Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rebutting the Creationists at the Evolution Exhibit

Just for fun, I thought I would take the creationist criticisms from the "At evolution exhibit" article (see earlier post) and rebut them one at a time.

1. "these students ... believe God created the Earth in a week, some 6,000 years ago."

The geology of the earth clearly shows that it is billions, not thousands of years old.  Archaeological evidence shows that not only were there modern humans, but organized civilizations thriving before 4004 BCE.  The law of superposition states that older sedimentary layers underlie younger.  Fossils within the layers show that hundreds of feet of sedimentary layers containing evidence of life preceded the first evidence of humans.  If Genesis were true, all life-forms that occur in the fossil record, including humans, would be in the bottom layer.

2. "210 million years, that's arbitrary. They put that time to make up for what they don't know,"

The above quote refers to the age of the Morganucodon rat, considered our first mammalian ancestor.  This date is not in doubt.  In addition to relative dating methods like superposition (if A is deeper than B, A is older than B), and biochronology where associated fossils in a layer are compared to biological forms that are known to precede or follow them, absolute dating methods like thermoluminescence and radiometric dating may be used.  Thermoluminecence dating requires the sample to be heated until it releases electrons in the form of light that can be measured indicating the last time the sample was heated.  Radiometric dating involves the analysis of radioactive decay of elements in the sample.  Decay occurs at a steady rate converting a radioactive element always to its non-radioactive counterpart element making it easy to measure the ratio and determine age.  Some radioactive elements do not fully decay for billions of years.  By the way, the advent of mass spectrometry has made it possible in recent years to get even greater accuracy with smaller samples.

3. "There is no scientific, biological genetic way that this, this rat, could become you,"

There is no scientifically proven way other than evolution.  If this creationist student had actually read the exhibit, I suspect he would know the scientific, biological genetic way.

4. "In order to be the best creationist, you have to be the best evolutionist you can be," said Marcus Ross, who teaches paleontology and says of Adam and Eve: "I feel they were real people, they were the first people."

Evolutionist?  I do not think this word means what he thinks this word means.  As I said before, there is no geological or paleontological evidence for biblical creation.  If the evidence were there, scientists with other religious backgrounds would reach the same conclusion as creationists.  That just isn't happening.

Also, if Adam and Eve were the first people, they would be more than 10 times as old as the creationists' earth and they would have lived in Africa, not central Asia where Eden is usually placed.

5.  "Creationism and evolutionism have different ways of explaining the evidence. The creationist way recognizes the importance of Biblical records," said Ross.

OK.  The goal of the scientific method is to filter out preconceptions and biases and reach conclusions based purely on the objective evidence -- all the evidence.  The biblical records fall under the categories of preconceptions and biases.  Creationists glom onto the bits of evidence that appears to support their interpretation of  the book of Genesis and discard anything that doesn't fit.  For example, creationists frequently say there is evidence of Noah's flood because sedimentary rocks cover the earth.  However, they disregard the fact that the sedimentary layers, as they appear on Earth, could not have been deposited in a single flood event or even in only 6 to 10,000 years.  Nor can they explain why fossils separated into different, consistent layers or why a flood would kill more marine species than terrestrial species.

6. "He says carbon-dating techniques that have been used to suggest the Earth is in fact billions of years old are simply not reliable. "

First of all radiometric dating with isotopes other than carbon date the Earth to about 4.5 billion years old.  Carbon 14 dating has been the whipping boy of creationists for a long time, but is actually very reliable.  It is however good to only about 60,000 years due to its rate of radioactive decay.  Creationists have always been happy to accept C14 dates that appear to corroborate bible stories, but they insist that it doesn't work past 6000 years ago.  Coincidentally, 6000 years is about the half-life of C14, but the decay of one half-life doesn't end its usefulness.  Creationist have also claimed the C14 would be useless after 12,000 years because you'd have 6000 for a half-life  plus 6000 for the other half.  Nope.  Half of the C14 decays, then half of the remaing C14 decays, then half of that decays, etc., until the remaining sample is too small to measure; at about 60,000 years.

Creationist literature also likes to list reasons that C14 cannot be dated accurately.  A little research by the reader will make it clear that the listed problems are taken directly from scientific papers that explain the methods by which a scientist can eliminate or compensate for the problems.

By the way, the age of the earth is corroborated by astronomical observations.  Visible stars have been measured at more than 4.5 billion light-years distance.  A light-year being the distance light travels in a year, any light we see from that source has been traveling for at least 4.5 billion years.  If the stars had been created the same week as Adam and Eve, 6 to 10,000 years ago, there could be no visible stars of more than 10,000 light-years away.

7. "He doesn't reject one prominent theory that dinosaurs were wiped out by a massive asteroid that collided into Earth, but suggests the collision coincided with the Biblical flood."

Although the asteroid theory isn't universally accepted within the paleontology community, the presence of a world-wide layer rich in iridium that coincides with the end of the Cretaceous and beginning of the Tertiary Period (hence the name C-T boundry layer) is universally acknowledged.  The problem for the creationist teacher is that everyone agrees this occurred 65 million years ago and that much of the C-T layer material was deposited on dry land.  So, it's clear that the creationist doesn't really believe the asteroid theory at all; he just agrees that an asteroid hitting the earth is a good way to explain mass extinction, but, unfortunately it doesn't explain the survival of Noah.

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