“”I think we set the bar too high with Essay: Question Creationism!, they're obviously too stupid to answer anything in a coherent fashion.
A response to the Question Evolution campaign.
For contributors: See the talk page for question ideas.
- 1 How do you know?
- 2 Why are there precariously balanced rock formations?
- 3 Why are there salt deposits?
- 4 How did sedimentary layers form?
- 5 Why are there no fossils of modern animals?
- 6 How did the Earth survive all the radioactive decay?
- 7 Why is the Moon full of craters, but the Earth not?
- 8 Why is life so diverse given the current rate of mutation?
- 9 Why are many DNA errors shared between humans and chimpanzees?
- 10 Why do humans have an immune system?
- 11 Why is the universe so hostile?
- 12 Why is God's design repetitive and imperfect?
- 13 Who designed and created God?
- 14 What if the Bible is a divine hoax?
- 15 Whose creation?
- 16 Footnotes
How do you know?
One of the most well-worn canards that creationists use against evolution is the phrase "How do you know? Were you there?" This is used to imply that without direct observation, and someone being there to witness either the beginning of life or to cover every single one of the millions of years required for evolution, it cannot be confirmed. Yet, the exact question can be turned back on any historical event - real or mythological. For instance, was anyone from Answers in Genesis or Creation Ministries International present in the Garden of Eden at the start? Did any of them personally board the ark and see the flood? Were any of the school children who are told by Ken Ham to parrot "How do you know? Were you there?", in the face of other compelling evidence, there to actually see who Cain and Abel were able to marry and breed with to continue the human species?
Of course, there's the Bible. Right? But we can similarly expand the question to ask if anyone was there when the Bible was being written. Did anyone personally observe the 6 day literal creation of the Earth and give eyewitness testimony today that couldn't have been either made up or fabricated thousands of years ago? Even given the New Testament, where events slightly line up with established history, was anyone personally there to confirm that those events were real and not, perhaps, made up or embellished by the authors? The usual analogy given is that of eyewitnesses to a crime, testifying in court. Yet those using the analogy fail to notice that eyewitness testimony is some of the most unreliable evidence that can be presented; people can misinterpret events, misremember them, or simply lie. Hard evidence, on the other hand, is far more concrete and more admissible, being less prone to tampering or basic human failures in memory and recollection. If creationists demand eyewitnesses to evolution, then everyone else is equally entitled to eyewitnesses to special creation and witnesses to corroborate that those claims aren't made up. And further witnesses to testify that those people aren't lying. Oh, and additional witnesses to make sure that by this point people aren't just repeating a lie because it's established.
The other problem with the Bible is that by assuming God to be omnipotent it kind of works against the case of verifying the Bible to be the word of God. Whether the Bible says itself to be the word of God doesn't count. Simply put, given God's omnipotence by definition, there is no way to distinguish between genuine revelation of God from some faith-testing device from arbitrary non-God entity because there is no satisfactory answer to the question "Can god create authentication scheme/encryption secure enough that even God cannot crack?". Once you attribute the Bible to be the word of God because you believe Bible is something God would have revealed to you, the fact that you have a reference point to compare to means that neither the reference point nor the bible can possibly be from God.
This would be a completely asinine question if it wasn't for the fact that creationists use it in exactly the same way all the time. So, how do you know? Were you there?
Why are there precariously balanced rock formations?
A balanced rock is a natural rock formation, usually thousands of years old, that consists of a boulder balanced in a relatively unstable position on top of another. Countless examples exist worldwide of different sizes and ages, and exist due to erosion over a long period of time. As rock wears away due to erosion, the formation isn't really subjected to any extremes of force that would topple it, therefore it would stay perfectly stable unless struck by an almighty force, for example, strong flood waters.
Flood waters are devastating. We have very good evidence for the power that these natural forces can wreak upon even strong structures. Whether it be the 2005 flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, or the 2011 flooding around Bangkok and tsunami in Japan - just to name a few very recent examples because of their salience and the masses of video evidence documenting what this force of nature can do. Not to make light of these deadly events, but they are nothing compared to the global flood proposed by biblical literalists. Remember, flood geology proposes that the flood was literally global, and hydroplate theory suggests that waters gushed out of the ground with enough speed and pressure to vaporise it into steam immediately. This requires water to envelope the entire world in well under 40 days. That means to get it to Mount Everest's height (assuming no implausible geological changes) the water would have to rise faster than 200 meters per day - whereas the fastest recorded rainfall in 24 hours is 200 centimetres, a hundred times less than a global flood requires. Let's make no mistake here, what creationists are proposing when they talk of the flood is the single largest, most devastating, powerful and chaotic event that can befall a planet short of the Death Star turning up.
Given a global flood that, according to creationist flood geology, was capable of carving the Grand Canyon in a few days, how do these formations even exist? If the power of this event was enough to carve through rock, why would it leave eroded boulders in relatively unstable positions rather than knocking them down completely?
Why are there salt deposits?
Creationists claim that geological layers formed during the Flood. This would imply that the layers were lain in place by water as it receded or... wherever the hell all that water went after just 40 days sloshing around on the surface. There are a few things with this assertion that don't add up. Several minerals found on Earth are easily soluble in water, for example halite, niter and trona. These would quickly dissolve in an environment inundated with water, and stay in solution until the water had evaporated to a point where the salts would then crystallise out of the solution more easily.
After the flood, any minerals dissolved in the flood waters would precipitate together on the surface of the ground as the waters evaporated, as these would be the last to be laid down as opposed to the less soluble rock and dirt that was merely suspended in the water. In such a case, we would expect to see all those minerals occurring together at or near the surface, as we see with a salt flat. And this is assuming that the water remained still enough for long enough for this crudely layered ordering to happen, which is unlikely given creationist descriptions of the flood, which include massive upheaval that would continually mix all the debris together.
Yet most open salt flats are better explained by smaller lakes evaporating as opposed to an entire planet-spanning flood. Many larger salt deposits are buried deep below the ground, which makes no sense given a single flood explaining it all. A single flood would, most realistically, result in one homogenous layer of silt and salt laid down in a single bed, or at best it would lead to soluble salts forming at the surface and the geological column would show only a few layers, rather than hundreds.
How were the vast underground deposits of these minerals formed after the flood? How did the mixture, from a single event, separate into deposits of distinct minerals? If the mineral deposits formed before the Flood, how did they survive intact given the catastrophic nature of the flood?
How did sedimentary layers form?
Ever seen a proper cliff face before? Or a rock core? Or the faces of an open cast mine or eroded canyon? The first thing you'd notice on all of this is that rock is rarely ever a homogeneous mass - it all comes in layers. Some are distinct, such as the the Dogger layer, a region of red-brown rock laid down in the middle-late Jurassic. Above and below it is a different type of rock, laid down by different processes as the environment changed. Perhaps the most famous layer is the K-T boundary (now formally known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary) which exists as a very thin layer of dark, iridium rich sediment thanks to an asteroid impact.
The thing about these layers is that they represent a considerable amount of time. To lay down sediment and compress it takes time. To then change conditions and lay down a different rock takes time. Floods, for one, can lay down sediment that form distinct layers, and layers that are being set down can change as sea beds dry up or plains become flooded.
But here's where it gets tricky for Flood Geology. In a massive flood—one capable of smothering the entire planet in water, let's not forget—one would expect to see a sedimentary layer due to it. Most importantly, one would expect to see a single layer from it. All that rock and mud would be mixed up, sloshed around in the water, and then very abruptly deposited on the land where it would form a sedimentary deposit. That would be a single, homogeneous layer. Yet we don't see that. At all. Anywhere. We see finer sediment, we see sediment that corresponds to known climate. And not least, we see fossils in those layers and only in those layers, with certain organisms only being found above and others only being found below. The work of coincidence, or deep time building this geological record slowly?
So, creationists need to account for this. How did a massively chaotic flood wipe out the planet less than 6000 years ago and leave little trace of its existence except neatly stacked and nicely ordered layers of sediment (including one nice and thin, iridium rich K-Pg boundary layer) rather than one whopping great big layer of soil that should only be found as deep as ancient Egyptian ruins?
Why are there no fossils of modern animals?
The standard creationist explanation for fossilised remains is that they are animals that died in the flood. They also make other bizarre claims such as the fossil sorting being caused by the animals running from the flood waters (which totally explains why we find fossilised ammonites on mountaintops...).
According to creationists the only animals to survive the flood were on the Ark, and there were only two (or seven, depending which verse you believe) specimens per species—or "kind" if you insist. Some creationists also insist this included dinosaurs and God's command did not include any exceptions for these creatures, and they handwave the space issues (Amphicoelias is estimated to have grown up to 60 meters in length; the more established well-established genus Supersaurus has specimens at least 30 meters long) by making them young or "teenage" individuals.
By virtue of the fact that only a limited (and very small) number of animals were saved by the Ark, all the rest of the population of any species must have perished in the flood and must appear as fossils if the flood story is true. Fossilisation may be a rare event, but if it has bones nature can't really tell the difference between a cow and a T. Rex.
We would, therefore, expect to see the fossilised remains of apparently modern animals in the fossil record (cows, horses, humans, and so on), as they died and the bodies subjected to the same conditions as examples that are seen as fossils. But this is simply not the case. The fossil record is overwhelmingly composed of extinct species. And more besides, they're all found in neat layers, with fossils discovered in one layer of sediment matching fossils in the same layer in a different location, and with some animals never found higher or lower than certain boundaries. This is quite an intriguing piece of sorting to be brought about by a chaotic global flood!
So why are only extinct species, and not extant species, observed frequently in the fossil record?
How did the Earth survive all the radioactive decay?
Let's assume for a moment that decay rates might have been significantly different in the past and see what would happen. We know that uranium ores contain a lot of lead, and it is evident from its isotope composition that this lead comes from the decay of uranium and not through other means. Let's assume that all this decay happened in 4540 years, about a million times faster than the current scientific estimate of 4.54 billion years.
The current heat flux from radioactive decay in the Earth's crust is around 0.04 W/m2, which can be measured with reasonable accuracy. If decay was a million times faster in the past, it would have generated 40,000 W/m2 at the end of the accelerated decay period. This is 50 times more than the power of solar radiation reaching the ground at the equator. Furthermore, a million-fold increase in the decay rate required to get down from 4.54 billion years to 4540 years would increase the natural background radiation level on Earth at the end of that period to around 2000 Sv per year, or more than one lethal dose per day.
How did the Earth manage to cool down to present-day temperatures? How did people, animals and plants survive in extremely high levels of radiation?
A possible response would be that if the rate of decay had been different, then the quantity of heat released could also have been different - so small as to be negligible. However, in this case the decay process could easily be reversed, and various nuclear reactions could happen under ambient conditions. This would mean that the isotopic composition of every rock would be dependent on the history of its chemical composition. However, we have extensive observations proving that the isotopic composition of elements in the Earth's crust varies from place to place by at most a few parts per million, with the exception of meteorites, things coming from nuclear reactors and exploded atomic bombs. This precludes the existence of low energy nuclear reactions at any point in the past.
Why is the Moon full of craters, but the Earth not?
If we look up at Earth's Moon, or any moon or asteroid in the solar system without an ice coating or a thick atmosphere, we immediately spot one thing that differentiates them from Earth: the presence of an enormous number of craters. In a Young Earth view, what explains the high number of craters on the Moon compared to the low number of craters on the Earth?
The naturalistic explanation for this fact runs like so: the Earth and Moon have been exposed to the same number of meteor impacts across time; however, the Earth possesses an atmosphere and hydrosphere that continually erode and "renew" the surface of the Earth. Geologists talk of "old" and "new" surfaces based on how old their features are before being churned up by tectonic activity, impact events, or natural erosion. So in this sense, the Earth has a "new" surface because of its atmosphere and the moon has an "old" surface because it lacks a significant atmosphere. By figuring out the rate of asteroid impacts in the solar system and comparing it to the number of impact craters on the Moon, we can arrive at an approximate age for the Moon. Secondly, rates of erosion can be calculated simply by looking at how easily coastal waters or wind can wear down rock, and we would expect that over millions or billions of years the craters on the Earth's surface would wear away.
But this isn't the only issue when it comes to explaining impact craters. There are 300,000 craters wider that 1km, just on the near side of the Moon. Obviously, no one has recorded the Moon being struck by meteors for some time so large events must be pretty rare—for instance, the Giordano Bruno crater is attributed to the following observation by Canterbury monks in 1178:
“”There was a bright new moon, and as usual in that phase its horns were tilted toward the east; and suddenly the upper horn split in two. From the midpoint of this division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the moon which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety, and, to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then after these transformations the moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.
With modern technology we can observe the frequency of the more common smaller impact events, such as those associated with known and predictable meteor showers. Yet it is the far larger events we need to concern ourselves with. If hundreds of thousands of these events were squeezed into a few thousand years, as opposed to billions, then we surely would have noticed it. Ancient cultures would have recorded the impacts easily, as they would have to happen almost daily to account for so many—and compressing all those impacts into shorter and shorter "pre-history" time frames only makes problems far worse. If the Moon was being pelted with craters at a rate high enough to pepper it like that in under 6000 years, then the Earth would similarly be swamped with extinction events that would have rendered it uninhabitable!
Answers not being accepted for this one include: circular ones, such as "the world is 6000 years old, therefore uniformitarianism must be wrong" as you would have to offer an actual explanation as to why those assumptions are incorrect; Goddidit ones, such as "the flood did it", as the wide variety of structures and erosion patterns in the world certainly aren't consistent with a single sudden source of erosion; and silly ones, like the lunar bukkake hypothesis, because that's really beyond ridiculous. These standard answers make no sense in either logical or physical terms. What would be the purpose of specially creating the Moon with a cratered appearance, and specially creating the Earth with a few major impact sites, such as the imaginatively titled Meteor Crater in Arizona, still visible? As always, when considering the evidence available, special creation is no better than Last Thursdayism.
Why is life so diverse given the current rate of mutation?
Baraminology is the proposed creationist solution to the problem that Noah couldn't have put all the world's species on the ark. It posits that Noah only needed to take a few species, or "kinds", with him - and the diversity of life since then has arisen through some form of natural selection.
For instance, there is an proposed "cat" kind which is claimed to have given rise to both domestic cats and big cats, and a "horse" kind that covers horses and ponies and even zebras. However, by reducing the millions of species observed today to a few thousand, creationists have given themselves the problem of explaining present-day diversity.
Simply put, the presently observed rate of natural selection isn't compatible with generating this diversity from a mere handful of individuals in the space of only 4000 years, and as a consequence Baraminology is often mocked for requiring an unbelievable rate of "super-evolution" in order to get around the problem. The wake of this rapid genetic change would be readily observable today or within recorded history - with species diversifying almost within a single generation.
Even assuming that the rate of evolution has slowed down so that we can no longer observe this "super-evolution", the diversification must have stopped thousands of years ago - shortening the space of time in which it needs to occur from 4000 years to 2000 years or significantly less. For life to move from only two or seven of one kind into the multitude of species observed today in a shorter period of time would require one species to actively give birth to offspring of a different species; this particular requirement for "super-evolution" is especially ironic considering that creationists say evolution cannot happen because monkeys giving birth to humans isn't observed. Evolution doesn't require this, but thanks to the reduction in the number of species required by baraminology, young-earth creationism does.
How do creationists even begin to explain this "super-evolution", even though by some of their own argumentation it doesn't actually happen?
The genetic code of most organisms is rife with errors, nonfunctional genes, remnants of viruses, and pointless repetitions. For example, a small number of species have a defective gene that prevents them from synthesizing vitamin C from glucose, and this includes humans. Surely this can't be the work of a perfect creator: does He want His creations afflicted with scurvy? Creationists suggest that all these errors are a product of decay and mutation after the Fall of Man. However, they agree that mutations are random. We should therefore expect each "kind" of animal to have accumulated different errors. Creationists consider humans and chimpanzees to belong to different "kinds". Yet, they share a great number of errors in their DNA: for example, they have at least 11 shared endogenous retroviruses.
Why did humans acquire the same errors as chimpanzees? Why is this pattern of similarity in DNA errors something very common in all life, to the point that evolutionary scientists use the analysis of these errors as one of the most reliable methods of establishing common ancestry?
Why do humans have an immune system?
Before the Fall of Man, humans were supposed to live in paradise. Animals would not eat each other, but only plants, and there was no disease. It would make no sense for God to create humans with an immune system, because it would be useless; therefore it must have arisen after the Fall. However, the complexity of the human immune system is astonishing, and certainly meets the criteria of what intelligent design creationists refer to as irreducible complexity. How do you solve this contradiction? Did God create our immune system for us (and for the other plants and animals)? If so, why such an imperfect one, that many are killed by disease?
Why is the universe so hostile?
|“||Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, "This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!"||”|
A common argument either for the existence of God or the benevolence of an intelligent designer is the fact that the world is perfectly made for us. Indeed, the very fact we exist at all is therefore used as proof of creation. So, how ideal is our world - the planet and the universe - itself for human life anyway?
The majority of the planet's surface is covered in salt water, hardly conducive to human life. While organisms tend to be mostly water and must replenish it to survive, drinking water with such high levels of salt dehydrates the body and can kill. Yes, you can die of thirst pretty quickly when stranded in an ocean, you don't want to be caught out there without some supplies. Another large proportion of the land surface is mountainous and not particularly hospitable. Here, the land isn't particularly fertile and usable resources are scarce. Go really high up and the oxygen content in the air drops - and above certain altitudes it becomes impossible to adapt to. Again, not ideal conditions for human life. The ice caps (well, at least some of the creationists who happen to be climate change deniers will say God is letting them expand the kingdom there by removing the ice caps through climate change) are even less welcoming still, and even indigenous people have to rely on a degree of technology and hunting skill to survive there. Then there are deserts, where specially adapted life forms such as the camel can survive well, but a human might be lucky to last a few days, if not just mere hours. In fact, there are few places on Earth that can be said to be "ideal" for human life - and Africa and the Middle-East where civilisation was first founded aren't among them.
Furthermore, we have many natural predators (if we didn't have technology to defend us, we'd be considerably farther down the food chain) and our lack of fur or other specialisation makes the heat and cold potentially lethal. Monsoons and storms can drown us, tornadoes can destroy our homes and are powerful enough to shred us to pieces, and then there are viruses and bacteria (arguably our remaining natural predators) that can make short work of human populations if they're not equipped, by science and technology, to deal with them.
And that's just on the minute portion of the universe called planet Earth; just about all the rest of the entire universe could never harbor human life, at least in its present and supposedly "designed" state. There are gas giant planets that would crush us, the vacuum of space that is literally wasted space as far as we're concerned, the surface of stars that would burn us in the click of a finger (if the gravitational tidal forces didn't tear us molecule from molecule first) and vast regions of space polluted with electromagnetic radiation that would kill us in short order.
In our natural, naked state—as creationists would envision Adam and Eve being born—the world is anything but nice to us. To argue that it was specifically designed for us would almost be laughable when you actually consider all of the universe and stop focusing only on the bits that aren't out to kill us.
So, why is the universe—if built especially for us—in fact so hostile towards us?
Why is God's design repetitive and imperfect?
Assuming that God is not limited in any way, then he should have been able to design every animal so that it was individual and unique. Yet still we we find clear relationships between groups of animals strongly suggesting common ancestry. Not only was this suggested by homology, but managed to fit in with fossil evidence showing divergence, experiments showing speciation and eventually DNA evidence that matched. In short, common ancestry of similar looking creatures is pretty much assured by every single piece of evidence that is physically possible to obtain. Whether it is outward appearance, genetics, embryonic growth, cellular chemistry, skeletal structure or fossil records, these relationships make many animals seem broadly the same underneath. We even find relationships between groups of animals which are not even in the same families by using DNA, as it is the basis of all animal life and can demonstrate far more distant relations.
If these organisms are designed despite this appearance, then they raise some very important questions about the nature of the designer:
- Why would God design something evil like a parasitic wasp or polio?
- Why would God design something unnecessary like an ostrich's wing or a bear's tail?
- Why would God design something imperfect which included vestigial organs such as the appendix or the palmaris longus?
All of the above make perfect sense if life evolved as a form of selfish survival and unguided adaptation. For instance, the laryngeal nerve routes in an homologous way between mammals and fish, moving around analogous arteries in the exact same way; except in mammals this exactly analogous route around the body is long and convoluted but in fish it appears more direct and makes sense. A slow evolution from one animal to the other would produce these results. These facts would make no sense if life was intentionally created by a perfect (and Good) designer - at best we could call it "incompetent design" or "unimaginative design".
So why would a designer, with intelligence, omnipotence, infinite imagination, unlimited ability, and so on, actively, and intentionally, decide to include these bizarre quirks that happen to make sense in the light of evolution?
A common counterargument is that the imperfect bits of nature were created to test or punish us, or were caused by Satan. This results in an unfalsifiable Morton's fork, where every good part of nature is a sign of God's grace and every bad part of nature is a sign of God's punishment.
Who designed and created God?
Many of the arguments for the existence of God, and for creationism, rest upon the question of what created the universe. This is the first cause argument that puts God as the answer, and is often backed up by William Lane Craig's first premise in his version of the argument: "what begins to exists must have a cause". However, this isn't consistently applied to God - which is asserted to exist, but is somehow immune from this premise by an eternal (and
slightly very question begging) nature. Craig's wording there ("what begins to exist") is almost certainly an attempt to get around the problem, but again it's assuming what it's trying to prove. As Carl Sagan put it, "If we say that God has always been, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always been?". This is a sticking point mostly in theology, so what does it have to do with ID and/or creationism? In much the same way we can apply the first cause argument to God, we can apply the argument from design to God, also.
Creationists (and especially intelligent design advocates) consider life to be irreducibly complex, meaning it could not arise through gradual changes proposed by natural selection and evolutionary biology. This forms a basic pillar of intelligent design, and without it the entire concept dies before it can even get out of the starting blocks - the fact that irreducible complexity isn't the case in the natural world isn't particularly relevant to this point, however.
A problem arises when we apply this exact same reasoning consistently to everything. Those who believe irreducible complexity as a problem for evolution would state that humans are irreducibly complex, so must have had a designer and came into being through a special creation. This makes sense if you can rule out gradual, naturalistic changes. But whatever this designer is, it must be far more complex than a human being - and indeed the universe itself.
This is true because whatever the intelligent designer must be, it must be able to hold all the necessary information for the design (whether it be a body, or the entire universe) at a minimum and then add in all the information about how to create the design process, modify it, create it and then all the information necessary to be itself. This is complexity by necessity; an intelligent creator is necessarily complex in order to fit any meaningful definition of "intelligent creator" and actually have the ability to go about intelligently creating anything! Simple assertions that God is not complex (Alvin Plantinga, for instance, suggests God is exempt from being complex due to being supernatural) don't so much answer this point as handwave it away and pretend it doesn't exist. Even assuming different rules for the "supernatural" components, God must have an interface with the real, material universe that is necessarily as complex as the universe itself, in order to transfer the information required to satisfy omniscience.
The designer, therefore, should also be irreducibly complex and would require a further designer, by this same line of reasoning.
Who designed God? Why would God be exempt from the same criteria used to supposedly "prove" that an intelligent, personal entity exists? Why is God designing or creating himself not just a case of special pleading? And if He was never created but always existed, then that invalidates the original premise that everything, in fact, needs a creator.
What if the Bible is a divine hoax?
Creationists are almost always biblical literalists and take the Bible at face value. However, given its violent, bizarre and sometimes contradictory content, there is a case to be made that even if the Bible is divinely inspired, it does not follow that the god who inspired it was being sincere. Although the God of the Bible could exist in some form, it is equally probable that this God is actually deceitful, and he devised the Bible (and possibly other holy books) as a test to separate the gullible from the skeptical, with the latter being rewarded in the afterlife.
Ask yourself which of those four possibilities is the most likely: that the Bible is true when taken at face value, that it is a rather cruel divine hoax, that some of it should be taken at face value and other parts allegorical, or that it is neither and was written by humans. Most reasonable people will choose one of the latter two.
This is perhaps the question that all religious mythology and belief boils down to, since—contrary to what YECs would have you believe—it's not a simple choice of either young-earth creationism or atheism. One can discuss cosmological arguments or ontological arguments all day—but do these actually prove what is really being stated by most creationists: that it is their god, specifically, who has created the world, literally as their holy book and priests tell them? Let's just start with a brief outline of various creation myths:
- Hindu creation states that this isn't the first universe, nor is it the last. These universes are created by Brahma (the Creator), maintained by Vishnu (the Preserver), and eventually destroyed by Shiva (obviously, the Destroyer). Hindu creation involves a far more metaphorical and philosophical interpretation than the Biblical literalism we're used to. They don't attest that the universe is insanely young, for instance, stating that Brahma sleeps and the world is destroyed, and awakes, to create it again, on a cycle longer than four billion years. In general, Hinduism doesn't conflict with evolution and so we don't hear about this story so much.
- Islamic creation has a striking similarity to Christian creationism—which is unsurprising, as Islam is derived from Judeo-Christian mythology. It possesses features such as the "6 days" (although translations can also vaguely mean "stages") and that humans are descended from a specially created Adam. While Islam does tend to frown on evolution, and Harun Yahya is well-known as one of the most pathetic creationists in the world, it doesn't mandate a particularly young Earth. Yes, the Islamic ones are typically Old Earth Creationists.
- As a religion that came out of Hinduism, Buddhism teaches something very similar to that of Hindu mythology—talking of universes that are cyclic and that reincarnate on a regular basis. As Buddhism (or certain flavors of it, at least) is, for lack of a better term, actually atheistic in its way, it doesn't possess a literal creation story. But it does state how long the universe should exist, and that it is consumed with fire at the end, and that beings are reincarnated in other realms.
- Ancient Egypt
- But existing religions aren't the only ideas we need to consider to properly assess creationism. Ancient Egypt has a series of creation myths associated with its ancient religions. In the beginning, there was only water, the Nun, and from this everything flowed. Dry land first appeared, one hilltop at a time, at the will of the creator Atum, and then other gods were created by Atum in turn to build the world. Several writings suggest that it is Atum's semen that forms the world (yum!).
- The Makiritare creation story starts in a way that would make Douglas Hoftstadter proud: "The woman and the man dreamed that God was dreaming them." A lot of smoking and maracas later, the world was made from cracked eggs and metaphors about being reborn.
- Izanagi and Izanami are central deities in the Japanese creation myth. This gets particularly good when Izanagi thrusts his "jewelled spear" into the primorial ooze and then spills a "salty substance" that eventually becomes the land. It gets weirder from there. In fact, it seems like it's only really the Judeo-Christian mythology and its derivatives that don't have an overwhelming abundance of sexual metaphor in them (unless you count the snake, of course).
- The native religions of aboriginal tribes in Africa, the Americas, Australia, and elsewhere each have their own creation story, and they're all different from one another. They're often patently silly; for instance, the Gagudju of Australia's Northern Territory believe that their creator god got stuck in the mud, and so created everything around him. (You might notice at this point the creation of things/people from mud being a frequent theme in these stories.) As ridiculous as such a story sounds to us, the Gagudju believe it as sincerely as Evangelical Christians believe their own creation story.
But what is the point of going over these? Simply put, why is any particular story in the list more valid than the others? A good, strong theory—and remember that Biblical literalists and young Earth creationists like to call what they do "science"—must not only explain evidence presented but explain why other competing theories don't quite work. Creationists have only their own specific god in mind when they talk of creation, or of "teaching the controversy", and never try to account for other potential creation stories.
So, why are all of the above, and the countless others that haven't been explicitly mentioned, wrong, and why is your particular story right? The bottom line is that, without solid evidence to back up your ideas, you have no reality check, no way to justify why your explanation for things is more valid than those of other peoples'.
- Ithacan Online: What lies beneath
- Answers in Genesis - Dinosaurs on the Ark
- AiG - articles on radiometric dating
- See the RATE Project.
- Creation.com - Radiometric dating and old ages in disarray
- http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1993/93RG01249.shtml Heat flow from the Earth's interior: Analysis of the global data set] - Pollack, H.N.; Hunter, S.J.; Johson. J.R., Rev. Geophysics, 31, 3, 267-280 (1993)