Creationism is a widely held religious belief about the origin and further development of the world. OpinionFront describes how the belief fails to stand up to scientific inquiry.
Creationism and the closely related theory of Intelligent Design was ruled to be faith, and not science, in the famous Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and Edwards v. Aguillardcases, and was subsequently banned from being taught or suggested as an alternative to evolution.
Creationism is the belief that the Earth and human life was created by God, or another supernatural entity. Before Charles Darwin’s revolutionizing discoveries about evolution, creationism was the prevalent belief about the origin of life. When Darwin published his findings, they were severely opposed by the bailiffs of religious belief. Though the theory of evolution has been proven and bettered by modifications since then, through rigorous scientific procedure, creationists keep finding ways to blow their own trumpets at every tiny opportunity.
Creation science is considered by its followers to be an empirical science, but in reality it is no such thing. Though Intelligent Design theorists shrink from using the term ‘God’ in their proposal, their theory of an intelligent and supernatural ‘agency’ or ‘intelligent creator’ shaping evolution is theistic in principle, if not in nomenclature. Science is ever-active, and is constantly adjusted and modified to accommodate newfound facts. If a historic, accepted scientific theory is empirically proven to be wrong, scientists don’t hesitate to throw it out of the window and accept the correct version. In contrast, creationist research is stagnant, and is based on a stupendously dogmatic 2000-year-old scripture.
Before we go any further, let me make a very important disclaimer. While this article will attempt to discredit creation theories for their lack of empirical evidence, it is in no way meant as an attack on anyone’s right to believe in them. Creation is a vital part of the Christian faith. Spirituality is a personal choice, and everyone — not just Catholics — has an unalienable right to personally believe in it if they want. Many religions have their own creation myths, and denying the followers of these religions the right to believe in them goes against religious freedom. Creationism is an important subject in theology, and rightly so. It is when creationism or Intelligent Design attempts to spread its influence to the field of science that it becomes a problem.
Religious beliefs are inherently free from scientific inquiry, but science itself has a rigorous set of guidelines and an exacting methodology that needs to be followed, in order for any research to be validated. Creation science, in its original form or in its post-1980s guise of Intelligent Design, has consistently failed to establish falsifiable evidence for their theory. The convenient excuse of a deity as the cause of natural events is almost laughable when viewed in a strictly scientific manner. The barely secular theory of Intelligent Design is not much better.
Creationism and Intelligent Design focuses on the assumption that there must be an intelligent creator of the universe and life, because the Darwinian theory of evolution defines no purpose for life and evolution. But this just shows that creationism is rooted in faith and spirituality, rather than science.
While it is a human desire to find ‘purpose’ in everything we do, purpose is not a natural construct. Evolution has no purpose, apart from allowing the organism to survive and reproduce in its environment at that moment in time. It is simply a series of changes in an organism occurring due to its interaction with its surroundings. If a change allows an organism to function better and better exploit its surroundings at that moment in time, the evolved organism becomes a more successful survivor and breeder, and other versions consequently die out. If a change proves to be detrimental, the organism dies out, and with it, so does the mutation. Though the finished product of evolution may seem a random occurrence, an argument often used by creationists, that view ignores the countless mutations that died out because the current one was more successful.
Creationists and Intelligent Design theorists find the idea of apparently random evolution of complex systems illogical, and largely concentrate on trying to discredit the Darwinian theory of evolution, more often than not through unscientific procedure. The logic behind this is, if Darwinian evolution is not correct, theistic creation must be the answer. Though the fundamental principle behind this is correct — i.e., if the origin of life wasn’t natural, it had to be supernatural — the logic itself is not. For a scientific theory to be accepted as correct, it has to stand on its own with its independent evidence and research, not through ‘either-or’ logic. If a creationist proposes a theistic theory, it’s the creationist’s responsibility to offer the evidence for the theory, and not the responsibility of the scientific community to accept the theory simply due to a lack of alternate options. Even if the whole evolution theory is somehow disproved through revolutionary empirical findings, that doesn’t automatically make creation theory correct.
Creationism is based on the Holy Bible. The non-empirical accounts in the Bible, which is considered as the word of God, are taken literally by creationists to try to prove their theory. However, scientists agree that — like all religious scriptures — the Bible is historically inaccurate, and is meant to be taken as a mythic, allegorical guide to living one’s life morally. If used as evidence in a scientific inquiry, the Bible fails to explain empirical evidence and sometimes even contradicts itself. On the other hand, using allegories as scientific evidence is a ridiculous practice and is shunned by any scientist worth his salt. Hence, interpreting the Bible to fit seemingly scientific creationist and Intelligent Design theories is not a scientific process.
Here are some examples of biblical accounts contradicting themselves when taken literally.
Adam and Eve
The first two chapters of the Bible is all we have to read to spot a glaring logical contradiction. The Bible presents two different origin stories for the creation of man in the first two chapters of the scripture! Here’s the first one:
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. / And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. / Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” / So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. / And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
This verse clearly states that God created both Adam and Eve in His image, and that He created animals and birds before He created Adam and Eve. But in the very next chapter,
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” / So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. / The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. / So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; / and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. / Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Lo and behold, a perfectly functioning female human body is constructed from a man’s rib (a completely unscientific scenario if ever there was one)! Even ignoring the fact that Adam would have had to bear a huge scar on his chest for his life and would have suffered constant debilitating pain due to his ‘fleshy rib’, this excerpt fundamentally contradicts the earlier biblical account of the origin of man. In the first version, man and woman are created together, and are ushered into a world populated with plants and animals. In the second version, the man is created first, and all animals are ‘formed’ (the only possible interpretation of the word is ‘created’) after Adam.
What exactly is going on here? If the infallible Holy word itself presents two diametrically opposite versions of the same story, was God messing with us when he inspired the Bible? Or did someone else add one of the two versions later? In either case, it seriously damages the Bible’s authenticity as empirical data.
Origin of Plants and Animals
The Bible describes, through various verses in Genesis chapter 1, the creation of
Vegetation, plants yielding seed, fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, great sea monsters and every living creature that moves – with which the waters swarm, every winged bird, and cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth.
Anybody else notice anything weird? If God inspired the Bible, how could the creator himself have forgotten to include fungi and sponges? This is after considering – quite leniently – that the extremely vague term ‘living creature that moves’ encompasses all microbes and all animals that aren’t cattle, creeping things, or beasts! Fungi and sponges are not plants, they don’t inhabit completely aquatic habitats (sponges do, but they don’t move), they don’t move, they don’t yield seed (though they do produce spores), and they are definitely not cattle or beasts.
Moreover, mushrooms are widely believed (by mycologists and some creationists) to have made an appearance later in the Bible under the name Manna. So, did fungi appear on Earth after God had finished his work? Did fungi – whisper it – evolve on their own?
These two examples are found in the very first book of the Bible, and don’t even require any empirical evidence to disprove.
The Bible tells us that the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago, along with the entire universe and every living creature on the planet. Creationists assert that this must be true, since the Bible is ‘the word of God’. But the only evidence for the Bible being the word of God comes from the Bible itself! No other religious or secular text makes the claim that the Bible is the word of God.
So without any external evidence, how do we know that the Bible is not just a bunch of lies? No prizes for guessing the answer: the Bible is infallible. So how do we know that? Because it is the word of God. How do we know that?
The Bible says so!
This fundamentally flawed circular argument is the basis of creationism.
Since the Bible doesn’t mention or can’t explain countless phenomena in the history of Earth, creationists have made some unbelievably unscientific claims to support their theory. The claims can indeed be considered some of the best examples of arguments from authority. Here are the worst and most ridiculous claims made by creationists.
The tale of Noah’s ark is an interesting example of why you shouldn’t try to turn a cultural legend into scientific evidence. As it happens, numerous cultures in the Middle East have documented stories of terrible and unnaturally large floods. Several heroes, including Ziusudra, Atrahasis and Utnapishtim, are said to have survived the floods in temporary crafts. In fact it can be determined that there indeed had been a terrible flood to the Euphrates river, and naturally, various civilizations in the region came up with their own legends about the calamity. But while nobody has tried to turn the other legends into science textbook material, Noah’s story is considered by creationists as the explanation for various geographical phenomena, including the Giant Canyon (more on that later). So, here goes.
God tells Noah that He is about to unleash a flood that will wipe out all life on Earth, and commands him to build an ark to save himself and his family, because he is a good man.
He also tells Noah to gather two of each animal (male and female) on the ark, so that they would survive the flood. Since creation theory states that no animal in the history of the Earth evolved after the creation, this means that Noah had to take a pair of every dinosaur in history, every species of mammoth, elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, cattle, bears, apes, tigers, lions, sabre-tooth cats, etc., on one boat. Of course the rational outcome would be the carnivores attacking their usual prey, and utter pandemonium on the ark, but let’s ignore that for a moment.
Noah was also told to carry “every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up”, so that it could “serve as food for [Noah] and for [his family and the animals]” (Genesis 6:21). Noah and the animals spent more than 5 months in the ark (Gen. 8:3-4). Without modern preservation techniques, what sort of food stays intact for that long? But again, let’s ignore that for a moment.
God describes the ark to Noah vividly, but the pertinent details are that it was made of gopher wood (cypress or cedar wood), and was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. It had three decks (or three compartments on a single deck). For comparison, the Titanic was almost twice as long, wider, and higher than the supposed ark. In contrast to the (maybe) 3 decks on the ark, the Titanic had 9 decks. Despite completely dwarfing Noah’s ark, the Titanic could hold, at most, 3,500 human passengers (the official count was 3,327).
It is simply physically impossible for anyone to get two of every animal in the history of the world on one boat, let alone a boat of that dimensions!
The Grand Canyon
Continuing with the story of Noah’s ark, creationists claim that the Grand Canyon was caused by the very same biblical flood. Of course the obvious outcome of a flood would have been a flat plain, not a series of valleys in a mountain range, but like Noah’s carnivores-eat-herbivores conundrum, let’s ignore that for a moment. Also, if the Canyon was caused by a global deluge, it makes no sense that only one Grand Canyon was formed. Surely, a global flood would have created similar monuments in the Alps, the Andes, the Himalayas, or in the Rockies? But never mind the rational and the obvious, says the creationist.
The Grand Canyon was actually formed by a fascinating geological process. The mountains around the Canyon are composed of sedimentary rocks, usually found on the seabed. The area, which was originally underwater, was uplifted in a coming together of two tectonic plates more than 1.5 billion years ago, and the sedimentary rocks rose to form the top of the mountain range. When they were exposed to the Colorado river’s flow, the rocks eroded, exposing almost 2 billion years of fascinating geological history!
Quite apart from the two obvious drawbacks listed above, the creationist theory can provide no scientific explanation for sedimentary rocks being found at the top of a mountain.
Speed Of Light
Light travels at a constant speed of nearly 300,000 km/s through the vast expanse of outer space. Despite this incomparable speed, celestial bodies are so far apart that sunlight takes about 8 minutes to reach the Earth. Light from distant stars takes billions of years to reach us (that’s right, the starlight we see now could have been emitted when dinosaurs were still alive!), but since the creationist theory states that the universe is 6000 years old, Adam could not have seen any stars in the sky. Creationists need to get around this rather large thorn in their sides, and resort to truly ridiculous claims to do so.
Many claim that the speed of light was much faster thousands of years ago, and has, for some unexplained reason, slowed down over 6000 years. When someone resorts to claiming that universal constants such as the speed of light are not actually constant, it smacks of utter desperation. But that’s not all. Some creationists even claim that God created ‘light in motion’, so that it could reach Adam’s eyes from the very start. But of course, if this ‘created light’ was not emitted from stars, Adam could still not have seen any celestial bodies outside the solar system thanks to this light, and starlight would still have taken billions of years to reach Earth.
No Intermediate Hominids
Human evolution begins with the emergence of the Primates order about 75 million years ago (mya). The apes and monkeys separated around 40 mya, the great apes (humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, etc.) emerged around 15 mya, and members of the genus Homo first appeared 2.5 mya. The Homo genus evolved through the intermediate steps of H. habilis, H. ergaster, H. heidelbergensis, H. sapiens neanderthalensis, and finally arrived at the modern stage of Homo sapiens sapiens, the modern human.
In the creationist version, on the other hand, the modern human is an image of God (or was formed from dust – they should really decide which version to put forth!), so he could not have evolved from these intermediate species. So creationists are left with no other option but to claim that the earlier Homo species were completely apes, despite clear morphological differences, and the recent ones were misidentified humans (H. sapiens sapiens). Neanderthals (H. sapiens neanderthalensis) had a different physical structure than humans – so different that many scientists classify neanderthals as a separate species rather than a subspecies of H. sapiens – but creationists respond that all neanderthals were disfigured from arthritis or rickets! Some neanderthals were indeed found to have suffered from arthritis, but that doesn’t account for the entire population of neanderthals having conspicuous morphological differences to modern human beings. A considerable percentage of modern humans also suffer from arthritis, but it would be truly ridiculous to claim that this proves that all humans suffer from arthritis. Also, rickets is a deficiency disorder that weakens bones. Contrarily, neanderthals have been found to have much denser and stronger bones than modern humans, putting an end to that theory.
The most persistent argument from the creationist camps is that of Irreducible Complexity. This was put forth by Intelligent Design theorist Michael Behe, and states that some natural processes fit together so perfectly that the removal of any one component would stop them from functioning. This, he claimed, was a tangible proof of an intelligent ‘creator’ (see how Intelligent Design and creationism is one and the same thing?). To illustrate his theory, Behe proposed an example of a standard snap mousetrap, wherein removing any component prevents the trap from functioning.
Sounds rational, right? Hold that thought right there.
Behe makes the fundamental mistake of looking at the finished product when making his argument. A delicately balanced stone arch will appear, on first viewing, to be irreducible. However, it has been formed by gradual diminishing of the surrounding rock. Evolution can work both ways, i.e., it can add as well as take away from a biological system. The systems that Behe thought won’t function with any subtraction, may well be the systems that won’t function with any additions! But a likelier origin of ‘irreducibly complex’ systems is that the components emerged as a mere useful addition, and evolved into irreplaceable components of the system (which is the very basis of evolution).
Numerous scientists have proposed possible evolutionary pathways for the supposedly irreducibly complex processes noted by Behe: the flagellum seen in various microbes, the immune system (especially antibodies), and blood clotting.
Even Behe’s unscientific and malapropos example of a mousetrap was put to bed by John H. McDonald. McDonald designed several ‘reduced’ mousetraps which lacked at least one component from the standard design, but were still capable of catching mice. These designs can be seen at udel.edu/~mcdonald. Behe’s mistake in basing his views on the finished product can be illustrated by the fact that if any of McDonald’s designs had been the standard design for mousetraps around the world, Behe would have claimed that, that design was irreducible! McDonald described Behe’s argument as the argument of a man who didn’t possess the imagination to envision a system without one of its components, and thus resorted to the easy excuse of Intelligent Design. The other cornerstone of Intelligent Design, the theory of specified complexity, has also been similarly dismissed by scientists as an ‘argument of ignorance’.
Dinosaurs Weren’t Carnivorous
Since the Bible states that dinosaurs (i.e., all other animals in history) and humans coexisted, creationists have to answer why people weren’t eaten by dinosaurs. So, here is possibly the most ridiculous of all claims made by the creationists: Dinosaurs didn’t eat meat!
At first, creationists tried to outright deny that dinosaurs ever existed, which was acceptable even from the rational point of view when sufficient evidence had not been gathered. But as fossil evidence began to pile up, a majority of creationists have (oh-so-graciously) admitted that dinosaurs did exist, and that they had large, sharp teeth. Some factions maintain that dinosaurs are science fiction rather than science, but there is no reason to even consider that argument any more. But the creationists who do admit that dinosaurs existed, now claim that the mere presence of ‘big, sharp teeth’ doesn’t prove that the animal was a carnivore. Unfortunately for the creationists, it does prove just that.
Canines, which are the teeth used to tear meat, reduce in size over generations if they are not used. That is why humans, who switched to a mainly fruit-based diet and eventually developed agriculture, have significantly smaller canines that other related apes, such as chimpanzees. Herbivores such as deer, cattle, horses, rodents, and even elephants have relatively tiny canines and well-developed molars designed to grind and chew vegetation. On the other hand, big cats, wolves, dogs, etc., have long, sharp canines designed to kill and consume meat. There were herbivorous dinosaurs and there were carnivorous dinosaurs. The herbivores, such as the sauropods, mostly had spatula-shaped teeth and did not have the long, sharp canines like the carnivorous theropods.
Creationists like to put forth the example of the giant panda, which has ‘big, sharp teeth’ but feeds on a vegetarian diet. This just shows the risks of incomplete research. All bears are omnivorous, and show varying degrees of dependence on meat, but none is completely vegetarian. Giant pandas do have sharp, bear-like canines, but have also developed much larger molars than other bears, which is the reason for their trademark round-faced appearance. Contrary to popular misconception, pandas don’t eat only bamboo. They feed on carrion, fish, and eggs whenever possible. Even their digestive system is built like a carnivore, and isn’t perfectly suited to digest the constant supply of bamboo. Pandas rely extensively on gut flora to digest the plant matter, and have to defecate up to 40 times a day!
Also, sticking with dinosaurs, there is sufficient reason to believe that whatever natural calamity killed off the dinosaurs would also have killed off humans.
Intelligence Is Created By Intelligence
Creationists argue that intelligent life must have an intelligent source. This argument carries no weight, as there is absolutely no necessity in nature that the product or effect of ‘X’ has to be even similar to ‘X’. If that was true, there would be no compound colors, since red and blue are nothing like purple, yellow and blue are nothing like green, and yellow and red are nothing like orange.
Sticking to natural or biological examples, ‘X-like’ products are the basis of evolution, except that they don’t stay ‘X’ and eventually evolve into a completely unrelated ‘Y’ or ‘A’. Evolution does not happen in one generation, it takes millions of successive ‘X-like’ progeny, progressively having lesser similarities to the original ‘X’, to realize a ‘Y’.
Tracing this argument back to the creationist foundation, if an intelligent creator created intelligent life, what form of intelligence created the creator Himself?
What Caused The Big Bang?
Creationists present the argument that scientists assert that something can’t be created out of nothing. So something must have caused the Big Bang.
This is the only theory that holds any scientific credence. Science can’t answer this question, and doesn’t claim to.
But unfortunately once again, the creationists’ incomplete knowledge proves to be their downfall. The whole field of science searches for what happened after the creation of time and matter, not before. What created time and matter is a matter of philosophical or spiritual pursuit, not science.
And like in the matter of the intelligent creator, if something can’t be created out of nothing, what created the intelligent creator?
The theory of evolution simply deals with how life evolved on the planet Earth, nothing else. Darwinian theory of evolution doesn’t even claim to explain the origin of life – just what happened after that. Creationists are free to pursue the ‘fundamental’ answers about the ultimate cause or the ultimate creator on a religious or spiritual forum. Religious questions are settled by a democratic process, wherein the most favored answer is accepted as the truth. But science is not democratic. Theories and laws are not accepted because a majority of scientists like them! Until creationists realize this fundamental difference between theology and science, their claims will always be disproved by real scientists, and as long as He can’t produce tangible, empirical evidence, the doors of science will remain closed to God.