Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Creationism Notes Refuted, Part 1

Recently my sister mentioned that she was being taught about creation and evolution at her (Christian) school. Out of curiosity, I looked to see if she had any notes on the subject. What I found was much worse than I expected: she's been taught about two months' worth of absolute raving lunacy. It's even more ignorant than the stuff I learned while I was there. I had wanted to take on various creationist claims slowly and steadily, but I've decided to accelerate my pace by quickly picking these notes apart. Because there's so much (mis)information, I'll do this with a combination of personal commentary and external links.

Before I start, I want to emphasize that I certainly don't blame my sister for content of these notes. She just wrote down what she was taught, and although she's a very intelligent person, it's remarkably easy to simply go along with those teachings without questioning them. I know that from personal experience.


Notes: References to Prov. 4:23, 22:6; 2 Cor. 2:4-5.
Answer: These verses have the effect of encouraging close-mindedness and child indoctrination. Creationists have to be on their guard against religious doubt; honest and unbiased investigation of the evidence is not even an option.

N: Science has to be observable.
A: And evolution is—we see it directly on a small scale and indirectly through other evidence. (Indirect evidence is perfectly valid, else forensics would be non-science just because the crime itself wasn't observed.)

N: There are no transitional fossils.
A: There are so many it's not even funny.

N: Quote from biologist Colin Patterson apparently claiming uncertainty about transitionals.
A: A very common creationist misinterpretation.

N: Many scientists think aliens planted the first life on earth.
A: A huge exaggeration. A few have suggested it as a possibility, but there are far more plausible explanations.

N: Timeline that places the Big Bang at 20 billion years ago.
A: The actual time is about 13.5 billion years ago.

Human Transitionals

The point of these examples is to cast doubt on human evolution. But even when they actually get something right, their focus is still only on a few unusual and often insignificant cases, ignoring all the other fossil evidence.

N: Ramapithecus turned out to be an orangutan; this shows that we should be skeptical.
A: A legitimate error, but in fact it was an ancestor of orangutans. And we should always be skeptical—now if only YECs would apply this to their own crazy beliefs.

N: Java man was a gibbon skull and a human leg bone found 50 feet away.
A: The femur is indeed human. However the skull is similar to that of a Homo erectus and not even remotely gibbon-like.

N: Lucy was a chimpanzee, and her knee was over a mile away from the rest of her.
A: The chimpanzee claim ignores human-like features such as the pelvis. The knee claim has long been proven false, and some creationists have even retracted it.

N: Piltdown man was a fraud.
A: Yes it was, although some scientists had always been skeptical of its authenticity.

N: Neanderthals just had rickets and are now simply categorized as humans.
A: No and no. They definitely didn't have rickets, and they have several features distinguishing them from humans.

N: Nebraska man was based on an extinct pig tooth.
A: It was indeed a peccary tooth. However, scientists were highly skeptical of the find, the imaginative reconstruction was for a popular magazine, and peccary teeth are surprisingly similar to human ones.

N: The Ida fossil was a lemur, and rejected as a human ancestor.
A: This is scientific skepticism at work: scientists test their hypotheses and reject them when they fail. Also, Ida has several differences from modern lemurs.

N: Rick Potts didn't conclude that Ardi was related to humans.
A: He said it was "too soon to tell exactly where it stands."

The Flood

N: 270 stories from around the world support a worldwide flood.
A: Flood stories are common because most civilizations live near a water source that is subject to flooding. These stories also differ widely in many aspects, and those that are very similar were most likely spread by missionaries.

N: Explorers may have found the ark on Mt. Ararat.
A: I'm amazed they can teach such a repeatedly debunked falsehood.

N: Sediments have to quickly bury organisms for fossils to form.
A: There are several counterexamples to this. And believe it or not, natural disasters don't have to be global.

N: Marine fossils have been found on mountains.
A: Geology explains this. The flood cannot.

N: Rocks could only have folded while solidifying.
A: Lab experiments have shown otherwise.

N: Genesis 1:6 says there was a vapor canopy above the earth before the flood.
A: Even most creationists avoid this one. It's totally unfeasible.

N: Baby animals were taken on the ark since they use less space and resources.
A: The main problem is they would be utterly helpless once they got off the ark.

N: 8,000 "kinds" were taken on the ark.
A: There are about 11 million species on earth—and that's not counting extinct ones. Even taking into account aquatic "kinds" that weren't on the ark, that would mean an enormous amount of speciation in just over 4,000 years—far more than even evolution predicts.

That's just the first quarter or so of this nonsense. I'll cover the rest in later posts.

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