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Many of the views of creationists are intrinsically contradictory. Here are a few examples:
Biblical literalism. Those who take the English translations of Genesis literally insist that the bible is not open to interpretation. However, it is impossible to take the Genesis literally because the sequence of creation events in Genesis 1 is different from the sequence in Genesis 2. The creationists get around this by claiming that it is not the purpose of Genesis 2 to give the sequence of events. Is that not an interpretation?
Abiogenesis. Creationists often boldly state that evolutionists cannot explain the origin of life. It is true that science has yet to discover the mechanisms and process by which life originated from an inorganic source – a process called abiogenesis. On the other hand, creationists of cite figures on the improbability of abiogenesis, usually an infinitesimally small number such as 1 in 104,478,296 (miscalculation courtesy of Joseph Mastropaolo of the Institute for Creation Research). But how can any such calculation be made unless one knows the process of abiogenesis?
Intelligent Design. Creationists have recently resurrected an idea from the early 1800s that the complexity of life shows evidence of Intelligent Design. The idea is that life is "irreducibly complex" and therefore could not have evolved. In an attempt to hide their religious motivation, they state that the "Intelligent Designer" need not be God. But any designer or creator must be much more complex and intelligent than any known living being, i.e. the designer must be "irreducibly complex." Does it now follow that the designer must have been designed as well? This paradox reminds me of the story of the lady who believed the earth was held up on the back of a turtle. When asked what the turtle stood on, she answered "The back of another turtle." What did it stand on? "It’s turtles all the way down!"
(see my critique of Intelligent Design)
Speaking of "Intelligent Design" ... Creationists who were fighting to have their views on "intelligent design" included in Ohio's k-12 Science Standards, often claimed that the intelligent designer need not be God. This was meant to get past the Supreme Court rulings against promoting a particular religion in the schools. Yet the "Intelligent Design" perpetrators got all excited when the Ohio Board of Education dropped a standards indicator that stated that science seeks "natural explanations for natural phenomena." Are they implying that their Intelligent Designer is supernatural after all?
Geologic dating. Creationists love to point out that the geologic ages assigned to the strata in which we find fossils are based on "flawed" dating techniques. They even question the validity of interpretations of stratigraphic sequences. Therefore, they conclude, there is no reliable evidence for the evolutionary sequences accepted by paleontologists. On the other hand, they will readily state that the sequences of fossils are in accordance with the succession of events recorded in Genesis 1. How do they know that if the techniques are flawed?
Speaking of Geologic dating ... Creationists often cite examples of fast erosion to demonstrate that the Grand Canyon could have been created quickly (such as in a catastrophic flood.) Fine ... but then how do they explain the multitude of layers that the canyon cuts through? And for those who claim that all fossils were laid down by the flood, how can they explain the same event creating the layers (which incidentally, contain fossils showing evolutionary sequences), and creating the canyon? Hmmmmm ....
Neandertals. One popular creationist tactic is to claim that Neandertals were just variants of humans. Notwithstanding the fact that many paleoanthropologists hold the same view, creationists claim that this is somehow at odds with the theory of evolution. Recently a creationist sent me a note with a fascinating contradiction. He said that the reason for the peculiar Neandertal facial morphology was that Neandertals lived to ages of up to 600 years and thus the facial bones continued remodeling into the large face and brow ridges. In the very same note he noted that evidence from an infant Neandertal in Portugal demonstrated that Neandertals and modern humans lived side by side. How did he know the infant was a Neandertal if it takes 600 years to acquire Neandertal facial morphology?
Noah’s Ark. In order to fit all of earth’s biodiversity on the gopher-wood ark -- prescribed as 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high -- creationist say that modern species evolved through microevolution from basic "kinds" put on the ark. Thus they accept "microevolution" of similar species from a common ancestor, but not "macroevolution" of vastly different animals. For example, lions, leopards, and cheetahs all evolved from a basic "kind" of cat, but a dog and a cat could not have a common ancestor. Could humans and chimps therefore be a "kind?" Absolutely not, claim the creationists. But a lion is as distinct morphologically from a cheetah as a human is from a chimp! (By the way, whereas creationists do not accept macroevolution, they fail to note that by definition, speciation is macroevolution.)
Fraud and Mistakes. A most tiresome creationist ploy is to exploit the mistakes, and in some cases fraud of the past. As if anybody in the scientific world ever now considers the misidentified pig tooth once attributed to "Nebraska Man." That is history, not prehistory. Piltdown "man" was a hoax, identified by scientists (in particular Joe Weiner), we must admit. And even a recent feathered dinosaur was found to be a hoax. It is true that not ALL scientists are honest, and it is true that scientists make mistakes. Fortunately, science is a self-correcting process. Yet, presumably, creationists are above dishonesty and deception ... or ARE they? For years I heard about the "evidence" of dinosaur footprints and human footprints together in the same strata. Now, all but the most naive creationists accept that so-called evidence as a mistake at best, or a hoax at worst. (Click here for more)
Whereas other examples of creationist dishonesty are purported to exist, my point is simply this: Is this a debate based on the value of ideas, or need we cast stones? Creationists and scientists alike must not degrade their perspectives with wanton defamation of the opposition. Let's decide with good science.
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