Creationism Evolves

Thee was a time when creationists simply argued that Neanderthals and all the other “supposed” missing links in human evolution were simply fakes. They continuously argued that these bones were hoaxes. When it comes to Answers in Genesis, though, the argument regarding human evolution has changed. Or, one might say, evolved.

Today, rather than denying the existence of Neanderthals, Cro-Magnon Man, Homo Erectus, and Homo Floriensis, Answers in Genesis argues that the descendants of the eight humans who survived the global flood (circa 2350 B.C.E.), and then a hundred years later built the Tower of Babel, evolved, through genetic variation, into these different groups, all of which were fully human and had souls. Then, almost as suddenly, all of the groups except for Homo Sapiens became extinct. Here is an excerpt from “How are Cavement Different,” by Georgia Purdom (Answers Magazine, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 57-59).

Genetics has clearly established that Neanderthals and Denisovans were fully human. Any physical differences should be viewed as nothing more than variations that can occur within the human race descended from Adam and Eve. For a time, these descendants all lived together at the Tower of Babel. Following the post-Babel migration and late into the Ice Age, differing human populations began to appear in the fossil records, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. 

The next questions for creationists are how and why these differences appeared. How is much easier to answer than why! One possibility is that environmental pressures, such as the Ice Age, “selected” for or against traits within the range of human genetic diversity. (In other words, those that had a particular combination of traits survived in that environment, and others did not.) This may have led to the specific set of features found in Neanderthal people. Many animals following the Flood and during the Ice Age experienced an explosion of variations that allowed them to live and function well in new environments. This could also have been true for humans.

Other possibilities include genetic effects seen mainly in small populations. Small populations would have been typical for a period of time following the breakup of the human population at Babel, as people were separated based on language. The groups that left Babel would have begun with only a few reproducing individuals and not interbred initially with other groups.

A phenomenon known as genetic drift can cause certain genetic variations to become “fixed.” If the population is small, everyone with certain variations can die, without passing them down, and the survivors pass down just one variation to future generations. If no people are moving in or out of the population, characteristics like the pronounced brow ridge or the robust body form in Neanderthals can become dominant.

Another possible impact of the Babel breakup is the founder effect. The founders of each group leaving Babel might simply have differed from one another. Certain traits in one group might have been unknown among the founders of any other group. Those traits would then be unique to each group. Rather than being fixed by genetic drift, the Neanderthal’s pronounced brow ridge or robust body form may have been found among the founders of only one group after they left Babel. Those people may have migrated intentionally to places where they were most comfortable (similar to human behavior today).

As time passed, the different groups would have migrated, as people have always done. People who had the traits of modern humans possibly interbred, at times, with teh other groups, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans. Yet there seems to have been a sudden loss, or a dilution, of the characteristics possessed by those other groups. The genetic makeup of modern humans became dominant.

Interbreeding can have disastrous effects on small populations by amplifying defective genes. Maybe this is why Neanderthals and Denisovans eventually became extinct. We don’t know. Why this happened is still a mystery.

What is not a mystery is that so-called cavemen, including Neanderthals and Denisovans, were fully human. They were among the descendants of the people scattered at the Tower of Babel – made in God’s image to bring Him glory.

Realize that this is a very new argument. Until relatively recently, creationists focused on calling Neanderthals and all the rest haoxes. This is telling, because it indicates that the evidence for the existence of Neanderthals and other human relatives or ancestors has become so strong that creationists are having a harder time simply rejecting it altogether and must instead grapple with it. Creationism has evolved a great deal since the days of the Scopes Trial and William Jennings Bryan.

Another point to be mentioned is that creationists like those of Answers in Genesis like to sound like they’re doing real science. A layman might pick up this copy of Answers, read it, and be taken in, because on its surface it sounds scientific. Rather than sounding backwards or ignorant, it sounds on its surface like there really are several different scientific ways to understand the timing and placement of the Neanderthals. Except of course that it’s complete nonsense. The picture painted in this article does not actually align with the evidence we see at all. But it sure sounds neat and tidy!

Finally, I think it’s fascinating how openly creationists have embraced evolution. For a population of eight people to have become different species in only a few generations is extraordinary (and impossible), and if it happened, would represent evolution on a scale never before seen. What is mind boggling is that creationists could argue for evolution of this magnitude and yet continue to deny the theory of evolution.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Fina

    Genetic drift? Founder effect? Those are all concepts of EVOLUTION.
    Scientists studying evolutionary biology came up with them and verified them trough empirical observation – mostly of the fossil record of course, but also in the development of current species.
    Or in other words, those Creationists are integrating more and more evolution into their doctrine.

    Another interesting aspect is how they claim that the population of Neanderthals&Co was so small. They were not, of course, and quite comparable to that of modern humans (in those eras, of course now it’s higher by order of magnitudes thanks to technological development). I wonder why they keep up with the idea that those species were so small in number?

  • http://www.purplenoize.com Veronica

    This is very similar to another argument I have come across in geophysics.

    Nuclear decay in rocks produce alpha particles. Alpha particles are helium nuclei, and become helium through electron capture. The rate of nuclear decay in the ground and the amount of helium in the atmosphere adds up to about the young earth time frame. It used to be a creationist argument. Then NASA’s satellites showed that helium escapes earth at the same rate it is produced.

    On the other hand, dating rocks by methods who exploit the difference in decay rate for different elements is a common one, and very well supported by evidence and is demonstrable in a lab. So creationists have suggested that pre-flood the decay rates were much much higher. Ignoring the fact that this would sterilize the earth and probably boil it is one thing, but this argument effectively kills the above one. Yet, I have seen creationists use both to argue for the age of the earth.

    This is similar to your biological/anthropological example in that they firstly reject the theory of evolution because it cannot be demonstrated in the way they want. But when needed, massively accelerated evolution is an essential argument for them to explain biological diversity in a young earth time frame.

    Such blunt and obvious ways of trying to have their cake and eating it should be very transparent to even the densest fundamentalist. So why isn’t it?

    • kagekiri

      As a former YEC and former Christian…well, suppressing your doubts and pretending contradictions are just unexplained mysteries is par for the course.

      Reminds me of the Christian song (Switchfoot I think?) that says “Doubt your doubts, and believe your beliefs” or the verses about believing as a child would. Christians glory in making themselves more credulous and manipulable by “God”. To doubt is to be led astray by Satan.

      “God creating people and nigh-immediately damning them sounds evil to you? Well, the Bible says God is love and his ways are higher than our ways, so OBVIOUSLY you’re not thinking about it right.”

      “There’s tons of evidence for evolution and an old universe? Well, someone must be looking at the evidence wrong; the fact they assume there’s no God means they’re fools according to the Bible, so who’re you going to trust: scientists who dismiss God (and are thus EVIL) or God’s own word?”

      Seeing the ICR for the first time, or reading Answers in Genesis books were incredibly reassuring to me as a believer. “Hey, maybe those evil secular scientists are just doing it all wrong!” All those arguments from apologists sounded so wonderful and reassuring at the time, but at the end of my deconversion, I now look back and see how hollow and empty they were. I believed because I really wanted to believe it was true.

      It’s a very selective blindness to reason, programmed in from conversion. With the carrot of heaven and stick of hell looming over you, and the programmed assumption that all good things in life are blessings from God and all bad things are what you deserve for being sinful, and that man is very capable of choosing the wrong thing; add it all together and you’ve got quite the recipe for total brain-washing.

  • Froborr

    Wait wait wait wait wait. We’re talking young-Earth Creationists here, right? All of human history pressed into 6000 years, and the entire pre-human history of the universe compressed into the week before that?

    And they believe in the Ice Age? How long do they think it was, twenty minutes?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      for those unfamiliar with the current state of young earth creationism, this can be confusing. Let me explain.

      Creation: First, 6000 years ago, two people were created, Adam and Eve. Then they had lots of kids and grandkids, etc.

      The Flood: After about 1700 years humans were so wicked that God killed them all in a global flood – except for eight. This was about 2300 BCE.

      The Ice Age: An ice age followed the flood because the flood set the climate out of whack.

      The Tower of Babel: The grandkids of the eight flood survivors gathered together to build the Tower of Babel to proclaim themselves just as good as God, so God made them all suddenly start speaking different languages and as they could no longer communicate they dispersed in their language groups. This would have been circa 2200 BCE.

      Cave Men: The ice age was still on, so the earth was colder, and since they were all just leaving the one huge city they had built, they had no housing. So some lived in caves for a time.

      Neanderthals et al.: These dispersed people evolved into the different species of proto-man or whatever exactly they’re called, including Neanderthals, Homo Floriensis (the “hobbit people”), and of course, modern man. Over the next couple hundred years all the other species (Neanderthals, etc) died out, either because of small gene pools or because they were killed off by other types of human. But all of these different types of humans were descended from the eight flood survivors of 2300 BCE and all had souls.

      The Present: By 2000 BCE or shortly thereafter, the only descendants of the eight flood survivors left alive were modern humans – the diversity that had been there before (with Neanderthals, etc) had ended. Since then, all we’ve had is modern humans.

      There, does that make it more clear? So all of pre-human history – or at least all the different species, Neanderthals, etc, are compressed into the period between the Tower of Babel (2200 BCE), when mankind had genetic diversity but not different species, and when everyone but modern humans went extinct a couple hundred years later. And the Ice Age lasted a couple hundred years. They use the fact that the book of Job talks about snow when basically the rest of the Old Testament doesn’t as evidence that there was an Ice Age – after the flood.

      • http://kagerato.net kagerato

        Someone might want to inform these folks that the Great Pyramid at Giza appears to have been constructed from 2560 to 2540 BC. So basically somehow Egyptian civilization managed to survive a flood and an ice age and still construct what would be the world’s tallest structure for thousands of years.

        Also, if God interfered with the Tower of Babel being built by his chosen people, why didn’t he interfere in the construction of the Great Pyramid by those heathens in Egypt?

      • Luh

        @kagerato
        Also apply that question to space travel :D

      • Sheena

        I…um…Wow.

        I’d heard about the “God-centered” timeline in the creationist version of history, but it’s never been spelled out like that. Wild stuff. That’s a LOT of mental gymnastics to dodge what science and history have documented.

  • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

    I recall encountering this sort of argument through talk.origins back in the 90s. Basically, in order to fit enough animals on the Ark, Noah took only one pair of each (vaguely-defined) “kind”. After the Flood, there was a sort of evolution-on-amphetamines to get to the diversity we see today — rates of change far in excess of what any serious evolutionary biologist would propose.

    Creationists — especially the Answers In Genesis ilk — just make up whatever crap they find convenient to the argument.

    • http://www.purplenoize.com Veronica

      “Creationists — especially the Answers In Genesis ilk — just make up whatever crap they find convenient to the argument.”

      Presactly. Which is why a lot of their arguments are mutually exclusive.

      Creationists have always done this case-by-case approach to it aka the god-of-the-gaps approach. They will try to refute one evidence at a time, but fail to make a coherent overall theory. Real science of course, do both. Consistency is very important.

      Oh, and talk.origin, especially the website, was an important resource for me back then when trying to figure all this stuff out for myself.

  • Stephanie

    Ok, I need to ask this. How do creationists explain ancient egyptians, mesopotamians and other ancient civilizations that according to historical evidence clearly excisted before 2200 BCE and were blissfully ignorant of these lifealtering events that supposedly took place? Of course creationists could just say that these people really excisted say to 1000 BCE onwards, but then you would have to alter the entire historical timeline and there you run into problems real fast. I have always wondered about this…

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      They rewrite the chronology of the Ancient Egyptians and say that mainstream archaeologists are wrong about the timing. See here, for instance. They basically shorten it and scrunch it up so that it starts immediately after Babel (presumably with whatever group first arrived in Egypt from Babel).

      • Stephanie

        When you homeschooled, was this what you were officially taught in study materials? That all civilizations began at the earliest 2200 BCE? If so when did you learn what the actual history books said?

        I was just wondering don’t these people have to have their study materials checked somewhere? Surely there is some limit what you can officially teach to children? I’m not American so this is a bit baffling to me.

      • http://www.purplenoize.com Veronica

        … and speaking of Egypt, there is no evidence the whole exodus and conquest story ever took place either. If anything, the exodus story is based on an instance of the frequent travels of small groups of people between these areas as most of the region was under Egyptian control anyway. As for the conquest. The city-ruins were not from such a short time span. The story was probably made up to explain the ruins in retrospect.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Stephanie – When I was homeschooled, our history curriculum began with Adam. Then the flood, then Babel, then Abraham. Then the history of the nation of Israel. At some point things like Egypt, Greece, and Rome were added in, when they were relevant to the story. God was all through our history curriculum, from Adam to the present day. History was “His story” after all.

        And no, homeschoolers don’t have to have their study materials checked anywhere. They can pick whatever curriculum they want. There is no limit to what they can officially teach their children. There is some variation in regulation – each state is different – so in some places students are tested, and in some they have to submit a “portfolio” of the work they’ve done, but I’m not aware of there being any regulation on curriculum anywhere, and in many states, such as the one where I grew up, there is no regulation at all.

    • Noelle

      The Onion covers this nicely in their article, Sumerians Look on in Confusion As God Creates World:
      http://www.theonion.com/articles/sumerians-look-on-in-confusion-as-god-creates-worl,2879/

    • http://kagerato.net kagerato

      You beat me to it, Stephanie. :lol:

  • http://www.subparker.com Neal Edwards

    I read a creationist blog back in high school that said that the Neanderthals were people like Methuselah, who lived for several hundred years, and that as they aged, their skeletal structures became more ape-like.

  • http://omnivorousintellectual.blogspot.com/ Southern Geologist

    Fascinating new ‘hypothesis.’ This stuff would be very amusing if these people didn’t have an effect on public policy.

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    Creationism doesn’t exist to explain things the way science does. It exists to reassure people who have a deep belief in the Bible but may have read enough about science to have a few surface questions. I am continually surprised by the number of people who put actual effort into developing it past that.

  • Blue Camas

    You know, I don’t see how there could be enough grandkids of 8 people to have a city and build a big ol’ Tower of Babel, and then form scattered civilizations. All this out of what, 100 grandkids maybe? Their timeline is NUTS.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      You probably don’t want to know how they answer that, but I’ll give you it anyway. :-P The Bible says Noah and his sons lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. In the years after the flood, life expectancy decreased gradually but was still high (before the flood, living 900 years wasn’t that uncommon, according to the Bible). So if you live to be 300, and you’re fertile for half of your life (because it’s proportional), you have time to have A LOT of children. Adam and Eve, for instance, supposedly had many dozens of children. So of the eight people on the Ark, three were couples of child bearing age. Let’s say each had thirty kids. That’s ninety kids, or forty-five couples. If each couple again had thirty kids, that’s 1,350 kids. Add in their parents, who would still be alive, and you get almost 1,500 people. Cities were smaller back then, so that almost works. Anyway, that’s how they explain that.

      • kagekiri

        Ahhh, I remember those arguments.

        “The Flood was caused by God letting water down from the ‘waters above’ described in Genesis (basically a giant layer of water floating above our air magically), which used to protect the Earth from UV.”

        “So after the Flood, without the protection of the layer of water, things age differently (so carbon dating is wrong) and people/animals DNA was mutated and perverted, leading to shorter lifespans and animals that weren’t as well-rounded as the fewer ‘kinds’ on the Ark but ended up more specialized by losing DNA.”

        “That’s why the tremendous amount of incest during those repopulation events was okay: their DNA was more perfect and fully rounded as they were just starting to degrade, but with inbreeding of their descendants degraded DNA, incest started to become a problem, which is why God outlaws it for the Israelites (which is another place where a family magically become millions of people over way too few generations or 400 years in Egypt).”

        Man…looking at those beliefs now is like looking at a kid believing in Santa Claus and wondering how you were ever that credulous. Well, actually, I guess it’s a lot worse, because it’s adults who advocated those twisted machinations required to get reality to line up with God’s word…

      • Contrarian

        kagekiri — Best thing ever! When God lets down the “waters of the deep,” it’s supposedly as a giant rainstorm. That’s nice and intuitive, right?

        But the worst rainstorms on Earth might dump several feet of rain (per square foot) in a day. To get even a mile of water, you’d have to have a continuous rainstorm everywhere on Earth for a good … 5 years.

        So the Flood storm wasn’t a real rainstorm. It was a good 50 times as bad — think an inch of water dumped on every square foot every minute. That’s a 2-liter bottle emptied over every square foot every minute. And that will just get you a mile of water in 40 days. If you want 5 miles of water, more reasonably to cover the mountaintops, you’re now upping the rainfall rate to a 2-liter coke bottle emptied every 12 seconds.

        Then let’s remember that all this water is coming from somewhere high in the atmosphere. That water was compressing the atmosphere, so that the pressure at the surface of the Earth prior to the Flood was about as great as the pressure at the bottom of the ocean now.

        We have absolutely no intuition about the quantities involved in the Flood, or rather would be involved in an event of that magnitude. Hell, we don’t have any intuition even about things like 9/11 — look at how many people hold on to the notion that the towers had to have been brought down in a controlled demolition! If we don’t have a good idea of the physics involved in a couple of buildings falling down, you can be pretty damn sure that we have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about when we tell a story about the entire Earth being covered in miles and miles of water.

      • Blue Camas

        *facepalm* Skeptical me, I still can’t picture a mere 1500 odd people on the entire planet founding a city and building a mondo Tower.

        Riiiiiiiight.

        I am both amused and horrified at the mental pretzals people construct to ‘make sense’ of all this.

        Time for tea and cookies!

  • David B. Appleton

    “… it sounds on its surface like there really are several different scientific ways to understand the timing and placement of the Neanderthals. Except of course that it’s complete nonsense.”

    Or as I once heard it put so well: “On the surface it’s very deep, but way down underneath it’s terribly shallow.”

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    Agh… brain… hurts… Creationist stupid…

    It’s not just things like a “pronounced ridgeline” and similar things that separate the various Homo and Australopithecus species. It included teeth structure, brain size, body shape, whether they crouched forward or were more upright, what they likely ate, size of their heads and such.

    It wouldn’t be “oh, well Uncle Carl kind of has a strong brow ridge.” It would be “oh, Uncle Carl has a strong brow ridge, walks on his knuckles, and is a foot shorter than mom.”

  • ScottInOH

    If you go to (Christian) church enough, you’ll hear someone say people were made “with a God-shaped hole in our hearts.” We can try to fill it up with money, power, drugs, sex, or anything else, but we’ll never be happy until we find God.

    Stuff like what you report here, though, Libby Anne, makes me think we were born/evolved with a science-shaped hole in our minds. Even Christians who insist that faith is all you need, and the search for evidence is fruitless, want to find scientific confirmation for their beliefs, whether creationism or the existence of God at all.

  • Meggie

    Libby Anne and Kagekiri you have made my day. I love the explanations, particularly why carbon dating doesn’t work. I guess it is easy to believe when you have never been allowed to see anything else. For anyone with an education this reads like a childs story.


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