Beginners Guide to Creationism

Found this hanging around my drafts section. This was originally published on the official RationalWiki blog. It is reproduced here for, well, just for the sake of it. Minor stylistic changes added.

What is it?

Creationism most generally means the belief that the entire universe was created by a deity in a supernatural incident. Most commonly it refers to the Christian one but almost all religions in the world have some sort of creation myth that explains the origins of the universe. What we’re most interested in, however, is the branch known as “young earth creationism” (YEC). Not all creationists are YECs, and there are a few alternative forms, but 99% of the time skeptics will use “creationism” and YEC interchangeably – mostly because other forms are less interesting to skeptics and de-bunkers.

YEC specifically proposes that the world was created literally as described in the Bible, only 6,000 years ago according to the chronology deduced by Archbshop James Ussher in the 17th century – with the creation occurring October 23rd, 4004 BC, in fact. Yes, this is after some recorded written history and milestones such as the domestication of the dog.

It’s primarily a Christian doctrine (fundamentalist Islam, for instance, opposes evolution but doesn’t insist on a “young” Earth) and in its modern form is common to North America, where as much as 45% of the adult population believes it.

Erm… why?

Put simply, people believe this because it’s exactly what the Bible tells them. No one is quite sure why it persists as a belief, but it seems to be due to the fact that if you can challenge the literal Genesis creation story, you can accidentally invalidate the rest of the religion with it. Hence why attacks on young earth creationism, which is a falsifiable (and falsified) hypothesis, is continually conflated with an attack on religion, or an attack on Christianity in any and all forms.

(For instance, here, which is a protracted rant against YEC and anti-evolutionists that doesn’t at any point really talk about God or Christianity – but nevertheless is attacked in many comments as something to do with an anti-God atheist that hates Christians.)

It’s worth remembering at this point that in most of Europe and in other, non-literalist forms of Christianity, the idea of an old earth and of evolution is not assumed to be in conflict with the basic tenets of the religion. The Catholic Church, for instance, has “officially” accepted evolution since 1950 and human evolution since 1996 and makes no demands that Ussher’s chronology is correct. Back on the other side of the pond, organisations such as Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis refer to such things as “compromise” – as in “compromised“, as if such acceptance of modern evolutionary theory and geology is somehow an infection in the purity of the true church.

What’s the evidence?

In the last 50 years or so, the Creationist movement in the US has branched out into “scientific creationism“. Skeptics often lambaste this as an oxymoron, but it does mean that they’ve been increasingly using “evidence” to support their claims. Here’s a brief run-down of a few of the common ones.

  • The ordering of fossils is due to Noah’s flood. The animals found near the top of sedimentary strata escaped the rising waters, the “primitive” ones at the bottom did not.
  • The Bible. Yes, this is actually used as evidence.
  • The Grand Canyon is evidence of a drainage channel caused by Noah’s global flood.

This list is actually difficult to populate because the thing that is most common to YEC “evidence” isn’t evidence for a young earth, but usually a list of (mostly imagined) grievances against evolution and deep time geology. In fact, one of the approaches put forward by skeptics for dealing with creationists is to hypothetically grant them all their grievances and ask “so what positive evidence do you propose?”

This is particularly important because the evidence for the planet being formed billions of years ago is far more extensive than positive creationist evidence.

And the evidence against evolution?

A list of grievances against evolution is easier to generate. Some basic ones are listed here without refutation because they are mostly PRATTs (Points Refuted A Thousand Times) or Not Even Wrong.

  • “Micro” evolution, which is small changes in varieties of animals, has been observed – while “macro” evolution, which is the change of animals into completely different ones, has not.
  • Radiometric dating is flawed because it is calibrated circularly with fossils.
  • There are no “transitional” fossils found between organisms.
  • DNA contains complex information that “cannot” have evolved because evolution cannot increase information.
  • Thermodynamic laws don’t allow life to become complex and ordered.
  • Science can’t explain the origin of life – also known as “molecules to man” evolution.
  • Science can’t prove that things evolved because it wasn’t there.

This is just a random sample of points, the lists often go into the hundreds.

Who are the main players?

The same names do crop up repeatedly in the YEC world, here is a brief list.

  • Kent Hovind – founder of ‘Creation Science Evangelism’, got a ‘PhD’ from a diploma mill. Currently serving 10 years for tax fraud and evasion. (as an update on this, has recently as of 2014/15 been attempting to sue anyone who calls his crime “fraud” or “evasion”, even though it is. He’s attempted to sue RationalWiki over it, but can’t seem to get his act together enough to properly serve the papers to the RMF. Most people attribute this to him getting some spectacularly bad advice from someone in prison who is as mentally ill as he is.)
  • Eric Hovind – the fairly charismatic but immature son of the above, now runs Kent’s ministries and hosts the “Creation Today” and “Creation Minute” webcasts.
  • Ken Ham – current head of Answers in Genesis. Tends to evangelise to children in order to capture them young, most famous for his “were you there?” argument. (further update, you will know him from his debate with Bill Nye the Science Guy where both parties were famously asked “what would change your mind?” – Nye replied “evidence”, Ham replied “nothing”. There you go.)
  • Ray Comfort – the infamous bananaman. Mostly concerned with (terrible) Christian apologetics but uses anti-evolution tropes to further this.
  • Duane Gish – now deceased vice president of the Institute for Creation Research. Notable for having the Gish Gallop named after him.
  • Jason Lisle – notable for having an actual legitimate PhD in astrophysics. Has a tendency to use very circular logic in his religious apologetics, and has attempted to solve the starlight problem.
  • Jonathan Sarfati – like Lisle, has a legitimate PhD and knows it. Also known for being a bit of an obnoxious one.
Creationism is certainly associated with some weird shit...

Creationism is certainly associated with some weird shit…

William Dembski and Michael Behe are also names that repeatedly crop up, but these two are most commonly associated with Intelligent Design, rather than YEC. Which brings us to…

What about Intelligent Design?

Intelligent Design (ID) is an offshoot from creationism that, nominally, has nothing to do with it – technically, it is just an anti-evolution position, and therefore distinct from YEC beliefs as it does not mandate a young earth. However, it’s often associated with creationists and overlaps significantly (see cdesign proponentists and the Wedge Strategy), leading to the very justified accusation that it’s used to make creationism “respectable”, and tries to hide the “God” aspects in order to sneak it into schools in the US – where separation of Church and State is legally enshrined. ID is often called “creationism in a cheap suit” because of this.

And so what?

Creationism forms the bedrock of the anti-science movement in the US. It’s almost political suicide to speak against it, as such a thing is perceived as an attack on religion, which is absolutely sacred. As a result, it infiltrates a lot of the political sphere – which, importantly, controls funding for science programs. Creationism is also heavily associated with the Religious Right, and their attempts to get it taught in schools are readily associated with attempts to establish Biblical teachings in schools (along with their other depressing aspects including homophobia, misogyny and racism). In short, while it is a fundamentally silly and easily refuted, the way it’s played as a “freedom of religion” issue or as part of a persecution complex against Christianity, should be very worrying.

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5 thoughts on “Beginners Guide to Creationism

  1. You have pointed out that chimpanzees and man are 1% off from one another, but what about the other 24% differences that exist in comparison of the DNA strands where there is a section that is very close but if you look at both strands you soon discover there is at least a 24% difference between the 2, when you lay out both strands all the way.
    What about Mitochondrial Eve who only existed about 6000 years ago who was the mother of us all, indicated by the fact of the rapidity of the decay of the mitochondrial DNA.{Amy Gibbons “Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock” Science Magazine vol. 279, 1-2-98 page 28} Or how about the DNA Adam who existed only 5000 to 7000 years ago because of the same difficulty concerning decay.{Mike Hammer, U S News and World Report “Genetic Eve Gets a Genetic Adam (12-4-95)}{In 2004 Nature [vol. 431], 09-30-2004, “Recent common ancestry of all humans would have lived in the very recent past…the most recent common ancestor of humans lived just a few thousand years ago….]
    How about Richard Dawkins, who soon discovered that evolution would require a much longer time period than 4.5 Billion years so he devised the idea that we were seeded by space aliens. That appears unscientific to me.
    Now we can also talk of Ernst Haeckel and his embryos. The drawings were faked to make it look like there was evolution going on in the emrbryos of animals and humans. It was not true and for that, Ernst was fired from his university.
    As you know most recently there was a large dinosaur find where the horn of the dinosaur had viable that is intact tissue that indicated a very recent burial. That professor was fired from his job because his research indicated that that dinosaur must have lived a few thousand years ago not 125,000,000 years ago.

    Reply
      • You atheists like to call any science based in Creationism as religion. If science demonstrates fallacy in evolution, what is the problem? You made no mention of Mitochondrial Eve or DNA Adam, don’t have an answer? How about Richard Dawkins using science fiction? You mention the scopes trial. That was based on a tooth with a made up hominid called hesperopithicus who turned out to be an extinct pig. What other fallacies do you want to add to your wisdom?. Charles Darwin based is hypothesis on the idea that the cell was a simple. Now we know that there are 60,000 proteins in 100 configurations in the cell. If you remove one the cell dies. The cell has to have a support system as well and do we need to get into the complexity of cell reproduction? The fact that the odds of evolution involving this is 1 X 10 to the 4.5 millionth power. Nothing occurs in the world unless the odds are 1 X10 to the 50th power.
        The Bible was mentioned. Again another scientific miracle in its original languages The Bible should stupify any person as to the complexity of coding and the numerics.
        The Bible, with the Hebrew Old Testament Text and the original Greek New Testament does things that no other religious text of any other World Religion does; demonstrating that only the Creator could have, through 44 inspired writers, written this book. The scribes who copied the original Hebrew Old Testament text copied carefully every letter, jot and tittle. As they read the copied text, if a single letter, jot, or tittle mistake was made, they would destroy all that had been written and start over.

        Ivan Panin, a Harvard Hebrew, Greek, and Mathematical Scholar researched the numerical values of the Hebrew and Greek letters. He sent 43,000 pages of numerical research to the Nobel Research Committee in 1900, and they could not refute the fact that God through 44 inspired writers wrote the Bible.

        Del Washburn has written two books expanding on the numerical values, “Theomatics” and “Theomatics II”. (See http://www.biblecode.com ).

        The most amazing proof that the Creator of the Universe wrote the Bible through the inspired men of God is the Equidistant Letter Sequences. The NSA tried to duplicate such coding and failed. Harold Gans, the lead code breaker for the NSA, before he died, satisfied himself that God wrote the Bible, by using a mathematical formula to determine the probabilities involved in creating codes throughout the surface text of the Old Testament (www.biblecodedigest.com ). Through the code, the multitude of information reads like yesterdays news–you must know the names, events, persons involved, locations, and/or the dates. For this reason it can not be used prophetically.

        The original text of the Old and New Testament with the letter numeric values and the multitude of Equidistant Letter Sequences should be enough to prove to anyone that the God of the Bible, is our Creator. There are thousands of words, names, sentences and locations encoded in the Old Testament. If you are thinking that some super intelligence wrote this book other than God, God reminds you from Numbers 23’19”, “God is not a man that He should lie….” No human or computer can duplicate anything resembling the quantity of ELS coding in surface text like the Bible does. There are even codes between books, God knowing which books would be canonized.

        In Ezekiel 36′ 25″-27″ it describes God’s way of salvation–“I will remove your stoney heart and give you a heart of flesh (being born again and receiving Jesus as your Savior), I will sprinkle you with water and make you clean (water baptism), and put my Spirit in you to cause you to walk in my laws and statutes (receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit).

        The Bible is the Manufacturer’s Handbook for Planet Earth!

        Post Scripts

        Sources: “His Name is Jesus”, “The Genesis Factor”, “The Signature of God”, “The Writings of God”, “The Mysterious Bible Codes” (book and DVD’s), “Cracking the Bible Code”, “Bible Code Bombshell”, “The Torah Codes and Israel Today”, Computorah/The Bible Code I, II, &III, bibleprobe.com/jesuscode.htm, “Yeshua”, “Jesus Is My Name” , http://www.biblecodedigest.com, http://www.biblecode.com and there are so many more.

        Ivan Panin corrected an Exhaustive Bible Concordance using what he called the Bible Numerics. He said if there were 2 words found in the Greek New Testament in a sentence and you wanted to know which word to use, the word that harmonized with the sentence numerically was the correct word. He provided a Greek Numeric New Testament. Example of Bible Numerics: In the first sentence in the Old Testament, Genesis 1’1″, every verb is divisible by 7, every noun, and more; there are over 34 features of the number 7 in just this one sentence and these type features are consistent throughout the Bible.

        Just a few of the codes found: Hitler, Holocaust, Eichmann, Fuhrer, Meinkampf, Berlin, Germany, Belson, King of the Nazis, Crematoria for my Sons, (for statistical purposes only-there are more) 66 names of Rabbis-the cities in which they lived-dates of death, Anwar Sadat-1981-parade-shot-gunfire-Chaled (his assassin), Yitzchak Rabin-Israel-will be murdered-date born-date of death-location of the assassination-assassin’s name-Oslo Peace Process, both Wars in the Gulf, George Bush, Saddam Hussein-America Schwarzkopf-the missiles will terrify-Scud B-they shut the door-3rd of Shavat, empty the gas, Murrah Building-Tim-McVeigh-slaughter-desolate, (in Genesis 38′) all the ancestors of King David, (in Genesis)25 trees are named, (between Isaiah 52′ and 55′) Behold the Blood of Jesus-Let Him Be Crucified-Mary-Joseph-Jesus is my Name-all the disciples names,Nazarene, Messiah, Shiloh, Passover, Galilee, Herod, Annas, Caiaphas Caesar, The evil Roman City, (in Zechariah 9’13”)Jesus, (in Zachariah 11’13”)Jesus, (in Daniel 9’26”) The Peace Offering, (in Micah 5’1-2″ Mary, Joseph, and Jesus(Yeshua),(in Matthew 24’7 through 48″) Jesus, Nazareth, Mercy, Lamb, (in Mark 8’9″ through Mark 9’2″) Jesus, Blood, Son, Innocent, Lamb, (in John 5’5″-13″) Jesus, Nazareth, Lamb, the name of the person most responsible for all the satellites circling the Earth and their names—–and on and on and on and on. I don’t think all of the codes will be found. Who knows, the Old Testament in the original Hebrew may have the list of those whose names are written in the BOOK OF LIFE.

        Reply
  2. Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

    Reply

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