Theological Problems with Creationism Pt. 1 – General

For the next couple of posts we’ll look at the theological problems raised by the creationist and Intelligent Design views. This one will be a general look at creationism. This is were the theological muscles get flexed after the science and socio-historic criticism has been dealt out. Firstly, we look at criticism of creationism. This includes scientific ignorance, the ludicrous claims made by creationists, the unethical ploys adopted, and the disregard of proper exegesis.

creationist

Robert Cornwall states that taking the Genesis creation accounts literally makes it look like Christianity “has been left behind intellectually.” Conor Cunningham echoes this sentiment when he says that “the advent and rise of creationism and its understanding of the Bible represent a lapse into intellectual barbarism, a complete desertion of the Christian tradition.” St Augustine’s words are just as applicable today as when he wrote them between AD 397 and 400 in Book 11 of his Confessions: “It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.” This scorn of the unbelievers is called irrisio infidelium. Augustine explained the serious ramifications of irrisio infidelium:

The shame is not so much that an ignorant person is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full off falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.

 

Part of the ignorance found within creationism is the ridiculous claims made to support the creationist stance. Mark Isaak states that “the invalid ‘proofs’ necessary to support antievolution, a global flood, and a young earth have pushed people away from Christianity.” Bram van de Beek agrees that attempting to make science fit with the literal interpretation of the Bible results in pseudoscience. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pseudoscience as “a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.” Pseudoscience is a cause of mockery and may prevent others from taking any Christian claims or communications seriously. Robert T. Pennock provides an example of absurdity invoked to defend the creationist account against evolution: “To defend the scientific plausibility of Noah’s Ark, ICR creation-scientist John Woodmorappe provides a book-length feasibility study and finds himself arguing that Noah solved the problem of animal waste management by training the animals to urinate and defecate upon command as someone held a bucket behind them.” Perhaps the most ridiculous claim was the one made by Accelerated Christian Education, which states that the Loch Ness Monster is proof against evolution (see the Top 5 Lies Taught by Accelerated Christian Education). After some unwanted publicity about the inclusion of Nessie in a science curriculum, Accelerated Christian Education has decided to leave Nessie and a “sea monster” caught by a Japanese fishing trailer out of the new editions. I actually did that science PACE and mostly forgot about it until I read Jonny Scaramanga‘s blog about the lies taught by ACE.

 

loch-ness-monster

In addition to ridiculous claims, sometimes unethical means are utilized to argue for creationism. There are those in the creationist camp that choose to demonize the perceived enemy by arguments such as the following by Henry Morris: “Satan invented the evolutionary concept and is using it as his vehicle to deceive the nations and to turn men away from God.” Robert Cornwall adds an interesting observation: “…the voices that yell the loudest are the most extreme. It is either the militant fundamentalist or the militant secularist… These two extremes agree on one thing: that literalism is the only legitimate religious voice, which means that one must choose between God and evolution.”

 

Besides simply being bad science and at times using unethical arguments, creationism also fails to take the interpretation of Scripture seriously. Christopher Southgate states that “creationism both fails to take science seriously, and uses a very dubious method of interpreting Scripture.” Creationism tends to take a literal stance to Scripture and see the Bible as absolutely inerrant. As Van de Beek states, creationism fails to take into regard the osmosis between context and theology. The stance of inerrancy ignores textual criticism, source criticism, syncretism, and the values of the authors. Basically, the approach used by Biblical literalism does not do the text justice. Isaak lists several examples of factual errors and contradictions in the Bible that shows how the literal, inerrant reading of the Bible does not treat the Bible properly:

  • Lev 11: 6 states rabbits chew the cud.
  • Lev 11: 20-23 speaks of four-legged insects, including grasshoppers as four-legged insects.
  • I Chron 16: 30 and Ps 93: 1 both state that the earth is immobile.
  • In Gen 1, God creates Adam after all the other animals, but in Gen 2, Adam is created before the animals.
  • Matt 1: 16 and Luke 3: 23 differ over the genealogy of Jesus. According to Matthew, the grandfather of Jesus was Jacob, but according to Luke he was Heli.
  • Mark 14: 72 differs from Matt 26: 74-75, Luke 22: 60-61, and John 18: 27 about the number of times the cock crowed. According to Mark the cock crowed twice and according to the others it crowed three times.
  • II Sam 24: 1 and I Chron 21: 1 differ over who incited David to count the people. II Sam states that it was God and I Chron states that it was Satan.
  • I Sam 17: 23, 50 and II Sam 21: 19 differ regarding who killed Goliath. In I Sam it was David and in II Sam it seems to have been Elhanan.
  • I Sam 31: 4 and II Sam 1: 8-10 differ regarding who killed Saul. According to I Sam, Saulorder his armourbearer to killhim, but the armourbearer refused and Saul fell upon his own sword. In II Sam, Saul asked an Amalekite to kill him and the man agreed.
  • The details of the death and resurrection of Jesus is different in each of the four gospels. Matt 27: 37, Mark 15: 26, Luke 23: 38, and John 19: 19 have different inscriptions on the cross. Matthew cites the inscription as THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS, Mark cites it as THE KING OF THE JEWS, Luke cites it as THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS, and John cites it as JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. These are not major differences, but all four cannot be literally factual.
  • Matt 27: 5-8 and Acts 1: 18-19 differ over Judas’s death. According to Matthew he gave back the blood money and hanged himself. According to Acts, he fell in the field he bought with the money and burst.
  • Gen 9: 3 and Lev 11: 4 differ regarding what may be eaten. Genesis states that one may eat everything that lives, whereas Leviticus states that the following may not be eaten: any animals that chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves and any animals that have cloven hooves but do not chew the cud.
  • Rom 3: 20-28 and James 2: 24 differ regarding faith and deeds. Romans focuses on faith, whereas James emphasizes that faith without deeds is dead.
  • Ex 20: 5, Num 14: 18, and Deut 5: 9 state that sons inherit sins from their fathers, whereas Ezek 18: 4, 19-20 and John 9: 3 state that sons do not inherit sins from their fathers.

 

Only with proper exegesis can one make sense of these contradictions. The process of exegesis includes several forms of criticism, these are:

  • Textual criticism, which seeks the earliest or original wording of a text.
  • Historical criticism, which seeks to understand the historical, geographical, and cultural setting of the text. Questions regarding the author and the intended readers and their social norms and structures are investigated.
  • Grammatical criticism looks at the morphology and syntax of the text. Grammatical rules are investigated.
  • Literary criticism looks at the broader literary context. Questions regarding the relation to other texts, composition, structure, and rhetorical style are addressed.
  • Form criticism looks at the passage of text itself. Form, genre, and the life situation are examined.
  • Tradition criticism investigates the earlier stages of development a text has undergone before its present form.
  • Redaction criticism focuses on the final form of the passage and seeks to find out the intention of the author and/or final editor.

From these forms of criticisms it is clear that biblical interpretations is by no means an easy undertaking. The literal reading of the text ignores the rich background behind it and leads to an impoverished view.

 

Also see:

Creation Harms Christianity – Sacerdotus

The Simple Truth about Biblical Literalism and the Fundamentalists who Promote it – Sean McElwee

 

Sources:

Cornwall, R. 2007. Charles Darwin goes to church: A literature guide to the evolution versus intelligent design debate. Congregations, 35-38.

Cunningham, C. 2010. Darwin’s pious idea: Why the ultra-Darwinists and creationists both get     it wrong. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

Hayes, J H & Holladay, C R. 1982. Biblical exegesis: A beginner’s handbook. London: SCM        Press.

Isaak, M. 2007. The counter-creationism handbook. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pennock, R T. 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge:         MIT Press.

Scaramanga, J 2012a. How the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2012/05/23/how-the-loch-ness-monster-disproves-evolution/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

______2012b. Top 5 lies taught by Accelerated Christian Education. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2012/05/07/top-5-lies-told-by-accelerated-christian-education/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

______2013. No more Nessie for Accelerated Christian Education. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2013/07/23/no-more-nessie-for-accelerated-christian-education/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

Southgate, C 2008. The groaning of creation: God, evolution, and the problem of evil. London:   Westminster John Knox Press.

Van de Beek, B. 2005. Toeval of schlepping? Scheppingstheologie in de context van het modern   denken. Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.

Advertisements

Arguments Against Evolution pt. 8

The previous post followed the lineage of our own species up until the australopithecines. We now turn to our Homo predecessors in this, the eight and final post in the “Arguments Against Evolution” series.

  • Homo habilis had an increased brain size (650 cc average), a more vertical face, and smaller teeth and manufactured and used simple stone tools . These simple tools are known as Oldowan technology. These features of H. habilis were related to meat consumption, meaning that if our ancestors didn’t eat meat, we wouldn’t be big-brained H. sapiens. Fats and proteins from a diet that included meat were essential in the evolution of larger brains . H. habilis the first significant and rapid increase in brain size. The specimens of H. habilis might include a larger-brained species called Homo rudolfensis, but it is uncertain whether H. rudolfensis is indeed a separate species. This species lived from about 2.4 to 1.5 million years ago. 
  • Homo ergaster is seen as the ancestor of the Asian Homo erectus and also the European Homo Heidelbergensis. H. ergaster had African origins. They were probably scavengers. These hominins had even larger brains, more complex tools (Acheulean technology), more efficient bipedalism, could use fire, and their offspring remained juvenile for a longer period. They might have been the first hominins to use a kind of primitive language.  H. ergaster proves the Out of Africa hypothesis, and therefore also the reasoning of Darwin, to be correct. The most famous specimen of H. ergaster is known as Turkana Boy, or the Nariokotome skeleton, found in Kenya. This specimen is an almost complete skeleton and shows that H. ergaster was built like modern human, but with the brain size of a 1 year old child. Even with the comparatively small skull, H. ergaster needed a human birth and prolonged infant care.

    Turkana Boy

    • Homo erectus date from about 1.8 million to 300,000 years ago and had brain capacities of 099 cc in the earlier specimens and 1,100 cc in later specimens.With H. erectus we see a refinement of tools, which imply planning and acting with purpose . As of 1999 the fossils identified as H. erectus have been recognized as coming from about 150 individuals.                
  • Homo floresiensis are perhaps the most surprising find in the Homo lineage.  Fossils which were thought to be H. erectus were discovered on Flores Island. What was peculiar was that the typically H. erectus tools were “toysized” and all the fossils were of children. More detailed investigation of the skeletons revealed that they were from adult individuals who only reached about 1m in height with 380cc brains. It is presumed that H. floresiensis are descendants of H. erectus that became isolated on Flores Island and evolved to the smaller size. These miniature people existed as recently as 18,000 years ago.

    Homo sapiens and Homo floresiensis

    • Homo Heidelbergensis were from African descent and moved through Europe, evolving into Homo neanderthalensis. They may not have been the first Homo species to enter Europe, as Acheulean stone flakes were found near the Jordan River and may belong to H. ergaster. The H. heidelbergensis that remained in Africa evolved into Homo sapiens and intermediate forms such as the Kabwe and Bodo skulls have been found.    
  • Homo neanderhtalensis were the European descendants of H. Heidelbergensis . H. neanderthalensis had brains as large as those of Homo sapiens and tools more advanced than H. ergaster. The first H. neanderthalensis specimen was found in 1856 in the Feldhofer Cave in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, Germany. The Neanderthal’s tools are called Mousterian technology. The Neanderhtals lived between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago. We have bones from about 500 individual Neanderthals.

    Replica skull of a Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis), with a modern human (Homo sapiens) in the background.

  • Cro-magnon fossils were discovered in 1868 the Cro-Magnon cave in France. The Cro-Magnons are completely modern in their anatomy and the term is now used to refer to any Homo sapiens that lived in Europe before people started settling and forming villages. Cro-Magnon remains are between about 35,000 and 15,000 years old. They produced cave paintings, the most famous of which are at Lascaux in France (gallery), and also produced carvings. Other forms of art produced by these people included body decorations, ceramic pottery and musical instruments. Cro-Magnon buried their dead and had distinct cultures. Cro-Magnons were at first thought to be descendants of the Neanderthals, but they are descendants of African H. sapiens.

    Neanderthal (left) and Cro-Magnon (right)

  • Homo sapiens evolved from H. heidelbergensis in Africa and then migrated to populate the globe. In Indonesia they encountered H. erectus and perhaps H. floresiensis and could have reached the continent of Australia as early as 60,000 years ago. Encounters with European H. neanderthalensis resulted in a cultural explosion. This cultural explosion is dated to about 40,000 years ago and is called the Upper Paleolithic period. It is from this period that religious artifacts are found.

Conclusion:

As a conclusion to the “Arguments Against Evolution” series (Pt.1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5, Pt. 6, Pt. 7), one can see from the arguments examined that the arguments aimed against evolution stem mostly from a misunderstanding of the science behind evolution (e.g. the missing links, the second law of thermodynamics) or the claims made by evolution (e.g. the hopeful monster theory). Some of the arguments may be conscious trickery on the part of those who seek to discredit evolution. Isaak states that “[m]uch of the strength of creationism comes not from its having good arguments but from creating so many arguments that educators cannot easily teach the answer to all of them.” This is also the problem when it comes to debates between creationism and evolution. Creationism seems to bowl the evolutionists out by sheer strength in the number of claims and arguments, which the evolutionists simply cannot adequately answer or explain in a single debate. This tactic is called Gish galloping. When steamrollered by an avalanche of misinterpretations and untruths, those on the side of evolution are often left floundering and looking like fools.

Sources:

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Dawkins, R 2009. The greatest show on earth: The evidence for evolution. London: Bantam Press.

Miller, K B 2003. Common descent, transitional forms, and the fossil record, in Miller, K B (ed.) Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.152-181.

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Ruse, M 2006. Darwinism and its discontents. New York: Cambridge University Press.

See Also:

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/prehistoric-art.htm

http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_5.htm

http://blog.world-mysteries.com/strange-artifacts/prehistoric-cave-paintings/

http://humanorigins.si.edu/resources/intro-human-evolution

Arguments Against Evolution pt. 7

After working like mad to finish my thesis I can finally get back to my theology and evolution blogs. In this installment we take a look at a very important branch of the evolutionary tree – ours! Allow me to introduce you to some of our hominid and hominin forefathers (and mothers). Hominid used to refer to the family Hominidae, as distinct from the family Pongidae (chimpanzees), but the term now refers to Hominidae as it stands now, including chimpanzees and bonobos in the family. Hominin is the term employed for the lineage that has already diverged from that of the chimpanzees and which leads up to modern humans.

Anti-evolutionists often ask to be shown the fossils. Richard Dawkins recounts a rather infuriating interview (pgs 198-201) which would let any sensible person want to bang their head on their desk.

  • Sahelanthropus tchadensis is the earliest known bipedal ape. Discovered in 2002 in Chad, this creature lived about 7 to 6 million years ago, which is 1 to 2 million years before the lineages of humans and chimpanzees split according to DNA studies.                                   
  • Orrorin tugenensis was discovered in 2000 in Kenya, walked upright, and lived about 6 million years ago.   
  • Ardipithecus ramidus (basic root ape) seems to be the point where the human lineage began. It was discovered in 1994 in Ethiopia and clocks in at about 4.4 million years ago.                        
  • Australopithecines (literally “southern ape”) were hominins that lived in Africa. They were bipedal, but their brains were not consistently larger than other apes. Their leg and pelvic bones attest to upright walking, but a bony ridge on the forearm, which might be vestigial, points to walking on the knuckles.They probably used tools, but much in the same way chimpanzees do today. The earliest species were A. anamensis, A. afarensis, and A. bahrelghazali from about 4 to 3 million years ago. A. garhi and A. africanus lived in the southern regions of Africa at about 3 to 2 million years ago. The Australopithecines are described as “gracile” and were small of stature, only measuring about 1m tall.Their jaws were relatively small as were their faces.
  • Australopithecus afarensis was discovered in 1974. The fossils date from 3.9 to 3.9 million years ago and had humanlike teeth (Isaak, 2007: 106). The first specimen discovered is also the most famous. The nearly complete skeleton of Lucy was helpful in shedding light on the movements of the species. A. afarensis was bipedal. Fossilized footprints of A. afarensis or a closely related species that evidence bipedalism were found in Tanzania in volcanic dust which was dated to about 3 million years ago. The “Dikika Baby” was found in 2006 in Ethiopia and from the shoulder blades it could be deduced that the species could still swing from trees. “Little Foot” was discovered in 2006 in South Africa at Sterkfontein. There are bones from about 150 individuals. 
  •  Australopithecus africanus was discovered in 1924 in a Pleistocene limestone quarry in the Transvaal region near Taung, South Africa. The most famous specimen is the first, called the Taung child. A. africanus have humanlike teeth. This species shows that the skull’s characteristics became more modern before the brain size increased as well as that human evolution began in Africa. The specimens date from about 3 to 2 million years ago and have a brain capacity of 420-500 cc.                                   
  • Kenyanthropus platyops was discovered in Kenya and is thought by some to be the ancestor of humans, rather than Australopithecus. Kenyanthropus lived about 3.5 million years ago. 
  • Paranthropus is a genus consisting of three known species called the “robust australopithecines.”
  • Paranthropus aethiopicus was probably the ancestor of both P. robustus and P. bosei. The Paranthropus lineage seems to have met a dead end. The “robust australopithecines” were most likely the descendants of the “gracile australopithecines,” after the line split into at least two branches. The other branch would lead to the Homo species. 

In the next installment we’ll look at our Homo predecessors.

Sources:

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Ruse, M 2006. Darwinism and its discontents. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Arguments Against Evolution pt. 6

This is the fifth installment in the series regarding arguments leveled against evolution and the second one regarding transitional forms. In the previous post we looked at the transition from fish to amphibian and reptile, also called Romer’s Gap. Now we turn to the feathered dinosaurs, when dinosaurs became more bird-like.

Perhaps the most famous transitional fossil is that of Archaeopteryx lithographica, found in 1861 in Germany. This means it was discovered in time for Darwin to include it in new editions of the Origin. Thomas Huxley deducted from Archaeopteryx that birds were descended from dinosaurs and later fossil discoveries confirmed his conclusion. It seems, however, that Archaeopteryx was a side-branch and not part of the actual lineage linking reptiles and birds. Archaeopteryx lived during the Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago, yet it is only one of several transitional forms. Other links between dinosaurs and birds include:

  • Sinosauropteryx, had feathers, but those feathers were not suitable for flight. These feathers were probably used for warmth.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c5/Sinosauropteryxfossil.jpg

  • Caudipteryx was about the size of a peacock and had symmetrical flight feathers on its forelimbs and tail.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e3/Caudipteryx_fossil.jpg

  • Confuciusornis had assymetrical flight feathers on its wings and down feathers on its body. Its skeleton was basically reptilian with long fingers, but it had a fused tail and a toothless beak. Confuciusornis, Caudipteryx, and Sinosauropteryx are part of a line that is known as the coelurosaurs.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/Confuciusornis_male.jpg

  • The coelurosaurians evolved from large theropods and included large creatures like T. rex and smaller, ostrich-like creatures which evolved into the maniraptorans, the feathered dinosaurs. It seems that the hollow bones, wishbones, and feathers were features of the maniraptorans before they were able to fly. The feathers in all probability served to keep in body heat. Archaeopteryx is part of the maniraptorans. It had feathers and was capable of flight.
  • Deinonychus  was built like a bird and behaved like birds do. It’s part of the velociraptor subfamily and had quite ferocious claws on its hind legs.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ed/FMNH_Deinonychus.JPG

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microraptor#mediaviewer/File:Microraptor_gui_holotype.png

  • Epidexipteryx was discovered in 2008 and was covered with down feathers and had four plumes for a tail.
  • Numerous forms also existed during the Cretaceous period, including three lineages of modern birds: waterfowl (represented by the Cretaceous Presbyornis), loons (represented by Neogaornis), and gulls (represented by Graculavus).
  • Rahonavis, from the Cretacious period, was similar to Archaeopteryx in its tail, claws and teeth, but its pelvic girdle is similar to that of birds.
  • Sinornis was a feathered dinosaur with a short, fused tail, a broad breastbone, and opposable toes that enabled perching.

In the next blog post things get closer to home as we look at the transitional forms in our own lineage.

Sources:

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Ruse, M 2006. Darwinism and its discontents. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Arguments Against Evolution Pt. 5

Missing links and a look at the Romer’s gap

The term “missing link” was coined in Darwin’s time and was used to denote the “hypothetical organisms that linked different groups, and especially humans with anthropoid apes.” Perhaps the most famous “missing links” are those linking humans to our more ape-like ancestors. The term “missing link” is misleading, however, because it supposes that all creatures are linked in a hierarchy or Chain of Being when the case is rather that all creatures share common ancestors. The term also implies that there are certain links that are missing and thus disprove the theory of evolution. Modern scientists speak of transitional forms instead of “missing links.”

Cotner and Moore define a transitional form as: “An organism having anatomical features intermediate between those of two major groups of organisms in an evolutionary sequence. Transitional forms show evolutionary sequences between lineages by having characteristics of ancestral and newer lineages. Since all populations are in evolutionary transition, a transitional form represents a particular evolutionary stage that is recognized in hindsight.” Why don’t we find something halfway between a hippo and a whale, then? Miller explains that transitional fossils are retrospective: “For example, transitional forms are not to be found between living whales and their closest living relatives the hippos, but between whales and their common ancestors with the hippos. Such forms will be unlike anything living today. Transitional forms are found by moving down the tree of life into the past, not by trying to jump from limb to limb.”

Keith B. Miller addresses two errors with regard to the fossil record and missing links: “There are two opposite errors that need to be countered about the fossil record: (1) that it is so incomplete as to be of no value in interpreting patterns and trends in the history of life, and (2) that it is so good that we should expect a relatively complete record of the details of evolutionary transitions within most or all lineages.”

David H. Bailey states that many of the gaps pointed out by creationists have been filled over the past few decades. Dawkins states that “for a large number of fossils, a good cause can be made that every one of them is an intermediate between something and something else.” It is true that there are gaps in the fossil record, but that is exactly what one would expect if one takes into consideration the difficult process of fossilization and the amount of strata which have been excavated. A rare occurrence known as fossil Lagerstätten took place where one encounters thick layers of fossil-rich rock. These are very rare indeed. Organisms that lack hard parts (eg. Ediacaran organisms, sponges, plants) have very little hope to be fossilized and even when an organism has hard parts, dissolution and recrystallization could erase any traces of fossilization. Erosion and changes in the formation of rock can also destroy fossil evidence. Terrestrial organisms are less likely to be fossilized than those in aquatic environments, because sediments in water increase the chances of fossilization. Even when there are fossil-rich layers, these may be situated in inaccessible places, e.g. on the bottom of the sea or in the subsurface. Long-lived and abundant species stand a bigger chance of being preserved in the fossil record than short-lived or scarce species. For example, a fossil impala would be more probable than a fossil aardvark. As Charles Darwin stated: “The crust of the earth is a vast museum; but the natural collections have been imperfectly made, and only at long intervals of time.”

One famous gap in the fossil record is called Romer’s gap and spans from the end of the Devonian period (about 360 million years ago) and the early Carboniferous period (about 340 million years ago). This gap basically correlates to the evolution of fish into amphibians. Several of these transitional forms have been discovered:

  • Eusthenopteron foordi, discovered in 1881 in a collection of Canadian fossils, is an example from the late Devonian period. At the bases if its fins, this creature had bones which are analogous to those of terrestrial animals. Eusthenopteron looked like a fish and probably spent its life in water.
  • Panderichthys rhombolepis is another specimen from the Devonian. It had less fins and thicker ribs than fish. Thicker ribs are needed to support the body when the creature is out of the water, but Panderichthys probably lived mostly in water.
  • Ichthyostega stensioei and Acanthostega gunnari looked like fish with legs. Their cranial structure and skeletons resembled that of a fish, but their ribs were even thicker than those of Panderichthys. Both creatures could breathe air. Between the two, Ichthyostega probably spent more time on land than Acanthostega and moved like a seal does on land. Ictheostega would be the first known vertebrate that did not move like a fish. In fish, the hyomandibular bone serves to support the gills. This bone corresponds to the ear bone in mammals, also called the stapes. In Acanthostega the stapes resemble the hyomandibular bone of a fish and could not vibrate, thus rendering it useless for the purposes of hearing. Later, in the Carboniferous period, amphibians possessed a hyomandibular bone that could be used for hearing.
  • Tiktaalik roseae was discovered in 2004 and had amphibian-like skull, neck, ribs, elbows, wrists, and fingers, yet had fins, scales, and gills like a fish. It could probably prop itself up using the elbows, wrists, and fingers. Tiktaalik did not have gill plates and could thus move its head from side to side.

Also see: http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/12/your-ancestor-is-jellyfish.html for a cute family history

Sources:

Bailey, D H 2010. Creationism and intelligent design: Scientific and theological difficulties. Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought 43/3, 62-81.

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Daintith, J & Martin, E (eds.) 2010. Oxford dictionary of science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Darwin, C 1909. Origin of species. New York: P F Collier and Son.

Dawkins, R 2009. The greatest show on earth: The evidence for evolution. London: Bantam Press.

Miller, K B 2003. Common descent, transitional forms, and the fossil record, in Miller, K B (ed.) Perspectives on an evolving creation. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.152-181.

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Arguments Against Evolution Pt. 4

Radiometric dating is faulty

Old earth creationists are more accepting of radiometric dating and its findings, but young earth creationists reject the technique. Robert T. Pennock states that “young-earthers still try to argue that the radioisotope data cannot be trusted, suggesting that rates of decay were not constant but had accelerated at times, thus skewing the data so the earth appears to be much older.”

Cotner and Moore write the following:

Andrew Snelling of the antievolution organization Answers in Genesis claims that radiometric dating is inaccurate because it contradicts the Bible and because “we now have impeccable evidence that radioactive decay rates were greatly sped up at some point during the past, for example, during the global catastrophic Genesis Flood.” This alleged evidence has never been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Just as there is no evidence for a global flood, so too is there no evidence that rates of radiometric decay have changed significantly over time, nor is there any evidence that the laws of physics change during floods.

Radiometric dating works with the rate at which radioactive elements and isotopes decay. Isotopes are atoms of the same element that contain a different number of neutrons in the nucleus. The element is defined by the number of protons present in the nucleus. Carbon has six protons and six neutrons, Carbon-12 has six protons and 12 neutrons. The half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the atoms to decay. Radiometric dating is useful in dating the igneous rocks that are found between layers of sedimentary rock, because only volcanic rock can be dated with this method.

Stanley Rice provides two ways in which isotopes are useful in evolutionary science:

  • Many isotopes are radioactive—that is, the extra neutrons destabilize the nucleus, which ejects particles and changes into another kind of atom at a constant rate. This makes radioactive isotopes useful for determining the ages of some rocks. 14C is radioactive and is the basis of radiocarbon dating.
  • Nonradioactive isotopes can be useful as indicators of environmental conditions or biological activity in ancient deposits, fossils, or remnants of organisms. 13C is an example of a nonradioactive isotope.

Cotner & Moore explain that “[r]adioactive decay is exponential, meaning that the rate of decay does not involve fixed amounts of atoms, but instead involves fixed proportions of atoms. After one half-life, half of the original radioactive atoms are present. This rate remains constant regardless of how many atoms have already decayed.” The technique was proposed by Ernest Rutherford in 1905.

Uranium-lead dating is a type of radiometric dating that is used on zircon crystals and works on the ratio of uranium-238 atoms that have decayed into lead-206, or uranium-235 to lead-207 atoms. Clair Patterson developed the uranium-lead method in 1948.

Potassium-argon dating is another kind of radioactive dating. Potassium-40 decays into argon-40. Potassium-containing minerals are tested to find the amount of argon-40 and then to calculate the time that has passed since the mineral cooled to about 300 degrees. Potassium-argon dating can be used on materials such as mica, feldspar, and other minerals. The decay of rubidium-87 into strontium-87 can also be used for dating.

The radiocarbon method is the method for organic materials and was developed by Willard Libby in 1947. Cosmic radiation causes a small percentage of the nitrogen in the atmosphere to be transformed into carbon-14 atoms. Some of these carbon-14 atoms are absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. When the plant dies, photosynthesis stops and the ratio between radioactive and stable carbon atoms begins to decrease. This ratio can then be measured to determine the time that has passed since the death of the plant.

Another type of radiometric dating is called fission-track dating and is based on the tracks made in volcanic rock by the decay of uranium-238, which decays into lead.

Dating fossils by sedimentary layers is circular reasoning

John Philips was the first to use strata to date sediments. William Smith, in 1796, realized that there are fossils that are specific to each stratum and constructed geological maps according to the fossil species found in each stratum. His findings helped to establish the science of biostratigraphy. Georges Cuvier, a famous anatomist, made the following remark in 1801: “the older the beds in which [fossils] are found, the more they differ from those of animals that we know today. [This is] the most remarkable and astonishing result that I have obtained from my research.” Darwin himself wrote that “a discerning eye might have seen that some form or other of the doctrine of transmutation was inevitable, from the time when the truth enunciated by William Smith that successive strata are characterised by different kinds of fossil remains, became a firmly established law of nature.”

Over time, geologists have developed a standard column illustrating the different layers and when they were laid down (like a map of strata). Fossils are then dated relative to the layers in which they were found. Hurd explains that “[b]iostratigraphic dating rests on the fact that certain extinct ancestor of the modern horse, cow, or elephant always appear in specific locations in the standard geographical column.” Anachronistic fossils have never been found.

Stratigraphy and biostratigraphy are not the only methods used to date fossils. The radiometric dating techniques discussed in the previous section are used in tandem with stratigraphy and biostratigraphy.

54b5e4db7f3296157e04732fe21652d45b7950b120b2742dea20a4cda01760fa

Arguments Against Evolution Pt. 3

Image

Human population growth

Robert T. Pennock quotes Henry and John Morris: “It is easy to show mathematically that, starting with just one man and one woman, it would take only about 1,100 years of exponential growth to produce the present world population of about six billion people, if the population were increasing by 2 percent each year. This cannot have been going on for very long in the past or the world would long ago have been overrun with people.”  He then points out a fundamental flaw in that argument: they “are willing to assume for human population growth what they deny for radioisotopes and other physical processes, namely, that the relevant rates are constant.” One only needs a cursory knowledge of history to know that the growth rate of human populations is not constant. Elements like pandemics, epidemics, natural disasters and wars each play a role in lowering the growth of populations. Think of the Black Plague that wiped out a large percentage of the population, or WWII’s merciless genocide that killed millions of Jews.  Using the Morris’ growth rate, Monroe worked out that there would have been only “eighty-six persons in the entire world in 1300 B.C., the time of the exodus, or 354 persons to witness the judgment at Babel,” which is not correct.

The Flood of Noah Produced all the Fossils and Rock StrataImage

During the time of Darwin, many geologists and other scientists held the belief known as catastrophism. Catastrophism stated that the history of our planet is characterized by a number of catastrophes. The Flood of Noah would then be the most recent worldwide catastrophe. Georges Cuvier noticed that layers of rock contained fossils of animals which no longer exist and concluded that there were worldwide floods that wiped out all organisms and then the Creator started with a new creation, each time one that was more suitable for human life. In 1788 the Scottish geologist James Hutton found that rock formations are best explained by everyday natural occurrences such as wind and rain (thus: erosion) instead of catastrophism. He also stated that the age of the Earth is vast and his views began the movement that was later called uniformitarianism, which stood diametrically opposite catastrophism. Charles Lyell, a friend of Darwin, also opposed catastrophism and stated that geological features are a result of “the slow agency of existing causes,” and that “the present is the key to the past.”

Creationists argue that the entire fossil record was laid down during the Flood of Noah. The mineral deposits (gold, silver, semi-precious stones) were also formed during this time. There are numerous problems with these ideas regarding the Flood: The simpler organisms are in the bottom strata and more complex organisms are found only in higher strata. Noah did not take fish and other aquatic animals into the Ark, which means that these organism somehow survived the mixture of fresh and salt water which would have been inevitable with such a worldwide flood. Most fish die in a mixture like that. Then there are the problems with the rock layers themselves: some are tilted in odd angles and many sedimentary deposits are layered with volcanic ash between them.  After the Flood, the rotting organism that drowned would have generated massive amounts of carbon dioxide and would probably have made the water unfit to drink and unfit for aquatic animals to live in. One pair of each species would not possess enough genetic variety to establish new populations and it does not explain why some kinds of organisms are only found in certain places or continents (eg. the marsupials and monotremes of Australia). The fossils of organisms that no longer exist spark questions as well. It has been claimed that these species either didn’t get onto the Ark or had fallen off and thus drowned in the Flood, which is quite absurd.

To explain where all the water for the Flood could have come from, proponents of creation science had to invent what is known as the “vapour canopy.” In a science text for high school students, Accelerated Christian Education teaches the following regarding the vapour canopy:

To understand the volcanic activity during the Flood, we must also understand the hydrologic cycle before the Flood. This water cycle seems to be the result of the waters being separated during Creation into the ‘waters above the firmament’ and the ‘waters under the firmament’ (Genesis 1:7).

The waters above the firmament formed a canopy of vapor that created a ‘greenhouse effect.’ This canopy, being vapor, was fully transparent, allowing the sun’s rays to shine through, but it contained vast quantities of water that trapped the sun’s heat reflected from Earth’s surface. This ‘greenhouse’ permitted warm temperatures, tropical vegetation, and abundant animal life in all parts of our Earth.

The waters under the firmament included seas, which were called ‘the great deep’ or ‘the great depths of water,’ and rivers. The rivers came from fountains or springs rather than from rainfall (Genesis 2:5, 6).

Seemingly, the source of the springs was subterranean reservoirs. All of the reservoirs could have been connected to each other, as well as to the surface seas, through a system of subterranean conduits. The heat energy for pressurizing the underground water came from deep within our Earth.

In order to explain why the more primitive species are found in lower layers, George McCready Price, John Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry Morris argued that the invertebrates (eg. snails, insects) would have been more helpless and thus buried first, while the more agile vertebrates (eg. antelope, birds) would have been able to outrun the waters and reach higher elevations.

Image

Cotner and Moore point out some difficulties of this model:

For example, some mammals—perhaps crippled, sick, trapped, or recently deceased—would presumably have been unable to flee to higher ground, and would therefore have been trapped in the lower sediments. However, there are no mammals— not one —in the lower geologic strata. Similarly, there are no nonavian dinosaurs— not one —above the Cretaceous. Fossilized invertebrates occur in virtually all strata, and “dumb” animals such as marine clams and snails (that supposedly drowned in the early stages of the rising flood) are often found above “smarter, faster” reptiles and amphibians (and dinosaurs).

Another problem is that some animals that are found only in higher strata are not very agile and would not have been able to outrun flood waters. Examples of such animals are tortoises, sloths, koalas, and chameleons. New-born animals would have struggled as well and many nests of birds and reptiles would have been left to be covered by the water.

The Principle of Superposition, affirmed by Nicholaus Steno during the mid-1600’s, explains that strata are stacked in the order that they were laid down. In 1938 Harold Clark, a young-earth creationist, examined cores that were drilled by workers at oil fields in Texas and Oklahoma. He found that the strata lie in a much more definite sequence than thought and that Flood Geology “does not harmonize with the conditions in the field.”

Yet another problem for Flood Geology is that when water recedes, it leaves behind sediment consisting of mud and not, for example, shale (remember the Burgess shale spoken of in the previous post).

xXx

That’s it for now. In the next installment we’ll look at radiometric dating, which is going to get quite technical.

After that it’s time for the missing links and transitional forms to make their appearance.

Sources:

Accelerated Christian Education 1998. Science 1086. sl: sn.

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Daintith, J & Martin, E (eds.) 2010. Oxford dictionary of science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pennock, R T 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.