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Thoughts on Creationism

September 21, 2010

For the purposes of this posting, I am taking Creationism to mean the literal interpretation of the biblical seven day creation, known as Young Earth Creationism (YEC). There are other variations which allow for an age of the earth that matches the scientific estimates (Old Earth Creationism) and some that even allow for interrupted evolution. I will also be ignoring Intelligent Design.

I first read about creationism 20 years ago when a colleague lent me a book by an American pastor which put up an argument for the literal 7 day creation; including alternative suggestions for rocks formations, fossil creation and other geologic features. There was much critique of dating methods and use of anomalies to throw doubt on the earths age as established by scientific method

Global Flood

It doesn’t take much thought to realise that if a global flood carved out the glacial valleys and then laid down the silt deposits as the water receded, then the rock features we see now would be very different. Looking at the walls of a valley and the different rock layers, the only answer is that they were carved out after the deposits where laid and after they had turned to rock. Its just not possible for layers to come to an abrupt edge through natural silting, the rock has to be eroded for the built up layers to become visible.

This plain logic works for most people, but to those brought up on creationism, who have been so deeply immersed in creationist thinking that a single true statement is never going to convince them of their error. Instead, some form of apologetics will be brought up to explain it away.

Explain the truth

That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try to explain the truth of what happened to creationists. Just don’t expect to turn around years of indoctrination in a single 5 minute discussion on a single point. The process of changing a long held viewpoint is lengthily and takes many conversations with many people. Your conversation will just be a single small step in a long line of single small steps, its not worth risking the whole process by expecting the impossible and then being a dick when it doesn’t happen.

Does not compute

At its root, creationism does not make sense. Look at the world around and imagine the processes that create it. Those processes take a very long time and are visible everywhere, erosion being the most obvious. Take a walk along a beach where there are cliffs and look at the rock layers, the pebbles, the fossils.

My favourite two places in the world are Victoria Falls and the Grand Canyon. Both show what happens when you have water flowing over rock for a prolonged period of time. A global flood would require specific localised events to create the features we see in the short time required. All the bible says about a global flood is that it rained for a very long time and then the water took a very long time to recede. Specific localised events require adding details to the biblical accounts to make them fit a pre-determined (and incorrect) viewpoint.

Limitless Oil

For me, the biggest whoopsie of the creationist is the existence of oil. Oil is created over a long period of time and through a process that exerts organic matter to extreme pressure and temperature, see here http://resources.schoolscience.co.uk/SPE/knowl/4/2index.htm?origin.html. This is the reason that the world running low on oil. We are at or near what is termed peak oil. This is where the global demand for oil matches the rate at which the oil can be extracted from the ground and converted into the various forms we require. When peak oil is exceeded, the result is reducing stock piles and price rises.

Since oil takes so long to form, it will take millions more years of zero oil extraction for the there to be large amounts of oil to be used again.

If Creationism were true, the process of creating oil would be much more rapid, otherwise how could it have formed? This being true, it would be worth trying to manage oil extraction so that it taken out at a rate that matches its formation. Going further, it would be possible for this process to have been monitored by now and scientists would already be working on a way of creating oil artificially. Bingo, oil for all and for ever!

Except that’s no how it works, oil takes millions of years and we can’t observe it happening nor can we artificially create the environment to make oil.

Follow the evidence

Given that the evidence points to an earth that’s a 4+ billion years old, and a universe that’s about 14 billions years old, those who hang on to creationism need to have a long hard think about what that means to their interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis. This is especially prudent as many scholars take the view that this chapter was never intended to be a literal story anyway. Like the ark story, the story of creation is story about the goodness of God and not a literal event that happened. The clue is in how it is written, something that is lost in the modern English translations. Scholars familiar with the original writings confirm the story like nature of these early texts in comparison with others that give confirmable facts.

A Trickster God?

One suggestion that could explain a young earth that looks old is that everything we see was created, as it is, 10 thousand years ago and little has changed since. That would mean that all the evidence that points to oil needing millions of years to form, continents moving to form deep oceans and high mountains, fossils of animal bones in rock that looks millions of year old; all evidence planted by a God that wants us to believe in an earth created a few thousand years ago.

That does not compute. Why plant false evidence? Is the intention to mislead those who wish to learn more by exploring the world around us?

Consider the context

Something that creationists should consider is the ethos of the bible. There are passages in the bible that talk about the wonder of creation and encourage exploring and learning. Admirable things to do, because the world around us is beautiful and inspiring; mans’ exploration of the world around and his desire to learn has brought us much that is good. It has given us medicine, agriculture, evolutionary theory, an understanding of how our solar system works, where we fit in our galaxy and so much more that could be listed. This thirst for knowledge and understanding is a biblical principle; it should be celebrated by the religious.

Don’t fight evolution

I firmly believe that rather than fighting evolution, the creationist should embrace it. It shows mans’ ingenuity, by looking at the wonder that surrounds us and examining it in detail and working out how its fits together and tells the story of our emergence into an intelligent species, capable of manipulating his environment to suit his needs. It truly is remarkable and in no way detracts from the beauty of nature.

To deny evolution and cling tightly to creationism restricts your God. If your belief in God requires you to accept creationism, then your belief is on shaky ground and when the realisation dawns that creationism really has no scientific basis you’ll be in for a big shock. Will your faith survive it?

Of course the creationist could always avoid that eventuality by ignoring the evidence, or building up their own false ideas. But like the man building his house on the sand, all attempts to prop up creationism will fail.

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2 Comments
  1. ojb42 permalink

    Agreed. The evidence for an old Earth/Universe comes from so many independent areas of science that its impossible to ignore. Well not quite impossible because creationists seem to be able to. You would be surprised how skilled they are at ferreting out small areas of contrary evidence, out of context quotes, irrelevant opinions, and other forms of mis-information.

    I have debated (by email) with some of the them – Jonathan Sarfati being the most well known – and I can’t deny his skill. He’s wrong, of course, totally and irredeemably wrong, but he can always use the last tiny piece of doubt in a theory which has been proved 99 or even 99.9% to give the believers in YEC something to hang on to.

  2. limey permalink

    Thanks for the comment.

    I liken most YECs to Climate Change deniers. They have a pre-defined world view and will actively look for objections to any evidence that contradicts them.

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