Answers to Creationism
James Rusk, Director
Mesquite, Texas 75149
"The worst, the most corrupting lies are problems poorly stated”
— George Bernanos, French theologian
George Bernard Shaw described debates in London at the turn of the century when a flat-earth advocate could leave a distinguished professor sputtering in fury while the audience cheered. Today's students and teachers, faced with a barrage of creationist "scientific” arguments, may sympathize with that professor. They know the creationists are wrong, but they have trouble countering arguments that were never mentioned in college.
This article answers many of the creationists' charges in physics, geology, and astronomy. It is not a scholarly paper; hence, there are few footnotes. But I have made every effort to fairly state the creationist position. Too often a layperson reading a creationist text may get the impression that the creationist charges are unanswered or unanswerable. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, creationist ideas were laid to rest by scientists long ago.
Creationists believe these are scientifically true statements:
• The universe, earth, and life were suddenly created from nothing several thousand years ago.
• Distinct, unrelated "kinds” of plants and animals were created that cannot give rise to new "kinds.”
• Geological and paleontological phenomena can be explained through a worldwide flood.
Almost all creationists are members of American fundamentalist sects, and they must take an oath affirming their belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis. In contrast, the religious views of evolutionists range over the entire spectrum of religious thought and encompass all religions. Many evolutionists are Christians, and they are certainly as devout as the creationists.
Creation science is dependent on the Bible. Creationists like to pretend that creation science is independent of religion so that they can legally introduce creationism into the public schools. But consider this typical quote from a leading creationist: "The instructed Christian knows that the evidences for full divine inspiration of Scripture are far weightier than the evidences for any fact of science.” (Henry Morris, The Genesis Flood, p. 118)
A Young Earth?
From data accumulated since 1835, it can be shown that the earth's magnetic field is decaying exponentially, with a half-life of about 1400 years. Thus, the earth cannot be older than 10,000 years because before that its magnetic field would be unreasonably high.
Since fired pottery goes through a critical temperature in which it becomes permanently magnetized by the earth's field, we have a record of the strength of the earth's magnetic field for several thousand years. Measurements show that the field was actually weaker then than now. The creationist argument also ignores the fact that the earth's magnetic field has two components: the dipole and the nondipole moments. While the dipole moment is decreasing, the nondipole moment is increasing at almost a matching rate. Further, paleomagnetic evidence shows that the earth's field has existed for more than three billion years, and that the dipole field both fluctuates in strength and irregularly reverses polarity. By the way, if you plot the data the creationists supply you do not get an exponential curve. A straight line connects the scattered observation points just as well.
Many scientists do not believe that paleomagnetic evidence shows that the earth's magnetic field has reversed polarity.
Creationists usually cite Jacobs’ 1962 book. Jacobs later changed his position because of overwhelming evidence and now states that "the evidence seems compelling that reversals have occurred” (1975).
Tabulating ocean residence times for a large number of elements and ions shows that the estimate of the age of the earth is wrong. The amount of nickel in the ocean, for example, can be accounted for by only 8900 years of erosion.
Oceans are not closed systems, as oceanographers have demonstrated, and nickel, in particular, can be taken up by ion-exchange into clay minerals. Thus the short residence time of nickel or any other mineral is not a measure of the age of the earth.
Micrometeorite, cosmic-ray, and ultraviolet bombardment erode the moon's surface at the rate of a few ten-thousandths of an inch per year. Over a 4.5 billion year period a layer of regolith 45 km thick should have formed. Since the actual regolith is much thinner, the moon can't be that old.
This argument misses the point that the regolith is reworked. Even before the Apollo moon landings, no one expected to find a 45 km thick regolith. Also, micrometeorite impact melts have been shown to cement the lunar regolith rather than break it apart.
The projection of estimated human population data from the interval 1650-1800 A.D. backward in time yields a date—4320 B.C.—at which only two humans were present on earth.
This is a variation on the old problem of the number of your ancestors. You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. Go back 30 generations and you have one billion ancestors. A few more generations and you have more ancestors than there are atoms in the universe!
The solution to both problems is what genealogists call "pedigree collapse.” This happens when relatives, usually distant cousins, marry. When this happens, you find that most of the places in your family tree are filled by duplicates.
Atomic clocks have found that the earth is slowing down at the rate of almost one second per year. If the earth were billions of years old, its initial spin rate would have been so rapid that major distortions of the earth's shape would have occurred.
Creationists confuse the need to add (or subtract) a leap second some years in order to account for slight irregularities in the speed of rotation with the general slowing of the earth's rotation due to tidal friction. Astronomical observations yield a general increase in the earth's day of about 20 microseconds per year. There is also evidence that tidal friction has not been constant throughout the earth's history.
Astronomy and Cosmology
The 3 degrees K background radiation does not come from the Big Bang. It comes from the dust and gas of the galaxy which, created at 0 degrees K, has been warming for about 6,800 years, the true age of the universe.
If this were true, astronomers would expect the 3 degree radiation to be concentrated in the plane of the galaxy. Instead, the background radiation is extremely isotropic. (Note that the Big Bang theorists explicitly predicted the background radiation 30 years before it was discovered.)
Big Bang cosmologists base their calculations on an expanding universe with finite volume and perfectly reflecting walls. Thus their results are suspect.
Cosmologists use a simpler model because it gives reliable answers quickly. The rigorous relativistic equations give more exact answers, but are very difficult to solve.
Intergalactic bridges and spiral arms are relatively short-lived. Their existence proves that galaxies are younger than astronomers believe.
Older galaxies generally do not have a strong spiral structure, indicating that some galaxies are older than others. Those galaxies with no spiral arms also have mostly Population II stars, indicating their great age. Those galaxies with well-defined spiral structures have large numbers of Population I stars, indicating that the structure is maintained by star formation.
Using supercomputers to model spiral galaxies, astronomers have shown that density-waves and stochastic star formation can account for the persistence of spiral structure over billions of years (Astronomy, December 1987, p. 15).
Interstellar dust grains take billions of years to form. Thus the grains would take longer to form than the current accepted age of the universe. Something must be wrong with accepted ages for the universe.
Harwit has shown that the formation of interstellar dust grains takes a few million—not billion—years. The problem with the creationists' calculations is that they assume a density of one atom per 1000 cubic centimeters, but in the dense clouds where dust forms, the density ranges from 100 to one million atoms per cubic centimeter.
One creationist, Slusher, argues that the grains are extremely old, and thus they could not have formed naturally (they must have been created); another, Morris, argues that they are extremely young, so the universe must be young too.
Saturn's rings are not stable features, and thus put an upper limit on the age of the solar system.
Recent analysis of the Voyager data suggests that rings are relatively young features. One measurement of Saturn's A ring gives it a maximum age of "10 million years—much less than 1 percent of the age of the solar system” (Astronomy, September 1987, p. 14). Other measurements indicate an age of 100 million years. Even the lower estimate is 1000 times the age creationists assign to the solar system.
Short period comets decay relatively quickly, yet we still see plenty of short period comets. Hence, the solar system is not as old as astronomers say.
In 1950 Oort proposed an extensive cloud of comets very distant (about 10,000 AU) from the sun, but bound to it gravitationally as the source for new comets in the inner solar system. Although criticized by Lyttleton (1968), Oort's hypothesis has been confirmed by LePoole and Katgert (1968) and Marsden and Sekanina (1973). Creationists usually list Lyttleton's objections, but fail to mention later work. A computer study of comet orbits by Everhart in 1976 showed that simplified models (such as the creationists depend on) involving only the sun, Jupiter, and the comet are worthless.
Tidal friction causes the moon to recede slowly from the earth. Since the Roche limit is 11,500 miles, the moon could never be closer to the earth than that in the beginning or it would have been crushed by tidal forces. Multiply the recessional speed by the presumed evolutionary age of the moon and you find that the moon should be much further away now than it is. Therefore, the moon is only thousands of years old—not billions.
The false assumption here is that the rate of recession is uniform. Paleontological evidence going back to the Paleozoic Era (growth bands of fossil corals) indicates that tidal friction has varied greatly—even halted temporarily. Also, using calculations that allow for a decrease in tidal period as the speed of the earth's rotation increased, gives a lunar distance of 290,000 km at 4 billion years ago.
The fact that even after landing on the moon and bringing back samples, scientists still cannot explain how so large a satellite as the moon was formed indicates that it was specially created.
The moon has been difficult to account for, but the situation is not as bleak as creationists wish. In an article in American Scientist, Sep-Oct 1987, S. R. Ross concludes that "collision of a Mars-sized body with the Earth about 4.4 billion years ago is the most likely explanation for the formation of the moon.” This hypothesis, with minor revisions, will probably turn out to be correct.
Interplanetary dust grains are pulled into the sun by the sun's gravity and the Poynting-Robertson effect. Particles smaller than about .01 cm are influenced by sunlight striking them. Calculations show that particles .0001 cm in diameter would spiral into the sun in about 2000 years. Since the dust still exists, the solar system is only a few thousand years old.
Other known effects counter the Poynting-Robertson effect. For very small particles, radiation pressure will actually drive particles away from the sun. Close encounters with planets radically change the orbits of dust particles; also, gravitational resonances with the larger planets trap particles into stable orbits. Finally, the creationists overlook obvious sources of new particles: particles shed from asteroids and from comets.
Albritton, Claude C., The Abyss of Time: Changing Concepts of the Earth's Antiquity after the Sixteenth Century, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1986.
Awbrey, Frank and William M. Thwaites, eds., Evolutionists Confront Creationists, Proceedings of the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Pacific Division, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Vol. 1, Part 3, 1984.
Dawkins, Richard, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence for Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, Norton, 1987.
Eldredge, Niles, The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism, Washington Square Press, 1982.
Frye, R. M., ed., Is God a Creationist? The Religious Case against Creation-science, Scribner's, 1983.
Futuyma, Douglas J., Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution, Pantheon Books, 1982.
Godfrey, Laura, ed., Scientists Confront Creationism, Norton, 1983.
Hanson, Robert W., ed., Science and Creation: Geological, Theological and Educational Perspectives, Macmillan, 1986.
Kitcher, Philip, Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism, MIT Press, 1982.
Kramer, Rev. William, Evolution and Creation: A Catholic Understanding, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1986.
La Follette, M. C., ed., Creationism, Science, and the Law: The Arkansas Case, MIT Press, 1983.
McGowan, Chris, In the Beginning: A Scientist Shows Why the Creationists Are Wrong, Prometheus Books, 1984.
McMullin, Ernan, ed., Evolution and Creation, University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
Montagu, Ashley, ed., Science and Creationism, Oxford University Press, 1984.
Nelkin, Dorothy, The Creationism Controversy: Science or Scriptures in the Schools, Norton, 1982.
Newell, Norman D., Creation and Evolution: Myth or Reality?, Columbia University Press, 1982; Praeger, 1985.
Radner, Daisie, Science and Unreason, Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1982.
Ridley, Mark, The Problems of Evolution, Oxford University Press, 1985.
Ruse, Michael, ed., But Is It Science? The Philosophical Question in the Evolution/Creation Controversy, Prometheus Books, 1988.
Ruse, Michael, Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies, Addison-Wesley, 1982.
Strahler, Arthur N., Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation Controversy, Prometheus Books, 1987.
Wilson, D. B., ed., Did the Devil Make Darwin Do It? Iowa State University Press, 1983.
Zetterberg, J. P., ed., Evolution Versus Creationism: The Public Education Controversy, Oryx Press, 1983.
The Creationists’ Credo
Members of the Creation Research Society in San Diego are required to sign this statement as a condition of membership:
1. The Bible is the written word of God, and because we believe it to be inspired throughout, all of its assertions are historically and scientifically true in all of the original autographs. To the student of nature, this means that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths.
2. All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during Creation Week as described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since creation have accomplished only changes within the original created kinds.
3. The Great Flood described in Genesis, commonly referred to as the Noachian Deluge, was an historical event, world-wide in its extent and effect.
4. We are an organization of Christian men of science, who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The account of the special creation of Adam and Eve as one man and one woman, and their subsequent Fall into sin, is the basis for our belief in the necessity of a Savior for all mankind. Therefore, salvation can come only thru accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior.
This transcript is taken from "The Great Debate, Creation Science vs. Evolution,” a debate between Dr. Duane Gish of the Creation Science Research Institute, and Al Seckel of the Southern California Skeptics, and sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, on June 26, 1986. It is an absolute must for anyone who contemplates debating creationism. A VHS video cassette of the debate is available for $26 ppd from the Southern California Skeptics, PO Box 5523, Pasadena, California 91107. [This organization has been replaced by The Skeptic Society, PO Box 338, Altadena, California 91001; www.Skeptic.com.]
This article originally appeared in the Planetarian, Vol 17 #3, September 1988. The author has likely moved since. The Planetarian is the quarterly journal of the International Planetarium Society, and this article is copyrighted by the International Planetarium Society. You may print it for personal use and link to this web page from another web site, but the article may not be printed for distribution or reproduced in another web site without permission of the Executive Editor, Sharon Shanks.