November 21, 2017

Challenges for Creationism

by Bill Lovegrove

This article first appeared in FrontLine • November/December 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

In recent decades the Biblical accounts of the Creation and the Flood have come under enormous attack. Theological liberals have criticized the literal interpretation of the Bible, while the scientific community has embraced evolution. People who believe the literal Genesis accounts are routinely ridiculed and grouped with astrologers and those who believe in a flat Earth.

In response to these attacks, a number of Bible-believing scientists and laymen have staged a counterattack. In books, journals, seminars, radio programs, and public debates, they refute evolutionary dogma and defend Biblical creationism. A wealth of material now exists for the Christian community concerning creationism.

However, the defense of creationism has not been without its flaws, blunders, and weaknesses. Let’s look at some of these weaknesses in order to challenge creationists to present more persuasive arguments.

A Matter of Faith

A broad misunderstanding exists about the nature of science in general and creation science in particular. Creationists routinely point out that evolution cannot be classified as science in the traditional sense of the word. The origin of life on Earth occurred as an event that was not observed (except by God!) and is not repeatable. Since evolution cannot be classified as pure science, creationists describe evolution as faith.

Neither, however, was the Creation observed by man, nor can it be repeated. Therefore both the creationist and the evolutionist can examine the present universe and make inferences about events that have happened in the past. Such studies describe legitimate scientific endeavors. However, neither the creationist nor the evolutionist can construct a scientific proof of origins.

Creationists do not believe in the Creation because of an unbiased examination of nature. Evidences of a recent creation do exist, but a belief in Creation focuses on the revealed Word of God. Creationists accept the Biblical account by faith, because God said “In the beginning.” It can be stated, then, that accepting the Creation as an origin shows as much faith as the evolutionist’s faith in evolution. Consequently, the term “creation science” must be used with care. Creationists must not pretend that they alone are doing unbiased scientific investigations.

A Matter of Spirituality

Second Peter 3:3–5 confirms that at the heart of the controversy lies a spiritual—not scientific—problem. Evolutionists would unlikely be converted to creationism if they possessed an open-minded scientific outlook. The text identifies these scoffers as having two problems. First, they are walking after their own lusts. Second, they willingly ignore the revealed Word of God about the history of the Earth. Evolutionists need regeneration of heart, not persuasion of mind.

A Matter of Evidence

A further problem has been the quality of scientific evidence that has been offered in support of creationism. This evidence shows deficiencies in four important ways.

First, much of the scientific work has been performed by people outside of their fields of expertise. In defense of these people, it must be explained that there are few fundamental Christians with expertise in areas such as cosmology, geology, and paleontology to perform research for creationism in these specialized areas. Laymen and scientists from other fields have accomplished a remarkable job of evaluating the evidence and presenting a creationist point of view. However, such efforts often result in incomplete or inaccurate data or conclusions—and often lack credibility. The solution for these problems is for Christian young people with an interest in science to bypass the more popular and profitable fields, such as engineering, physics, and medicine, to pursue those specialties directly related to the creation and evolution controversy.

Second, some of the scientific work has shown a carelessness that damages its credibility. The widely repeated bombardier beetle story provides an example of this carelessness. This remarkable beetle sprays a noxious, boiling-hot mixture of gases at a predator. An evolutionary sequence that could produce such a complex defense mechanism stretches the imagination.

Unfortunately, the early creationist accounts of this beetle contained a serious scientific error. The accounts described how the beetle contained in its body two chemicals, hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, which reacted explosively when mixed. However, in the midst of a public confrontation with an evolutionist, a creationist mixed these two chemicals to demonstrate the explosion. Embarrassingly, the result showed that the chemicals did not react explosively at all when mixed. Further research on the beetle revealed that the chemicals and their mixing process occur in a more complex manner, involving an inhibitor and a catalyst.

This argument stands against evolution because this beetle employs a defense mechanism more complex than originally thought. To conclude that such a process could evolve by random chance is unthinkable. However, the failure to thoroughly investigate the subject greatly damaged the testimony and credibility of those creationists. Most recent descriptions in creationist writings describe the beetle correctly.

Third, by exaggerating and embellishing stories, some legitimate arguments become flawed. The common moon dust argument supporting a recent creation provides such a problem:

Dust constantly falls on the moon. If the moon were billions of years old, a considerable thickness of dust should have accumulated. For this reason, NASA scientists envisioned that astronauts visiting the moon might sink into a layer of dust many feet think. NASA engineers designed the lunar lander with large feet and long legs to minimize the risk of sinking into the dust. After the astronauts landed on the moon’s surface, the astronauts found less lunar dust than expected. Thus, the moon cannot be billions of years old.

While the moon dust story appears convincing, it actually details a mixture of fact, exaggeration, and error. First, dust falls on the moon. The rate and quantity of falling dust remains difficult to determine. Creationist literature sometimes quotes decades-old measurements that are likely to be unreliable. Second, small amounts of loose surface dust exist on the moon. Although additional dust might have been compacted under the surface, scientists debated its possibility. Third, prior to the Apollo program, some but not nearly all scientists thought that there might be several feet of dust on the moon. Fourth, before the astronauts landed, several unmanned spacecraft visited the moon, took pictures, and even landed on the surface. Scientists studied the surface in many different ways from the Earth. By the time the astronauts visited the moon, scientists were convinced that there would not be a deep layer of dust; they were not surprised by the lack of dust.

The creationist position is not helped when people repeat the embellished version. Although the small amount of dust strongly suggests a young moon, this fact alone does not provide a compelling argument. Creationists must balance the moon dust theory with other moon observations, such as lava flows and numerous large meteorite impacts, which are not seen happening today. Evolutionists cite these facts as evidence of an old moon and challenge creationists to explain these evidences otherwise. Arguments that “God made it that way” are not particularly persuasive.

Finally, some creationists focus on quantity rather than quality of evidence. Lists of 50 (or 100 or 200) proofs of a young Earth often fall into this category. In an effort to detail a body of evidence that might impress by its sheer length, creationists include arguments of questionable quality. The Loch Ness monster argument provides an excellent example. Creationists generally believe that dinosaurs lived at least past the Flood and possibly much longer. They believe that the “behemoth” and the “leviathan” (Job 40:15 and 41:1) might be dinosaurs. They suspect that dinosaurs gave rise to the many dragon legends. While the thought that the Loch Ness monster might be a living dinosaur is intriguing, the actual discovery of a living dinosaur would certainly cause most evolutionists to stop and think! However, little scientific evidence shows that the Loch Ness monster exists at all, much less as a dinosaur. Recent evidence suggests that the most famous Loch Ness photograph is a fraud. The Loch Ness monster receives more coverage in the tabloids than it does in the scientific literature. To raise the Loch Ness monster as a scientific proof for Creation damages one’s credibility.

First Peter 2:20 teaches, “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” The challenge for creationists is to uphold the highest standards in their research and writing. To suffer for our beliefs is Scriptural. To suffer needlessly because of shoddy research must be avoided.

Dr. Bill Lovegrove is on faculty as Department Head of the Department of Physics and Engineering at Bob Jones University.

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