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Is creationism consistent with real world evidence?

Post of the Month: May 2007


Subject:    | A Question For The Creationists
Date:       | 11 May 2007
Message-ID: |

Ouachita wrote:
> I would venture to guess most atheists couldn't list 2 verifiable facts yet
> say they believe in evolution.

Mark Nutter wrote:
Ok, since you want me to keep it under two, I'll only give you one. ;)

Quick review: Science is based on the principle that truth is consistent with itself. Knowing some facts (i.e. the individual pieces of truth) allows you to discover other facts that are consistent with what you already know.

In practice, you can discover new truth as follows: describe a process in enough detail that you can reliably predict what real-world consequences would result from that process actually operating, then look in the real world to see if those consequences are actually present. If they are, then your explanation is consistent with the evidence; if they're not, then your explanation is inconsistent with the evidence. Note that if your explanation is not consistent with the evidence, you can always invent new unsubstantiated claims in order to try and excuse the inconsistency, but this is called "rationalization," and is merely a sign that your original theory was not consistent with the facts.

Now, Darwin's theory states that new species arise by descent with variations from a common ancestor. If this process were to take place in the real world, there are some real-world consequences which would result. For example, the descendant species would receive a copy of the DNA of the ancestral species, plus or minus a few variations. This means that different descendant species would share large chunks of DNA in common, including genetic defects and nonfunctional segments, above and beyond the commonality that would be required merely to produce similarities in form and function.

When we look at the gene sequences in different species, we find exactly that: large areas of common DNA, in nested hierarchies such as would be produced by common descent with variation. Thus we say that evolution is consistent with the evidence provided by DNA.

Let's try the scientific process with creationism. Assume that the creationist interpretation of Genesis is literally true. What real world consequences would this have? Several:

C1. All species that ever existed would have come into existence in the same 6 day period at the beginning of life on earth.
C2. All fossils would have been created during the 1-year global Flood.
C3. Only one species of each created "kind" would exist today, since the others all died in the flood.

Do we see this pattern in the real world today? Is there only one species of the "cat" kind, and one species of the "pig" kind, and one species of the "canine" kind? No, we don't. Creationism is not consistent with the evidence. Of course, as I mentioned before, we can always invent new, unsubstantiated rationalizations for why the evidence is not consistent with creationism. We could suppose, for example, that God created a whole new bunch of species after the flood--species that for some strange reason had the shared genetic defects, in exactly the same pattern of inheritance, as would have resulted from common descent. This, of course, would contradict C1, above, since it would mean most species alive today had been created in defective form after the Flood instead of during Creation.

Or we could suppose that God allowed the kinds to evolve new species (*very* rapidly!) immediately after the Flood in order to replace the species that were lost. But if that's the case, then Darwin was right and new species *do* arise by descent with modification from common ancestors. Or we could suppose that each species is its own "kind," in which case the ark would have needed to be much bigger. And so on. But in any case, the evolutionary explanation is going to be superior to the creationist explanation, because the creationist explanation needs to invent rationalizations to explain its inconsistency with the evidence, whereas evolution is consistent with the evidence "out of the box," so to speak.

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