Skeptics visit the
"Museum of Creation and Earth History"
Dr. Karen Bartelt
Dr Bartelt is an Associate Professor of Chemistry
at Eureka College, Eureka, IL 61530.
Miscellany and Conclusions
A few concepts from the Institute for Creation Research's Museum of Creation and Earth History did not fit neatly into any previous category, but deserve some analysis.
This is the ICR's treatment of the First Law of Thermodynamics:
The law of conservation of energy (also known as the first law of thermodynamics) is the best-proved and most universal law of science. It states that energy (capacity to do work) can change forms, but can be neither created nor destroyed. Energy includes everything in the physical universe (even matter); therefore nothing is being created. This reflects the completion of God's work of creating and making all things (Gen 2:1-3) and refutes the evolutionary concept of ongoing 'creation'.
In another misguided appeal to authority (this time, interestingly, an appeal to scientific law), the ICR distorts the First Law to convince its largely scientifically illiterate patrons that even science precludes evolution. It is interesting to me that the ICR chooses to use science in this manner. Is it possible that even the ICR realizes that the public, though distrustful and even perhaps fearful of science, realizes that it has a credibility beyond that of the Bible?
The concept of "ongoing creation" (or "continuous creation" or possibly even "steady-state-theory") may refer to the now-defunct hypothesis proposed in the 1950's by astronomer Fred Hoyle: the universe was expanding, and "as the space between the galaxies stretched, new galaxies were being continuously created, out of nothing at all, to fill in the gaps" (Gribbin 1993: x). This hypothesis was disproved not by Genesis 2, but by scientists of the 1960's who accrued evidence supporting an alternate cosmology commonly known as The Big Bang (which the ICR doesn't like any better than "continuous creation").
"Ongoing creation" was never a concept related to biological evolution. Possibly what the ICR is trying to get at here is the theory that species don't evolve; they assert that there is no ongoing creation of species. If so, why not just say it? The First Law only refers to heat flow. Energy being converted to other forms is in no way inconsistent with evolution (or even special creation, for that matter). It's not really germane at all.
Another topic that I found fascinating was the concept of apparent age, or "functional maturity" -- the old "Omphalos" argument. This was even more interesting because I had just sat through a lecture by ICR geologist Steve Austin which dealt with, in part, attempts to date rocks. (Why does the ICR bother to do it at all if they know that the rocks just "look old"?).
Creation of a functionally mature creation (sometimes called "apparent age") necessarily implies that the objects and living systems exhibit the appearance of a prior history or process involved in their formation. Fruit trees were mature, fruit-bearing trees, not seeds; Adam was a full-grown man; the land had a fertile topsoil covering to it; the rocks would possess a variety of isotopes and elements, et cetera. If one denies the true revealed history of the world, and attempts to date the object or the world, this functional maturity could be mistaken for age. [emphasis added]
There is no logical reason why a god would impart "the appearance of age" into a creation, unless that god's purpose was to deceive the "created" (and that says a lot about the god). We would be completely comfortable emotionally if all dates did converge on 6-10,000 years, and if this were consistent with scientific data. There is no reason why 'rocks would possess a variety of isotopes and elements'; our particular isotope mix is simply whatever was there when the solar system began to coalesce. I invoke the Goldilocks principle here -- if it hadn't been "just right", or at least "OK", we wouldn't be here arguing about this on the internet. Note the emphasis on "true revealed history" as the only accurate dating method -- and make sure it is the revealed history as given to fundamentalist Christians and the ICR, not that of Hindus, Buddhists, or Australian Aborigines. This dependence upon revealed history spills over into the age of the earth debate:
If the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are taken literally, the Creation must have been relatively recent, about 6000 to 10,000 years ago. There are no firmly documented historical accounts older than this. Older ages must be derived from some physical process (eg., radioactive decay), and based on at least three untestable and unreasonable assumptions.
1. Unchangeable Process Rate [but all natural rates can change]
Actually, scientists have attempted to alter radiometric decay rates. Isotopes have been subjected to temperatures from -186oC to 2000oC, pressures from a near vacuum to a few thousand atmospheres, and variations in gravitational and magnetic fields. The decay rates are, with few exceptions, invariant under all of these conditions (Strahler 1987:136). (That's why they're called "constants".) This is hardly an untestable assumption.
If creation were relatively recent, say 6-10,000 years ago, then Carbon-14 dating would be an adequate method of dating all fossils and rocks that contain carbon (This method is used by geologists to reliably date fossils, artefacts, or rocks with ages up to 50-70,000 years). If, as has been implied by some creationists, the Flood somehow reset radioactive clocks, then we should have no rocks or fossils that carbon-date any older than ca. 4500 years ago (the purported date of the Flood). Why would a Creator not leave such a stunning confirmation of a recent creation?
2. Process Operating in Isolated System [but no truly isolated system exists]
Age determination does not rest upon whether a system is isolated or not; again, one wonders what they mean.
3. Denial of Creation of Functioning Maturity [but this begs the question as to whether God can create, and thus is atheistic].
Just good old-fashioned circular reasoning.
Many processes will yield ages too young for evolution, however, even with these assumptions. Therefore, there is no reason not to take God's Word at face value. God is able to say what He means.
So let's take God's Word at face value. What does God's Word really say about the earth? Not exactly what the ICR says. "...face value" means that the world is flat (Dan 4: 10-11; Matt 4:8), has four corners (Rev 7:1), is covered by the vault of heaven (Job 22:14), which has windows (Gen 7:11), rests on pillars (I Sam 2:8, Ps 104:5) and is immobile in space (I Chron 16:30). That's God's Word at face value. I wonder why the ICR is not at least philosophically consistent, and why a flat earth and geocentrism are not part of ICR science, if "God is able to say what He means."
Before I left the Museum of Creation and Earth History, I looked at one last exhibit -- the Evolutionary Tree vs. the Tree of Creation. The Creationist Tree was lovely and green, growing on a base of "Genuine Christianity" and "Correct Practices." The Evolutionary Tree was leafless and withered, no doubt due to the "Harmful Philosophies" associated with it: "Communism, Nazism, Imperialism, Monopolism, Humanism, Atheism, Amoralism, Scientism, Racism, Behaviorism, and Materialism." The evil fruits of this tree were "Promiscuity, Pornography, Genocide, Slavery, Abortion, Euthanasia, Chauvinism, Infanticide, Homosexuality, Child Abuse, Bestiality, and the Drug Culture." Lest one think that no one actually looks at material like this, an April 1998 letter to my local newspaper described Darwin as "pro-slavery". (Darwin was, in fact, an abolitionist.)
So, why the ICR? Why is there so much misinformation, so many irrelevant facts, so much real science ignored and omitted? The ICR provides the reasons for its existence:
Because American society -- especially our educational system -- is dominated by evolutionary humanism. Because the harmful consequences of evolutionary thinking on families and society (abortion, promiscuity, drug use, homosexuality, and many others) are evident all around us. Because this rebellion against God and His laws stems from unbelieving scientists and educators undermining the foundational truth of creation. (ICR Pamphlet)
If any of you out there fall into the scientist/educator category, watch your backsides. The ICR blames you for the evils of the world. Perhaps the fundamentalist pickets of the 21st Century will be posted outside of university biology buildings rather than abortion clinics. When the ICR became prominent in the early 1980's, most scientists ignored them and figured that they would go away. They have not. The general public lacks the scientific literacy to see through the ICR's arguments, and skirmishes at the local/school board level are common today. As scientists and educated people, we must be equipped and willing to oppose the imposition of "nonscience" into the school curriculum. And more than that -- as Donald Wise suggested in his American Scientist article, "The time has come to stop fighting defensive skirmishes and to start challenging the creationists to defend in toto what they call science -- humorous absurdities and all (Wise 1998a:172)."
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The segments on William Smith and Karl Linneaus are part of a larger article on Christian contributions to evolutionary thought that will be part of an upcoming issue of the Reports of the National Center of Science Education.
Thanks to Chris Stassen, Andrew MacRae, and Steve Austin for their helpful critiques via email and telephone.