Problems with Creationism
by Jim Walker
The following Argument from Design originally came from the now passe and inapposite "World Wide Christian Web." It represents a typical Christian position about "Creationism" that derives from "creation scientist" thinking or believers who rely on faith and the mythology of the Bible.
The argument from Design easily refutes itself and fails for similar reasons why other faith-based systems miscreate the observable universe (i.e. flat-earth, hollow-earth, turtles-upon-turtles ad infinitum, etc.) Many of the fallacies that these faith-systems depend on appear in the "List of common fallacies."
I will show that the arguments presented from this Biblical viewpoint have no relevance or meaning to any established facts about the universe. Furthermore argument from design contradicts the present scientific hypothesis and theories about the cosmos. The Christian text appears in plain text and my replies appear in bold lettering.
Argument From Design
1. The universe has a complex design
Yes, the universe shows many examples of complexity and, indeed, may come from unconscious, non-intelliegent, mindless designs, but no evidence for a Designer of a universe has ever appeared. The only intelligent designers we know of come in the form of earthly based DNA life-forms, mainly humans.
2. Things that have a complex design, have and intelligent designer
A non-sequitur (it does not follow). Complex DNA based life forms come from blind natural selection, without the need for conscious designers. Designs do not require a monogenetic single designer even for human design. Designs usually come about from many designers. A Boeing 747, for example, required many designers. In fact no one single person could have had all the knowledge required to design its entirety. Even inventions usually thought of as designed by one person (light bulb by Edison, the telephone by Bell, etc.) derive from the knowledge accumulated by many persons and many disciplines. Edison, for example, could not have invented the light bulb without prior knowledge of electricity brought about by scientists before him. I defy anyone to give an example of any physical invention created solely by a single inventor without annexing prior knowledge from others.
Taking the analogy to its extreme, everything in the universe could have come from pantheistic designers, trillions of them, where each designer (god) would consist of the dumbest possible entity needing only "knowledge" of one or two things (to react or not to react). Each designer here would consist of a subatomic particle. Thus we could have an entire universe built from many unintelligent gods. This would also explain their silence, and agrees perfectly with the science of physics.
Complex "designs" can come about without an intelligent designer at all. Snowflakes, crystals and life-forms for example. Order and complexity can even come out of disorder; for example, galaxies, star and solar systems, the Red Spot on Jupiter, hurricanes, etc. These all show order emerging from disorder.
3. Therefore, the universe has an intelligent designer
Another non-sequitur. Simply because complexity exists, says nothing about intelligence. Again, designs do not require a monogenetic single designer, much less an intelligent one. Complexity and order occurs many times without a designer at all. All present workable scientific theories about the universe and life-forms do not require an intelligent designer for their understanding.
Argument From Cause
1. The universe had a beginning
No one has evidence of a universal beginning. Although the known expanding universe suggests a smaller volume universe in the past, this does not necessarily mean that it had a primordial "beginning." Recent hypothesis suggest that even a Big Bang does not require an absolute singularity. Furthermore, various "many-world" hypothesis proposed by physicists produce many Big-Bangs. In fact, most mathematical theories about the universe predict infinite universes (see Our Mathematical Universe). Scientists usually suppress these ideas from the public because they seem outrageous and unprovable (yet). There simply does not exist enough information to determine whether or not the universe had a beginning, or even what "beginning" means in terms of a universe, or if there are an infinite number of universes.
2. Everything that had a beginning must have had a cause outside of itself.
Human short life spans do not allow knowledge about "everything" and we could not possibly have tested for everything in the universe to see if it had a beginning or not. Therefore we cannot possibly know everything much less know that everything had a beginning. And why would "everything" have to have an outside cause? Do quarks have an outside cause or a beginning? And what does it mean by "outside." Why not include whatever exists "outside" as part of the total universe (or multiverse)?
3. Therefore, the universe had a cause outside of itself
Since we don't know whether the universe exists as open or closed, or whether many universes exist, or whether it had a beginning, or no beginning, we cannot possibly determine cause much less an "outside of itself."
In light of the two arguments above, we can conclude:
1. The universe's causer is an intelligent designer who exactly and only fits the description of the God of the Bible
In light of the two arguments above, you haven't established a universal designer much less an adequate conclusion. And the Bible's description of the world and the universe differs from observation. Christian Creationism even differs from the Genesis of their own Bible!
For example, the original word for God of Genesis 1 comes from the Hebrew word "Elohim," a plural form that means "gods" ("El" means the singular God). Furthermore, Genesis 1:26 says, "And God said, Let US make man in OUR image." [caps, mine] The "us" and "our" imply multiple agents, a huge problem with Christian creation hypothesis. Therefore, even the Biblical view does not agree with the monocentric Designer hypothesis proposed by many Christians. At the very least, by using the Bible, you should conclude that there was no single intelligent designer. By further reading and understanding science (the only source for knowledge about the universe), you will have to conclude that there is no evidence for an intelligent causer (or causers) of the universe.
2. Therefore, the God of the Bible exists and created (designed and caused) the universe
This only shows that you have beliefs and myths about God derived from the Bible supported only by faith. Faith depends on hope and ignorance. And faith of a Creator does not agree with the best scientific theories about the universe. Faith in God determines nothing about nature. Consider that every mathematical equation, every single advance of science throughout human history has never required a variable of God. Even the few scientists who claim belief in God must leave their beliefs aside if they wish to perform useful and productive science.
The best one can do against the above arguments
The best someone can do against the above arguments is to conclude that the universe just happened. In light of the above arguments, which of the following is more logical?:
1. The intelligently designed and caused universe came into existence, out of nothing, all by itself.
Again, you have not established an intelligently designed and caused universe. And we have no evidence that the universe came out of nothing or whether it always existed or for some other reason not yet thought of. One can equally hypothesise a universe that came out of nothing. In fact scientists take this possibility seriously (see: A Universe From Nothing). (Note also that in a vacuum, subatomic particles pop into existence out of nothing, so applying this to a universe does not deem improbable.)
2. The universe came into existence through intelligent, creative, outside input.
Again, we have not one iota of evidence to support an intelligent outside input, much less an intelligence in other solar systems, on the "inside." All intelligent life that we know of comes from earthly life based on DNA, an unintelligent complex molecule modified by evolution and natural selection. One can equally propose that a universe came into existence and intelligence came afterward. This appears consistent with all life as we know it as it comes conceived "dumb" from two cells (sperm & egg) which grow into more cells. All of our observations show that intelligent life always comes afterward, never before.
Furthermore, it would not solve the creation problem, for if an "outside" designer created the universe, who created the designer? How did the "outside" come into existence? What created the conditions for the designer and the "outside"? This presents even more difficult questions that leads to endless circular reasoning, absurdum ad infinitum.
Typically a Christian will answer: "Well, God always existed." But we could just as well say the Universe always existed. Why introduce an unnecessary variable? Applying Occam's Razor usually proves prudent to trim out unnecessary trash in our theories.
Number 2 makes much more sense to any reasonable person. Number 1, though obviously ridiculous to any reasonable person, also leaves a lot of holes that must be filled (see the "Common Questions" section).
Neither provides an adequate solution as they both rely on unexplained and miraculous causes. Moreover, you neglect other possibilities that don't require intelligent design. I could make up various other miraculous causes that would equal the God hypothesis such as Pink Unicorns, Supermen, robot agents made out of cotton candy, and so forth. But since we attempt to present an understandable theory, at least we can present a hypothesis without resorting to superstition or circular reasoning and without introducing unnecessary variables. The following provides some guesses:
3. The universe or universes may have always existed without an initial beginning. No creator required.
- "If the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place then, for a creator?"
- -Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time)
4. The universe or universes may have come into existence from pure static energy to create matter-energy. No designer required.
5. Perhaps the universe came out of a singularity or "nothing" (Standard Big Bang). No intellegent designer required.
6. The Big Bang may have had no singularity at the beginning. No creator required. (really the same thing as 3)
- "It is perhaps ironic that, having changed my mind, I am now trying to convince other physicists that there was in fact no singularity at the beginning of the universe."
- -Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time)
7. Maybe the universe cycles though an infinite number of Big Bangs. No designer required.
8. Perhaps the question of a beginning or infinite universe has no answer and we have posed meaningless questions to ask because of our limit of understanding.
Although the leading theory, the Big Bang, has lots of evidence for support (expansion, black body radiation, etc.) even the Big Bang requires no need to postulate an intellegent designer to make it consistent with observation and reason. Virtually all other hypothesis, Anthropic Principles, Many Worlds, expansion-contraction theories, TOEs, etc. all come from speculation and have little to do with fact and evidence.
To conclude, I propose that we do not know enough about the universe(s) to make a determination about the history of its origin or if it had one. And to introduce a creator adds nothing to our knowledge of the universe but has only created insurmountable or inconsistent problems. To date, all useful knowledge about nature and the universe holds consistent with a non-designer universe. Lest the reader failed to read the previous sentence, it bears repeating: To date, all useful knowledge about nature and the universe holds consistent with a non-designer universe. Until evidence for a creator appears, this universal consistency of a complete lack of evidence for an intellegent designer makes the non-intellegent-designed universe the leading theory.
- "I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong."
- -Richard Feynman, physicist
Scientific Creationism primarily concentrates on the local earth geography and its living inhabitants based from an inconclusive primordial Designer (God ) created universe. Whereas there occurs no evidence of a primordial beginning, there exists much evidence for the geology of earth and the fossils of life's past history, including transitional forms between species.
In spite of the seemingly influence of scientific-creationism in American culture, it occurs mostly within a narrow band of religious Protestants who proclaim absolute truth for the creationist ideas presented in the Bible. But to the science (knowledge) and theory of evolution, supported by the vast majority of actual scientists, and fueled by an abundance of evidence, the Scientific Creationists have offered no good counter, no evidence, or new ideas against natural selection. In short, Scientific Creationism represents an intellectual failure, and its sole support comes born from the human phenomenon of religious faith rather than from nature herself.
One might begin to understand why Scientific Creationism appears to hold such a grip on the minds of its believers if you look at the incorrect methodology of their thinking. Instead of relying on the evidence of nature to modify a workable theory of life, they have instead reversed the process of science by trying to fit their beliefs to nature. Any believer can easily do this. You need only to discard the evidence that contradicts your beliefs and keep only what supports it. What remains will appear as convincing evidence to the believer.
For an example, if I believed in a flat Earth and wished to prove it to myself, I need only to ignore all evidence for a spheroidal earth and keep the evidence for flatness. Evidence: anyone who walks in an open plain will clearly observe a flat horizon, not a curved one. Evidence: ship captains, aircraft pilots, family campers use flat maps, not spherical maps. No one uses globes for navigation, (obviously a ploy invented by the spheriodists). And on it goes. Any evidence that contracts the flat earth theory, contradicts the belief, therefore a spheroidal earth theory cannot hold.
Scientific Creationists also use this eliminationist form of thinking. The history of science affords an abundance of evidence that a believer can use to support a creationist theory. Scientists like all humans, make mistakes. They make errors of data gathering, errors of judgement, errors of utilizing their biased beliefs, and inaccurate or misleading language. But most creationists don't seem to understand that science evolves through a continuum, a process of understanding, a self-correcting "mechanism" that, over time, discards unworkable ideas in favor of workable theories about nature and the universe. For this reason you'll see many writers of Scientific Creationism use scientific references from twenty to over a hundred years ago instead of using the latest evidence that contradict their beliefs.
Scientific Creationsism appears neither scientific nor creative. The only science it uses comes in the form of discarded or out of context science, and the only thing creative about it appears in its art of eliminating the very science which contradicts their theory.
The danger of using misapplied logic to establish conclusions
Unbeknownst to most believers, logic does not determine truth or fact, but rather acts as a tool to establish useful relationships of observation and measurements. Most people have awareness of only one kind of logic, usually in the form of the Greek "law of the excluded middle" or Aristotelian logic. This logic may work fine for the world of primates surviving in an animal world, but it can hardly be applied to the subatomic world or super-macro universe. And what a deprived sense of thinking to hold only to one logical system.
Unfortunately, people will use a limited logic system to determine "truth" about unknown events such as the early universe where this kind of logic simply cannot apply. Logic derives from observed relationships and not the other way around. One cannot determine outcomes from a misapplied logical system. Moreover, there occurs many kinds of logic systems that aim for specific purposes. For example, Aristotelian logic cannot explain calculus or quantum events. And since the speculations about the early universe involve sub-atomic events, only a quantum logical system can account for quantum events. Interestingly, even applying the Creationists own logic produces a contradiction to their own claims (see the Jain quote at the top). Unfortunately, those who believe in only one logic system will derive false conclusions when they apply it to a system incompatible with that logic. Aristotelian thinking simply cannot determine a proper logical relationship to a created or uncreated universe. For those Creationists who believe in the law of the excluded middle, I ask: what will you do if evidence of the early universe turns out asymptotical?
A challenge to Creationists
Christians claim that salvation must come through Jesus Christ and not from God himself. Why then do Creation Scientists who spend an exhortative amount of time on the existence of a Designer, rarely bother to study the evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, the very savior of their souls? One would think that as a matter of a priori beliefs, Christian Scientists would, at the very least, investigate the alleged source of their salvation and eternal life.
Lets face it, so far, Creation Scientists have not come even marginally close to providing evidence for a Creator. Let me suggest to you Christian Scientists, that investigating a leg of the triad of God (Jesus) should prove far more manageable than undertaking the task of an invisible and yet unproven God of the universe (Father & Holy Ghost). Since Jesus supposedly came to earth as God in human form and allegedly sent to communicate with humans, there should occur at least a convincing supply of evidence for his existence.
Therefore, I challenge you to provide evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, your Lord, either as a historical figure or as a supernatural miracle worker who resides in heaven. As an opening salvo, I present to you some of my own research on the historical side in my article, "Did a historical Jesus exist?" at: http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm
Further reading (click on an underlined book title to obtain it):
Instead of relying on superstition and faith, the following books and articles reveal thoughts about the known universe and evolution.
Stephen W. Hawking, "A Brief History of Time," Bantam Books, 1988
Stephen W. Hawking, "Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays," Bantam Books, 1994
John Boslough, "Stephen Hawking's Universe," Quill/William Morrow, New York, 1985
Stephen Hawking & Roger Penrose, "The Nature of Space and Time," [Scientific American, July 1996]
David N. Spergel & Neil G. Turok, "Textures and Cosmic Structure," [Scientific American, March 1992]
Geoffrey Burbidge, "Why Only One Big Bang? [Scientific American, February 1992]
Madhusree Mukerjee, "Explaining Everything," [Scientific American, January 1996]
Victor J. Stenger, "Was the Universe Designed to Produce Us?," [Skeptic, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1996]
Richard Dawkins, "Climbing Mount Improbable," W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1996
Richard Dawkins, "The Blind Watchmaker,* " W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1986*
Carl Sagan, "The Demon-Haunted World," Random House, New York, 1995
Stephen Jay Gould, "Dinosaur in a Haystack," Harmony Books, 1995
Tim M. Berra, "Evolution and the Myth of Creationism," Stanford University Press, 1990
*Note, Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker beautifully destroys the argument from design hypothesis.
The Talk Origins Archives: http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/search.html
The World of Richard Dawkins: http://www.world-of-dawkins.com/
Lab molecules replicate and evolve: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_217000/217054.stm
Frequently Encountered Criticisms in Evolution vs. Creationism: http://www.huecotanks.com/debunk/cefec.html
Five Major Misconceptions about Evolution: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-misconceptions.html
Concrete evidence about how the human eye evolved: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2004/11/01/5980.aspx
Intelligence: an operational meaning: http://www.nobeliefs.com/intelligence.htm
The Myth of the Beginning of Time: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=1&articleID=00042F0D-1A0E-1085-94F483414B7F0000