Young-Earth creationist organizations teach that our planet is six to ten thousand years old. They reach that number by adding up the ages of all of the people mentioned in the Biblical genealogies from Adam onwards, and further stating that the universe is five days older than Adam. They believe that the universe was created in six literal days. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on these organizations, either directly through donations, by the purchase of books, DVDs, pamphlets, teacher supplements and museum tickets, or through homeschooling science and history materials which sponsor and utilize the fruits of their “research.”
What’s ironic is that Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research and some other creation science proponents now argue for evolution as the way that the thousands of pairs of animals from the ark evolved into the millions of distinct species that we see today, but it all happened within the last 6000 years. You will see this in the most recent Christian homeschooling materials. For example, the hundreds of thousands of modern beetle species diverged from a single breeding pair of beetles on the ark. They refer to this as an example of microevolution, but in reality they are suggesting macroevolution, since it involves the generation of novel, complex forms. Apparently, evolution is true, but only when it is convenient for them. I find this to be rather hypocritical. They of course claim to adhere to a strict Biblical reading due to their dogmatic (and incorrect) insistence on a literal interpretation of the creation text, but they strain out a gnat only to swallow a camel.
I have no significant problem with anyone who wishes to personally interpret verses of the Bible, and specifically Genesis, to believe that the universe was created in six days or that Adam was literally made by God’s hand from the dust of the ground. After all, it pleased God to allow the ancients to understand the creation in this fashion. If it helps one’s Christian walk, I respect that viewpoint for anyone today who at least recognizes that there may be more to the story that they simply do not desire to investigate, and embraces some degree of humility in place of dogmatism about “literal interpretations.” We know that this dogmatism about a literal interpretation of Genesis has come and gone many times throughout history, and its most recent teachings can be traced back directly to the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist church. There is no fully consistent “literal interpretation” of the first chapters of Genesis.
For anyone who claims to adhere to a literal interpretation, I’d ask if they also believe that the sky is a dome and the Earth is fixed on its foundation. In describing the firmament, Job 37:18 states, “can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?” And certainly the Earth itself is the immovable center of the universe fixed upon a solid foundation, for this is clearly stated, in very strong language, in multiple places in the Bible, including 1 Chronicles 16:30, 1 Samuel 2:8, Job 9:6, Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and Psalm 104:5.
Even if we were to restrict ourselves to the topic of the creation of living things, there are problems. If the creation account were meant to be interpreted literally, how are we to reconcile the two different creation stories in Genesis chapters 1 and 2? In the second chapter the creation story is re-told, but this time the order is completely different. “No shrub had yet appeared on the earth, and no plant had yet sprung up.” (NIV) Man is then created and placed in the Garden in the same day that God made the heavens and the earth. Finally, the animals are created out of the ground. In the first chapter, God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they (plural) may rule” (NIV), and He created them male and female. In the second chapter, God creates Eve only after He saw that Adam needed a helper. “But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (NIV). Literalists jump through hermeneutical hoops trying to make these two creation accounts fit together.
For this reason, I believe that the purpose of the first chapters of Genesis is not to tell us about the “how”, but rather about the “Who” and the “why”. Which message is more important, and which message lays the foundation for the rest of the Bible, the “how” or the “Who”?
Although I respect any individual’s personal beliefs on these difficult issues, I will make a strong case for the rejection of the concept known as “creation science” and the indoctrination or teaching of this idea in our churches and schools. I will not mince my words here. This movement is using the guise of scientific credibility to teach falsehoods about creation by crafting explanations that are outright fabrications. Creation science, in its various forms which I will describe, is a false science which has infected our churches, schools, and legislature, and attacks our very ability to discern what is true and not true. When followed to its conclusion, and especially when used as an apologetic tactic to unbelievers, creation science casts God as a deceiver.
Ken Ham (who runs Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and Ark Encounter) claims that there were about 10,000 species of animals on the ark, with only two representatives of each of those species (for most of them). There are about 10,000,000 species today by most accounts. In the approximately 4000 years since the flood, where did the other 9,990,000 species come from? According to Ham, they must have arisen from the 10,000 species on the ark. So how is this not macroevolution? In Ken Ham’s universe, we see a 1000x increase in the number of species in the span of about 4000 years. If true, this would be macroevolution proceeding on a tremendously faster scale than anything described as evolution in a science textbook. It doesn’t matter that Ham says we had thousands of “starting kinds” as opposed to just a few or one, as described by science. The mechanism of evolution is the same — genetic divergence of traits of a few species into much larger number more, except Ham’s evolution is comically more rapid than what actually happened.
The problem is, macroevolution doesn’t happen that fast. And microevolution can’t account for such a rapid rise in the number of alleles (variants of a gene) even within the individual species over this time period. There are far too many species now, and these species have far too many alleles in their respective gene pools for them to have evolved in the span of 5000 years from any set of thousands of animal pairs that could have fit on the ark. Furthermore, young-Earth creationists’ explanation for the variety of modern species refutes their own assertion that mechanisms such as the bombardier beetle’s chemical defense mechanism couldn’t have evolved naturally. You see, young-Earth creationists also teach that animals’ parasitic, predatory, and defense mechanisms only appeared after Adam and Eve’s sin, as they claim that all animals lived peacefully with one another before this event. If we follow this argument to its conclusion, all animal forms such as the bombardier beetle’s chemical spray must have evolved after the fall, or even after the flood — in either case, a time span of only a few thousand years. This is nonsensical, since they elsewhere claim that the bombardier beetle’s defense mechanism is so irreducibly complex that it couldn’t have evolved even given millions of years. If it developed after Adam’s fall, then it happened within thousands of years, which implies evolution of novel, complex forms on a far grander scale than anything taught in a science textbook.
Young-Earth creationists claim that evolution cannot produce new genetic information. But in their version of reality, 10,000 species turned into 10,000,000 in 4000 years (a time when there were just 100 generations of people). I suppose there’s no new genetic information in those 9,990,000 other species, which must have appeared at the rate of about 2500 new species per year between the Flood and the present time? That’s laughable. And regardless of whether it happened after the Fall or after the Flood, there must have been a miraculous appearance of all genetic information which encodes for all traits that have to do with parasitic, predatory, and defensive behavior, because according to Ham, there was no animal death before Adam’s sin. At the same time, they describe many of these traits as “irreducibly complex”. Do you see the irony that they claim these same traits, which must have evolved after the Fall (or even the Flood) by their own accounts, couldn’t have evolved even given billions of years? And they want this taught as science in our Christian schools?
Of course, God could have miraculously created these animals whole, or miraculously supplied the requisite genetic information after the flood. But why? This would be considered creation. Is there any Biblical basis for God miraculously creating new animals or their genetic information after the flood? God rested from his creative work on the seventh day, so to speak, before Noah even existed. Whether they attribute the large variety of post-flood animals and plants to an impossibly quick burst of evolution or to another act of special creation, they are trapped in their own artifice. In reality, what they are teaching is bibliolatry, worshiping some of the words of Genesis rather than the Word who is Jesus.
Some young-Earth creationists teach that the universe and everything in it was created with the appearance of age. This idea is known as the omphalos hypothesis or omphalism. The Greek word omphalos means “navel”, and omphalism is a reference to the question of whether or not Adam had one. However, this is a trivialization of the real problem. Who cares if Adam had a navel? What’s at stake is the entirety of what we see and experience as the universe — God’s entire creation. Many young-Earth creationists will accept that rocks appear to be billions of years old, and that distant galaxies appear to be billions of light-years away. We know that starlight left those galaxies billions of years ago, and we are seeing that starlight just now. These YEC’ers, having no way to refute our accurate measurements of the speed of light and the many processes by which we measure stellar distances, teach that God created this starlight, already in transit, only 6000 years ago. Our Milky Way galaxy, an immense spiral of stars and dust, is approximately 100,000 light years across. Our Sun and solar system are situated near one edge. If the appearance of age is true, and the universe is 6000 years old, then all stars which appear to be more than 6000 light years away never existed. Only a small chunk of our galaxy is real; the remainder is an illusion. Those distant galaxies? Or the even the other side of our own galaxy? They don’t exist. That supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud whose starlight is just now reaching us after 168,000 years? It never exploded. That long-extinct volcano, now showing signs of erosion? It never erupted in the first place. Wouldn’t these be deceptions on the grandest scale? I don’t think God would deceive us in this way. Some Christian organizations advance the view that the entire universe was corrupted at the time of Adam’s fall or that it was given over to the devil. The belief that the universe is fundamentally evil or an illusion is a tenet of Gnosticism, and it is alarming to see this being promoted by Christian churches. The Bible clearly states that God reveals the truth, not an illusion, in His creation:
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.”
Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV)
Some may argue that because Jesus turned water into wine, that wine had an appearance of age (it was good!), and therefore it’s ok to believe that God created the Earth with an appearance of age. This is an incredible stretch. Jesus miraculously created the wine with an appearance of age for an instructive purpose. It’s perfectly fine that this wine was not created from real grapes grown in a real vineyard, pressed, and fermented. It was a miracle. The distinction is that there was no evidence that the wine was created from real grapes grown in a real vineyard. All we know is that the wine tasted good. Regarding the age of the Earth, we have a tremendous amount of evidence — evidence that if not true, was planted there, and it could only have been planted there by God. Why create everything in the universe, dated through multiple different scientific methods from astronomy and physics to agree with remarkable precision for the beginning of time to be a strange date 14 billion years in the past? Why imbue the oldest rocks on the surface of the Earth, rocks from the Moon, and meteorites with radioactive isotopes that all show ages of 4 to 4.5 billion years for our own solar system [VI-25][VI-26][VI-27]? Why not just create them fresh? Why stick fossils in them in a precise order that shows us the evolution of life over hundreds of millions of years, verified by radiometric dating — a process that uses absolutely the same nuclear physics that we use to generate electricity every day?
To top it off, why imbue our DNA and our bodies with incontrovertible evidence of common descent with other species, as shown by the shared mutations within the same genes in apes and humans, the fusion of chromosome 2, the selective switching of Hox genes during embryological development and errors that result therein, the path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, the evidence of endogenous retroviruses in the genomes of man and other primates, and other similarities that go far beyond what we would expect if DNA was just a shared “blueprint” used by God [VI-28][VI-29][VI-30]? Did God plant all this evidence to mislead us? I find this difficult to accept about our God who, throughout the Bible, teaches against deception. God created the universe, and He saw that it was good. The author of deception is not God; it is the devil. Deception in any form is not part of God’s character, and deception on such a grand scale is simply unthinkable. If we aren’t learning about God’s character from the Bible, what are we learning? Isn’t that the whole point? What does it say about God, and about us, if we teach others that God planted evidence to deceive us — starlight from stars that never existed, volcanoes that never erupted, and fossilized animals that never actually lived and died — on such a scale as the entire universe? This degree of rationalization, an acceptance that this is ok, speaks volumes about the methods that these multi-million dollar creation science organizations and Christian textbook publishers use to inflict their false teachings on a willing audience hungry for God.
The duplicity is especially evident when creation science teachers quote-mine not just scientists, but the very theologians they claim to respect and admire, even editing their words to suit their agenda. Charles Spurgeon, the distinguished Baptist preacher and sermon writer of the 19th century, had no problem with “millions of years” and he acknowledged death before sin. Spurgeon is one of the most quoted Christian scholars on the Answers in Genesis Web site. And yet, when he is quoted by Answers in Genesis in a passage concerning a creation of Earth “millions of years before the time of Adam”, they casually excise the phrase from the quoted text. Only when they are caught do they correct themselves, and their correction is only a footnote. [VI-31][VI-32]
Young-Earthers Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have gone so far as to publish and distribute a “very special” version of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This new copy of the book, published on the 150th anniversary of its first printing, leaves out entire chapters from the original book which present the evidence for evolution, and instead includes an introduction arguing for Hitler’s undeniable connection to Darwin’s work [VI-33][VI-34]. How does bearing false witness demonstrate our Christian faith? Cameron and Comfort produce some worthwhile apologetic materials with the Gospel message. However, to this day, they continue to produce anti-evolution materials which contain painfully incorrect science, and in many cases, they interweave a creation science message with their presentation of the gospel. They endorse the Answers in Genesis science curriculum and actively promote Ken Ham’s Creation Museum, making it clear that young-Earth creationism and flood geology are what a “true Christian” believes. Peeling back the veneer of their splashy Web site, it becomes clear that a dismissal of most of the modern sciences is not a peripheral part of their ministry; it is central to their preaching. Their “Intelligent Design vs. Evolution” video is advertised prominently on the front page of their The Way of the Master Web site. Comfort promotes his 2006 and 2008 books, Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution: Letters to an Atheist and Evolution: A Fairy Tale for Grownups as part of his evangelistic message. Comfort and Cameron have also released countless videos on YouTube that display an embarrassingly shallow understanding of evolution, biology, and science in general. They teach that scientists and the scientific method are the enemies of truth, when they themselves sow deceit and confusion time and again. Some people may come to a saving faith through their materials, but it is likely that many more leave bewildered and confused by their presentation of the gospel.
Ray Comfort, and many others, repeatedly use strawman arguments such as the Piltdown Man hoax from 1912 and quote-mining a biologist who indicates that the single 1973 “Lucy” fossil was a not a human ancestor, and claiming that fossils of Neanderthal man simply “don’t exist” based on a single person’s examination of a single specimen from 1958. They completely ignore the process by which science is really done, and the dozens of hominid transitional fossils that have been found and validated, as well as the high degree of consistency between evidence found in fossils, genomes, and developmental biology concerning macroevolution.
Why be so critical of these organizations? After all, they’re Christian, their focus is squarely on the Bible, they’re getting people to talk about God, and in many cases their hearts are in the right place. The problem is that they are working hand in hand with the most ardent of atheists to drive young people away from the faith in droves. These organizations actively promote a false dichotomy. Either accept their pseudoscientific interpretation of Genesis as correct, or accept modern science. Their message is: if you reject their teachings, you are rejecting God. Belief in creation science and the denouncement of real scientific discoveries are occasionally even presented as a belief that is core to the Christian faith and elevated to the level of the Gospel message and the Trinity. Usually starting around junior high school, and continuing into their college years, most students learn about the massive amount of evidence supporting an old Earth and evolution from all branches of science. In some Christian school settings, this evidence is ignored, downplayed, or put into doubt, but many enterprising students figure it out on their own.
And this is where the false dichotomy rears its ugly head. Once they find through other means that what science teaches us about the “how” of creation is true and that creation “science” is false, and even hypocritical, they call into question everything else in the Bible that was taught to them by the same teachers who promoted creation science. Even when creation science isn’t presented as a cornerstone of the Christian faith, students still see it as a significant element of theology that their Bible teachers — or worse, the Bible itself — got wrong. These students then take a lukewarm approach to the Gospel message, the call for repentance and the goal of leading a Christ-like life. After all, if the Bible was wrong, in the manner that they were taught, about how the world was created, they’ll say it’s probably also wrong about other things. They’ll treat it as a good book , not understanding that it was the presentation of the Word that was incorrect, not the Word itself. This phenomenon doesn’t just occur with students. Many adults have spent their entire lives believing this false dichotomy — literal interpretation, or science, no other choices. Creation science is now so politicized and so prevalent a topic in our schools and our media that it is one of the principal ways in which unreached students are made aware of Christian beliefs. If they are not believers to begin with, it will keep many of them from ever taking the Christian faith seriously. If they are believers and creation science was used as a tool to buttress their faith, once they learn the truth about the age of the Earth and related subjects in science, that faith either erodes slowly or doesn’t mature [IX-1][IX-2]. This story is repeated perhaps millions of times across the United States and the world.
Some creation science proponents will point to the thousands of people who come to a saving faith through ministries like Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master, through individual one-on-one Christian apologetics which, in some cases, use creation science as part of their argument. Many will indeed come to a saving faith, regardless of whether they believe in creation science, because their personal faith in Christ doesn’t actually rest on the creation science part of the argument. But many others will risk having that faith crumble if their faith was fortified largely by these weak arguments and they later discover the truth. But these aren’t even the worst casualties. What of the millions of people who never give the Bible a chance in the first place simply because they associate the gospel message, as a whole, with false scientific teachings? This is the saddest state of affairs for our evangelical communities and it is ultimately the reason why I am writing on this topic. Why do we needlessly place stumbling blocks in unreached people’s path to Christ? How can we be effective at reaching young people in our Christian teaching and in our ministries on pressing issues like the sanctity of life and sexual purity, and ultimately about the Gospel itself, when the world rejects the validity of the pseudoscientific balderdash that is coming out of the other side of our mouths, and rightfully so? Furthermore, is this how we are teaching our own children to defend their faith when they witness to unbelievers and are challenged by them? Creation science ministries are the blind leading the blind down into a hole, sometimes never to return.
Very rarely did Jesus express anger in the Bible. Jesus demonstrated His anger for those who turned the Temple into a money-making opportunity for their own businesses. And Jesus’ harshest recorded words were for the Pharisees, those who politicized their religion for their own glory rather than God’s and who made the written Scriptures their idol. Not all members of the Pharisee sect were bad. But let’s be very clear: many of the Pharisees worshiped the writings rather than the God who inspired those writings, elevating the veneration of the letter of the Law above all else. They studied and memorized the words, holding to a letter-by-letter idolization of Scripture. And yet, when the Word Himself was standing plainly before them, they failed to recognize Him! For all their studying of the words, they failed to know God, because they didn’t discern the true meaning of what they had been studying. They took their love of the literal Scriptural text to their graves. In Matthew 23, Jesus calls them, variously: snakes, brood of vipers, white washed tombs, self-righteous, hypocrites, blind guides, sons of hell. In verse 13, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (NIV) Unlike the Pharisees that Jesus is describing, I am sure that many of today’s creation science proponents are brothers and sisters in Christ, that they know Him as our Lord and Savior. We all share a love God’s Word and keep it in our hearts. However, their bibliolatry, their infatuation with a flawed understanding of some portions of Scripture, is a stumbling block that they have placed before many others who would otherwise come to know Christ.
This article is an excerpt from my longer article, On Matters of Faith and Science.
Evidence for common ancestry:
[VI-28] Gray, Terry M. “Biochemistry and Evolution”. Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. 2003, William B. Erdmans Publishing Company. pp. 256-287.
Bearing false witness by editing the words of Charles Spurgeon and Charles Darwin:
Erosion of young people’s faith due to anti-science sentiment within Christian circles: