The Intellectual Poverty of Creationism
by Francois Tremblay (e-mail: [October 13th, 2003]

...the only support [of Biblical Creationism in] its favour is invoking supernatural entities and non-existent processes.

The debate between neo-Darwinism and Biblical Creationism is still raging after a hundred years of science. A majority of North Americans still believe that a Creator sprouted lifeforms out of nothing - ex nihilo - with a hit of its magic wand, instead of observable and necessary biological processes. Debates often oppose scientists to preachers bent on showing flaws and incompleteness in the neo-Darwinist position.

However, the debate is set on the wrong terms. It is almost always presumed that both ideologies are on the same footing, but this is not true.

Neo-Darwinism is a scientific theory - scientific in that it is based on natural causes and other established theories, and a theory in that it explains phenomena (the variety and adaptation of lifeforms) in an experimentally proven manner.

Biblical Creationism (or most forms of Creationism, for that matter) is not scientific, nor a theory - not scientific in that it is based on supernatural entities and non-existent processes, and not a theory in that "god did it" explains everything, and therefore absolutely nothing.

Rather, Biblical Creationism is religious dogma masquerading as scientific under various pretenses. Two in particular have sprouted out in recent times - "Intelligent Design" and "Irreducible Complexity". The former is little more than an attempt to rename "divine creation" in order to make it sound scientific. The latter uses simplistic Creationist reasoning to attempt to fix limits to natural processes (which would be hubris in itself, even if it wasn't demonstrably flawed).

Being neither scientific nor a theory, it would take incredible amounts of evidence to elevate Biblical Creationism to the level of hypothesis, let alone theory. As I pointed out, the only support in its favour is invoking supernatural entities and non-existent processes.

What is the evidence for evolution ? The fossil record (which is in perfect order from simpler to modern forms), DNA (which shows the evolutionary relationships between modern animals), our observations of the mechanisms of evolution and evolution itself (natural selection and mutations are obvious facts), the biology of current animals (vestigial organs, embryonic development), and many lines of evidence which have been falsified over and over again.

What do preachers and theologians oppose to this ? Little more than Bible quotes and dishonest attempts to refute evolution. Of course, they are totally oblivious to the fact that even if neo-Darwinism was, by some kind of miracle, refuted, that still leaves the Algonquin creation myth, the Shinto creation myth, the Yoruba creation myth, the Mayan creation myth, the Pawnee, Inuit, Mogollon, Hindu, and Zoroastrian creation myths, as well as other scientific hypothesis such as Special Creationism, Lamarckism, Neo-Lamarckism, Process Structuralism, Saltationism, and rand knows how many more idea. My use of "Biblical Creationism" is purposeful - it reaffirms the narrowness of the position in question. The North American brand of Creationism is just one out of hundreds, nothing more.

Here are the 4 basic features of the Biblical Creationism hypothesis.

  1. God creates all the animals. What is a god ? No answer. How did God create the animals ? No answer. How could we falsify that idea ? No answer. This is supposed to be a "scientific" hypothesis ! There are some ideas that God might have created all species that we observe in the fossil record separately, but most Creationists think fossils are the work of Satan.

  2. The Biblical Flood happened. Where did the water come from ? We don't know. Where did it go ? We don't know. How did the fishes survive ? We don't know. How did all the pairs of "kinds" of animals in the world get in the Ark, get off the Ark, and then micro-evolve (see point 3) to get all modern species, which would require an evolutionary speed lightyears beyond what the bravest biologist would EVER propose ? We don't know. This is supposed to be a "scientific" hypothesis !

  3. All the animals evolve within their "kind", but not beyond. This is called "microevolution" by Creationists, a word which only they use because it is misleading. Where is this barrier between "kinds" ? Can they point it to us in the DNA system or anywhere else ? No. Can they show us in the fossil record that "kinds" have never been crossed ? No (but do they chew at the bit on that one or what). This is supposed to be a "scientific" hypothesis !

  4. How do they refute the incredible mountain of evidence for evolution ? Instead of publishing actual scientific papers, they publish to religious papers, write books with incredibly shoddy research, and publish web sites about how man walked with dinos.

Creationists laughably misinterpret the theory of evolution and say that biologists think a rock became a croc. But their own Bible proposes that dirt became humans, by divine magic. In terms of ex nihilo, Christians surely win the palm.

The same conclusion is true for religious objections to cosmology (including Big Bang theory), but that is a subject too complicated for most religious proponents to understand, and so their objections against it are rather cursory. Their only argument against it is the First Cause argument - the idea that the universe needs a cause - but that is easily refuted by pointing out that they are committing the fallacy of composition. There is nothing novel or interesting in such a discussion (apart from showing how much disdain Christians have against basic logic), and therefore there is no point in elaborating on it.

Further Research

  • ISCID Encyclopedia: Neo-Darwinism
  • Positive Atheism: First Cause
  • Talk Origins: Intelligent Design
  • Talk Design: Irreducible Complexity Demystified
  • Google News: Creationism AND Evolution

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