behaviours, there is simply nothing that can be pointed at as evidence to inform this, or any other, suggestion. The creationist throws it out there as a possibility, maybe even a belief. It is almost as if they are challenging the faithful to contradict them.

I can’t find the post now, but on another creationist blog I read, the writer postulated that plants may have had the right nutrients that today’s carnivores didn’t need to eat meat because their dietary needs were satisfied by these plants. Quite why the animals and plant kingdoms had to change so much as a result of the fall is never properly explained.

The justification behind this idea is that Genesis says that there was no death before the fall. Yet, on another literalist blog I see that this idea is called into question (http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/06/04/was-there-death-before-adam/). If creationists want to maintain that pre fall animals did not eat meat then the need to come up with something that is more substantial than a loose and questionable reading of Genesis.

This would be a great time for them to take a leaf out of the science handbook and propose a method by which this mechanism can happen and what, if any, evidence might indicate it. When that is done, the evidence can be looked for and the idea tested. Until that happens the suggestion of vegetarian lions is not and can not be taken seriously.

This is another example of how creationism is not only not scientific, it is simply interpreted guess work.

More Flood Stuff – part 2, Rocks and Fossils

 

In part 1 I whittle on about Flora and Fauna (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/more-flood-stuff-part-1-flora-and-fauna/)

Geology and the Flood

Moving on from animals and plants, the mechanics and timescales of the flood as described in Genesis requires some very serious geological events. The word cataclysmic hardly seems appropriate; the activity would have been utterly incredible. Creationists will argue that it was the events of the flood that created the mountains we see today and that most of the flood water came from below the ground.

Beyond that, the layers of rocks we see today and the fossils we see in them are all formed from the flood events. Did the rocks before the flood have layers?

Rock layers deposited by a global flood could be believed if they were flat. There is still an issue over how the layers are so easily defined because layers deposited at the same time would have some mixing and the change between layers would be expected to be more blended rather than distinct. Another issue to consider is that today rock layers can be curved or even vertical. Sediment does not settle in stacks or neatly along a curve, rock layers that curve or stand up, but remain uniform, will have been bent after they formed because if the sediment was loose at the time it would have been shifted off its neat and even layers. Considering uplifted rock, this can only be done very slowly over many thousands of years because if rock bends quickly it tends to crack and break, hence earthquakes. This means that non flat rock layers could not have been formed as part of a global flood and the associated mountain upheavals, unless a miracle is invoked to keep the rock intact.

This miracle requirement rather makes a mockery of the whole idea of using geologic study to confirm creationist accounts. When the miraculous is required to complete the explanation then by definition, naturally explainable actions are done away with and cannot be used.

But look at all the fossils

Creationists also point at the flood as the cause of the fossils that we see today because all the animals that died in the flood would have been buried by the subsequent sedimentary layers. This, they say, is why fossils can be found halfway up mountains and it is a better explanation than plate tectonics pushing the sea bed up and creating mountains.

The mechanisms at play here are a problem for creationists. If the creationist explanation were true, I would expect the larger heavier animals to sink faster, along with the heavier sediment and the smaller lighter animals to settle slower, like the smaller lighter sediment. I would also expect the dead animals to drop quicker than most of the sediment and so the resulting layers would show more animals at the bottom and fewer and smaller animals at the top of the sedimentary layers. This is not at all what we see in the fossil and rock layer record. The observed evidence completely contradicts the expected result.

The timing of the flood events are also out of order. The claim is that the mountains were formed at the start of the flood as part of the “waters of the deep” bursting forth and supplementing the rainfall. This would mean that the mountains were formed before the sediment had settled and buried the animals and people. Talking of which, where are the people fossils?

Looking at the fossils in more details we can see that the vast majority of fossils show species that are not alive today and fossils that exactly match species we know and love today and conspicuously rare. The answer is typically that not all the animals which survived the ark also survived to today. For the flood account to be the single source of all (or at least most) fossils then the fossils what we see ought to be representative of the animals that were saved on the ark. Therefore besides dinosaurs, we should also see dogs and rabbits. I would also expect to see a drowned city full of bodies of modern humans fossilised, including evidence of clothes in the fossil. This is an example of a prediction based on creationism that should be possible to confirm but is lacking.

How long does it take to form a fossil?

The process of creating a fossil requires significant timescale because a chemical process is required to replace minerals in the dead body with the minerals from the surrounding material. It seems this process typically requires water and pressure. (http://www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/whatisafossil.htm) these mineralisation processes occur at rates that can be measured, which is how ages can be determined. Note the following AiG article on the subject spends precious little time talking about the actual fossilisation process (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab2/do-rock-record-fossils-favor-long-ages).

If fossils could be formed in just four thousand years, then scientists would be able to show that by burying an animal in the right conditions and showing that the process had started in only a few decades. This is a simple experiment that creationists can do to show the world how right they are.

Too many holes

The flood story is a very dramatic story but simply doesn’t hold water as an historical event. The bible account is vague and leaves way too much open for the readers to insert their own facts. This is what creationists do constantly and they should be honest about what they are doing and they should be even more honest about how critically they view the evidence of the world against what the bible says because none of it matches.

More Flood Stuff – part 1, Flora and Fauna

More Flood Stuff – part 1, Flora and Fauna

In my researching for my last flood post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/animal-evolution-post-flood/) I found much more that I wanted to comment on and so left the bits that were not specific to animal evolution for another post.

The more I look at creationist claims, the more I see a dependence on the flood story. The flood account is crucial to the creationist because of the evolutionary argument and how it dictates global geology. Every discussion on the age of the world and animal evolution will at some point include the story of Noah, his ark and the flood that saved them. As such, the flood account is of huge importance to the creationist and so it shouldn’t be surprising that there are a lot of words dedicated to the subject.

With that out of the way, let’s hit the myth some more.

Oh look a dinosaur

AiG takes a stab at the dinosaur issue (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/what-happened-to-the-dinosaurs) and brushes off their fate as little more than ‘oh dear they, they failed to survivce’. Of all the different species of dinosaur, are we supposed to simply accept that not one managed to live long enough after the flood to be described by later generations? The AiG article criticises scientists for being curious over their fate and for admitting that we don’t yet know the full story and for continuing to try to solve those mysteries. To AiG its simple, they existed but they don’t now and that’s because the world is sinful and man isn’t perfect so those the flood didn’t kill died anyway. Who needs curiosity when there is a simple answer? I’m guessing lions, crocodiles and eagles were luckier in the lottery of God’s judgement.

I find the AiG explanation both dismissive and depressing. Are they not at all curious over where the post flood dinosaurs went and how they died out?

It is precisely because of suggestions like that, that secular scientists point at creationists and accuse them of not doing any science. Those accusations are justified because all AiG does is critique scientific results and frame their objections in a creationist tone. In the AiG article I have linked to above, there is actually no scientific study, just conjecture, objection and bible references.

Oh the Plants, what of the plants

Recently there has been a lot of rainfall in my part of the UK; rainfall to such a level that many farms in the area have been underwater for 2 months or more. Near my house there is some open land that was underwater for months last winter and then again this winter. As I write this the standing water has almost all gone and some areas are now dry enough to walk on again. There are patches of rotten grass and shrubs. Plants do not do well when underwater for months at a time.

The idea that, after a year under a global sea, trees would be able to blossom again to the point a bird could take a leafy branch only weeks after being exposed to air again is simply impossible. For that to work the tree could have only been fully submerged for a few weeks, certainly not months. A tree submerged for that period of time would have died and been unable to grow again. This is the same for pretty much all plants. The land near me will survive and grass and shrubs will grow again quickly, that’s because there are plants close by which have not been submerged and, being spring, there will be seeds and pollen in the air to take up the place of the dead plants. Also, the water on this land is fresh, not salty. A global ocean would still be a salty ocean and that is even more devastating to submerged plants.

If we take the flood story at face value and assume that the earth was fully flooded at the end of the 40 days of rain and then it slowly began to drain away, then the draining needed to happen rapidly for the world to not be utterly devoid of useable vegetation. However, many creationists accept that the ark would have been afloat for about a year. This means that in order for high up vegetation to survive, the water would have had to keep rising after the rain stopped in order for the submerged time to be drastically reduced. This requires interpretation of the events because there is not enough detail in the story to know for sure. AiG are shameless in their adding of detail where it suits them (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v7/n1/how-did-plants-survive-flood). You will see in the article that they confidently state that plants must have had built in survival mechanisms, more incredulously they roll out the tautology that of course plants survived because we see plants today. Neither of these are satisfactory explanations.

To address the salt water issue, the AiG article above posits that the seas were less salty at the time of the flood and became more salty post flood. I’m not sure if they also mean they were less salty before the flood. This might have had an effect on the ability of plants to survive a prolonged period underwater, but the period of time is still far too long, even for fresh water. As already stated, plants today don’t last more than a few weeks under water.

Have they since evolved to become less tolerant of being submerged?

The other problem for the salinity argument is that today we see fish that live in salty water and fish that live in fresh water. Both types can be sensitive to changes in the levels of salinity which means the mildly salty water of the global flood would have killed both types of fish. Presumably those fish have evolved since the flood and are now less able to live in water with those salinity levels and require either fresh water or more salty water.

The arguments for the flood are deeply flawed and simply do not hold together either logically or scientifically.

Stand by for part 2, geology and fossils.

Animal Evolution Post Flood

 

I have previously commented on the flood story and how it featured in my deconversion process (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/noah%E2%80%99s-ark-gilgamesh-or-just-a-story/).

However, a recent exchange on Bruce’s blog has prompted me to comment on the curious case of animal evolution post flood (http://brucegerencser.net/2014/02/creationism-atheism-science-trumps-biblical-literalism/). The original post on Bruce’s blog is my own guest post which he kindly put up for me, and part the conversation that followed centred on what happened to the animals after the flood. This is what I want to specifically comment on now.

Too Many Animals

The most obvious criticism of the ark story is the sheer number of different animals we see about us today. An ark of the dimensions described in Genesis simply could not hold a pair of every animal species alive today. In addition to that there are those that have gone extinct, both recently and those we see in the fossil record. There are also unknown animal species for which there is no record that we know of. Then there are some species of animal for which more than one pair is required, according to the Genesis account.

On top all those animals being squashed into the ark, there is the delicate matter of food, water and waste. All those animals needed to eat and drink and defecate. Many of them would have been carnivores and so animals as food would have been needed to be brought on to the ark, as well as food for the food animals.

The Genesis flood account does not give an indication in advance of how long the flood was to last. In fact the preparation details are quite vague. The dimensions for the ark are given but nothing about how many decks, how much open air space how far up the side the door should be, how to manage storage and other practicalities. The door shutting account though does imply that once the rain started, there was no going outside until the ark was grounded. That’s a long time to be cooped up indoors.

Talking of time, about one year is the generally accepted length of time that the ark was afloat. I am surprised I haven’t seen a claim for a miraculous draining, in the same way that there is a miraculous claim for the water appearing. Such a claim would allow the time in the ark to be reduced and therefore many of the storage issues countered.

One year cooped up with not much of an outside view and a whole load of animals is a serious challenge. Who’d want to be a vet in those circumstances? Noah and his extended family would have had to work full time feeding and cleaning the animals and attending to any other needs. Would they have been able to get round all the animals needs each and every day? Personally, I doubt that very much.

I wonder how many generations of fruit flies they had to nurture during the voyage, and who was the poor soul who had to carry the tape worms?

The number and variety of animals to care for is simply too great for a boat that size. Even if we ignore the arguments over dinosaurs being on the ark and just stick to animals that are alive today, the ark simply is not big enough to hold a representative pair of every animal.

Kinds vs Species

The most obvious creationist rebuttal to this is that animals in the ark were split into kinds, not species. Kinds are typically described as a family type that includes multiple related species. The most obvious example would be a pair of wolves, from which all dogs have descended. I wonder if creationists will would include foxes and jackals in that group, which would have been the pair on the ark? This can only work if all species families break down that easily. The argument might work for dogs or cats; but what about Elephants, Giraffes Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus and numerous other animals which are very distinct and don’t easily fit into this creationist model? In fact, the kinds argument is so vague that is simply not enough detail in it for there to be any scientific test. It is hardly surprising then that this language is solely used by creationists and there is no biologist that actually recognises it as fitting within the species hierarchy.

If this creationist suggestion were true, there would be a prediction we could make from it that could be tested. For example; if all species alive today were descended from representative kinds that were on the ark, then we should be able to break animal species into groups that match those kinds and DNA evidence would show a familial link. These species groups would show distinct DNA similarities within the groups and distinct differences between groups and when mapped into a tree there would be multiple roots and evidence leading back to the ark resident pair.

However, this is not what we see. DNA evidence shows that all species are related, to varying degrees, and that the tree has multiple branches and there is no single bottle neck to which multiple strands lead. The creationist prediction fails.

Evolution or not evolution?

The craziest irony about the creationist kinds into species suggestion is that it flies in the face of the creationist belief that evolution has not occurred and that all species were created during creation week. The idea that all living creatures alive today have evolved from previous forms is denied by creationists. They simply do not accept that along the way separated groups of one species have each evolved into different and separate species. Yet, in order to get from a parent kind to multiple descendent species it is precisely this form of evolution that is required and suggested.

No doubt the creationist will object to that and claim it’s not the really same thing and probably roll out the standard micro / macro defence; a defence that I used many times myself in the past. The trouble with this argument is that minor changes across generations are all we ever see. Major changes never happen, they only become apparent after many generations and many minor changes. The creationist objection simply doesn’t follow for another reason, that is that to get from a parent kind into multiple child species, there needs to be a speciation event, something that creationists continue to deny ever happens, yet to get multiple species from a single pair this is exactly what is required.

Creationists who argue that animal kinds came off the ark and became the many species we see today need to ask themselves, what animals it was that came off the ark what processes changed one pair of animals into multiple different species. Species that will be visually and genetically different today to their ark bound brethren. They also need to ask themselves what animals actually went onto the ark, would we be able to recognise them if we saw them today if the kinds into species argument is correct?

On top of all that, the creationist then has to explain how those changes happened in only a few thousand years, there are simply not enough generations to produce the species variety we see today.

The Geocentric Argument

 

This head shaking story appeared in my news feed recently (http://phys.org/news/2014-02-americans-unaware-earth-circles-sun.html). Like some of the commentators, I would like to know more detail about the nature of the questions and who was asked. Given the small numbers involved (only 2,200) it is possible to create such a set of questions and pick a demographic that skews the result to create whatever headline you wish. I’m not saying that is what happened, just that there is far too little information and the sample size far too small for this to be truly something that can be extrapolated out to cover the whole population of the USA.

However, if you do decide to do a search on geocentrism (the belief that the earth is the centre of our solar system) then some properly head scratching pages do come up; http://www.genesis-creation-proof.com/geocentricity.html being a good example. The beauty of this one is that it shows you precisely why biblical literalism is a bad idea (even dangerous?). The site rings all the same alarms for me that many conspiracy sites ring, that is the lone enthuse with little or no backing from a wider organisation. In other words, a fringe whacko who does not represent the wider majority who are biblical literalists. Another such site is http://www.evidencechart.com/charts/10.

The point that these sites help to make is that for those who wish to base their scientific claims on bible verses is that there will always be problem verses that simply cannot be taken as scientific fact but, equally so, there will also be some enthusiastic individuals who wish to make that claim and fly in the face of hard proof. Thus the blurry line between interpretation and literalism will always exist.

Geocentrism did seem obvious for a while. There was always a problem though; the retrograde motion of the visible planets (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retrograde_and_prograde_motion) throws a hefty spanner into the mix and to stick with a geocentric model of the solar system means one has to come up with some impressive adjustments and gymnastics to account. Seasons also cause a problem because it requires the path of the sun around the earth have a significant wobble; this needs an explanation. These two pieces of evidence are what I would have replied to this blog post had I known about it at the time (http://thonyc.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/we-live-in-a-geocentric-world/).

The kicker for geocentrism, of course, was the telescope. This earth changing invention allowed man to gaze at the stars and see so much more. The planets were shown to have moons of their own, something that clearly didn’t revolve around the earth. Even more amazing, Venus and Mercury showed changing crescents while Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were always full. That needed a very good explanation and really should be the last nail in the geocentric coffin for anyone who would stop and think and just five minutes.

Geocentrism Therefore Creationism.

Anyway, the news at the top of this post prompted me to dig a blog post out of my saved archives, http://thenewcreationism.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/well-evidenced-theories-can-be-wrong-poorly-evidenced-theories-can-be-right/. It is one I saved specifically because I consider it nonsense and wanted to keep it for when I felt the need to comment, that need is now.

The post above is short so won’t take much time to read, but makes an intriguing claim. Essentially it says that geocentrism was logical because that what the available evidence implied at the time. No matter how much the people believed it and wanted it to be true, it was always wrong and later, better evidence revealed that. The author then makes an analogy with evolution and attempts to put evolution in the place of geocentrism by admitting that it looks obvious. That doesn’t make it true aparently. He then goes a step too further and implies that the heroes of creationism are the Galileos of today. What an insult!

He’s wrong of course, very wrong.

Geocentrism wasn’t easy to overturn; there was an established worldview that required the earth to be the centre of everything and that philosophy would not be challenged. It was evidential weight that forced it into a minority view, one that really should be history by now. No one would ever seriously suggest that there is a controversy between geocentrism and heliocentrism and certainly no one would want both ideas to be taught in the classroom for students to make up their mind which one they want to adopt.

The true analogy with geocentrism is creationism; they are both idea born out religion and appear to make logical sense when looked at superficially. However, go deeper and the there is greater complexity that a simplistic worldview simply cannot explain and both idea crumble under evidence that is crushing.

No, the creationists of today are not Galilean heroes bravely fighting an established order trying to tell the world the truth; they are religious literalists cornered into a philosophy that has an ever shrinking platform and their worldview is so narrow they simply won’t accept what the evidence says because the consequences and cost are potentially enormous.

Getting the Hump over Camels

Recently an item giving unexpected news appeared on my science feeds. It seems that camel domestication in the Middle East happened too late for the references to Camels in the Bible (http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/5900/20140205/earliest-camel-bones-contradict-bible-archaeologists.htm). PDF of the report here: http://archaeology.tau.ac.il/ben-yosef/pub/Pub_PDFs/Sapir-Hen&Ben-Yosef13_CamelAravah_TelAviv.pdf

The conclusion, according to the report, is that this is more evidence that those parts of the Bible are invented by later societies. That’s a big claim.

As is often the case with items like this, there is a frustrating lack of detail and a high volume of sensation. This is a shame because as far as I am concerned, this is a very important discovery and the impact with regards to Biblical events should be weighed against other similar evidence and conclusions should be cautious, pending more detailed analysis.

The camel domestication is dated from bones and coincides with the arrival of mining in the area. I didn’t see if there were any other dating methods used to cross check the dates found. What is found is that there is consistency across the sites measured, showing that domestication happened at a specific time, so whatever the date is, it would seem to be accurate for the arrival of domestic camels to the area.

There are older bones found and these are claimed to be from earlier wild camels. The reasoning behind this is not found which is a big shame because this evidence really is needed in order to back up the sensational claims. I really do hope that there are going to be follow-up reports with more detail on the results.

What is certainly true; is that if these dates are correct, then it is a very serious blow to the credibility of the Bible. Certainly when it comes to the stories relating to Abraham anyway, if those can’t be trusted, then what else can’t?

There are obvious Creationist objections, like the dating methods used. Creationists will always attack a dating method when it comes up with something that contradicts the Bible and this is exactly what is seen on the AiG website (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2014/02/10/carbon-dating-camels). However, what you don’t see there is a counter interpretation using that same evidence. Instead what is seen is a fall back to the Bible and the assumption that the researchers got something wrong. I wonder what they’d have said if the same testing had shown camels were domesticated at the right time, would they raise the same objections to the dating methods? I doubt it.