Friday, November 13, 2009

We get creationist email

I've alerted the author that I will be posting this, and even obtained his consent, so... everybody wave hello!

From: thelambstruth
I'm a creationist fundie first off, and I was wondering how one could be an evolutionists.

Hello, creationist fundie, nice to meet you.

The reason someone would accept evolution is pretty straightforward: It's because neo-Darwinian evolution is the most widely accepted explanation for how the diversity of life came into existence. If one wanted to change the mainstream science, the most direct way to do that would be to study the topic and write papers proposing a scientifically reasonable alternative; request that the papers be peer-reviewed and published in a mainstream scientific journal; and then hope that your work would be persuasive enough to change the prevailing understanding of biology. It's a tall order, sure, but it's the way that scientific inquiry generally proceeds these days, and it's been very useful at developing a body of knowledge that has resulted in the technology you enjoy today, such as that computer that you are typing on.

I could go into many topics, however I feel the need to just touch up on a few, being the geologic strata, the fossils, and anything else pertaining to that.

Firstly, the geologic strata are completely vague and arbitrary, the transition imperceptibly. A scientist cannot just go out and dig to a certain depth and know right then which stata it was. As said, they cannot even tale when they've transitioned into another strata until they run into fossils (will cover later) or conduct 'radiometric dating'. Also within this vague and arbitrary strata, it is extremely variable and the stratas are only accepted when they coincide with the presumed fossil age; which the fossils are dated by the rocks and the rocks are dated by the fossils for some nice circular reasoning. So, say, if the scientist 'knows' the age of the strata and finds a fossil within that very arbitrary and undistinguished strata, then the fossil is the same age, while if the fossils are presumed to be a certain age and they find one in another strata then they date the strata accordingly along side the fossils. What is this? If a fossil is in the wrong spot, then they attribute that fact not to the flaw of evolution, however something cataclysmic, that no one knows what, moved it there. I thought science was supposed to be based off evidence and fact, not wishful thinking that some great event might have caused something to happen.

Jeff Dee has already pointed out to you an invaluable resource in the Talk Origins Archive. However, I would like to draw your special attention to a subsection of that site known as the Index to Creationist Claims.

If you do a word search on that page for "strata" you will find numerous articles, including one which directly addresses your question. There is a brief response on this page. There is also a longer explanation of the science of dating fossils, on this page.

If you read these articles, what you discover is that there are actually a variety of separate methods for dating a fossil, all of which tend to produce similar answers, and therefore are used to independently verify the age of a fossil. The geologic eras were thus determined after various dating techniques were already common, and after observing that similar fossils tend to fall in similar orders within layers of rock. The reason it's now additionally possible to date fossils by the layer in which they appear, is because the strata have been so well established by other dating methods.

How come there are so many fossils? They would not formed over natural causes because in order for an animal to become fossilized, it must occur very rapid and a quick death. Surely not ALL of these fossils died like that. If they did, why doesn't that happen anymore? We do not have anything close to that happening today.

Of course not all dead organisms form fossils. Only a very small fraction of the animals that ever lived are fossilized. Multi-cellular life spans over a period of about 3-3.5 billion years, and as you rightly pointed out, the vast majority of those organisms do not leave fossils.

So what caused it? Well the Flood did of course!

Unfortunately for your hypothesis, the idea that there was a worldwide flood is not taken even a little bit seriously in mainstream science. There are a multitude of problems with the flood idea, which you can brush up on here.

In particular, I think my favorite example of such problems is the fact that other cultures, such as Egypt and Sumeria, had thriving cultures which lasted right through the supposed dates of the flood. For example, the Egyptians were building pyramids both before and immediately after the supposed flood dates. That would be a neat trick -- I wonder if the new Pharaohs were Noah's grandchildren? And how many of their cousins were enslaved to do the work?

Here's some quick little proofs for it (I could go into many biblical accounts, however I know that you atheists folk aren't to keen to accepting it):
1. World-wide distribution of flood distributions
2. Origin of civilization near Ararat-Babylon region in post-flood time.
3. Convergence of population growth statistics on date of flood
4. Dating of oldest living things at post-flood time
5. Worldwide occurrence of water-laid sediments and sedimentary rocks
6. Recent uplift of major mountain ranges
7. Marine fossils on crests of mountains
8. Evidence of former worldwide warm climate
9. Necessity of catastrophic burial and rapid lithification of fossil deposits
10. Recent origin of many datable geological processes
11. Worldwide distribution of all types of fossils
12. Uniform physical appearance of rocks from different "ages"
13. Frequent mixing of fossils from different "ages"
14. Near-random deposition of formational sequences
15. Equivalence of total organic material in present world and fossil world.
16. Wide distribution of recent volcanic rocks
17. Evidence of recent water bodies in present desert areas
18. Worldwide occurrence of raised shore lines and river terraces
19. Evidence of recent drastic rise in sea level
20. Universal occurrence of rivers in valleys too large for the present stream
21. Sudden extinction of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals
22. Rapid onset of glacial period
23. Existence of polystrate fossils.
24. Preservation of tracks and other ephemeral markings throughout the geologic column
25. Worldwide occurrence of sedimentary fossil "graveyards" in rocks of all "ages"
26. Absence of any physical evidence of chronological boundary between rocks of successive "ages"
27. Occurrence of all rock types (shale, limestone, granite, etc.) in all "ages"
28. Parallel of supposed evolutionary sequence through different "ages" with modern ecological zonation in the one present age
29. Lack of correlation of most radiometric "ages" with assumed paleontological "ages"
30. Absence of meteorites in geologic column
31. Absence of hail imprints in geologic column, despite abundance of fossil ripple-marks and raindrop imprints
32. Evidence of man's existence during earliest of geologic "ages" (e.g., human footprints in Cambrian, Carboniferous, and Cretaceous formations)

It looks to me like you're just grabbing long lists of items that you found on web sites, but can't be bothered to back them up with any detail. Hence, I can't be bothered to respond to each one individually. If you would care to read more of the Index to Creationist Claims, you will find a lot of responses to these canards there. If you would like to pick out one or two of your bullet points that you find particularly persuasive, then I would be happy to discuss them in detail after you expand on them.

Finally, what about the dinosaur drawings in places like Arizona and Rhodesia and many others? In those times, they didn't have a concept of a dinosaur, they supposedly didn't know anything about those. So, how did they know what they looked like? Some are phenomenal at their accuracy.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks:

Whether they're phenomenal or not is a matter of opinion, I suppose -- I'm not all that impressed myself. Short answer: people imagine all kinds of cool monsters. Longer answer: here and here.

Russell Glasser
The Atheist Experience


  1. Wow! Nice response Russell! In the world of Theist's (sometimes willful) ignorance is truly bliss.

  2. I hate to break it to him, but I don't think there were any fire-breathing dinosaurs

  3. Wow. That gave me a little bit of a headache.
    I'll go out on a limb here and say that this guy was just spouting off terms and concepts he didn't quite understand in an attempt to sound compelling. A lot of these 'soundbites' he used have been making their rounds in the theist community for a while now, but what the hell does 'Worldwide Distribution of Flood Distributions' mean?

    That's a new one.

  4. Good grief. I would say that I could educate this person on plate tectonics (something that would corroborate MANY of the points they picked at), the fact that Earth is constantly cycling through temperature changes, why most features on the Earth are pre-flood, the fact that rock can appear wherever it wants to because THAT'S when it was created (structure and composition is what makes a rock - not how fricken old it is) etc... but I'd probably be wasting my energy.

    I'm most curious what they mean by "recent." Seeing as how the world was formed 6k years ago, I'm pretty sure most of the recent claims weren't really recent at all... like what desert had a substantial body of water in it recently?!

    Argh - this makes me angry.... they don't want me to get geological on their asses cause I will...

  5. The kid's link to the supposed "accurate drawings" of dinosaurs reminds me of the Mayan bas relief that had that forty-carat clown Erich von Däniken utterly convinced he was looking at an astronaut piloting a spaceship. True believers see what they want to see.

  6. I like his "point" that civilization started near the Euphrates after "the flood," but he ignores those pesky Egyptians, Hindu, Chinese...all those societies that were getting along extremely well while covered in miles of water. Simply astonishing.

    I didn't follow the links, but since somebody elsewhere reminded me of the fraudulent "Ica stones" (IIRC), does he link to them? Some fundies here in TX have them as "evidence," which makes me laugh my tail off.

  7. I found some of his points amusing, showing how scientifically illiterate he really is. For example, marine fossils on mountain tops. He hasn't even bothered to TRY and educate himself.

    And his dinosaur website isn't biased at all!

  8. although it's easy to regard our creationist fundie friend's points as hogwash, remember, many theists simply haven't had the opportunity (and sometimes, the inclination) to critically examine their position.

    Instead of ridiculing, I'd rather thank theists that step up to the plate and are willing to engage in discussion, so I for one will thank our friend for inviting Russel's response. As Obi-Wan would say, "You've taken your first step into a larger world".

  9. How come you never get any Amish people emailing in?

  10. The knights of not long ago believed in dragon. The saw dinosaur bones and imagined some pretty incredible stuff.

  11. I'm an evolutionists!

    They (creationists) always seem to have difficulty with the concept of verification. A core mechanism of science is comparing multiple independent lines of evidence. We don't just pull one single number and go with that, assuming its true.

    If you only have one dating method result, you just have some data.
    If you have a secondary method validating the first, it could still be a coincidence.
    If you have a third method that confirms the other two, now you've got a fairly confident value.
    ... and so on.

  12. "I thought science was supposed to be based off evidence and fact, not wishful thinking that some great event might have caused something to happen."
    Wait, so they can't understand science and therefore assumes scientists think like they do? To quote a popular comedian, "You can't fix stupid."

  13. As for drawings of dinosaurs, you could point your creationist moron to

    Adrienne Mayor, The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in
    Greek and Roman Times
    , Princeton University Press, 2000.

    Briefly: the ancients were not total morons, and dinosaur fossils are not that uncommon. Ancients could put two and two together and deduce the shape of the animals that made the fossils.

  14. The whole idea that evolution is true or untrue, or that it is something to believe or not (I think) is a bit of a misconception that leads to unnecessary conversations between “creationists” and so called “evolutionists”. The statements, “Evolution is true (or false)”, or, “I believe in evolution”, are in my opinion bad manners of speech which are the cause of all the problems.

    It makes no more sense to say that “evolution is true” any more than it does to say that “my wallet is true”. Consider that its only propositions in language that can be either true or false, i.e. truth doesn’t exist in the world per se, it exists in language. Clearly then we can see that the statement, “my wallet it true” is a bit nonsensical. What’s true about the wallet then, as with evolution, is what we say about it, i.e. the propositions in language that we use to define these things as in, “My wallet is black”, “My wallet is leather”, “It has pockets” etc. etc.

    We can say about evolution that it is “a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage….” However this is a bit of a generalization, and not a “specific” proposition. This would be akin to saying, “A wallet is a thing that holds money”, as, in some cases, this isn’t always true, i.e. my wallet (which had wallet as a description when I purchased it at Kohl’s) doesn’t actually hold money, just credit cards and a drivers license.

    My ultimate point is to simply say that evolution isn’t true, and it isn’t even something to be believed (much the same with the wallet), it is, to one extent or another, a mode of scientific discourse that allows us the ability to predict and control; which is the ultimate aim of science. To put it another way, when one considers the paradigm that things change by degree from one generation to another, it allows us to better predict what may happen, and control it. If one were to take something as simple as, the mutation of a flu virus from generation to the next from a creationists perspective, one might consider that God was creating new organisms over and over again (which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense). It makes more sense, and is much more useful to science, to say that the organism is evolving. That one uses this terminology in this situation isn’t an insistence that evolution is true, it’s simply a manner of viewing the virus that allows as to (again) predict, and then control it. One is recognizing that from generation to generation there is a process of change and mutation.

    This is why creationism is nonsense, if not bat-shit crazy. Even supposing that creationism is true, that God (some transcendental ineffable being) created everything ex nihilo, so what. Who cares? What predictive power does it give science to consider such a thing true? The bottom line is, there isn’t anything scientific about it, so it’s absolutely of no use – at least to science anyway.

    The only thing true or false about Evolution is what we say about it (it is not correct to say that it is true or false by itself). If the creationist wants to (for some reason) debunk it, the only thing to debunk are the scientific propositions that have been made regarding specific chains events already discovered.

  15. My brain...

    We recently had a creationist come to our college campus to give a multi-week presentation on the perceived "evils" of evolution and how we should teach more creationism.

    Aside from pulling things almost verbatim from AIG's website, the questions featured in this email echo almost exactly the presentation points, because as I've found out over the course of my becoming a more "militant" atheist, creationists say the same things over and over and don't accept the evidence that shows them incorrect in their assumptions.

    I had terrible flashbacks to those mornings when I went to the creationists lectures when I read the points.

    Creationists remind me of the people that keep insisting that the US was founded solely on Christian principles, and that we've always had "In God We Trust" on our money and "Under God" in our pledge of allegiance. Anything that contradicts their fervent truthiness, to steal from Colbert, is shunted aside.

  16. Hey and what about those ancient Greeks and their cyclops. Sure they probably go the idea from seeing an elephant skull but, but, CYCLOPSES!!! They drew pictures and stuff.

  17. Does anyone have an idea of how many people in America actually believe the Biblical flood actually happened as described in Genesis? My estimation has always been that it's pretty damn low, but maybe I just hang out with the more educated sort of Christians.

    The reason I ask is that I like to avoid arguments with folks on the fringe - it's like arguing with the schizophrenic guy who lives outside the bus station. What's the point? You're not doing him any good, and all the onlookers don't get anything out of it either because they don't share his crazy ideas to begin with.

    I'd rather engage with the mainstream believers that are typical of the folks I run into every day.

  18. @ Curt

    reputable poles actually show it's about 30% and that is a very conservative estimate. about 60% are creationists and I'm guessing about 50/50 on young vs old earth.

  19. Okay, some of these are geologic, so I'm just going to use them as a bit of basic Geology revision.

    12. Uniform physical appearance of rocks from different "ages"

    ...yes, of COURSE all the sedimentary rocks we have that are from different ages look nearly the same. To a large extent, river sand is very similar - and the time something was deposited does not affect it's appearance - only the source rock and the erosional, depositional and diagenetic processes. Desert sand is desert sand, for the most part. Although in fact many sedimentary sequences have a unique character - Chalk in particular is unique to the Cretaceous period, whereas in the UK the Cretaceous Lower Greensands are a particular Glauconitic fascies of sandstone that are not only a beautiful example of wedging out cross country, but also radiometrically dateable directly.

    5. Worldwide occurrence of water-laid sediments and sedimentary rocks

    This is a real howler, and illustrates the reason that only a little Geology is needed to dismantle this. In the geological analysis, and largely supported by the modern situation, rule one is that the subaerial environment (i.e. land) is erosional except in specific cases. As a general rule, if it's a rock, it was either deposited in a desert, spat out of a volcano, solidified from magma, or - by far the most common - buried underwater as sediment. The reason that water lain sedimentary rocks are all around the world is because (except in major deserts) there's no such thing as an air lain sedimentary rock! Even other land fascies are related to rivers or lakes.

    28. Parallel of supposed evolutionary sequence through different "ages" with modern ecological zonation in the one present age

    ...ouch, that hurts my brain. The reason that we study certain sequences such as Graptolites, and associate them with periods, is precisely BECAUSE they're found with very little ecological zonation. If we make a rule saying "Monograptus is from THIS time period", of course we'll pick the fossil that lives all over the world or it's or much less use.

    30. Absence of meteorites in geologic column

    We have them. They're mainly micrometeorites, of course, because that's the only type that don't rust away, explode on impact or burn up on the way down, but pelagic red clay is made largely of micrometeorites. They don't occur noticably elsewhere because they're too rare, and get swamped by other sedimentary material.

  20. 26. Absence of any physical evidence of chronological boundary between rocks of successive "ages"

    What would the physical evidence of a chronological boundary look like? There's the K/T boundary if you're after that sort of thing, but if it's just evidence of a time gap, there's this thing called an unconformity. It's an erosional surface in the rock column, and it... represents a time gap. For example, an unconformity where (say) delta sequences of coal/sand/shale were abruptly terminated by a jagged surface, above which was red desert sands, would indicate that the remainder of the delta sequences were deposited (along with an unknown amount of material above them), the patch of sediment was lithified and compacted, uplifted and eroded, and then by the time the rate of sand influx had exceeded the rate of wind erosion the climate had changed drastically to hot dry in place of hot wet.

    21. Sudden extinction of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals

    It's called a mass extinction. Ever seen any documentary about the dinosaurs in the last twenty years? Mass extinctions occur when an ecosystem is pushed into crisis - the cretaceous extinction (generally accepted) when a whacking great asteroid blew a crater in the Yucutan (and the crater is not only still there, but there's a set of caves that trace out the rim).
    The Permian extinction is less well understood, but seemed to involve a sudden raising of global temperature by several degrees (I think as much as 10 degrees C, but that could be cause or effect) Regardless, it was a massive stress on the ecosystem.

    29. Lack of correlation of most radiometric "ages" with assumed paleontological "ages"
    CITATION. NEEDED. The fossil column is dated relatively, and THEN absolute dates assigned radoimetrically. So they correlate almost by definition.

    27. Occurrence of all rock types (shale, limestone, granite, etc.) in all "ages"

    NO. This does NOT happen. As I said above, chalk. It's an epicontinental deposit that requires deep water on the continents, far from the palaeoshoreline. This condition has only been fulfilled (at least, on any sort of large scale) in the Cretaceous. Similarly, the reason sedimentary rocks are found in the record is due to environment, NOT timescale. If you want an example of that, come to the UK. Since the UK has been a single package of land sharing similar environments for the last 400 million years, each geological period has a rock assigned to it in the UK. Devonian = Old Red Sandstone. Carboniferous = Coal measures. Permian = New Red Sandstone. Different places around the world have different rocks at the same age because they were in different places.
    As for intrusive igneous, the period they're in does not necessarily reflect the period they were emplaced. Because they come in afterwards. And those igneous rocks came in afterwards in pulses dependent on the location of the country rock at the time - so most granites in the UK are Cretaceous/Tertiary, because that's when the Atlantic opened up and thinned the crust by stretching.


PLEASE NOTE: The Atheist Experience has moved to a new location, and this blog is now closed to comments. To participate in future discussions, please visit

This blog encourages believers who disagree with us to comment. However, anonymous comments are disallowed to weed out cowardly flamers who hide behind anonymity. Commenters will only be banned when they've demonstrated they're nothing more than trolls whose behavior is intentionally offensive to the blog's readership.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.