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Evolution & Creation science

Why biological & geological scientists
disagree with religious conservatives

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Why almost all scientists believe in evolution:

It is impossible to prove that the theory of evolution is absolutely true. The theory maintains that plant evolution, animal evolution and the major geological changes to the earth unfolded over billions of years. Thus, the full theory cannot be demonstrated in the laboratory. Processes like the rise of mountains and erosion are simply too slow to be observed during one person's lifetime. Elements of the theory (e.g. species evolution of fruit flies in the laboratory and of Tilapia fish in East African lakes) have been observed. But nobody was on hand to observe what the world and its life forms looked like hundreds of millions of years ago.

However, sufficient evidence exists in support of evolution to convince 99.85% of America's earth and life scientists that the theory is valid. Evolution is the key unifying theory that unifies many different branches of science, from cosmology to biology.

Why almost all conservative Protestants believe in creation science:

Their acceptance in creation science is based mainly on two fundamental beliefs:

bulletOne of the most fundamental assumptions held by conservative Protestants is that the Bible was inspired by God and thus is without error, as originally written. Since the book of Genesis clearly describes that God created the universe, then it must be true. No other possibility exists. 

The Answers-In-Genesis 1 web site explains this clearly in their statement of faith, Section D, sub-section vi: "By definition, no apparent, perceived, or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record." 2 Thus, if some observation, some fossil, some measurement, or some theory seems to supports the theory of evolution, then it is automatically false and is to be rejected. There is no possibility that significant numbers of believers in creation science will accept the validity of any evidence in the future that contradicts the Bible.

bulletA second belief is that, unless otherwise indicated, biblical passages should be interpreted literally. Thus, when the Genesis creation story or stories state that God created the world in six days, it is normally interpreted to mean six literal, 24 hour, days. Using various genealogies and intervals of time in the Bible, it can be concluded that the creation week happened sometime after 8000 BCE. The earth is young. That is, that God created the world, the various forms of life on the earth, and the rest of the universe less than ten thousand years ago. Since the universe was created recently, there could not possibly be enough time between creation and the present time to allow species to evolve by purely natural forces. That would take many hundreds of millions of years. Thus, they believe that evolution -- whether caused by natural forces, or directed by God -- over 4.5 billion years of earth's history could not have happened.

Can evolution be proven to be wrong?

Evolution is fragile, like all other scientific theories. A single finding could prove that at least part of the theory is false. For example:

bulletA single observation which proves beyond doubt that the earth has been in existence for less than, say, 1 billion years would greatly weaken the arguments in favor of evolution. There simply would not have been sufficient time for all of the natural geological and biological processes to produce the complexities of the present world.
bulletThe discovery of an unmistakable fossil imprint of a human foot inside a dinosaur footprint would form a really good indicator that dinosaurs lived on earth when people were alive. Quite a few footprints of this type have been claimed to have been found. However most have  been shown to be pious forgeries created by some very enthusiastic and devout believers. The rest are heavily eroded footprints that resemble human footprints, but were made by a non-human species.

The theory of evolution has always been in a state of flux; it is not currently correct, nor is it complete. It will always remain an incomplete approximation. Each new major fossil discovery has the potential of showing that some part of the theory is wrong. When this happens, scientists revise their theories slightly to accommodate the new finding. We can thus expect that timings and minor details of the theory will change in the future. However, the broad scope of evolution is well established and accepted. According to about 99.85% of America's earth and life scientists, the world did coalesce many billions of years ago. Species of life have evolved and died out over billions of years, leaving behind fossils in rock layers which demonstrate the gradual development of simple forms of life into more complex forms.

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Why most biological and geological scientists believe in an old earth:

Most systems of creation science teach that the earth is young -- that the earth and universe  were created 6 to 10 thousand years ago. Essentially all scientists reject this belief.

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, scientists make the assumption that the fundamental workings of nature are occurring today much like they were in the past. For example, the speed of light, the gravitational constant, the charge on the electron, etc. have not changed much, if at all, during the entire history of the universe -- at least since the first second of the big bang. 3 This leads to a consistent picture of the earth having existed over billions of years. But these assumptions are not necessarily true. True scientists must always hold the possibility open that one or more of their initial assumptions is wrong and that their whole set of conclusions must be completely reorganized. This concept of falsification assures that, on the long haul, scientific theories become progressively closer approximations to reality.

Scientists are sometimes able to estimate the age of an object by using two unrelated methods. When their estimates agree, their belief in the accuracy of both estimates improves. So too does the credibility of their initial assumption of the relative constancy of certain fundamental factors of nature.

Consider two methods of estimating the age of some fossils which gave the same approximate result:

  1. Scientists note that the world's rotational speed is gradually slowing down, because of frictional losses produced by the oceans' tides. Clocks are set ahead by one "leap second" -- usually at the end of some years -- in order to compensate for the slowing of the earth. Some fossils of rugose corals have been found which show both daily and yearly growth patterns. They indicate that when the coral was alive, there were about 400 days in the year; i.e. each day was about 22 hours long. Scientists assume that the rate of slowing of the earth's rotation is more or less constant; there really is no obvious way in which the deceleration rate can change. They can estimate that about 350 to 400 million years ago, the day would have been only about 22 hours long.  Thus, the corals are approximately of that age.
  2. These same corals were embedded in rock that was measured by radioisotope methods to be 370 million years old. This technique assumes that the rate of radioactive decay has been more or less constant during the past. Again, the corals were estimated to be 350 to 400 million years of age.

The agreement of these two figures gives scientists a degree of confidence that the rate of slowing of the earth's rotation is constant, that the rate of radioactive decay is constant, that radiometric techniques to estimate the age of rocks is valid, and that the rugose corals are about 375 million years old.

Consider two methods of estimating the age of the moon which also produced near identical results:

  1. Scientists placed impact sensors on some satellites to measure the rate of accumulation of space dust in the region of the earth and moon. They were also able to measure the thickness of dust on the surface of the moon by direct measurement. Assuming that the rate of collection of dust was constant, they estimated that the age of the moon was on the order of four billion years. (The rate of accumulation of space dust is not a fundamental property of the universe. However, this measurement did provide an alternative method of estimating the age of the moon).
  2. Scientists measured the age of moon rocks using radioisotope methods. They estimated the age of the rocks to be about four billion years. This measurement assumes that the rate of radioactive decay has been more or less constant over billions of years.

Again, the agreement of these two measurements gives scientists confidence that the rate of accumulation of space dust has been more or less constant, that the radioisotope method of dating rocks works, and that the moon is about four billion years old.

By finding consistent agreement among many diverse pairs of measurements which are made with unrelated methods, scientists have built up confidence in the measurements themselves, and the stability of various factors in the universe. It all fits together into a consistent picture.

On the surface, the coral measurements would seem to be conclusive proof that the corals were alive hundreds of millions of years ago. But the argument makes two assumptions. A creation scientist could legitimately ask the question: what if the rate of radioactive decay was a few hundred thousand times faster in 4000 BCE that it is today. And what if the earth's deceleration rate was also a few hundred thousand times greater at the time of Adam and Eve. Under these conditions, the analysis would show that the coral was alive circa 4000 BCE. Similarly, the creation scientist could suggest that the rate of space dust accumulation was 200,000 times greater in 4000 BCE. Again, the measurements would show that the moon would then be only 6,000 years old.

And so we have a problem:

bulletIf we assume that the fundamental processes of nature (rate of radioactive decay, speed of light, gravitational constant etc.) are fixed or change little over time, then we can estimate ages of corals, rocks, oceans etc. using many different methods, and form a consistent understanding of the earth's multi-billion year history.
bulletIf we assume that Genesis is correct, then one can compute how various fundamental process of nature must have radically changed since Adam and Eve, in order to fit all of our observations within the lifetime of a six to ten thousand year old earth.

There is, of course, no evidence that nature has changed or is changing in these really basic ways. Scientists have used many different methods to date many different rocks, fossils, earth formations, fire pits etc. to before 10,000 BCE. In order to make the observations fit the model of a young earth, basic factors of nature must have radically changed in a bewildering variety of ways. Based on the preponderance of evidence, essentially all biological and geological scientists believe that the earth is very old -- having coalesced on the order of 4.5 billion years ago.

We have prepared a list of over a dozen indicators that believers in evolution have used to show that the earth is old and has been in existence for much longer than 10,000 years. We also have a list of over a dozen other indicators that believers in creation science have used to show that the earth is young and came into existence less than 10,000 years ago. Both lists contain rebuttals.

If a scientist discovered a proof that the earth was actually young, she or he would totally demolish many current scientific theories. They would be a shoo-in for one of the next Nobel Prizes in science. It is doubtful that anyone would pass up such an opportunity. We conclude that there are no obvious proofs of a young earth that scientists will accept.

Associated essay on this web site:

bulletSpecific reasons why many scientists do not believe in creation science

References:

  1. Answers in Genesis (AiG) has a web page at: http://www.answersingenesis.org/ 
  2. AiG's Statement of Faith is at: http://www.answersingenesis.org/
  3. According to Terence Dickinson, "2003's top five stories in space in astronomy: " "...the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe has indicated that the age of the universe is 13.7 billion years....the Sloan Digital Sky Survey...confirmed this result within 2 percent." The Toronto Star, 2004-JAN-4, Page F6.

Copyright © 1996 to 2009, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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