This House Believes that Evolution has Disproved Creationism

Evolution is the process by which species change and adapt over time. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection explains the origin and diversity of species in terms of ‘survival of the fittest’: characteristics that are beneficial to survival within a given environment are more likely to be passed on to the next generation. Life arose through random mutations over millions of years filtered by natural selection. Evolution is widely accepted by the scientific community as a fact and as a complete explanation, requiring no supernatural element.

Young Earth Creationism is the belief that God directly created the world, including animal and human life, in six days within the last 10,000 years. It is held by some Christians on the basis of a literal reading of Genesis, and also by some Muslims. Creationists claim support for this belief both from religious scriptures and from science. Other Christian views include Old Earth Creationism (God created the world millions of years ago, before creating animals and humans later), and Theistic Evolution (God used or directed evolution to bring about human life).

Title 
The fossil evidence
Point 

Fossils allow us a glimpse into the development of life on Earth. Fossils show a development from earlier, less complex forms of life, through to newer, more complex forms of life, with characteristics developed from earlier organisms. This progression is strong evidence for evolution. Since fossilization is a rare event, there are some gaps in the fossil record, but all the available evidence is consistent with, and fully explained by, evolution.[1]

There are many examples of transitional fossils, including of our own ancestors, showing how humans evolved from apelike creatures. For example, scientists discovered the skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus, nicknamed “Ardi”. Ardi is the oldest fossil of a human ancestor, and the last common ancestor of humans and modern apes. Ardi shows a mixture of advanced characteristics and primitive traits.[2]

If fossils had been laid down by a catastrophe such as the Genesis flood, as Creationists argue, then complex and simple lifeforms should be mixed together, with no clear order or progression. But the fossil record shows a clear progression in complexity.

[1] Austin Cline, Fossil Evidence Supports Evolutionhttp://atheism.about.com/od/evolutionexplained/a/FossilRecordEvolution.htm Accessed 1/6/2011

[2] Jamie Shrieve, ‘Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor Found’, National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091001-oldest-human-skeleton-ardi-missing-link-chimps-ardipithecus-ramidus.html, Accessed 1/6/2011

Counterpoint 

There is an absence of transitional fossils. The evidence for ‘missing links’ between different species is itself missing. Fossils are jumbled up, rather than ordered from simple to complex.[1]

Supposed transitional species will often be wildly extrapolated from small fragments to fit with evolutionary theory. Supposed human ancestors are either extinct apes, actual human beings, or accidental mix-ups of human and ape bones. There are no clear anatomical markers separating homo erectus and homo sapiens, for example.[2]

The fossil record is better explained by a global catastrophic flood, as described in the story of Noah in Genesis. The massive geological upheaval which would take place in such an event would leave the remains of millions of dead animals and plants in layers across the world, which is exactly what we find.[3]

[1] John D Morris, ‘What’s a missing link?’, Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=2709 Accessed 1/6/2011

[2] ‘People were always people!’ Answers in Genesis, http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v15/i4/people.asp Accessed 1/6/2011

[3] Andrew A. Snelling, ‘Geologic Evidences for the Genesis Flood’, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n4/geologic-evidences-part-one 

Title 
The Age of the Earth
Point 

Evidence from many different disciplines shows that the Earth is very old, allowing enough time for life as it exists today to evolve and contradicting a Creationist belief in a young earth.

For example, most of the stars in the sky are thousands and millions of lightyears away, which means that light took thousands and millions of years to reach us.[1]

Similarly, there are many geographic features that took thousands or millions of years to form. For example, ice cores such as those from Vostok, Antartica, give evidence of changes in climate going back 400,000 years,[2] far older than the 6,000 or so calculated from a literal reading of Genesis.

All the evidence points this way, from archaeology, geology, physics, astronomy and more. There are many different indicators that all point to an old age of the Earth.

[1] Björn Feuerbacher, ‘Determining Distances to Astronomical Objects’, Talk.Originshttp://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/astronomy/distance.html Accessed 1/6/2011

[2] ‘Vostok Ice Core’, National Climactic Data Centrehttp://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/icecore/antarctica/vostok/vostok.html Accessed 2/6/2011

Counterpoint 

Secular scientists extrapolate the age of the earth backwards from examining current natural processes, but they assume that they have always taken place at the same speed and for the same reasons, but this is not necessarily the case.

There are a number of possible solutions to the distant starlight problem: God could have created the light in transit; the speed of light may have been much greater in the past; Einstein’s theory of general relativity indicates that time is relative, and so a few thousand years on Earth could be millions elsewhere in the universe.[1]

The volcanic eruption at Mount St Helens, Washington State in 1980 shows how catastrophic events can very quickly lay down geological formations that appear to have formed slowly. The Genesis flood would account for the rapid formation of geographical features that evolutionists interpret as old. [2]

[1] James Upton ‘Beyond Distant Starlight: Next Steps For Creationist Cosmology’, Answers Research Journal 4 (2011) www.answersingenesis.org/articles/arj/v4/n1/distant-starlight-cosmology Accessed 31/5/2011

[2] ‘Mount St Helens in Washington State’, Answers in Genesishttp://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/wog/mount-st-helens Accessed 1/6/2011

Title 
Falsifiability
Point 

Evolutionary theory is open to change and is in principle falsifiable: if enough evidence was found, scientists would change their views. Scientists make their reputations by making new discoveries, so if evolution could be disproved, someone would have done it, but it is still standing after over 150 years of research since Darwin, showing how strong it is.[1]

Although Creationism is falsifiable scientifically, with plenty of evidence to disprove it, it is non-falsifiable on its own terms. Any scientific evidence against it can be explained away by Creationists by saying ‘God did it’ – for example, by claiming dinosaur fossils were put there to test people’s faith. Science is able to change in light of new evidence, unlike Creationism, which is a matter of dogma.

Even if evolutionary theory cannot yet explain every detail, this does not give any support to Creationism. If something cannot yet be explained by science, it does not mean that God did it; it means we need to investigate further to find a better scientific explanation. Creationism discourages scientific investigation and encourages blind faith.

[1] ‘Evolution Falsifiable’, Talk.Originshttp://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA211.html Accessed 2/6/2011

Counterpoint 

Creationism makes empirical claims, such as that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. The use of scientific arguments against these claims shows that Creationism is in fact falsifiable.[1]

Scientific Creationism is a relatively new discipline which only really started in the 20th century. It has not had the same time or resources put into developing it as has evolutionary science, because of broader cultural prejudices and philosophical assumptions against it.

Recent Creationist research has focused not on reacting to evolutionary theory, but building its own research and models working from Biblical presuppositions. Many earlier Creationist theories, models and arguments have been modified or abandoned, showing that Creationism is able to adapt in light of new research.[2]

Creationism is actually more open-minded than evolutionary theory, because evolutionary scientists exclude the possibility of the supernatural on principle, not because of lack of evidence.

[1] Larry Laudan, ‘Commentary: Science at the Bar – Causes for Concern’, Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 7, No. 41, Autumn, 1982  http://www.jstor.org/openurl?volume=7&date=1982&spage=16&issn=01622439&issue=41, Accessed 31/5/2011

[2] Paul Garner, ‘The New Creationism’, Evangelicals Now, June 2009, http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-4660-The-new-creationism.htm Accessed 2/6/2011

Title 
The Bible says God created the world
Point 

The Bible is God’s Word, inspired and infallible, and it reveals that the world was created by him in 6 days within recent history (Genesis 1-2). God says it, so we should accept what he reveals as truth.[1]

If the Bible is true at all, it cannot just be ‘symbolically’ true about spiritual matters, but must be true in matters of fact and science as well. You cannot divide meaning from facts. Theologically, the Bible teaches that death entered the world through Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12), which contradicts evolution because death is necessary for natural selection.[2]

There is no neutral interpretation of the evidence. Evolutionists interpret the scientific evidence in light of the presupposition that there is no God, while Creationists interpret it on the presupposition there is a God. Christians who accept evolution have bought into secular assumptions that are inconsistent with their faith and what the Bible teaches.

[1] Don Landis, ‘“And God Said”’, Answers in Genesishttp://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n4/biblical-authority-god-said Accessed 31/5/11

[2] Fred Van Dyke, ‘Theological Problems of Theistic Evolution’, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1986/JASA3-86VanDyke.html Accessed 1/6/2011

Counterpoint 

Most scientists are not Christians and do not accept the Bible as God’s word: in 1996, only 40% of US scientists believed in God.[1]

Many Christians interpret the Creation account symbolically and have done so since long before Darwin. For example, in the 5th century, the theologian Augustine argued that the account in Genesis was not a literal, chronological account.[2] Even if Genesis was inspired by God, it could not have been intended to be a literal, scientific account, because it would have made no sense to the people of the time. It must be interpreted according to its original genre and purpose.[3]

When the Bible says death entered the world through Adam, it could refer exclusively to humans rather than the animal kingdom as a whole. Alternatively, it may refer to spiritual death, which is separation from God, rather than physical death, the separation of soul from body.[4]

Science proceeds by reason, evidence and observation, not by arguments from religious authority. If science contradicts the Bible, we should accept the findings of science, which is based on reason and evidence, rather than the Bible, which is based on faith.

[1] Edward J. Larson, Larry Witham, ‘Leading Scientists Still Reject God’, Nature, 23rd July 1998, p. 313 http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.pdf, accessed 24/5/11.

[2] Alister McGrath, ‘Augustine’s Origin of Species’, Christianity Today, May 2009, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/may/22.39.html Accessed 3/6/2011

[3] Ernest Lucas, Science and the Bible: Are they Incompatible? The Creation story as a test casehttp://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/cis/lucas/lecture.html Accessed 31/5/11

[4] ‘Was there Death before the Fall?’, Biologos Forumhttp://biologos.org/questions/death-before-the-fall/ Accessed 2/6/2011

Title 
Naturalistic assumptions
Point 

Evolutionary science rules out the possibility of God on principle, rather than on the basis of evidence. On an unbiased assessment, without the presupposition of naturalism, Creationism offers a better interpretation of the evidence. But most scientists refuse to allow the possibility of God creating the world, blinding them to the facts.

Secular science is committed to only looking for natural explanations (methodological naturalism), but this only makes sense if you already know that nothing supernatural exists (ontological naturalism). If God intervenes in the natural world, then this can be investigated empirically and scientifically.

Evolutionists assume that “the present is the key to the past”, otherwise known as uniformitarianism. They are attempting to reconstruct the past after the event from fragmentary evidence. But God was there in the beginning and so can tell us what actually happened. We should believe God’s revelation, not human speculation.[1]

[1] Jason Lisle, ‘Is the Present the Key to the Past?’, Answers in Genesishttp://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/04/04/feedback-key-to-the-past Accessed 1/6/2011

Counterpoint 

Theists and atheists alike use ‘methodological naturalism’ when doing science, because scientific method depends on understanding and explaining the natural world in natural terms. It does not assume that God does not exist. Many Christians do not believe that the evidence supports Creationism despite believing in God, and instead believe that God is the one who sustains and upholds the natural order as understood by science.

Uniformitarianism is a necessary assumption for understanding the world. If the laws of nature changed on a whim, so that science worked one way on Tuesday and another on Wednesday, we would not be able to make observations and predictions that worked. But all our observations indicate that the world does operate consistently. The success of science in providing accurate models and explanations of the world shows that its presuppositions are correct.

Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God, since that is a metaphysical question outside the scope of science. But science can show that evolution explains the origins of life, and there is no need to invoke a God of the Gaps to explain it. The supernatural is outside the scope of scientific enquiry, and therefore a matter of faith.

Title 
Chance cannot produce complexity
Point 

Evolution depends on chance mutations in genes producing changes that make it more complex and introduce survival benefits. Mutations do not increase the complexity of organisms, but damages them: for example, cancer. Mutants might gain new powers in comic books, but not in real life.[1]

Mutations may have beneficial side-effects, but do not add new information. For example, sickle-cell anemia increases resistance to malaria.[2] However, it does this because the normal functioning of the blood cells is impaired, not by evolving into something more complex, which is necessary for evolution to take place.

Many biological systems are irreducibly complex: you need all the parts to work, or they will not work at all, like a mousetrap. They cannot have arisen by step-by-step changes.

[1] Daniel W. McShea‘Complexity and Evolution: What Everyone Knows’, Biology and Philosophy, 6: 303-324, 1991. http://www.springerlink.com/content/k87536105j01g806/ Accessed 1/6/2011

[2] Michael Aidoo et al., ‘Protective effects of the sickle cell gene against malaria morbidity and mortality’, Lancet 2002; 359: 1311-12 http://www.biomed.emory.edu/PROGRAM_SITES/PBEE/pdf/Udhayakumar6.pdf Accessed 3/6/2011

Counterpoint 

Evolution is not just a matter of chance. Mutations can add, change or remove genetic information. Natural selection acts as a feedback mechanism to filter those mutations to pass on useful changes in organisms to adapt them to their environment.

Beneficial mutations have been observed. For example, gene duplication is a common mechanism for introducing new information. When a long stretch of DNA is copied, then mutations often occur in one or both of the copies. This is the likely origin of some proteins.[1]

The argument from irreducible complexity is an argument from ignorance: if we cannot currently explain how a complex system arose naturally, it must have been God who created it. But the development of supposedly ‘irreducibly complex’ systems can be explained: different parts in biological systems often have multiple and changing useful functions, and apparently irreducibly complex systems arise when these interlock in new ways.[2]

[1] ‘Mutations Adding Information’, Talk.Originshttp://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB102.html Accessed 3/6/2011

[2] Pete Dunkelberg, ‘Irreducible Complexity Demystified’,  http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdmyst/ICDmyst.html Accessed 3/6/2011

Title 
Evolution undermines meaning and morality
Point 

Evolution gives no basis for morality or human dignity. If we evolved from animals rather than being uniquely created in the image of God, then humanity should be accorded no more status than an animal, plant or amoeba. Acceptance of evolution leads to Social Darwinism and eugenics.

If we are only the product of time plus chance plus impersonal forces, there is no objective standard of right and wrong, only what benefits the survival of our genes or not. For example, rape may have an adaptive benefit in enabling the passing on of genes of the rapist. An evolutionary worldview has no rational basis for condemning such an action.[1]

[1] Frank Turek, ‘Evolution Cannot Explain Morality’, CrossExamined.Orghttp://crossexamined.org/articles-detail.asp?ID=76&Title=Evolution%20Cannot%20Explain%20Morality Accessed 3/6/2011

Counterpoint 

Evolution has nothing to do with morality. Science simply describes what is, not what ought to be. Social Darwinism and eugenics are misapplications of science. We have evolved the capacity for higher reasoning, and so we can develop ethical and moral systems to suit us, rather than following the principle of ‘survival of the fittest’.[1]

Social studies indicate that secularised societies in which evolutionary science is widely accepted enjoy lower rates of societal dysfunction, whereas the USA, which is much more religious and anti-evolution, has worse social health.[2]

Morality may have an evolutionary basis. People who look after their relatives, those who share many of their genes, are maximising the likelihood those genes will be passed on. Altruism benefits the survival of the group as a whole.

[1] ‘Evolution is the foundation of an immoral worldview’, Talk.Originshttp://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA001.html Accessed 3/6/2011

[2] Gregory S. Paul, ‘Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies’, Journal of Religion and Society (Volume 7, 2005) http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.pdf Accessed 31/5/2011

Bibliography 

‘Evolution Falsifiable’, Talk.Origins, http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA211.html Accessed 2/6/2011

‘Evolution is the foundation of an immoral worldview’, Talk.Origins, http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA001.html Accessed 3/6/2011

‘Mount St Helens in Washington State’, Answers in Genesis, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/wog/mount-st-helens Accessed 1/6/2011

‘Mutations Adding Information’, Talk.Origins, http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB102.html Accessed 3/6/2011

‘People were always people!’ Answers in Genesis, http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v15/i4/people.asp Accessed 1/6/2011

‘Vostok Ice Core’, National Climactic Data Centre, http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/icecore/antarctica/vostok/vostok.html Accessed 2/6/2011

‘Was there Death before the Fall?’, Biologos Forum, http://biologos.org/questions/death-before-the-fall/ Accessed 2/6/2011

Aidoo, Michael et al., ‘Protective effects of the sickle cell gene against malaria morbidity and mortality’, Lancet 2002; 359: 1311-12 http://www.biomed.emory.edu/PROGRAM_SITES/PBEE/pdf/Udhayakumar6.pdf Accessed 3/6/2011

Cline, Austin, Fossil Evidence Supports Evolution, http://atheism.about.com/od/evolutionexplained/a/FossilRecordEvolution.htm Accessed 1/6/2011

Dunkelberg, Pete ‘Irreducible Complexity Demystified’,  http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdmyst/ICDmyst.html Accessed 3/6/2011

Feuerbacher, Björn ‘Determining Distances to Astronomical Objects’, Talk.Origins, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/astronomy/distance.html Accessed 1/6/2011

Garner, Paul ‘The New Creationism’, Evangelicals Now, June 2009, http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-4660-The-new-creationism.htm Accessed 2/6/2011

Landis, Don ‘“And God Said”’, Answers in Genesis, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n4/biblical-authority-god-said Accessed 31/5/11

Larson, Edward J., and Larry Witham, ‘Leading Scientists Still Reject God’, Nature, 23rd July 1998, p. 313 http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.pdf, accessed 24/5/11.

Laudan, Larry ‘Commentary: Science at the Bar – Causes for Concern’, Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 7, No. 41, Autumn, 1982  http://www.jstor.org/openurl?volume=7&date=1982&spage=16&issn=01622439&issue=41, Accessed 31/5/2011

Lisle, Jason ‘Is the Present the Key to the Past?’, Answers in Genesis, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/04/04/feedback-key-to-the-past Accessed 1/6/2011

Lucas, Ernest Science and the Bible: Are they Incompatible? The Creation story as a test case, http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/cis/lucas/lecture.html Accessed 31/5/11

McGrath, Alister ‘Augustine’s Origin of Species’, Christianity Today, May 2009, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/may/22.39.html Accessed 3/6/2011

McShea, Daniel W. ‘Complexity and Evolution: What Everyone Knows’, Biology and Philosophy, 6: 303-324, 1991. http://www.springerlink.com/content/k87536105j01g806/ Accessed 1/6/2011

Morris, John D ‘What’s a missing link?’, Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=2709 Accessed 1/6/2011

Shrieve, Jamie ‘Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor Found’, National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091001-oldest-human-skeleton-ardi-missing-link-chimps-ardipithecus-ramidus.html, Accessed 1/6/2011

Snelling, Andrew A. ‘Geologic Evidences for the Genesis Flood’, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n4/geologic-evidences-part-one Accessed 1/6/2011

Turek, Frank ‘Evolution Cannot Explain Morality’, CrossExamined.Org, http://crossexamined.org/articles-detail.asp?ID=76&Title=Evolution%20Cannot%20Explain%20Morality Accessed 3/6/2011

Upton, James ‘Beyond Distant Starlight: Next Steps For Creationist Cosmology’, Answers Research Journal 4 (2011) www.answersingenesis.org/articles/arj/v4/n1/distant-starlight-cosmology Accessed 31/5/2011

Van Dyke, Fred ‘Theological Problems of Theistic Evolution’, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1986/JASA3-86VanDyke.html Accessed 1/6/2011

 

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