Let’s conclude our critique of the young-earth Creationist movie Is Genesis History? (part 1).
Proteins in fossils
Next up in our succession of Creationist experts is Kevin Anderson, microbiologist. His argument is the one I responded to in my last post: “Organic material found in T-Rex Fossils—evidence for young earth?” Given the two clashing facts—fossils that are 60+ million year old vs. biological material that shouldn’t last that long—he rejects the one that is most inconvenient for his young-earth worldview, even though it has all the evidence. His argument is that with time, you could explain evolutionary history . . . but with this new discovery of organic material in partially fossilized bone, you no longer have enough time.
“Your paradigm is that it has to be old,” he said.
No—a mountain of evidence says that it has to be old.
Robert Carter is a marine biologist, working in St. Thomas. He rejects evolution, but it’s not like he’s unreasonable. He accepts change. For example, God put the ability to adapt to a changing environment into sharks. They change, “but they’re still sharks.”
Let’s study that statement. Sharks are classified as a superorder. There are 12 orders of sharks (an order is the category above family, which is above genus, which is above species). An isolated group of sharks could evolve radically and still be sharks. “But they’re still sharks” sounds deceptive from a guy who must know how meaningless that is when there are over 400 living species of shark.
He said, “Life is so complex that small changes can’t explain it” and said that just like a computer operating system didn’t evolve in small steps, species didn’t either. If his point is that software and life don’t change the same way, I agree, though he gives no reason to accept his claim that evolution is impossible.
He pointed to the similarities between diverse species in the echinoderm phylum—starfish, sea urchin, and sea cucumber, for example.
That sounds like the handiwork of evolution. Evolution creates species with similarities, but God-created life wouldn’t need to. God could’ve created every species from scratch, but he apparently created in the same way that evolution would have.
This biologist wrapped up with the Argument from Incredulity: “It’s impossible to think that all of this could’ve happened just by a series of slow processes over billions of years. . . . I realized that creation in six days makes the most sense from an engineering perspective.”
One wonders how.
Speciation or not?
Todd Wood, biologist, is next. He said that all of the 42 living cat species in the family Felidae have a cat-ness, so they must’ve descended from a single pair on the Ark. He imagines a few thousand “kinds” of animals, each with built-in diversity that was expressed in the 4000 or so years since the Ark landed. (More here.)
It’s discouraging to see a biologist using a word like “kind” when there are grown up, biologist words he could use, like order, though I’ll admit that it’s hard to know what word to use since “kind” is undefined. (There are roughly as many animal orders as he imagines “kinds.”)
He didn’t address the paradox that he rejects evolution and yet imagines rampant speciation after the Flood at a pace no conventional biologist today would accept. Nor did he explain why, if today’s species are the result of selecting a few features from a profusion of options latent in each Ark pair, you don’t see evidence of that in their DNA.
Wood admitted that there are questions with his view but was confident that answers will be found, but these questions attack the fundamentals of his worldview. He explains things as best as a Creationist can, but he’s arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. At best, he’s saying that various bits of evidence are compatible with the God hypothesis. The multiple lines of evidence for evolution and lack of evidence for Creationism’s fundamental claims make this a just-so story to satisfy a small group of Christians.
I’ll throw in one more expert who wasn’t interviewed for the movie. Michael Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and a darling of the Creationist/Intelligent Design community. He said in his Darwin’s Black Box:
I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing and have no particular reason to doubt it.
Common descent is the idea that all life on earth has a single common ancestor. I’m sure none of the experts in this movie would accept this idea.
Where does our concept of time come from?
Danny Faulkner is an astronomer. Solar eclipses happen because the moon is just the right size and at just the right distance to just cover up the sun. Ours is the only planet in our solar system on which this happens, and ours is the only planet on which anyone exists to notice. A coincidence??
Yes, a coincidence. If there were a message from God behind solar eclipses, what would that message be?
He was asked how to explain an enormous universe with objects billions of light years away that was made 6000 years ago. He suggested that things moved abnormally fast in each of the six days of Creation in Genesis. For example, the plants could’ve grown from seeds all the way to mature plants on day 3. Day 4 was star-creation day, and this was also abnormally fast, speeding up the light from distant galaxies.
Apparently, this speed-up varies. While day 3 might’ve needed a hundred years of tree growth, day 4 needed billions of years for the light to travel from distant galaxies. No evidence was given to support these claims.
He pointed to one clue for a young universe that we see in spiral galaxies. Because the center rotates faster, it should first create the spiral arms but then destroy them after enough rotations. (Conventional astronomers have an explanation of why the arms should continue in an old galaxy here).
Asked about the Big Bang, he thinks it has problems. He cites a 2004 NewScientist article, “Bucking the big bang” (original article behind paywall; free copy here), that has a long list of signatories. We’re told this shows that a large number of cosmologists have issues with the Big Bang.
This article is an appeal for funding for research into non-Big Bang ideas. An internet search shows no reference to it from science-popularizing sites (such as Scientific American, Popular Science, or even Wikipedia), but it is referenced at a large number of Christian sites. This is no revolutionary rejection of the consensus but something that is being spun by apologists, perhaps like the Discovery Institute’s nonsensical “Dissent from Darwinism.”
If others have conclusions on this NewScientist article, I’d like to hear about it.
One thing puzzles me. Is it relevant that this astronomer isn’t alone in questioning the Big Bang? If so, and there is strength in numbers, then why doesn’t he just go with the consensus? And if he is happy to reject the consensus (thinking, perhaps, that if he’s right it doesn’t matter who agrees) then I wonder why he points to a long list of dissenters from the Big Bang.
He says that you can’t reconcile the Big Bang with the Bible. Because science changes, he warns about interpreting Genesis using uncertain science. However, Pope Francis says that the Big Bang and evolution are both real, which makes Faulkner’s view a minority in his own religion.
That reminds me of the observation, “Science changes and that’s its strength; religion doesn’t change, and that’s its weakness.”
I’ll end with a John Trever cartoon that lays bare the agenda of this entire movie. The cartoon contrasts the scientific attitude with the Creationist attitude. The scientist in a lab says, “Here are the facts. What conclusions can we draw from them?” And the Creationist holds a copy of Genesis and says, “Here’s the conclusion. What facts can we find to support it?”
to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.
— Adam Smith
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 5/10/17.)