Not So Deep Thoughts

30 Reasons Why Creationism is False


In addition to considering 35 reasons why evolution is true (coming soon), it also helps to think about why creationism is false.  Creationists themselves cannot agree on what it means to be a creationist, so defining creationism is a little difficult.  For the purposes of this list, I will assume that creationism means at minimum some kind of literal interpretation of Genesis chapters 1-3, as well as the affirmation that the specific course of life on our planet has been determined by God’s hand, rather than by evolutionary selection.


Note: I am publishing this list before it is entirely complete.  Please check back in the coming weeks for updated material.


1. Unreliable Source: The only way creationism can ask a person to reject so much scientific truth that supports evolution is by offering its own source of more important and presumably more reliable truth.  However, as 60 Reasons Why the Bible is Not a Perfect Text makes clear, the Bible may be a source of important truths, but it is not a source of historically and textually reliable truths.  Creationists almost always affirm some form of biblical inerrancy – the belief that everything in the Bible is literally true – but such affirmations of inerrancy are not credible.


2. Bad History: Creationism depends on a literal reading of the Genesis stories.  However, a literal reading of these stories is a very recent phenomenon within the history of Christian thought.  Not until the latter half of the nineteenth century did such biblical literalism get a significant public defense.  Prior to this period, just about every major Christian thinker, from Origin, to Augustine, to Aquinas, to Luther and Calvin, affirmed an allegorical reading of the Genesis stories of creation.  Creationism is thus an innovation in Christian thought, not a defense of traditional Christian truth. [However, even Christians who have affirmed an allegorical reading of Genesis often still seem to affirm a literal sense of the Fall of humanity, presumably from some original act of sin, usually committed by some original human person/couple.  While I do not find this allegorical/literal method consistent or compelling, it does not detract from the conclusion that a strict literalism regarding Genesis 1-3 is a very recent position in the history of Christian thought].


3. Bad Science: Despite the work of Henry Morris and others to develop so-called “creation science,” these efforts to create a scientific foundation for creationism have been a dismal failure.  For example, no model has ever been created to explain successfully either where enough water for a global flood came from or where it went after the flood.  Additionally, not even one essay in creation science has been accepted in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  Instead, creationists produce journals where they talk to each other.  Finally, creationists are again, and again, and again, wrong on the facts when they try to refute evolution.  This would be very tiresome if it were not for the fact that affirming false facts can always sound impressive to people who do not realize that what is being affirmed is false.  Mark Isaak’s book The Counter-Creationism Handbook makes very clear just how often creationists make claims that depend on false claims.  Needless to say, such a practice is a clear sign that one is defending a very weak position.


4. No Consistent Position: Creationists cannot agree on what it means to be a creationist.  Today, young earth creationism (which, against massive evidence to the contrary, affirms that the earth is 6-10 thousand years old) is the dominant position, but there are still many old earth creationists (a position that did not require rejecting almost all findings of modern geology), the position that was originally more dominant.  Additionally, creationists are divided on the question of whether or not the flood was a local phenomenon, or a global one.  Creationists disagree with each other over the question of whether or not God continues to create new species, or if such new species have actually evolved since God’s initial creation and the flood.  Thus, if someone asks you if you believe in creationism, you might first ask them what they mean by the term.  This disagreement among creationists is not comparable to disagreements among scientists who affirm evolution.  There is universal agreement among the supporters of evolution regarding the basic features of evolutionary theory.  Disagreements arise over particular mechanisms for evolution, or particular explanations of the evolution of a particular species.


5. Not Falsifiable/Testable: Evolution is, in theory, vulnerable to countless falsifications and countless tests of its truth.  Find a single species that fails to display all of the major fingerprints of evolution, find a single fossil that is not where it is supposed to be in the geologic column, etc. and evolution would have a problem on its hands.  It would have to explain the anomaly.  That is, evolution is falsifiable.  Rather amazingly, given the millions of species on our planet and the millions of fossil findings, no compelling anomalies have been found.  Creationism, however, is invulnerable to falsification.  Every apparent falsification can be ignored by appeal to “mystery” or the limits of human understanding.  Generally speaking, arguing with a claim that cannot be falsified either empirically or on the grounds of coherence is a waste of time.  The philosopher Bertrand Russell made this clear with the example of “Last Thursdayism.”  In theory, the entire world could have been created last Thursday and all of the memories we have of life before last Thursday could be part of the initial set up of the creation.  Of course, one could never test or disprove this theory, and believing it adds nothing to our understanding of the world.  Creationism is just like Last Thursdayism.  There are really only two reasons to argue with creationists; first, to help them understand why so many people think their affirmations are ridiculous; and, second, to stop them from causing trouble, either in our classrooms, or our society.


6. Double Standards: Creationists will insist that the pro-evolution position “prove” every one of its claims, but creationists themselves never affirm that they need to prove anything.  Similarly, creationists argue as if every difficulty faced by evolutionary theory is a clear indication that evolution must be wrong, but they apply no such standard to themselves.


7. Logical Problems: Given all of the effort that creationists put into arguing against evolution, one gets the sense that they think that showing that something is not the case proves that something else is the case.  This, however, is plainly false.  Showing that I am not Barak Obama does not establish that I am Joe Pettit.  I would have to give independent reasons for the latter conclusion.  Creationists, however, suggest that the only alternative to this or that version of evolutionary theory would be to conclude that creationism is true; and that is clearly false.


8. Different Orders of Creation: In the first chapter of Genesis, animals are clearly created before humans.  In the second chapter, Adam is created before the animals.  Thus, it is impossible to affirm the literal orders of creation in both chapters.


9. Different Authors with Different Purposes: Different chapters of Genesis use different vocabulary, affirm different theologies, and use different writing styles, all indications that multiple texts have been brought together into one narrative.  Thus, chapter one refers to God as “YHWH,” whereas chapters two and three refer to God as “Elohim.”  In chapter one, God is creator of the entire universe and transcends all that is created.  In chapter two, God creates the earth, and in particular the garden of Eden, and is very anthropomorphic in character – walking in the garden and talking with Adam and Eve.  The style of chapter one is majestic, but the style of chapters two and three is very intimate.  There is no reason to believe that different writers with different theologies would come to conclusions that are in all respects consistent, and, as the different orders of creation show, the two accounts are clearly not consistent.  Anyone who affirms a historical-critical reading of scripture has no difficulty explaining how different texts could get combined to form one narrative.  It is the creationist who has very real difficulty explaining both why we should affirm the inerrancy of scripture given such textual origins, as well as why God’s supposed revelation would make use of different vocabularies, theologies, and styles.  Biblical literalists will usually at this point argue that God’s revelation was made to fit the needs of those receiving it, implying that the different vocabularies, theologies, and styles were appropriate to the needs of those receiving the revelations.  However, they never go on to explain any reasons for why such differences are more appropriate to one group of people than another, especially given the fact that both are apparently appropriate for us, nor do they explain why a difference in the order of creation is a necessary accommodation of different revelations to different people.  Presumably, any revelation in any form could at least keep the order of creation consistent.


10. Theology vs. History: A basic error made by creationists is a failure to differentiate between theology and history.  One may write a text with true theological insights, even if the events narrated in the text never actually occurred.  Thus, it may very well be true, as Genesis chapter one suggests, that all of creation depends on God, that God brings order out of chaos, that humans can somehow be said to be in the “image” of God, and, that God has judged creation to be good.  Each one of these theological claims is importantly different from some of the major cosmogonies (stories of creation) that were common at the time the text was likely written.  Therefore, the text represents a theological argument, not a historical account.  Importantly, if the Bible is read as theology rather than history, what becomes important in reading the Bible is theological understanding, not historical accounts.  To be sure, there are obviously historical references in the Bible.  However, this does not mean that the Bible is in all respects historically reliable or that the writers were even trying to be historically reliable.


11. Where is the Garden? Have you ever wondered what happened to the Garden of Eden?  The Bible gives a rather clear indication of where it was located, so it should, in theory, be rather easy to find.  Given that God took pains to place cherubim and a flaming sword at the entrance of the Garden of Eden in order to keep humans out, it seems that just getting rid of the garden was not an option.  So where is the garden today?


12. Did God really say that? If one pays attention to why God found it necessary to keep humans out of the garden, one might discover something rather surprising about God and humans.  Ask just about anyone, and they will say that Adam and Eve were thrown out as punishment for their disobedience.  But what does the Bible actually say about this?


“Then the LORD God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” – therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24).


Now, this is a problem for lots of reasons.  First, Adam and Eve are not cast out of the garden for disobedience, but rather because God is worried that they will live forever.  Second, the image of God here is not very glorious.  God comes off as rather petty, and worried about status.  Third, the account suggests that no atoning sacrifice from Jesus is necessary for us to have eternal life, but just a bite from the tree of life.  Finally, most creationists neither know about this text, nor agree with its implications. 


13. Dilemma: Ark or Ongoing Creation? When confronted with fossils that clearly suggest that new species have emerged over time, many of the early opponents of evolution argued that God has continued to create life on earth over time.  However, the problem with this theory is that it renders other parts of creationism nonsensical; in particular, it makes the efforts of Noah and his Ark entirely unnecessary.  If God can continue to create over time, it would not have been necessary to get a male and female of every species on to Noah’s Ark for safe keeping during the flood.  Instead, God could simply have recreated every species anew after the flood.  If God does not continue to create over time, then new species can emerge within the course of life on our planet, and creationists would find themselves affirming the core position of evolution.  This is not an inconsequential dilemma, as it calls into question the coherence of creationism.


14. Comprehensive Understanding vs. Theory: Creationists can often be heard saying that evolution is “just a theory.”  In doing so, they imply that that evolution is on the same level as the various forms of every day speculation that we imply when we say that an idea we have is “just a theory.”  That is, creationists turn the technical term “theory” as it is used in science to mean a comprehensive understanding of some large field of research into its idiomatic every day use.  However, the two uses of the term theory are just not even close.  When we say something is just a theory, we mean to imply the exact opposite of what is the case for evolution; we mean to imply that we are guessing about something without enough evidence to turn our theory into a confident conclusion.  Evolution, on the other hand, has countless pieces of evidence to back it up, and countless scientists demonstrating its truth every day.  Given the conflation of these two uses of theory, evolutionists might even think about dropping the term altogether and replacing it with the “worldview” of evolution, or just refer to evolution, with no qualifier at all.


15. No Radiation of Life from Eden or Ark


16. No Evidence of Global Flood


17. No Fossils of Humans with Dinosaurs


18. Bad Design


19. Too Many Extinctions


20. Can’t Explain the Path of Design (But Evolution Can)


21. Fraud


22. So Many Other Things Must Be Wrong


23. Deceptive God


24. Intelligent Design Fails #1: No irreducible complexity


25. Intelligent Design Fails #2: Behe’s Pre-Programmed Genetics


26. Intelligent Design Fails #3: Creationism in Disguise