Common Creationist Claims: DEBUNKED!
This document is intended as a sort of FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) resource. Those who have argued with creationists know that there is a small body of quotes that keep getting repeated (primarily because there are a few prominent creationist figures who are quoted over and over again by creationist publications) over, and over, and over again. I have compiled a bunch of them together in an attempt to respond to them. Because of time constraints, I probably won't be able to add more than a couple at a time. However, anyone who wants to contribute to the list may EMAIL me with some. Just fill the Subject field of your Email with "Creationist Claims Submission" so I can rush it in. I even encourage Creationists to submit questions and claims for me to answer. It's a free net, right?
(1) "The Second Law of Thermodynamics proves that evolution is impossible"
This is the most common creationist claim about science and evolution. The people who make this claim, often do not know what the Laws of Thermodynamics are about, much less how to apply them. Just to be fair, I thought I'd get a verbatum description of these laws from a commonly available source, an encyclopedia. Here it is:
Thermodynamics as taken from The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright c 1991 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved
thermodynamics, branch of science concerned with the nature of HEAT and its conversion into other forms of ENERGY. Heat is a form of energy associated with the positions and motion of the molecules of a body. The total energy that a body contains as a result of the positions and the motions of its molecules is called its internal energy.
The first law of thermodynamics states that in any process the change in a system's internal energy is equal to the heat absorbed from the environment minus the WORK done on the environment. This law is a general form of the law of conservation of energy.
The second law of thermodynamics states that in a system the ENTROPY cannot decrease for any spontaneous process. A consequence of this law is that an engine can deliver work only when heat is transferred from a hot reservoir to a cold reservoir or heat sink.
The third law of thermodynamics states that all bodies at absolute zero would have the same entropy; this state is defined as having zero entropy.
Now, given this description, let me say that these laws can be loosely applied to nature, specifically to the life of any organism, or to an entire ecosystem. As it relates to a biological organism, we can substitute "heat" or "Energy" with "Food", "Air", and "water". Essentially, a creature that does not get enough energy in the forms of food, water, and oxygen, will decay and die, due to entropy. As it relates to a whole ecosystem, heat can be left unsubstituted, as heat from the Sun is the cheif driving force behind all life on earth. We know that the environment rarely decays and dies -- it merely changes it's state.
Now evolution is not a mechanical system, nor is it an ecosystem -- evolution is not driven by heat exchange. To say that the second law applies to evolution is like saying that the second law applies to the act of thinking or to genetic variation. It doesn't and cannot.
Creationists are using a scientific principle of physical systems in a PHILOSOPHICAL manner, which is a misapplication of the Laws of Thermodynamics. Would we not be foolish if we applied the rules of football to baseball?
(2) "There are no transitional fossils."
This is absolutely false. There are so many fossils on record (literally millions, worldwide), and most of them are transitional fossils. Creationists like Duaine Gish admit that there is "variation" in fossil groups, just as there is variation in a species, but he claims that there are no transitions between "kinds", when he says "There are no rep-birds, fish-phibians, or rep-mammals". Nothing can be further from the truth. There are so many fossils that are transitions between fish and amphibian, amphibian and reptile, and reptile and mammal, that these fossils have been given groups unto themselves. A look through a typical college text on fossils will reveal the following groups:
Therapsids -- these are creatures that share features of both reptiles and mammals, but are neither mammal nor reptile entirely -- they are in-between both.
Ichtyosetigids -- creatures that have both fish and amphibian features, but are neither. They are universally accepted by paleontologists as intermediates between fish and amphibians.
Seymoromorphs -- creatures that have both reptilian and amphibian features, but cannot be classified as either or or the other.
There are whole lineages of fossils that can be traced right through reptile, into therapsidia, and then into mammals, to the extent that classifying where reptile ends and where mammal begins is difficult, because the changes are so minute. Creationists often argue that scientists just "guess" which fossils are reptile, and which are mammal, and also claim that the selection process is arbitrary, which is again, totally untrue. A lot of debate and conjecture goes into figuring out how to classify a given fossil. all the details are hashed out and people debate them. (See Science On Trial by Douglas Futuyma)
(3) "Rocks cannot be dated Radiometrically."
Perhaps it would do more justice to this creationist argument if I quoted the original source. In Scientific Creationism, Henry Morris argues thusly:
"Rocks are not dated Radiomatrically. Many people believe the age of rocks are determined by study of their radioactive minerals -- uranium, thorium, potassium, rubidium, etc. -- but this is not so. The obvious proof that this is not the way it is done is the fact that the geologic column and approximate ages of all the fossil-bearing strata were all worked out long before anyone ever heard or thought about radioactive dating"
This statement is not only a distortion of reality, but is is a fallacy. First of all, saying that "rocks cannot be dated radiometrically because the geologic column was dated before radioactive dating was invented" is exactly the same as saying that you cannot cook with a microwave oven because people cooked with fire and electricity long before anyone ever heard or thought about microwaves. It's a complete fallacy.
Secondly, it distorts the work that has been done in the field over the past 200 years, most of it by people who never even heard of Darwin or evolution. The Geologic column, and the reletive dates of the fossils in them, were studied for decades by geologists and civil engineers. Though the reletive age of the rocks and fossils were worked out as far back as the early 1800s, the actual dates have gotten more and more accurate with the introduction of radioactive dating methods. We can now more accurately date rocks, whereas before we only knew that certain layers were simply older than others -- we now know how much older.
(4) "Life appears abruptly and in complex forms in the fossil record. This is proof that life was created."
Not true at all. In fact, all complex life forms in the fossil record are preceeded by a long line of simple single-celled organisms. The fossil record is exactly as would be expected if evolution occurred. There are no vertibrates preceeding invertibrates, no mammals appearing before amphibians or fish. There are no simple life forms preceeded by more complex forms. A single occurence, for example, of a reptile being found in precambrian strata, or a mammal being found in carboniferous strata would be enough to throw the geologic column on edge, and force science to re-examine everything, yet there is nothing of the sort.
Invertibrates, and especially single-celled organisms, are difficult to fossilize, because of a lack of hard matter in their makeup, but single-celled life forms and algae have been found in precambrian strata. In fact, many microscopic traces suggesting development before single-celled organisms, have been found. The argument that life suddenly appears abruptly in the fossil record is just utterly false.
(5) "The Paluxi River basin contains footprints of dinosaurs, side-by-side with human footprints. This is proof that man and dinosaurs were contemporaneous, and that dinosaurs are not millions of years older."
This is absolutely false, and it's amazing that this argument keeps cropping up. The famous "man tracks" in the Paluxi river have been examined again, and again, and the results are the same every time. The alleged "man" tracks are 2-1/2 times the size of a large human foot, too large to be that of a human. They don't even have toe imprints, as would be expected, if a human made them. The prints are vaguely "bean-shaped", much like a human footprint, but when you see a cast of them, it is obvious that these prints are not human. Also, there is a 1-to-1 correlation with the Dinosaur tracks that these footprints are next to. In fact, it becomes more apparent when you see a sequence, that the "man" tracks, in effect, are part of the dinosaur's print -- they are the impression of one of the toes or footpads.
Some creationists argue that the print is that of a race of giants referred to in Genesis, but where are the fossils of these giants? There is no physical proof of these giants.
(6) "The Earth's Magnetic field is decaying at a rate of 1/2 of it's strength every 1400 years. This means that 1400 years ago, the earth's magnetic field was twice as stong as it is today. If we extrapolate backwards on this figure only 10,000 years, the earth's magnetic field would be greater than that of the sun!"
Henry Morris, in Scientific Creationism made this argument, based on a figure that isn't even true. The earth's magnetic field fluctuates. It has not been decaying at a steady rate at all. Thomas G. Barnes, who originated those figures, made his conclusions over 60 years ago, without enough data to make such an assertion. We now know, not only from current measurements, but from evidence left behind in rock layers (in the form of the alignment of magnetic minerals), that the Earth's magnetic field doesn't just get weaker and stronger over time, but the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field actually reverses itself periodically. Barnes' data is now outdated, and the argument is nonsensical.
The technique of backwards extrapolation is a common tool used by creationists in an attempt to make certain scientific facts and theories seem absurd. In the same book, Morris concludes, by using a mathematical formula to represent population growth, that there would be 10^2100 people living, if we extrapolated backwards only 1 million years.
Remember, Homo Sapiens have only been around for about 60-70 thousand years, according to current data, and civilization itself is less than 15,000 years old. The population growth rate that Morris uses (based on current figures) was many times smaller than today (Morris used figures from the 1970's, when his book was first published), as early as 900 A.D. Morris doesn't even take into account, the child mortality rate, which has decreased for industrialized civilizations quite significantly this past century.
The rate of population growth is not a constant, and never has been. Using the same formula that Morris uses, you can take the current population of the United States, for example, using our current population growth rate, and extrapolate backwards to the early 1700s, and get a population figure of ZERO for the United States, even though there has been a significant population since the mid 1600's. Backwards extrapolation can never be used for such measurements, because things like population growth, magnetic field fluctuation, and the size of the diameter of the sun, are too inconsistant.
(7) "Neanderthal Man was nothing more than a modern man with bone disease!"
Not true at all. This is actually a distortion of the facts. Though it is true that the original Neanderthal skeleton found in France showed evidence of rickets and osteoporosis (discovered 100 years after the discovery of the bones, by modern osteopathic experts), other later fossils of Neanderthal man lack these diseases. The bones of a Neanderthal skeleton are so radically different from that of a modern man's that there is no way you could simply call them deformed humans. The devil is in the details. Most people know about Neanderthal's skull, since that is the most dramatic part of the skeleton, with it's raised brow-ridge, huge nasal cavity, and thick jawbone. It has very ape-like features. But that is only the beginning. In Modern human anatomy, the bones of our arms and legs have a very distinct triangular shape, with the corners of the triangle having thicker bone than the sides. In Neanderthal bones, the shape of the bones is round; they are evenly round all sides, and are twice as thick as modern man's bones, as well as twice as strong. Their bodily proportions are slightly different than ours, not due to bone disease, however.
(8) "Evolution says that everything in the universe came from nothing."
This is a common misconception that creationists, sadly, have yet to stop promoting. All the theory of evolution says is that life forms adapt to changes in the environment over time; that there are global changes in the gene pool of a given population of animals over time. Evolution doesn't deal with origins. Creationists have a difficult time separating evolution from the big bang theory. They dislike both theories, and often mistakenly connect them, confusing them as being related in a a way that they are not. The big bang theory is part of physics and cosmology, and only explains why the galaxies appear to all be moving away from the same central point. Evolution doesn't propose any explanation for the existence of matter itself, nor does it propose the idea that life came from non-life. That is another theory altogether called the theory of Abiogenesis. Though a biological theory like evolution, Abiogenesis is a completely separate theory based on connections discovered between organic and inorganic chemistry, protiens and DNA. Experiments such as the famous Miller/Urey experiment, produced self-replicating protiens in the lab under controlled conditions. Though nothing created was near the complexity of DNA or RNA-based life forms, the results proved that many of the basic components of DNA could easily come to be created by inorganic processes. Despite the promising results, nobody should ever confuse abiogenesis with evolutionary theory.
That's all for now... Sorry I don't have more yet, but I do intend to write more. Thanks for your patience.