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Live in Louisiana?
© Garry Trudeau's take on education in that state.

copyright G B Trudeau

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Text: Copyright GWBAA

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Chapter Three: God the Creator?

Section 3: Creationism

Creationism is a collection of half-baked ideas based on a contradictory text and with no basis in science or reason.

Creation Museum, Kentucky

We have seen that there is no philosophical case for God (Section 1) and that cosmology tells us that God is unnecessary (Section 2). Nevertheless, there could still be a creator. Is there evidence from lifeforms here on earth that God exists?

Believers offer three different arguments to support their case:

Creationism - the Bible tells us that God
   created the world ;
intelligent design - the complexity of
   some organisms means they can only have
   been created by a designer - God;
Evolution-and-God - evolution occurred,
   but it was triggered by God.

We look at intelligent design (ID) in the next section of this chapter. In this section we focus on Creationism.

3.3a Arguments against evolution?

Creationism asserts that the universe, the Earth and all the lifeforms around us were created by God in the manner described in the Old Testament / Jewish Bible. That means, according to Creationists, that the Earth has existed for less than 10,000 years. Dinosaurs and humanity once walked together on this planet.

Explaining the Universe

Jews, Christians and Muslims insist that God created the universe. In both philosophical and practical terms, however, that theory turns out to be unsustainable.

3.1: God the Created?
Where did God come from?

3.2: The balanced universe
Improbable is not impossible

3.3: Creationism
Holes in Noah's Ark

3.4: Intelligent design
False assumptions and faulty reasoning

3.5: Evolution
Reproduction, mutation and environment

3.6: Summary

Finished this chapter? Move on to

Chapter 4
Why people believe

If God does not exist, why do so many people believe in him?

There are many reasons, from the strength of community to fear of death.

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The Creationist argument has two main strands:
• evolution is a flawed and unsustainable theory:
• there is evidence to support the Biblical version of creation.

We look at the evidence for evolution in Section 5, but we can examine the Creationist case against evolution here. That case includes the following arguments:

• "evolution is only a theory"
• "micro-evolution (within species) occurs; macro-
   evolution (whereby new species emerge) does not
• "there are no intermediate fossils (between different
   species) to prove that evolution occurred"
• "you cannot have half an eye "

Unfortunately for Creationists, each of these claims is false. Let us examine them in turn:

• "evolution is only a theory"
This statement misrepresents the scientific definition
of the word "theory". In scientific terms, a theory is an explanation for natural phenomena which has been fully tested and confirmed. Evolution is a theory in the same way that gravity is a theory. In plain non-scientific English: like gravity, evolution is fact. (For more on this point of "theory or fact?" see this Wikipedia article.)

• "micro-evolution occurs; macro-evolution does not "
Evolution results in variations over time in populations of lifeforms. Variations that occur over decades or centuries generally allow for interbreeding, such as between different breeds of dogs; Creationists call this micro-evolution. Variations that occur over hundreds of thousands or more years are less likely to allow interbreeding, such as between different species of primate; Creationists call this macro-evolution.

Most serious scientists consider the difference between micro- and macro-evolution irrelevant, since there is not a clear division between them. There is considerable evidence, however, from DNA evidence, which shows how species diverge and confirms that "macro-evolution" occurs. (For more on this point, see RationalWiki.)

• "there are no intermediate fossils"
This claim is false on two grounds. Firstly, because all species undergo change, all fossils can be considered intermediate. Secondly, there are in fact many intermediate fossils between different species, such as between early primates and human beings, between dinosaurs and birds and between land animals and whales (For an example of how whales evolved, click on the picture at the beginning of Section 5. For a detailed website with hundreds of examples of transitional fossils, click here.)

• "you cannot have half an eye"
This statement is based partly on misunderstanding of evolution and partly on misuse of the phrase "half an eye". Evolutionists agree with Creationists that that a half eye as pictured could not function and could not have evolved. However, eyes evolve in a very different way, the first step of which is sensitivity to light, similar to the reaction of human skin to sunlight. The evolution of the eyes of over 40 different mammals, insects and sea creatures has been widely
documented;. (This topic is discussed further in the next section; see also Wikipedia.)

For responses to many other misconceptions around evolution
see this UC Berkeley webpage

3.3b The failure of option A does not prove the truth of option B

For argument's sake, however, let's assume that 150 years of scientific research, millions of fossils and unlimited DNA evidence are all wrong and evolution does not explain the presence of lifeforms on the planet on which we live. Does that prove Creationism is right?

No. It is a common mistake in reasoning to assume that because someone else's theory is wrong, your theory is automatically correct. It is very easy to criticise other people's theories or positions - politicians and talk show hosts do it all the time - but it is much more difficult to prove oneself right.

Creationists who base their arguments on failures in evolution are using false reasoning. Creationism can only be accepted as an accurate description of the origins of life if it can offer proof that makes no reference to evolution. Is that possible?

3.3c Creationism fails

The answer is no. Creationism can offer no proof that its version of the origin of life is accurate, for the following reasons:

1. Creationism is rationalisation, not reasoning.
    Reasoning starts with a question (how did life start?) and examines the
    evidence to come to a conclusion. Creationism starts with a conclusion (God
    created life) and seeks evidence to support that conclusion. In other words,
    Creationism is biased from the start.

2. Creationism is not science.
    Science is a method of determining knowledge; it has several key components,
    including (a) all aspects of the topic being discussed must be explained by the
    theory and (b) the theory can be changed or abandoned as new information
    comes to light. Creationists misuse science by (a) ignoring evidence that does
    not match their theory and (b) refusing to change or abandon their theory - as
    pointed out above, Creationism starts with the answer and then looks for
    evidence to support that conclusion. (For a more detailed description of science,
    click here.)

3. Key information in the Bible - the fundamental text of Creationism - the Bible - is
    lacking or contradictory.
    See below.

Points 1 and 2 confirm that Creationism is at best intellectually weak and at worst intellectually dishonest. Now let us look closely at point 3.

3.3d How did the koala get to Australia?

Creationists believe that the Old Testament / Jewish Bible accurately describes the origins of the universe, the Earth and all lifeforms. We saw in Chapter Two, Section 1 that the Bible is full of contradictions and inconsistencies. Nevertheless, let us give Creationists the benefit of the doubt and look at the Old Testament from their perspective. We will focus on two specific events: the origin of lifeforms (the Creation) and the Flood.

Firstly, the brief, muddled and contradictory narrative of the Creation. As many people know, there are two Creation stories. In the first version, man and woman are created on the sixth day after all other animals have been created (Genesis 1: 24-27). In the second version, however, first man is created (Genesis 2:7), then the animals (2:19), and finally woman (2:21-22).

Non-Creationists point out that these two stories reflect different versions of creation myths that were common in Canaanite mythology around BCE 1000. Some Creationists ignore the discrepancies; others argue that one version is "correct" while the other is "poetic", or use some other form of tortuous logic to claim that both versions tell the same story.

It does not really matter which explanation is "correct" - the fact that there are two stories that need explaining significantly weakens the Bible's claim to be the accurate Word of God. Surely an all-powerful God who expects his followers to accept his version of events is capable of presenting one simple story early in his narrative?

Secondly, the story of the Flood, where God sends rain that causes water to rise to cover the whole Earth (Genesis chaps 6 - 8). This is a key event in Creationist theory, used to explain many phenomena from the Grand Canyon to the distribution of fossils across the globe. The story as described in the Bible presents no obvious contradictions, but it raises many more questions than it resolves.

These questions include: Where did all the

pic: origin to be confirmed
water come from? Where did it eventually subside to? How did Noah build such a large boat? How did he travel thousands of miles all over the globe - from Tierra del Fuego to Tasmania and Alaska to the Cape of Good Hope - to gather all the animals? What did the carnivores eat during and after the flood? How did the animals return home after the waters subsided? To be more specific, how did the koala, which only eats fresh eucalpytus leaves and cannot swim, cross deserts and seas where no eucalyptus grows, to reach Australia from Mount Ararat, in Turkey, where the Ark came to rest? Did penguins swim home from the Black Sea or cross the Sahara Desert? And how did giant South American sloths travel so far?

These are not trick questions. Long before it starts to attack evolution as an alternative explanation, Creationism must present a coherent and comprehensive account of its own. Yet when faced with relatively simple questions that go to the heart of their belief, Creationists fail to give consistent, scientifically verifiable explanations.

In the case of the Flood, they offer fantastic explanations, such as the possible existence of microclimates around the Ark pre-Flood where all the world's species lived not far from Noah's house, or carnivores were herbivores on board and for some time afterwards, and that koalas moved slowly from Turkey to Australia and other distant places and only their descendants finally made it there. So, how come there are no koala bones between the two places? And what happened to the eucalpytus trees they fed off? Well, that's another problem. (For more on the absurdity of the Flood, see this YouTube video.)

Unfortunately, these responses, which are no more than guesses with no evidence to support them, only serve to highlight the weakness of the Creationist position. And that weakness goes to the heart of the Creationist text. If the Bible is the Word of God and the basis of all knowledge, why is so much key information missing? Why are there so many contradictions and inconsistencies? Why does the Old Testament offer no verifiable facts or scientifically determinable information, only vague contradictory stories?

If God really created the world in a manner similar to that described in the Bible, why does that text not say so clearly? If, as Creationists wish, the Bible is intended to be used as scientific text, why did God not cause it to be written as such? In short, why does the compassionate all-wise God insist that we throw all reason out of the window in order to accept the contradictory, illogical, muddled text of the Old Testament as the defining word on the origins of life, the universe and everything?

3.3e Creationist hypocrisy

Creationists accuse evolution of contradictions and inconsistencies. Most of the time their accusations are based on misunderstanding of specific points in evolution. Often their accusations reflect a poor understanding of debates within evolutionary science.

The science of evolution is based on (a) the question: how did life develop? (b) the physical evidence of the world around us, from fossils to DNA evidence; and (c) the research of thousands of unbiased (they began their research not knowing the conclusion) scientists.

The theory (used in the non-scientific sense) of Creationism is based on (a) a few hundred words written millenia ago; (b) the answer: God created life; (c) the research of hundreds of biased (they began their research with the conclusion they wanted to reach) individuals who call themselves scientists.

There are certainly uncertainties in evolution, but the eagerness of Creationists to criticise evolution is reminiscent of the eagerness of the man who points out the mote in other man's eye while ignoring the log that obscures his own vision. Yes, there are elements of evolution that have yet to be fully understood, but these are minimal compared to hodge-podge of theories that make up Creationism. To take the Creationist argument to its logical conclusion, if the uncertainties in evolution render it false, then the uncertainties in Creationism render it equally untrue.

Evolution, for all its faults, offers a case for the origins of life that is many times more consistent, reasonable and fact-based than Creationism. And irrespective of the strengths and weaknesses of evolution, Creationism is no more than a collection of half-baked ideas based on a contradictory text and with no basis in science or reason. As an argument for the existence of God, Creationism utterly fails.

Further reading on this website: How did the koala get to Australia? and A question of scale. See also the Wikipedia article on Creationism.

There are, of course, many interpretations of Genesis, depending on how the ancient Hebrew is translated. Here are two alternative readings: How many Gods created the earth and Did God only separate the earth?

Chapter Three: Section 4
Intelligent Design

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If God existed, he would...

admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create

recognize that eternity is meaningless

deny both heaven and hell

disown all men and women who speak in his name

denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"

help the human race to thrive without him

If God existed, he would be an atheist.

What is the difference between science and faith?

science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything

faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing

Which do you trust?

"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"

Check the answer

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