Creationism On Video

A Christian friend recently lent me three videos which, he assured me, would convince me that the creationist argument for a "young earth" and the Biblical account of Noah's Flood were authenticated by solid scientific research.

I watched the videos carefully, and made the following notes. Although I am not trained myself as a scientist, I have great respect for honest scientific inquiry. I made the following notes on the content of the films, with my comments interspersed. As you will see, I was not impressed by "creationist science."


Notes on: GRAND CANYON - MONUMENT TO THE FLOOD

(video from Institute for Creation Research, 1995)

We can never be certain of our interpretation - data must be interpreted in a framework of premises, held by faith - interpretation is facts + opinion + belief.

COMMENT: This is an attempt to justify faith as a legitimate basis for scientific conclusions by creationists. But the "faith" that creationists claim all scientists are using as a basis is not acquired in the same way that the creationists' "faith" is acquired, and is quite different. Scientists' "faith" is an assumption that there are rational explanations for natural phenomena, that the simpler explanation is more likely correct that the more complicated one ("Occam's Razor"), that experiments which can be replicated with the same results are probably reliable, and so on. The "faith" of Bible believers, however, is that anything the Bible says or implies must be true, however preposterous, absurd, or contrary to observed facts and scientific experiment.
Sponges have been found at elevations of 7000 feet above sea level in the GC. Therefore the ocean must have once covered the continent.
COMMENT: No such conclusion is warranted. You cannot assume anything for an entire continent based on something found at one spot on it. The only justified conclusion is that at one time this particular area was under water and that later either the water receded or the land was raised up. They are being careless (purposely) in broadening their conclusion so that it doesn't follow from the facts.
Hermit shale in the Grand Canyon shows marine fossils and fern fossils. Therefore it was not a river flood plain. Therefore it was ocean, therefore a marine flood, therefore a catastrophe.
COMMENT: Playing fast and loose again with unjustified conclusions. The fossils were not produced in a river. We then have lake or ocean bottom. Only by a wild and unjustified stretch does that mean a flood or a catastrophe.
Rapid burial signs in redwall cavern. Marine fossils now far above sea level, skeletons still intact and not disarticulated. Therefore they died and were buried in a fast flow of water. Therefore it must have been a global flood. Same argument made at Nautiloid Canyon.
COMMENT: More dishonest stretching! If these particular organisms died in a flash flood (as I have no doubt they did), the only way that can be evidence for Noah's Flood is to believe that no large flash floods ever occurred locally anywhere in the world. Is that what these creationist geologists are claiming, namely, that any evidence of any flooding anywhere proves that Noah's Flood really happened?
Sandstone footprints of some animal, not oriented to the direction in which it is progressing. Therefore they must have been made against a water current, under water.
COMMENT: So what? This may be evidence for a water current, which may be evidence of a local flood. Evidence of an ancient local flood is not proof of the reality of Noah's Flood.
Strata layering, horizontal for 200 miles. Something deposited sand over this large area.
COMMENT: Fine. They've got evidence that at one time a 200-mile-long area was under water. That is not evidence that at the same time the same water covered the entire earth, not by any stretch of anybody's imagination.
Boundaries between layers (Kaibab and Toroweab [sp ?]) show a gap which cannot be explained by traditional geologists. The surface of the lower level shows no sign of weathering. Therefore the upper level must have been laid down quickly. The Supai formation, below the Hermit formation, shows physical erosion, but not the chemical erosion that would be expected if there was a long time span between them. The Great Unconformity between the Dox and Tapeats shows the same thing. Traditional geologists cannot account for 500 million years. Both quartz and feldspar are present, showing a flood.
COMMENT: I'm not sure even what this means. I would like to know what the traditional geologists say about this from their own words, not as quoted by their adversaries.
Massive tectonic upheaval (Chuar Group, Sixty-Mile Formation, Nankoweap Butte, etc.). There is much evidence for a violent and rapid cataclysm. This must have been the upheaval at the onset of Noah's Flood.
COMMENT: More jumping to unwarranted conclusions! There is evidence, so far as I as a layman know, of massive tectonic upheavals at many places on the earth. Are the creationists saying that these upheavals all occurred at the same time, and that there have been no other such upheavals at any time in the earth's geological history? How are creationists able to date all such massive upheavals so accurately by any recognized scientific method (i.e., other than reading the Bible)? I notice that they don't say. One instance of tectonic upheaval is not evidence for a global flood.
Rapid erosion: the land surrounding Grand Canyon is so flat that it must have been made so by sheet erosion. Therefore there must have been a catastrophic flood.
COMMENT: These creationists are expert conclusion-jumpers! They could probably leap the Grand Canyon itself, if the opposite rim were an attractive conclusion. I'm no geologist, but I am willing to accept the evidence that the area surrounding the Grand Canyon is flat because it was once under water. But where was the water from Noah's Flood? I thought that it was down deep in the canyon at the places where we were shown the separate layers of before/after Flood. But if that's where the water was, then how was it way up at the canyon rim? Are they trying to convince us that just 5000 years ago the Flood put down the lowest layer, and in that short space of time laid a mile-deep deposit over the bottom over those hundreds of square miles, and then proceeded to cut the canyon through it? Why isn't there a similar mile-thick layer of flat surface all over the world?
Mount Saint Helens shows rapid erosion.
COMMENT: I wish the creationist geologists would show us exactly how the two compare. Mt. St. H was volcanic, and laid down only volcanic ash. Doesn't that make any difference at all? Nobody is claiming that rapid erosion never occurs anywhere, are they? Creationists have to show that, in fact, rapid erosion occurred in the GC. When they have done that, all they have shown is that rapid erosion occurred in the GC, no more. That is not evidence of a global flood.
Radioactive Dating problems. Geologists have used three different methods to date the Cardenas Basalt. By one method they get an age of 1.7 billion years, by another 1.1 billion years, and 0.7 billion years by a third. Which is right? Creationists conclude that none of them is right (but don't say what the correct figure is, and I would guess the correct number is around 5000 years?)
COMMENT: Here reason goes out the window. So geologists are not accurate in pinning down an exact date, maybe one billion years off. The film neatly glosses over the one thing that all these methods agree on: the basalt must be at least .7 billion years old. Our creationists don't tell us why none of the three tests could be right, and they carefully do not give us their own scientific dating. There is absolutely no logical reason to conclude that when three scientific test give results of 1.7, 1.1, and 0.7, the correct result must be therefore in the range of .000005. How about if we apply the same logic to the dating of Jesus' birth? One source indicates that it must have been about 4 B.C. Another fact indicates about 7 B.C. Still another points to around 6 A.D. Which was it? Using our creationists' logic: none of the above.
Vulcan's throne, a source of lava flow. Radioactive dating indicates an age of 1.7 to 0.8 billion years. This must be incorrect.
COMMENT: Why? I don't follow the reasoning here.
Final testimonies.
COMMENT: Why should scientists testify to the theological meaning of their scientific work? their conclusions?
GENERAL COMMENTS:

Why don't our creationist scientists present the whole scientific basis for a unified general theory of the Flood, with their own dating? I did not notice that any estimates of dates were given in the film. Why not?

Why was there no dealing with some obvious problems? For instance, why are there no fossils of advanced life forms at the levels where the Flood supposedly occurred? Why is this the only place on earth where such "obvious" evidence of the Flood appears (shouldn't this evidence be everywhere, if the Flood was global)? Why don't they give any estimate of how long the sedimentation occurred, or when it ended, and something to make us accept such a rapid laying down of geological layers?


Notes on: EARTH - A YOUNG PLANET ("Episode 2")

From Films for Christ, Mesa, AZ

A candle burning - it's difficult to know when it was lit.

COMMENT: Not if you can measure enough things about it, e.g. how much CO2 it has produced, its rate of burning, its maximum possible original length, etc.
We don't know how long the earth and solar system have been in existence, either. Example of inaccurate C14 datings.
COMMENT: To criticize accuracy of C14 dating here is deceptively misleading. No scientist has claimed that C14 dating can determine the age of the earth or solar system.
Methods for dating rocks: Potassium > argon, U > Pb. But a test of the rate of flow from a water tank becomes invalid when a burglar pours water into the tank. One cannot assume how much was present to start with or that the rate is constant.
COMMENT: 1) There are a great many more substances than the ones mentioned which can be used (and are used, as cross-checks) for dating rocks than the two mentioned. It is true that the K > Argon test does not have a built-in cross-check, but almost all others do. Hundreds of tests on meteorites and earth's rocks consistently give ages of 4.5 billion years, within a small variation. How can creationists explain this? Why doesn't the film mention the many other methods for determining the age of rocks?

2) For the results of scientific dating of rocks to be inaccurate because somebody has "poured water into the tank" there would have to be some reasonable explanation of how such a tremendous amount of the original material could have been added to the rocks. What is the creationist's explanation?

3) The constant decay rate is not assumed: it is an inevitable conclusion from the facts of the structure of the atoms; its constancy has been demonstrated; no variation in decay rates has been demonstrated, nor could there be any variation (of the magnitude required for a 10,000-year-old earth) without a fundamental disruption of the universe. The film says there have been such fundamental changes, but presents no explanation or evidence for them.

Dating the age of the solar system by the rate of He's escape from earth, as proposed by Melvin Cook. "Helium cannot escape from earth, therefore an old earth would require our atmosphere to have a million times more helium than it actually does."
COMMENT: Cook has been shown wrong. Helium can and does leave the atmosphere, and in such amounts that the presence of He in the atmosphere remains relatively constant.
Maximum age of a comet is about 10K years, therefore solar system cannot be older. - Harold Slusher
COMMENT: This assumes that all comets were created at the same time as the solar system, which is an unwarranted assumption. Also, this only applies to so-called "short-period" comets.
Dust on the Moon: it accumulates at a rate of 14,300,000 tons per year. It should now be 430 feet thick, if the moon is old, but the astronauts found only a few inches.
COMMENT: The entire "moon dust" argument is based on a misinterpretation and misquotation of calculations made by Petterson. More accurate measurements have been made since, and indicate an accumulation rate of 18,000 to 25,000 tons per year, giving an expected total thickness layer of about what was actually found on the moon. Using this argument without dealing with the more recent contrary evidence is dishonest.
Diameter of sun has been shrinking at 5 ft/hr for 400 years at a constant rate. Therefore 20 million years ago it would have encompassed the earth.
COMMENT: This is simply incorrect. The Greenwich Observatory calculated a total decrease of 0.008 percent over the last 300 years, which is negligible. They also discovered that the sun's diameter oscillates over a period of 80 years with an amplitude of 0.025 percent. Thus the sun is not shrinking.
Slusher: "Therefore, the entire universe is probably only 10,000 years old."
COMMENT: He bases his far-reaching conclusion on three pieces of evidence, one of which (comets) makes an unwarranted assumption, and the other two of which are based on false data. He does not deal with any evidence which contradicts his conclusion.
Thomas G. Barnes: The earth's magnetic field has a half-life of 1400 years, therefore 10,000 years ago it would have had a magnetic field as strong as a star. Therefore, earth cannot be older than 6-15 thousand years.
COMMENT: This theory is based on measurements of only the dipole component of the earth's magnetic field. The non-dipole component, however, has increased, in an amount that keeps the total magnetic field relatively constant. The theory also ignores evidence that the field has reversed itself numerous times, which would make any extrapolation meaningless. Even many creationists have abandoned this argument.
Robert Gentry's Radiation halos show that the earth is young.
COMMENT: Gentry's claim that his examination of "basement rocks" (from the very oldest rock layers) show halos made by Polonium radiation that prove they were formed 6000 years ago is weakened considerably when it turned out that the rocks he examined were from fairly close to the surface, and not "basement rocks." His theory and methodology has been largely discredited, except among creationists.
Conclusion: No dating method is conclusive. But the Bible teaches that creation was not so long ago. Dating methods which indicate a young earth therefore support the Bible, so if they are correct, the long time periods of "evolution" don't exist. And if the Bible account is true, then we must accept a Creator.
COMMENT: No method is conclusive, but creationists cannot come up with any dating methods that do not have serious flaws. Scientists, however, have been able to develop an internally consistent, verifiable theory of dating the universe and the earth which include practically all of the observable data. The creation story in the Bible should no more be used as a yardstick of the accuracy of astronomy/physics/geology than it should be used as an accurate test of genetics (cows who see a striped pole will produce striped calves - Gen 30:37-41) or medicine (healing of leprosy or plague - Lev 13, 14).

Even if the earth were only 10,000 (or 6,000 or 15,000) years old, how does this logically require us to conclude that there was a Creator?

But there are many more problems with the Creation account in Genesis than the Six Days: Aside from the many assertions which are simply contrary to the known scientific facts, there are internal inconsistencies. Which were created first, man or animals? Gen 1:20-26 says the animals, then man. But Gen 2:7, 19 says man was created, then the animals. Where do the birds come from? Gen 1:20 says from the water. Gen 2:19 says from the ground. Gen 1:18 says God created the sun and the moon to divide the light from the darkness. But he had already made that division at Gen 1:4. To name just a few. Why should we give any credence to the "science" in a document which is not even internally consistent?


Notes on: ORIGINS OF LIFE, Episode 3 of ORIGINS

(videotape from Films for Christ, Mesa, AZ)

Prof. E. Wilbur-Smith, Narrator:

A clock: did Time make the clock, or did the cog wheels make the clock? Life, in all its forms: what makes them alive? Human being consists of 30 trillion cells, knows beauty, good, evil. Every living creature is made of living cells, which we can watch divide. Cells are made of atoms, but atoms are dead. What is life? There are a minimum number of chemicals. Is life only chemistry? Chemistry takes place only by chance.

COMMENT: Chemical reactions and combining take place according to strict rules that are inherent in the structure of atoms. The history of science is the discovery of these rules or patterns. The more science learns, the less has to be explained by reference to supernatural gods. We are getting closer to an understanding of life and how it began. Just because we may not have an answer to the question yet is no reason to say the answer must be "divine creation." Of course life is a complex marvel, but, as Goethe said, just because something is a mystery, that doesn't mean it's a miracle.
Long discussion of the DNA molecule, its complexity. There are 10^87 possible combinations in one rung of the molecule. Could this have happened by chance? Even if the earth is 4.5 billion years old, there are not that many seconds in that amount of time. Therefore God created the single-cells, the ants, birds, etc.
COMMENT: Many unwarranted assumptions here.

1) I don't think anybody claims that all the complexity of the DNA molecule occurred by chance, but that it was a development from a simple beginning that was inherent in the structure of the atoms making up the molecule, with gazillions of atoms trying the gazillion possible combinations over gazillions of moments of time.

2) I don't think anybody claims that each combination had to actually occur before there was life.

3) I don't think anybody claims that any combination required one second (or more, or less). The whole argument of complexity or magnitude does not hold water. I can write a number that is so huge that it boggles the mind: 2^100^100^100. That number exists. I wrote it. Does that make me God? And if you say that earthly life is so complex that it must have had a Creator, then you must also say the same thing about God. Are you willing to be logical and consistent, and say that God is so complex that he must have had a Creator? And then who or what created God's Creator?

During the Middle Ages people believed in spontaneous generation of life. It was proven incorrect. Pasteur proved that sterile matter cannot create life. But "evolution" says life comes from inanimate matter.
COMMENT: The medieval belief in spontaneous generation is just a red herring here. That was a folk myth (like Genesis). That flies do not come from rotting meat says nothing about whether life can arise from certain chemical combinations subjected to electrical current or radiation or some other as-yet-unknown process.

Pasteur (who died in 1895) proved that sterile matter cannot create life by any method known to him over 100 years ago. (Incidentally, Pasteur proved that the cause of most illness and some madness was not "evil spirits", as the Bible claimed, but microorganisms.) How about some quotes from late 20th century biochemists about the possibility of creating life, using knowledge that Pasteur did not have available?

And even if it should turn out that we cannot create life in a laboratory, that does not prove there is a Creator. We cannot create an earthquake in a laboratory, either, or a planet, or hate, but we do not have to say therefore that they could only exist if God created them. (And if he is such a great Creator, why didn't he create houses, and cars, and computers, and X-Ray machines?)

To represent evolution as saying that life comes from inanimate matter is somewhat misleading. Much of evolution deals only with the development of species, and makes no statement about the origin of life. I understand that there are many Christian biologists who accept evolution but still believe in a Creator as the originator of life.

Experiments to produce life in a laboratory have produced amino acids and bases, but that is not life.
COMMENT: The experiments aren't over, yet. The Church also said that Galileo had not proved that the Earth revolved around the Sun.
The human brain forms 100 trillion connections, 10,000 miles of fibers. Could such a wonder evolve by time and chance? Your mind can conclude there is God. Who made the clock? Someone outside the clock.
COMMENT: 1) Why not by time and chance, if there is enough time and enough chances? This is the "argument from ignorance," one of the most common fallacies. 2) If you feel the only possible answer is "no, there must have been a Creator," then answer the question: Could such a wonder as the mind of God evolve by time and chance, or did it have to have something outside of it, greater than it, to create it?
There must have been an injection of information to the DNA.
COMMENT: You want us to read into the word "information" the implication that the information must have been created by a mind or an intelligence. The "information" in the DNA, however, is nothing more than a pattern, and does not imply intelligence or mind. I can reproduce a pattern mechanically (e.g. by photographing a snowflake, or making a pencil rubbing of the patterned surface of a rock), but that does not mean that intelligence created the pattern or that intelligence reproduced it.
The Bible teaches that the Logos did it (=Jesus), who died for us, becoming our Redeemer.
COMMENT: Even if you should be able to prove that the Genesis account of creation and the origin of life is scientifically reliable, that does not by any means prove that Jesus is the Creator or the Redeemer. Genesis says that Elohim or Jehovah (take your pick) was the creator. The Bible is just a library. Because one book in a library may be accurate, that does not prove that the other books are just as accurate. It is only some of the New Testament books that ascribe the creation to Jesus.

MY CONCLUSION: These are slick propaganda films which play fast and loose with logic and science, to the point of being dishonest.

For further materials rebutting the "creationist" views of origins, the biblical flood, evolution, geology and other religious pseudo-science, go to:

Talk Origins: FAQs
National Center For Science Education

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